How we’re handling The Shack and Beauty & The Beast as a family.

Hi friends – this post is to share where we’re coming from on two movies Christians are talking about right now. We might land in different places on one or both of the topics and it’s okay to do that. It’s the beauty of respect within community.

I read the Shack when it first came out but have not seen the movie. I’ve watched a few interviews with the author to better understand where he’s coming from. The story is fiction. My main concern with this book/movie is that some people are watching it and drawing conclusions about God based on this author’s representation. And his representation is heretical. On numerous accounts. One overriding theme is Universalism. Basically that all roads lead to God and that Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God. The author asserts there is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because all people will make it to heaven. The real heresy of the book/movie is modalism in the portrayal of God.

My husband told me in talking about these things, “I’ve always seen the problem with the Shack being a (probably) good guy trying to help God out by taking it upon himself to explain God better to people. The problem is you have to be very careful to line your explanations up with Scripture.”

This is an author who claims to be a Christian (not saying he isn’t) writing a fiction story but supposedly with truths based on scripture and to help people have a better understanding of God. I think as Christians we have to be extremely careful in the things we portray as truth – even in fiction stories. Some argue that people aren’t walking away with a new understanding of God as a result of this movie. I disagree. I think it is shaping people’s thoughts about God.

There’s a huge danger in forming our own thoughts about who God is. We don’t get to do that as God’s creation. He is our Creator and He tells us who he is all through the Bible. It’s right in front of us. I believe we experience our Creator God in different ways and explaining that to others might be difficult at times. But God will never contradict his nature and who he says he is in scripture. Never. And I believe the Shack, although fiction, is taking dangerous steps in helping people form an idea of God that isn’t true. This is what modern day idolatry looks like.

With this said I personally am not opposed to seeing the movie. In fact I thought about taking our teenage son who is becoming more grounded in his Christian worldview to see the movie and discuss afterwards the areas of heresy. It would be good practice in discerning truth from heresy. However I’m not sure the time is right. I think there’s a time to purposefully examine heresy with the intent of being able to recognize and discern truth….and for the purpose of knowing what our world is hearing and swallowing. But it can be a slippery slope (a good ole’ churchy term) to go down that path. It should come at a time when there are solid biblical principles already established and rooted in ones soul and a deep love for Christ. I thank God that our son and daughter are being exposed to excellent Biblical training at home, at school,  in church and youth group. I’m seeing the fruit of this in their life right now. They have a desire to know, love and follow Jesus but they are both still tender in the faith. As for me and Randy – we don’t have a desire to watch the movie. We’re both afraid we might throw up in our popcorn bucket. Sorry for that visual.

So why are we not going to see the Shack but we are going to see Beauty and the Beast – The Disney movie with the first gay character in it? Here’s why. Disney has never claimed to be a Christian company producing Christian movies with Christian themes. They represent the world and the world is not concerned with portraying Biblical truths. We are exposed to worldly, non-biblical truths every single day unless we live under a rock. We put money towards secular establishments every single day. To see a movie with a gay character in it is not condoning or supporting homosexuality. And I don’t think it’s dangerous because having a continual conversation with our kids about a godly lifestyle and a Christian worldview should be happening all the time.

So how are we handling this with our kids? We’re talking about it. Talking about the fact that we’re disappointed that Disney is choosing a gay character in Beauty and the Beast. But also that we can’t expect the world to act like Christians. We have ongoing discussions about homosexuality openly. We believe  scripture teaches clearly against a lifestyle of homosexuality but that God still loves that person and so should we.

So we’ll be heading to Beauty and The Beast this weekend but we won’t be looking down on anyone who is choosing to see The Shack instead. Or staying at home under a rock.

 

 

 

Infertility, Miscarriage, Still Birth and Abortion Support

Infertility, miscarriage, still birth and abortion are hard topics with deep, unique wounds associated with each.

We have experienced infertility and miscarriage and those were difficult days. I had a miscarraige very early in a pregnancy that resulted from IVF. My Doctor explained early on that my HCG levels were not normal and that the pregnancy would end naturally. Instead my HCG levels kept rising after daily checks to the point that we had a valid 8 week ultrasound report. Two weeks later I miscarried. These were painful days.

I can’t begin to imagine the pain related to having a miscarriage later in a pregnancy, having a stillborn child or having an abortion.

By God’s grace in our personal situation of years of infertility we were surrounded by an incredibly loving family and church family. Both sets of our parents prayed for us, encouraged us and supported us in big decisions we had to make. In addition our church family prayed for us and supported us also. God also used his Word and the Holy Spirit to minister to us through this time in some of the most profound ways. This blog is based on a verse that God showed me during those years of pain – Job 2:10 “Shall we accept good from God and not adversity?” So while those years of infertility were so painful we survived without becoming bitter or resentful. We had hope in the painful process.

Recent stats tell us that infertility effects 1 in 7 couples. And 10-20% of women who know they are pregnant have a miscarriage.

This means that if you have any sphere of influence other than your own backyard then you most likely know a woman who is going through infertility, has had a miscarriage or had an abortion.

Maybe she’ll share her struggles with you or maybe you’ll stumble on them.

What will you say? How will you encourage her?

This is where we make things harder than they need to be all because we don’t know what to say.

And I get it. I’ve said untimely strange things to people in an attempt to express my love and concern during difficult times. If we’re honest we’ll admit we’ve all said stupid things before. But can we just put our big girl panties on and acknowledge it, apologize if necessary and do differently next time?

Refuse to let your past awkward words paralyze you in such a way that you decide it’s just better not to get involved at all for fear of saying the wrong thing.

Loving others will be flat out awkward at times. But it’s totally worth the risk. The more we do it the less awkward. Or perhaps the less afraid we become of being awkward in our loving of others.

The other side of this coin is extending grace to others when they say something to us that is well intended but wounded instead. It happens. The quicker we realize this the better we will love each other.

There’s a resource I’d like to tell you about that I have found to be helpful over the past 15 years in dealing with these topics. From receiving personal help to knowing what to say and what not to say to people during times of utter pain.

Caleb Ministries  is a Christ centered ministry that addresses what we’re talking about at LIABOW today. Rarely do you find a ministry that deals with all of these issues specifically and in such detail.

One of their many sweet resources is a P.A.T box – Providing A Treasure

It includes a handmade burial gown, knit booties, baby hat, and a baby blanket. Also included is a book called “Morning will Come” by Sandy Day, Founder of Caleb Ministries. It really is a beautiful treasure for a young Mom and Dad who have just lost their baby.

Maybe Caleb Ministries is a resource that could help you or a friend. Being aware of these resources is helpful because we never know when we or someone we know will walk through a journey that involves these painful things.

Have you walked through any of the things we talked about today? If so, how did God meet you in the midst of your pain? I’d love to hear. 

 

 

 

Live Full Walk Free Bible Study – a word from the Author & a giveaway!

I am so excited to introduce you to Cindy Bultema, a sweet friend and Bible teacher that I have grown to love over the years. I’m still not even sure how our paths first crossed but it had to do with Shamrock Shakes from McDonalds. I’ve read all of Cindy’s Bible Studies and I love her because she’s so very much like you and me and has an ability to teach God’s word and connect with women of all ages and seasons of life. Even hard seasons that include rock bottom. Not everyone is willing to talk about their “rock bottom” with the grace and balance that Cindy does. This is why I keep coming back to her studies. Her blog. Her resources. In fact I’ve just started her brand new study Live Full Walk Free! More on that later. First I want you to get a glimpse of Cindy’s heart by hearing her words in this post. 

Meet Cindy:

High school was not kind to me.

Although there are a few fun memories – cheering for the freshmen basketball team, attending a zany psychology class, passing drivers training – I’m glad I never have to return to those four agonizing years again. Ever.

Mostly my adolescent days were filled with intense loneliness, rejection, and a bottomless longing for acceptance and love.

I’ll never forget the day I thought I finally was on my way to high school recognition. A fellow classmate shared she saw something written about me in the girls’ bathroom. Really? Me?!

I ran to the south side of the building as quickly as my clog-wearing feet would take me. I couldn’t wait to examine what someone had taken the time to reveal publicly about me!

I pulled open the heavy wooden door and scanned the chipped bathroom stall’s exterior. Then I spotted the six words that would shape my life for the next two decades…

“Cindy is a fat red cow.”

And on that dreadful day those six words attached to me like a sticky, descriptive name tag.

As the years went on, I may have appeared happy and self-confident. But beneath the cheery smile and bubbly personality, remained an injured and insecure young woman meticulously attempting to cover up the pain, and striving to protect herself from ever being hurt or teased…again.

I wonder if you can relate, sweet friend? What labels have attached to you over the years?

  • Not good enough
  • Stupid
  • Ugly
  • Fat
  • Not wanted.

Thankfully my story has a joyful ending. In 1996, in the midst of a drug and alcohol addiction, I was introduced to Jesus, and surrendered my life to Him. As I began to study the Bible, I quickly discovered God says I am….

  • Accepted (Romans 15:7).
  • Beautiful (Ephesians 1:3).
  • Chosen (1 Peter 2:9).
  • Dearly Loved (1 John 3:1).
  • Enough (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • Forgiven (1 John 1:9).

My dear sister, you are too!

In Christ, we have been given new, Truth-filled, life-giving labels to wear. We all have.

Regardless of where we have been. Regardless of what we have done.

And in Christ, not only are the old labels erased, they have been replaced with power-filled words of Truth. Only God can do that!

What label are you wearing today? Did you put on “loved,” “significant,” “courageous” – or are your old labels trying to impact your new days?

May we say “no more” to not-nice nametags, lying labels, and sassy self-talk. Instead, may God infuse us with a fresh faith to “put on” Truth each day. His Words are always a perfect fit!

Be reminded of God’s power-filled words of truth with these free A-Z Scripture Cards available for download at http://www.cindybultema.com/live-full-walk-free/.

_________________________

With nearly 20 years of ministry experience, Cindy is a popular women’s speaker, author, and Bible teacher. But don’t let her cheerful smile fool you—Cindy has endured single parenting, overcome bondage to addiction, and survived tragic loss.

Cindy’s latest Bible study, Live Full Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin-Soaked World http://www.cindybultema.com/live-full-walk-free/ was released in December 2016. Cindy lives in Michigan with her husband and their four kids. Most days you can find Cindy walking her beagle Rocky, attending one of her boys’ hockey games, or serving hot lunch at her kids’ school. Visit Cindy at www.cindybultema.com.

You guys – the Bible Study is really really good and the A-Z Scripture Cards are Awesome. Do you even know how many packs I’ve given away to people? Even danger stranger giveaways. I’m serious. Get you some! 

Cindy is donating a copy of Live Full Walk Free and a pack of A-Z Scripture Cards to a reader today. Just leave a comment on my blog and I’ll have the kids draw a name out of the hat. Umm yes, I did say drawing out of a hat. Sometimes I defy the high tech way of doing things and go old school. Actually I just don’t know how to do it. Ha! Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you in the case YOU are the winner. 

 

When Jesus wants us to act like a three year old.

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What a tender picture of these preschoolers laying a hand on their Operation Christmas Child box and praying for the child who will receive it.

One little girl chose to give her very first baby doll. An adorable doll with a yellow gingham dress with lace trim. Like cutey patootey put-in-the-cedar-box-and-save-for-your-great-Granddaughter cuteness. Mama was struggling about this one because it’s a bit of a keepsake (you know how we Mama’s are about the firsts). It would be easier and less heavy on the heart to just go buy a brand new one like all the other items being boxed up. But the three year old wanted another little girl to have her favorite baby doll.

I love that this Mama’s heart was trumped by her heart for God. She wanted her little girl to walk in that love and give selflessly. Who are we to mess with what God is doing in our kids hearts?

Have you been there before? We talk to our kids about loving God and others and how we should pray for the homeless man we see out our window and then our kids come back with, “Oh, I know what we should do Mama. We should invite him to come home with us!”

Errrr, well……and a slight laugh of “bless him he doesn’t know any better.”

My good friend had that conversation with her son last week. The three year old wanted the homeless man to come over to their house. The Mama’s heart has been burdened for this man for a long time. They see him on the streets all the time.

What do you even do with that?

I’m the first to say that fear would keep me from having a complete stranger in my home. I’m more street wise than that.

I regret not letting Sophie give ALL her money one time as a gift to someone. She was so little and didn’t understand the value of money but her heart is so very generous and I snuffed out her desired act of radical generosity because it didn’t make sense to me.  You don’t give ALL of it. Be generous but with limits. Be a wise steward which means it needs to make sense on paper and always leaving money left over.

You give a baby doll but not the one that means a lot to you. That’s too special to give to someone you don’t even know.

Sadly this is my thinking at times and when I say it out loud it makes me cringe and sick to my stomach because I know it’s not the perspective our God has on things. I don’t want this to be my earthly vision of things.  I want to have a three year old’s perspective when it comes to loving others. Perhaps this is what  Jesus was talking about when he tells his followers to become like a child.

I don’t know what it always looks like and I don’t always do it well but I’m learning and watching the radical generosity and love of our God through the Bible. And I love it. I want to extend this kind of love to others.

So the next time someone accuses you of acting childish – don’t necessarily take offense to it. Unless you like stuck your tongue out at someone or fell down on the ground and threw a temper tantrum in the church aisle because they didn’t use the hymnal or something. Yeah that’s not cool childish behavior.

Well, I’m off to go play in the sandbox.

Ya’ll have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

We trust the God we know – God is Love

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Do you know that God’s love for us is intense and never changing? God did not spare his only son in death, when he could have out, of love for you and for me.  God loved his son with an intense love but he was still willing to give him up so that all of us could have a relationship with God. That’s true love.

If you’re feeling unloved or overlooked today rest in knowing this: God is love. He is for you.

We trust the God we know.

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One way we get to know God is through his word. His word is alive and active. And the more we know him the more we love and trust him.

Today’s Attribute and focus is God is our Shield.

Remember today that no matter what you face you have a God you can take refuge in. He is safe. He is strong. He can protect you. Run to him. Praise him for being your shield. Find comfort in knowing he is your shield.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 115:9 O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.

Lord, today we praise you for being our shield as your word tells us you are. We believe you are our shield and we are asking you as our shield to protect us from what you know we need to be protected from. Sometimes we don’t even know what you shield us from. Thank you for those times, Father.

Umbrella Prayers

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For something to sink into my brain I have to visualize it in pretty simplistic terms. Just how I roll. So when I am talking about Umbrella Prayers I have this visual in my head of holding up an umbrella. The umbrella represents God and who he is. An attribute of God.

I focus my thoughts and praise on God and who He is. Our God is vast according to scripture. There are so many facets to him and we can’t even comprehend it all but he does give us many references to who he is in the Bible. Knowing who God is and recounting who he is will make a difference in our lives.

After praising God for who he is and meditating on God himself I will then move into a time of confession. Asking God to reveal and show me hidden and blatant sin in my life. Sometimes I write and sometimes I don’t care to put pen to paper about these grievances. Either way – there is sweet relief in the immediate forgiveness of our God.

My next step falling under Praise and Confession is a time of Thanksgiving. It’s pretty self explanatory. Thanking God for answered prayer, for unanswered prayer, for surprised blessings and every day beauties that come from his hand.

Finally, I get to the part I long to start with if the truth be known. My requests. Petitions. Intercession. However you want to put it. It’s simply where we ask God for help. For intervention. Here’s the thing with the order of these prayers….when I start with who God is it reveals who I am in light of Him and the confession comes quite naturally. Which then leads to an overflow of thanksgiving. And then when I finally get to the asking part it feels different in a way. The circumstances are the same, yes. But my perspective has changed some. I’m now viewing this request as under the protection and covering of my amazing God who is capable of all things. Who loves me faithfully. Who extends mercy. Who is a shield and refuge. This is who I choose to align my very real life troubles under.

So friends, whether it’s a torrential downpour or crystal clear sunshine in your world today, pick up your umbrella and imagine putting yourself under the covering of an amazing God who is full of grace and mercy and so much more.

 

 

Powerful words to frame our circumstances

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This spoken from a friend Mama whose little girl has CF and is fighting for her life right now. This spoken from Jesus to his Father as he faced death by crucifixion.

These are hard words to utter sometimes. Because God’s will isn’t always what we desire or want. We can’t see the whole picture and understand his ways and so life just won’t always make sense to us. But the reason we can be okay with these words “Thy will be done” in every single circumstance in life is because of who our God is. Even in the midst of not understanding his ways He is good. He is faithful and won’t ever leave us. He is compassionate and His mercies are new every single morning. He is fully aware and knows everything about our circumstance. The details of the valley you’re walking right now – I’m walking right now – He knows it. And while He might seem distant and far away, He is not. In His silence He is not punishing you or me. He is working his will and his plan. Trust that he is good and his love for us is individual and intimate. This is why I can say, “Thy will be done.” It might come with tears streaming down my face and a meltdown on the front porch but I still want these words to reign in my life. These words to hover and frame every single circumstance and season of my life.

It’s not easy to do. I’m preaching to myself friends. My Mom is very sick in the hospital and being six hours away and unable because of my own surgery recovery to be there has been extremely difficult for me. My sister and brother live within 5 minutes from my Mother so they are giving me updates and keeping me in the loop all throughout the day. My Mom fell a few days before coming to help us with my bowel resection surgery in August. A CT scan didn’t reveal anything going on with her head and her back injury wasn’t addressed through X-ray or CT scan. Three other Dr. visits and Urgent Care visits still didn’t reveal the hairline fractures she had in L2-4 in her back. It was when she was taken to the ER and admitted that they did a CT scan of her back and realized this. But she has now developed something called “Ogilvie Syndrome” which mimics a bowel obstruction. The Dr is 99.9% sure this is what it is. If medication doesn’t take care of it then she’ll have to have surgery removing a large portion of her colon. She’s been through so much in the last two weeks and experienced pain like she never has before. There are risks with the medication and there are risks with the surgery. And all I can do and the best thing I can do is pray and tell God, “Thy will be done.”

I had my meltdown moment for the first time yesterday on the front porch. I was hiding from our daughter because I didn’t want her to see me cry and then upset her on behalf of her Grandmother. I texted my sister and said, “Mom’s going to be okay, right?” She called me a few seconds later and I answered all sniffly and she said all big sister like, “Quit crying. She’s going to be fine.” And I laughed.  And I got my head back on relatively straight. You see sometimes I replace those powerful words with “My will be done.” And so it’s a process of speaking Truth to ourselves and to each other. Reminding our hearts of what our heads probably already know. Walking in those Truths and knowing we won’t always get it right.

Well, friends, I would be so touched by your continued prayers for my Mom, Sue, and my sister, Linda, who is her main caregiver right now. Will you pray specifically that God will heal my Mom? But at the very top of that specific request let’s tell God we want what He wants because we trust him more than we do ourselves.

Thank you so much.

 

Faith isn’t enough

Faith isn’t enough.

Ya’ll I didn’t say it.

God did in a powerful set of verses in Corinthians.

Here’s the gist: We can preach like Billy Graham. Dig wells in Africa. Work like crazy to rescue sex trafficking victims. Speak in tongues. Be a martyr. Give away everything we own to the poor. And have the kind of faith that moves mountains. But……

BUT if we don’t have love there’s no gain whatsoever. 

One might assume all those really great things is the equivalent of love. Why would you give away everything you own if it wasn’t fueled by love right? Or become a martyr – who would do that if they didn’t have love for God and others. But we must not assume love is the same thing as service, faith or hard humanitarian work.

Here’s how God defines love in I Corinthians 13.

It’s patient. (letting go of the sighs, loud voice and rolling eyes when repeating something you already said ten times to your child.)

It’s Kind. (offering to help someone you don’t know. others first – me last.)

Love isn’t envious. (not becoming distant to a friend you once were close to but not anymore because you’re jealous of her: house, kids, husband, income, etc.)

Doesn’t boast. (doesn’t brag about that promotion or latest accomplishment to co-workers and friends.)

It’s not proud. (doest brag about that promotion or latest accomplishment – inside your mind and heart.)

Love is not rude. (doesn’t say, “your service stinks here – where’s your boss?” it offers grace instead. Maybe you don’t return as a customer but love isn’t a rude customer.)

It’s not self-seeking. (doesn’t approach life saying, “what can I get out of this?”)

Or easily angered.  (honking at the lady in front of you who is still sitting at the green light)

It doesn’t keep score – (“that’s the 100th time he left his clothes on the floor”)

It doesn’t delight in evil  (“well they got what they deserved!”)

Love never fails. (we succeed every time we love the way Jesus loves.)

So yeah, let’s keep digging wells, rescuing sex slaves, giving to the poor, preaching and having faith that God can do anything. But let’s remember that God is most interested in us loving well.

I have circled four items on God’s love list that I need his help with the most. Check yourself and see where you’re coming up short. And ask God for his help and watch how you transform and grow in loving others well.

 

3 ways to overcome a fear of praying out loud

Okay let’s get super real here and confess that sometimes praying out loud can be intimidating even if you’ve been attending church forever. It doesn’t have to be but we start overthinking the process of talking to God in front of others and fear we can mess it up. We fear what we say might not be the right thing or good enough. Or maybe we think we don’t have a place in audible prayer among our churches or communities. “That’s for the pastors and men of the church.” All these are misconceptions that satan loves to throw our way in hopes that we’ll remain silent even though there’s a strong prayer in our hearts.

I don’t want to dismiss silent prayer. Or praying in agreement with the other person who is praying aloud. This is just as important and powerful in our times of prayer with other people. I don’t care if you come to a prayer meeting every single time and never utter a word but you are praying in your heart with those around you. This is prayer too.

So why write this post then?

Because I talk to so many women who have a real fear of praying aloud. They want to but are scared to. They won’t come to certain church functions because they’re afraid of being called on to pray. If this is you just know you’re not the only one and I am hoping you will give consideration to learning how to pray out loud. Because I believe praying aloud with a community of believers binds us together and deepens our faith. If you are grappling with your fear of praying aloud may I tell you that you are growing in your faith.  Don’t interpret the wrestle with praying aloud as a bad thing – this is a wonderful thing! Embrace it and ask God to help you with it.

If you’re wanting to pray out loud but are afraid consider these three things to help. 

1.) Say aloud the prayers in your head. When you’re driving and you’re thinking in your heart and asking God to help, heal, intervene, etc…..say it out loud instead. Pray aloud when you’re by yourself and begin to form a habit of praying aloud by yourself.

2.) Pray Scripture. Did you know that when we pray scripture we are praying the perfect will of God? It’s HIS words. And praying them back to Him is powerful. An example would be Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” You can pray that verse aloud and that is your simple audible prayer. You could even read it out of your Bible if you can’t remember it. Maybe you want to add the context of what you’re praying about afterwards. Thank you that your words says, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Would you please help so and so as they start their new job to remember this Truth. That you will give them the strength they need. Amen.”

3.) Picture God as you talk to him. Prayer is talking to God and listening to God. If you can say it you can pray it. It’s a conversation. And even though our conversation is with a Holy and powerful unseen God it is also with the One who died for us and who longs to be in relationship with us. Instead of picturing yourself praying to the “Powerful Grand Oz” and being fearful picture going to the person who loved you enough to put his life up for yours. Your Abba Father. Arms open wide and full of love and grace. This is who you’re talking to.