Last Sunday I went to church and our Pastor annoyed me. Not because he was wrong but because he was right; and on top of being right he spoke with a humble passion and grace which made him even more annoying because I could not discredit him for bad delivery. His sermon was on Christian maturity as described in Ephesians 4, but what grated most against my fallen nature were his comments on selfishness.

I have never thought of myself as a selfish person but as I sat in church pondering the struggles I have had in the last several months, I began to realize that most of them are rooted in a world view that revolves completely around my own comfort. One of my greatest struggles in recent days is what I like to call “relational paranoia”. Yes, I made that up all by myself, but put simply it means that I am constantly worried that I will do something stupid in a relationship that will ruin it for all eternity without any hope of redemption.

Now, this might seem like a demented form of humility but from the sermon on Sunday I am reminded that it is actually prideful and self-centered in the highest degree. Instead of my focus being on the love of Christ and how I can best bring that to life for those around me, my focus is on my own performance. Instead of viewing people as people I am viewing them as my audience. I then strive for an affirmation that should already be there from knowing that I am wholly loved and accepted by the God of the universe and this striving becomes not only exhausting but paralyzing. I am not free to simply love people because I am bound by my own selfish need for affirmation. Please don’t misunderstand me to say that affirmation has no place in relationships because it most certainly does, but when it is the motivation for my actions it becomes something it was never meant to be.

So how do I find freedom? As a mom, I so desperately want to be able to teach my girls how to freely love people without the bondage of this “relational paranoia” but how do I get there myself? I must change my direction. When the voice inside my head begins to tell me that no one really likes me and relational fall out is just one slip-up away, I must turn from this and look to my Savior. If His righteousness is enough to make me right before a holy God then it is certainly more than enough to make me right before men and that is where my security is found. My performance will always be subpar but Jesus takes me as I am, gives me His perfection and sets me free to love each person where they are at not based on the amount of affirmation they give me. As strange as it may sound, what I really want is to forget about me and let the love of Jesus reflect in how I treat all those in my life. This shifts the focus from things I must do to maintain feigned awesomeness to the things Jesus has already done to love me and that I can now do for others. Forgetting about me = freedom.

Moment of The Week!

Posted: November 13, 2013 in Moment of The Week

After putting the kids to bed one night I was bustling around the house straightening things up. I picked up the toys and clothes that were strewn all over the house and finally began to head back up the mountain of stairs to put everything in its proper place. When I reached the top I noticed that the office door was open so I went to shut it. I got it about half way closed when I heard a tiny voice say “Hi mom.” Slowly I opened the door back up to see my little Elaina happily drawing on various papers strewn all over my desk. “What are you doing?” I asked in complete shock. “I drawing.” She said matter-of-factly. “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” “No.” she said confidently. Who knows how long she had been up there in solitary bliss but of course I had to crash the party and put her back to bed! She did not appreciate my responsible parenting, but at least after that she fell asleep and there were no more big surprises the rest of the evening. Nothing like a two-year-old to keep me on my toes!

In the last several years I have read countless articles on the celebration of Halloween… some say Christians should have nothing to do with it and others say it’s no big deal. Honestly, I have found it all very confusing and frustrating. As a Christian I want to orient my life around the glorification of Jesus Christ and as a mother, I want to teach my kids to do the same. However, with so many conflicting and passionately held positions, it has become very difficult to know what direction to take.

This frustration inspired me to launch my own little mini research project and what I found has challenged me to rethink my entire approach to holidays in general, not just Halloween. Let’s take a look at some of my findings. (Please see links listed at the bottom of this article for references)

Christmas:
As most Christians already know, Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, no one really knows when Christ was born because the Bible doesn’t say, so how in the world did we end up with Christmas in December? Most sources I have read trace the origins of the modern day Christmas celebration to the Roman holiday called Saturnalia. It was to honor the Roman god of agriculture named Saturn and was celebrated by a myriad of activities including gift giving, reversal of order (slaves and children were waited upon by masters and parents), drinking, gambling and a strange practice of setting up a mock king known as “The Lord of Misrule” who was sometimes killed at the end of the festivities. It’s kind of dark actually and not very Christian.

Halloween:
Halloween of course is the most obvious offender for pagan origins. It originated in Ireland when the Celts would celebrate the end of summer and harvest in a festival called Samhain on October 31st. It was believed that on that night the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred and the Celtic priests, also known as the Druids would lead the people in engaging in divination and sacrifice to their pagan gods. Also not very Christian.

Easter:
Easter is named for the Saxon fertility goddess Eastre/Eostre and was celebrated at the time of the spring equinox which closely coincided with the Jewish Passover. Bunnies, being a symbol of fertility, were frequently used in the celebrations honoring Eostre along with eggs, which were considered to be a representation of new life. There is actually very little information to be found about Eostre but she is said to have been derived from the Babylonian goddess, Ishtar whose rituals were highly sexual. Again, not a Christian holiday.

So now that I have successfully ruined every major holiday I am sure you are asking yourself “What’s the point of all this? Should we just not celebrate anything?” The point is we are gentiles and unless you are Jewish, there is no such thing as a truly God-centered holiday except for maybe Thanksgiving. So the real question to ask is, as gentiles redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ what do we do with our pagan holidays? Well I think there are two things we should do and two things we should not do.

What to do:
The first thing we should do is look at the scriptures for guidance. In Romans 14 Paul says this “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God…” This verse indicates that the observance of a special day is not the important thing; the important thing is that whatever a person does he should do it for the love and glory of our Savior. Colossians 2 echoes this sentiment when it states “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Other good passages to read on this subject are 1 Corinthians 8, 1 Corinthians 10 and Galatians 5, but I think it’s pretty clear that what is important to God is not the celebration itself, but that the heart of the person celebrating is intentionally focused on honoring Him.

In light of these scriptures, it is also clear that we have been set free, not for the purpose of self-gratification but for the glory of Christ. Such things as divination, witchcraft, debauchery, fornication and pagan gods are all clearly described in scripture as evil, forbidden and should certainly not be celebrated. So the second thing to do is choose what we celebrate. During each holiday season we should focus our celebration on what honors God and the good things that He gives us to delight in. It is hard to argue the fact that modern day Halloween festivities are still very centered on the celebration of death, witchcraft and the grotesque. However, this can easily be remedied by focusing on celebrating God’s provision of harvest time. There are lots of ways to do this, including fall festivals, family events and block parties but the important thing is to be intentional about avoiding the dark aspects of the holiday. As for Christmas and Easter, I think it is helpful to remember that God created bunnies, eggs, and Christmas trees. Just because the pagans have used them for a corrupt purpose does not mean that they are actually bad in and of themselves. 1 Corinthians 8 supports this idea when speaking of food sacrificed to idols saying “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him.” To put it more simply, let’s redeem all we can and leave out the rest.

What not to do:
Now moving on to what we should not do. I do not think we should be ignorant of the pagan aspects of our holidays. I think we should honestly confront them and use the opportunity to explain to our children why we do not believe in those things, why they are dangerous and why it is so important to make Christ central in all that we celebrate. 1 Corinthians 10:14-33 emphasizes the dangers of paganism and clearly states that “all things are lawful but not all things are profitable.” We need to be very purposeful in how we teach our children to redeem the culture. God is the author of all good things and it is Him alone who deserves the glory.

The second thing we should not do is treat each other with contempt over something as ridiculous as a holiday celebration. Scripture commands Christians over and over again to live in unity and peace with one another. Romans 14:10 specifically warns us against holding our brother in contempt, stating that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 1 Corinthians 8:9 commands us to not let our liberty in Christ be a stumbling block to our brothers and that goes both ways. As mentioned in the scriptures above, we are both free to observe a day and to not observe a day and neither the one should point a condemning finger at the other. The worst witness against Christianity is not when someone dresses up in a tinker bell costume on Halloween but when we treat each other with contemptuous judgment. This we should never do.

Well, I think that concludes my thoughts on holidays, pagans and Christians. I have spent many years struggling over this subject and I truly hope that I have helped some other parents out there with making decisions for their family. God Bless and Happy Holidays to all!

Links for Christmas Origins:
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/0/20617780)
(http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice-customs.html)
(http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_Misrule#History

Links for Easter Origins:
(http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-t020.html)
(http://www.gotquestions.org/easter-origins.html)

http://www.truthontheweb.org/easter.htm

http://www.cbcg.org/should_christians_celebrate_easter.htm

http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/place_settings/ishtar.php

Links for Halloween Origins:

http://www.history.com/topics/halloween

http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/onlinediscipleship/halloween/halloween_Pagan_Ankerberg.aspx http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a123

Threads of Silver: Chapter 8 ©

Posted: October 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

Threads of Silver: Chapter 8 ©.

Moment of The Week!

Posted: September 20, 2013 in Moment of The Week

Last Sunday my husband and I were sitting at the kitchen table trying to finish our coffee before we had to leave for church. The kids were upstairs watching 10 minutes of Leap Frog and we were enjoying a moment of uninterrupted conversation when suddenly there was a loud crash across from us in the living room area. We looked at each other, and then looked in the direction of sound. We looked at each other, and then looked in the direction of the sound again. Finally it dawned on us that the light fixture above the niche outside our bedroom door was no longer on the ceiling but on the floor in millions of tiny pieces. Needless to say our coffee never got finished and we were late for church. Another perfect Sunday morning for the Sextons!

Steady

Posted: September 13, 2013 in Teachable Moment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Steady. It’s a word that carries the idea of patient endurance; like someone steadily walking towards a faint glow in the distance despite torrential rain, wind and mud clawing at their feet. Every step is slow and difficult but they never stop walking towards the light. Jesus was steady. Despite temptations in the desert, loneliness and exhaustion in His ministry and torture at the cross, he walked steadily towards the light of glory in the end. Steady is a characteristic that should weave itself into the fabric of who we are as imitators of Jesus, but in recent days I have been heavily burdened with the realization that too often this is not the case.

Last week I heard the story of a woman who, because of her gambling and drinking addictions, has decided to give up her children with no real desire to ever get them back. I heard three different stories of women who are giving up on their marriages simply because they are not in love anymore and feel that divorce is what they need to find their happiness. These stories are sad but the saddest thing to me is that they are not rare. Marriages, kids and friendships, both Christian and non-Christian, are falling by the wayside because somewhere along the line our culture has lost what it means to be steady; to walk a road that is hard because it is right. This is not to say that a change in circumstances is never necessary, but it seems that all too often it is not the circumstances but the person who really needs to change.

So as a mom, I find myself asking the question is this all my kids have to look forward to? How do I teach my kids to let hardship change them into strong, steady followers of Jesus Christ instead of people who run away at the first sign of difficulty? In Hebrews 10:35-36 it says this: “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” I think this verse holds the key to learning how to be steady. In verse 34 it describes how the readers of the letter joyfully accepted the seizure of their property knowing that they had a better and lasting treasure waiting for them. Their confidence was in the promises of God; that he would come back for them, bringing both justice and reward and this confidence gave them endurance to walk through the pain and be changed.

To me, the coolest thing about God is that He has not only revealed who He is in the truth of scripture, but He has also told us how the story ends. Why? To make us steady; to give us the endurance we will need to do His righteous will even when it feels like death to do so.

Now, the way we pass this on to our kids is twofold. Not only must we strive to firmly root them in their faith (Colossians 2:6-9) but we must also live this way ourselves. We must be steady. If you are anything like me, this idea is terrifying. Life is full of torrential rain that drowns my resolve, howling winds that blow my emotions in all directions and mud that weighs down my soul making it difficult to even move. But the light in the distance is the promises of God and the thing that must be steady in every day of my life is a constant re-orientation around His truth. This is what my kids must see. When I am sick of life and I want to run away, they need to see me clinging to Jesus and they need to see me stay. Not because it is easy but because it is right and the glory of God’s promises is what waits in the end.

Moment of The Week!

Posted: August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

It was a typical day and I was getting pretty worn down. I felt like I had spent the whole afternoon correcting the kids behavior and Lilah especially seemed to be making her best efforts to avoid listening to anything I said. Finally, after much frustration I decided to try a different approach. “Lilah, is there something bothering you?” I asked “Because if there is you need to talk to me about it and not behave disrespectfully.” She thought for a few minutes and then very seriously responded “Yes, there is an alligator that has been bothering me.” “I see.” I replied, trying to maintain a straight face. “Well, can you tell this alligator to stop bothering you so that maybe we can stop having so many arguments?” Again, she pondered for a moment and then proceeded to tell me a very long, convoluted story about her and the alligator and how they were actually friends, etc. Realizing that this was not going to go anywhere I finally said “Ok well, I’m glad you and the alligator are friends but let’s try to listen to mommy from now on and just talk to me if something is really bothering you.” I thought that was a good way to end the conversation and hoped maybe it had done some good. However, about 2 minutes later she said “Mom, something’s bothering me.” “What is it?” I asked. “A monster is bothering me.” Suddenly, I realized my good intentions were backfiring and for the next hour I listened to different creative stories about what was bothering her. Needless to say, by the time she went to bed I was in desperate need of chocolate.