Words

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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11056543_10152919842641179_8700559709711379137_oAs the internet is overrun with the story of the Duggar family’s skeletons in the closet, and Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) coming out, the opinions and commentaries are on the verge of “breaking” the internet.  Opinions range from staunch defense of the Duggar Family or Jenner’s choices, to absolute outrage about the same.  There are those who attribute every perceived failure to Obama and the Democrats – or to Conservatives and Republicans (which, btw, are not one in the same).  Others cannot voice their opinion without it being done via creating an argument that blames the issue on religion and either the belief in God, or the lack thereof.  Still others seem to have lost all sense of decorum, dignity, respect for others, or even self-respect and spew their thoughts with vile words, profanity, and crass indifference to the feelings of any family members who may be hurt, or offended, by their damaging words.  Disagreeing with “popular opinion” earns the labels of “hate mongers” or “bigot”, “Intolerant” or “ignorant”.

It’s a disturbing trend.  A quick and violent shove towards mind-numbing same-ness and lack of sufferance for those who dare to be different – or at least those who dare to express their opinions that differ from the supposedly moral, or immoral, majority.

Can we put our big girl/boy britches on and grow up?!

Disagreement with an opinion, no matter how popular that opinion, does not equal “hate speech” in an intelligent and thinking society. Simply disagreeing with someone – or their lifestyle – does not indicate hatred or evil. It is entirely possible to disagree, even vehemently, yet continue to treat one another with civility, respect, dignity, and fierce love.

This, my friends, is why we were designed with a mind, will, and emotions rather than created as clones of one another all marching in the same direction and step. What would be the point and purpose?

Will we always agree? Of course not.

Should we be free to express our varying opinions? With respect, kindness, and appropriateness – absolutely.

Will we convince others to agree with our feelings? At times we may.

When someone disagrees with us, and will never agree with us, is this a sign of an evil heart or villainous motives? Come on. Really?

And this one is specifically for those who claim “Christ-follower”….
Is it our responsibility to condemn others “outside the faith”, convince them of perceived wrongs, and convict them in the courts of our minds and social media feeds? No. It is not.
It is our responsibility to point them to the heart of Christ through our own actions, words, faith, and evident love. The rest is between them and their Father, God.

Why intolerantly crying for tolerance – from either side of the opinion – when what we really want is for everyone to think, act, and be as we are or they’re wrong, Wrong, WRONG?

For the sake of intelligent thought and growing up, let’s give room for mature and civil disagreement without cutting people off, arrogantly “unfriending” those who have other opinions, calling names, and resorting to overall petty immature arguments.

Please.

PS Christ-followers: (Holding fellow Christ-followers accountable to scripture is another thing entirely. We’d better be doing that – with all love and humility – or we can’t truly love one another well)

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The Facebook Facade. Aka: Will the Real “Me” Please Stand Up?

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There used to be a show on television called To Tell The Truth.  Contestants would hear the stories of 3 people, all using the same name, and would have to guess which of the 3 was “the real thing”.  The host, Bob Collyer, would then say “Would the real ……. please stand up!?”  And the suspense would build as each would pretend to stand until, finally, the REAL character would stand to the delight of whichever contestant – and television viewers – had guessed correctly.  Seems things may not have changed so much these days.

I often read and hear comments about how people are not “real” on Facebook.  There are frequent conversations about how social media sites are used as finely fabricated facades where life, with all of it’s reality and ugliness, can be hidden behind sweet sentiments, splendidly sublime statuses, and skillfully spoken scriptures.  The REAL character never even has to appear.  It’s always a guessing game for the reader or follower, wondering what’s true and what’s not.

Social media may, indeed, present the perfect opportunity to “fake it ’til you make it”.  It’s the ideal place to post only words that will present the exact image you’ve always wanted.  Paint the picture of a peaceful and loving, calm, spiritual life where the wind doesn’t blow, you’re never caught in a storm, and your relationships are love-story worthy.  Roadblocks?  What the heck are those?  They don’t exist in the smooth journey that is your social media universe on display. After all, only those who are closest to you will know if you’re presenting a glossier picture than reality.  Though they may call you out, it’s typically not in a public forum like Facebook.  And if it is, you have the power to hide it from your timeline, delete their comments, or – if it’s really critical to save face – unfriend or block them.  Social media can, indeed, be the superb symposium to be who you’ve always dreamed of being through substantial and stylishly stated scripts.

But why on earth is that even a thing?

In my not so humble opinion, that is just too much work.  Putting on airs.  Hiding behind fake personas.  Pretending to be always loving.  Always cheery.  Always mature.  Always spiritual.  With the perfect family… husband… job… budget… life… church…  In other words, lying.  Publicly.  Spreading a bald-faced, straight-up, contrived-behind-the-computer lie by presenting only the “good” parts of life.

That’s called a half-truth.  Aka: A lie.

So let’s get real.  Or rather, let ME get real for a few minutes and words.  (Because sometimes the best example we can use is ourselves.)

Yes, I post scriptures on my timeline.  I post kudos and prayers, good thoughts and feel good stories, inspirational quotes and funny anecdotes about my Shmexy and my kids.  I post it all.  And I have a strong conviction about everything that is posted under my name. I enjoy being able to connect with people this way, and giving them a little window into life with the “Ferrell fam”, or trying to inspire, teach, and lead through examples and statuses.

Does that mean that I have a cute little cookie-cutter life of bubble gum, smiley faces, and never-wavering faith?  Or a life that is always filled with roses and sweet-sounding words? Psssshh. Hardly.

I’m still a flesh and blood woman who doesn’t like her many curves, forgets to brush her teeth, and wears her bras until the underwire breaks and cuts into her flesh – just to avoid spending the ridiculous amount of money required to replace them. I’ve been known to wear unflattering spandex, mismatched socks, and torn underwear… but not at the same time.  (I know.  My husband always tells me how very sexy that is.)

I’ve also been known to smell a pair of jeans or shirt to see if it’s wearable, because who has time to do laundry every single day?  I’ve burned dinner, exploded soda cans in the freezer (just yesterday), fed the dogs cat food and the cats dog food, forgotten to clean the litter box (until a sudden “gift” in the floor somewhere reminded me), and piled up load after load of clean clothes on the pool table because I didn’t want to fold them.

There are hairballs in the corner of each step of my house because my cats are fur mongers.  I walk past them and look at them disturbed, but not enough to do anything about it right at the moment.  And my bathroom sink – that I fixed myself [insert applause here] can still be knocked off the cabinet because I’ve never silicone’d it down firmly.

I still pass unfair judgments on people, get road rage now and then, and eat fast food when I’m too lazy to cook – and regret it within minutes.  I, quite often, talk/groan/snore/make noises when I sleep.  I get angry at little things, ignore big things, and will graciously avoid conflict until it’s absolutely positively necessary… unless, of course, we’re close family.  Then it’s on like Donkey Kong if I get mad at you.

I also question God, get disheartened, worry about my children, and sometimes feel quite bitter with just how God does things. I don’t always forgive well.  I tend to be more affected by words than I should on occasion, and I spend too much time doing things that don’t really matter – like playing A-words or Text Twist on the computer.  I’ve struggled with porn addiction in my past, am still insecure about my looks, and really have to “take a chill pill” when I am suddenly interrupted while focused – because I can be so very task-oriented.

And I’m not afraid to tell any of those things.  Here, in person, or on social media.  What would be the purpose of hiding them?

Romans 8:1-2 says: “Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Message)

Another version says: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)

Relationship with Christ + Reprieval from Condemnation/Retribution = Release to be REAL

And Romans 8:33-38 says “The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture….I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Message)

I. Love. This.

It says “Do you think anything is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?… Absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love….”

So…[thoughtful posture]

If the One Who created us and gave His life for us isn’t threatened by our angry outbursts or arrogant times, doesn’t hate us for what we struggle with, and can never be so disgusted with what we’ve done that He stops loving us, then why hide who we really are?  Why hunker down behind an invisible wall, that is social media, and pretend to be something we’re not?  Who are we afraid will discover the “reality of me”?

The God of the Universe already knows us.  Really KNOWS us.  And He won’t stop loving us.  So why sweat the girl down the street who may struggle with some of the same things you do… or maybe even bigger-seeming things?

Keep posting the good things in your life!  After all, scripture says to think on -meditate on – good things. (Philippians 4:8)

Don’t stop posting verses, quotes, or sayings that inspire you, minister to you, or speak loudly to your soul. Keep encouraging yourself and others with strong words of truth.  Continue with the adorable photos of your kittens and kids.  Just season it with “real-ness”!

Give others virtual entrance into the messy, dust-covered, rooms of your house – and heart – now and then.  Authenticity is much less difficult than carrying around that shield of “superior-looking stuff” (I so wanted to use a different word there!) to make yourself look plastic-Barbie perfect.  He knows the real you.  Don’t you think it’s about time you allow others to?

Will the real “Me” please stand up?

Pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and do something?

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“Love God, love people”.

Seems to be the catchphrase of churches today.  Looks great on a billboard or t-shirt.  Sounds like a great mantra.  Excellent quote for a bumper sticker.  Blogs and books are written about it quite a lot these days.  I see/hear/read that phrase everywhere of late.  It’s an inspiring, healthy, scripture-based phrase.  Can’t argue with that. Right?

Oh, but I can.

Last week, my daughter and I were out in our community and we pulled up to a red light.  In front of us was a church with a large yard banner that read… you guessed it… “Loving God. Loving People.” I sighed and said “It’d be nice if churches did more than just post that quote everywhere”, which prompted a conversation with my daughter about the importance of doing versus simply saying something so powerful.

Church-folk, we need to have the same conversation.  Can we talk?

Can we!  Churches, and church-folk, can talk a good talk.  We can talk for hours on end…all about church.

We talk about inviting people to church.  What the church is doing this week. What the church has challenged us to do.  How much we give to the church. How the church is doing this or that this week and you must come.  How well the church is doing because we had this many or that many on any given day.  We church-folk can talk about “our” church.

And we can talk about our church leaders.

How much we don’t agree with this leader.  Or how that leader is “not in their place of giftedness” (which, in non-church vernacular means that they should quit – or be removed from their position – and do something else because we think that they suck at what they’re doing).  We talk about this one that’s controlling.  This one’s “falling away”, or “in sin”, “not hooked up anymore”, or “struggling with something”, because they’re not doing as many things inside the four walls of the church (building) as they used to.  OR we talk about our poor, pitiful, pastor and his wife.  They’re so misunderstood and unsupported.  Life is so difficult for them.  They don’t have good “armor-bearers” and there is too much demand placed on them.  They’ve got such a hard calling to minister/serve the people in the church, it’s a wonder that they stay. (Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve served in church leadership for over 20-some years and it’s no ball of fun at times, can be very difficult, and is – most definitely – not for the faint of heart. However, the pity parties don’t accomplish anything except division.)

We can also talk about each other.  Like. Dogs.

She doesn’t live up to our standards for her life.  He isn’t doing what we think he should be doing (because, you know we know better than he/she does regarding what God has spoken to them or intended for them). How dare they leave our church?  “They’re not following God they’re following a man.”  “They left us abandoned”.  “Their heart isn’t right” because they left, so let’s talk about them to everyone we know that they know and see if we can’t damage their heart even more by our gossip and hurtful words.

We can talk.

We can also talk about those who don’t attend any church. Those who believe differently from us.  Those who don’t WANT anything to do with church – or Christ – for whatever reason.  “Those people”… “Them”… “Non-believers”… “Seekers”… “Sinners” (which, last time I checked defined every single one of us who breathes.  But I digress.)… “Un-churched”.  We talk about how they need to come to our church.  How they need to “get connected” with our groups.  How “they” are going to hell.  How God hates “them” and what they do.  How “they” are wrong and we’re right.  How “they” don’t act/speak/live in a way that meets our approval because we “talk the talk and walk the walk”, meanwhile “they” do not even know what the heck we are talking about.

We talk and we talk and we talk.  All while our little church logos, bumper stickers, and banners wave in the wind crying “We love God and we love people!”

It looks real nice on that church sign.  And we wear it proudly on our pre-washed bright colored t-shirt.  But here’s a “solid” for you: Words. Mean. Nothing. Without. Actions.

Scripture says: “You shall love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no greater commandment than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

And in James 2:14-26 we’re admonished not to just wish a “God bless you” on people in faith, but to do something to meet their practical needs.

And there’s the ever popular 1 Corinthians 13.  “The love chapter”.  Part of which – verses 4-8 – people quote in marriage ceremonies, public speeches, and more.  However, the first 3 verses aren’t very well known.  They’re a little more challenging.  A little more of a “truth slap” to those of us who claim to follow Christ.  Here’s a paraphrase from a recent sermon I heard about these 3 verses:

It doesn’t matter how “in tune with the Spirit” I believe that I am, if I do not love others – graciously and without expecting something in return – then I am nothing but a lot of loud noise, according to God. (- 1 Cor 13:1 para) Spiritual gifts, “experiences”, knowledge is not ultimately the point. Without love it means nothing. (- 1 Cor 13:2 para) Even if I do the most extravagant thing that I can, to show how spiritual I am, but do it for any other reason but love, it doesn’t matter. (- 1 Cor 13:3 para)

So, churches and church-folk, how about we stop talking and do something about loving God and loving people?

How about instead of expecting people to come to our fabulous, exciting, well-done, sometimes spirit-filled, church service (all of which I, personally, love attending myself, btw), we GO into all the world and share the gospel by loving others practically and meeting their needs?

How about instead of using the money that people have given – because pastors have taught them “do not mock God, but bring 10% of everything you make to church first” (another post, another day) – to pad a “rainy day” bank account like a hoarder who doesn’t want to let the smallest thing go… how about we use some of that money to do things for the community that we are planted in and the people – both in our church and without – who have real needs?  Wouldn’t that demonstrate Christ a little better than money in the bank?

Or what if, instead of starting our own “helping” organizations – that compete with the ones already proven and serving in the community – so that we can proudly boast about how we have a “Christian” soup kitchen, food pantry, clothing bank, homeless shelter, serving organization to exalt our name… what if we pooled our resources, time, and energy to come alongside those already established places and “make a name for ourselves” as the church that truly gets involved by working with our community organizations by providing love, support, and volunteer hours?

What if, instead of having to advertise that we “love God and love people” with printed chotchkes, stickers, and signs, it was simply known that that group of people who attend that church really love God and care about people, all because it was demonstrated instead of talked about?

The bottom line… Christ didn’t just talk about serving others, loving others, dying for others.  He DID SOMETHING.  His hands and feet were always extended to give, serve, love, help, touch, do, and provide the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us.

Talk is cheap. Doing something that demonstrates Christ to others is what matters.  Otherwise, we’re just making noise… unpleasant, undesirable, unheeded noise with our ever-moving lips.

Again, pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and actually DO something?

Own It

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own it
Ever been blindsided by anger from someone who has misconstrued or assumed something you’ve done or said?  Unexpected, angry words hurl toward you like bullets in a drive-by, causing you to duck and cover internally in order to protect yourself.  Or, your response could be as someone who has been wounded and scarred by life and abuse and so you retaliate, firing back your own volley of venom-filled verbosity while you defend your honor and pride.

Perhaps the warrior of words has been you.  How many times have you been the violent instigator of your neighbor’s wounds because you mentally created scenarios of wrong-doing or imagined them aiming at target-shaped bull’s-eyes on your happiness or character?  So you fire off a round of white hot insults and accusations, causing soul-trauma to the victim of your word weaponry.

Any of this sound familiar?

Most of us can identify with both. Although we’ve all, most likely, been the victim of someone’s harsh and sudden criticism or irritation, we’ve also all dealt our share of oral outrage. We’ve been both the casualty of a verbal violation and the trigger happy dispatcher of uttered ammunition – probably more than once – in our lifetimes.

Truth be told, it gives us satisfaction and gratification to get things off our chest… to spew our sarcasm or anger-laden speech all over someone else.  We may even delight in the fact that our diatribe has suddenly stunned them into silence and our pride increases and ego inflates.

For some, that feeling of superior euphoria is short-lived.  There is recognition that the momentary verbose vindication deflated the spirit of another God-imagined, hand-crafted masterpiece.  The light has been extinguished from their eyes.  Their soul is wounded. Auditory arrows have been shot into their hearts and it grieves to the core.

For others, the personal pleasure and pride continues to grow.  There is refusal to admit any wrong.  Dialectical damage is ignored and the journey goes on, one day at a time, leaving bruised and battered beings in the dust… behind… where they cannot be seen.

Time to put the big girl panties, or the big boy drawers, on.

Time to own it.  Own the fact that we do, at times, allow ourselves to be used as tools of the enemy.  Time for all of us to stop playing the marred martyr and instead man – or woman – up.  Take responsibility for our own words. Admit that we have not, will not, choose to control our tongues when we are offended or anticipating attack… no matter how figmental that attack may be. Confess that we, at times, put our own need for one-upmanship over relationships and recognition of God-value in every human being.

After owning our sinful, spiteful, hateful motivations behind our agitated outbursts – and asking the God who created our targets for forgiveness – we owe a heart-felt, care-filled apology to those we’ve wounded. They deserve to have their dignity restored as we humble ourselves and acknowledge our vainglorious frenzy.  No excuses. No justification-filled reasoning.  No lengthy dissertations. Excessive words marked the genesis of this injured exchange. So keep it simple. Make an offering of a  few honest, authentic, apologetic words. This primes us, and those around us, for maturity – and allows opportunity for restoration and healing in the souls of all involved.

Own it.

Admit it.

Repent.

Apologize.

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19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires….26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. – James 1:19-20, 26

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 …Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!….17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:7-18

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1