I’ve kept quiet on some of the events that have occupied the attention of our world for the past few weeks. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say on the matter – it’s simply that I’ve learned over the years I don’t always have to interject an opinion.
There are certain topics, however, that captivate me in such a way that I cannot remain silent. I will not be shamed into discussing anything online unless I feel really led to speak on it, and in this instance I’ve found that I cannot keep quiet.
A video began circulating this week of Victoria Osteen, wife of Pastor Joel Osteen, speaking to her husband’s congregation of 10,000 about why they should “do good.” The first time I watched the 36 second clip, I laughed out loud. It wan’t an amused, “Oh isn’t that funny” sort of laugh. It was more of an incredulous, “Did she really just say that out loud?!” sort of laugh.
I watched the clip a second time, and I could not keep my jaw from dropping. From the platform of her pulpit, she may have made one of the boldest, most heretical claims of faith I’ve ever heard, and I could not wrap my mind around such thinking.
In the past nearly seven years since I’ve begun blogging, I’ve tamed a lot in my approach to what I see and read online. I realize more now than I did when I began that words and meanings can be taken out of context, and that the internet, while teeming with good things, can also be insidious and wretched, and wildly unforgiving.
In short, I’ve learned to withhold judgement.
So although my first reaction to her video was to feel true indignation at her horrific message, I quickly stopped, and I reminded myself that sometimes I say stupid things, too. Sometimes I mean to say one thing, and something entirely different comes out of my mouth. So I opened up a new window, and I did a little search to see if maybe my assessment of what she just preached was misunderstood.
I’ve long had a weary opinion of the Osteens.I do not believe in the idea of the prosperity gospel in any way, shape or form. I do not think that God is at all concerned with my happiness, or with my every day being a Friday. There is zero evidence in scripture to support such claims, and so I’ve always taken Joel Osteen quotes with a grain of salt. They are feel good fluff – kind of like cotton candy. Fun to eat, but will rot you from the inside out if you consider it nutritious.
I decided to look up a few more videos of Joel and Victoria Osteen speaking, and I read excerpts of their books available online. After doing that research, I feel much more confident in my assessment of that now infamous Victoria Osteen clip.
It is, indeed, blasphemy, and I do think that the Osteens believe that message with all of their hearts.
Dear Church of God, I come to you begging that you use discernment in such matters of faith. We cannot give ourselves over to this belief that God is pleased only when we are happy. We cannot for a second accept the notion that we do good, “not for God, but for ourselves.” To believe that it’s about us is not worship – it is destructive, self-serving and the very worst of a Western faith system.
God wants my yes. He wants my obedience. He wants me to give and love and pour myself out for others, not because it makes me feel good or look good or seem “good.” He wants me to pour myself out as a praise offering to Him – so that He gets the glory. I don’t want the glory – I really do not, because it would be a cotton candy faith that dissolves the second I’m faced with any sort of challenge.
Last year was a pivotal year in my walk of faith. For most of 2013, I fought hard against depression. I was angry and confused, and I clung to my God not because He made me happy, because most of my anger was actually directed at Him. No – I clung to Him because I needed to know that He was real. I needed to know that even in the darkest moments, He was who He said He was.
He did not fail my meager test of faith. Indeed, He has proven Himself faithful not because of me, but in spite of me.
The notion that God is glorified when we are happy is a slap in the face of His true nature and character, and I pray that all of us would have eyes to see, and ears to hear, the false teachings of our time. Do not be deceived, fellow believers, by these fluffy, sugary words. They do not hold weight in a world that is crying out.
They hold no weight for the Christians in Iraq being systematically targeted and slaughtered.
They hold no weight for the children of Israel and Gaza.
They hold no weight for the orphans in Russia, or the poverty stricken villages in Africa.
They hold no weight for the single mom fighting to put food on the table.
They hold no weight for the grieving parents who stand at the fresh mound of dirt that covers the body of a beloved child.
God is for you for no other reason than because of His never ceasing goodness and love. Not because of your deeds, your “goodness,” your happiness, or your false beliefs in yourself. The God of the Universe longs to have all of you so that He may be glorified through you, in both the good times and the bad.
Last week I wrote of Love, and of the beautiful, mysterious pain that accompanies such a surrender of emotion. When I typed those words, I formed them in the context of watching my child graduate kindergarten. They were framed in the knowledge that Love requires separation, and in my innocent state of mind, I could only see the separation of parent and child that comes through space and time.
Then we got the phone call no one wants to receive.
There was a mass. The biopsy reveals cancer. We wait and we pray, and we hope for the best – the miracle of healing. Today the confirmation brought unwelcome news.
Stage 4. Metastatic.
Suddenly the pain of Love grew wings and took flight. Lee’s dad – our patriarch, our hero, our mentor, and a steady spiritual guide – now faces a fight that, short of a miraculous touch from God Himself, will result in his passing from this life on earth and into the gates of heaven.
“…Now it may surprise you to learn that in His (God’s) efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks;some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
There is no irony in our present circumstance. We cannot point to these days with a flippant laugh and label them a coincidence. For on the very day we got news that cancer had invaded one we loved, Lee was in process to make a transition at work.
His division was cut loose from the company. We’d known this for weeks, and while the news was met with some disappointment, suddenly it seemed that he had lost his job for such a time as this.
Severance gives him a cushion to absorb the blow of his father’s illness. We have the freedom to leave, he and I, for the weekend, and fly to Arkansas where we will fold into the arms of his parents and brothers and all face this new challenge in the race together.
What a privilege it is…
When we told our kids of their grandfather’s illness, I felt a tightness pinch my heart. My sweet little ones will now taste the sting of illness. They can no longer be sheltered from the fear of grieving and, given the statistics, they may face the searing pain of death far earlier than I would have wanted them to.
And yet I cannot escape the thought that this journey we are about to walk as a family is a privilege. One thought has rumbled across my heart all day as I’ve processed this pain of a Love torn.
What a privilege it is for my children to know the sting of illness and the reality of heaven at a tender age.
We’re gearing up for a road filled with hope and unknowns. We cry out for a miracle, with full belief that God, in His mighty power, is capable of banishing the cancer from Herb’s body with a simple touch of His Hand. We pray for this, that we may show our children the power of God, and proclaim Him to the world.
We accept the reality that God may have a different path planned. One in which we must say goodbye far sooner than we ever hoped or imagined or desired. And if this is the path we must follow, we will show our children the power of God, and we will proclaim Him to the world.
Cancer is an ugly word. It sucks the marrow of joy right out of a soul. But we have been given the grace of time. We pray it will be longer than the statistics predict. We pray it will be sweeter than the treatment’s effects. We rejoice in our current state of jobless unknowns, for it gives us the sweet freedom of time to process.
What a privilege it is to walk this road of grief and hope, for in this trough I feel God so near. He is real, a balm to the sting.
My ten year old and I took a walk today. Hand in hand we made our way down the sidewalk, and his sweet innocence blessed me.
“I’m excited to see heaven now,” he said to me, a smile spread across his face. “I can just imagine it, and what I’m imagining is awesome.”
What a privilege it is to walk this pain. We covet your prayers in the days, weeks, and months to come. They will be hard, and they will be sweet. They will mirror the mystery of Love.
Join us in praying for a miracle – no matter what shape it may take.
He woke early, the impending sunrise giving the morning sky just a hint of grey, a sign that life would soon rise and begin the daily dance. He moved through the motions of dressing, then made his way to the kitchen where the smell of coffee greeted him with gentle grace, pushing away some of the sleep that still lingered in his brain.
He wrapped his hands around the hot mug and waited for his brain to catch up to his body. Half a cup of coffee later, he felt ready. He walked to his desk, an old, worn block of wood that he’d sat at for over a decade now and he set the coffee cup down next to the shiny, black typewriter – his pride and joy.
He decided many years ago that his most serious thinking and writing would happen on this typewriter. The clacking of the keys produced a romanticism that spurred more thoughts, more ideas. He couldn’t replicate such creativity on a computer.
With the night sky still fighting against the rising sun, he hit the first key, then the second, until his fingers moved in a rhythm. His brain didn’t have time to question or worry about the intricacies of today’s writing. He simply let the ideas spill out, until the sun shone high, the dewy grass glimmered, and the final drop of coffee had long been drained away.
Only then could his day begin.
In college, I had a professor by the name of Dr. Tom Hanks. True story. He taught an entire class on Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. It was one of my favorite classes. It nearly did me in, as the whole purpose of the class was to read the book in the original Chaucerian language, memorize large portions of it, and write frequent papers on the different short stories.
But Dr. Hanks made the class fascinating for us all.
He was known to come into class dressed as Chaucer from time to time. When he read the stories to us, they came alive, as the inflection of his voice rose and fell with the beat of this strange language. I’ll never forget the day Dr. Hanks described to us the way he felt when he sat down to write.
“I write because I have to,” he told us one afternoon. “Writing for me is like brushing my teeth. I don’t always enjoy the process, but it is a necessity to get through my day.”
I don’t know if Dr. Hanks actually wrote on a black typewriter or not. I imagine that he did, because the idea of it befits the memory I have of this fascinating man. What I know with certainty, though, is Dr. Hanks ignited in me a passion for the written word unlike anyone I had ever known. He gave me a glimpse into the mind of someone who thrived on creativity.
He, along with one other teacher my senior year at Baylor, sent me away from college with the desire to create.
We all have a spark of creativity buried somewhere inside. Sometimes that spark manifests itself in words, sometimes in numbers. It can be showcased in the kitchen, bubbling over in hot meals, or piled high in decorative treats. The creativity can come out in rhythms and notes, or in the joy that comes from a deep conversation. Creativity can be seen in a painting, in a well decorated home, or in the joy that one finds in Do It Yourself projects.
There is a method to each of our creative minds. Some of us do our best work early in the morning, some prefer the dark quiet of the night. Some sit and let the ideas flow freely, others think and build until the ideas are ready to spill out.
Everyone is creative in some way, shape or form, and it’s that creativity that all comes together to form a world full of color, of innovation, and of beautiful, interesting life – a life designed by the ultimate Creator Himself. What a beautiful thing to behold.
Have you ever considered how you were wired creatively? When do you do your best work, and how do you keep your mind focused on the things that fuel the creative portion of your brain?
I’m fascinated by Kristen’s story. Her story could be my story…and it could also be your story. She’s a normal girl like you and like me. She’s a mess, she’s funny, she doesn’t get life right all the time. Her kids fight, her house gets messy, and her marriage has seen its moments in the valleys.
Her story is our story, and I wanted to know more. Because where Kristen’s story takes a sharp turn is at the very moment that she uttered a tiny word.
Kristen and her family felt a tug to help the struggling young women living in the slums of Kenya. With fear and trepidation, they took steps forward, saying Yes to this dream that seemed impossible, and out of their Yes, The Mercy House was birthed, offering freedom and grace for 12 girls, and 12 babies. The story is miraculous, awe-inspiring, and challenging. Kristen and her family are just like your family and mine. They’re a ordinary family who chose to say yes, and they are doing extraordinary work.
When I began reading Rhinestone Jesus, I worried that it would make me feel inadequate. I feared that maybe I would be more confused, more unsure of what my next step should be.
Instead I was reminded of that which I already knew, but I so quickly forget:
But the beauty of receiving Christ, of accepting His Yes of me and all my flaws, is this – Because of Christ:
I am humble and repentant when I fail. I’m quick to ask my children for forgiveness when I yell, and I fight the desire to grow idle with every fiber of my being. I am free from the confines of that eating disorder, and when the lies press down, I have the wisdom of the Spirit to help me fight back.
I look for opportunities to serve, and I long to give freely.
I say Yes every day when I fold my laundry, hug my children, serve my husband, live my life. My Yes isn’t always big – it’s a simple response, because the Big Yes was offered on my behalf with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
The comments will remained open until Thursday, May 1, when Rhinestone Jesus officially releases. You can, however, purchase the book already in pre-release. If you’re anxious to own your own copy of Rhinestone Jesus, you can purchase it at the following places:
This post was long. Sorry – I try not to do that too often. Thanks for sticking with me until the end. I am pleading blessings and grace over all of you as you enter into this weekend. I pray that you feel the power of Christ’s Yes to you, and that you, in return, will know the power of saying Yes to Him.
*The giveaway is now closed. Winners have been notified. Thanks everyone for entering!
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the book to review, and two copies to give away. All opinions expressed are my own.