Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What is narrow about it?

This honestly isn't a political post, although it may sound like it to start.    

   I was reading earlier this week about some remarks my least favorite politician made. No, it wasn't Obama. There is actually a politician I find more distasteful than him: Nancy Pelosi. She brought up the story in the Gospels where Jesus fed the 5000, and was trying to say Jesus would be all for welfare and food stamps.

  Obama himself has tried to use the Bible to prove Jesus is OK with socialism, welfare, and the like. When I read and hear these stories about things they both said along these lines, the same thoughts went through my head: It is amazing how they know verses that they can try to use to further their agenda, yet don't seem to know the ones about lying, about homosexuality being a sin, about murder - yes, abortion is murder, Obama and Pelosi.

  Pelosi's remarks especially have had me thinking lately, and some other things I have run across and been thinking about. It seems even the world knows and can quote a few Bible verses, yet ignore the ones they don't like. We get the ones thrown at us a lot about not judging, and the ones about love...... yet the same people quoting and bringing up those verses would quote them all the more fervently and angrily, if  you quoted verses that condemn their sin. They don't want to hear about those verses.

  Christianity in general seems to be following their example. Christians love those verses about love, and about not judging just as much as the world does. Maybe more. We like the ones about God knowing the plans for us to give us a future, about the Good Shepherd, about all of our needs being provided, that all thinks work together for those who love God.

  But absent from the verses Christians are holding close and living by is a very important verse. Actually two verses. And Jesus said it Himself, so the excuse can't be used that since He didn't say anything about it, it must not be a big deal.... He said it. Matthew 7:13-14:
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (NKJV)

   We don't hear much about the narrow way anymore. We hear a lot about not being under the law, but being under grace, and the way that the majority of Christians are traveling seems far from narrow.

  Things that used to be considered wrong and were avoided even by sinners, are done openly and defended by Christians. Want to smoke? Go ahead. Just throw those judging Scriptures out. Want to have sex before marriage? Go ahead. Want to go next to naked? Why not.... we are not under the law.

  I don't believe we have to be like the Amish in dress and habits, but really, there is barely any difference in the world and Christians anymore. How is that the narrow way?

  Something that has really had me thinking about this, is the issue of gay Christians. Now that term can be taken ta few different ways:

1) It can be used to describe someone who struggles with same-sex attractions, but is living a celibate lifestyle and serving God instead of his sexual desires

2) It can mean an ex-gay. Someone who lived the gay lifestyle, then became a Christian and walked away from the gay lifetsyle

3) Those who claim to be Christians and reason around, twist, and/or ignore what the Bible says about homosexuality being a sin.

  #3 is the one typically associated with the term "gay Christian", and I won't go into all of the reasons, but wanted to make my point: Knowing all the Bible says about sex between the same gender, how can anyone claim to be on the narrow way and doing that?

   And yet there is a multitude of Christians saying it is OK. The lead singer of Christian group Jars of Clay just made news last week by saying he can't see any problem with gay marriage. Ultra liberal author Rachel Held Evans has long made the way so broad that gay people and anyone else can march to the Heaven she claims to be going to, and serve the Jesus she has created. Not only does she mock the idea of any persecution of Christians here in the US, she has opened her arms wide to homosexuality and seems to have no problem with the idea of gay Christians. She recently was teasing Justin Lee, head of the Gay Christian Network, about whether he had a new guy in his life or not..... narrow way? No way.

  And yet Rachel, the Jars of Clay dude, and countless other Christians are broadening the Way to include gay people going against God's Word. 

  But homosexuality isn't all. We dress like the world, talk like the world, smoke what the world smokes, listen to the same music, watch the same stuff, talk like the world...... we are more like the world than we are like Jesus.

  And as time marches on, we get more and more like the world. We toss more and more Scriptures aside and swallow the lie that it doesn't matter. We bow to the god of me and do what we want, and anyone who dares suggest we are wrong are judging and hateful..... 

  We vote for candidates who are intent on furthering the cause of killing babies and defend it by saying it is legal, there's nothing we can do. We vote for the same candidates when they chip away at the very foundations of the family by legalizing same-sex marriage and take up the freedoms and rights of gay people over Christians, the very people who founded this country.

  With the legalization of marijuana in some states, if I were a betting man, I'd bet all I have that Christians will soon be smoking marijuana and defending its use. Why not? We do everything else on this broad road we are on.

  Christianity isn't about rules, about modesty - though that should be part of it - it isn't about a bunch of do's and don'ts, but if we are more like the world than like Jesus, if we are more concerned with NOT denying ourselves, than with denying, if the cross we carry is just a fancy one around our necks.... we are nowhere close to being on the narrow road.

  I am not a proponent of once-saved, always saved, but have total confidence in my friends who believe that way, and I don't have it all worked out what I believe, but one worry I have with that belief is people getting saved, then thinking they can do anything they want and never have any consequences for it. Can't handle temptations of being attracted to the same sex? Give in... you'll still go to Heaven. Don't want to take time to pray and read your Bible? No worries... you'll still go to Heaven.

  I am not mocking that belief, but I am afraid with that belief has come a generation of people who feel all it takes is a trip to the altar, and no change afterwards. The Bible says he who is born of God does not sin..... so if you're still sinning - and I am not talking about a fall where you repent and get back up and keep going - I am talking about sinning day after day, and claiming to be a Christian.... whether the sin be homosexuality, lying, sex outside of marriage, or any sin...... you either never got it, or  you walked away and are not a Christian.

  I have sat under preachers who about ruined me by giving me the idea I could never measure up to what God expects, that Heaven was barely attainable, that God was just waiting for me to mess up so He could toss me aside, and other misconceptions I developed from "fire and brimstone" preachers..... that is damaging and wrong.

  But so is this idea that we can do whatever we want and be a Christian. The narrow way might be an idea we want to overlook, but Jesus said it, and it is true.

   The idea of preachers preaching things that are not in the Bible and churches requiring things that have no Biblical basis is wrong, but so is going the other way and going with the idea that nothing is out for Christians.

  I firmly believe there are things we should not do because we are Christians, places we should not go, things we should not view or read, drink, certain words we don't say, clothes we don't wear.... and not because a church tells us, but because we read God's Word and want to follow the principles in it.

  And no, I don't think I have arrived. It is my constant prayer that I do what God wants, not what my church wants, not what my family or anyone else wants. I want to live for Him, not for myself or anyone else. I don't want to be on the broad way, but the narrow way.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Should Christians attend gay weddings?

Well known author Steven Arterburn posted a blog post dealing with this issue, and said yes. And no only that, but Jesus would attend gay weddings.

  Wow. That is quite a statement and conclusion to come to that Jesus Himself would attend a gay wedding.

   But would He? And should we?

   I have commented on a few threads on Facebook about it, and there are some Christians who vehemently claim we should. Anyone who dared disagree was lined up on with machine guns and tanks, and taken out. OK, not quite, but disagreeing with the people who hold that we should does not go over well with them.

   Back to Arterburn's blog post. I am a bit disappointed in what he said, but have to wonder if it is an unbiased opinion. He has 2 gay brothers. He would feel more sympathy than people who don't have any gay relatives that they know of. (I seriously doubt there are many people who do not have a relative who struggles with same-sex attractions)

  He makes the point that Jesus turned the water into wine. OK, so what. I am still of the camp who believes Christians shouldn't drink alcoholic beverages, but have friends who do, and I am not going to throw stones, but still.... Jesus' first miracle, whether you are pro-alcohol or against, doesn't prove He'd go to a gay wedding.

  He then points out the kind of people Jesus was around and visited, tax-collectors, prostitutes, and drunkards. OK, but would He do anything to affirm their sin? I can't believe He would. He didn't pat the woman on the back who was caught in adultery, and tell her she was OK. He forgave her and told her to go and sin no more.

  Sinners who were around Jesus changed. The tax collectors made restitution and stole no more. The adulterer was forgiven and sinned no more.... yet He would hang out with gay people and just affirm them in their sin? I find that hard to believe.

  And yes, I do believe He'd hang out with gay people. I think the church has long ago dropped the ball on the issue of homosexuality. We have made it such a terrible sin, and Christians mock and joke about it, make such disparaging remarks, that we have people growing up in our churches, struggling with being attracted to the same sex, and scared to death to tell anyone and seek help.

  There are people dealing with this issue who would love to confide in a Christian friend, but are afraid, and with good reason. The results could be catastrophic. But Jesus would love gay people, hang out with them, but never pat them on the back and tell them they are OK the way they are.

  A friend of mine made an interesting statement on a discussion about a similar topic: "If Jesus went to a gay pride parade, He wouldn't be there passing out water and being supportive. He'd be weeping over their sins, not supporting them in their sins."

  I agree. And I believe it applies to a gay wedding. If Jesus went, He wouldn't be congratulating them on going against His Word, of trampling on what He intended marriage to be, of smiling proudly as they marched forth in their attempts to legalize their sinful lifestyle and union. No, if He went - and that is a big if, He'd be weeping.

  God loves us totally, no matter what we do, no matter what or who we become, whether we are straight or gay, sinner or saint....... but in His love, He never, ever affirms sin. Never. And I cannot see how Jesus Himself going to a gay wedding would not be doing just that: affirming sin. Putting His approval on a sinful union. Sounds harsh, but I believe it is true.

  And here's the thing: If Jesus was hanging around a gay couple, I think they'd know He didn't approve of their sin. Oh, I am not saying He'd be preaching at them all the time. But this is Jesus we are talking about. The one who wants us to go to Heaven more than we want to ourselves. The one who loves us and doesn't want to share us with the devil..... so if you are a sinner and hanging out with Jesus, He is going to try to win you to Him and get you to quit the sin business.... even the gay sinning business. And if that couple ignores His pleading and drawing to Him, and goes on to marry...... I doubt they'd be shocked if He didn't show up at the wedding.

   I couldn't fault a Christian couple for going to their kid's gay wedding. That would be a tough call, and may depend on the relationship they have. If it is a good relationship, and the kid knew his parents loved him, yet didn't agree with his lifestyle.......maybe he or she could take it. I wouldn't want to be in that position. If they don't go, they could ruin any chance of a relationship, yet by going, it could look like approval. Tough call.

  And yet that argument could be made for other relatives and close friends. I am going to relate something which could offend people, but hopefully I can do it in a way that doesn't. I am still in an increasingly small minority who believes it is wrong to marry after divorce. I have read what the Bible says on it, and that is how I believe. I have friends and relatives who have done it, and that is between them and God, and I don't think I am a better Christian or anything like that - I am not - nor do I look down on them. It is over and done.

  However..... and this is where I may get crucified: No one in my family has ever attended a wedding that involved a divorced party. As far as I know, no one has ever held that against us. And I am not equating that with gay marriage at all. What I am trying to do, is say I think it is possible to not go to a gay wedding and keep a friendship or relationship intact.

  Interestingly, this argument was used in the thread about gay weddings. A guy who was pro-Christians going to them asked "so have any of you ever attended a wedding where one of the people was divorced?" And I replied "actually, I never have".

  It has been years since I have had to deal with that, and would I go to one now? I really don't know. I still believe the same way I did then, but since I avoid all weddings like the plague, it is a moot point anyway. :-)

  To totally answer the question,  "Should Christians attend gay weddings?" I would say that is between them and God. I believe there is good reason not to, much more reason than there is to go, and take issue with people like Arterburn who try to say Christians should. Maybe the best thing to do, is to pray long and hard about it, and do what you feel God says.

  We should do that in more things than we do anyway.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Secondary Virginity

I'm not that old. I'll turn 45 in May, but even when I was a kid, sex didn't seem as prevalent on TV and among teens and unmarried people as it is now. If you wait til marriage, you're mocked, and it is sad that even in the church, the number of people waiting til marriage for sex is dwindling.

   I was reading a book recently by a pastor, and he related the story of a young teenaged girl coming to him upset because her parents wanted to put her on the pill. She told them she wasn't going to be having sex until marriage, and they still were trying to put her on it, saying of course she'd be having sex as a teen. She was a Christian, and so were her parents. Sounds shocking, but I doubt they are the only "Christian" parents with that attitude. And I put that in quotes, because if you're practically encouraging your kids to have sex, and have the attitude that they are just going to do it..... then your Christianity needs to be in quotes.

  I have no kids, but I still have ideas of why even kids in the church are having premarital sex. Here's some reasons I think of when I think about this:

1) Their parents don't talk to them enough about it, or at all. If you want your kids to remain pure, the solution is not to ignore the subject with them, but to talk about it, and why they should wait til marriage.

2) Friends. I seriously think parents need to be more careful who they let their kids hang around with. Just because a kid is from your church, or even the pastor's kid, doesn't mean they will be a good influence on them in anything, even sexual things.

3) TV. I spent most of my growing up years without a TV and movies. From age 11 1/2 on, none. And I think we would all be better off without TV and being careful what movies we watch. I still remember one of the first movies I watched as an adult, You've Got Mail. Cute movie, but I still remember being bothered by the fact that the young woman in the movie was living with her boyfriend. Why was I bothered? Because I hadn't been exposed to that on a constant basis growing up.

There are tons of TV shows geared for teens that show teens partying, doing drugs, drinking, and sex..... you can't expect your kids to watch that kind of stuff and not be affected.

4) School. Christian schools aren't perfect, and there are bad kids there too, but I still believe kids are better off there than in a public school where sex and talk about sex and sexual conquests run rampant.

5) Boyfriends and girlfriends. If a kid is in their teens and not an adult, parents have a say over who they do and do not date, or even IF they date.

I know, I don't have kids, but I don't think anyone younger than 16 has any business dating, and not sure 16 is ideal either. Guys are more sexual than girls - usually - and adolescence is rough anyway, and to put a boy whose all hormonal and thinking about sex, with a girl...... well, no wonder sex happens.

If teenagers are going to date, there needs to be strict guidelines. No "parking", no being alone in a room, especially bedrooms. You can't have teenagers being alone, then be surprised when they have sex.

6) Dress. I am a firm believer in modesty, and that we should be careful for many reasons how much skin we show, how tight our clothes are, etc. Again... you can't throw scantily clad teens together and expect that to help them remain pure. It will make temptations harder.

There is a lot of argument about modesty, and some people will claim they have the right to show as much skin as they want as a Christian, and if it causes a brother or sister to lust, so what - its all on the person lusting.... that is a pathetic attitude to have.

I found it interesting when I was living in Indiana, the pastor read the dress code requirement for visitors to some prison.... and it was strict. I remember thinking "if a prison can see that certain kinds of dress would cause problems, then why can't Christians?!" I wish I had that list, but I have one that will still give the idea. This is from the Hope For Wholeness website, a site for people struggling with same-sex attractions. These dress requirements are for anyone attending the meetings they have at some locations, kind of a AA type thing for lack of a better explanation:

Dress Code for Men & Women This policy applies to all seasons and temperatures of the year and all meetings, to include the following: one on one appointments with Support Group Leader, meetings between group members (within given guidelines), support group meetings, conferences, outings, etc. Shirts: No tight fitting shirts, tank tops, sleeveless shirts, halter tops, or showing any chest/cleavage. No shorts, regardless of length. See through: no clothing that is too thin, causing a transparent affect. For ladies: If you choose to wear a skirt, length is to be no shorter than knee length. Tears or holes: We ask that clothing not have large tears or holes in it. Tight fitting/ loose: Clothing should not be tight or too loose (as to fall down below waist)

Again... they obviously can see certain kinds of dress could cause problems for the people who are there to get help.... so why can't all Christians see that? And for the record, I don't believe everything listed above is necessarily wrong, but what would it hurt us to dress that way.... especially kids on a date?

If a teenaged boy is on a date with a girl in a mini skirt and hater top, doesn't it make sense that he'd be more tempted than if she were dressed modestly?

But back to my original subject..... secondary virginity. I have seen this discussed a lot. The idea is, if you have messed up and had sex, God will forgive you, restore you, and you aren't "damaged goods." i agree with that, but I am afraid it is getting pushed so much that it is giving the wrong idea. "Go ahead and do it. You can ask forgiveness and be as good as new".

There's a young man I follow on Facebook who has a lot of good to say. He is very young, college age, but has a lot of wisdom. I was a bit bothered by his take on this subject "Having sex before marriage doesn't ruin you." Again, great sentiment, and true, but his blog post was one I feared would give kids the wrong idea, and I commented saying so on Facebook.

Such as this part:
It’s been said, “True love waits”. This is a beautiful message. This gives hope to people like myself, who are trying to abstain from sex till their wedding night. However, there is more about true love that must be said. It’s important to remember that true love waits, but it’s also important to remember that true love also forgives. Your future spouse won’t hold your sexual sins against you. They won’t fall out of love with you when you tell them that you’ve had premarital sex. True love forgives."

   I seriously don't think there is anything wrong with a Christian who remains pure, to want a spouse who has remained pure also. If one has had sex, I don't think it should be disclosed the week of the wedding, but long before. Is it wrong to break up with someone over that? I am not sure. Marriage is out of the question for me for more than one reason, but I used to wonder about this issue myself. I wish I could say to the woman I was interested in that I had waited, but I wouldn't be able to. Would I blame a woman for not wanting to marry me under those circumstances? I don't think I could blame her.

  It isn't an easy thing, I know that. There are many who have lived careless lives sexually, then came to Christ and became a new creation. Should they be viewed as damaged goods, unworthy of marrying someone who has kept himself or herself pure? No, absolutely not. In my very limited knowledge and wisdom, I would say that would be between the couple and God. I could understand a young man or woman who has abstained from sex til their wedding, being disappointed that the person they want to marry has not. It would not be an easy position to be in. Yes, God forgives and wipes the slate clean, but that doesn't take away the fact that they did it.

  Back to Jordan's blog post, and anyone else who has talked about this issue of secondary virginity. If they are going to discuss it, I feel they need to remind their audience that yes, God will forgive and wipe the slate clean, but that doesn't take away the consequences.

There is still risk of pregnancy

There is still risk of STDs

There is the probability of remembering former sexual encounters while doing it with the one you marry

There is the possibility of falling in love with someone who did wait, and having to confess that you didn't

There will be regrets. I doubt many people regret waiting til their wedding night, but the number who regret not waiting....... I am sure it is far bigger than anyone would know.

   God does forgive and wipe the slate clean, and one should not view himself or herself as damaged goods, but how much better to wait, and be able to tell the one you love that you waited. Knowing God will forgive does not mean we should just go out and do it. You can never get that back.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Faith in my failures

  I have lived most of my life feeling like a failure. The list of the why's is a long one, and a lot of the things on the list are for my and God's eyes only. That may be one reason I have struggled with self esteem and self acceptance for all of these years. I look in the mirror, and see failure, and figure that is what others see when they look at me.

  The reality is, not everyone sees failure when they look at me, and hopefully few people do. That was just part of the very messed up me who I have been for far too long.

  And it has ruled my life. Not just failure, but fear of failure. It has influenced the kind of jobs I have worked, the kind of jobs I applied for or didn't apply for, the people I felt comfortable around, and the many more people I haven't felt comfortable around.

  My failures surround me and have just been more links in a chain that has held me back from being what I should be, from being what God intended me to be.

  God has been helping me a lot in these last few months. I've stumbled, had doubts, and have been letting my fears take up too much space in my head. Just last week, I was hit with a cloud of depression and discouragement like I haven't had in months, and other than fears and worries about the future, I can't come up with anything that could have brought that on.

  The honest truth is, I am worried about the future...... my future. For different reasons, and about different things in my future. And one of the big worries about my future, is my failures. I am afraid when I get my own place again, I'll fail, and won't be able to support myself. I'm afraid I'll have to change jobs - it is outsourced and could change - and will fail at finding another job. I am afraid I'll fail at this, that, and a multitude of other things.

  I have been praying about it, and was praying earlier this evening. I was telling God how much of a failure I still feel, and how worried I am about the future. I told Him I know He has changed me so much, helped me so much, and answered prayers....... and that I should have more faith that He can change my failure, but I am so afraid I will fail, that I can't have faith that He can help me not to fail.

  And then it hit me like a sledgehammer, though it didn't hurt physically. I don't know if I was God speaking, or if I just had a moment of insight, but it felt like God. The thought hit me "I have more faith in my failures and tendency to fail, then I have in God." I literally started crying. It might sound like a weird way to put it, but it is true. I have a lot of faith in my failures and tendency to fail. It comes easy, and I have strengthened that faith over my teen and adult years.

  Why is it so easy to believe in my tendency to fail, yet difficult to believe that God can change even THAT area of my life? Why can I believe Him for some things, but not that? Is God not bigger than my failures? More powerful than my failures or fears?

  One solution is to pray for God to help me get past this sense of failure. I was scared to pray before that I'd see myself as He sees me, as I was convinced He didn't like me and I wouldn't like how He saw me any more than I like how I see me....... but hopefully I am past that now that I have come to believe He loves me, so maybe I should pray that.

  Habits are hard to break. Chains are hard to break, and some of these things have just always been a part of my life. Self hatred, poor self esteem, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, failure, fear...... its it any wonder my relationship with God has never gotten off the ground? Is it any wonder I feel like I have wasted my life and accomplished nothing? Fear has bound me, failure and fear of failing has held me captive in chains that have seemed unbreakable. Until now.

  Much is said in sermons and books about sin. About not doing it, about being bound by it....... and that is all good, and sin has wound its chains around me also, but maybe more needs to be said about fear, worry, about being held captive by those... for those chains can bind as tight and hold us back from what God wants for us, just as much or more as sin.

  Satan doesn't care how he gets us, as long as he does. He doesn't care what holds us back from fully trusting and serving God. If it is outright sin, and "bad" sins, all the better, but if it is fear and worry...... so what. He has still succeeded.

   I look at where I have come with the issue of believing God's love, and feel hope. I seriously didn't believe He loved me, and not just didn't love me, but disliked me completely. I felt I had to beg and convince Him to forgive me, and even then, that I had to do something more to be completely forgiven. What that was, I never knew.

  But now, I believe He loves me. I have had to work at it, and He met me more than halfway once I started working on it. I don't believe I have to beg His forgiveness, but that His mercy and patience are far more wide and deep than I could ever comprehend.

  If He can help me in those areas, than He can help me in these areas of trusting Him, of having faith in Him instead of in my failures. Anything is possible with Him.

  As a song says on a new CD I got last week, I know the God of possibilities........so even this is possible with Him.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

He loves me, He loves me not

I have referenced many times on my blog that I have struggled most of my life to believe God loves me, and just late last year I finally started coming to believe that He does indeed love me. It is still something I struggle with a bit, and possibly always will, but hopefully nothing like most of my life has been.

   Last year, as I made a conscious decision to overcome  this unbelief in God's love, one of the ways I worked on that was to read books. And I read several good books that were helpful to me, and some of them weren't specifically about God's love, but still addressed that. The one that seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, was The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, followed by the fiction book based on that book, The Prodigal, also by Manning and co-author Greg Garrett.

   One of the first books I read last year about God's love, and another that is among the most helpful, is He Loves Me! by Wayne Jacobson. As one might guess by the title, it is about God's love. The author has a great approach to it, and I not only enjoyed the book, but found it extremely helpful.

   In one of the chapters, he uses the little ditty most of us did as kids with a daisy, "He (or she) loves, he loves me not", as we would pick a petal from the flower. He pointed out that we do that with God, and I had to admit I do.

I got called for an interview..... He loves me
My car broke down..... He loves me not
He answered a prayer..... He loves me
He didn't answer a prayer.... He loves me not

  When we start viewing God's love the same way we see a daisy that we rip the petals from to find out if someone we like or love, feels the same way, we are definitely viewing God's love in the wrong way.

  The Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust. So bad things are going to happen to us occasionally. Hopefully not too often, but they are going to happen. Being a Christian doesn't guarantee us a problem-free life, or even happiness.

  I have come to a few realizations over the last few months, and though they will not be earth shaking news for the average Christian, it took me almost 45 years to realize how true they are:

1) God is love. Yeah, the Bible says that, but I get it now. Since He IS love, He can't not love. Loving isn't just His nature. Love is what He is.

2) There is nothing I can do to cause God to love me any more, or any less. This one was a biggie. I still can't wrap my mind completely around it, and maybe I never will, but I have come to believe it and remind myself of it often.

3) God's love is unchanging. We as humans tend to look at things like God's love through our human eyes. Our love changes. We have people who are friends, and they may betray us or just grow apart and soon they are a distant memory, or a bad memory. We may walk away from God, ignore Him, and live for the devil, but He will still love us the same.

4) Two names: Peter and Judas. I was reminded anew over the Easter season, especially while attending a Passion Play, of Judas and Peter. If one really things about it - and I have - Jesus washed the feet of Judas, the disciple He knew would betray Him. He washed the feet of Peter, the disciple He knew would deny Him. And He did it with love.

  I have done both with actions and the way I have lived - betrayed and denied Jesus. The devil had me convinced for years that God could not love me, nor completely forgive me.....but he lied.

  With the daisy, the outcome is never sure, and can change from one flower to another. And if you think about it, it is rather silly to base how someone may or may not feel about you, on ripping petals off of a flower.

  But not as silly as doing that about God's love. There is no "He loves me not" with God. Only "He loves me!"

Friday, April 18, 2014

The day in between

This being Holy Week, my thoughts have naturally been on the cross, resurrection, and other events of Holy Week. And I got to thinking about the one day that had to be the worst for the disciples and other followers of Jesus. Saturday.

   Thursday was good until the evening when they arrested Jesus. And it all went downhill from there. Friday brought the crucifixion. They had been riding a high most of the week, starting with the Triumphant Entry. They must have thought Jesus was finally going to kick the Romans out and deliver the Jews from their reign, but to have it all end with Jesus dying on the cross.

  Then Sunday came and changed everything. By their reactions to Jesus appearing to them, it is obvious they didn't believe He would rise again. I can't imagine the emotions they went through, from total despair on Friday, to triumph and victory on Sunday.

  But what about that day in between? Saturday. I don't imagine they got much sleep the night before, and most likely spent the night in mourning and tears. Saturday had to be rough. Jesus, the man they had put so much hope in, was dead. They had nothing to look forward to.

  Everyone has had a time in their lives when something bad happened. The day was terrible, and then you go to bed and try to sleep, and manage to get some. Then the next day comes, and it all comes rushing back.....

  That is where the disciples were.  Friday was bad. The one that had followed faithfully was dead and buried. In addition to their sorrow, they were most likely all dealing with guilt for running and not sticking by his side. Peter was feeling the agony from denying his Savior three times. This day that is called Holy Saturday wouldn't have seemed very holy to them, but dark. Very dark. Yesterday, hope died with Jesus. Tomorrow, He would rise and turn everything around, but they didn't believe that.

  I've been there. I have been on the mountain top, and everything is going great, and then BAM! Things are dark, temptations heavy, God seems far away. I am in the day in between.

  And unfortunately, the day can be long. It can be weeks, months, even years.

  I am not sure when depression hit, but it was at least 6 years ago. I believe there was more than one factor, or at least more than one thing that made it worse. I was one of those people who used to believe Christians didn't get depressed, and thankfully I changed my mind on that long before it hit me.

  If you have never dealt with it, you cannot understand it. Prayer doesn't help, trying to cheer up doesn't help. Things you love to do, hold no appeal. God seems so far away, and your prayers seem to hit the ceiling and fall back to the floor to shatter around you. It is rough, and it is dark.  I wondered if "Sunday" would ever come, but it did. I may always deal with depression on some level, but it doesn't control me anymore, and I have come a long way with it.

  I remember a time about 10-11 years ago that happened, ironically, on a Friday. A friend and co-worker took a knife, stuck it deep in my back, and laughed as she shattered my world. I didn't think Sunday would ever come, and I spent many sleepless nights struggling to recover from betrayal, loss, and a broken heart.

  But good came out of it, though I would never go through that again for the world. The "day in between" was so hard and dark. But that day ended.

  It is so easy to lose our focus in the rough times, in those days in between the bad days and good days. It can seem like what we are going through will never end, but it does. It is rarely in our time, but God's, and some things may last a lifetime, only to have Heaven be the ultimate Sunday.

  When Jesus appeared to the disciples, they forgot about the day before when they had hidden in fear, and had felt so hopeless. They had hope like never before, and it totally changed them. These same disciples who ran and cowered in fear, all fearlessly preached the risen Christ, and with the exception of John, died for Jesus. I doubt that Saturday in between tragedy and triumph came to mind very often, for everything was changed and made it all worth it.

  Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus died for my sins and everyone else who ever lived, or ever will live. Tomorrow is the day in between Good Friday and the Resurrection of that same Jesus. For us, it isn't a dark time, for we know what happened. Jesus arose and completed our salvation. It was the best day that ever happened.

  And likewise... whatever we are going through right now will end. You may have been on the mountain, and now you're in a valley that seems so dark, deep, and unending. But just like the ultimate day in between, "this too shall come to pass" and you'll be back on the mountain again. Whether it be one literal day, or months or years, it will come to pass. And even if it doesn't seem worth it here, when we get to Heaven, it will definitely be worth it all.

  Happy Easter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hiding is part of Satan's Plan

  It isn't just conjecture on my part. I am 100% positive there are many people in our churches who are dealing or struggling with issues that they are afraid to tell anyone. And I am becoming more and more sure that it is part of the devil's plans for people to feel they have to hide.

  I can say from personal experience, that feeling that need to hide is far more damaging than feeling the freedom to admit what I am dealing with. The fear you live with that someone will find out, the shame you carry, the fact that you can't ask for prayer because you're afraid instead of prayer, you'll get scorn, judgement, and ostracized.

   So people internalize it and try to deal with it on their own, and it doesn't work. I am not saying it is impossible for God to help and deliver those who are struggling in silence, but I do believe it is much harder to go it alone.

  And when no one knows, it is easier to give into whatever it is that is pulling at you. No one knows anyway, so why not "just do it?"

  I can remember when I started hiding. I was in Bible College, and when I came to the horrifying realization that I was dealing with "that", I didn't know what to do. I knew I couldn't tell anyone. I'd be kicked out of college without a shred of mercy. I wouldn't be welcome in my own church, and possibly family.

  So I kept it to myself, and suffered in silence. I'd hear the other guys make jokes about the very thing I was dealing with, and felt all the more secluded and different.

  And thus began years of struggling, suffering, and a desperation to hide. No one could ever know. I'd be treated like a leper. I got so used to hiding it, I felt like I had two identities. The Mark that went to church regularly, smiled, laughed and joked...... and the Mark that was flawed, alone, and a total mess.

  There is no way on God's green earth that I am the only one who has felt this way, who has lived a life of fear. A fear that my secret will be out for everyone to know, and then I'd be shunned and judged.

    It is truly a sad commentary on the church that people like me have to hide a struggle in the very place that should be the safest place to find help. Isn't the family of God all about bearing each others burdens? "When one has a heartache, we all share the tears?" Or does that only apply to heartaches and struggles that are acceptable ones?

   Imagine for a moment you have a teenaged son. Maybe you don't have to imagine. maybe you do have one. Now imagine he gets hooked on pornography. You don't know. No one knows but him. He knows he needs help, but the general atmosphere of both his home and church make him too fearful to seek help, and besides, no one else in the church deals with that. He'd be labeled a freak and pervert. So he keeps getting further and further into his addiction with no help in sight.

  Now imagine a second scenario: take that same teenaged boy. He suddenly realizes he isn't attracted to girls, but to other boys. But his parents are so anti-gay, and the comments he hears at church make him aware of how he'd be looked at if he admitted it, so he doesn't tell anyone. Besides, there isn't anyone else at church that deals with this stuff. There are a few possible outcomes:

1) He kills himself after becoming so depressed and upset about what seems hopeless to him

2) He gets tired of fighting it, and finds other boys who identify as gay, and starts experimenting sexually with other boys

3) He manages to stay away from experimenting, but starts a lifetime of struggling with what feels like an impossible thing to overcome.

  And another scenario: you're suffering from severe depression, but the general attitude of Christians you know, is that it is a spiritual problem, and depressed people just need to pray more. Fearful of appearing a bad Christian, you suffer in silence, trying to convince everyone that all is going just wonderful in your life. Besides, no one else at church deals with it.

   You know what is wrong with all of my scenarios? The "no one else at church deals with this". And therein lies part of Satan's plan. I am convinced he wants people to keep silent about what they are dealing with for a couple of reasons:

1) It stops people from getting help, and in many cases just keeps the person more bound and mired in their struggle or sin

2) It discourages others dealing with the same issue to come forward, because they figure they are the only person in the church, maybe in all churches, who are dealing with it.

  Imagine if the church had a few people who had to deal with same-sex attractions, porn, or depression - or other issues we feel we have to hide - admit to it, and gained victory over it. Then when someone else had to deal with that same issue, they very well might feel more free to admit it, or at least seek out one of those people for help.

  Unless you have been there, you cannot imagine what it is like sitting in the church pew carrying a heavy secret. Other people ask for prayer for what they are dealing with, but you can't. If you spoke up and asked for prayer for THAT, it would be comparable to setting off a bomb during the prayer requests. So you slouch down in your seat and die a little more inside.

 I just read a really good book, No More Dragons, by Jim Burgen. He pastors a large church, the kind that I used to scoff at the idea of it being spiritual, but what do I know? He relayed a couple of stories of things that happened to him in trying to welcome all people to his church:

  1) He was using the urinal at his church when a very large man came out of a bathroom stall, and asked if he was "Pastor Jim". The guy then told him that God was helping him to get free from gay porn and other sexual sins, then wanted to hug him.

2) He had a transgender come up to him who had been a guy and got a sex change. The transgender asked him if they were welcome there, and if they found a man to marry, if Jim would perform the ceremony.

  Now can you imagine those scenarios happening at your church? Would "those kind of people" even be welcome? Would they feel welcome?

   As I look back over the years of struggling in silence, I find myself wondering, If I had felt free to step forward as a 21 year old guy and admit what I was dealing with, would my life have turned out better? If I hadn't been so afraid of how God's people would react to my secret, would I have doubted His love all of these years?

  What if I could have stood up in church, and said what I was dealing with, and how lost, hopeless, and alone I felt...... would I still have lived in the shadows all of these years?

  I don't know the answer for sure, but I have to think things would have been so different. And by saying that, I am not blaming anyone for what I have gone through.

  The church is going to become irrelevant if we keep turning a blind eye to the hurting in our own congregations. As long as we make people fear to come out of the shadows, our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and others will never receive the help they need from what we call the family of God.

  And I haven't been totally alone. There have been a few people over the years, including 2 great pastors, who I have been able to talk to some, but I still had to hide from the majority of people.

  I got so tired of pretending I didn't want to get married. Of joking about it. I bought every dating book that came out on the Christian market, hoping for the day I could put what I had read into practice. I can still remember the day I boxed them up to sell them on eBay and sat crying on the floor as I packed up what wasn't just books, but was also hopes and dreams that had died.

  No one knows the nights I have cried myself to sleep, sick of being alone, weary of the same old battle and struggle, tired of trying to carry a cross that seemed way too heavy for me, a cross that I would lay down and try to walk away from, only to pick it up again and try to carry it.

   No one knows how many times I have flinched inside and hurt as someone else made a joke or mean comment, not knowing they had hurt someone within ear shot. To be sitting in church and have "that" mentioned up front, and have someone lean up to you and say "They need to just round up all of those kind of people and hang them". Is it any wonder I feared coming out of the shadows for so long?

  How many others feel like I do? Maybe not the same struggle, but another that they feel they can't share. So they keep hiding it, never letting anyone too close for fear someone would find out, and so they die a little more inside day by day.

  God has been helping me immensely this past year. Not just emotionally and spiritually, but He has been helping me to realize it doesn't matter what others think, only what He thinks of me. And it doesn't matter how broken I am, how scarred, how damaged.... nothing matters. He loves me. No exceptions. I can't do anything to cause His love to waver or lessen.

  The more I realize that, the less I worry about hiding. No, I am not ready to wear the T shirt or make an announcement to the church, but I am tired hiding. I am tired of lying, of being two different people. I am redeemed, a child of the King, who happens to struggle with a difficult, but not impossible issue.

  The day may come when God wants to use me to help others in the same boat I am in, and there are many others in this boat..... and I am willing. But I am not willing to do what the devil wants me to do, what very likely many Christians want me to do - hide. Nope. No more hiding, no more masks.

  I pray for the day when all of God's children can step forward and say, "this is me, and this is what I am dealing with. Pray for me, and be my friend", and they receive more love and compassion than they could ever have dreamed or hoped for.

  I thank God for those He has brought into my life, who have seen my scars, in whose presence I have been able to pull my mask off, and they haven't run, they haven't cringed, but remained my friend, and prayed for me. May I be that kind of friend to others. That is what the family of God is all about.

***This has been my most personal and open post to date. As I sit here about to hit the "publish" button, I find myself wondering if I should publish it...... but if I don't, then I am going against everything I have said, so I shall post it. Maybe God can use my stumbling words to help someone else, to wake someone up, and maybe have someone make a difference in the life of someone else.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Praying for Barak Obama

I think I blogged about this before, but got to thinking about it the other day, and decided to put my thoughts on here, as I went a different direction with my thoughts than I previously did.

    There are people who chastise we who are unhappy with Obama. OK, unhappy doesn't begin to describe my feelings, but I'll go with that for now. They say we should pray for him. In response to that, a bumper sticker has been made with the Scripture reference Psalm 109:8, which says "Let his years be few; let someone else take his position."

  I'll admit I find that amusing, and have wished God would remove him before he completely destroys this country, but on a serious note, if these people are right, how should we pray for Obama?
  Should we pray for God to bless him? I don't want to pray that. Blessing means he does well, and as his policies are anti-capitalism, anti-military (he is trying to shrink our military), pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, racking up debt, and the list goes on - I don't want him to be blessed, for his blessing means more trouble for us.

  So how should we pray?

  I am going to make a statement I 100% believe is true, and may sound judgmental, but so what. The Bible says we will be known by our fruits, and if someone lives a consistent life that is contrary to what a Christian can live, you can rightly assume what I am going to say about Obama:

  There is no way on God's green earth the man is a true Christian. 

  Gasp! How horrible of me to judge him like that!

  I do share a lot of things on Facebook that are anti-Obama, if you want to call it that. News stories that tell of the bad things he is doing, of the scandals he is in, etc. But pray for him? Nah.  I have prayed that God would stop his agenda.

  But should we pray for him?

  Before I answer my own question, let me throw a few reasons out there I cannot believe Obama truly knows Jesus as His Savior and Lord:

1) He is the most pro-abortion president we have ever had. He even voted that if an aborted baby survives an abortion, the baby should be left to die, and nothing done to let it live. That is beyond cruel. Beyond Christian.

2) He consistently sides with Muslims over Christians and Israel

3) There have been several times when he left out God in quoting things that have God's name in

4) He is fighting for same-sex marriage, in spite of what God says about homosexuality

5) Everything he does is against Christian and conservatives

6) Obamacare alone tramples Christian's rights

7) He is proud and arrogant

  Those are a few. I could make a more exhaustive list. It he is a Christian, then why does he fight us so much? He mocks Christians and conservatives constantly

  OK, call me what you will, but I call a spade a spade.

  That said, here is how I believe we should pray for Barak Obama, if we are going to pray for him:

1) Pray that he truly finds Jesus and surrenders completely to him

2) Pray that he humbles himself before God

3) Pray that God has mercy on him

   Sounds like a tall order. That the most arrogant president we have ever had would come to know Jesus so much that it would change his policies, disrupt his world, cause him to hold Biblical values instead of socialist?

  Maybe. But I got to thinking the other day about stories I have heard from preachers over the years. There have been churches in years past who took on a depraved soul to pray for, often the town drunk. They really prayed and prayed, not just some light once a week prayer, and won these people to God.

  Now imagine, if every true follower of Jesus would pray and pray for people who are godless and who we find distasteful, instead of just criticizing them? Only God knows who might find Jesus and turn their lives around.....

The Ellen Degeneres's of  the world
The Barack Obamas of the world
The Bill Mahers of the world

   Or have we become so weak as Christians and a church, that we can't pray anyone to victory anymore? God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.... if He could change the worst of lives years ago, He still can today. Even the most pro-abortion president we have ever had.

Take up your cross

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24, NLT)

     Crosses. We see them all over. People wear them around their necks, put them in their front yard, decorate churches with them, tattoo them on their skin. At this time of the year, as we approach Easter, you even see chocolate crosses.

    We pampered and spoiled Americans have pretty much lost the idea of what it means to take up our cross. We tend to think of inconveniences as our cross. Our mother-in-law is a pain in the neck, but it is "our cross to bear." The neighbor throws loud parties, but it is "our cross to bear." Out boss is a jerk, but it is "our cross to bear." Hogwash. Those aren't crosses, unless you're talking about the chocolate ones or jeweled ones we wear around our necks.

    I read somewhere how shocked people from Jesus' time would be at our decorating and wearing crosses. The person said it would be comparable to us decorating and wearing electric chairs. Sounds bizarre, but they had a point.

   In Jesus' time on earth, the cross was a cruel instrument of torture and death. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't chocolate or made of silver or gold. It was made of rough wood, and was ugly. When Jesus said to take up your cross, the disciples and others listening didn't have inconveniences or jeweled crosses in mind. All that they knew of crosses was a horrible way to die. Something bad.

 The world has inconveniences. They have mothers-in-law that are pariahs and they wish would disappear from the face of the earth, and yet many manage to act civil with them. There are multitudes of things people call crosses that non-Christians deal with. Unfaithful spouses, handicapped and ill children. The list goes on, but those aren't crosses. They have nothing to do with following Jesus. Following Him may make those things more bearable and even easier, but a cross? No.

  Bearing a cross is more than an inconvenience. It is being mocked for the stand you hold because of being a Christian. It is fighting desires that come naturally, in order to live a life pleasing to God.  It is doing the right thing always. Even when no one else is. Even when it is the hardest thing you ever have done.

  It is dying to yourself, your will, your desires, what you want. It is going forward on your walk with God if it means crawling and dragging yourself forward. It is being different from the world, forsaking all else to follow Christ.

  It means walking a road that can be lonely, rough, uphill, but keeping your eyes on Jesus.

  We seem to have forgotten that Jesus said this is a narrow way. That carrying a cross isn't a mere inconvenience, it is hard work.

  For the last several years, I and my family have gone to see a Passion Play at a church in the Youngstown area. There is a scene where the man playing Jesus is staggering up the aisle, carrying a large wooden cross on his shoulder. I don't know how it compares to the cross Jesus really did carry, to the crosses that were used in that day, but it is definitely harder to carry around than the crosses we wear around our necks, or are on a T-shirt we wear.

  I've been thinking a lot about this lately, what does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus? I can define the latter part pretty easily, but the first part.... not so much. It is a verse we quote, and something we use in cases like I used above. But what does it really mean?

To me, it means:
Serving God, no matter how hard it is to do it
Serving God, no matter who else does it
Loving your neighbor
Forgiving your enemies
Being in the world, not of the world
Sometimes being mocked for your faith

Having faith

  The list could go on, but that is what has come to mind. Carrying our cross and following Jesus is so much more than an inconvenience, and we trivialize what it means when we do use the term to desribe what are mere inconveniences in our lives.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dating and marriage

I am going to go where not many confirmed bachelors have gone, and talk about dating and marriage. This came as a result of an article from Relevant Magazine titled, " I Like Him. How far is too far?"

  I commented on the post by saying that is the wrong question to ask. That is like asking "how close can I stand to the cliff without falling off?" That we should seek to make dating relationships as pure as we can, keeping in mind we may not marry that person after all, and it is better to not have done much with them that we will regret.

  Of course someone, a woman, commented and didn't like my comment. That happens to me fairly often, so I am used to it, so I replied with some infinite wisdom again, in a nice way. OK, maybe infinite is stretching it. Wisdom might be stretching it too......

  I got to thinking about what I said, and think I am onto something. But who knows? I am a confirmed bachelor who hasn't dated since the very early 90's. So what do I know?

  I know a lot of people who have dated a lot of people. Boys and girls, though it mostly is boys who play the field more. And these have been Christian guys. Now where I come from, we still believe in waiting til your wedding night to have sex. Yeah, it is old fashioned, but you know that big book Christians are supposed to live by? It says it is a sin to have sex outside of marriage, and uses a big word for that: fornication. It doesn't just say it is a sin, but it goes further and says all fornicators will have their place in the lake of fire. That would be hell, and the book would be The Bible, God's Holy Word.

  There is such a move on nowadays to just do whatever you want as a Christian, and ignore what the Bible says. Want to have sex outside of marriage? Go for it. God didn't really mean that. Want to have sex with the same gender? Go ahead, God didn't mean that for today.

  But ALL Scripture is inspired by God. Even the verses we don't like, and are inconvenient. Yeah, even the ones that say wait until you're married to have sex, and then stick with that person until death parts you.

  So back to this article, how far is too far? Just what is OK for a Christian couple to do before marriage, and what is not OK?

  Here is a good question I think is original with me: Say you're single and about to marry that special someone. Just how far would you want him or her to have gone with 5, 10, or more guys or girls?

  Say you're single and want to marry, but haven't found that special someone yet. You know they are out there somewhere, and you may even have your eye on who you hope it is. How far do you want them to go with the person they are dating now, and all who they will date before you marry?

  And if you have kids, how far do you want them to go?

  Some years back, a young man named Joshua Harris wrote a book that rocked the Christian publishing world, called I Kissed Dating Good-bye. He had a couple of premises. One was to court instead of date, and the other was not to kiss any other girl until the date of his wedding. Sounds pretty radical.

  It has been years since I read the book, but if I remember, it was a dream he had that he related in the book. He was getting married, and there was several girls all linking arms with him. They were girls he had dated and been emotionally involved with.

  It has been so long since I read the book, that I can't remember much about it, so hopefully what I say isn't from the book that is buried in my subconscious somewhere.

  Divorce is all too common nowadays. And sadly, it is as common in the church as in the world. I know it is sometimes necessary, but that does not make it any less sad. And I wonder if one reason it is so prevalent lies here in this discussion of dating and how far can one go.

  This single guy has a couple of theories:

1) Too much playing the field. The Bible talks a lot about purity and not having sex outside of marriage, but things were so different in those days. Guys and girls didn't date several people until they found the right one. Their family decided who they'd marry, and they were engaged young. We see that in the story of Mary and Joseph. Their engagement was as binding as a marriage, and you can bet your last dollar Joseph didn't date several girls before Mary, nor did she date several guys before Joseph.

  I am no wise man, but anyone with common sense should be able to see that dating multiple people could cause you problems in marriage. In dating, things get rough, you get tired of him or her, so you bail and find someone else. And now, it is happening in marriage. Sure, a lot of people stick with it, but if they bailed easily on dating relationships, the urge is going to be there to bail on a marriage whether or not they carry through.

2) Too much physical. I think most of us who are in the church get it that if you have sex with people you don't marry, it could cause problems in marriage. Yes, God will forgive, and that shouldn't mean you aren't worthy of someone who is a virgin. I'm not saying that. But you can pretty much guarantee that when John is having sex with his wife Susan, thoughts are going to come to his mind of Ellen, Mary Ann, Joanie, and others that he was sexual with. There will be the automatic comparison going on, and if he wants his marriage to work, he is going to have to fight that.

  Now this is where I will get in trouble: But what about cuddling and kissing? Could that not cause trouble in a future marriage also?

   There is a Bible College affiliated with my church group in the same town as my church. The denominational headquarters and offices are also in the same town, so we have a lot of people who attend the Bible College, and stay in the area, and attend my church. So you're going to have people at some points in time attending the same church with someone they dated in Bible College and did not marry.

  And my church isn't alone. There are tons of people who are attending the same church, who are in the same circles as someone they previously dated....... and that has caused me to think about this in detail over the years. I'll give a scenario with fictional people:

   Say John dated a few girls before he married Susan. He kissed them fairly often, held hands, cuddled, but never let his hands go where they shouldn't, and never crossed into having sex.

   Now he is sitting in church beside his wife Susan. He looks across the aisle, and there is Martha, one of the girls he dated back in high school. Man, was she a good kisser..... oops. Married to Susan now. She's a good kisser too. Not as good as Martha.....oops, don't go there John.......Oh, there was that one time when we went to that park.......

  I can't believe that stuff like this never happens. And I can't believe that it cannot have an effect on a marriage.

  So am I saying a dating couple shouldn't kiss? Pretty much. Really, be honest here, and answer this question in your head: how many guys are you comfortable with your wife having kissed before she married you? How many women are you comfortable with your husband kissing.... or more..... before he married you? Would you want your teenage girl doing with her boyfriend what you did with yours? Or what you did with your girlfriend?

   I know. I am a single guy. I don't know what I am talking about.... or do I?

   And no, I am not perfect. I am so far from perfect, I couldn't see it with a long range telescope. And I have just as much of a battle to be pure as the next guy. Maybe more of a struggle.  But that article got me to thinking, and here are the results. Disagree if you wish, but I still think I raised some good points.

My favorite bridge

Author Tricia Goyer is running a contest where she is giving away books, and the way to enter is to do a blog post about your favorite bridge, so here is mine:

  My favorite bridge may not be the prettiest bridge, but it is my favorite one. It is the Teagarden -Centennial Covered Bridge on Teagarden Road near me, about 4-5 miles away. There is a biking/walking trail that goes right by it, so when the weather is nice, I'll often drive up there, spend some time on the bridge, and walk on the trail.

  The description from Wikipedia:
The Teegarden-Centennial Covered Bridge is a covered bridge in Columbiana County, Ohio. The bridge crosses Little Beaver Creek on Eagleton Road, 0.1 miles East of county road 411 near Salem, Ohio. It is currently only open to pedestrian traffic.[2]

It was named after U. Teegarden who owned land near the bridge. Also known as the Centennial Bridge, it built in 1876, 100 years after the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence.[2]

The 66-foot, multiple king post span was designed by Jeremiah C. Mountz and David Reese. The bridge was in use until 1992 and underwent restoration in 2003. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in August 2010

  The bridge is not in use anymore, and is only for visiting and walking on, but it is a cool historical bridge that I am blessed to have practically in my back yard.