Month: August 2015

See, Hear, Decide, Act

Today, I saw the seventh report out from The Center for Medical Progress regarding the harvesting and sale of body parts from aborted babies. Someone took a scalpel to the face of that child, whose heart was still beating, to remove its brain in order to sell it. How did we get to this place where anyone, anywhere, would find this alright?

I also read a story of the small religious sect of people called the Yazidi who have been taken captive by ISIS, their men killed and women and children taken and sold into an elaborate sex trafficking organization. Another story was told of how ISIS is harvesting organs of the Yazidi and selling them on the black market to fund their cause. Again, how can anyone justify those actions?

You can dress evil up in different clothes, but its dance is always the same.

We can decide these stories are too much for our delicate sensitivities, But don’t you think it’s time to engage and decide that these things must end? Yet I ask, what can we, as individuals, really do?

Some people I know boycott certain brands or stores who support the things they stand against. That’s certainly one option, but where it involves large corporations, unless tens of thousands of people choose to do that, the real impact is slight.

Others choose to write to their government officials, and let them know how they expect those elected to represent them on issues of things like funding/prosecuting Planned Parenthood, immigration, or foreign issues such as terrorism. Our officials will do the will of the government, rather than the will of the people, unless millions of Americans care enough first to vote and then to speak up to their representatives in government.

Some decide to infiltrate industries to make moral and ethical changes to the fabric of society from within. Those who operate this way refuse to leave their convictions at the door, and instead, carry them inside and carefully, with calculated effort, make change from the inside. It’s a slow, arduous process, but unless all who feel convicted act on those convictions within industry, little can be done to turn the tide.

When the genocide that took place in Rwanda came to light, the world said, “Never again.” Only we didn’t mean it, because it has happened a dozen times since then, and it’s happening today. How bad does it really have to get before the good people of America and the world say, “That’s it. This is done. No more.”

As I look around, I’m not sure it can get much worse. We can fight evil and we can win, but we have to choose to make a stand where and when we can. These are our children, our brothers and sisters, our issues. This is our society, our world. We are responsible.

Everyone has heard Edmond Burke’s quote,

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

But fewer might have heard this from him.

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

It’s true that alone, there is little any one person like you or me can do to effect real change regarding the atrocities we see in our world. But we no longer live in an age where we can claim ignorance to the things going on in the world around us. Information is ours for the viewing with just a couple of clicks of a computer mouse. It’s time to engage the world around us. The truth is that I am not alone. You are not alone.

Jesus said that there are many who have eyes and yet do not see, ears and yet do not hear. Let’s not be those people.

See. Hear. Decide. Act. 

There is much that I cannot do, but if I choose not to do what I could do, what kind of person am I, really?

  • We can all do a little research on the companies that produce the brands we use most. What do they support with their money? Is it something we would give to directly? If not, contact them. Ask them to reconsider their position, and remove your support of their business only if you have to.
  • It’s just stupid easy to email your representatives these days. Trust me, I do it all the time. I’m sure I’m on a frequent emailer list in DC. I try to be respectful, and I never say anything I wouldn’t want my grandma to read, but how do they know the will of the people if we don’t tell them?
  • If you work in any industry, take your convictions with you to the job. You can affect change just by living those convictions. It may seem like a small thing, but character and integrity still mean something. Be a person others will grow to listen to and follow. People are watching you. You have a sphere of influence. Use it.

These are just a few ideas. You probably have better ones. On their own, they may not look like much, but if I add my efforts with yours, and then ours with those of others, together we really can change the world. And if we don’t, those other guys are going to. They’ve already begun.

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Personality Tests: The Good, The Bad, and the Flaw

I was asked recently to take a personality test. I was so excited.

I’m kidding.

I was not excited…

…for two reasons. One, I’ve taken those tests and they are often spot on, and two, I have taken those tests, and sometimes they are wrong, way wrong.

I won’t advertise the name of the particular test I took, but it is one that allows you to order characteristics in several small groupings as really like you or really not like you. From that, the test spits out who you are. If you are honest with yourself and with the test, you are supposed to get a fairly accurate picture of your personality type and how you come across to other people.

There I was, laid out in black and white; all my secrets there on the page. I took the test in about ten minutes, and in less than an hour, I had a twenty four page printed assessment of my personality.  Well, at least the secrets as to why I am the way I am, and how people can expect me to react in most any situation. As I sat down to read about myself, I couldn’t help laughing. There was a lot of accurate information in the pages I was reading. FullSizeRender

According to the report, I create enthusiasm in others, and I place my focus on people. I want to be liked by everyone, and I try to influence people through personal relationships. All true. I consistently try to inspire people to my point of view, and when I have strong feelings about a particular problem, folks can expect to hear my feelings and those feelings will be expressed in an emotional manner. And most of the time, I don’t understand why people don’t see life the way I do. Again, all true.

Also true is that I see my ability to talk smoothly, readily, and at length as an asset. Haha. It didn’t say that others see it that way!

Eventually, the report got to my problem areas. The report says that that when I am under pressure I am perceived as being self-promoting, overly optimistic, glib, and unrealistic. In extreme situations I am overly confident, a poor listener, talkative, and again with the self-promoter.

That self-promoter thing kind of bothers me. I’ve taken this test and others many times, and this is not the first time I’ve read that about myself. I’m going to have think on that one again because as a follower of Christ, it is Jesus that I want to promote. Not me. Or at least that’s what I should want.

But that brings me to the assessment of my results, both positive and not so positive. The test in no way takes into account my love for Jesus and how that love affects my actions. It doesn’t take into account that my love of people has to do with the fact that Jesus loves people. My desire to influence people is motivated out of a love for God and because He chooses to be in relationship with us, I choose to sway people through relationships, too.

As a follower of Christ, I hope to inspire people to my way of thinking about life and how we are to live it. If I appear to be overly optimistic, it’s because I believe in a God that is bigger than my circumstances. If I am glib or unrealistic, it’s because I have seen God do things that make no sense in the natural world. If I am overly confident, it is because I am sure of what I believe to be true not because I said it is true, but because God said it is true.

The test was fairly accurate, but it left out the most important parts of what motivates me to be who I am. How can it when in no way was a relationship with the living God factored in?

Here is the truth about who I am and about who you are, too. As followers of Christ, our identity is found in Him. We are who He says we are. Period. These personality tests are fun and can be somewhat helpful, but when you cannot factor in the biggest motivation for a person’s identity, any test falls short of telling the entire story. Who am I? I am a daughter of the Most High King, and that’s all that really matters about who I am and why.

UR4GIVN

Vanity tags are everywhere. I don’t have one because I am too cheap to pay for one, but I do enjoy seeing what other people choose to put on theirs. Often, it’s like a game to try to figure out what some of them are saying. Sometimes I attempt to figure out a tag only to finally conclude it’s not a vanity tag at all and I’ve just wasted my time trying to interpret some random tag.

thRecently, on my drive to work, I pulled to a stop at a red light behind a van with a vanity tag. It said, UR4GIVN.

Yes, I thought.

I am forgiven.

I appreciated the reminder. I did.

But then my mind when to the thought of, what if I wasn’t forgiven? What if I had pulled up behind this van, unforgiven, only to read UR4GIVN. What would that tag mean to me then? Would I wonder what this driver was forgiving me for? I mean, what had I done to them? Was this tag for tailgaters?

What would that tag mean to someone who is not forgiven?

The thought occurred to me that the person, who had that tag made, was meting out forgiveness that is not theirs to give. The sad truth is everyone is not forgiven. If everyone who pulled up behind that van, and read the message on the tag were believers in Christ, having recognized their sin and need for a Savior, who had turned from their sin and asked for forgiveness of their sin, I wouldn’t have the problem I was currently having with the tag.

I know. It’s just a tag.

Move on, Stacey.

But my issue is this. We live in a world where society says that everyone must be allowed in, no matter what. We make no exclusions. No matter what they’ve done, who or what they claim to be. No matter how they behave or choose to live their lives, we are to accept them. On the surface that sort of sounds like Jesus. We can come to him, no matter what we’ve done, no matter how we have lived our lives, and find acceptance in Christ.th

And yet we only find forgiveness for our sinfulness when we ask for it. It’s a given we will be 4GIVN if we ask to be, and if we truly humble ourselves before Jesus. He is standing at the ready, eager to give us forgiveness, but we do have to ask. We have to come to the place in our own lives where we recognize our need, our fallen state, and our inability to fix ourselves. When we turn, and we have to turn, he is right there. Finding God is not hard. The Bible tells us, we only must seek him to find him. There is no place he is not.

Psalm 139:7-12 says,

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

Forgiveness is free… for the asking. We don’t deserve forgiveness. It should not be ours. We should have a debt to pay in order to have it. And yet, that debt was paid for us.

Our forgiveness didn’t cost us anything, but it cost Jesus everything. We can offer people Jesus, but forgiveness and reconciliation is His alone to give.

I guess it’s just too much to put on a license plate.

Yes, It Is Possible

“Why does this upset you so much?” This was the question asked me by my husband after my rant that likely went on for a minute… or five. He had a look of mild amusement as he tends to enjoy it when I am upset. He’s not being unkind, it’s just that I don’t tend to get rattled often, so when I do, he finds it kind of amusing and a bit attractive. His amusement rarely amuses me.

The catalyst for my latest rant was a doctor’s appointment I had attended that afternoon with my son. My son and this doctor had never met so there was no prior relationship. The doctor had proceeded with his “review of systems” form, asking my son about each body system and if he had any issues with anything. Then came the inevitable question of alcohol consumption.

“Do you consume any alcohol?”
“No.”
“Okay. Do you smoke?”
“No.”
“No marijuana?”
“No.”
(Then comes the first look of doubt.)
“Are you sexually active?”
(Just the question a young man wants to answer in front of his mom.)
“Nope.”
“Really? Would you be able to give a more honest answer if your mom stepped out?”
“I mean, no. It’s fine.”
“So you are not sexually active?”
“Uh uh.”
“O-kay…”
(Another look of doubt directed at the both of us.)

thI know the doctor didn’t believe that a young man of my son’s age could honestly answer no to all of those questions. I could see it on his face, and my son could, too. The difference between my son and me is my son didn’t care what the doctor thought, while I was completely frustrated, but it wasn’t the first time that this has happened with this or another of my kids. It is as if young people participating in those activities are the norm, and those who don’t are the anomaly. It’s just accepted that kids will be kids, and parents just hope they make it to adulthood without screwing up too badly. I cannot tell you the looks of pity I get those occasions when the subject comes up, and I say that my kids aren’t participating in those things.

th“Okay, just go ahead and live in your little fantasy land, Stacey.”

I get angry at those people. I get angry because avoiding those pitfalls is hard. To stand strong in today’s society deserves more from people than their doubt and an assumption of guilt. Am I saying that it is not possible for my kids to fail in those areas? No.

They have made choices, and drawn lines in the sand that they do not intend to cross. But if they ever did cross those lines, there would be grace, forgiveness and restoration, but to presume sin upon people just because it has become expected isn’t acceptable.

It is possible to raise kids today that do not engage in those activities. It just is. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t just happen. As parents, we have to stay engaged with our kids, and involved in their lives. Talk to them. Know their friends. Care enough to say no sometimes. Raise the level of accountability. Ask questions. Require answers. Set boundaries. Show grace so that honesty is possible. Accept failure, but expect success.

Most importantly, lead them into a relationship with Jesus. Notice, I didn’t say, “Take them to church”. I’ve talked to hurting parents whose children have made serious mistakes, and they don’t understand what happened. “They know better. I’ve taken them to church their whole lives.”

Those parents are right. Their kids did know better. And there is obviously nothing wrong with taking your kids to church, but in the absence of any real relationship with the living God, their success in resisting temptations is low. Apart from a life that honors God and that strives to live according to His principles, moral failure is likely. Kids who desire to live a life that is pleasing to God will put His desires above their own. They will choose friends who do the same, and are committed to holding them accountable.

I’d like to say that our kids are in the place they are spiritually because Matthew and I are just that great. But the truth is we have always leaned heavily on our own parenting mentors, and on others who come alongside us to pour truth into our kids. If our kids cannot turn to the right or to the left without hearing someone speaking the truths of scripture into their lives, the likelihood that they will stay true to their convictions is much higher.

This issue upsets me so much because I feel like some parents throw in the towel too early. If we are going to surrender our kids to society, then society will do its number on them. God’s plan for our kids is greater than society’s plan. This world has nothing to offer them. If we don’t teach them that, then who will?

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6: 6-7

Chickens Are People, Too

People, when they find out I now have chickens, ask, “Why?” Some want to know if we are getting ready to go off the grid. Those who ask that don’t really know my family at all. We are the most “on the grid” people ever. One person asked if the price of eggs was just too much. Ha ha. No.

FullSizeRenderWhat I tell people is that having chickens is just a bit of nonsense. I think we all need just a bit of nonsense in our lives, something we do just for fun. My husband built us a splendid, and super cute, chicken coop. I added the curtains inside to ramp up the cuteness. Chickens do not need curtains. All chickens really need is food, water, shelter and protection from the many predators that also like the taste of chicken.

I will admit that having chickens has revealed a few things to me. Sayings that I have heard all my life now make sense. For example, my mother would say the phrase “mad as a wet hen”. I found out one extremely hot day, when I sprayed my chickens with the water hose in an attempt to cool them off, they really don’t like to be wet. Mad hens, they were.

As I watch my chickens scratch around in the dirt and see the markings they leave behind, I understand clearly when someone’s poor handwriting is called “chicken scratch”. Several doctors I have worked with come to mind…

With the exception of bugs, my chickens are afraid of everything. It’s why we call scared people “chicken”. I tossed a pinecone into the chicken run yesterday just to amuse them, and they were terrified of it. I stood watching and listening to them cluck at each other, obviously nominating who would be the one to go in and check out this odd item. Generally, it’s the top chicken that does these things, but since the pecking order isn’t quite finalized they played the chicken version of “not it”.

Speaking of pecking order, flocks of chickens do establish a pecking order to establish… order. It can seem a bit mean on the part of the chickens, well the ones at the top anyway, as the order really is established by pecking. The final elections are still pending, but it’s looking like my daughter’s chicken, Penelope, is currently in the lead with the best polling numbers. My daughter says she is not surprised, she has groomed Penelope for leadership since she hatched and arrived in our mail.

FullSizeRenderAnd speaking of “hen pecked”, that’s another chicken truism that is clearly demonstrated by the chickens. In the evenings, I put my leopard print rubber boots on (Just because I am a chicken keeper doesn’t mean I don’t have style), and step inside the run. I stay still for just a few minutes so the chickens get used to me being there, and become convinced that I might not eat them.

Chickens, for all their fear, are curious creatures. It doesn’t take long before they are inching closer and closer to me. They have keen eyesight and notice if I have a stray string or whatever on me. Buttons and other shiny things are also so alluring. Before I know it, I am being hen pecked. At that point I shoo them away with threats of chicken for dinner.

FullSizeRenderYesterday evening, I watched as our chickens settled in for the night. Inside the coop we have placed roosting bars. These are posted up high enough that the birds have to fly up to them. It makes them feel safe to sleep high up off the ground and away from potential predators. Our coop is completely secure from predators, but try telling the hens. The hens all want to sleep on the highest roost. And there is plenty of room for all of them there. Only no one hen wants to be on the end.

The first hen will fly up and position herself on one end of the roost next to the coop wall. Then the others will follow, lining up along the roost… until the final hen realizes she’s on the end, and the most vulnerable in that position. That hen will then attempt to climb over or slide around (on a roost mind you) to find a spot somewhere in the middle. It’s kind of like my kids in the movie theater, or church. There’s lots of clucking, wing flapping, feather flying, and falling off the roost going on. I watched the comedy show for about fifteen minutes before deciding I could be out there another hour before they settled in for the night.

I have discovered that we are not so different from chickens. We are often afraid. We don’t like feeling vulnerable. We need to find our place in a community. We are even capable of stepping on, or knocking others off the “roost” in order to find our own security.

I’ve learned a lot about chickens from my chickens, but I’m learning a lot about people, too. Keeping chickens is nonsense, learning to live peaceably in our people flocks, is not. We were made to live in community… but we really shouldn’t peck at each other.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.    Romans 12: 9-18

M is for Motion

I am rarely as tired as I am today. But I am at least this tired once a year. For those who know the Bensons at all, you know this was Motion Conference week. Matthew is Creative Director for students at Highlands, so Motion is a family affair. Motion Conference is a student conference put on by Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. It used to be held at the main campus of our church, but over the years, grew to the point that the church campus could not accommodate all the students from around the country who wanted to come.

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The Student Ministries team at Highlands never intended for it to be what it is today… but God laid His hand on it, and this year, in the conference’s third year at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center, it hosted ten thousand students, from four hundred different churches around our country, for three days.

To say this is a huge undertaking doesn’t even begin to give credence to what happened this weekend. The team began working a year ago to be able to see this conference come to life. There was booking bands and speakers… some from as far away as Australia. Promoting the conference at every opportunity to bring in students. Designing the theme and graphic pieces that would go on signage and merchandise. Shooting and editing the twelve video pieces that were played, planning the production aspects that included staging, lighting, sound and video… and sixty Plexiglas cubes that lit up and changed colors were built. Providing food for 1500 staff and volunteers and ten thousand students for three days. Arranging hotel rooms for students and staff. Organizing 1300 awesome volunteers who would handle security, community groups, registration, set up, take down, catering, and the Motion store. Making sure that each and every detail was covered in prayer.

I’m even more tired just thinking about all of that, and I am sure I have left of many things that were done to make Motion Conference a reality. It would be easy to say that it’s all too much to do, that the effort, the cost, the man hours required are just more than can be managed… until the results begin to present themselves.

When I stand in an arena that is generally used for things of this world, and see it turned into a place of worship, I can see the worth of the previous twelve months. All the time, effort, sweat and tears… and yes, there are tears sometimes, are worth it. Watching students discover their worth, their purpose and calling, and know that many of them are experiencing their defining moments at Motion … in that moment it is clear why the effort is made.

Lots of students move a step or two in their faith during Motion, but many more take huge leaps forward. Many have never before experienced worship like they did this weekend. Many have never been told that they matter and were made on purpose to fulfill a purpose by and for a God who loves them. At Motion, many discover that they matter and that they are a part of something bigger than themselves that goes far beyond what they are experiencing personally in their lives.11822485_10203706475297157_6614033895994754872_n

I love the excellence that goes into producing Motion Conference. But in the end, it is the results that really matter. What the Holy Spirit does in the lives of the students is the element that matters most. Motion is about helping the next generation stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before them to let them see what it is that they are being asked to do, and the ways that they are being called to serve in the Kingdom of God to make a difference in this world. For this generation will go farther, endure more, and impact more greatly this world than any generation before them since Jesus first came to earth.

Sometimes I wish we could do Motion Conference all the time… but it would literally kill us. No way could we keep that pace all the time. It’s a high, but it’s exhausting. I am both sad and relieved when the conference is done each year. This year, 2400 students came to know Jesus at Motion Conference. In the end, that’s what matters. Lives changed here and for eternity. That’s good stuff. That’s Motion.