God’s Not Dead, but Maybe “Christianity” Should Be


Are we shouting “crucify him?”

Finally, after decades of complaints, prayers, token support and watching “B” Christian movies barely funded and with the best intentions, but not always much in the way of acting, movie goers have been inundated with a plethora of positive cinema. All in this month before Easter. You’d think the Christian community would be thrilled and celebrating.

Of the famous four, “Son of God”, “Noah”, “God’s Not Dead” and “Heaven is For Real,” I’ve only had the privilege of viewing the first, so far. Plans to see the others are in the works. Kids are begging for them, especially after viewing all the trailers a couple of days ago. My opinions, therefore, are limited.

But the point of this post isn’t to give a review.

I saw “Son of God” with a girlfriend the second day it came out. I felt it was well done, and while it may not have depicted the intensity shown in “The Passion of the Christ,” it evoked deep emotion. I appreciated the scenery which created an experience for me of walking with Jesus, and the way he was portrayed in such a personable manner, as I imagine Jesus would have been. Woman followed him in the Bible, so I appreciated the inclusion of the female gender, not only the men who were his disciples.

While some of the scripture was re-ordered, omitted or changed (probably for cinematic affect), the message remained unscathed and potent. Jesus came to save us, sinners, through love and compassion and ultimately his death on the cross and resurrection. We weren’t blown away by the film, but liked it a lot in spite of its “creative license.”

The shocker to me?

The criticism these movies have garnered from the Christian community. I don’t expect reviewers who don’t believe to rave in a positive way about any of these movies. After all, they talk about God and the Bible, Jesus and Heaven—topics that often raise objections among the majority of folks. What I didn’t expect is the flak from Christians who have complained on a number of points.

Really people?

The arguments seem to stem primarily from the pious protecting the Bible, or worse, their personal theological views. But the end result is cutting the throats of fellow believers who are living out their faith in a way they hope will make a difference by infusing the public with a taste of the Lord.

It may be presumptuous, but I choose to believe that each of the participants, who created, acted in, produced and directed, sought wisdom from God in what they did. Did they miss the mark? Probably in some ways. Are they human? Yes, which makes them potentially fallible. But did God use them to touch lives by showing people a bit more of him through these films? I’m betting, yes.

What’s the real point?

God created us, loves us and wants to be with us. Jesus died on the cross and rose again in order to make that a reality in spite of our free will leading to sin. We can have all kinds of theological debates(which we’re admonished not to do – see 2Tim.2:23 & Titus 3:9) over the “right way” to portray the truth, or simply be grateful that someone has the guts enough to do it. In some manner, these movies have the potential to bless believers and sow seeds for those who may not have thought about God before. Maybe some curious chap will choose to view and actually come away choosing Christ. It’s possible, regardless of what many are saying.

Bottom line?

Today we celebrate what Jesus did for all of us, and look forward to symbolizing his resurrection in a couple of days. People do that in many ways all over the world. It means something different to each person, each year depending on their personal relationship with Jesus. In the same way, the message of a movie, book, blog, or work of art can inspire whatever God wants despite the human factor of the messenger.

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.                 Philippians 1:18

When will we lay down our agendas and uphold our brothers, the church, and join in unity to bless and not curse?

Oh gaze of love so melt my pride that I may in your house but kneel, and in my brokenness to cry, spring worship unto Thee.”  Hymn by Jars of Clay

What do you think? Seen the movies? Read reviews?
 
Disclaimer: I did not create this YouTube.

Does This Mean War?


My daughter is studying the Civil War for history.Kookaburras at Australia Zoo

As I’ve prepared her lessons, read books, directed her projects and watched Gone with the Wind and Shenandoah, I’ve been struck by the analogy to the current trend in publishing. Not to make light of the tragedy of our American Civil War, nor to imply that the publishing world holds the same weight as the potential division of a nation and the issue of slavery. Nonetheless, I find some similarities between the two.

Traditionalists fight for a publishing norm and standard. Publishing has been handled a particular way for centuries. Authors submit their labored words in hope they will capture the attention of those in charge of determining who is worthy of publication. If so deemed, contracts are made in which, ideally, both the publisher and the author will be satisfied with, well, let’s be honest, sales. As we’ve been reminded, even in Christian circles, publishing is a business, after all.

Indies (self-publishers) desire freedom on various levels. Freedom to write and publish whatever moves them. Freedom to retain more of the income from their hard work. The ability to write and publish when they wish rather than waiting for the long process of submitting, waiting for acceptance (am I good enough?) and finally the time allotment for release date and length of time on the shelves. They may not be convinced the publishers actually have their best interests in mind.

Compelling arguments exist on both sides.

My traditionally published author friend, Sherry Kyle, (Delivered with Love, The Heart Stone, The Christian Girl’s Guide to Style and The Girl’s Guide to Your Dream Room) made some valid points in a conversation yesterday.

  1. Publishers have access to retail connections. Her upcoming book (Watercolor Dreams October 2014) is already listed on Amazon for pre-order and in catalogues.
  2. An agent deals with all the financial aspects and details of finding avenues for publishing. I thought about the difference between having a real estate agent and selling your home yourself—having been an agent once, I would never sell my house without one. The business, legal and financial dealings are too complicated without the trained knowledge an agent provides.
  3. While traditional publishers are paying less and expecting more from their authors in the realm of marketing, they at least have marketing plans and connections already set in place.
  4. In addition, a publisher edits (invaluable) and creates a cover design. Two crucial aspects.

Self-publishing offers advantages as well. Since I’ve recently released my first book (The Miracle of Us: Confessions on an Online Dater) which I self-published through CreateSpace, I’ve learned a little about that option. These are the benefits I see:

  1. Self-publishers earn more in royalties.  Thirty to fifty percent versus five to twenty percent. And we know exactly how many copies have sold every day. No guessing or waiting for statements.
  2. An author can publish as many books as fast as he/she can write, edit and format them. No limit, no waiting. That builds a momentum of keeping readers reading. How many times have you finished a book by an author you loved only to find you had to wait a year until the next book was available? I know enough authors to know this isn’t always because they aren’t writing books fast enough. I can think of two series I quit reading because I lost interest waiting and went on to find another book to read.
  3. Readers set the standard of what they will read rather than a publisher choosing what they think will sell.
  4. Self-published authors are not limited to a brand created for them by a publisher. A couple of articles convinced me of this situation. Both told of well-known authors who sold numerous traditionally published books in particular genres. When they wrote outside that genre, publishers, even though they loved their work, refused to publish their new projects because it didn’t fit their brand.  Publishers and agents will say “choose one type of writing and stick with it.” That may make sense from a business perspective, but what if an author feels like writing something else? What if I feel God leading me to delve into fiction, but I’ve been branded as a non-fiction author? Self-publishing allows for variety.

I haven’t decided what I’d like to do with my next, nearly completely book. I always thought I’d submit to an agent and go the traditional route. I’ve spent a few years honing my craft and building a network for that very reason. But, I’m also tempted by these new benefits. I’ve heard great persuasions from both sides. Some authors do both successfully.

In the Civil War, the Union won, keeping the nation together and abolishing slavery.

Although, that victory didn’t necessarily change the hearts of all people. I’d like to think that in the battle of the book, both sides will bring good to the table. In the end, millions of readers have a smorgasbord of brilliant (and sometimes not so brilliant) writing to choose from whether from traditionally published or self-published authors.

What do you think? Traditionalist or Indie? Or…both?

What Does Your Spirit Long For?


I’m captivated by a song.

Initially I heard it on the Christian radio stations I listen to, Air1 and K-Love. The chorus haunted me and each time I heard it, another part of the lyrics would grab my heart and call out to my spirit. It so perfectly portrays where I am at in my life right now, learning to trust Jesus more intimately and fully as he draws me into bigger, deeper places of life, love and considering others.

So, as is my practice when I hear a song I like, I grabbed my guitar, found the live version on YouTube, looked up the lyrics and copied them down with the chords. Fortunately, it fits in my singing range (barely) so I didn’t have to transpose the key. Yes, I own a capo, but would rather not use it if possible. The past two days, I’ve been playing it and learning the words. Strains of it circle in my head like the seagulls near my home.

It keeps my mind on Jesus.

The cool thing about this song is how it is affecting people’s lives. I’ve heard a rumor that it is considered the number one worship song in the world right now. One of the comments I happened to see online was written by a woman who said she is Muslim, but loves the song.

That doesn’t surprise me.

We were designed by God to have an intimate relationship with him. He longs for us like we long for those we love. And we have a place in our spirit that cries out for him. No matter where we search to find him whether in art, science, books, religion, other gods, nature, etc. it is God our spirits pant after like a deer after water. (That simile is in the Bible. I didn’t make it up.)

However, another comment disturbed me.

This was written by a man, someone who follows Jesus, who said this is an awful song.  His reason? It doesn’t specifically say God or Jesus in the written lyrics. True enough. It speaks of Savior, God’s sovereignty, Spirit, but alas, no Jesus. Maybe because it is talking to him. Like in a personal conversation with someone you love.

That comment made think about how many of us don’t realize the depth of God’s love for us. Or maybe, like me earlier in my life, the idea of intimacy with Jesus seemed creepy – because my experience told me that intimacy was a bad, scary thing. Perhaps, it’s because we can only imagine God as a far away disciplinarian who waves a stick or points a finger at our wrongness. Or possibly, we simply haven’t considered the idea that there is a creator of all this beauty around us who wants to share it with us because he made us too and loves us deeply.

Whatever the reason, it seems this song is offering an alternative.

I hope you will listen and be blessed. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find something you didn’t know your spirit was looking for. Being a guitarist, this is my favorite version. Enjoy.

I’d love to know what you think. About the song, this post or even what instrument you play 🙂

Living With An Addict – Part 3


Any of these statements sound familiar?

  • I thought he was my rescue.
  • When our child was born, my husband became sullen, neglectful and harsh.
  • I found a box of pornographic magazines hidden in the closet.
  • By the third drink, he was rude and mean with cruel sarcasm.
  • He really hurt me the other night.

There’s a verse in the Bible that states,

A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.    Proverbs 22:3

Often, we simply don’t see the danger.

We’ll continue the series on Living With an Addict by addressing some of the thoughts and feelings a spouse in that situation may experience. While based in part on my experiences, these struggles are common ones others have shared with me as well. When we finally see the circumstances as they truly are, we can take refuge.

Many women living with someone addicted to sex became enticed into the situation because of patterns already established in our lives. Most likely, we were violated in some way in earlier years. The fear of violation continues in these circumstances. Women in this position don’t feel safe; rather, we consistently sense an unexplained threat, a helpless state of being preyed upon. Rape is an attitude of the heart, not simply a physical exploit even though it is an act of one person’s will against another. Molestation and/or rape can occur within a marriage, within the thoughts or heart of a spouse, even without physical violence, though often physical abuse takes place as well. Any violation is just that, a violation. The fact that it is perpetrated by someone with the privilege of sharing sexual relations with us doesn’t make it any less of a rape. Force in any manner whether through verbal, mental, emotional manipulation or physical attack constitutes rape.

A spouse living in this setting does not feel safe, comfortable or protected.

Because of this manipulation, we are left feeling the obligation or duty to meet those sexual demands in order to alleviate the preyed upon threat. Perhaps if we can fulfill the expectations, we will not longer be a target. As Christians, we are told to submit and offer our bodies to our spouse. Very good and wise advice, unless it is within an abusive relationship. Jesus turned the other cheek to his accusers, but for those of us being used and abused that setting is like a drug to our addict. Often, we aren’t able to discern the difference between overlooking minor hurts or offenses caused by our spouse, and feeding a dangerous addiction by our obligation to make everything okay. Many times we are told that if we don’t do what our spouse demands, we are encouraging him to go to someone else who will.

All this lays a foundation for further abuse not freedom.

We begin to feel we must do whatever it takes to avoid conflict especially in the area of sex. So we compromise what we believe to be right, and we compromise who we are. We apologize for everything; we ask for nothing; we ignore our needs and any problems. Although we may think we are keeping the peace, we are an emotional time bomb ready to detonate. We fight for peace outside, but inside we feel tormented, suffocated.

We long to get away, but feel compelled to stay.

Deep inside, we sense that what we’re living in isn’t right or good. Our portrayal to the world, however, paints a different picture. If we confess our uneasiness with our life, we may be met with well-meaning platitudes that things will work out or something must be wrong with us to feel that way. Often, with the exception of our spouse, those who insist all is well do so because they haven’t seen the truth of what is happening. We’ve learned to minimize in order to survive so part of us believes them and thinks we must be crazy. When we don’t share the full truth, others aren’t able to help us, and we continue to internalize our pain, turmoil and exhaustion. Sometimes, even we don’t realize what things are normal or not.

After months of counseling with a pastor who saw the truth of my situation and who I trusted completely, I finally casually shared something in passing that deep down I had felt was wrong, but passed it off as my issue. When I told her, she was shocked and assured me that the circumstances I described were not normal or acceptable. I had grown oblivious after so many years of feeling the obligation to tolerate the behavior. How freeing it was for me when she spoke the truth about it. I was relieved and released.

The truth shall set you free…

Continued next week….

 

Where have you missed seeing danger? Have you felt tormented? Are there any areas where you have been freed by the truth?
 
For help or prayer feel free to send me a private message at laurabennet14@gmail.com
 
 

Look Here, But Don’t Look


 As a young girl, my life situation and society around me portrayed women as objects to be used for pleasure.

Men were expected to stare, flirt, touch, fondle, kiss and hopefully take the object of their lust to bed. “Real” women enjoyed being the object of someone else’s desire and would join in eagerly. If they resisted, it wasn’t because they meant no, it was only that they were teasing as part of a game. A man was supposed to pursue and conquer sexually; the woman should melt in his arms. But as soon as she was conquered, she earned the label “slut,” “easy,” or “loose.”

As Christian women, we were responsible for drawing a line, holding men back and making sure that purity reigned; thus relieving men of any respectful responsibility in the relationship. Then, as Christian wives, we’re to submit our bodies wholeheartedly because they no longer belong to us. What a contradiction in emotion and values for a woman, and often a license for selfish, irresponsible men.

As a girl surrounded by these ideas, I grew up looking for the love I craved in all the wrong ways and places.

If a young girl has an absent father, one who spends most of his time at work or play, is emotionally disengaged, or has abandoned the family altogether, she may start flirting or dressing to show off her body in order to secure the attention and affection she misses. Dressing provocatively has become the norm in our society, so often a girl innocently enjoys the attention it brings without understanding the statement she makes.

I noticed an advertisement for an upcoming show in which the woman, who was wearing an extremely low cut blouse asked the man she was talking to why he was looking at her breasts instead of her eyes. Is that a trick question? It presents a contrary and unfair message for both men and women! “Look here, but don’t look!” As women, we must be cautious what we portray to men.

Now, take the same girl who is desperately seeking a father to love and cherish her, and affirm her importance. If she meets someone seeking to use her sexually, she is in trouble without even being aware of it. Patterns can then be set and repeat themselves in each relationship she has.

In my case, unhealthy childhood patterns led to many unhealthy relationships.

Sexual promiscuity became the norm for my life, and I was afraid that if I didn’t go along with whatever was asked or expected of me, I wouldn’t be loved. I often felt sickened by my circumstances and had a deep sense that it wasn’t as it should be, but I didn’t understand the patterns. I didn’t know how to break free. Marriage seemed to be an answer. My dream for love and acceptance could be lived out in a Christian home with a man who promised to be faithful to me until death. Wasn’t that a guarantee?

The Bible says that deep calls to deep (Psalm 42:7); God’s spirit calls to ours. But also, the beliefs and values we’ve adopted over the years that reside deep within our soul or spirit, call to similar patterns in others. My longing for love and attention called out to men looking to fulfill something broken in themselves. Marriage didn’t change the patterns. It created another kind of trap…

Have you felt trapped in behaviors or patterns you didn’t want to be in? Do you think society’s portrayal of sex is helpful, destructive or neutral?

Filling in the Gaps


I thought it might be advantageous to fill in some of the gaps of our story with a few excerpts from the book in progress. Granted, changes may still occur, but at least you can have a taste of the finished work to come…

Excerpt from The Miracle of Us: Confessions of Two Online Daters….

If you had asked me even ten years ago how I would meet my soul mate, I would never have dreamed that it would happen online. But considering that as of 2010, 17% of couples who married met on a dating site, it doesn’t seem as incredulous as it may once have sounded. (datingsitesreviews.com) Let’s face it; technology has taken over our lives. But living in a technological world which grows seemingly smaller every day does have its advantages. Socially, even as we may spend less time with people in physical proximity, we are becoming more connected to friends, new and old, all over the world. Every internet social network like Facebook, Twitter and Google affords us the opportunity of setting up a personal profile with a vast array of information. Surprisingly, even Yelp set me up with a profile to give reviews on services offered by local businesses, and I found some of my friends had Yelp accounts too.

Connecting online has grown to be an ordinary occurrence now, and internet dating sites could be likened to a “bar scene” where people go to hang out or to meet eligible singles. Not that I personally related to it that way; I hadn’t been to a bar since, well…not in a really, really long time. So when I began internet dating it was all new to me. But the usual ways of meeting guys weren’t working for me.

I’ll admit that in the past, my guy meeting experiences were limited to youth or college groups, school, church or perhaps “a friend-of-a-friend” kind of connections. And I didn’t have much experience since I initially married at the early age of nineteen.  But in this age, how does a forty-something woman with grown children meet men when the single women at her church outnumber the single men by about six to one? Well, at least that’s roughly the statistics at my church.

The actual, in person social scene wasn’t much better. A local Christian singles group was the only avenue available. Some of my acquaintances practically obsessed over each outing as they desperately sought Mr. Right, but that was a little too intense for me.

One of my best friends did actually meet her husband from a friend-of-a-friend, but even after a few years, that was practically old-fashioned. And besides, that hadn’t happened for me either. Most of my friends are married and their friends are married too. Well, you get the picture.

So that is why after being divorced for seven years, I and my never-married-yet friend, adopted sister, housemate, business partner, Carol, decided to take the plunge into the deep pool of online dating.