The Redefining of Marriage in America

It’s a new day in the United States of America. For the first time in recorded national US history, in the eyes of the law, people of the same sex can get married. The US Supreme Court, the highest court in our grand land, decided by a narrow margin to say to the world, it’s okay. This is okay. We lit up the White House last night in a rainbow of colors to show support of this most monumental occasion.635709522838365094-AFP-542062575-74107136

I think of my grandfather, long gone now, and what he would say if he could come back and I were to tell him about this new turn of events. He’d say, “Well, I’ve never heard of such. A man wants to marry a man?” Those days are gone. This is a new America. A more accepting, less judgmental, forward thinking, progressive America than my grandfather knew.

And what of those, like say- Christians, who find this decision offensive and wrong? What if all they read in the truths of the scriptures leads them to find this is actually not okay according to God’s word? Well, they have been told that the law of the land will prevail over those ancient documents. Words written so long ago that they can in no way hold any real relevance to the situations societies face today. Anyone holding to those ancient ideas need only to set those aside and listen to intelligent reason to understand that the time has come for a new way of thinking. We must be inclusive and accepting of these new ideas.

New ideas? I don’t think so.

My daughter has some friends who are not Christ followers, but they like my daughter because she accepts them for who they are. They think that she is not judgmental and close-minded like most Christians they have met. It’s true. Laura is very accepting of others. She will rarely point a finger at them in judgment. What they don’t know is that Laura has an agenda. She loves them where they are, but she hopes to lead them to a better place in time.

We talked about her friends and how they think all Christians apart from Laura are judgmental and closed-minded. I told Laura that her friends are right. As Christians, we are those things. We judge the actions of ourselves and others based on the measure of scripture. How else are we able to tell if our actions and actions of others honor God? We are also very closed-minded. We believe what the holy scriptures teach us, and we do not add to nor do we take away from the lessons they contain. It is true, our minds are closed to the teachings that fall outside the truths of God’s holy word. Yes, we are very closed-minded.

It’s why most Christians are having such a hard time with this latest Supreme Court edict. The court has clearly stepped way out of the bounds of scripture in redefining marriage to allow those of the same sex to marry. It is a sad day to me when men think they can, in essence, tell God he is wrong. “You may have gotten many things right, Big Guy, but not this one. You quite missed the mark here. And we’ll just take that rainbow, too, if you don’t mind.”

Marriage is a gift from God, given to his children to illustrate the love he has for his church. Marriage came from God in order that we might grasp a bit of understanding concerning the intimacy he desires to have, spiritually, with us. A man and a woman were designed by God to fit hand in glove. It is perfection. He designed it to work his way. Whether or not I think my male friend should be able to marry their male significant other does not matter. I don’t have to like truth for it to be true. Who am I to say who can love whom? Well, I didn’t design love either. God did.

The truth is, marriage is not ours to define. It is now legal in this country for two men or two women to join together in a legal contract of marriage. It is a civil union bound only by a paper contract. I can be civilly united to anyone, for most any reason. The law will join us, and the law will have to fairly divide us should the partnership not work out for some reason.

A marriage is something wholly different. A marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman- who also join legally together, but with the added presence of God to make it something more. When God is in it, it becomes a covenant. Contracts can be dissolved easily enough. A covenant with God is something different. When a man and woman join together in holy matrimony, a spiritual binding takes place. Just ask anyone who has endeavored to sever that binding, and they will tell of the pain involved in doing so. To tear apart a covenant is akin to ripping flesh. And for the record, a man and a woman can also go to a Justice of the Peace and be joined civilly. If God is not present in the joining, that’s not a covenant either.

Our White House was lit up like a rainbow last night. My cynical nature had me laughing about that one. You see, the rainbow is God’s, too. It’s been hijacked, but it is still His. It is a reminder that His promises are true. 

The louder minority in America is crying that it’s a new day, and uninformed, brainwashed Christians just might as well get on board.

The heartbreaking reality is there are so many people, nice people, caught up in this deception. They want acceptance and love so much they are willing to grasp at a lie to get it. They want peace. But they are looking for it in the wrong places.

They can call it marriage, but it’s not marriage.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

“Can you spare a little change?”

“Can you help me out with a dollar or two?”

Every day, I travel by foot down long city blocks from one appointment or meeting to another as the institution I work for spans several city blocks. Like most busy cities, people in need seem to be in abundance. They are just hanging around waiting on the easiest mark; someone who looks like they might give up a little of what they have to them. Some days I think I have a sign on my forehead that indicates I am an easy mark.

I have heard people say, “Just don’t make eye contact, keep walking, and they won’t bother you.” As if these people aren’t really people but some alien race we don’t have to care about. I must admit, I have taken this advice… lots of times.

I was recently listening to a message about the time Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well found in John, Chapter four. There were many reasons why those around Jesus would have understood if he hadn’t taken the time to talk to this woman. First of all, she was a woman. Jewish men didn’t speak to women in public. Secondly, she was a Samaritan. Jews didn’t think too much of Samaritans. And thirdly, she was alone at the well, drawing her water at a time different from the rest, because she was a social outcast; a lady of ill repute. But Jesus was all about breaking through social barriers and reaching right to the heart of the matter, and so that’s just what he did with this woman. He knew her sin, and he was about to set her free.

As I listened to the message, I couldn’t help thinking about the people I meet on the streets of my city. Just like the Samaritan woman at the well, they all have stories. They all need someone to break the social norms and reach out with grace and truth. That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t stick out an accusing finger and speak of her sin out loud. Rather, after asking her for water, he began with a simple question. “Where is your husband?” But that was enough.

Giving away a dollar or two (or nothing), and keeping on my merry way would get me to my destination and keep me on schedule, but the impact of that encounter would be negligible. As followers of Christ, our impact is not supposed to be negligible. No one ever walked away from an encounter with Jesus and soon forgot it.

I was walking to Milos for lunch when he asked me for some money. I was caught up in conversation with a coworker and didn’t quite hear the young man.

I stopped.

“What did you say?” I asked him.

“Can you spare some money?” He asked again.

“Are you hungry?” I heard myself say.

“What are you doing? I asked myself.

“Yes.” He replied.

“Well, let’s get you some food then. Come on in here with me.”

The words were coming out of my mouth, and yet no one was more surprised than me.

We stood together in line. Lunch hour rush. So I asked him to tell me his story. As he talked to me, I couldn’t help thinking how we all have one, a story. As he talked I wondered how long it had been since he had this kind of experience. Of just standing in line like everyone else and having a conversation like everyone else. No one looking down upon him, no sideways glances.

6805fb417bdf6ec92f42e673593be870When his food came, he thanked me graciously and said he was going to let me get back to my friends.

After he was gone, I realized I had left out one important step in this little mission of mine. I had reached out in grace, but not in truth.

“I’ll get it right next time.” I told myself.

I mean, what good does it profit the Kingdom of God if a deed done in the name of Jesus has no mention of him? I didn’t buy this young man food because I am a nice person. Sometimes I’m not a nice person. In that impromptu moment, I decided to do something that mattered for the Kingdom.

If we decide we are going to live for what matters, then we might find our lives surrounded by people who need a visit at the well with the One who loves them and can free them forever. It’s up to us to reach out in grace AND truth to meet their need. After all, only the things that matter for eternity really matter, right?

It Probably Doesn’t Matter

Most of what we concern ourselves with probably doesn’t matter. Not really. Do these shoes match this shirt? Chicken or pork for dinner? What color nail polish this week? Left or right? Auburn or Alabama… Uh oh. I just crossed a line there, didn’t I?

I listen to people who spend gobs of time and expend mounds of energy on things that just don’t matter. I once watched someone spend an hour trying to decide how to place books on a bookcase. Their books, their bookcase. Who cares? As if there were a particular right or wrong way to put the books on the shelves. After thirty minutes, I wanted to say, just do it already so we can move on to something that really matters!

But I do it, too. I spin my wheels, concerning myself with trivialities and mindless distractions.

Several years ago I was shopping and found this awesome coat. I need to admit that I have a jacket/coat problem. But this coat was special. It was pink and orange and paisley and I instantly fell in love…again. But the coat in stock in that store was a size too big. I was bummed until the helpful clerk (a.k.a. Partner in frivolity) called another store to find they had that very coat in my size! All I had to do was make the thirty minute drive to get it. I was ecstatic. It was late, but if I hurried, I could still get there before the store closed and buy my coat.

Nothing else mattered in that moment but that coat. I was on a mission and I was single minded. Get the coat, get the coat. I got the coat. It is a fabulous coat. I have had that coat now for seven or eight years. It’s still fabulous, but I have maybe worn that coat less than ten times in all that time. I spent two hours of my life with my focus on obtaining a coat I would hardly ever wear. Two hours of time frittered away on nothing that mattered.

Do I think this is why God gave me life? To fritter it away on things so trivial? Things that impact no one for eternity? Is this why I live and breathe and have my being?

I think distraction is one of the best tools in the enemy’s tool chest. If he can manage to distract us from what matters, then the work of the Kingdom can be put off for one more day. If he can dangle a fancy coat in front of my eyes, I’ll not even see the hurting woman standing a short distance from me, or think to call that friend who is struggling. If I can be enticed to focus my energies on things that don’t matter for eternity, then the things that do are lost in the mix.

The ruler of this world wants our focus here, on the things of this world, when in reality our focus needs to be on the eternal things. This life is fleeting. The Bible tells us it is but a vapor, here today but gone quickly. (John 4:14)

If we are not careful, our minds can become stuck in a revolving door of focusing on the wrong things. It’s a mind trick straight from our enemy. We can step out of that revolving door if we so choose. We could try asking ourselves, “Does this really matter or is it a distraction?” And if it is a distraction, what’s the deal? Because, with our enemy, there is never such a thing as a purposeless distraction.

Ephesians 5:11-17 says,
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

It’s Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day today. I find that Father’s Day is a bit different from Mother’s Day. It’s almost as if it’s sort of a consolation prize to dads. I mean Mother’s Day was instituted first, and it wasn’t until a few years later, almost begrudgingly, that dads were given a nod.

Over the decades, I think dads have just accepted this lesser holiday for themselves. Dads don’t typically expect so much from their day, whereas, moms? Moms have great expectations for their day.

It seems, by and large, that most of us are filled with warm fuzzies when we think of Mother’s Day. But many have a hard time mustering up those same feelings when it comes to Father’s Day. It’s a shame really. The role fathers play in our lives is so paramount to how we turn out that it is really a role that should be celebrated with all the fanfare of Mother’s Day.

So what’s the problem?

I won’t pretend to think I have all the answers to that question. I do know that sometimes dads stumble a bit when it comes to how to execute their part in the lives of their children. I also think that we moms don’t always set them up for success. I don’t lay the blame completely at mom’s feet, it is the society we live in.

One of the longest running TV shows ever is The Simpsons. This is something I will never understand. It is also one of the worst portrayals of a father I have ever seen. Poor Homer never stands a chance. But The Simpsons show is not the only one to paint fathers in a bad light, in fact, you’ll be hard pressed to name many shows where the dad takes on his role and does it well.

In reality, if moms did a better job of setting men up for success in their roles as fathers, they would likely do a better job. It’s really what we were made to do the best. We were fashioned to help them. They need us. That doesn’t mean they are stupid, or bumbling, it means they need our support and help. So many times, women want to criticize and tear down their spouses with regard to how they parent, that after a while, the poor guy says, “I give up. You do it all.” And so we do. Because we can do it better, or so we think. Only we are wrong.

The way God designed the family was intentional. He set man as the head of the family, just as Jesus is head of the church. Have you ever been to a church where Jesus is not head of it? It doesn’t function very well does it? The same is true of the family. If dad is not at the helm, the family will never be what it could be. Now that’s not to say that the wife is not playing an integral part. She is. But when she tries to play the man’s part, it all goes south, just like in the church.

This is a challenge to women. Always has been, since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Eve stepped out of her role and led Adam. And we’ve been fighting sin ever since. Some of you don’t like that, but truth is truth.

Maybe it would be good to repaint the picture of dad’s role. Perhaps dad is standing against the world’s measuring stick and can’t help but come up short every time. But what if dad stood up to God’s measuring stick? How would he stand up to that?

Let’s take a look.

We’ve already said that God has set man up as head of the household. Ladies, how are we doing there? Are we letting him lead? Are we encouraging him to do that which God has called him to do, or are we so critical and demeaning that he gives up trying just to avoid our mouths?

Dads love God first. A man cannot lead his family in the way that it should go, if he doesn’t first and foremost love God. Both mom and kids will feel safer following a man who is following God.

Dads love mom. The best thing a dad can do, next to loving God, is love their kid’s mom. It has to be intentional, obvious, and it should probably involve some TMI moments in front of the kids. My husband loves that one. Nothing paints a better picture of security for kids than for them to know that dad loves their mom.

Dads lead by example. Good dads never say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” And yet so many lead this way. What a dad wants their kids to do, he must do. If he wants his kids to honor their mother, he must honor their mother. If he wants his kids to grow up with a good handle on finances, he must handle his money well. You get my drift.

Dads are there, no matter what. No situation is too sticky for a dad to jump in and help. Kids need to know that no situation they may find themselves in is too sticky to call dad in for. A good dad will come.IMG_9467 - Version 2

Today, I honor my own dad, Tom Godfrey for the way he led our family. He has always been a shining example to me of a biblical dad. I also honor my father-in-law, Paul Benson, who for the last 25 years has loved me as if I was his very own daughter. But mostly today, I honor my husband, Matthew, who without a doubt is the best model of a godly father I can imagine. The words I have written paint the best picture of him that there is. My kids are blessed beyond measure because of his leadership in our family.

Difference Maker

Any person who knows me now would have a hard time believing I ever had trouble talking to people. But it’s true. I was a terribly shy kid. So shy that an older man at my church, Mr. Little, decided to try and fix me and started calling me “Stuck Up”. He’d see me at church and say, “Hey, Stuck up!” I’d eek out an, “I’m not stuck up.” He’d reply, “Well you don’t ever speak to me.” I realize now, he was trying to help me. By staying in my shell, I was not offering my best to people.

Eventually, I came out of my shell like gang busters.

There have been times now that my love of the spoken word gets me into trouble. I love to speak as much as I love to write. Lots of nights, my husband falls asleep before I’m done telling him things. He often tells me to cut to the chase. In my head I’m thinking, but that version isn’t nearly as good as my long drawn out version. It won’t be as humorous or as exciting. But okay, if that’s what you want, here goes boring and short. Sigh.

He’s happier, but I am not. Taylor Swift says, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate…” Well I say, “Talkers gotta talk, talk, talk, talk…”

Cut a storyteller off and it’s like telling a bird not to fly or a fish not to swim. It’s just not natural.

I also appreciate wit. I love for people to laugh. I also love it when they laugh because I said something funny. It’s an attention seeking behavior, but I really do love to put people at ease with humor. I think most of us take life a bit too seriously and need to laugh more. I believe it is an under-appreciated spiritual gift. It’s possible that it is under-appreciated because it is also annoying at times.

I found myself listening to NeedToBreathe’s song, “The Difference Maker”. At the end, there is a tumble of lyrics that I had not really paid attention to before today. In case you don’t know the song, the Difference Maker is Jesus. The lyric says,

“So if you’re beating death then raise your hand, but shut up if you’re not. ‘Cause I am the difference maker.”

I just found that both profound and pretty funny. Not that I think Jesus would ever say that to anyone, but then again, he’s pretty witty. I wonder if he gets weary of all the arguments against him… to the point that he looks around and asks, “So anyone else around here die and then come back to life, thereby conquering sin and death and saving mankind for all of eternity? Anyone? No? Then hush.”

Words are powerful. Words change lives, both for the good and for the bad. Somewhere along the way, someone’s words changed your life. But words alone are just no good. 1 Corinthians 13 says that flowery words mean nothing without love. I can come out of my shell and talk my head off, but if I do it without love, I might as well have stayed in that shell.

James, Chapter 3, talks about the words we say. From the same mouth comes both blessing and cursing. This is a problem. Proverbs tells us that there is both life and death in our words. We must choose to speak life.

I’m glad that Mr. Little helped me out all those years ago. He helped me see that my shyness was really all about me. God had made me for greater things. Still, if I am not careful, all this talk coming out of my mouth can turn attention toward me as much as the shyness did. Like most things, it’s not supposed to be about me. A fact I can easily forget. I need to remember, that if I do this right, I am also a difference maker.

He Calls Me Wonder Woman

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am daughter, sister, aunt, friend, homemaker, employee, coworker, mentor, and volunteer. I wear lots of hats. If I were a real juggler in a circus, I could be the star attraction. I would have a marvelous costume. It would be leopard print because leopard print is marvelous, and my hair and makeup would be flawless.

With a drum roll, I would begin. In short order, I would wow the crowds with my ability to keep it all in the air. The audience would sit on the edge of its seats, fearing that I would lose it all. Only I wouldn’t, because I am that good.

Or am I?

As long as I can keep up a brave face, no one has to know that my act is struggling or even worse, that some of my balls lay strewn on the ground at my feet, right?

It’s a problem, this act we put on. I say we, because maybe you do it, too. Perhaps you perform in the center ring of your own circus.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all we have to do. As women, there seems to be this piece of us that just has to take it all on. I can remember an Enjoli commercial when I was growing up about a woman who could do it all.

She could bring home the bacon (She could work and make money).

She could fry it up in the pan. (She could be a successful homemaker.)

She could never let him forget he’s a man. (I was little, so I pictured a woman saying to her husband, “You are a man. You are a man.” I grew a little older before I understood what the commercial was implying.)

The point of the advertisement was to imply that women could do it all. It aired during a time when women from all walks of life were heading into the workforce en mass. They needed someone to tell them they could do it all.

Why? Because we are women and we just can. We don’t have to say yes to some things and no to others. We can do it all and we can have it all.

But forget about women as a whole unit for a minute and take a minute to think about yourself. One woman. You. Because deep down, you know the truth. You know it as surely as I do. The truth is, that none of us can do it all. We know our limits, and we generally wave to them as we pass them right by. We usually know when we’ve gone too far.

The problem is, most of us don’t want to think about the fact that we can’t do everything.

But here’s the truth about that.

We weren’t meant to do everything. We run ourselves ragged trying to be all things to all people when no one ever asked us to be.

Wonder Woman doesn’t exist. She never did. God did not create woman because man needed a super human mate. God created woman to fulfill a singular role that was lacking in the universe.

Each of us is created on purpose to fulfill a purpose. Too often, we run around, willy-nilly, unable to find that purpose because we keep grasping at what everyone else tells us our purpose is.

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When I get to the point of tears and exasperation, because I have tried once again to be super human in my obligations, my husband will usually call me Wonder Woman and pull me into his lap. If I were really Wonder Woman, I wouldn’t need him to pull me into his lap. I’d be pulling on red go-go boots, heading to my invisible plane to jet off and save the day again.

As I sink into his lap, he reminds me that I am, in fact, not Wonder Woman… Except to him… and that’s none of your business.

Moving on, let’s say my life is a pie chart.

I am first and foremost, a daughter of the King. That’s the biggest slice of the pie, or it should be. Then I am wife to Matthew and mother to Landon, Ryan, Laura, and Evan… all fairly big pieces of my pie. Most of my pie chart has been colored in with just those. It’s the remaining pieces of the pie that can tend to get out of control and cause me to feel overwhelmed. And it’s usually when I begin to let other people color in my pie for me that I begin to feel the pressure of an overloaded pie.

When this happens, I’m only a little girl, running around in a Wonder Woman costume. I’m trying to be something I never was made to be. When that happens, it can be hard being me.

It can be hard being you, too. I know. I don’t have the corner on this market of being all things to all people. I bet you do it, too. It might just be time to re-slice that pie. What do you say, Wonder Woman?

(Today’s Blog art by Brooke Benson)

The Rest of the Story

Does anyone else remember Paul Harvey? As a kid, I can remember riding in the car with my mom, listening to him on the radio. Paul was a story teller. He told interesting life stories, but his hook was he didn’t tell his audience the whole story to begin with. He’d take you right up to the good part and then break for commercial. He left you wondering what the conclusion would be, what had really motivated the person the story was about, or what turn of events could possibly have the story end well. Paul never disappointed. He would always come back with the rest of the story, and we always wanted to hear it.

Paul Harvey passed on, and days of hearing the rest of the story seem to have died out with Paul. These days we are quite comfortable making our judgements well before we’ve heard the rest of the story. Whether it is a police shooting, a public figure accused of wrong doing, or someone in our own personal lives whose actions come under question. We rarely even care about hearing the rest of the story. Once our opinions have been formed (or formed for us by the media), we just aren’t interested in the rest.

One of the strongest weapons in our enemy’s arsenal is offense. Why is that? Because we just love to be offended.

shockedThink about it. Think about the self-satisfaction that comes along with being offended. Oh, we puff up and act as is our delicate sensitivities have been attacked, but at the very core of offense is satisfaction. Why?

Because offense elevates us, and turns our attentions inward.

If I am offended by something you have done, then I must be somehow in a higher or better position than you are. We are only allowed to sit in judgement of someone else if we are in some way higher than they. Either morally, ethically, financially, positionally, or whatever, we find ourselves in a better place to judge the actions we witnessed.

If our enemy can use offense against us, then he can cause us to elevate ourselves, which is in exact opposition to humbling ourselves before God. If he can use offense against us, then good relationships can be broken. When relationships are broken, the fabric of support in our lives weakens. Our disinterest in hearing the rest of the story can even cause us to be offended at God. For now we see through a mirror dimly, but one day we will understand the rest of our story. (1 Corinthians 13)

The reason our enemy loves using offense against us is he knows how reluctantly we are to let it go, even in the face of the rest of the story. It sounds crazy to think that we enjoy being offended. But think about it. How much to do we love to tell those stories? I cannot wait to get on the phone or see a friend and relay how an unkind driver cut me off on the road, or how a rude person slighted me.

It is our challenge to let those arrows of offense from our enemy fall at our feet. How can we do that? We do that by putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6). How many times do we rush out to meet the day without it? How much could we avoid offense if we took the time to put on the helmet of truth or the breast plate of righteousness, even if we left off everything else? (I have a vision of myself running out the door struggling to fasten my breastplate while holding my helmet on my head.)

In our love of offense, we often rush to judgement before we know the entire story. The Bible tells us to take care in our judgement of others. That same measure of judgement will be used on us. (Matthew 7:1). That could pose a problem, for who among us is without fault?

Our society is one that cares not about the rest of the story, but as Christians, we are guided by truth. We are called to seek Truth. We need to know the rest of the story. Jesus is busy at the right hand of God telling the rest of my story and yours, and how wonderful it is that He is willing to hear it.

“Yes, Stacey did that, but the rest of the story is… that I have redeemed her.”

Praise God for the rest of THAT story.