Culture’s Currents

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”-Rom. 12:2 NRSV

I tread cautiously, of course.  Scripture must always be used in context and never to prove our own points and serve our own devices.  I pray I will not do this here; forgive me if I tread the line.

Paul is speaking of refraining from cultural indulgences of sin.  What I am about to address isn’t necessarily sinful.  However, I do have to keep my motives in view, discerning if I’m simply trying to be counter cultural because I don’t want to be like everyone else or if I’m doing it because I see it as the best way to glorify God.

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so stop before the quarrel breaks out.”- Prov. 17:14

Am I just trying to be quarrelsome?  Do I just want my own opinion heard?  Do I simply think myself right that I want others to hear me while I drown their opinion with my “voice of reason”?  These are questions that have to remain on the precipice of this endeavor.  I cannot seek to stray from societal norms simply to draw attention.

Anyways, I have felt seemingly out of place recently.  In a way, I am supposed to.  I am a pilgrim in this life, just as believers before me.

 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.”- Heb. 11:13-16

Even though I am meant to be a pilgrim, I don’t know how much of this unsettled, dissatisfaction is merely discontentment that needs to be repented of or the fact that American culture elude’s me.  I have noticed it increasing over the years and perhaps it is, to an extent, a by-product of my faith profession.  Yet, I wonder how much of it is simply because I sought the dream and woke up disillusioned and doubtful of its fulfillment.  How much of it is my parenting expectations that were ingrained in me by society that I shake off because I find it isn’t ideal for my family unit?  Did this transition occur only when I chose to labor and deliver/parent differently than American cultural norms?  Could the change have shifted earlier and I wasn’t noticing the splinters?

Here are ways I am being “counter-cultural” lately:

1.) Trying to live more simply/becoming minimalist

2.) Supporting military defense because I am married to a soldier and want to encourage him, but also finding pacifism appealing

3.) Thinking tiny homes are a viable living option

4.) Thinking Technology is beneficial at times but overall, has led to severe societal corruption

5.) Choosing Midwives as my main care providers in L&D

6.) Wanting homebirths

7.) Wanting my children present during my deliveries of subsequent children and “preparing” them as such (to which I’ve had people tell me that it is traumatizing for children and how could I subject them to this; yet kids raised on farms seem relatively well adjusted and have witnessed birth)

8.) Being a major proponent of breastfeeding as natural and not sexual

9.) Baby-wearing as a better mode of child transport than strollers

10.) Bed-sharing

I’m sure the list could go on, but these are the major themes of differences I’m currently noticing.

Are there verses to support these choices?  Sure.  I’m also certain that verses could be used to support an opposing view.  As in all things, motives matter.  I need to assess my motives for selecting these choices, if I’m glorifying God in them, and if I’m truly respecting those who choose to make different decisions.  If I am brutally honest with myself, there is a hint of silent judging when people don’t do things “my way”.  After all, would we do them/believe it if we thought them/it false?

Forgive me God for being disgruntled or offended when someone questions these decisions.  I do not need to take offense.  If I think it right and carefully review the finalized decision, finding it “in-line” with Scripture/your will, help me to stop justifying my actions.  When I do, I am giving into my approval addiction.  I want to be your servant and if I continuously give into man’s approval, I am not being the light you have called me to be.  (Gal. 1:10 is an applicable verse.)

Lent is a season of reflection, repentance, and renewal.  We often forsake certain habits.  While such sacrifices are often temporal, God has called us to completely surrender ourselves.  Our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes, we need to refrain from a behavior or indulgence for the rest of our pilgrimage.  I know I probably say it every season, but I need to surrender this approval addiction permanently.  I’m caring too much what others think about my work, parenting, and practically daily decisions.

I need to stop listening to others about how to live life and more completely surrender to Christian servitude.  Man’s approval or philosophy won’t get me eternity.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  It is in surrendering to him, his will, and seeking God’s favor that I will be free to eternity.

Will you pray for me?

What is God pressing on your heart this Lenten season?

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Love in the Ashes

While elusive in evidence, legends exist regarding Valentine.

A link to part of my morning devotional today:  http://commonprayer.net/

http://time.com/5143563/real-st-valentine-valentines-day-history/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/02/14/the-real-saint-valentine-was-no-patron-of-love/?utm_term=.282195ffc5c3

http://www1.cbn.com/st-valentine-real-story

Some folklore purports that he was a third century martyr beheaded for his defense of the Christian faith.  Apparently, Valentine tried converting the Emperor and as such, was killed.

Other sources state that Pope Gelasius 1st was trying to Christianize the pagan festival of Lupercalia.

Whatever truth lies in the legend, it is interesting that Valentine’s Day, at least the American “love” holiday, falls on Ash Wednesday this year.  Ash Wednesday is typically commemorated by depositing ashes on one’s forehead to symbolize a spirit of repentance on behalf of a believer.  In the Testaments, we witness several individuals mourning sin through tearing of clothing articles and distributing ashes on the body.

(Job 42:6, Lam. 2:10, Neh. 9:1, Matt. 11:21, Dan. 9:3)

When a heart is motivated to true grievance regarding sin, it will be pardoned by Christ’s immeasurable love and sacrifice witnessed through his ransom on the cross.

(Jn. 15:13-15–> We must obey Christ in order to call him friend.  There is no greater love than Christ laying down his life for his friends.

Acts 3:19, Acts 2:38, Acts 17:30, 2Chron. 7:14, 1 Jn. 1:9, Matt. 3:8, Rev. 2:5,  Lk. 5:32, Rev. 3:19, Prov. 28:13, Lk. 24:47, Lk. 3:8…and the list continues:  https://www.openbible.info/topics/repentance)

Lk. 13:3–> If we do not repent, we will perish.

 

Whether the legend of this patron saint is true or not, it is common church history acceptance that Valentine loved others.  Valentine was even t willing to be martyred for Christian proclamation!  The ultimate expression of Christian love is, clearly, to lay aside your life for Christ.  Selfishness burns and out of the ashes of this greed, God restores the human soul.  It is in denying self-love, repenting of our flesh nature, and boldly proclaiming our love for Christ, regardless of the opposition we might face, that we find the gateway to eternal life, Jesus Christ himself.

May this Lenten season be one of reflection on the miracles of God, putting aside our pride (in my case, checking Facebook repeatedly throughout the day), and resting in the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ’s cross-sacrifice and resurrection.

The 7 year itch

My back arches,

adjusting to my growing gut.

Pins and needles race over my flesh and bone.

Discomfort.

Your hands press between my shoulder blades

then inch, ever so slowly, down.

I ease into your gentle touch.

My belly bounces.

This life we’ve made hasn’t always been easy,

I’ve been stretched, broken, and fatigued,

but I’ve also burst with laughter,

smiling at my stomach’s waves

rocking to your wit.

Seven years of marriage,

a wax and wane with

the tides of turbulence and truce,

tragedy and triumphs.

Our bent knees profess surrender to our Savior,

the one who gives us strength to serve each other

and our ever growing family.

I loved you then, but so much more now.

This adventure we’ve traversed together

has weaved one of the most incredible romances,

second to our Christian love, I’ve ever known…

but maybe I’m just biased and infatuated with your handsome body.

(I really should sign off now, before pregnancy hormones best me.)

I love you now and until death do us part Francis Joseph Eisbacher.  We do not grow weary, but tarry together as we seek to glorify God and let matrimony make us holy.  Thanks for doing life with me and committing so loyally to this covenant.  I admire you and am blessed to call you husband.

 

Cold and Coldness: Assessing motives in an ill season

 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” – 1Cor. 6:19-20

In context, this verse is telling the Corinthians not to engage in pagan practices such as idolatrous cutting of the flesh.  If we care to extrapolate the meaning (which we must do with trepidation, of course), we are to be good stewards of our physical bodies.  During this cold and flu season, how are we to care for an ill body?  Also, what might cause the cold?

Have you ever heard, “Don’t go out in the cold unless you want to catch a cold?”  It is an old wives tale that has been ingrained in society that you will catch the rhinovirus if you are out in the cold.  This mindset is particularly prevalent in southern countries and North America.

I have heard people say that sweat is good and shivering is bad.  People need to understand that these are regulatory actions that the body performs in order to maintain optimal operating temperature.  Too much sweat could cause an individual to dehydrate, experience heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke.  The body needs to have a temperature around 98 degrees.  Some people operate lower (96 degrees) and others higher (100).  If the body is exposed to conditions that cause that range to vary any more than the above mentioned, complications could arise, even death.

Cold weather is not a problem in and of itself.  There are studies that seem to indicate a reduced immune response in colder climates, but a person still has to come into contact with a virus in order to contract the “common cold”.

I have been criticized for not forcing my eldest child to wear a coat in winter.  May I make a few points:

1.) If we are going from the car to a heated building the exposure to the cold temperatures is so minimal it will likely not have any affect on her immune system.  2.) I have repeatedly stated: You need to come into contact with a virus in order to actually contract the cold 3.) People, from my personal experience: northeastern and west coast individuals, retreat indoors during the winter and refuse to go outside.  This increases the risks of having close contact with infected individuals and thus the likelihood of contracting the common cold.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3928210/ (On prevention and treatment)

http://theconversation.com/mondays-medical-myth-you-can-catch-a-cold-by-getting-cold-2488 (Although I do not know the academic rigor of this site.  Read this with caution and skepticism.  Yes, I know this article helps prove my point and that is why I am utilizing it.  However, I know better sources exist and I just have to sift through the web’s many databases to find a more academically sound paper.  Currently, I do not have ample time to perform such an inquiry.  I probably am acting in a poor manner by including this link simply to prove a point.  This isn’t quite biblical behavior, is it? *See Scripture below.)

While I believe my argument true and sound, the fact still remains that a part of me wants to please people and how I teach my kid a lesson regarding proper attire for a particular season/climate.  “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”- Gal. 1:10  If I feel that short exposure to cold will not automatically result in an ill child; and I do not harm her by refraining from the argument of insisting on a coat simply to walk from the car to a building if she doesn’t want to wear one than I shouldn’t care about people’s opinions on how I rear my daughter.  When I do care, get offended, and write venting posts on my blog, than I tread the line of sin and I must evaluate my motives.

Do I desire to serve God, training up my child in his ways, or am I really more concerned with what people think of my parenting?  May I realize God equips me to parent my child because I am who she needed and it is not cultural norms, societal acceptance, or humanity’s approval that will adequately guide me in this crazy adventure of parenting.  It is for his glory that I am to educate, instruct, and guide my children, not on the suppositions, accusations, or opinions of those around me.

*Also, my post most likely needs a better, more accurate title.

 

 

A Legacy

“God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”-Gen 1:28 (NRSV).

Disclaimer:  This is not to condemn those who choose not to have children or cannot have children.  Parenthood is not for the faint of heart and those who undertake it are often bereft of sleep, logical thought, and the ability to carry an uninterrupted conversation.  If a couple opts to refrain from the responsibility of child rearing, they should be applauded for weighing options and understanding this monumental task would not be best suited to them.  Sometimes couples don’t want children and find themselves expecting; that is an entirely different conversation.

Anyways, why am I writing this?

I’ve had co-workers, family, and friends produce faces agape when I respond that we would, in theory, like 4 or 5 children.  I have been told that I won’t be able to provide enough attention to my children, that my financial resources wouldn’t stretch enough, that I need to think of their education and how can I do that with 5 kids, it isn’t fair, that my kids wouldn’t be able to get nice things, that I don’t have a big enough house to accommodate that many kids, etc.

Yes, I need to do a better job of tuning this out and not listening to “nay-sayers”.  They aren’t the ones that have the responsibility of raising 5 kids.  It would be mine and my husband’s task, no one else’s.  Why is this life choice any less legitimate than having 1-2 or no kids?

Our culture is obsessed with independence, monetary success, and education.  We might be able to rear intelligent individuals, but are we raising up the next kind and generous generation?  Yes, my kids might not get the latest toy, meals might be simpler and at home more, they might have to work instead of having everything bought for them, but they will be encouraged, loved, and prayed over.

One income families are rare these days.  Yes, the cost of living has increased significantly and wages don’t seem to have risen at the same degree, but needs and wants are two very different things.  I would love to give my kids the opportunity for a great education.  Does that mean college is a necessity?  No, what if I educated them to be self-sufficient, teaching them necessary life items like mechanics, carpentry, sewing, and cooking.  There are fewer people entering the trades.  Skilled artisans are required to help society keep going.  If everyone is at a desk, who will actually hammer a nail, patch a worn garment, or fix a leaky gas line?

I have been told to honestly think about this choice, an unstated assumption that I haven’t weighed my options and carefully considered what rearing five children entails.

In regards to attention, I think this society is starved for quality time.  We are addicted to our technological gadgets.  There are families that will sit at a table all playing individual games, ex: Candy Crush, while not uttering a word to each other.  I don’t think the number of children matters in the attention arena.  A parent can either give attention to their kids or not.  There have been parents that work so hard they don’t make room for their kids, parents that hover too much, and everything in between.  Attention giving is a delicate balance and just because you have more children doesn’t mean you won’t be able to love your children equally, granting similar attention to all.  While I digress with the subsequent statement, I think it holds more weight in regards to lack of attention than family size does; technology, while useful, has given rise to isolation, an increase in depression, and increased feelings of rejection, especially when discussing social media use.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.”-Ps. 127:3

Let us stop thinking of children as commodities, burdens, or chores.  May we realize that you can live a rich and fulfilling life with a small nuclear family or a large brood.  Joy is not dependent on financial gain, educational pursuits, or undivided attention.  Rather, children are the next generation and it is up to us to equip them with the ability to be good stewards of God’s kingdom on earth.  It takes children from all walks of life, from large families to small, to correctly glorify God this side of heaven.

May we realize what a reward children are and that whatever works for a particular couple—be it a dynamic, bustling unit of multiple kids running around or a subdued atmosphere of just three, that it is all for God, his plans and his purposes.

Let us not see differences like this as wrong, but just what it is, a difference in preference and God looks favorably on both.  [There isn’t Scripture that explicitly states what size family you need to have.]

*Also, I need to stop caring what other people think and start tuning them out.  Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal. 1:10 NRSV Oh Lord, I want to be found a servant of you and not of this world.  Let it be so.

 

Habit of Happiness: A Philippians Study

The back story:

In an instant someone could release their grip.  Life ebbs and flesh is still, cold.  One year ago, today, a child I had done ministry with died at the age of 17.  He was a devoted follower of Christ.  My world was rocked.  I’ve always known death to be a natural occurrence, always existing in the peripheral.  It can happen at any time, but it felt distant.  It was the first time that someone younger than me (and not a stillborn) entered through the gates to bow before the throne eternally.

Digressing from the above, but it ties in so stay attuned:  I’ve been increasingly angry, disgruntled, and all around miserable to be around.  I can blame it on pregnancy hormones and my lack of sleep, but it is not who Christ calls me to be.  There are no excuses for indulging in the flesh.  It is sin and I am to be repentant.  On that front, I need to look at what the root cause is.

My faith has felt dead lately, route.  This dissonance in faith is not God’s fault.  He says, “…I will never leave you or forsake you.”-Heb. 13:5  We need not fear the uncertainty of life or trust in idols because God is omnipresent.  Any distance I feel is something I am doing.  I know that.  Anyways, I feel that part of the problem has been my inclination to complain.  I need to exercise gratitude.

My YouVersion app has Bible plans.  In searching for an exegetical study on Philippians, I came across a plan “Habit of Happiness”.  Mind you, this is not the type of study I was looking for.  However, it is still applicable to changes I need to see in my life.  As such, I decided to start this plan.

It begins by saying our relationships often dissolve and disintegrate because we lack thankfulness for that person’s presence in our life.  Before I know it, I could lose people that I feel disdain to, but that are very important and whom I really do love.  For example, relationships with my sister and my mother have leaned towards estranged more times than not.  However, I need to think about how I am not being grateful for them and alter my attitude.

I might have to say goodbye before I’m ready and if I don’t start recognizing their positive contribution to my life, I might stew in regret until I breathe my last. (See the tie-in to why Dominick’s death plays a part?)

As such, it is time for a change.  Here is my attempt at fostering a habit of Happiness, starting by being grateful for family or friends that I tend to have strained interactions with.

My mother-strong-willed, not a push-over.  She teaches me to have high aspirations and believe I can reach the stars.  She is inspirational in that she sets her mind to something and pursues that goal.  She is not easily discouraged from pursuing her interests.  She is also generous to others who are hard-working.

My sister-once my sister comes to faith in Christ, the world will be forever changed.  She is going to have one incredible ministry!!!  She is a passionate person and if she loves you, she will fight heavily for you.  She is also determined.  She is sensitive too.

My friend Richie-he is not easily persuaded and has strong convictions.  He is also a determined person.  When he decides to do something, he goes for it.

My friend Karen-she is deeply passionate about pursuing Christ and encourages others to do the same.  She lives out devoted loyalty to her husband even when others question why.  Her fight for her marriage encourages others not to give up on their marriage even when it is tough.

My friend Michelle-she is a no-nonsense person who speaks her mind.  She is honest and I am grateful for that.

These individuals might make you meet fury if you cross them, but they will fight for you when they feel that you are being belittled.  They are deeply passionate folks and good to have in your arsenal against Satan.  They will challenge you to stretch yourself in the work that you do and in your own pursuit of faith.  My devotion to Christ is always strengthened to some degree through their encouragement or our conflict.  I should ALWAYS treasure that.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”-Phil. 1:3

Thank God for every person in your life, especially those with whom you find it difficult to converse with at times.

The New Year Question

What theme is my blog to have this year?

The question above is the constant plague of every writer.  We wonder what our voice needs to say this year.  As a Christ follower, I am called to only say that which is helpful to others, according to their needs so that it may benefit those who are listening.  How do I write such that my internet voice is not just another resounding gong?

So here I am in the turmoil and torment of what to transcribe this year.  I know that I want it to always bring glory back to God.  Afterall, the theme of my spot is the search for holy ground.

If you have anything specific you’d like to hear about this year, especially in a way that sacredness can be gleaned from it, let me know.

This pregnant mama, who has two kids already, is really tired and honestly is fresh out of ideas for right now.

Hanukkah’s Cresendo: Christ’s Humility towards Humanity

Yesterday this year’s season of Hanukkah ebbed to its conclusion as the candles wicks extinguished.

 

Eight flames flicker,

recounting radical providence.

When thieves had stripped the temple

leaving only enough supply for one day’s worship,

God anointed his people with the ability to seek him still.

He gave means for his people to

search his magnitude and praise him for eight days

rather than a measly one.

When the world was dark,

God birthed in illuminating light,

seeing fit to provide his people with endurance

that we might praise Him more abundantly,

in ways we didn’t fathom possible.

It is in coming back to him that miracles do happen;

a passion to proclaim his Passion

grants us providence to worship and to serve

in the temple’s restoration.

 

*Trying to think of a more apt title.

The Scandal

Rampant rumors run roads,

Carving the path they’ll take to Bethlehem.

A petrified patriarch cradles his wife’s hips,

easing her aches as she wobbles on a donkey’s back.

Her gut juts rotund

and the streets burst with lies.

Whispers of adultery, a slut.

Opening herself to the Holy Spirit’s will,

she filleted herself to gossip and assumption.

Depraved humanity mocks the invitation,

scorning a woman willing to bend her will

and a God who would enter the world in a manger.

Will we, like pious Israelites occupy that “moral” ground

or will we bend down to worship a Savior King, who came as an innocent babe?

 

*This of course could use editing.  I’m not quite sure how, but I’m not entirely pleased with the product of this poetry.  Perhaps it is my mind run amuck and the piles of papers accumulating at work.

Week 2 and 3: Peace and Joy

I’m a bit behind, but there has been a lot going on lately.  We’ve had complications with one of Frank’s clients.  Sadly, we focused more on the circumstances and less on Christ.  In doing so, we neglected exemplifying compassion when it was needed most.  We got caught up in pessimism and judgement rather than peace and joy.

We lit these Advent candles, but not our hearts, and thus the true light of Christ’s peace and joy did not glow in our interactions.  Thankfully, God is just and he can make all things new.  He is the God of restoration and light in times of darkness.  When we repent, he is faithful to deliver us.

A note to these clients:  We would have appreciated advance notice before you came to our home.  We apologize for raising our voices and letting emotions control us though.  You were created in God’s image too and deserve dignity.  Yes, you shouldn’t have come unannounced in front of a contractor’s children, but we should have remain composed.  May you be blessed with peace and joy even in your frustration with us.  May Christ be magnified and our human limitations and frustrations set aside.  We pray you would have good health and take delight in God’s blessings, present every day.

Needless to say, I have been unsettled.  I keep forgetting God’s power to give us peace even when we are inclined to anxiety.  When we focus more on our circumstances and less on Christ, we lose sight of the peace which surpasses all understanding and the ability to be joyful in any and all trials.

God is a God of miracles.  He is light to a dark world.  God restored the temple and Christ, when we repent and surrender, restores our souls, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He will anoint our heads so we can proclaim the true good news with grace and compassion.  He nourishes our panting souls while fried goods wax our pallets this Hanukkah season.

Years ago, God gave victory to an army of few.  He provided for his people when they had little to nothing to sustain them.  When they wanted to worship properly, he gave the means to do so.  In the same regard, God himself entered our world through a helpless babe. He provides remittance for our sinful ways when we confess that he is Emmanuel, our Savior King.

Go forth in peace as you take joy in that blessed assurance.  (I say this to myself just as much as to you, my blogging audience.)