Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Faith of a Queen

Like a lot of people I am still shocked by the news that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has passed away. Oddly enough, I was starting to think she was immortal. After all, no matter what was thrown her way, she always seemed to bounce back and things just seemed to work out. However, today I am not going to focus on the negatives of the monarchy, there are plenty of people in the world who are doing that. In fact, I have seen so many negative memes that I have honestly just stopped fighting with people over the Queen. She was one of those people you either loved or hated, and most people loved her. 

One of things I want to comment on is the fact that the Queen always mentioned Jesus Christ at Christmas. She spoke so often of how his teachings shaped her own life. After her death, one of the things that really comforted me was sent to me by my friend Jon. it read: One of the Queen's Chaplains was talking about the end of the world and the return of Christ. The Queen stated "Oh, I should hope that Jesus would return in my life time." The chaplain asked "Why, Ma'am?" The Queen replied so that "I could lay my crown down at his feet." 

The Queen’s faith represented more than mere deference to religious tradition. Her yearly Christmas broadcasts regularly encapsulated statements of personal Christian belief, that Jesus Christ was her Saviour (see particularly her 2011 statement, below). For instance, in 2000 she stated:

“For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.”

During her 2008 Christmas broadcast, the Queen made a clear declaration of faith:

“I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life. Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate His birthday at Christmas, inspired by His teaching. He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served. We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw in inspiration from His life and message, and to find in Him a source of strength and courage.”

In her 2014 Christmas address she stated:

“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”

In her 2016 address, the Queen testified: 

“Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in Him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value in doing small things with great love…”

During her first televised Easter message in 2020, recorded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she stated:

“The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave His followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this … As dark as death can be—particularly for those suffering with grief—light and life are greater.”

The Queen also publicly welcomed and hosted American evangelist Billy Graham on a dozen different occasions. Graham wrote of her in his autobiography Just as I am

“No one in Britain has been more cordial toward us than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Almost every occasion I have been with her has been in a warm, informal setting, such as a luncheon or dinner, either alone or with a few family members or other close friends.”

In 2016 the Queen marked her 90th birthday. To celebrate, the Bible Society joined forces with HOPE and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) to publish a biography about the Queen’s Christian faith, titled: The Servant Queen and the King she serves. In it, the Queen’s own words described her faith in Christ, exploring the place of her Christian faith in her public role, family life, and in times of celebration and grief. 

The verse that keeps coming to my mind as I move through this loss, is that God is closest to the brokenhearted; and while I am just one of many grieving the loss of Queen Elizabeth II; my loss is not so great that it won't heal in a few weeks after the funeral. So I am beseeching my readers and followers to not only pray for the King, but also pray for his family as they move from having their beloved matriarch with them. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Dark Churches Part 1

I am writing a two part blog about church and what is wrong in some modern churches. Part one is on the fact that we have turned out the lights of the church.

Disclaimer: This is not a post to judge churches with dark sanctuaries. I am not saying that God can't use a dark sanctuary. The opinions here are mine and I welcome open and honest discussion.

I recently read an article by Janet Thompson called "Why Is the Church Going Dark?" Thompson like many others as I researched this question are asking this question. Often times these churches are megachurches. They attract people by droves; their message is often a self-help, Joel Osteen live your best life sermon. But I will cover that in another post; I think the question here is why are they so dark? 

One of the reason's Janet Thompson quoted was "having the church dark is to draw the younger generation, but this is not a concert setting; this is church! Why does the next generation want to sit in the dark?" 

Personally, I left a church that had a dark sanctuary. Don't get me wrong, I loved the church and they do great community work, but I don't like the dark environment. God calls us to be salt and light to a world engulfed in darkness. 

I think honestly though, that the church is trying desperately to stay relevant, and in their attempt, they are losing ground. Every Sunday that I walked into that dark church, I didn't meet anyone, I sat in various places often alone, no one sat with me, no one spoke to me, it was literally just me. However, the teachings often contradict the traditional Christian concept of service and charity. Instead, megachurches encourage a selfish and self-focused view of worship. The members of megachurch congregations are often taught to focus on their own existence and problems, instead of seeing themselves as servants who should help their fellow man. As a person who suffers Persistent Depression Disorder, it would have been nice to know I was seen, that I was greeted; may be even nice to have made friends and had friends to walk through life with. Instead I was greeted by even more darkness and distance. Today I think back and I honestly don't get why people want to sit in a dark sanctuary. 

I know what you are thinking, "well I like a dark church because it's my time to worship without distractions." Donovan Nagel, quoted this in his article on why he avoids blacked out churches. In fact, when you think about it, the darkness is a distraction. The darkness distracts us so much that we focus solely on the person that the spotlight is hitting. Matter of fact, Christian worship today, in modern times is often meant to be selfish and disconnected from the world around you. By disconnecting, we are also disconnected from seeing those who are hurt, those who need encouragement, those who are broken. Many of these churches teach about being authentic, but an authentic church is engaged, they are engaged in conversations with each other, prayer and at one time a meal. 

Lighting can be used to manipulate people's emotions. I am a professional photographer and love working in black and white. Once I was asked why, and I stated "Because when I show you a mill with water splashing off the wheel, I can control some parts of your response, but when I shoot that in black and white, you have to think about the colors, and you have a more organic experience." There are some good, yet not so good reasons for turning down the lights in a church. 

I understand at least some of the reasons for turning the lights down.

  • it keeps people from being distracted
  • it focuses people on the front
  • people feel more comfortable and less conspicuous
  • screens and videos are easier to see when the room is dark
  • lights can be used to direct people’s focus
  • lights on the stage are less effective when the rest of the room is fully lit

Savannah Hussman states "The purpose of the Church body, in the wake of Christ’s ascension, was to establish a support system for believers to gather, worship, take care of one another, and minister to the surrounding community. They were called to be set apart from their idolatrous surroundings and be a holy testament to the character of the God they served."

We know that in the scripture that darkness equals mostly everything that is worldly, of the world culture, the wicked ( Prov 2:13-14 ; 1 Thess 5:4-7 ), judgment ( Exod 10:21 ; Matt 25:30 ), and death ( Psalm 88:12 ). 

Donovan reminds us "that during Pentecost the believers were outside and those outside could see what was  happening. Now let's imagine if the believers had been hidden away in a dark room, could the spectators have been saved?" I know the answer is "of course." Yet let's think of this last thing, would the Christians in that dark room, been able to see who was in desperate need of salvation, healing or even a prayer. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Roe v. Wade: My Thoughts

The first thing I want to address is that we have a nation that is currently angry because Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. I know I have friends who are hurting, they are angry, they are worried that they may not be able to have affordable healthcare. Believe it or not, those things worry me too; and what I address in this article should be taken as my opinion, I am neither lawyer nor doctor. I do know that the overturn of Roe v. Wade will not affect me in the way that it will effect others. As for this article, I am speaking towards abortion on demand and it's use as birth control; don't tell me it doesn't happen, I know it does.

Today, Sunday, June 26th, I had a lady say that the only reason we (Pro-life) wanted Roe v. Wade overturned was because there are less white children being born, due to interracial marriage and the LGBTQIA+ community being on the rise. I have never encountered such bigotry in my life. The reason I wanted Roe v. Wade overturned is that we are killing daily, children in this country. We speak about wanting to save children's lives every time there is a school shooting, but they refuse to acknowledge that abortions kill babies every day. I believe in the sanctity of life. I am also not just pro-birth. I believe that education should be free, if you want to send your kid to a private school, pay for it. College and Trade schools should be free; if you want a Master's or Doctorate degree you should have to pay for that. Childcare shouldn't be out of the roof, welfare should be a hand up not a hand out. I believe elder care should be affordable too. Before anyone states that I don't believe in better health care for women, I do. Women's healthcare includes: Women's health includes a wide range of specialties and focus areas, such as: Birth control, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and gynecologyBreast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other female cancersMammography. However, I don't see abortion listed as a medically necessary procedure and I am not saying it's not, I know there are extremely rare cases where it could be considered necessary, and I would hate for a woman not to be able to get the care they need. 

This isn't the case, you'll see the rest of the stats later, but the top three reasons for having an abortion are: 

19%Done having children
23%Can't afford a baby
25%Not ready for a child

Less than 8% of abortions are due to being a victim of rape, fetal health or physical health issues. 

All of this being said, Friday, June 24th, 2022  was a historical day in the United States. Today Roe v. Wade was overturned in a unprecedented move by the US Supreme Court. For some this move is a reason for celebration and yet many are angry about the decision. I understand both sides of the argument. 

I understand in cases of incest and rape of minors. Even then, I believe that a woman of child bearing age should carry that child to full term. If you read the 213 page you will note that "Roe and Casey rely on the term "potential life." The document goes on to say that "Abortion is different because it destroys what Roe and Casey termed "potential life" and what the law challenged in this case calls an "unborn human being." You will also notice in the document on page 8, that "Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey  arrogated that authority, the Court (SCOTUS) over rules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives. 

I don't know how many of my readers have read statistics on medical necessity of abortion, but honestly I pulled data from the CDC and there are very few that are medically necessary. 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 930,160 abortions took place in the United States in 2020—up from 862,320  in 2017. In 2019, approximately 19% of U.S. pregnancies (excluding spontaneous miscarriages) ended in abortion. And who gets the most abortions in the US: 

  • In 2019, unmarried women accounted for 86% of all abortions (CDC).
  • Among married women, 4% of 2019 pregnancies (excluding spontaneous miscarriages) ended in abortion. Among unmarried women, 28% ended in abortion (CDC).
  • Women in their 20s accounted for the majority of abortions in 2019 and had the highest abortion rates (CDC).
  • Adolescents under 15 years obtained 0.2% of all 2019 abortions; women aged 15–19 years accounted for 8.5% (CDC).

Maybe you want to know why abortions happen: 

Now I know you are thinking, okay those are national statistics, they don't concern North Carolina; don't worry, I pulled NC stats too. 

According to the CDC 

Total Abortions (2020): 30,004

The North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics reports that 30,004 abortions took place in North Carolina during 2020. This number includes abortions performed on out-of-state residents but does not include abortions performed on North Carolina residents in other states.

According to Guttmacher

Estimated Total Abortions (2020): 31,850

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that approximately 31,850 abortions took place in North Carolina during 2020. This number includes abortions performed on out-of-state residents but does not include abortions performed on North Carolina residents in other states. The table below compares North Carolina abortion totals by selected year.

And here are NC's Abortion Restrictions: 

State Abortion Restrictions (2019):

  • A woman must receive state-directed counseling about abortion and then wait 72 hours before the abortion takes place.
  • Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange can only cover abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • The use of telemedicine for the performance of medication abortion is prohibited.
  • Public health insurance can only cover abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.
  • The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion can take place.
  • Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • A woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion.
  • The state prohibits abortions performed for the purpose of sex selection.
  • Abortion clinics must meet the same structural standards as other ambulatory surgical centers


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Get Real

Lately God has put a burden on my heart for someone who came into my life a few years ago. In the past two years, she's been in and out of a relationship with a man that at one point told her "I don't believe in God the way you do." And her story is that she wants a man who will be the spiritual head of the household. She wants a mutually fulfilling, healthy relationship. Most recently, the man made some comments that were less than scriptural; less than a month of being apart she's right back with him waiting for the next time this man blows his stack.

Now I am not writing this to put this person down, but there is something there that God keeps putting this person on my heart. Having never been married or in any truly serious relationship, I haven't any idea why you would rationalize, minimize or even deny to yourself that what was said or done previously wasn't so bad. 

Psychologically speaking there is a very simple reason why these actions are dangerous in your relationships and affect your authenticity and how honest you are about who and what you're involved in: 

If you deny the existence of something it means you deny your feelings and perceptions, as well as the true impact of it and what it means to you and your relationship. 

If you minimize something, by playing down the significance of it which could be about the danger it could pose, what it means to the possibility of a mutually fulfilling, healthy relationship, or even what it means about your own actions, you're basically playing down your true feelings and perception of it as well as the impact. 

If you rationalize something and your doing it without healthy beliefs and relationship habits as a basis of your rationale, you'll end up rationalizing your true feelings and perception plus if your excusing, and justifying, your denying. Instead of taking the simple but what may be more painful meaning of that something you rationalize it to make it more palatable. 

By engaging in aforementioned activities you are setting yourself up for failure. You are setting yourself up in such a way that God can't bring the blessings he wants you to get.  At this point I would tell my neighbor, it's time that you get real. GET REAL even if it means being with out a man for a while, GET REAL even if it means that you learn something painful about yourself or them. GET REAL because the IMPACT of that LESSON is far reaching, positive consequences for you and ultimately if being HAPPY and having a mutually fulfilling healthy relationship is what you have your eye on, trust me, this bit of feed back is worth it. 

This man is going to keep coming back as long as he thinks the door is open; and frankly, the door needs to be closed, you aren't going to change him, he doesn't want to change. Just because he is sitting in the pew beside you doesn't make him a Christian and what you are doing is hoping he will change. 

Sometimes you have to take a step back, you have to sit alone, and you have to listen to what God is telling you. Sometimes, it has to be just God, Jesus and you; and that is perfectly fine! It's in those moments that God often speaks to you if you want to hear Him. I am sure God has someone out there for this person; I just have a really hard time that its the agnostic sitting in the pew beside her.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Open Letter to DZ

 Hey DZ, 

This blog is an open letter to you. Now you may not read it, that is fine, but I think it's important for you to realize that not every Christian is out to hurt you or convert you to their separate non-essential beliefs. Over the past few months, you have attacked me online, you have slandered me and thought up some pretty crazy things about my Christian faith. That's fine, but tonight I am going to set you straight about my beliefs. Before I get to that though, I want to address you personally. 

The first thing I want to say to you is that I forgive you. I believe you are angry and bitter; and I am pretty sure it's not my so-called liberal beliefs. If you are going through something, I am sorry that you are having to go through the trial. Believe it or not, DZ, it's okay to question God. It's okay to sit in your floor and cry out and ask Him why something happened. I can't promise that you will like the answer, and it will challenge you. Yet in the end, it will help you know more about what God truly wanted for your life. 

I think my core Christian beliefs can be summed up by the Apostle's Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;

On the third day he rose again;

he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic* Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

*catholic here means universal

Those are my core Christian beliefs. Ones that I think every Christian should uphold. These beliefs are essential beliefs.

However, you tell everyone I am a liberal, and that I have liberal beliefs. I think that is because I don't have a problem with women pastors. You also tell people I don't have a problem with homosexual ministers. I have never once said that. In fact, if you really know me, you'd know I have some pretty on point beliefs about homosexuality. Let me explain. The United Methodist Church is broken up in jurisdictions, then various conferences, and finally from there districts and the individual churches are called Charges.

So for example, I attend church in a 1 point charge church, in the Appalachian District of the Western North Carolina Conference in the South East Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. A 1 point charge means we don't share our pastor with another church. Another of my pastoral mentor/friends is a pastor of a 2 point charge, meaning she goes between two churches on Sundays to preach. 

Right now, there is a lot of conversation surrounding the United Methodist Church. I openly admit it's crazy around here. The western jurisdiction of the UMC has been in open rebellion since I came to the UMC and they are ordaining homosexual pastors. Believe it or not, I do have a problem with that. Why? Because our book of Discipline states it is not supposed to be that way. 

Here is the official wording of the 2016 Book of Discipline: 

¶ 304.3 Qualifications for Ordination

While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.2
1. "Self-avowed practicing homosexual" is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984, 1020
2. See Judicial Council Decisions 984, 985, 1027, 1028

I think what you and many others heard me talking about in the chat room one night was the wording. I do know of one UMC minister who is a self-avowed non-practicing homosexual pastor. I have no problem with her being a minister. The key to all of this is the word practicing. I can honestly respect this pastor who is truly fighting against her temptations to live for Christ. My ex is a self-avowed homosexual man, who loves Jesus more than he desires to be with a man, but he still has struggles and temptations. Temptations and struggles do not disqualify someone from preaching the gospel; practicing and actively taking part in your sin does. 

DZ, I can't change your mind about female pastors, I don't want to. However, I will tell you that to really understand what Paul was writing about you have to take off the glasses of western understanding, dig deep into the history of Ephesus and look at what was going on at the time. 

I have also posted some links to my call story--and the candidacy program that I was a part of. 

Wesley's Historic Questions--My Modern Answers

Candidacy and Psychological Evaluation

The Journey

I'll still say Yes!

Called by God; Opposed by Men

In the end, my church found me too continuous to continue to support; that's all they told me, but I believe it is because I called out the sin of racism, I called anyone who associated with Klan members racist, I went out on the streets of my hometown and prayed with BLM protestors and prayed for the healing of our nation and even led a couple to know Christ. I know my calling isn't what you think it should be; I can't help that. However, I know that I do what God calls me to do, I do it to the best of my ability and I always will.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

When Christians hurt each other...

I haven't written in a while. The reason being that I have been spending a lot of time on a program called Paltalk. Tonight I was banned from a chatroom for being "toxic." And I admit, I got pretty contentious, but our Savior was contentious. There was the whole righteous anger in driving out the tax collectors from the temple. 

The sad thing is,  I know that I am disliked by many on Paltalk. Somehow, I am supposed to be "okay" with being disliked. Somehow, as a Christian, I am supposed to have a super power that will make it all okay. 

Tonight a friend asked one man why he hates me? His answer was "I don't hate her, I hate her liberal she's okay with gay ministers." First off, I never said that. I even shared with this person my views which line up with the 2016 Discipline of the United Methodist Church

¶ 304.3 Qualifications for Ordination

While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.2
1. "Self-avowed practicing homosexual" is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984, 1020
2. See Judicial Council Decisions 984, 985, 1027, 1028

Even though I adhere to the 2016 Discipline; I can't help what the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC does. It is not my concern. I can only call people to holiness. However, the larger picture is that this person doesn't believe in female pastors; and they run me into the ground every time about it. So how does this make me, a Christian feel? Honestly, when I meet people who are holier than thou, even if they are hurting, I realize I don't fit into the norm of what a Christian is thought to be. I may not believe in homosexual ministers, but I don't have a problem with female pastors. Honestly until you have been in my shoes you won't understand. 

No one expects the church to be perfect. But we do expect God’s family to treat us with more kindness and compassion than the world does. Injuries inflicted by fellow Christians can wound the soul like nothing else. They can lead to disillusionment that when left unchecked and unhealed, affect how we view ourselves, how we relate to other Christians, and how we relate to God.

So what does this church hurt feel like? I can only explain it the way I would if I was explaining depression...It's like drowning; except you see people all around who are accepted and loved--because they all believe the same thing. 

Being a Christian that suffers from depression and anxiety, I often worry that I am not good enough even for God. I know that I am not good enough for my fellow Christians.  

When a Christian drowns, even psychologically from the judgement of their fellow Christians, everyone should take notice! Not treat them less than; not tell them they are not good enough. Because when one Christian is lost, the entire body suffers from that loss; and the entire Kingdom of God suffers. God rejoices when one person is saved; oh how he must mourn when one soul is lost forever due to church hurt.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Holy Saturday

I am sitting here, it's Holy Saturday. The day in the story of Easter that Christ is laying in the tomb. He was crucified just mere hours ago. His followers are wondering if this is the end of the story. They are gathered together, Mary is probably there, Mary of Magdala is probably there; as are other female followers of Christ. They are sitting there in a room, wondering what is next. Even though Christ himself had told them, in three days the temple will be rebuilt. Christ would be a risen savior. 

However, I find myself on holy Saturday, wondering much like the disciples; what's next? How is God going to work in my life? Will what I prayed for during Lent come to pass? Or will I live another year, just hoping that I was good enough to "make the list." 

Holy Saturday is a day of holy reverence looking towards the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Today is the say we sit in silence and we contemplate all that we have seen and wonder, as I do, will it make a difference tomorrow. 

I don't know. But for now, the silence is deafening, but speaking to my Father, I know that a better day is coming tomorrow--and that will make all the difference in history.

The Faith of a Queen

Like a lot of people I am still shocked by the news that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has passed away. Oddly enough, I was starting to think ...