My Name is: Child of the One True King

It’s true, and if you love Jesus, that’s your name, too. There are certain privileges that come with being a child of the one true King. Many of those privileges will be bestowed on us in the life to come, but Jesus did say that he came to give us life, abundant life. Now.

If I am completely honest, and let’s just say that I am about to be completely honest, I sometimes have problems with authority in my life. Just ask Matthew, my husband. As the spiritual leader in our home, he can attest to this problem I have.

As a child of the one true King, I sometimes expect to be treated like a princess. I mean, as a daughter of the King, I am a princess, right? And I have in my own mind what a princess should be treated like. So when people fail to treat me in the way I think I should be treated, well, I can get a bit pouty. When I fail to get what I want from them, I am –however briefly and before good sense takes over- tempted to remind them that I am indeed a child of the one true King, and shouldn’t they just do what I want them to do?

My best friend reminded me that there isn’t any scripture to exactly back up this theory, but it doesn’t stop me from my skewed way of thinking at times. Oh the Bible says plenty about me being part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and it even says that I am a daughter of God (2 Corinthians 6:18). Yet it also says that apart from Jesus, I am nothing. I deserve nothing. Death, apart from Jesus, I deserve death.

So let’s move on from when people don’t give me what I want,  to what about when God says “No” to his child? What am I supposed to think then? I am his daughter. He did adopt me into his family. What am I supposed to think when it feels like He is telling me “No” at every turn? It’s not like I am asking for it to be okay for me to rob a bank and live forever in a life of luxury off my loot. I am asking for things that will allow me to better live out the purpose he knit inside of me before the foundation of the earth… nothing more. Still, He says, “No, child”. What is this child supposed to do?

I must determine I will not live by what I see or by what I feel. I know that I serve a God who can do anything, and who wants, even more than me, to see His purpose lived out in me. One of our pastors tells the story of his four-year-old grandson. As “Grandpa”, he gives his grandson two one-dollar bills to keep. But then he takes a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet and offers a trade. His one twenty for his grandson’s two one-dollar bills. But the four year old doesn’t understand the value of his grandpa’s currency. So he refuses the trade.

Sometimes I don’t understand the currency God is dealing in with me, either. I am so sure that what I want is what is best, that I don’t understand what He has for me is oh so much better.

Bob Goff (Author of Love Does) has said, “Sometimes we won’t get our way. We need to stop acting like we’re going to run away with the circus every time God says, “no”. “

There have been times lately when the circus has looked pretty good to me. But running away, and turning a cold shoulder, is not what a real child of the One True King does. No, a real child of the King recognizes that sometimes “No” is just what makes sense for now. For someone who lives in the now, and must rely on faith for the future, that can be a challenge. For someone who just getting through the day is not enough, and biding my time, is completely frustrating; trusting in God to handle the details of my ability to live out my purpose can be an overwhelming challenge.

But I rest in the promise that Jesus came to make my life, here and now, more abundant. I rest in the promise that God has a plan and a purpose for me and that in His will and in His way, it will come to pass. And when it does, it will be out-of-this-world great. As a child of the one true King, I must learn to wait upon the King.

What is Miley Cyrus Thinking?

My oldest son asked me if I had seen her new music video. He said, “Watch it, and I’ll bet it writes your next blog piece.” Well, he was right. Partly. I’m not going to tell you what the name of the song is, because I can’t in good conscience, give you the tools you need to find it and watch it. You may just want to trust me when I say, “Its shockingly gross.” What happened to the sweet girl who played “Hannah Montana”, and led a generation of little girls in singing sweet songs about their grandfathers?

I’m not sure, but all that said, its coming right on cue. As each of us goes our own way, and as each of us does what is right in our own minds, these kinds of things are going to become commonplace. We can sit in our ivory towers and say things like, “Tisk, tisk” and look down our noses at those who think a video like Miley’s is just awesome, but it won’t do us any good. It won’t stop the roller coaster we’re climbing on. It’s arriving right on schedule.

We could jump up on our soapboxes and point fingers of judgment upon people who choose to go their own way, but it won’t do anything to change their hearts. And really, shouldn’t we point our accusing fingers back at ourselves?

Right on cue this week, our Supreme Court made some rulings that will change the face of our society forever. Christians are in an uproar about it, but let’s be honest, with our divorce rate equaling that of non-Christians, we haven’t really been upholding the biblical view of marriage either.

Pastors in the Christian church have been willing to marry anyone as long as one was a man and the other wasn’t. Let’s face it, lots of people have been married in the church that never should have been, if they had truly valued the biblical version of marriage, that is.

Marriage is supposed to be the picture of Christ and his church. Marriage is the closest and best representation of the intimacy of Christ and his people. But let’s face it; we have made a mockery of biblical marriage. So why should our society hold it in high esteem when we have not?

Marriage is one of the pillars of society. That pillar started to crumble in America long ago. I believe it’s why Miley Cyrus and others like her, are fine with putting out music videos that make a mockery of what should be reserved for married people. That kind of intimacy is holy, or at least it was always meant to be.

So what can we do to make a difference now? Now that the coaster has pulled away from the station? Is it too late? Maybe not. I say that all of this is coming right “on cue” because we see in scripture that as the day of Christ’s return draws near, we will see rebellion against the truths that God has established. Check out 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2. When deceived men decide they can exalt themselves above God, Christ will not be long in coming. So until the day of his return, we should honor God with our lives, through our marriages, and in the ways that we relate to those who disagree with us.

We must live our lives in such a way as to point others to Jesus. It may be too late for some things, but it’s not too late for that. Not yet.

There’s Just Nothing Else Like It

This was Big Stuf week for the Bensons. If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you have probably read about it before. One week out of the year, my family gets to serve together at a youth camp in Daytona Beach, Florida called Big Stuf. That’s one “f”. Big Stuf Camps is celebrating twenty-five years this summer. It was, and is, the brain child of Lanny Donoho, or as Big Stuf campers know him: Mr. Big Stuf.

Over the years the camp focus has shifted. Oh, there’s still great worship, great speakers and, of course, great fun in the sun, but there’s more at Big Stuf. The leaders at Big Stuf believe that students are capable of doing big stuff, two f’s. Because of this belief, they have partnered with a ministry called 410 Bridge. This is a mission organization that serves in places like Haiti, Uganda, and Kenya. They are changing lives, and they are making areas in each of those countries better for this generation and generations to come. Students who attend Big Stuf get to be a part of what goes on through 410 Bridge and because of that, people in those places now have clean water, education, and better lives.

I love getting to spend a week at the beach with Big Stuf because for one week out of the year, my family stops running in six different directions, and comes together to serve together. Our family is good together. And we get to spend the week serving alongside some truly amazing people who also leave their normal lives to serve a week in Daytona.

People like the Pitts family, who recently adopted a little boy named Wil from Haiti. People like the Campbells who hope to extend their home to one or more children from Uganda, and are learning to wait upon the Lord for the process to proceed. I met Alyson, a young woman who spent two months in Kenya serving the poor and who decided to leave her home in Mississippi to follow her calling to serve the Lord in Atlanta. She waits tables in a restaurant because the ministry she loves to do doesn’t pay her enough money to live on yet.

And then there’s Jeff, the pastor from Tennessee, who believes in the ministry of Big Stuf so much, that he uses up a week’s vacation to come serve in Daytona every year. All year long, Jeff serves in the trenches, ministering in a small church and leading people into deeper relationships with the Lord, but for this one week, he’s all about serving the staff and students of Big Stuf.

We love the worship leaders at camp like David Crowder, Phil Wickham, and Rend Collective that lead us, and speakers like John Acuff and Bob Goff who speak to us. But it’s the kids that we really go to serve.

It’s amazing what a teenager will tell a complete stranger like me.

Jennifer is 17 and feels like no one ever notices her. Both of her parents are disabled and her younger brother has Down’s Syndrome. This young girl has not had a carefree teenaged life. She’s had to step up to the plate in her family and be a caregiver. I told Jennifer God will use what she has experienced in her life to take her places other kids can’t go.

Maria has never met her grandparents. Her mother married a black man and so her family disowned her. So they’ve never had the joy of meeting this amazing teenager. She’s not bitter, she feels sorry for them. Sorry that they have missed out on her. I do, too.

Andrew feels called to be a pastor. He has no idea what that means for him yet, but he is excited to follow God’s call on his life.

And then there were the sweet girls from Amite, Louisiana who sought me out each session just to give and receive a hug and tell me all about the ministry opportunities they had been having each day as their youth group went to serve in a homeless shelter each day during free time.

I’ll tell you, there’s just nothing like serving in ministry. The people you meet, serve, lead, encourage, and pray for will change you, stretch you, and encourage you. I have been blessed once again to be a part of something big God is doing, and like I said, there’s just nothing else like it.

“We Live in Two Different Worlds”

When those words were spoken to me a few years back, I really had no idea what the person meant. What two worlds? Sometimes people who aren’t in ministry say that because they think that people in ministry aren’t living in the “real world”. Like we don’t have bills, cars that break down, kids that can run amuck, disappointments, or illness. That somehow we just sit around singing Kum-ba-ya all day, oblivious to the “real world” everyone else is privy to.

The reality is, I do understand the real world all too well, maybe better than the person who uttered those words to me. What I understand is that there is more to this life than breathing and taking up space. There’s more to this life than living and dying. More than just getting up every day, going to work at a job you hate, falling into the bed at night and repeating the same the next day. Or at least, there can be.

What is this “more” I’m talking about? The “more” is Jesus. When a person lives a life where Jesus is at the center, it changes everything. Jesus brings a freedom that wasn’t there before. Jesus gives us the opportunity to live above our circumstances. Jesus offers us hope during dangerous, perilous times. When Jesus is at the center you can take risks, step outside the confines of tradition and predictability, and step into adventure! You are no longer the driving force in your own life; Jesus becomes that force.

It means saying goodbye to what you thought your life would look like. It means letting go of the reigns, and letting yourself be open to whatever He has in store for you. The Bible tells us that the Lord has made this time for you. That even before the foundation of the earth, this time, this circumstance you are in, was on His mind. You were made for such a time as this. Why would we think its best for us to do anything that would put us in the driver’s seat?

I guess in that regard, I do live in a different world. It’s a dangerous world, and sometimes things appear to go haywire. (Ask me to tell you about Kentucky sometime.) Making Jesus the center of my life was risky. It’s hasn’t always been safe. But He does not call us to safety. Rather, He calls us to follow Him. Jesus opens doors and asks us to walk through them. He rarely discloses everything we’ll find on the other side of the door. If He did, we might not walk through them.

I gave up control of my life a long time ago, and I now live in a different world. But it’s not a world where I see and understand less, it’s a world where I see more, much more. I see the reality He shows me. I can see past the lies of this world, and rest in God’s truth.

The person who spoke those words to me was right. I used to live in the world they lived in. But I moved. I like this world better, and I don’t ever want to go back. Like Cortez, I burned the ships.

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Spiritual Authority. Some of us have a problem with this. I do. Sometimes. If you are honest with yourself and me, you will admit that you do, too. No one really likes being told what they can or can’t, should or shouldn’t, do.

Many of us resist authority because we have witnessed it being abused. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yes, I read Lord of the Flies in high school. My Junior English teacher, Joy Deming, had something to say about authority. I remember one day she was telling our class a list of things she expected us to complete to earn our grade in her class. It was quite a list.

Someone whined, “Do we really have to do all that?” To which Mrs. Deming said, “No. You do not.” She had everyone’s attention then. What? We didn’t really have to do all that she just said we did?

“No, you don’t have to do all those things. You don’t have to pass my class either.”

There was a collective sigh of disappointment in the room. No, we didn’t have to do the things she told us we had to do, but if we didn’t, we’d surely suffer the consequences of the authority she had over our grades.

The Bible tells us that we will be placed under authority; the leaders we must follow have been put there by God, himself, to lead us. Good leaders, and not so good ones. Both have something to teach us about ourselves and about authority. (Romans 13:1-7, Hebrews 13:17, Titus 3:1- Need I go on?)

Those in authority can really spoil our fun. I have had to pee on many parades my children dream up. It does not warm my heart to do it, but with authority comes responsibility, and I have to make decisions based on what I believe will bless my children. Having authority is sometimes just as hard as sitting under it. That is, if you manage it correctly.

Some of us resist authority because we have seen someone misuse it. I listened as my son told me a story he saw of spiritual abuse. (Unfortunately, my son understands first hand what that looks like.) Just this week, we sat under some teaching at our church about authority. The speaker was talking about how we must allow ourselves to come under spiritual authority to receive the protection and blessings that come from that. Likely knowing that many more desire to have authority than to sit under it, the speaker said that when we submit ourselves to proper spiritual authority, we will ourselves, be given authority. For a good leader is first, a good follower. Remember Jesus, the ultimate Master, came first as a servant.

As the speaker went on and on about the benefits of proper spiritual authority in our lives, my son watched the dynamics of the family sitting in front of him. The mother was seated on the end of the row, next to her was the grandfather, and then sat the teenaged daughter next to him. During worship, mom and grandfather were very actively involved in singing and worshipping. The daughter was a good bit less enthusiastic about the whole affair.

During the message, my son watched as the mother shot daggers into her daughter with her eyes and poked her shoulder with her finger following each point the speaker made. Apparently the mother didn’t think the daughter accepted authority well, and rather than trusting the Holy Spirit to work, she took the reigns herself. My son pegged this as spiritual abuse of authority. He was right. He so wanted to tell her that she was making a mockery of what the speaker was trying to teach. Then he saw the grandfather lean in and hug the girl, whispering something into her ear. The girl leaned into him and seemed to receive his words well. In my son’s eyes, he saw proper spiritual authority in that exchange.

How can we ensure that spiritual authorities do not ever abuse us? We do have some significant control in that area. We must measure those in authority over us against our Biblical examples.

-Does that person lead by serving?

-Do we see that person allowing themselves to come under the authority of someone else?

-Does that person have only our best interests at heart?

-Does that person seek for us to be all God intended us to be, even if that means we must pass from their authority to another’s to accomplish this?

If you can find no other example to follow, follow Jesus.

Jesus served his disciples. Most notably by washing their feet. (John 13:1-17)

Even Jesus submitted himself to the authority of the Father while he walked among us. In the Garden of Gethsemane- “Not my will Father, but yours.” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus gave his disciples the opportunity to become the best version of themselves they could be, even if that meant he had to rebuke them. (Luke 9:54-55)

When it came time for Jesus to leave earth, he passed his disciples to the authority of the Holy Spirit. (John 14:26)

In seeking spiritual authority in our lives, we need to ask the above questions. We may not always like what those in authority have to tell us, but if they are modeling the Biblical example of spiritual authority in our lives, we would be wise to listen.

Branded

As a parent, on those occasions when your children make a good decision all on their own, it warms the cockles of your heart. In our family, we have four kids. Our oldest, Landon, will be turning twenty this year. It makes my fingers cramp up to type that. Where did the time go? Matthew and I have found these teen years to be the most enjoyable years of our parenting career. I’m not saying they have been the easiest, but they have been the most enjoyable. Watching our kids grow into their adult skins has been an event to watch. We like what we see so far.

In our family, Landon has had great influence on his younger siblings. It’s not a role he has always enjoyed, but the fact remains. When Landon became an adolescent, he suddenly decided he would make a statement with his clothing and his hair. A lot of kids do this. Sometimes it’s not always good. Landon, thankfully, has good taste. I take full credit for that one.

One of the decisions Landon made early on in his clothing choices was that he would not be hung up on branding. (This was a great relief to my budget!) He would refuse to wear anything with a label that showed. He was more interested in the look of the clothing than what name it bore. Even if he liked the style, if the designer had placed his insignia anywhere visible, back on the rack it went. He was not going to be a walking billboard for some guy to make more money off of him. While my wallet was happy about this, my heart was, too. This was a decision based on depth of thought and consideration. It was a good sign.

The rest of my kids have followed suit. You won’t find a label visible on any of their clothing. I recently bought a pair of Sanuk tennis shoes for myself. I got them at a deep discount and was pleased with my find. They were cute, and comfy, and cheap. Triple plus. I brought them home in the bag and left them in the den. The next day, I see on Twitter that my daughter has worn my new shoes to school. She thought they had been bought for her… and she had cut the little green Sanuk tags off the shoes.

We are a brand conscious society. We pay big bucks to carry around someone else’s name on our clothes, shoes, purses, etc. We think it says something about us to the world. “Look! I can afford this! Look! This makes me more acceptable!” Some of us like to say that we are willing to pay for better quality. Well, get this. My father-in-law once traveled abroad, and visited a factory where many of the clothes you and I wear are made. He saw them placing the labels on the clothes. The same clothes, made in the same factory were receiving different branding labels. The same clothes. The prices attached to the clothes would depend on what labels were attached.

Consumerism is out of control. The pressure to carry around certain labels enslaves us all to debt, but it enslaves us to more than that. It enslaves us to the public persona we think we have to uphold and pull off. Who are we trying to impress, really? Most of the time the people we want most to impress aren’t even the people we really like.

Abercrombie and Fitch has come under fire recently for their CEO, Mike Jeffries’, remarks about who they want shopping in their stores. They want only the pretty people, only the cool kids to wear their clothing. They feel that if you want to be a cool kid, you have to look a certain way, and have their name embroidered across your chest. Have you been in their stores? You won’t find a t-shirt without their name in large print on it. I asked once if they had any v-neck t-shirts without their name on them, and the sales girl couldn’t believe I was being serious.

They won’t sell female clothing in a size larger than a size large. I’m really shocked in this age of anti bullying that the CEO was willing to go there, publically. Surely he had to know the outcry would be great.

Well, the company has finally gone public with an apology. Big deal. The cat is already out of the bag. They may have to change their sizing, but I doubt seriously that their true feelings on the matter have changed. It’s all about damage control now. It’s all about money, always has been. They want our money. I guess now they’ll even take money from larger folks. Money’s money, right?

We have fallen captive to the lie that says when we buy these things it makes us better somehow. Except it really only makes guys like Mike Jeffries richer.

I am proud of the decisions like this that my kids are making. I am proud that they have eyes to see truth, and it is reflected in them. I want them to be labeled by the way they live their lives rather than the labels they wear on their clothing. I want people to look at my kids and see Jesus. That’s a brand we all should want to wear.