You can’t walk in shoes that aren’t yours

305“Get over it. People are so paranoid. People take everything personally. Get the chip off your shoulder. Stop being so paranoid.”

Ever had any of those thoughts go through your mind? If you’re like me, you’ve had them go through your mind a lot this past year. It’s so easy to look at someone who says they are hurt or offended and think, “Oh come on!”

It’s easy to think that until… well until you’re the one who is offended.

I remember a few years ago I was having a discussion with my friend Ashley. I am white, and Ashley is black, and we often have insightful conversations about race. During this particular conversation, I mentioned something about maybe some black people are just paranoid about racism. Then she said this: “You’ve never been black. Unless you’ve been black and walked into a store and gotten the stare-down, you don’t know what it’s like. You never will. Because you’ve never been black.”

Touché, my friend. Touché.

All over Facebook I see people, especially Christians, posting about how they are so sick and tired of people taking things personally or getting offended, and yet Christians seem to be the most offended people of all.

But really, we can’t look at someone and tell them they can’t feel how they feel. Are there people who ARE paranoid and over-the-top? Of course. But sometimes, what if people really are hurt? Who are we to pretend that we can walk in the shoes of someone who is something so completely different than we are?

I stopped dismissing people’s feelings on being a certain religion, race, etc., when I realized I had my own “chip” on my shoulder – being single in the church. It’s so frustrating because no one understands, unless they are a fellow single.

When I discuss my issues with my married friends in the church, they don’t understand, and sometimes the things they say are hurtful. They think singles want a group all their own to meet potential mates. Not at all. And it extends beyond having a specific group for singles. It’s the fact that no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve not been fully embraced by any church I’ve attended as an adult, and I do think it’s because I’m single.

Before you react. Before you judge. Before you comment… are you a single 30-something who has attended all the churches I’ve attended?

About a year ago a local homeless shelter held a fundraiser where you could spend a night as a homeless person. I thought it was a great idea! It raised a lot of money and gave people a small taste of what it was like to be homeless. However, I volunteer with the homeless, and they didn’t think it was such a great idea at all.

“It’s insulting,” one of the homeless men told me. “This isn’t what it’s like. We don’t have tents. We don’t have hot water. We don’t have an indoor bathroom to use in the middle of the night.”

I felt like my homeless friend was overreacting at first, but then I applied my friend Ashley’s words to the situation: I’ve never been homeless. I can’t claim to know what it’s like or what would upset me.

When it comes to walking on eggshells because we’re afraid we’re going to offend someone or not use the politically correct term, I absolutely believe that has gotten out of hand. But what I’m saying is….

If you’re not black, don’t pretend you know what it’s like to walk into an upscale store and get stared at.

If you’re not Christian, don’t pretend to know what it’s like to watch your country take your Savior out of everything.

I could go on and on with many more examples.

You can’t walk in shoes that aren’t yours, but you can have the compassion of Christ when someone tells you that their particular pair of “shoes” cause them pain. Paul actually tells us to take on that pain anyway:

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2

Be kind. Be compassionate. If we all attempted to understand each other a little better, the world would be a better place.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other,
just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,
put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Colossians 3:12

“Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor,
and let none of you device evil against another in your heart.”
Zechariah 7:10

 

When Starbucks ruined Christmas (or so they say)

STARBUCKS COFFEE CANADA - Red Cup Pre-OrderIt was early November when the latest meeting of the “Angry Christians” club was called to order in a small American town east of the Mississippi. Everyone had come with their list of things to be angry about, and they were ready to discuss.

As the president of the “Angry Christians” club started the meeting, someone burst in.

“You won’t believe it!” the man said. “You simply won’t believe it!”

All of the Angry Christians turned to see a man holding up a red Starbucks cup.

“Christmas is ruined!” the man shouted. “Christmas is gone! America is taking Jesus out of Christmas, and that is obvious because of this red Starbucks cup!”

The Angry Christians’ blood began to boil. They tore up their lists because nothing was worse than this.

“Starbucks hates Christians,” the president said. “Starbucks hates Christians, and it hates Christmas! We have to tell Jesus!”

Meanwhile in heaven, Jesus was sipping on a Starbucks peppermint mocha when one of His angels walked in shaking his head.

“We’ve got another issue from the Angry Christians,” he said. “This time it’s over a Starbucks cup.”

The angel put some paperwork in front of Jesus, who read it, and then sat back in His golden chair. He looked at His own Starbucks cup. Then He looked at the angel.

The angel was tired of waiting for a response, so he said, “Sir, what do we do about this?”

Jesus put His cup down and stood up.

“Is Starbucks a Christian company?” Jesus asked.

“No, sir,” the angel said. “They have no religious affiliation.”

“Did they ever have my name or image on their cups, and now they have removed it?” Jesus asked next.

“No, sir, they simply took off things like trees and snowflakes. They change the design of the cup every year.”

“Christmas is when Christians celebrate my birthday, right?” Jesus said.

“Of course it is, sir,” the angel replied.

“And does a plain red Starbucks cup mean it’s no longer by birthday?”

“Not in the least!”

Jesus was perplexed. “Will any fewer people become Christians this holiday season because snowflakes and trees were removed from this year’s Starbucks holiday cup?”

“I don’t imagine so, Lord,” the angel said. “If the Christians are doing their jobs on earth, they should be the ones leading people to you.”

“Then why,” Jesus said as He picked up His peppermint mocha, “are they letting a cup get them so upset?”

“Well, they feel it just another way America is taking you and your name out of Christmas.”

Jesus looked at the angel and chuckled. “Take ME out of Christmas?”

“Lord,” the angel said, realizing that taking Christ out of Christmas was impossible, “forgive me for even approaching you with this. For I have forgotten that you ARE Christmas. Starbucks can’t remove you from Christmas. America can’t remove you from Christmas. NO ONE can remove you from Christmas because you are God and you ARE Christmas!”

Jesus smiled. “That’s right. And I always will be.”

The angel gathered up the paperwork to bring the news to the Angry Christians, but Jesus stopped him before he walked out.

“And let’s be honest,” Jesus said. “Christians love their coffee. Do you really think Starbucks would purposely try and upset Christians and lose all of that business? Of course not. And if my followers were to boycott every business that didn’t glorify me, I’m not sure they’d have many places to go. Do they research the religious beliefs of each and every place they spend money?”

“Sir, you always have the greatest points!” the angel said, as he left the room.

Jesus sat back down and again looked at the Starbucks cup on His desk.

If the holiday season is about me, how many of my followers are doing things I actually called them to do?  Jesus thought. These people who are angry over a cup, are they feeding the poor, visiting the orphans and widows, fighting for justice of the oppressed? Or are they just looking for something to be angry about….

Back on earth the angel returned to the Angry Christians meeting, but no one was there. He hoped maybe they were downtown passing out free coffee to the homeless or visiting the sick in the hospital. Instead, they had all gone home to update their Facebook pages with anti-Starbucks status updates since Starbucks had ruined Christmas.

The angel shed a tear at the actions of the Angry Christians members who were allowing anything to ruin what Christmas really means. “Christmas is still about Jesus,” he said. “It can’t ever NOT be about Jesus.”

Super awesome ways use Facebook to lead people to Christ (not really)

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If you don’t have social media accounts, try naming your business something ultra-churchy like this supermarket I saw in Uganda.

PART I: We are better than everyone else

Jesus made it pretty clear: “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

Facebook, and other social media, make this as easy as it’s ever been. I’m “friends” with a lot Christians on Facebook, and I’ve noticed that the following are the top ways Christians must be trying to lead people to Christ:

1. Argue with nonChristians via comments. The key here is to be as nasty as possible. If a nonChristian posts something about the environment or *GASP!* animal cruelty, be sure to remind them of how awful ISIS and abortion are. This will quickly open their eyes to what a loving God we serve by slapping them in the face and telling them that their feelings about a topic are invalid.

2. Make it clear that you oppose homosexuality. Don’t let there be any question about how much you hate homosexuals. Make posts about this as often as you can. Before you know it, that nonChristian homosexual you know will be sitting in the pew next to you after he/she hears about what an awful person they are. High-five for reposting that blog about how the LGBT community is destroying our country!  (But be sure not to mention anything like premarital sex between heterosexual couples because, yeah, that’s a sin, but it’s not as bad as the gay people).

3. Never let on that you sin or struggle. You’re a CHRISTIAN. Remember that. And since you accepted Christ, you haven’t sinned. Doesn’t it feel good? Make sure everyone who is friends with you on Facebook knows what an angel you are.

4. Talk about politics. Often. Jesus was pretty hardcore about politics, and He often talked crap about Roman government leaders. He was also always telling people how their political party had everything to do with their identity. Right up there with being a Christian is being a republican or democrat. (Republicans hate the poor, Democrats hate babies- where do you stand?)

5. Remember this famous verse: “Some have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But you are not one of those people, so it is your duty to remind others that they HAVE fallen short. Hold your head high Christian, you are one of the good ones!

If you can follow those five simple rules for being a Christian on Facebook, you’ll be leading people to Christ in no time! Jesus was adamant about making people feel guilty about their sin, for boasting in self righteousness and being as nasty as possible to scare people into believing in Him.

We CAN keep this up. Eventually it’s got to work, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a Christ follower with all the awesome posts we make on Facebook?

Coming soon: PART II

 

Cookie-cutter Christians: Why some of us MUST be different

“I’m not like them.”

It’s a common thought I have around big groups of Christian people with a certain personality.

They raise their hands high and say, “Thank you Jesus!” throughout prayer and worship. I partially lift my hands, close my eyes, and silently shed a few tears as I feel the Holy Spirit.

It was at the Spiritual Retreat in October that made me question my abilities to reach the teens in my classes. But God showed me that He will use me for His purpose!
It was at the Spiritual Retreat in October that made me question my abilities to reach the teens in my classes. But God showed me that He will use me for His purpose!

They quote scripture and often pull it into their prayers when praying in front of everyone. I talk to God like He’s my friend, and I suppose I don’t quote scripture to Him because He already knows it.

After my thoughts of, “I’m not like them,” come the thoughts of, “So I must not be as good of a Christian.”

It’s a struggle I’ve had since college. And it’s a false struggle. It’s one that Satan loves to tell me over and over again: “You’re not like them, so you aren’t worthy.”

It hit me recently how incredibly terrible those thoughts are. I know better. I know that God loves me just as much as He loves them, and I know that I don’t have to be like them to be a good person.

But then a seriously disturbing thought hit me like a hurricane: what if some of my students feel the same way? What if I have students who look at some of the “super spiritual” students and staff at school and think, “I’m not like that. I’ll never be like that. So why bother?”

Some conversations with my students this year revealed that some of them have felt that way before.

I knew I needed to say something. God told me I needed to say something. Yes, even though I’m not walking around quoting scripture and raising my hands in worship, I do talk to God. A lot. He gets me. And He knew it had to be said. So on Friday I said it.

The main class I needed to say these things to were my seniors. They’re an interesting bunch. Yes, I teach at a Christian school here in Uganda, but not all of our students are Christian. Many are simply “Christian” only because they’ve been forced to be. There are two boys who don’t even believe in God and have serious issues with Christianity and Christians in general, there is a Hindu girl, some who have a strong faith in God but are not charismatic like a lot of their peers at school, and a few who are.

When I finished sharing, they clapped. That’s a huge thing for this group of ten 12th graders. Their enthusiasm is typically non-existent. But then one of my seniors, who detests most Christians, said, “I just got more from what you said than anything I’ve heard in chapel all year.”

Part of me didn’t want to post that. I don’t want to hurt our chaplain or anyone else who has spoken in chapel. They’ve put their heart and soul into presenting for these kids. However, the fact that he said that completely drives home the point I made to my students: the point they so eagerly accepted and understood.

My overall point was this: Christians are not all the same. We’re not supposed to be.

It’s tough. If the Christians you’re surrounded by all act the same way and that’s just not your personality, it can be discouraging. And from the discussions we had yesterday in class, I discovered that it can be especially discouraging for teens. They think, “I’ll never be like that. That’s just not me to do that or say that.”

And so the next types of thoughts are, “Maybe I’m not a Christian.” Their overly hyped-up Christian classmates also inadvertently make them feel inadequate. They attribute the problem to their “level” of Christianity, when in reality it’s more of a personality difference.

I’m not saying anyone needs to “tone it down” or anything- not students or staff. But the kids who aren’t like that need to know that it’s OK. You can still have an awesome relationship with Christ without being so eccentric.

I also shared with the students the number one way that I’ve shared Christ with people: love. Simply put, love. Love people. Forgive people. Show grace towards people. Have mercy and compassion for people. Love. Love. Love.

I’ve never had someone say to me, “Natalie, thank you for telling me that I need Jesus. It’s made me want to be a Christian.” But I have had people say, “Thank you for loving me and for loving others as unconditionally as possible. I know this is because you’re a Christian, and that helped lead me to Christ.”

 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:14-15

We’re different. God wanted us to be different. While Christian organizations tend to be flooded with similar personality types, sometimes you need a misfit like myself who can reach out to the people who are different.

Do your thing. Be the person God created you to be. Be a Christian and be YOU. Don’t change your personality to match those of people who appear to be “better.” God loves us all the same!

“I’m not like them” is a legit statement to make about how I feel when I compare myself to most of my co-workers. Thank God for that. If I was exactly like them, I wouldn’t have reached some of the students God used me to reach yesterday. The same goes for them- God has used those people to reach many students this year as well! God uses ALL of us.

I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. Part of it says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

I choose to reach people through love and compassion. What works for you? What do you do that brings people to Christ? As long as it does the job, well done! Use your God-given gifts to be a light for Him. And remember, just because you’re not exactly like the Christians around you, that doesn’t mean you aren’t as spiritual or important in the body of Christ. Do your thing. All that matters is what God thinks of you. And He thinks you’re awesome enough that He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins.

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I get it. But in a way, I don’t…

IMG_4833I get it. A&E censored a Christian from speaking his mind. It’s not the first time a Christian has been censored. It won’t be the last.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” 2 Timothy 3:12

I get it. It’s frustrating that everyone else in America can express their opinions, freely worship and denounce things they don’t believe in, unless you’re a Christian. In that case, the world wants you to be silent. But God never told us it would be easy. He flat out told us we would suffer.

“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:17

I get it. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. It says the same about drunkenness, adultery, fornication, gluttony, idolatry, jealousy, etc. etc. Everyone else’s sins seem so much worse than your own, don’t they? So you hate. You’re tired of rights being given to people who sin. You see these people as your enemies.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

I get it. I may not agree with you, but I get it. It’s ruined your week and maybe even your holiday to know that a Christian spoke his mind and was then persecuted for it. Now, your favorite television show might not be on the air anymore.

But I ask you this holiday season to open your eyes. Think about the things that are getting you fired up. Is it politics? Is it Obamacare? Is it A&E and Duck Dynasty? Is it Miley Cyrus? Think about the things that, as a Christian, make you the angriest. And then, think about these things:

InIMG_3875 September I met a little boy here in Uganda who survived child sacrifice. He’s been through multiple surgeries because his head was literally cut open with an ax. He was one of the lucky ones because he survived. Here in Uganda, witchdoctors sacrifice children. They spare no mercy when it comes to abducting a child, chopping them up for body parts and organs and leaving them for dead.

The other day I went with some co-workers to a local orphanage. The place is filthy. The playground is insanely dangerous. The orphans’ noses run with no one to wipe them. Bath time means fitting as many children in a tub at one time and hosing them down like they were dishes or something. Orphanages like this are all over the city of Kampala.

To the north of Uganda is South Sudan. So not only does the violence in South Sudan hit close to home because it’s literally close to home, but one of my best friends here is from South Sudan. She has family and friends there, and has to wonder each day whether or not they will fall victim to the violence.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t be the one to say, “Look at what’s making you upset! And yet there are people dying because of such corruption and evil in the world!” But then I started to wonder… maybe that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do. Maybe part of the reason I’m here is to tell you about these things, to tell you that they are really happening.IMG_3976

As a Christian, what makes your blood boil? What gets under your skin? Is it the fact that your favorite reality television star was suspended? Are you going to let that ruin your day when there are people dying in South Sudan, children being sacrificed in Uganda, and orphans being treated like animals?

I’m not saying that it shouldn’t irritate you that Christians are so often censored and persecuted. I get it. It irritates me, too, but the Bible warned us about this, over and over again.

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” 1 John 3:13

I get why Christians are upset about A&E. I get why homosexuals are upset about Duck Dynasty. I get it. But when I’m seeing the things I see here and experiencing the things I experience here, I really don’t get it.

Open your eyes. There’s so much more going on.