Opinionations

Individual Initiative

It has been quite a while since I have posted and I apologize for my negligence.

Here we are in the eve of yet another election. I have kept pretty quiet about politics in general, but I’ve been pondering and it felt like a good time to share my thoughts.

Most of us have an opinion about the presidential candidates and most of our opinions are pretty strong. But let’s face the facts, folks – there’s not one single candidate who can fix our problems. Not even the most perfect candidate in the world has what it takes to make everything right. Why do I say this? Because it’s not a government official’s job to fix everything. All a government can do is make laws and create programs. Laws and programs are good to a degree, but they have no power to cure the real issue at the heart of our country. They are only things, and things can’t fix the root problem.

See, the root problem is the same as it’s always been – sin. Sinful people can only be changed on a personal level one by one. The right person in the government simply can’t do that. It’s our job as individuals. Our personal conduct day in and day out, our taking the initiative to find ways to care for the people in need in our circles and communities, our own attitude towards every single face we see as we go about our lives. We, especially as Spirit-filled followers of Christ, have the power to make it break a nation; a single president can change the governmental structure of the country, but we can change the heart and soul of it.

So we shouldn’t worry too much about who wins the election. If, say, you wish we could have a pro-life president (and that is a great thing), I submit to you that you might be missing the point. The point is for you to be pro-life. Not by posting on facebook, slamming the people who disagree with you. That’s not pro-life; that is a disgrace. Be pro-life by looking at that pregnant teen through eyes of love. Be pro-life by investing in her long-term, both now and after the baby is born. Be pro-life by being that person who adds to her quality of life. Be pro-life by being willing to take on her baby if she feels she can’t keep it.

The kind of politics that matter the most are the ones we live, not the ones we talk about. It’s easy to just vote and have done, but if you want to see hearts change, you have to be willing to take the initiative as an individual. Because that kind of change is our job, not the government’s.

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Cure for the World

In the past couple of months I stumbled across a quote by Paul Farmer saying:
“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
It bothered me on several levels, so much so that I went on a four-page rant in my journal. I just wanted to bring up one point here. I think it’s pretty important.

Mr. Farmer here seems to think that he knows the cure for all the world’s problems, but there’s a little problem in his logic. He’s trying to diagnose the symptoms as the disease itself, whereas the real disease runs much deeper than his statement would imply that he ever looked. He looked at the outward effects of the disease, but he completely forgot to factor in the inward cause of the outward effects. Namely, sin. Mr. Farmer apparently thinks that a lack of value for life is the cause of all the world’s problems, when in fact the real disease is sin. Lack of value for life is just a natural effect of that. And ridding yourself of the effects of a disease, in my experience, never fixes the disease.

Valuing all life as equal might sound like a nice solution to the brokenness of this world, but it will never fix the problem. The reason is because a lack thereof never caused the brokenness, although it was an effect of the real cause. Sin caused the brokenness we see today, and a respect for all life cannot counteract that because it has no power over the ugliness of sin. It might cover over some of the visible effects of sin, but the sin nature is still there. You can teach a kid to be outwardly nice or polite to the other kids, but you can’t force him to love them, if you see what I mean. That’s because outward behaviors will never change an inward sin nature. Outward behaviors alone will never change the heart. There’s only one cure for an inward sin nature, and around this time of year you can find depictions of Him in a lowly manger.

Christ is the cure, not respect for all life, because without Christ you can have no genuine, honest, and sincere respect for the lives of your fellow humans – for the simple fact that we’re all sinners down here. We are not inherently good, but inherently evil. And so it is only by the power of Christ that mankind can overcome the rule of sin on this earth. Shame, shame on us if we ever attempt to cure this disease with anything else. Christ and Christ alone will fix all that is wrong with this world, one sincerely changed soul at a time. Shouldn’t we then be earnestly seeking to bring others to the one genuine Soul-Changer instead of griping about how people ought to just learn to love each other?

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“If My People”

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard a lot of disturbing things about the state of the world in general, and of our country in particular. And, since Election Day happens to be this week, I figured this was as good a time as any to post this.

Fact is, we need to pray for this country. In earnest. Not just a “Please help this country, God” kind of prayer that only happens one time after someone tells you to pray, and maybe in a month or two when you remember that you were supposed to pray. (And believe me, I’m really bad about doing that.) We need to get on our knees and pray for this country day after day, as persistently as a spoiled cat that is hungry and wants fed even though he just got fed two hours ago. And not Vaguely, either. (Cats don’t run around whining that they’re hungry. They come and sit in your face and say FEED ME. That’s specific.) This country has specific needs, and we need to specifically pray for them, day after day after day.

We need to humble ourselves before God Almighty and ask for His forgiveness, for our country, for the church, and for ourselves. We have wandered so far from Him! We have become a nation of murderers, thieves, idolaters, adulterers, and liars. We have become a lukewarm church, and a people apathetic towards eternal things and passionate about temporal things. I tremble to think what will happen when we stand before God!

If you read any amount of the Old Testament, you see time and time again places where God destroyed nations because of their wickedness. Even Israel, whom He brought out of Egypt and for whom He lovingly picked out a fruitful homeland, whom He built up and blessed. When Israel stubbornly rebelled against God, He allowed the surrounding countries to invaade, destroy, and enslave them.

We’re no different from Israel. God brought us out of Britain (and other countries) and placed us on a totally different continent where we could flourish. America was founded on a solid faith in the One True God. Our government and our laws were built around that faith. We were once His people. And we have fallen so far! What used to be condemned as evil is now not only approved, but used to persecute the Christians who dare to stand up against it. And just as God allowed Israel to be destroyed, so we are on a course that is only headed for destruction.

Now is the time for action. Now is the time for the church to wake up, before it is too late. Now is the time for all who call themselves by the name of Christ to pray in earnest. Now is the time for us to seek God, while He may yet be found, and to call upon Him while He is yet near.

God convicted me a couple weeks ago that I need to pray for this country and for the church. I have not always been very good about doing it, (and there are days when “prayer ADD” kicks in) but my goal is that every morning I should get down on my knees and plead for this nation. To pray for the church, that all who call themselves by the name of Christ would also be convicted and seek God in spirit and truth, that God would get a hold of those who think they are Christians but don’t really understand what it means, and that they, too, would be counted among the faithful when the end comes, that the church would reach out to the unsaved in this country, and lastly, that if need be He would use me to reach people.

Now I’m asking you to join me in pleading for our nation, but more importantly, for the individuals within this nation who are still so very lost. I know prayer is not easy. Hey, it’s something I’ve really struggled with all my life! But we cannot afford to neglect it any longer. We must learn the persistence of a hungry cat, the persistence of the widow in Luke 18. (Or the persistence of a mosquito, if that gives you a clearer mental image.) Will you pray? Persistently and consistently and sincerely for repentance and revival in this nation, this church, and in yourself?

To wrap this all up, I refer you to Isaiah 55:6-7:

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.

So I am asking you: will you join me? Let us earnestly seek God before it is too late.

 

 

If My people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14

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Thoughts on Marriage

Have you ever had one of those dreams that left you wishing you either hadn’t dreamed it or else hadn’t woken up? My subconscious seems to be overactive at night, and so I’ve had plenty of them as a result. While I enjoy dreams as much as anybody else, I have to draw the line at dreaming I’m in a courtship. (Yes, I did dream that once.) Because then I have to wake up and remember that I’m still too young to get married, and little lonely too.
When Valentine’s Day comes around (and it stubbornly does every single year [Actually, I’m pretty sure it does every married year too…]), it’s easy for the unmarried people to wish they had a special someone to spend it with. Getting married sometimes seems like the cure-all. “I will be happy when I get married.” “All my emotional problems will go away if only I get married.” “I’ll never be lonely again if only I get married!” You get the picture.
A couple thoughts on that. First of all, only God will make you truly happy. I don’t care how great the guy is or how gorgeous the girl is or how perfectly romantic they are. Marriage doesn’t make people happy. (I think the divorce rate says something for that…) Only God makes people happy, because only God can make them complete. People can make us happy for a while, but the true happiness – joy – that lasts, comes from God, because He is perfect.
Basing our joy on human beings is just asking for heartbreak because – let’s face it – no human is perfect. We fail each other. We irritate each other. And when we feel like it, we purposely hurt each other. That’s why marriage can’t make us happy. Because humans can’t make us happy.
Second thought! Marriage doesn’t solve all your problems. (Actually, as near as I can gather [not having actually experienced it, you see], marriage can make your problems a lot more obvious because it takes away your ability to hide from them.) Marriage is not a magic spell – it’s a relationship. Just as messy and confusing and hard as other relationships are; in fact, it’s a lot harder than other relationships because it’s so close up – there’s no escaping this person.
Marriage doesn’t just make everybody involved perfect. See, what you are before getting married is what you will be once you are married. If you practice discontentment while you’re single, that’s what you will be once you are married. But if you first learn to be content, and find your joy in Christ while you are single, then you will when you are married too. Yes, there are things that only marriage can teach us. But it does just that. It teaches us. Meaning, we have to LEARN it. It doesn’t change us effortlessly, any more than singleness does. See, it’s kind of like your job. You have responsibilities, and work you have to do. If you get promoted, it doesn’t take away from your responsibilities and work – it adds to them. So marriage isn’t easier than singleness, but harder. (Now, in my opinion it’s also better, but that’s because I think the hardest things are probably hardest because they’re the best.)
So, yep! That’s my opinion (and of course very legitimate because I’ve experienced this…not) on the subject. 😉 Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day, by the way.

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Don’t Blankety-blank Say That Word!

Ooh, swearing. That’s quite the interesting topic to bring up for discussion, because people have such varying opinions about it. Some people avoid swearing like the plague, and others do it all the time. Others have mental lists of which ones are ‘too bad to say’ and which are fine, and still others merely save them all up for the big occasions as if they were scared that they’d use up their ‘swearing allowance’ before they really needed it.

A lot of people use verses like these to argue against swearing:

2 Timothy 2:16 – “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.”

Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

And while those are good arguments against swearing, I don’t think that’s the whole picture. What about the ‘idle’ part of ‘profane and idle babblings’, or the ‘only’ in ‘only what is good for necessary edification’? The problem I have with just quoting verses like the two above is it seems like people seem to just take and obey the letter of the law, and not the spirit of the law. (Which also means that people can try and justify coarse language in spite of the above verses because they don’t think their favorite coarse words ‘fit into any of the categories mentioned’ and so they must be okay.)

What I mean is, these verses aren’t just talking about swear words. It’s talking more about the attitude behind them. Let’s look a little closer at some definitions, shall we?

Profane – to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt: desecrate; to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.

Idle – lacking worth or basis: vain.

Corrupt – having or showing lowered moral character or standards; rotten – putrid or decomposing.

None of these definitions directly indicate swearing. (Although granted, ‘profane’ comes pretty close…) They really just paint a picture for us, both of speech patterns, and the attitudes behind them. And both are important. It’s not just about swearing. It’s about your heart. Because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. (Matthew 12:34)

Oh, and by the way, I said those definitions painted a picture of speech patterns – not swearing – for a reason. Why? Because swearing isn’t the only kind of speech that fits those definitions. What about complaining? Or criticism? (Well, certain kinds of criticism. There is good criticism. It’s called ‘constructive’ criticism.) In fact, negativity in general seems to fit in. Something to chew on. If you really think about it, unless your words are good for necessary edification and impart grace to the hearers, they fit the ‘don’t-say’ list. (Incidentally, right after I typed that my little brother started hollering for me and interrupted my train of thought, and I had to seriously rethink how I responded to him. Talk about practicing what I preach! [And right after I typed that, my computer froze and then restarted itself on me before I could save the document. Thank God for autosave! Still, it gave me another attitude test, that’s for sure!])

So I guess it really all boils down to this:

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”

We are meant to glorify our Creator, and if our speech patterns are not doing so, they need to go. And that applies to all our speech, not just swearing. But, OUCH is that hard! The tongue is one of the easiest things to be careless with. And I for one am very bad about watching what I say and how I  say it. Ugh. That’s why I need this verse:

Psalm 141:3 – “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

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Ramblings on Stress

Okay, so I’ve been taking college classes for the past…three weeks? Four weeks? Something like that. Anywho! It’s been a very good reminder about my susceptibility to stress. (In case you haven’t picked it up yet, I stress out about EVERYTHING. It’s annoying.) Just yesterday in my Office Procedures class (where we basically talk about secretaries and what they do) we even ended up talking about stress. One of my classmates, an older lady, was talking about how it was impossible to eliminate stress in her life, and several of the others agreed. That got me thinking. Is it really impossible?

I believe it isn’t.  We were never meant to be a slave to our emotions, and I think that includes stress. And as God’s people, we’ve been set free from everything that would enslave us. Including our emotions. And yes, that includes stress.

I believe in a God who says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) “Yeah, well, that’s talking about anxiety, not stress.” Same difference. And besides, I’ve tried it, and it works on stress. So there. End of story.

I don’t have a really good, inspiring summary for this post. (Hey, it’s almost an hour past my bed time. Give me a break!) All I can say is…This giving your stress and anxiety away to God stuff really works. And it’s sooo much nicer to have God’s peace instead of our own stress. So why in the world are we holding on to it, for pete’s sake? Just give it up. Let God handle it. He’s big enough to take care of our stress. And He wants to, anyways, so why get in the way?

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Happily Ever After, Huh?

Noelle: I’m going to get married when I’m 19!

Calista: (Ever the youngest trying to one-up her big sister) I’m going to get married when I’m 18!

Noelle: (Not about to be outdone) Calista, that’s WAAAY too young. Well, maybe not way too young, but it’s too young. (Just for the record, I never believed her.)

Oh boy, what’s Calista ranting about today? No, it’s not boys, if that’s what you were guessing. I’m actually ranting about girls today. And don’t try to tell me that girls aren’t rant-worthy. 😉 Girls aren’t just sweet innocent loveable creatures. We can be quite self-centered, and discontent. Real loveable, to be sure!

In all seriousness though, what do the majority of girls do with their time? Talk about boys, dream up the perfect wedding, read romance novels, listen to love songs, think about boys, have sleepovers in which they talk about boys, go window (or internet) shopping for wedding dresses… Good hawnk to high heaven, what is with this obsession with getting married?

In my personal (and extremely correct and humble 😉 ) opinion, it is very unhealthy for girls to spend all their time thinking about getting married. Don’t throw stones! There is certainly a time and a place to plan and prepare for a wedding. However! My point is, if a girl spends all her days thinking and dreaming about her perfect wedding and the perfect guy (and let’s be honest, there are no perfect guys), what is she spending her time and energy on? (Is it just me, or was that kind of a duh question?) What is she training herself for? And what happens when perfect Mr. Darcy sweeps her off her feet, anyways? The morning after that perfect wedding that she so carefully planned for years and years, she’s going to wake up and realize – she doesn’t know how to keep ahead of the dirty laundry. Or consistently keep a clean house. Or cook a healthy meal every. stinkin. day. She’ll find out that her perfect Mr. Darcy snores. And leaves the toilet seat up. And forgets to floss. And doesn’t wake up with perfect hair. And has annoying habits. She will become disillusioned and exhausted, and will wonder why in the world she ever wanted to get married.

What went wrong? This girl spent years and years studying guys and figuring out just how to do a wedding right, and in the process neglected to prepare for the marriage that comes after the wedding. And when a girl does that, she has effectively wasted what could have been fruitful years of singleness, and destined herself for bitter disappointment, and, in many cases, heartbreak.

Girls, this is serious! God has given us these years before marriage so that we might learn to work hard, and to serve others, and to be content. This is crucial training we may not have time for later. If we neglect it, how can we expect to have a “happily ever after”? And think how much of a blessing it will be to your future husband if you already know how to tend the house and cook and take care of kids – and are happy doing it. So if we have little siblings, let’s practice taking care of them. If our moms are busy, let’s practice making supper, or maybe go clean something. These may sound like boring activities in comparison to thinking about guys, but they’re much more fruitful ones. And remember: even Cinderella knew how to run a home before she married Prince Charming.

The conversation I quoted at the beginning of this post (rant) actually happened. Granted, I was probably three or four years old at the time. But I wanted to mention it because it’s natural to think about getting married. It’s normal to want that, and it’s not a bad thing. (Hey, I want to get married as much as any girl.) It only becomes unhealthy when it dominates our thoughts and our energy and our time. And you know, I still think it would be funny if I got married at 18 (yes, just because Noelle told me I couldn’t, I’ll admit that). But I’m not going to aim for it! Because if I’m not prepared for marriage at that age, then it is “WAAAY too young.” Any daydreaming girl can get married (provided she has someone to marry) but it takes a prepared woman (and man – just because I didn’t rant about guys doesn’t mean they don’t have to prepare too) to sustain a marriage. No matter how perfect Prince Charming is.

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Beautiful?

It seems like a lot of people believe that they are ugly, or at least not very good looking, [insert the sound of the rant alarm ringing like crazy] so today I think I’ll try to set the record straight with an article I wrote a while back.

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I looked up the definition of fearfully and wonderfully, and these are a couple of the results:

Fearfully – Feeling reverence; feeling respect or awe for somebody or something. (In this case, our Creator)

Wonderfully – Outstanding, of a quality that excites admiration or amazement; exceedingly pleasing, suiting somebody perfectly.

Wow, look at that!

Saying that we are fearfully made means that we excite reverence, respect, and awe for our Creator when people (or even ourselves) look at us. We are an awesome creation, made in God’s image. I heard somewhere that “God don’t make no junk” and that is perfectly right. Each one of us is made the way we are for a special reason, and each one of us is awesome. We are fearfully made.

Not just fearfully, either – lookie here, there’s another adjective! We are wonderfully made, outstanding, of a quality that excites admiration or amazement; exceedingly pleasing, suiting God perfectly. He made us, and He is pleased! That’s pretty amazing right there. And I think that if we are exceedingly pleasing to Him, then that’s all we need in order to know that He made us beautiful.

To wrap it all up, if God made us, and if He thinks that we are outstanding and exceedingly pleasing, then who are we to doubt Him? We are beautiful in His eyes, and in the end, His opinion is all that matters. We can be confident in knowing that we matter to God, and He doesn’t make mistakes. Ever. We are the way we are for a reason, and that reason is a beautiful story He is writing through us. We are beautiful, because God made us that way. *Smiles*

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Contemplations from the Sky

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You should visit him?” Psalm 8:3-4

That’s exactly how I feel when I watch the stars. Out here in the middle of nowhere, the stars glow like… um, really bright stars. (Once again, my analogies fail me…) It is so incredible just to lay on the ground at night, with nothing pressing that you have to get up and do, and just watch the night sky for however long you want. The sky is a deep velvety black, fading to gray at the horizon where some unhappy person has a light turned on outside, and everything is silent. Just lay there and be still, and watch the constellations blaze through the sky. If the night is really clear you can even see the Milky Way, a hazy white strip crossing the stars in a grand arch. If you hold your breath, you can almost hear the stars singing to their Creator.

And you know, when you think about just how huge those twinkling stars really are…how much more so is their Creator? And just think – That black sky, those blazing bright lights disappear and the horizon flames in bright pinks, purples, and oranges just because the sun comes up. God must have done that just because He loves it, don’t you think? When I look at the heavens I have to ask, how could anybody possibly think this is all here by chance? How can anybody see all this and still not believe in its Creator? The beauty of the sky is just too incredible to not have a loving, beautiful, glorious God behind it all.  It’s like God is watching over our shoulder and every time we discover something new and beautiful, He whispers, “See this? Isn’t it beautiful? I made it just for you.

 “The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

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Where is Your Focus?

I was thinking the other day (Don’t look so surprised…) and I came to a conclusion that I had never considered before. My conclusion was this, that criticizing ourselves and putting ourselves down and dwelling on our stupidity and our mistakes is actually just as selfish as trying to convince people how wonderful we are compared to them. We’re still focusing on ourselves, and it’s still a negative influence on our walk with God. You know, the devil has an awful lot of creativity when it comes to getting us to take our focus away from Jesus. After all, the devil can use artificial humility just as easily as he uses outright pride.

So, I think that especially as Christians, we’ve got to learn to let our mistakes go. Honestly, we’re all human, and we’re going to keep making mistakes until the end of the world. Why should we worry ourselves about things that can’t be undone? If we’re forgiven, we have no reason to keep digging up our old junk to review just how awful it was. Why can’t we just focus on Christ’s beauty instead? He is big enough to forgive us, and leaves us no right to withhold forgiveness from ourselves.

So anyways, my point is we’re not perfect yet, but God is still working through us. And if we can’t see His progress, it just might be because we’re not focusing on Him.

 

I get so clumsy, I get so foolish, I get so stupid, and then I feel so useless. But You’re sayin’ You love me, and You’re still gonna hold me, and that You wanna be near me, ’cause you’re makin’ me holy.

Clumsy by Chris Rice ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUwJZFybcW )

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