On the Dangers of the Prosperity Teaching and Televangelists

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When the hubs and I were first married, he joined the Navy. While he was in training, he was gone for 12-16 hours a day, and I was alone with a tiny baby most of the time. I was also super homesick (we were living in Idaho then) and suffering from postpartum depression.

I knew I needed to be reading my Bible and going to church, but it all just seemed so overwhelming to do by myself, so I settled for Christian radio and the Televangelist channel.

You know the one I mean.
I figured I was being “fed” spiritually so I was ok.
I was wrong.

Being “fed” by most televangelists (Billy Graham excluded because I believe he is the real deal) is the equivalent of eating air. Not only is there no nutrition whatsoever, you also end up with a giant stomach ache, weaker and sicker than when you began.

I remember one day watching John Hagee and hearing him say, “If you’re depressed, you need to get off the pity pot and praise the Lord.” The implication was made over and over that depression and poverty were self-inflicted. A more spiritual person would not suffer from either, because it was God’s will that everyone be well and rich.

I was neither.

It was then that I began to wake up to the dangers of this teaching. Although the sermons often began with quotes from scripture they always ended the same way, telling the viewers that God wanted me whole, God wanted me well, and God wanted me rich, and if I wasn’t, it was my fault. My walk with Jesus was in danger. I needed to pray and he would deliver me from all physical, emotional and financial stress. Mr. Hagee (and others on the same channel) promised a two-step program to finding my way back into God’s graces. Step one: pray and ask for it. Step two: send money as an “offering” to God to show I meant business. If I wasn’t willing or able to do both, then my situation would remain the same and there was nothing I could do about it. I had no one to blame except myself.

Eating air and getting a stomach ache? That’s the best case scenario. The worst thing that can happen is that a believer who longs for spiritual sustenance is instead starved to death under the teachings of these false prophets. They are our modern-day temple merchants,  prospering from the offerings of those who take their words to heart while their flocks are left worse than when they came to the table.

Don’t listen to these preachers, dear one. Find a church that sticks closely to the scripture. Surround yourself with those who love you and will pray for and with you.

I realized it had been about 10 years since I had listened to Mr. Hagee so I pulled up one of his sermons on depression on YouTube. After a cheerful greeting from Mr. and Mrs. Hagee, a quick “opportunity” for the viewer to donate appears well before the actual sermon. I’m ashured that my donation is tax-deductible, so not only am I helping God and all those sinners, I can also get a break on my taxes. Woo. Hoo.

He’s still saying the same thing. He actually said the words “pity pot” but he makes a small disclaimer: he now says, “I’m not talking about clinical depression. I’m talking about when you are feeling less than happy, or a bit blue.” That’s not depression. That’s a bad mood. I don’t need your help with that Mr. Hagee.

As Christians, we are not promised that we will not suffer. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. We are not promised that we will always be healed. We are not promised that, no matter how much we pray and rage that people we love will be sick, and maybe even die. We are not promised wealth.

All we are promised is that Jesus resides within us. Can God heal us miraculously? Yes. Will he always? No.

Jesus is able to restore us, and he doesn’t need $20 to do it. But sometimes, he doesn’t restore us. Sometimes we are left broken, mourning, and poor. That’s just how it is, dear one. There are some things we will never, ever understand on this side of the veil. We must cling to the Word and remember that God tells us that all things work for good for those who love him.

Even if we can’t see it now.

The best we can hope for is that Jesus is with us in our pain. He never leaves us. He sent his Spirit for our comfort. He sent his people to minister us for us to minister to. Sometimes Jesus looks like my best friend. Sometimes, if I listen and obey, He looks like me.

Take heart. I can promise this: your pain will not always be so intense. Everything is for a season, and the seasons are always changing. Look, dear one–the leaves change and time passes. With pain is also blessing.

Top 5 Tuesday…5 Reasons You Should Start Saying Yes More Often

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adventureHello out there friends!  I know this post is going to aggravate some people, because in our busy world it’s becoming more and more prominent to say no.  No to everything.  No to anything that might take away from the busyness that our lives already are full of.  I get that, I TOTALLY get that!  My last 2 days have been filled with things that I said yes to, some of them I accepted even knowing how full my plate was.  But you know what, I don’t regret it.  Do you know why?  Because each thing that I said yes to was something I believed in, something I wanted to do (as opposed to the things I used to get roped into doing out of guilt).

So I was thinking today about how for the last few years, it’s been getting very popular to just automatically say “no” when we…

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On Loving the South and the Southern Gothic

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O magnet-south! O glistening perfumed South! My South! — Walt Whitman

Loving the South doesn’t mean we don’t hold its injustices or secrets in a faraway place of denial.

To be Southern is to identify with its beauty–but at the same time naming our wrongs to others both past and present. Though the South may be indeed mired in the past, we enumerate our sins and attempt to learn from them. This makes us unique from the rest of the country, and indeed, the rest of the world.

It’s even more difficult to explain how it feels to be a Southern woman.

We have all experienced the “good old boys” network. We’ve all scratched and clawed our ways through antiquated ideas of male dominance, whether in the workplace, the family, or in the church. We’ve been taught that to be a lady means to not make a fuss.

Sometimes it’s necessary to make a fuss.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to scream and cry and force others to hear us. In Southern culture, to attempt to move from one’s designated place, either within society, our family and our own demons will always invite opposition.

But we, the New Southern Women, dig in our heels and cry “Bring it.” Because we, of all people, know of the danger that is found within the beauty of this land. The South is not perfect–the events that have happened here in our bloody past refuse to be forgotten or buried.

It’s these past transgressions, horrors and secrets that stamp an indelible tattoo of the gothic on our literature, our poetry, our music and even our very lives. We don’t deny our past–we could not even if we tried. But Southern solidarity and identity renders within us a beauty from the ashes.

Southern women are often the first to label the wrong we see, the ones who say “no more.”

Sister, I hear you. Your voice whispers into the chilly wind of winter, but is heard nonetheless.

For after the winter, the spring blooms anew.

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On Regret and New Beginnings

My favorite pic of Dad.

My favorite pic of Dad.

The anniversary of my dad’s death is September 14. During his last weeks, our tiny family was strained beyond the tipping point. Dying isn’t easy. The soul, our very essence, does not easily part from our flesh.

Watching someone you love die? I think that’s even harder.

There’s no guide book. There’s no YouTube video on surviving grief either.

Because really, nobody knows how.

Though I’ll always treasure those last moments I spent with Dad, there will always be an element of regret associated with that time in my life. I’ll always question myself, wondering why it took me so long to realize how sick he was, hoping that Dad realized my love for him even in the gritty reality of our reversed roles.

I think that one regret I’ll always have is that before he became sick, it felt like time was plentiful–unlimited and slow-moving. I remember being annoyed with his habit of coming over early when I invited him to dinner. I wasn’t ready to see him yet. The house needed to be vacuumed, the dishes in the sink washed. When he arrived early, I always was a bit irritated that he couldn’t seem to respect my idea of punctuality. If I said, “Dinner’s at 7:00,” he’d knock on the door at 6:40.

I can’t believe that used to bug me. Now, eleven years later, I regret that attitude I had. Like Dad was going to be around forever. Like time was just standing still. I hate that it took him getting sick for me to open my eyes to the swiftness of time.

I know better now. Don’t we all? My baby boy? A man child. My little girls? Grown-up women with jobs and classes and boyfriends. My hubby? Getting a little silver around his temples and me. Well.

I asked some friends to ask me what their regrets were. Here are the most repeated ones.

1. “Not believing in myself.” So many times, we only hear the echoes of those negative voices from our past influence our present which becomes our future.

2. “Not taking chances or opportunities given to me.” Sometimes we just need to take a leap of faith, because certain opportunities (or people) are worth the risk. It’s my experience that opportunities rarely present themselves at a convenient time. There’s almost never a perfect time to take the great job, travel the world, have a baby. If you wait too long, it just slips away.

3.”Working too much.” We only have 24 hours a day, and even then the minutes fly. I’m not dismissing the importance of a good work ethic. It’s just that, in all likelihood, we sometimes put our work “family” above our real family, when the reality is that no matter how important we are at work, we are SO replaceable. But to your husband, your kids–there’s only one you and there’s no good substitute.

4. “Caring too much what others thought” or its ugly sister, “Working too hard to please others.” This is, I’d like to point out, an almost entirely female statement. It’s so easy to slide into the trap of not saying “no” because we want others to think well of us.

5. “Letting addiction/alcoholism take over my life.” This one is not so nearly black and white as it seems, because addiction wears many masks. Can an addiction to video games be every bit as damaging as alcoholism, excessive spending or a gambling addiction? Absolutely, if your whole world revolves around a game to the detriment of your health and relationships. When a pretend world is more important than the real world, it’s time to take stock. When I spend hours wasting time watching other people’s lives on reality TV while my flesh-and-blood family is right here within reach? Same thing. What about when I write for hours, giving others encouragement for raising their teenagers–obsessing about my so-called “ministry” to others, when every minute I do so at the expense of my own family time, if I’m not careful…damaging.I’m a woman with an addictive personality–predisposed by genetics and encouraged by my own excesses. Regrets in the making.

But the good thing about regrets is this: once I realize I have something to regret, I can make a positive change. I can’t get that time back with my dad, but I can use that experience to remind myself that each moment, every second, even the seemingly mundane, has the opportunity to be a precious memory one day. I can let my regrets about dad’s last days drag me down, or I can learn from them, giving myself permission to forgive myself.

I can exchange my regret for a new chance, a fresh outlook.

After all, what is regret but joy in disguise?

In the Gray: 5 Things You Need to Know About Liberal Christians

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I stumbled across David Schell’s excellent article, “Unacceptable: What it’s like to be a liberal Christian in a sea of conservatism” and I experienced a feeling very similar to when I first read Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist: a feeling of coming home.

It’s been a tough time getting here. For years, I have felt left out, hiding in the shadows with my feelings of never quite fitting in with any church I joined, and never quite being able to pinpoint why.

This last year has been one of self-exploration. I’ve read more books on theology in the past year than I have in my whole life. Far from thinking I’m alone, I continue to find companionship and acceptance from others.

David Schell’s article tackles many of the problem areas I’ve discovered in my years “the gray.”

1. First of all, that it’s a possibility to be both Liberal and Christian. For years I was told that a liberals were nothing less than mini-antiChrists; that there was a good political party and an evil one. We are taught that to be Christian automatically leads to being Conservative.

I believe that true Christianity puts Jesus first, and doesn’t associate Him with any man-made political party.

I consider Jesus’s words above a political party’s rhetoric. The two are not 100% aligned, and I believe that we can’t, in good conscience, check off every box on either side of the spectrum as a Christian. I agree with some of both, and I don’t think that makes me any less of a Jesus lover.

I was taught as a Christian that straight-party voting was the key to getting America “back on track” and that the only issue that mattered is abortion. Yet, year after year, term after term, those same leaders I voted for never overturned or even attempted to overturn Roe Vs. Wade. Instead, those same leaders killed thousands of Americans and people overseas in senseless wars that were somehow sold to the American public as good and just. These people, our soldiers, sailors and airmen’s lives are every bit as precious to the ones they loved and loved them. How does advocating the loss of lives in war somehow be synonymous with being American? Can’t I be against war, love Jesus, but still love being American and respect our servicemen and women? Yes, I can. It is possible.

2. We can be liberal and still be against abortion. For some reason, this is the very first thing that arises when I talk to my Conservative friends. That somehow, liberal=deception which=the killing of babies. While I personally believe that abortion is wrong, many women will still seek them and I don’t want to see us back in the days of illegal abortion. I believe Jesus hates abortion, as do I, but I don’t want to judge those who have had abortions in the past. It’s never my job to judge anyone.

3. We believe that children’s rights should not stop once they are out of the womb. This includes children who are not American, who don’t speak English, and who don’t have money to pay. Jesus was also brought to another country by his parents, making him at one point the child of an illegal alien.

4. We love people regardless of what gender they identify with or whom they choose to love. I don’t think they should be prosecuted for loving someone of the same gender. I believe that a person can be gay or lesbian and still be Christian. I think it’s ridiculous when people believe gay people are more likely to be child molesters. I was molested three times as a kid and it was always a man. That’s my experience.

5. We believe it’s not ok to pick and choose which parts of the Bible we rage against. The same people who hate homosexuality and quote the verses they believe backs it up so easily rationalize the verses that are against divorce and remarriage which may be their own issues. Everyone has some trait, some struggle, some addiction, some excess or gluttony, something the Bible won’t condone.Why can’t we all just accept that we all need grace every single day of our lives just to take a breath? I think we need to pay very close attention to the issues that Jesus chose to address and the people Jesus spent time with and loved: the imperfect creations, the doubters, the question-askers.That’s who I am, and who you are.