My Marriage Feels Like Work

I felt something bubbling up today.

At first I thought it was indigestion. But it turned out to be a speech! Here’s what I wrote on Facebook:

 

 

When a Christian wants to be “honest” about relationships on Facebook, they often say something like:

“Let’s be honest… Sometimes it’s hard work and you want to quit… But it’s always worth it. ❤ “

Wait, “Sometimes it’s hard work?”   

LOL!

That’s the biggest understatement on the planet!

How about this:

“It’s USUALLY so hard that you assume there must be something wrong because it couldn’t possibly be this hard for everyone.” 

In the words of a wise man I know, “If marriage were easy, you wouldn’t have to take a vow to keep doing it.”

There’s nothing quite like marriage to reveal our weaknesses and remind us how much we prefer BEING SERVED to doing the serving.  Every day, as both a wife and mother, I’m shocked by how much I’m tempted to become an ugly, shriveled, self-obsessed monster.

I have to struggle every, single day to remember that my husband is not my Need-Fulfillment Vending Machine. He does not exist solely to dispense what I call “love” and “joy,” whenever I think it’s owed.

I have to cling to Jesus every, single day , lest I view my husband and kids like smartphones built for my convenience.

Do you know how annoying that is?  

Do you know how HARD IT IS to forgive my husband for coming home late on the nights he said he’d be home early, and the kids have been unholy terrors, and I’m convinced that I’m putting way more into this family than I’m getting back out of it… 

…but then, on top of all that, I get slapped with the realization that I’m mad at my husband FOR WORKING TO PROVIDE FOR OUR FAMILY, which makes me not only tired and overworked, but also ungrateful. So, then, I have to grapple with the fact that I owe everybody an apology, which I will only be able to conjure up by the grace of God. 

Love and marriage feel like conviction and frustration and Repetition more often than they feel like Infatuation.

And if that’s not scandalizing enough, let me just say that I consider the “boring” days some of the best ones… 

Forget “passion” and “keeping the flame burning.”    Just give us a nice, ordinary stretch of days where we’re too busy thinking of others to be concerned with whether our marriage is sufficiently “thrilling,” for once.

I’ll take boring!…when we get a break from our foolish, wandering lusts for a little while. Our restless hearts are able just to BE STILL with each other, free of unfair expectations, for a day or a week or (Praise God) an even longer intermission of “boring” serenity, when all the fires of our idolatry have been put out. 

I shake my head thinking how so many promises made by Christian Counselors encourage a Vending Machine Mentality.  “You should LOVE your spouse”…like you love a bag of chips.  Or “You should enjoy your spouse”…like you enjoy scrolling on your phone.  

“Don’t let your excitement for this product die!”

They insist The Manufacturer (God) wants you to keep burning with excitement, so if you don’t, you know it’s time for a repair or an upgrade.

(Enter: the Marriage Enrichment Class.)

Yikes. There’s no better way to bring out the ugly, shriveled, self-obsessed monsters. 

Treating people like commodities only seems like it will feel good, until you actually put it into practice.

—-

Anyway, I’m saying all of this with a smile on my face. (I say this because I’ve been accused before of enjoying pain.)

I’m not miserable, and I’m certainly not anti-marriage.

I just think it’s a shame when people destroy their relationships because they expect refinement and growth and sanctification to feel a certain way all the time… and then they’re surprised when it feels like work. 

Trump, Loving Our Enemies, and Fighting for Our Rights

I read this article today from the Washington Post: Trump’s Politicization of the National Prayer Breakfast is Unholy and Immoral.

Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

At the 68th, and perhaps last, National Prayer Breakfast…Arthur C. Brooks…spoke on the themes of his wonderful 2019 book “Love Your Enemies.” President Trump then prefaced his speech by saying: “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you…  I don’t know if Arthur’s going to like what I’m going to say.”

It was a strange moment in U.S. religious history. The command to love your enemies, of course, came from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to them that hate you.” It might be expected for a president to express how difficult obeying such a mandate can be. Trump decided to dispute the command itself.

Of course, the opinion piece went on to say how wrong it was of Trump to turn the Prayer Breakfast into a political speech and to “take shots at” his enemies rather than loving them.   (To clarify, that’s what Trump was doing, when he said, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ when I know that is not so.”  Those were the examples used in the Washington Post piece of Trump failing to love his enemies. )

What excites me is that we can once again thank President Trump for helping Liberals understand a simple Bible truth which they have found complicated and even problematic for decades before. 

What is “love”? And who are our “enemies?” And how do our answers to these questions affect the Progressives in their Quest for Social Justice?

Back when Obama was using the National Prayer Breakfast to talk about Islam and Christians who do evil, was he loving his enemies? When Mother Teresa condemned abortion at the Prayer Breakfast in 1994, was she loving hers?

I’ve noticed it’s much, much easier for people to answer these questions when they hear that The Orange Man said unflattering things about his enemies, in an apparent contradiction of Jesus’ clear words about love and forgiveness and humility, etc. etc.

But when it’s a gay teenager or a Stay-at-Home mother or a black businessman who feels that he or she has been mistreated, we suddenly want to argue that quoting Jesus’ words is tantamount to “biblical abuse.”  (Here’s an entire book that was written about the history of quoting Scripture to cover up injustice.)

“Loving our enemies” is complicated for everyone in America–except for Donald Trump, who should just do the obvious thing and be more like Jesus.

For the record, I agree that Donald Trump is extremely arrogant and self-focused. I can’t stand listening to him speak for more than a few minutes, because he seems to think he’s the most important and interesting person in the world.  And when something unfair happens to him?… oh, my goodness, we will hear about it forever after.  It’s as if he believes that no one has ever been more strong, smart, and powerful while also taking the role of the most lowly, abused victim in the world.

Sound familiar, America?

It should.

This President represents us perfectly.

We know exactly what the Bible says about loving our enemies, but when someone lies about us…gas-lights us… asks us to use a nursing cover in public… what do we do?

We encourage each other to fight.

Fight injustice!

Stand up for your rights!

Stop letting those Bible Thumpers use their cherry-picked Scripture to silence your story!

Thank you, Donald Trump, for once again helping us embrace a concept that isn’t nearly as “grey” as we’ve been pretending for decades.

Thank you for revealing our hypocrisy and giving us the chance to practice what we preach.

God, help us.

If He Wins Again: Some Friendly Advice for Those Depending on Trump to Lose

I’ve never voted for a person who actually won the Presidential race.

I didn’t vote for Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012, and I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, either.

So, I’m speaking as a person who understands the disappointment of losing an election:

It seems as though some of my fellow Americans are setting themselves up to be VERY disappointed in 2020. 

Just a few weeks ago, John Pavlovitz posted an article called “If He Wins Again,” in which he made some pretty dire predictions regarding the Fate of the World if Trump were allowed to keep the Office.

1.28.20 If he Wins Again

Pavlovitze wrote:

“He can’t win again.

That isn’t an option.

It simply cannot be allowed.

If he wins again, November 2016 will seem relatively uneventful; a partly cloudy day in advance of a Category 5 hurricane.”

Wow. That’s a lot of expectation riding on one night of votes for one political race in one country, isn’t it?

And–yet–I know how John Pavlovitz feels.   I remember when all of my friends and family were convinced that Barack Obama was starting race wars on purpose and signing Executive Orders at an unprecedented rate on his way to crowning himself King.

And yet somehow–impossibly!–he ended up winning his second term with even MORE votes than he received the first time around!

We were blindsided and dumbfounded!  HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!?!

None of us could believe our fellow Americans had willingly surrendered the entire country to a Tyrant.

1.28.20 If He Wins Again (#5)I know what it’s like to spend four years telling yourself the entire world is falling apart because of the activity of a single man in Washington…and then watching that same man be sworn in again. 

1.28.20 If He Wins Again (#4)

This is an honest confession from someone who felt all the anger and shame and fear that John Pavlovitz’s followers have the potential to feel, if they have to watch the Orange Man take another victory.

So, this is just a short, friendly warning to anyone who sees the next election as their only hope of Salvation from Evil Incarnate:

Be careful.

Doomsday prophecies only make you look foolish when the emotions settle down and the earth keeps spinning after all...

1.28.20 If He Wins again (#3)

I’m not saying Trump is going to be re-elected.  I’m just saying, some of us need to start preparing for the possibility now…because I genuinely don’t want anyone to harm themselves or others in the midst of extreme shock.

No one thought Trump would win in 2016 (myself included), and some of the resulting reactions were memorable:

 

So, I’m simply hoping we can begin to deal with these Big Feelings before November gets here, in smaller bursts instead of one big “hurricane” (to use Pavlovitz’s analogy).

Maybe we can allow God to examine our hearts ahead of the election and make sure our priorities are in the right order…

Black Men Taught Beth Moore to “Say Less”

If you’re familiar with the controversy John MacArthur generated a few months ago by telling Beth Moore to “Go Home,” then you might be interested to know that Beth herself associates MLK Day with “being quieter.”

In fact, she told her Twitter followers that it was two black men who taught her to “say less” because the “white folks’ talk is cheap.”

My commentary on her tweet (and the original post) is below:

1.23.20 Beth Moore Tweet Say Less

I don’t expect that I’ll get a response on Twitter. You can see I have 16 notifications at the bottom because I basically never log on. (I’m too busy staying at home, teaching my kids and taking care of my household. 😉 )

But, the point is, there’s a double standard here in which white men are treated as oppressors who need to be fought against, but the words of black men are given a certain respect and submission that would normally make a Feminist cringe.

Telling a woman she needs to “Say less?!”

Telling an entire race of people that their “talk is cheap” and unneeded in certain areas, on certain days?

You can only get away with that if you’ve already laid a healthy foundation of Critical Theory. 

What’s Critical Theory, you ask?  Well, it’s complicated. But one of the points Critical Theorists often argue is that marginalized people have a special insight, thanks to their experience with Injustice, which the Oppressor group cannot fully understand.

It didn’t come from the Bible. But, philosophers and Activists have spent enough decades weaving the ugly tentacles of Critical Theory through Christian culture that many people can’t tell the difference between it and God’s Word anymore.

If you’d like to learn more about Critical Theory, please dive into Neil Schenvi’s work. (You can start here: https://shenviapologetics.com/intro-to-critical-theory/)

The god Who Speaks Lies

When I first heard that Bethel Church in Redding was holding resurrection services for a child who had been dead for several days, I immediately suspected I would find a particular type of Theology attached to it…

But I went ahead and read hundreds and hundreds of comments anyway:

“He will raise this little girl back to life…”

“Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly and with confidence…”

“I’m currently visualizing Little Olive walking with her sister again. It will happen!”

“You will have TWO children again, [Mother’s Name]! Come alive, Olive! I’m looking forward to seeing the updated picture of your whole family of FOUR!”

Many (many, many) of the comments have been deleted now, since the mother of the deceased child has removed them and closed commenting on all her Instagram photos. But anyone who followed along with the story from the beginning can testify there were hundreds more prophecies exactly like that:

 

12.20.19 Wake Up Olive (4)

 

12.20.19 Wake Up Olive (5)

(To clarify with better punctuation, she says: “[I’m] not praying–[I’m] DECLARING–God’s truth over little Olive right now…The grave must give her up because…[Jesus] is in me.”)

12.20.19 Wake Up Olive, (6)

Guys, I’m telling you, there were hundreds of comments like this.

Now, if any of you, Readers, are unfamiliar with Christians proclaiming that a dead person is “just sleeping” and the grave “must give her up” and they’re positive “it will happen” IN JESUS’ NAME, then you probably haven’t heard of the Word-of-Faith movement and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

For a quick overview about the roots and common teachings, you can watch this 5-minute video:

 

Of course, not everyone who borrows from the Word-of-Faith or NAR movement swallows all of the tenets wholesale.  But many common themes emerged during the Resurrection Services and social media posts meant to bring Olive back to life:

#1. Having faith means not “doubting,” but unflinchingly declaring as-yet-unseen miracles to be true.

#2. Spoken words aren’t just possible, but they will manifest in physical reality. (As long as we do not doubt, beause any type of doubt weakens the “Force of Faith.”)

#3.  Faithful Christians must speak boldly and with authority, to claim God’s promises.

#4.  God promises physical health, wealth, and wholeness on earth through Jesus’ work on the cross.


 

The only place I disagree with the above video is when the presenter says, “Countering the Word-Faith Movement is a simple matter of reading the Bible.”

Theoretically, it should be simple.  We ought to be able to look at the many false prophecies which have not been manifest this week and apply 1 John 4:1 and Jeremiah 23:16 and Ezekiel 13:9.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.”

“My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God.”

It should be simple to weed out the false diviners.

However, in practice, it’s not simple to penetrate the walls of lies which have been constructed around the teaching of the Word-of-Faith movement and NAR. 

Remember, the faithful have been convinced that God requires radical belief–without doubting–regardless of what happens.

Therefore, the more wrong their predictions are shown to be in reality, the more staunchly they cling to them as a “strengthening of faith.” It’s incredible!

Even before Bethel Church officially accepted baby Olive’s death, I was anticipating the way members would double down in defense of the false prophecies rather than repenting for speaking presumptiously and without Authority (Deut. 18:22).

I wrote:

As the days tick by and the dead child stays in her physical grave, I do NOT want sneaky Faith Healers to start changing the subject or using language manipulation and smoke and mirrors to divert attention away… I don’t want to see anyone saying, “Yeah, but look how nice and loving and united the church has been this week!” Or… “Prayer is never a bad thing” or… “there has been an awakening of sorts, so it’s fine.”

No.

No, it’s not fine.

The only thing worse than uttering void, godless words is the practice of continuing to defend those words even after they’ve been proven fruitless.

Unfortunately, I was right to worry about Word-of-Faith proponents doubling down on their wrong-thinking, even after the child wasn’t raised.

Today (and for who knows how long?) the damage continues being done by The Faithful who find ways to justify the whole spectacle, as if it’s not a big deal to repeatedly use Jesus’ Name in vain.

12.20.19 Doubling Down, Its Still a Good Thing (2)

12.20.19 Doubling Down, Its Still a Good Thing (3)

12.20.19 Doubling Down, Its Still a Good Thing (5)

Go ahead and see if you can find one person, anywhere, who is willing to admit they spoke out of turn…

See if you don’t just find comment after comment of doubling-down or sneaky subject-changing.

Count how many times you see dogmatic insistance that there’s some kind of bright side, because “at least” there’s unity and faith and strong belief…regardless of the fact many had been united in strong belief OF A LIE. 

I’m not even talking about the usual, “Oh, now isn’t the time to talk about Theology” and “The family needs love and support rather than judgment,” etc. etc.

I’m talking about the people who unflinchingly declared that a toddler would rise from the dead. Yet, even though she remains in her grave, they’re STILL insisting it was God who inspired that message.

These people have declared public allegiance to a god who misleads.

Theirs is a god who values “agreement” and “positive thoughts” even more than He cares about truth.

Wear Blue to Choose

I’m going to the Red For Ed Rally at the Indiana Statehouse this morning. But I’ll be wearing blue…

I read an article this week on the Indiana Talks website in which the author tried to correct some “misconceptions” about what the teachers want:

“I’ve been monitoring the push back on social media and, while I’m never going to let that bring me down, it does dampen the excitement a bit to read the comments of so many misinformed people. I want to address some of the most common themes I’ve seen in the negative comments online.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the author delivered on this promise.

In fact, reading the article, I got the feeling that teachers generally don’t understand why someone would disagree with the agendas of their teachers’ union… It seems like they are defending themselves against accusations very few are making.

But, rather than unpack that article point for point, I think it may be quicker to clarify some misconceptions about why I’m wearing Blue today.

(Believe it or not, critics of Red for Ed aren’t simply being “negative” and trying to rain on the parade. I promise!)

So here’s my own list of 5 Misconceptions about the Wear Blue to Choose movement:

#1. Critics of Red for Ed don’t support teachers. This is frankly unfair and insulting. Most of us ARE teachers, whether we’re parents or homeschoolers or educators in private/charter schools or educators in PUBLIC schools who realize the union does not represent our voices any longer so we’ve opted out. We support teachers! But we realize that “support” doesn’t always mean unrestricted agreement with the political agenda of the teachers union. BIG DIFFERENCE!

#2. Critics of Red For Ed want to blame teachers for every bad thing. On the contrary, I do NOT believe that teachers are solely responsible for fixing the many issues in the education system. In fact, that’s why I believe it’s pretty presumptuous and misguided to think it’s a teacher’s job to lobby at the courthouse and set everyone straight… All the talk about “let us do OUR jobs” and “we’re the experts” starts to be off-putting after awhile because it sounds like TEACHERS are the ones who are taking all the responsibilities on themselves. I’m wearing blue because I think that our issues start at home and parents/families will be the biggest agents of change if we’re going to revolutionize education in this country. I’ll repeat: I am NOT blaming “bad teachers,” and that’s why I don’t need them to wear Red Shirts and ask for more taxpayer money.

#3. Critics of Red For Ed are Misinformed. No, sometimes people understand what’s going on and we still disagree. Again, I must remind our Red-Shirt Friends that many of the people who are most critical of teacher’s Unions were forced to be members up until a few years ago when a law change allowed them to opt out. These are gifted and dedicated teachers just like the ones who believe Glenda Ritz is the best thing since sliced bread, but they don’t feel safe to disagree with the Union out loud because they would be called “Misinformed” and “negative.” (Or worse.) It’s not fair to assume that everyone would be on your team if they were just paying better attention.

#4. Critics of Red for Ed are Rich and Greedy. I mean, I’m starting to feel like all of these misconceptions are the same. They’re just strawman criticisms of our career or intelligence or income level. The truth is, when you take party affiliation out of the equation and conduct polls of people about the principles of Vouchers or School Choice or Tax Caps, then underprivileged communities are EXTREMELY in favor of small-government and Conservative ideas. Poor families know the failing government policies hurt them worst of all, and they’re tired of Unions speaking for them. Underprivileged parents want to make education choices for their own children.

#5. Critics of Red for Ed Just want to Be Divisive. Of course that isn’t true, either. In fact, I’ll be wearing blue today knowing there are many things that all of us agree about! (As I’ve mentioned already, I agree that the school system isn’t responsible for the unstable home lives of many students.) But I have honest questions which I just can’t get off my mind: HOW MUCH MONEY IS NEEDED FOR A SO-CALLED “FULLY-FUNDED” BUDGET? If tests don’t accurately reflect what students know, then how CAN we measure how well public schools are performing compared with private, charter, and homeschools? Are you comfortable with the fact that Unions don’t have to disclose how they spend dues money and are heavily involved in politics?

—–

In summary, I’m wearing blue because I will not give up my responsibility to become informed, to think, and to speak for MY KIDS. I realize the teacher’s union often suggests that if you love teachers, parents, and students you will wear red to stand up against the Crooked Politicians. But, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. People can care very deeply about education and still disagree with the solutions proposed by (some) teachers. Honest disagreement isn’t the same as ignorant negativity.

I’m wearing Blue To Choose because School Choice represents the Parents’ Voice better than unions.

When “Peace-Making” Becomes “Pacifying” (A Good Cop, Bad Cop Parable)

Here’s the status of Church Culture today:

Once upon a time, there was a doting grandmother who sincerely loved her toddler grandson.  She never missed an opportunity to give him sweets and treats. And, for the most part, this was a perfectly good way for a loving grandmother (like her) to show how much she adored the mischievous 2-year-old.

The only problem was, sometimes Junior was naughty.  And when Junior wanted to throw toys or pull the dog’s tail or get down out of the grocery cart and run screaming through the store, Junior’s mommy had to tell him NO.

Perhaps you still don’t see the problem, and so I will continue…

Telling Junior “no” almost always made Junior cry. Yet, Granny’s heart could not stand the sound of that little boy’s pitiful wailing. And therefore, she saved her best, sweetest, and most tempting treats for when it was time to calm Junior down.

Over and over, the scene went like this:

Mommy:  “You have to stay in your highchair while you finish your lunch.”
Junior:  “I wan git down!”
Mommy: “No, you must eat your vegetables.”
Junior:   “NOOOOOO! WAAAAAAAAH!”
Granny: (*intervening) “Here, sweet boy.  Do you want a cookie?”

And Junior would take the treat, pacified for a few minutes.  (Until the cookie was gone and he would fight to get down again.)

Mommy spent several months trying to figure out how to approach the subject with Granny. She wanted the family to spend as much time together as possible. But, the more time they spent as a group, the more Granny relished the “good cop” role instead of helping Mommy enforce the rules.

Then, one day, Granny went a step even further:  she actually undermined and overruled what Mommy had said.

Junior had asked for a cookie, and Mommy said, “No–you’ve had three. So you may not have any more.”   As expected, Junior threw a colossal fit.  And Granny took him by the hand, leading him toward the back bedroom, presumably to distract him with a toy car or a book or some other reward for his awful behavior.

But it was worse than that, because not five minutes later, Junior toddled past his mother with a cookie in his pudgy hand.

What’s a good Christian to do, readers?

Mommy doesn’t want to hurt Granny’s feelings. But it’s certainly obvious why a dynamic like this can’t go on…

Eventually, Junior figures out that Mommy and Granny don’t treat him the same way, and he likes Granny a whole lot more!

Unfortunately, the foolish grandmother thinks that means she’s doing things correctly. 

“Look how good he always behaves for me!” she proclaims triumphantly, sticking a lollipop in Junior’s mouth so he’ll stop screeching “WANT NOW! WANT NOW!”  In the ensuing calm, the child and woman smile affectionately at each other, both satisfied with their relationship.

If Mommy tries to reason with Granny, she’ll get a whole host of responses:

“Oh, he’s just so little; he doesn’t understand.”

“Oh, life is hard when you’re a toddler; he needs to know his grandma loves him.”

“Oh, it’s my job to spoil him!”

It does Mommy very little good to point out the flaws in each of these arguments.

At root, Granny does not mean these statements logically; she merely feels them emotionally.  And so the family spends several tense years, trying to figure out how to raise little Junior, with their very different Good Cop/Bad Cop parenting styles to balance.

By the time Junior is in highschool, a civil war is ready to break out.  Mommy is desperate for some unity among the adults, now that Junior is clearly out-of-control.

But telling Granny “no” is even more difficult than telling Junior, because Granny has some authority and doesn’t appreciate being “treated like a child.” 

“He’s staying out late, skipping school, and he has no respect for adults!” Mommy (and Daddy) exclaim.  It should be obvious to everyone that there’s a problem here.

But Granny is hurt and embarassed at being confronted.  And–tragically–she shouts something in her whirlwind of emotion that no one was expecting:

“He acts that way because his own parents don’t love him!” Grandma accuses.  The parents are dumbfounded as Grandma continues:

“Junior feels safe with me, and so I can get him to talk in a way that you can’t.  He says he doesn’t feel like you love him, and I think he has a point. Instead of attacking me and making me feel like a Bad Grandma, maybe you could show some humility and learn from my techniques, which seem to be working better than yours!  I’m not saying I’m perfect, but Junior and I have a loving understanding.  And that’s why he’s still talking to me. It simply breaks my heart that you guys are too stubborn and arrogant to love him, too.”

 


 

For further explanation of this parable, please check out the series When Parenting is TOO Hard:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3