#Write31Days – Post 12 – Offending the Offendable

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It was well over twenty years ago, when I would I would dye my hair bright teal.  For the record, I knew that it would get some judgmental stares.  I fully anticipated it, and I also didn’t care in the least.   A few years later, I would walk into a tattoo shop and walk back out with black ink permanently embedded into my skin.  I knew that some wouldn’t appreciate the art I had etched into my body, but I didn’t care what people thought as a whole.  As of today, I have a few more tattoos.  Even though they have become more mainstream than fringe, I am aware of how others still view them.

I recall sitting in a woman’s home, having coffee, as we talked about the world.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened but the subject of people with tattoos came up.  She was very judgmental of anyone with tattoos, stating that if someone from the utility companies showed up with tattoos all over … well, she wouldn’t let them in the door.  I chuckled to myself as I debated if I wanted to take off my sweater and expose my tattooed arms, or if I would save that expose’ for another day.

Here’s the thing, when I choose to do something that is outside the norm, that is considered edgy or fringe, or that is socially disapproved… I am not only choosing to do what ever that thing is.  I am also choosing to live the consequences of that choice, including how others perceive me.  I will never scoff at their remarks or stares because, that’s their problem not mine.  I am not exactly sure where we got the notion that the world has to tolerate our idiosyncrasies.  Certainly I am not going to advocate for rudeness, discrimination, et’al … it is NOT OK.  I’m simply suggesting that one can’t go against the grain and expect zero negative response at worst… or curiosity at least.

I was watching a television show on people who are “fringe” and what was interesting is that so many of the people who had tattoos spoke of an unwritten rule that we don’t ask about each others tattoos.  Not only was I unfamiliar with this rule, I didn’t get it either.  I see every tattoo as a piece of art, it has meaning and purpose for me.  So please, ask me about it.  I’ll happily share what it means to me, or answer your questions (even the absurd ones).

Questions Like:  Did it hurt a lot?  (Um, yes.)  What does it mean?  (Glad you asked…) What if your weight changes? (Kind of personal, but I considered it…)  How are you going to feel about that when you are 80?  (If I make it to 80, pretty sure my tattoos will be the least of my worries…)   Or, the big question:  Doesn’t the Bible forbid tattoos?  (Let’s sit down and talk about that one… )

There are a lot of things that any person (Christian or not) could do that is considered against the grain.  And, when we make such decisions we should expect that someone is going to question us about it.  We should expect that we are going to get stares, and that not everyone is going to understand our decision.

Have a large family? Or a family of blended races?  That’s unusual for many areas.  Expect the questions.

Decide to dress ultra conservative?  Someone might ask you why you are wearing a long sleeve turtleneck, in Florida, in July.

Choose to wear a headscarf at church, or in your every day life?  Expect someone is going to talk to you about that.

Make a major switch in your life (in one direction, or another) and people will notice.  Anticipate they are going to be curious as to why you made that decision.

Decide to sell off everything you own and follow Jesus into full time missions?  You better believe that someone is going to think you are crazy!

Where I have noticed a growing trend is that when people make these “fringe” decisions, that make them stand out against the norm, they get offended when anyone questions them about it.  You can’t be IN the world but not OF the world, and go unnoticed.  In fact, the whole point of it is TO BE NOTICED.  That our lives become a living testimony to the changes that God has done in our lives, our families, etc.  They see us as different, they want to know why.  This not the same as putting on an act of righteousness, boasting,  and showing off how holy we are.  I’m talking about real, genuine, every day living the life that God called me to, type of different.   Where we are not putting on a show for others, but just living out our every day in a different way.

The questions that we are being offended by, and offering a slew of snarky retorts in response to … are INVITATIONS TO SHARE.

Yes, these children are all mine.  Yes, some are adopted.  Yes, we are fostering a sibling group.  Why did we make this choice?  Because, the Lord pressed upon our hearts that we had enough love in our home to share.  There are so many kids in our foster system just looking for someone to love them, a place to call home.

Yes, I do have a few tattoos.  Sure, you can see it.   Yes, getting one does hurt, some areas more than others.  What does it mean?  Well, this anchor represents the fact that I am anchored by my faith, the compass reminds me of where I have been & where I am going, and the dove represents the hope I have in Christ.

Yes, we are moving to another country.  It is hard to leave our home, but we realized it was just a building.  Our hearts are not here… they are a long plane ride away.  No, not everyone is called to do this.  We prayerfully considered it and brought others in to the fold to pray along with us.  God continually affirmed the calling with his provisions, blessings, and divine appointments.

We could be offended by everything, or we can look at it is an opportunity to share.

I can be offended.

~ OR ~

I can be inviting.

Consider… if a person can’t ask you a simple question… about the size of your family, the way you dress, or about the ink on your skin…

What can they safely ask you?

When you have been snarky and responded to their questions with contempt, disgust, or curtly…   Do you really think they want to talk to you about the big stuff? Raising children?  Adoption?  Abortion?  Gay Marriage?  God and salvation through Jesus Christ?

Your quick off the cuff retorts are not inviting them into conversation.  Instead you are pushing them away, you are letting them know you are not a safe person to talk to.

And if that is how you are responding…. What kind of light are you shining in this dark world?

Ask me anything.  I won’t be offended.  I will answer your questions.  Sometimes a question is just a question, a curiosity.  Sometimes a question is an attempt to understand a person, situation, or belief better.  BUT… sometimes… a question is an invitation into a bigger and better conversation.

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#Write31Days – Post 6 – Sweetest Day

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I don’t think there is anyone who is reading this that isn’t familiar with Valentines Day, a time when we declare love in our romantic relationships.    It has gone on to include gifts between parents and their children, card exchanges in classrooms with small parties, and even friends will celebrate their affections for one another.
Recently, the holiday “Sweetest Day” was introduced to me.  To be totally honestly, I had not clue what it was about.  Being someone who likes to research I took on the task of learning about this holiday.  The origins were not quite what I expected.  I assumed it was a pre-Valentines Day type thing…. or that it was simply about being intentionally kind to one another.   Since I was unfamiliar with it, I assumed it was fairly new and probably one of those made up holidays to increase retail sales.  Although I wouldn’t complain if I had the chance to swing by a confectionery for a free gift.
In my research, I learned that it was a midwest thing… being from the south… that explains a lot.
I also learned it goes back to the 1920s and all began out of an act of kindess and compassion toward the “least of these”, the orphans & shut ins from around Cleveland.  A local candy store owner gathered friends and families and delivered sweet little gifts to those who were being overlooked, forgotten about, or had fallen on hard times (this was during the depression).  The idea stuck, other people starting pitching in, and it spread into neighboring towns, cities, and states.
What an AMAZING idea!
And, since I like to PARTY…. why not invite some friends to join YOU and plan a SWEETEST DAY party.  Sweetest Day is the 3rd Saturday in October, so you still have PLENTY of time to plan!
Sweetest Day is on the 17th of October.  Consider one of the following party types:
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  1.  Prepping Party on the 16thgather with your friends, put together your sweetest day gift bags, while fellowshiping, munching, and praying over the recipients.  Then you (and your family, or your friends) can deliver them to recipients on the 17th.

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  1. Sweetest Day Party on the 17thperhaps your church could host a fun day at the church of games, activities, food, etc. and invite groups of disadvantaged children from your surrounding neighborhoods to celebrate together

Don’t forget about the kids who are in hospitals or centers that care for children removed from their homes. You can call ahead and plan something with their coordinators to ensure the gifts are approved, and you know how many to plan for.

Or, your heart might be calling you to celebrate with the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  There are also the men, women, and youth who are in prisons and detention centers who could use a little extra love and encouragement.

If you are going to have a party, think SWEETS but don’t forget the healthy foods too!

If you are celebrating with friends, you might want to have a more indulgent menu of desserts and treats while you prepare your gifts.  However, I am sure that hospitals, nursing homes, children’s centers, and even prisons are not going to be keen on a bunch of junk food!  Apple slices with caramel dip are a great balance and still a sweet treat.  Don’t forget about your friends who need a little salt with their sweet!  Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods are easy, quick, and tasty!

Online retailers, like Family Christian, have items for various age groups and interests.

When putting together gift bags for kids, you may want to consider some of the following ideas:  (Click any photo for more options and suggestions)

coloringpagesbarnbear biblekids

Velvet Wall Posters, Coloring Books are always kid friendly and enjoyed.  Stuffed animals like bears, are a great companion to cuddle into.  Sharing the New Testament with kids in an easy to read format, that has colored illustrations, is a wonderful way to share the Gospel with those you are reaching out to.

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If you can find out the ages of the children you will be visiting, and gender in some cases, you can also bring a gift of books!  It encourages reading, something they can take with them when they move, and with many great Christian titles you can leave them with a gift that will not only be enjoyable but point them toward Christ.

If you are reaching out to the elderly, some great options include:

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Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not have Bible available for their residents, and if they do… they are usually ones that are donated from personal libraries or a church has purchased new ones for their pews.  This means they are rarely large print Bibles.  If the resident brought one with them to the facility, it is possible that it too is not a large print Bible.  When speaking with volunteers at a local center, large print Bibles were a top request!

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A CD of Hymns might also make a great gift, as most of our older generations grew up on these songs as part of their Sunday worship and even weekly family devotion time.

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And never underestimate the joy a few hand drawn pictures from your children, or the ones in your church!  Take a collection, I am sure moms have a few they can spare.  Or have a party at the center, bring the kids and let them celebrate along side the older generations.  Prepare some sing along songs, have crafts on hand to do together, and check with the facility about any dietary restrictions on food brought in.

tracts

For Larger Gifting … a simple snack size candy bar, lollipop, or individually wrapped cookies and snack packs can be paired up with tracts.  They cover a variety of topics, come in different languages, and there are versions for adults and children too.  They are also inexpensive, a pack of 25 tracts can run you less than $3 per pack!

Some additional thoughts, as you consider the least of these:

A trip to a prison, may have much more stringent rules on what you can and cannot bring it.  These rules may very from prison to prison.  So, you are best to contact them ahead of time and get a list. Due to the number of inmates, you may also want to look for something that you can buy in bulk and give everyone the same thing.

Also keep in mind that addiction recovery centers & mental health care facilities may not allow any outside materials due to the nature of their residents conditions.

If you would like to reach out to women, men, or family shelters (particularly abuse shelters) may ask to pick up your donation to distribute themselves, due to the security and protection of their guests.

BOOK REVIEW: The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “The Case for Grace” by Lee Strobel.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own. 

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The first time I read anything by Lee Strobel, it was his book The Case for Christ.  I loved this book because it was practical and pragmatic.  His goal was to determine if there’s credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God.  Thankfully, the truth revealed to Lee Strobel would draw Him to Christ, forming a personal relationship, that would impact not only Lee’s life, but the lives of those He would touch through his writings.  In fact, The Case for Christ and The Case for a Creator are both books I have recommended to people when they are in a marriage where only one of them is a believer.

When Family Christian gave me the opportunity to get my hands on The Case for Grace, I was eager to begin.  Grace has been an issue my heart has been camped out in for quite a while.  I was very excited to get an chance to get Lee’s take on it.  His books, for me, are like sitting down with a wise friend and getting to the heart of an issue.   His writing is comfortable, familiar, and he is able to see things from both sides of the coin. He doesn’t dismiss abruptly those whose opinions differ from his.

In The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel uses his investigative journalist skills to explore the evidence of grace in the live of real people.  Each chapter encompasses a look into the story of a person who was transformed by grace.  Stories that will take us across the globe, into the hearts from those who suffered abuse or addiction, lives transformed as children and adults.   Lee Stroble intermingles those stores with his own quest for understanding grace in his life.

What really stood out to me, from these various stories, was that in each… despite how different from my own… there were elements that I could understand.  They might be a shared feeling of despair, the understanding of hope they found, and sometimes it was just an insight I had not considered for myself.  Very different stories, but they showed that the gift of grace knows no bounds.  It is available for the abandoned orphan turned street kid, the addict curled on the floor, the refugee…. you…. me.  God’s grace is a gift he freely gives to those whom He adopts into his family.

A Father’s love to the fatherless…. in body or spirit.

The book also includes supplemental materials:  discussion questions, scriptures to reference, and books for continued reading.

The Case for Grace makes for a great weekend read, curled up with your coffee… or a group discussion for small groups or book clubs.

#FCBlogger

 

BOOK REVIEW: Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet (Sara Hagerty)

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I was given an awesome opportunity through Family Christian to review the book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet by Sara Hagerty.  I can’t wait to share with you, my readers, how this book has touched me.

In Regards to the Author: Sara Hagerty

When it comes to books of this nature, where personal story is coupled with spiritual truths, I really long for books that make me feel as if I am sitting down with a new friend.  Or, that this person has been invited to a small group or women’s brunch to speak directly to a few of us.  It is an more intimate encounter than at a large conference.  Sara Hagerty fits that bill.  From the first words, she gives the reader a sense of safety, comfort and familiarity.  Sara manages to get right to the point in an honest way.  It isn’t coarse or bold, but she doesn’t beat around the bush.  She doesn’t start with a story that belong to someone else, but her own personal journey.  She is open, honest, vulnerable and real.  The words she uses, are the ones that roll through our own thoughts and prayer journals, our conversations with friends, or when we are having words with God. 

In Regards to the Book:  Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet

Life is full of bitter things, experiences that leave a bitter taste in our mouth… or that shape our personalities from loving and warm to bitter and cold.  We live in a fallen world, and just because we are Christians, it doesn’t mean we are exempt from the troubles of this world.  We will experience disappointment, we will experience shame and guilt, we make mistakes, we will experience hurt, and we will get mad at God when we don’t understand WHY this happens to us.

Sara Hagerty shares with us her personal story of how she experienced the questions, disappointments, and challenges of life…. and through the bitterness, she was able to find the sweet. Amongst the difficulties life threw at her, there were moments of hope, joy, love, miracles, and healing.

 

#FamilyChristian

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, by Sarah Hagerty