Rants, Musings, and Mental Meanderings of a former Conservative Christian Mother. Standing Strong against ignorance, preconceptions, labels and excessive housework. Celebrating original thought, religious freedom, parenthood, free enterprise and chocolate.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Church and the Younger Generation

I came across an article citing a survey that states 70% of kids raised in church will "drop out" (their words, not mine) by the age of 23. The most frequently cited reasons for leaving came as no surprise to me:

"Church members are too judgemental"
"Church members are too hypocritical"
"I just don't relate with or connect to the people at church." (This is either in reference to the members or the pastor.)

Well, let me tell you after being raised in church since I was a baby, the first two answers are, regrettably, very true. There are a lot of hypocrites, and there are a lot of people who wear religion like some kind of badge so they can feel better about themselves and look down on others. I've dealt with these kind of people my whole life, and even if you are not a church-goer I can assure you they get on my nerves as badly as yours!!! So, why do I choose to raise my kids in church? Why do I continue to go in spite of all the stories I could tell about what "really goes on"? First of all, I have been very fortunate to have met up with some truly genuine Christians. I'm not talking about the people who feel they have to cram their views down everyone's throat (and in the process make some of their victims so bitter toward God they actually prevent them from finding God). I'm talking about people who are compassionate, loving, patient, and REAL. Their faith is real, their relationship with God is real, and they have a calm, contented air about them instead of that bizarre angry intensity that too many people mistake for religious zeal. Sadly, these types of Christians are rare gems, and in all the Christians I've known they are a very small majority. So, why don't I get discouraged with the larger group of fake, judgmental, arrogant, mean and critical group of so-called Christians? Simple. I'm not there for the people. My relationship with God is based on my PERSONAL experiences with Him, which are very real to me. (Can you tell I like to deal with reality? Ironic, since we're talking about matters of faith, but I digress...) Although I haven't always liked what He chooses for my life, I can honestly say, "God is no hypocrite!" God is the one constant in my life, and I separate Christians and their human flaws from God and His perfection. I do not expect perfection from someone simply because they claim to be a Christian, so since my faith is not in people, my faith is not shaken when people fall. Oh trust me, I get discouraged. I get mad. I get disgusted with things that go on. But none of that compares to the joy and peace I have in my faith and relationship with God. I couldn't possibly throw it all away because some people who claim to be Christians act like a pompous windbag or a devious fraud. You think you have some big scoop on someone who claimed to be a Christian, and yet they________________ ? Listen to me, honey, I could fill a big, fat juicy expose' book with all kinds of stories like that. It's not that I'm so great and spiritual that I am able to rise above this. Quite the contrary. God's faith is made perfect in my weakness. It is my very dependence on Him that causes me to cling to Him even harder when other Christians do things that are very un-Christlike. I believe the Bible is true. I believe Christ is the only way to Heaven after we die, and the only way to a fulfilled life before we die. I have chosen to spend my life getting to know more about the Lord and getting closer to Him, and doing all I can to make Him known to others through my life. And, frankly, I believe that I cannot do this without being actively involved in a local church so that I can be part of a greater outreach both in my local community and throughout the world through missions. After all, isn't that our whole purpose here? If we choose to worship God on our own terms instead of His, if we are honest, we find that in fact we are just cutting ourselves off from people so they can't hurt us... and in the process cutting ourselves off from being able to minister to others. Please don't think I look down on those who have chosen not to attend church. Everyone makes their own choices, and I am not responsible for your choices any more than you are responsible for mine. If your mind is made up, I'm not trying to judge you. This post is more to reach out to those who have been hurt by "Christians," who feel like Christianity is all just a big scam and not worth the effort, or who think living the Christian life is more trouble than it's worth. Please believe me. All Christians do not fit the negative stereotype. I'll admit, many of them do, some even unintentionally, but really the best advice I can give is: stop looking at Christians. They will disappoint you. Look at Christ, and all He has done. My sister and I were joking about this one day and she said, "People who have a bad experience in church say they will never go to church again, but if they have a bad experience in a restaurant do they say they'll never eat out again?" I'll admit, it takes a lot of effort to find a church that's a good "fit" for your family, and certainly no church is going to be perfect. But in the long run, it's worth the effort!

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Time to GIVE!!!

This is the season we should really have our thoughts focused on giving. Hopefully, this goes beyond hitting the malls and racking up HUGE credit card balances purchasing more junk for people who don't need it. I'm talking about giving to those truly in need! My daughter absolutely loves when the Salvation Army bell ringers start their seasonal donation drive. For those of you who complain about the noise, avert your eyes and rush in quickly to avoid them - SHAME ON YOU!!! Grab a handful of change out of your car ashtray, let your kids learn to have a compassionate, charitable spirit, and for Pete's sake smile at the bell ringer and wish them a Merry Christmas. We were at Wal-mart last week, and Elianna asked if she could ring the bell. The lady handed it to her, and Elianna would run up to people and shake it at them like she was mugging them. (I think she broke a donation record for that three minutes!)

Other ideas for keeping our focus on the right kind of giving this season:

Go through your children's toys, and donate (or throw away, depending on their condition) at least 1/3 of them. You will get at least that much for Christmas anyway, so now is the time to get that playroom or toy area cleaned out. If it's out-of-date, broken, ignored, etc... don't hang on to it. Children are actually happier with fewer toys and an organized space than with overwhelming piles of toys stacked up everywhere. Keep it simple, and teach your child to be unselfish.

Grab a box or bag, label it "Donations," and leave it somewhere accessible. As you go about your daily routine, toss everything into it you can do without. Go through your closets and get rid of that outfit you will never fit into again, isn't the right color for you, never fit right anyway, or that you have worn too many times and has seen better days. Get rid of those extra things in your cupboards that take up room, even though you haven't used them for 4 years. You keep telling yourself, "But I just might need them!" Well, if you do, borrow one from someone else. Throw yours in the box to donate!! Again, after the holidays you will have more useless junk, so now is the time to purge. Take the box out to your vehicle, and next time you are out running errands drop it off at your favorite charity. Or, even easier, call Purple Heart or Salvation Army and they will drive to your house and pick it up for you! How much easier can they make it?!?! Don't forget to get an estimate of the value so you can write it off on your taxes. You have till the end of this year to claim your donation, so do it now!!

**Click here for a link that will give you a value estimate on your donations. Most people grossly underestimate the value of their donations, so make sure you get a fair estimate so you can pay a few dollars less at tax time.**

Get involved in one of those "sponsor a child's Christmas" programs. Many churches offer these, and you can either buy gifts for a specific child or for a children's group home. At our church, you can get a child's picture with their name, age, clothing sizes, and favorite color. These are children living in homeless shelters, and often they do not have families or families with the means to get them Christmas gifts. We are sponsoring a 6-year-old boy this year, and Elianna is so excited to go shopping and pick him out a new, warm winter coat, and some pajamas. We will wrap it up, put his name on it, and on Christmas while many spoiled children gripe and complain about not getting exactly what they want, that little boy will be grateful to have something warm (and new) to wear.

It is a scientifically proven fact: People who hoard things and have junk stashed all over are actually more selfish than people who are willing to let things go! This is ironic to me, since the people with stashes seem to have more to give. In fact, there is a higher depression rate among people who do not give to any charitable cause, and a low depression rate among people who give everything away! (I am trying to find the article I read about this - I'll post it if I find it.) So, keep your spirits up and GIVE GIVE GIVE stuff away this Christmas!! I promise you'll feel so good if you do.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Look out, here comes FLYLady!!!

Am I the only woman that ever worked full time (and then some) who looked at stay-at-home moms and wondered how clean and organized your house would be if you had ALL that free time? I could not understand why any mom who didn't work outside the home ever was stressed or crunched for time. I mean, what else do you have to do!?!?

Yeah, right. Once I actually became a stay-at-home mom, my perspective changed dramatically. (Isn't that the way it usually happens?) Now that my house was actually in use all day, it actually seemed to be getting worse, not better! My standards crept lower as the laundry piled higher, and my frustration mounted with every passing cobweb. I tried valiantly to find the balance between spending your whole day cleaning, thus creating a museum-like showplace of domestic harmony, or shoveling a path through the clutter and spending the entire day splashing in finger paint and watching DVDs of Little Bear with my girls. I mean, is it morally wrong that those tasty crunchy treats my kids are munching on for their mid-morning snack are actually dried up pasta shells from yesterday's lunch that they scratched off the floor? There are starving kids in some faraway continent that would be grateful for our shriveled peas and brown apple slices. Well, all of that is changing now - I have found a new website that has helped me to get organized and stay on top of my housework. I am really loving this website!! You would not believe all I am getting done!!! Even the top of my fridge is shiny and clean. Granted, I am picking and choosing to some extent, but overall this is a GREAT program. You all know how I DETEST housework, but I detest clutter even more. So I was ending up very conflicted and generally agitated about my house. This system really works - Check it out!!