Tag Archives: Faith

Sacrifice-Mother Teresa

Sacrifice:

“The act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone” or “An act of killing a person or animal in a religious ceremony as an offering to please a god.” (Source: Webster’s Dictionary)

Thankfully, I’ve only experienced one of those two definitions for sacrifice. I’ll let you guess which one J.

The topic of sacrifice has been on my mind a lot these days. Lately I also seem to be having frequent conversations about sacrifice and achievements. I’m both saddened and surprised by the number of people I encounter who don’t seem to understand the concept of making sacrifices in order to do what you have to do in order to get what you want or need.

I’ve had to make many costly sacrifices in order to fulfill what I believe to be my calling in life. I’ve sacrificed my desire to live a lone without the frustration of having roommates. I’ve sacrificed having great paying jobs in order to work for non-profit organizations where I get to do what I love. I’ve sacrificed having nice brand named items in order to keep afloat financially. There was a time when I was filled with anger and regret about many of my choices in life; but thankfully through much reflection and meditation over the years, I’ve learned that sacrifices are never wasted.

People who have goals, a calling, and a mission in life know and accept that sacrifice is part of the journey. Achievements will always require sacrifice; some will be small, others will be major. As I type these words, I want to give you a message of hope by telling you that your sacrifices are never in vain. They are not random, pointless, useless; they are important.

I noticed these key words in Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of sacrifice, “…giving up something that you want to keep…”. Sacrifices are difficult because we are required to give up something that we don’t want to. We are placed in a position of now verses later. The question being asked of us is, “Will you give up this in order to achieve that?”. It’s not an easy decision sometimes, but your willingness and ability to give up something against your own wishes means two things, a) you’re serious about what you need to do; b) you have your priorities in order.

I wish I could say I am great at making sacrifices, but that would be a bold lie. I suck at decision making when my emotions are involved. Giving up my wants for the unknown takes me out of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned that sacrifices are always for the better. We are not sacrificing something in order to make life worse for our self or others.

sacrifice and values

I know from experience how difficult sacrifices can be, so I’ll share with you the most important lesson I’ve learned, “Let it go.”. The harder and longer you hold on to something physically, emotionally, and mentally, the more difficult it is to move forward. If I hadn’t spent so much time grieving, and being bitter about whatever it is that I had to give up, I probably would have had more happiness, joy, and energy for the things I was making sacrifices for.

Being broke for years while I worked full-time and paid my tuition for graduate courses would have been a much easier process had I not spent those years crying about living in cramped, moldy smelling basement suites. Instead of gratitude, I was miserable. I hated my job, I hated where I lived, and I hated not being able to socialize because I had no money to do so or needed to stay home and tend to school work. An attitude of sacrifice would have allowed me to see that I was giving up something I wanted in the present for something that would better my life in the future. In other words, I forgot to enjoy the journey.

Let “it”, whatever “it” is, go. Grieve briefly and move on to what ever it is that will take you closer to where you are meant to be. Trust the process, trust God.

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

 

 

 

Passionate Social Media Posts: Did Jesus Really Say That?

Thankful for November

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made a blog post since September 2015. October 19th is when we had our federal election for a new Prime Minster of Canada. We had a long election campaign filled with hate mongering, optimistic promises, and difficult voting dilemmas. I wasn’t allowed to post political preferences on social media and I’m thankful for that. It kept me from reacting and responding to the many political posts that filled Facebook.

Politics can bring out the best and the worst in our behaviours. Political hot topics reveal a lot about who we are and what we believe. Having to remain silent about political matters during the campaign taught me a lot about remaining outwardly calm and respectful when interacting with others who hold opposite values and beliefs than I do. Internally I didn’t do as well, but I’m alright with that; I wasn’t interested in censoring my thoughts, just my words.

I have a better understanding of why Jesus didn’t spend time entertaining political debates; it’s sometimes a waste of time. By not debating or having discussions with people of opposing views, I was able to conserve some much needed energy. I was slowed down for most of October with terrible migraines. Instead of going back and forth with someone whose mind I cannot change and vice versa, I used that time and energy for things that decreased my stress levels, prevented the worsening of my migraine, and brought me happiness. I would encourage other believers to use their energy for things other than political debates and arguments. Know when a debate or discuss is healthy and when it’s not.

During one of the nastiest election campaigns that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, or at least that I can remember, some of the worst behaviour and beliefs came from self-professed Evangelical Christians. Their beliefs didn’t surprise me because I’ve been part of an Evangelical church for my entire adult life, but it was a surprise to others who were not familiar with Evangelical fundamentalist beliefs and values.

What I’d like to say to politically passionate Christians is this: Please remember that you do not represent the beliefs and values of Christ when you write posts on social media that are rooted in fear, misinformation, hatred, and meanness.

omg Becky, look!

A simple way to control yourself is to ask this question: Would I post this on Jesus’ Facebook page or Twitter account? Sounds silly, but it has stopped me on many occasions from posting reactive comments. Thank goodness for the delete button, because it has saved me from leaving some of my most stupid posts on peoples Facebook pages.

 

Ahead in November:

I’m currently in the midst of writing the advent series that I will be posting during Advent from November 29 – December 24, 2015.

I’ll also be posting part 2 of Jesus the Introvert on Sunday. I’ve been reading a lot about the spiritual nature of the introvert and I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned with readers.

The remaining two posts will be about health and fitness. I’ve be writing about some awesome Christians who have experienced more depth in their faith as a result of embracing a dedication to their personal health and fitness.

 

Happy November!

 

 

 

Theology, Justice, and Church Authority: Stay Strong in Your Faith

Because I Said So

 

I believe in respecting the leadership of pastoral staff, but because I attend a fundamentalist church, there are times when I have had to pause, bite my tongue, and let my thoughts be just that – thoughts. There are also other times when my thoughts can no longer be contained and I let pastoral staff or a leader know, “Oh noooo, that is not alright”. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does…

I recently had some theological differences with a group of pastors at my home church. I was told that I “consistently challenge pastor’s authority”. I was both sad and happy to have this accusation made against me. I was sad because this group of fundamentalist pastors interpreted and experienced what I knew to be a theological discussion as “challenging authority”. On the other hand I was simultaneously happy because I make no apologies for my theological stance and I speak up when necessary.

My life experiences differ greatly from the life experiences of the pastors who lead at my church. I’ve attended this church for around 18 years and the staff demographics haven’t changed at all. I could leave and find a new church to attend, but I don’t live in a city with a lot of diversity and this is very much reflected in the eerily homogenous pastoral leadership staffed across varying denominations in my city.

There was a time when I struggled with deciding if my theological beliefs were worth standing up for. Was it worth it to be branded a heretic by certain pastors and other believers who couldn’t wrap their minds around things I would say during bible studies and conversations about faith? Was it worth it to be gossiped about by staff as they warned others about what they referred to as my “questionable theology”.

The writer of Titus wrote an entire letter about being faithful in submitting to authority, being obedient to subordinates, and maintaining sound teaching. The second half of the letter displays the author’s dislike for theological debates when he warns believers to, “…avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9).

Is this why these pastors at my church tried to silence me? Were my concerns “unprofitable and worthless”?

I realized the theological discussions I tried to engage in with my pastors proved to be unprofitable, but certainly not worthless. My concerns were not worthless because I believe in the things that God has taught us to care about; justice which is carried out by caring for the poor, the marginalized, those emotionally hurt and damaged by the church, women and other issues highlighted in the bible. My theology is not worthless, it is rooted in recognizing the things which both God and Jesus despised: discrimination, sexism, taking advantage of the disadvantaged, using the name of Christ to bring harm to others, and many other atrocities which are listed in the bible from the Hebrew Scriptures straight through to the gospels where Jesus showed us what it looks like to live a justice focused life infused by the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.

pulpit bully pastors

Disagreements as Growth:

Sometimes you need to take a stand and speak out against faulty biblical teachings. Check the scriptures, pay attention to the context of the passages, use academic tools to learn more, and most importantly pray about the topic before you speak up about your concerns regarding faulty teachings. It’s also important to know when to remain silent. Choose your battles wisely. We are not always going to read and understand scripture in the same way; human variables have a strong influence on how we understand scripture. Know which things need to be addressed and which ones can be left alone.

When we engage in uncomfortable theological discussions or debates we strengthen our faith and expand our knowledge. If you only listen to yourself and others who think exactly as you do, how will you ever know if you are correct or in error. Hot tempered, ego filled arguments, are the types of interactions that never lead to any good and are not rooted in the fruits of the spirit. Learning to engage and listen helps us develop respect for others, patience, grace, and awareness of others’ experiences and beliefs.

be a leader

If you are a pastor or hold a lay leadership position, engaging with those who differ from you can teach you humbleness. Some of my pastors and other men of higher positions in community ministry have boldly used the word ‘authority’ to silence and control me. When that word is used, it usually occurs when they become visibly uncomfortable with having to dialogue with me after they realize that I am making points that are valid, factual, biblical, academic, include lived experiences, and other things that make for a proper argument. Great leaders are those who never stop learning. As Christians one never stops learning. The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop giving us wisdom, correction, and guidance; it is only us as humans who choose to quiet the work of the Spirit.

As a graduate student I was required to build a solid theological base. As students we developed our beliefs from academic rigour and spiritual experiences rooted in our relationship with God.  I wasn’t able to bring myself to settle exclusively for one type of theological system or methodology, but I am heavily influenced by a group of intersecting theologies: Feminist Theology (I’m not what people would consider a feminist, but I like certain types of feminist theological methodologies), Postcolonial theology, and Practical theology.

It’s not my theological studies that have lead me to take a stand against the misleading and sometimes harmful teachings of my pastoral staff, it is my belief in God and the powerful words found clearly in scripture that let me know that I cannot remain silent about my concerns.

appeal to authority

You don’t need a graduate level education to know when something doesn’t sit right within you. When the small quiet voice of your conscience grows louder and louder and moves from your gut to your head and then back again until it ignites a passion in you; don’t ignore it. Be brave, be confident in the Lord, and do something. Speak, pray, help, walk away, whatever it is that you feel prompted to do. You are guaranteed to be hurt by others, betrayed, ignored, challenged, and segregated, but remember who is with you as always; he experienced the same thing too while speaking the truth of our Father.

Peace be to you as you walk in faith and justice.

 

 

 

 

Basic Christians: Labels and meaning

Church Lady SNL

We’ve all heard the term “basic b___”, from here on I’ll use the word “basic” because I have no need to refer a woman as a b___. If you haven’t already become familiar with the pejorative, the simplest definition of a basic is the woman who, “like(s) popular, mainstream products or music.” (Source: Wikipedia) 2014 was the year online media took to defining the term with various qualifiers for being a basic.

You were labelled as a basic if you owned or have ever owned Uggs, Michael Kors handbags, love your seasonal Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or wear brand named yoga pants even though you don’t attend yoga classes.” The list of criteria is never ending and will never cease because people love trends and long to be part of whatever has been deemed popular.

I’m not ashamed to say that for a non-basic woman, I sure do engage in a lot of basicness. I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes, I wear yoga pants almost every day of the week, I posted a picture to Facebook of an Aromatic Chai Tea Latte that I had tried for the first time in a local vegan restaurant frequented mostly by non-vegans, and a host of other faux pas that make a woman basic.

I don’t pay too much attention to what is considered basic because I don’t follow trends; I’m not in a financial position to live like that, but when I do pay attention it is because I’ve grown tired of basic behaviour. Lately I’ve been craving a more spiritual and deeper level of Christian community among other females, but instead I’ve encountered one too women who want to bring their basic behaviour into sacred spaces such as bible studies, workshops, and times of prayer, to name a few.

When I gather with other females for times of biblical uplifting, edification, and character strengthening, the last thing I want to do is talk about trendy, mundane topics. I’m all for having fun, but not when it is time to be serious. Being basic can be a problem if you’re not able to stop being so basic when necessary.

If women don’t learn to make time to put aside their basicness and enter the world of depth, they run the risk of delaying their spiritual growth. I was made aware of an example of this while in the midst of a conversation with some other women from church where the shallow conversations revolved around stories about being drunk on vodka mixes, wanting to take pole dancing classes, and going out to a local Latino bar for Salsa lessons because the men make them feel sexy and sensual while dancing. One of the most annoying parts of the conversation went something like this,

Married Christian Woman: “I love Black men.”

Me: “Oh you’re married to a Black man?”

MCW: “No, but Black men like me because I have a big booty.”

Me: “Oh, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment. Are you comfortable with being big?”

MCW: “Well, Black men tell me they like my booty, so that’s a compliment.”

Me: “Oh. O.K.”

I had an issue with this particular person because I know that as fellow Christians we could and most likely never would sit down together and have a spiritual conversation about things such as Ferguson, the role of socio-economic status in racism, and the cultural impact of absentee Black men in single family households. The shallowness of these conversations isn’t only related to race. I have never been able to engage with many women at my local church about a variety of issues facing our society. In other words, these women are not only basic in their taste, but also in their Christian walk.

You're Basic!

As I venture towards a new phase in my walk of faith, I remind myself and encourage others not to fall into the trap of being Basic Christians. It’s perfectly alright to be a basic woman, you are free to wear, watch, and eat what you please, but to do so in your relationship with God and within your Christian community is never a spiritually healthy way to live. Jesus was never basic about his journey of faith, if he was, it would have meant thinking and living just like everyone else, and he never did that. Instead, Jesus listened to our Father and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide him towards his calling in life which was to show us the way to a godly relationship with God and others. Let’s not allow a basic way of living prevent us from venturing towards the deeply spiritual, unique and meaningful life that God has gifted each and every believer with. God and His Holy Spirit has never been basic and that means our relationship with God will never be like that either. Peace.

QUESTIONS: What areas in your life show signs of being ‘basic’? (Follows trends, likes what everyone else likes, focused on social status, limited in authenticity, lacking in depth or thought, etc.)

Does your faith (relationship with God and relationship with others) reflect basic behaviour?

This month think of one thing that you’d like to do/see/purchase/try that is not considered mainstream or trendy. Examples might be: going to see a documentary on a topic of interest, reading bible verses in less familiar English translations you’re not used to, listening to a sermon from a pastor that has a different ethnic or cultural background from yourself, reading a book that never made it to the best sellers list.

ACTION: Pray and ask God to reveal areas where you have stopped giving thought to why you do the things you do? (e.g.

Different Christian woman

 


 

Below is extra reading for those who want to explore the topic further. The quote is from the comments section of an October 2014 article on NYMAG.com.  

“ 2. For what it’s worth, to me the word “basic” expresses a frustration with the culture deeper than an overprevalence (sic) of lattes. It’s about when one’s highest aspiration in life is to be… comfortable. This is what I mean by a “basic b__”:

  • doesn’t read
  • listens to dumbed-down, repetitive, feel-good music, if any
  • has little to no knowledge of anything that happened before her living memory
  • has little-thought-out opinions on complex issues, which she probably got straight from someone/ somewhere else
  • has a comformist (sic), average appearance- hair, clothes, make-up, everything
  • almost never challenges the status quo
  • almost never expresses or acknowledges deep/complex emotions, even to those she is close to
  • lacks a sense of larger-scale empathy with humanity- from not caring about events in other countries to being extremely self-absorbed in day-to-day human interactions; usually arrogant to service employees and an obnoxious driver
  • spends an inordinate amount of money on unnecessary consumer products
  • attempts to reference pop culture trends in a shallow, uninvested (sic) way
  • ultimately, takes no interest in learning about or accomplishing anything of significance in life; just wants to be entertained, get new stuff, and fit a certain image

This is not an attack on femininity- which can be intelligent, sophisticated, powerful, creative, subtle, and clever. Men can be “basic” too… But there is a historical and cultural stereotype that women should be childlike, or simple-minded.

Ironically, “basic” women (as I have defined them) are actually the ones who are submitting to a male hierarchy of culture. Most significant aspects of culture- politics, academics, economics- have traditionally been the province of men. Women who only care for frivolous things perpetuate the equivalence of femininity with a juvenile status.

Being “basic” is not about being feminine. It’s about being a child.”

http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/10/what-do-you-really-mean-by-basic-bitch.html?mid=pinterest-share-thecut (comments section, Oct 16, 2014).