It’s a Choice: Are You A Materialistic Christian?

materialism defined

In today’s society, with the ever increasing numbers of young people reaching the age where they are doing their own shopping, materialism seems to be worse than before. Gone are the days of kids being satisfied with a BB gun or a $20 Toys-R-Us gift card for birthdays and at Christmas. Nowadays parents are buying themselves and their children smartphones and tablets that cost hundreds of dollars, going into debt to purchase vehicles for every licensed driver in the home, and sinking themselves into 30 year mortgages on homes that are beyond their means. As a whole, even in the midst of our  repressed (or depressed, depending on who you ask) economy folks are still spending money like there is no tomorrow.We’re teaching this new generation of consumers that if we want something, we buy it … without considering the consequences of our behavior.

pup and pearles

If society at large chooses to run itself into insurmountable debt without accountability to anyone but their creditors, that’s their business. However, Christian people are not being good stewards of the money that God has given them either. This is not limited to young married adults and singles, who have not had the advantage of being raised in a home where sound money management was practiced and taught. It extends to the previous two generations as well. As responsible Christian adults it is our duty before God to get a handle on our spending and our lifestyle and become good stewards of what He has given us.

I suspect that when he walked the earth Jesus chose his words carefully. When he spoke to someone during his short lifetime, many folks believe that he spoke not only to the person or people who were physically present at that time, but also to believers in every generation to come for use in their own life application or in the forming of their personal doctrines and thinking on those subjects he addressed. Don’t let His words on this subject of money, wealth, and stewardship fall on deaf ears and a hard heart today.

what shall it profit a man

When Jesus was speaking to his disciples in Mark 8, one of the things he noted was that it is not profitable for a man to gain the whole world if he lost his soul in the process.  In Luke 16:13 Jesus says, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon here is not simply money; it is defined as wealth regarded as an evil influence or false object of worship and devotion.  In doing a spiritual accounting of your thoughts and attitudes, do you devote more time to shopping and spending, collecting, saving, or hoarding than you spend seeking God’s face, falling before him on your face in intercessory prayer, or telling someone your testimony in hopes of leading him or her to the Lord’s saving grace? Be mindful of where your heart and mind are set.

When we become more concerned with money than with man, love things more than we love people, and serve our own desires for worldly trappings  and appearances more than we serve the Living God, we are treading on dangerous ground. Not only are we taking the chance that we will end up financially destitute, but we are virtually guaranteeing that we are headed for spiritual destitution as well.

God is not asking you to be dirt poor. In fact, the contrary is true; He wants us to have life and have it abundantly.  Don’t be misled into believing that abundance consists only of material goods. Abundance comes in the form of the favor of God, blessings of good health, a family, and the love of a good church family. Abundance from God can materialize in your life in the form of a devoted spouse, a God-fearing truth-preaching Pastor, or a beautiful sunset at the end of a long day.

God gives us all that we have, and he gives us the choice to be good stewards, or not, of our assets (our money, our time, and our talents). He expects that since he gave us these things that we should use them in our service to Him. Does this mean sell everything you own and give it to the church? No. But it does mean spending and using what you have so that it best benefits God. Does God expect you to live like a church mouse? No. But it would undoubtedly please him if you took a good hard look at your life and re-prioritized and re-appropriated your assets. Spend a portion of your money for the furtherance of His kingdom, spend more of your time growing spiritually, and use your talents to honor and glorify Him.

When Jesus spoke to the thousands of people gathered to hear him, as recounted in Luke 12, he spoke to them about a certain rich man who layed up for himself all sorts of things for use in the future and Jesus, having spoken of him in the previous verse as a fool said in verse , 21 “So [is] he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Could living in a less expensive house mean that you’re able to give to the young lady at church who is planning a mission trip? Could eating out less mean you have a few extra dollars to donate to the soup kitchen that feeds the needy? Does buying your kids less at Christmas mean that you are focusing more on the true meaning of the holiday rather than seeing who gets the most stuff? The list could go on and on.

i want everything

Because of my salvation in Christ and my renewed desire to please God, the materialism of my youth has been put down forever. When my spouse and I decided to marry a couple of years ago we made the tough decisions about money. We are content to know that our mansion in heaven awaits us, so while we are on this earth we live in a 11 year old single-wide mobile home on 1/2 acre of land at the end of a country lane. We bought it used and did some minor repairs on it. It cost $15,000 and will be paid off in less than a year.

We know that God could not care less about what we drive so I gave away the Lincoln Town Car I drove and I now drive a 19 year old Chevy S-10 pickup with mis-matched seats and 274,000 miles on it. The clear coat is peeling off and the exhaust system needs a little work on it, but it’s a good reliable vehicle with freezing cold air conditioning. (The Lord KNOWS I don’t tolerate the south Georgia heat very well). It gets me from point A to point B and since I know God isn’t concerned with what I drive, I don’t really care what people think about it.

I knew when I married my husband that his mother was in ill health and his father was only going to get older before he died. We decided that we would live next door to them and that I would stay home to be available to help them as needed.  I don’t miss my job in a stock broker’s office at all anymore. I enjoy this phase of my life and am happy with our choice.

My husband and I live contentedly on a single income. We don’t eat out very often. I choose to cook at home from scratch because it’s 1/10th the cost of buying processed boxed foods and eating out. I buy store brand products over name brands by choice. Doing this allows us to occasionally treat someone else to a meal at a restaurant or take our grandkids out to their favorite eatery every once in a while.

As far as personal “stuff” goes, we chose  $20 titanium wedding bands instead of a more expensive diamond wedding set and gold band that my husband would gladly have purchased. We had a private beach wedding with 6 attendees (including us, the officiant and his wife and son, and one seagull). We didn’t “honeymoon” and we don’t celebrate anniversaries or Valentine’s day because we are living that honeymoon every day of our married lives.

We choose to own a few personal mementos that have some sentimental value to pass on to our children, rather than shelves full of collectible junk. I clean my closets and go through our storage stuff once a year.  My rule-of-thumb is if I’ve not used something in a year and don’t foresee myself using it in the next 2 years, I get rid of it by giving it to someone who needs it more than we do. I shop at end-of-season sales, thrift stores and yard sales if I need to replace that little something down the road.

My closet does not have a single designer label hanging from the racks. I don’t think my glorified body is going to need clothes and if it does I’m counting on a heavenly designer to clothe me as royalty…the child of the King.

Don’t pity me or on the other hand think me pious. I have made my own choices and have chosen this more simplistic way of life. I can assure you…through Christ I am rich beyond measure. It is my hope that this will inspire you think on these things.

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Making Amends with An Old Love

olive branch

A couple of years ago I was at a juncture in my life that led me to do some self-assessment. I was just coming off of my fifth divorce to my fourth husband (yes, that’s what I said…like an idiot, I married the first one twice; and yes, I’ve been married that many times). I was trying to figure out where I stood and what I believed, as well as what I wanted to do about my past, my present, and my future. I decided to regroup and go up to Rome, Georgia to have a short visit with my parents. While I was there a cousin of mine in Atlanta invited me to her annual Mardi Gras party. She warned me beforehand that my first really serious boyfriend, whom she had initially introduced me to some 27 years before, would be in attendance.

After attending the party, seeing him and his wife, and visiting with them, I took a day or so to form my thoughts and feelings and I wrote him the following letter. My hope and intent in the writing is clear, and in hindsight I hope it gives you encouragement to make amends in your life, as I did and am doing in mine.

amends 1

After talking to you on the phone a few months ago, and particularly since seeing you last night, I think there are some things I should let you know, mostly just to get them off of my mind and conscience. There is no other reason than that, except that I think you might want to know these things for your own reasons.

Way back, 25+ years ago, when we were together I didn’t realize the value of what we had. I discounted it as young love surely destined to fail. I had no faith in myself to make it work. When you asked me to marry you, I wanted to so badly. However, because I loved you and, at the same time, felt sure that I would screw it up in the end, I made a conscious decision to hurt your heart a little then instead of what I was sure would be more later.

What I have learned over the years since then is that I was very foolish in regard to you for several reasons. First of all, there was nothing to say we would have failed (except for my fears) and we probably wouldn’t have. Secondly, I know deep down within myself that I did not just hurt you just “a little” back then. I realized, only too late, that I had absolutely broken your heart. I have never said so before, and I do wish I could say it to you in person, but for what little it’s worth I am so very sorry that I caused you so much pain. Choosing not to marry you has been the single greatest regret of my life. My second greatest regret was marrying my first husband. My third was marrying my subsequent husbands. I think I subconsciously measured them all against you (or at least my image of you then and what I conjured up you would mature into)…….and they all failed miserably.  I’ve always remembered that time we had together with great fondness and bittersweet remorse.What you’ve become for me since those days is that great “could have been” I missed taking the opportunity to hold on to forever. 

I’ve kept track of you off and on through mutual acquaintances over the years. I’m so genuinely happy that you have a good woman for your wife. I do hope she realizes the value of you as her husband. I am particularly glad to see the pride in your eyes and the love in your voice when you talk of your children. (Sadly, though, I always wondered what our children would have been like. To tell the truth, until I saw the pics of your three children last night I hadn’t thought of that in years.)

I am glad that you thought enough of me to let me meet your wife. She is quite a unique woman. She seemed nervous about meeting me and quite unsure of what to expect. (I’m sorry about jumping all over you at the front door. I really embarrassed myself with that move. Trust me, it was not planned or even considered…..it just happened.)

When you left the room at one point during the evening your wife leaned in and said to me, “You know, he really wanted to marry you. He was very much in love with you,”  and then she let me know that I was nothing like she had expected me to be. She almost seemed like she felt she must let me know this stuff and seemed relieved to have gotten it out. We had a brief conversation about how love changes and that there are different kinds of love.

Sitting there watching her fidget with the hem of her blouse, I told her that I was aware that I had hurt you badly, but we all have to look at the positive side of things. I said what I hoped were words to reassure her, bringing to light the fact that I had married you back then, you and she would not be together and you wouldn’t have those three great kids……and I wouldn’t have my two girls or granddaughter. I think I made it clear to her that I have deep respect for your relationship with her and that I had no intention of trying to wiggle my way into it. I hope I made her feel as though any feelings you and I had for each other are in the past. I would NEVER want her to think anything else.

love and loss

At one point she wistfully told me that she could tell in your voice when you spoke about me that you loved me very much. For a split second it sounded like she thought you still loved me…..her voice quivered when she said that, but only momentarily. It made me want to cry, not so much for you, but for her. However, whether she was putting on a strong front, or is just a very strong person, she seemed to have come to accept the finality of that reality.

I had always hoped that I hadn’t had that marked years-long effect on you; that the wounds I inflicted on your heart had not been so deep that that they’d only healed on the surface. I realized last night that such might be the case and that your wife might know that in her own heart. I hope that isn’t the case. You see, for a woman that is just like having to share her man with someone else who gets first dibs. I do not wish that pain on anyone. 

Seeing you again, and meeting your wife were a wonderful gift, but hearing that little bit of pain in her voice when she spoke of me and you made me really think about you at great length and in detail. I could tell when you hugged me good-bye for just that extra second or two, and then kissed me on the cheek, that you were feeling one of two things. You were either glad to see me and happy that I am back in your life, albeit to a very, very limited degree or you were closing a chapter in your book of life that has been needing to be closed for a very long time. Either way, I was very glad to see you, to talk to you, to be able to hug you one more time.

Now comes the disclaimer. I’ve been married and divorced so many times I sometimes wonder if I’m a secret sister of  Zsa Zsa Gabor or Liz Taylor. I am at mid-life and am re-assessing myself and my life choices in the physcial, mental, and spiritual realms. I’ve pretty much sworn off men and physical relationships; I’m just not interested in getting into any kind of personal relationship. I’m not trying to do that with you either. Please don’t take this message that way. I want you to be happy and I hope you are. I just had to tell you all of this stuff or I was going to burst is all. I don’t want anything from you, and I definitely don’t want to upset your apple cart, so-to-speak.

One of the things I am striving to do this second season of my life, is to right some wrongs. You are at the top of my list. I can’t go back and change things, but I hopefully can make you understand that I am truly sorry and perhaps shed light on things you may have wondered about since then.

In any case, now you know.

And also, just so you don’t have to wonder, as I did, I have always loved you and I will always love you in a way that I cannot explain. I suppose it’s just that pure innocent first love kind of thing that resides so deeply within a person that it’s just part of who they are. That is the only way I can describe it. And I sure hope that is okay with you because I never could make it go away and now I don’t want to. I have chosen to embrace it and be glad for it. Now it’s just much less bitter and much more sweet. Thank you for that.

forgiveness

This letter was well-received and responded to in like kind. That old flame of mine and I have made our peace. We are friends and touch base on occasion through social media. I rest so much better now knowing that I was brave enough to step out in faith, reach out, and attempt to make amends for a great hurt I’ve caused.

Not all attempts at righting wrongs are met with such openness. Many times doors are slammed in our faces, letters and messages are unanswered, and apologies are made in vain. Let me assure you, however that purposing in your heart to attempt this is half the battle. Whether the person with whom you are feeling the need to reconcile or make amends with is interested in doing the same is the other half of the battle, and it is theirs to attend to or not. Do your part, and let them choose whether or not to do theirs.

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NEWSFLASH: YOU’RE AN ADDICT

addiciton

 

You may think you have your friends and family,  your employers, your kids’ school teachers, and everyone else fooled into thinking you’re not…….but we all know.   Some people may judge you, but we don’t.  We love you, but hate the disease of addiction.

 

When we call you out on lies, refuse to be taken advantage of and manipulated, or hold you accountable, it is because we cannot allow you to pull us down a parallel path of destruction that you are on. We have to dig our heels in and stop allowing the madness of your addicted world to suck us in and consume us. We cannot continue to enable you. We choose to start our own path of recovery from our co-dependency and habit of enabling whether you ever choose to start recovering from your addiction or not.

 

lost love

 

Loving you means we have to detach ourselves from you in love so you can bottom out and get some help. It means there will be a lot of pain and heartache for us and for you. You will feel betrayed, hurt, and treated unfairly. That is textbook classic, and it’s ok.

 

When and if you get clean you will thank us for standing strong. We do this because we love you. We are tough on you because we love you.  We are praying for you because we love you. And we will never give up on you….because we love you.

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Anger: A Prelude to Recovery

Meth stole one of our daughters, pain pills is on the verge of stealing a second, and prison for trafficking drugs across state lines has taken our third and youngest daughter. I work my own program for recovery as a co-dependent enabler through Celebrate Recovery. I am in several online Al-Anon and Nar-Anon groups so I can feel more closely connected with others who are going through similar things, both as a parent and as one who loves an addict.

During my time in these groups I’ve noticed a plethora of parents, particularly mothers, who are so lost as to how their child has slipped away into addiction. They grasp at straws, trying to make sense of the chaos that has become their lives. One after the other of these women relates horror stories of addiction, lies, betrayals, thievery, brushes with the law, and brushes with death due to the drug use of their child. I can relate. That connection does make a difference, in fact it makes these things common; common to mothers of addicts everywhere.

I have learned that encouraging others, sharing my story, and offering hope to other mothers, as well as receiving the same in kind, has been a lifeline for me as I bob around in this sea of disbelief and despair that I’ve been cast into by our children. Many moms write their first posts, or voice their first share in a face to face meeting by opening their mouths or readying their fingers for typing….and the geyser of emotion begins to flow. For the most part these moms are full of anger.

anger

I spend a good deal of time telling them what I’ve learned, and if you are the mom or parent, or in any way caring for or loving an addict, I will tell you as well: Anger is a perfectly natural emotion to feel. Please do not apologize for feeling angry. And yes, this is the perfect place to vent. When we lose our children to drugs it is very much akin to losing them to death. In fact, I think it’s worse because we see and/or hear of the shape they are in and it pierces our hearts repeatedly. Caring for their children reminds us daily of our loss. We mourn for their children as well as ourselves.

I found it helpful to learn about grief and how to cope with it, while at the same time connecting with groups like this one so I did not feel so alone in my pain. When you are up to it, read up on the five stages of grief.

#1 ISOLATION or DENIAL of the reality of the situation

#2 ANGER – Anger at the addict for his/her actions; anger at yourself for not being able to rescue your loved one, etc.

#3 Bargaining – bargaining with God, or with them, to get them off of drugs. (THIS IS NOT EFFECTIVE, but nearly every loved one of an alcoholic/addict does this at some point in time.)

#4 Depression – This includes sadness and regret, as well as the preparation for separating ourselves emotionally and physically from our loved one.

#5 Acceptance – Don’t mistake this for accepting the addict’s bad behavior. Acceptance, instead, is of the reality of the situation and the realization that you are powerless to change it.

There, in step #5 of the grieving process, you are brought to Step #1 of your own program through Al Anon or NarAnon or the recovery program of your choice. I hope this helps you know that you are not alone in this. There are many who have gone before you, many who travel this road with you, and more who will travel it after you. In your journey you do not have to be alone. We in the groups (in the rooms, as they say), are here to help. Being in a group and reaching out in the rawness of your pain is the beginning of your healing process. (((hugs)))

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Staying Sane Around An Addict

Image

I have learned that one problem with people who do drugs is that they are self-centered. Drug use is self-gratifying. A person does not get high so someone else will feel no pain, cope, or check out of reality; they do it for themselves.

By nature drug users and addicts don’t bother, or are perhaps unable, to realize that their using negatively affects everyone in their immediate circle. It affects their family – nuclear and extended, their friends (except maybe their circle of friends who also use), their employer/employees and co-workers, and the public (every time they get behind the wheel of a car).

I  (and my husband, as well) have a very hard time as a parent. I worry incessantly about the 3 of our 4 children who are involved in the drug culture, and the fall-out from their choices. I worry about our grandkids.

I have allowed it to consume not only my life, but “our” life. My husband and I have started going to Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered program, which in our case is similar to NarAnon. We do this to regain sanity and stability in our lives. We are learning to separate our kids from who they are on drugs. We are learning to detach ourselves from them in our lives to protect our hearts. We are learning not to judge them, but to love them; to love them but not enable them. We are leaning to do all of these things and it is working.

We are making a conscious decision to not have our kids active in our lives unless they are drug-free. It means that we are learning to cope with things that come up with our children and grandchildren in a healthy way. Emotionally it feels like their drug use, et al will kill us, but we are learning to function healthily through it one day at a time.

We are trying to change the way we approach and deal with many things in our lives. For example, I have decided not to go to court next week to defend myself against a request for a restraining order by one of our daughters. If it is issued against me that’s her business. She is seeking it in retaliation for something I spoke in anger. That’s about her…not about me. It is her decision. When a prospective employer pulls a background check on me and sees it and assumes I am violent and not to be hired, I will assume God doesn’t intend for me to have that job anyway. I will not resent her, but will respect her choice to do this……whether it was meant in retaliation to hurt me or not.

I have come to realize it is time to tend to me and my husband; to our household and our relationship. We will not ask, beg or try to guilt our way into our children’s chaotic lives. If our grandkids come to us before we die and seek a relationship with us that will be fine. If not, so be it.  We will still continue to love our kids and grandkids and pray for them daily. We will continue to heal, to grow, to be happy. We will grow closer to God in the process because only with Him can we make it.

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TO ALL PARENTS – By Edgar Guest

angel

TO ALL PARENTS

by Edgar Guest

“I’ll lend you for a while a child of mine,” He said.

“For you to love the while he lives and mourn for when he’s dead.

It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three,

But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?

He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,

You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.”

“I cannot promise he will stay; since all from earth return,

But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.

I’ve looked the wide world over in My search for teachers true

And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have chosen you.

Now will you give him all your love, not think the labor vain,

Nor hate Me when I come to call to take him back again?”

“I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done!

For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we run.

We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,

And for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay;

But should the angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,

We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand!”

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Open Letter to My Incarcerated Daughter

kchb pic 1

Dear Daughter,

My heart holds more love for you than you will likely ever know. I have loved you from the moment I knew you had been conceived and I love you now. I don’t like or approve of everything you do, the choices you make, the friends you keep, or the habits you develop, but those things do not diminish my love for you.

       jens beautiful woman sister

You have made choices in your life that brought you to where you are today. I warned you about them, and being young, headstrong, and independent, you chose not to heed my words. I don’t judge you for that, for once I was young also.

laughing red lady

I still have a hard time understanding why the gangsta lifestyle appeals to you. I remember it starting before you were a teenager. I know lots of kids listen to the music of that movement and are never in trouble with the law. Sometimes they never do drugs, get involved in illegal activity, or choose friends who are heavily entrenched in that lifestyle; you did. You idolized the rappers you heard on the radio and saw in videos. You wanted to be and do all that they talked about. You wanted to be tough, to be hard, and to dress and look the part. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.

KCHB pic leopard bathing suit top

I think of your childhood often these days. When you were a little girl you used to wear those little dress-up princess shoes. You could run in those little wedge heels; fast as greased lightning. You once loved horses, riding rodeo, and rescuing puppies from the pound. You used to love God, church, your friends, and your childhood dream of being a “gospel-singing, rodeo-riding missionary”  You lost that little girl and her dreams somewhere along the way and I hope somehow, while you’re away in prison, that you can rediscover at least a little piece of her.

I don’t expect you to go back to the way you were before you started heading in a negative direction. In fact, that would be impossible. I simply hope that you can rediscover and hold on to that part of yourself that was innocent, full of dreams and ambition, and wide-eyed with wonder at the world around you. Perhaps you can find her and nurture her and let her grow a little bit within you so you can find some sort of peace and happiness with yourself…..and maybe figure out who you want to be when you get out of there. It’ll be your perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over again.

curly highlights

Meanwhile, I’ll be right here, hoping and praying you can figure out how to merge that little girl you were with the woman you have become; someone you can be at peace with and love, nourish and care for. I will continue to write to you, support you, and love you…and to believe, as always, that you are smart enough and beautiful enough to be anything in the world your heart desires.

Love,

Mom

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