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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Please Fund ME!

Okay, I understand the idea behind funding campaigns. Some people are in dire need, and friends want to help out. Many of the causes are excellent, and my husband and I have sometimes given through funding sites.

But now, there's a trend to fund yourself—or your favorite charity.

It makes me want to hang out my own shingle:

Please fund ME.
I want to take a trip to Venice.
Please give an extra $100 
so I can hire a singing gondolier.

Of course, it's only in my dreams, and I would never do that to my friends.

But, others do.

Instead of birthday gifts, please send money to this cause. The motivation is honorable, but was I really going to send you a birthday gift in the first place? I mean, we do send gifts to close family, but we draw a line. We don't have the means to give to everyone on our social media feed—or support everyone's pet causes—even though they're good ones. It makes me wonder if a simple Happy Birthday wish will even be appreciated, if I don't contribute as well. I'm not sure.

Similar requests—at least in my mind—are "Vote for my niece Charlie's photo." Isn't she cute? No doubt, Charlie's the cutest kid out there, but don't ask me to vote for Charlie when there are several hundred other kids competing … and not one of them is my grandchild!

The truth is, there are some urgent needs, and it's wonderful when a friend sets up a funding account for people who are in extraordinary circumstances.

But, your relative's wanting to go on a trip usually isn't a dire need. Your wanting to do something special—like my imaginary trip to Venice—isn't either. Good charities have their own funding websites, so it's not necessary for you to set one up for your birthday. It's not best to have random people give to your church, either. (Biblically, the church is supported by its members' tithes and offerings.)

When I was younger, if a young person wanted to do something—granted, he never dreamed of a trip to Australia—he mowed lawns, washed cars with his friends, and did odd jobs. He worked for it. He saved up his money. Two of our young relatives visited us in Spain this year. They had worked, sacrificed, and saved so they could tour Europe. We're proud of them.

So, why am I writing this post? Merely to make you think.

If you can help someone with a serious need, do it! If it's some crazy woman's dream of Venice (Ha ha!) or a teen's trip to Australia, forget it. Let them work, personally fundraise, and save for those things. I guarantee they'll appreciate them more. If I ever get to Venice.... As a final note, I won't ask you to vote for my grandchildren's pictures. That's a promise.

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due,
when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
 (Proverbs 3:27)

But my God shall supply all your need
according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:19)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Whatever Happened to Church Discipline?

During his message, a pastor declares he doesn't think much of church discipline.* A few weeks later, the reason why comes to light: he is having an affair.

A young lady is pregnant by a man in her church. She has the baby and lives with the guy. The father and mother are welcomed to continue in full church fellowship, even though they're living in sin.

A member of the church divorces his wife, has a few flings, lives for a while with a married woman, and later marries another woman. The church never confronts, and he continues to attend.

A couple lives in sin and then asks the church to give them a confirmation service after they get legally married. They get married, the marriage confirmation is in the church, and the issue of fornication is never dealt with.

There's a pedophile in the church. The pastoral staff covers it up because this guy is a deacon and they don't want to make waves or scare anyone.

Two marriages are broken through divorce, and the divorced ex-husband and ex-wife marry. No church takes action—not his, and not hers.

I remember witnessing a church deal publicly with a matter of immorality. In this instance, the member openly repented, tearfully asked the church's forgiveness, has never repeated the sin, and is in good standing with God, family, and church today. This is the way church discipline is supposed to work.

Church discipline has one goal: restoration to God and church. It also has a beautiful process. It's only a few verses long. Let's read it. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matthew 18:15-17). As you can see, this also applies to personal offences between believers.

What are the steps? It's important to understand them.
  • Step 1.  The offended person goes to the offender and tries to settle the problem, just the two of them alone. Ideally, it should end there, with the resolution of the issue. No one else needs to be involved.
  • Step 2.  If Step 1 doesn't work, the offended person takes one or two people with him to confront the offender again with the goal of conflict resolution.
  • Step 3.  If Step 2 doesn't work, then the matter is brought before the church. If there is no resolution (repentance and forgiveness), the offending person will be excluded from the church community—until he publicly repents of his sin and is restored into fellowship.
How many times we've seen this done wrong. In one instance, the offender wanted to bring witnesses. Many times, though, the biblical process isn't even begun.


Here are two possible reasons:
  1. We like the sinner. Let's face it, especially in cases of immorality, the sinner is a gregarious, pleasing person. (He wouldn't be in an affair, if he weren't.) The sinner might be a friend, a leader in the church, a Sunday school teacher, or the church pianist. We ignore the sin, because the person is likeable.
  2. We like sin. No thanks to Adam, every person on this earth has a sin nature, and that makes us sympathetic towards sin. As a result, we choose not to judge anyone for public, unrepented sins, because we kind of enjoy sinning ourselves.
These are both wrong, of course. The Apostle Paul could hardly believe the church in Corinth was tolerating adultery. A man in the church was living with his father's wife. Paul said, It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you (1 Corinthians 5:1-2).

Let me take a minute to clarify something. Church discipline is for public sins.

For example, if you have an ugly thought about someone, that's a private sin. Go to the Lord, and ask Him for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 was written to Christians: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (Do not call that person up and tell him you thought something bad about him and ask his forgiveness. This will hurt him unnecessarily.) It was a sin of wrong thinking, and it needs to stay between you and the Lord. Confess it, substitute thanks and praise, accept God's forgiveness, and go on with your life.

For issues between two people, misunderstandings, etc., the offended person goes to the person who offended him, and they try to resolve the problem.

Public sins include: immorality, theft, assault, not honoring parents, lying, murder, etc. (See the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.) Those will be dealt with in the steps outlined in Matthew 18. If at Step 1, 2 or 3, there's repentance, exclusion from church fellowship never happens.

Why is church discipline sometimes necessary? God can't bless a church that harbors sin. Remember the graphic account of Annanias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-10)? They agreed to lie to the church about their giving, and God struck them dead. Sin in the church is serious. It is sad and requires repentance. God is holy.

The good news is that God is always ready to forgive, and we should be, too. When someone repents publicly, we need to forgive that person. Jesus explained after giving His disciples the Lord's prayer: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15).

There are consequences with sin, and the church must handle some kinds of sins differently from others, especially predatory crimes. In those cases, it's important to keep anyone with this history out of ministries with children and teens. That doesn't mean that a repentant person can't serve in the church in any capacity, only that he/she forfeits the right to work with minors. Churches also have the responsibility to report any crimes to the appropriate authorities. These things must be taken seriously and never hidden.

Church discipline is important. Tolerating sin undermines a church's testimony, and God can't bless. No one likes church discipline, but sometimes, it's necessary.

Take heed therefore unto yourselves,
and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost
hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God,
which he hath purchased with his own blood.
(Acts 20:28)

* All are true stories; most occurred decades ago.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Gender Reveals and "Theybies"

One of the biggest ironies of our day is that more people think children should be "gender neutral until they decide—at about age four"*—what they want to be. They are "little humans, theybies," not boys or girls. But, ironically, we also have the most elaborate gender reveals of all time.

In the 1980s when I had my children, it was debatable if ultrasounds were good for pre-born children, so I opted not to do them at all. My children's genders were surprises. I intuitively "knew" the first time around, but I had no clue with my second pregnancy. No one did parties for gender reveals, although some of my girlfriends told people whether their child was a boy or a girl.

But nowadays, the cake is blue or pink inside, there are balloons, explosions of color, and all the rest. It seems that each reveal is "top this." I've actually taken part in guessing the sex of babies on social media before the reveals. (I've been wrong most of the time, so don't ask me!) They're a lot of fun and certainly add to the anticipation.

My question is why these amazing gender reveals at a time in history when many want gender-neutral children? "Don't call a little girl a princess or a little boy a tiger." Umm … excuse me. You used the terms girl and boy. We don't use those words, remember?

From what I understand of genetics, the difference between genders all boils down to Xes and Ys. Children are either boys or girls. It's in their DNA, in their chromosomal make-up. Maleness and femaleness even determine the way we think, speak, and express ourselves. Men and women have always been different. And, this difference manifests itself way before age four—when Ms. Aren says children should be able to choose whether they want to be a boy or girl. Imagine mere "theybies" making a decision like that, at such a young age!

Our daughter ran with her hands before her. Our son charged ahead with his hands behind him. Our daughter never made a motor sound in her life. Our son made motor sounds before he could talk. There were differences all along that my husband and I could hardly believe—including the noise level. Any parent who has both boys and girls will tell you the same thing. They are different. They just are. The difference in genders is in the DNA.

So, what about people who identify as the opposite sex? What about those who genuinely have gender dysforia? They are in the minority, of course.  And, they're biologically either male or female.

A biblical view of gender helps. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27). From the very beginning, God created male and female.

He didn't make "theybies."

He didn't leave it up to four-year-olds (or any age) to decide.

So, go ahead and celebrate your baby boys and girls! Call them Princess and Tiger. Encourage your children be what God designed them to be.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day (Genesis 1:31).


* All quotes from an interview with Cathy Aren from the group, The Liberal Sherpas, on Fox News.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fiction Review: Through Waters Deep

Through Waters Deep, by Sarah Sundin is a nice little historical novel, set mostly in the days before World War II and ending at the time of Pearl Harbor.

Mary Stirling works at the Boston shipyard. At the beginning of the book, Mary is about to christen the USS Ettinger—but she notices someone has tampered with the bottle of champagne. She reports the condition of the bottle, but it's brushed off as insignificant, until the bottle bursts and results in flames. Someone had sabbotaged the christening. Who was the saboteur?

Mary decides that, with her abilities in shorthand, assignment to the seaport, and while doing her regular duties, she'll keep her eyes and ears open—and take copious notes.

She becomes reacquainted with her high school friend, Jim Atwood. He was always infatuated with bubbly blondes, but the two of them find themselves forming a wonderful friendship. He encourages her to overcome her timidity, and she contributes to his wanting to do more than float through life. They enjoy one kiss under duress when he ships off to the northern Atlantic.

Just as Jim is about to return, another school acquaintance, Quintessa, arrives on Mary's doorstep. All she can talk about is Jim Atwood, and Mary completely misunderstands. She wants the best for Jim and steps back, letting Quintessa take over. Did she misinterpret that kiss?

So, Mary doggedly dedicates herself to finding the saboteur, and she pushes Quintessa forward.

This is a light novel with a nice little romance. I liked it. The historical setting is also good. This is my first exposure to this author. If you enjoy a light romance that's clean and Christian, this might be for you. It's well written and entertaining.

On the debit side, its story is a little too contrived for my taste and way too predictable—although I didn't guess the identity of the saboteur. So, if you enjoy a sweet story with a well-researched historical background, you'll probably want to read this book.

Through Waters Deep is a good book for teen girls and adults. The romance is very healthy, based on common interests and true friendship, with only one or two premarital kisses. A Christian novel.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Interview: a Social Worker with the DSS, Making a Difference

Today, In the Way features an interview with a friend of mine who works for the Department of Social Services. I appreciate her willingness to help us understand her job and the needs of others. I want to expose my readers to women in several different areas of work where they can impact others for Christ and make their world a better place.

Jesus said, And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me (Matthew 19:5-6).

In the WayHi, Social Worker. Welcome to In the Way. Can you share with us what made you interested in being a social worker in the first place and how you arrived at this career?
Social Worker—My journey to working with the Department of Social Services has been one of narrowing down my gift sets and desires. My education did not prepare me best for my work but it laid the groundwork for valuing people in their brokenness. My education and my early years of work can be narrowed down to services of “helps,” but they were limited to the privileged. Over time, my experiences showed me that poverty and resource deprivation were tremendous contributors to the clients that I work with today.

ItWCan you describe the kinds of cases you deal with?
Social Worker—Cases fall into the categories of:
  • Physical Neglect—Basic needs of the child (food/shelter/supervision)
  • Physical Abuse—Long lasting marks and bruises to the body, broken bones, and if the child is positive for the same drug that the parent is positive for
  • Substantial Risk of Physical Abuse—Same as above except we are stating that if something in the environment does not change, then the child would have ended up physically abused.
  • Sexual Abuse—Sexual abuse committed by the adult in loco parentis or was known by the adult and they did not do anything to protect the child and end the abuse
  • Substantial Risk of Sexual Abuse—Same as above, there are factors, which if they do not change, would result in the child being sexually abused.
  • Medical Neglect—The child has a diagnosable condition that the parents will not treat.

ItWDo you work mostly with children or their parents?
Social Worker— The focus is to ensure the children’s safety and setting them up to thrive while they are in foster care. Our role with the parents is to be a help as they complete court ordered classes that we choose for them.

ItWDo you speak another language? If so, have you ever used it in dealing with your clients?
Social Worker— I am bilingual but have not taken the test to use that gift in this work. The liability is very high if you make a mistake.

ItWWhat kinds of cases have been your most difficult?
Social Worker—Sexual abuse and physical abuse are the most difficult cases to work at the onset. The cases are hard on the children and they are also hard to gauge when trying to work with parents who want their children back in their care. Part of the social worker’s job is to track behavior changes and not just assessing that parents complete services. 

ItWAre you able to follow up people you've invested in, or do they go somewhere else in the system?
Social Worker—I work in foster care unit that focuses on cases where children can be reunified. My unit tends to be connected with the same families six months at a time.

ItWBeing a committed Christian, how does this affect your work and ministry?
Social Worker—If you do not believe that justice and mercy are extended past the systems that we work in, then I am not sure how you continue to give people hope. As much as I may try to give hope to people through resources and connections, it is limited, and it fails. If you don’t have a belief that one day all things will be made right, it is incredibly hard to work with the poor and the abused.

ItWSince you work for the State, are you able to share Christ with those you're counseling?
Social Worker—You cannot openly promote any religious preference/belief system. You can engage with terms like, “Do you have a faith based support system you can ask for help?” I am a social worker in the South. Religion and belief in God comes up often since it is cultural. This has opened doors to talk about God.

ItWCan you share what brings you joy in your job?
Social Worker—I love being involved in protecting children and keeping them safe. I love seeing their physical, emotional, and mental wounds heal. I also love supporting the parents/guardians who have never had the opportunities that the middle and upper classes enjoy.

ItWIn closing, how would you like other Christians to pray for you and those of you in Social Services who are Christians helping needy people?
Social Worker—It's extremely daunting to be involved in working in trauma every day. The story lines we hear and the cases we work with are not the “norm” for most people. It is easy to forget that justice will come. It's important to remember the extent of people’s pain and suffering.

ItWThank you so much for your insights. I hope that my readers will be challenged with the needs of hurting children and families and will be reminded to pray for those who are abused and neglected. Thank you for being the kind of social worker who truly cares. We appreciate the work you do.

Then were there brought unto him (Jesus) little children,
that he should put his hands on them, and pray:
and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said,
Suffer little children, and forbid them not,
to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
 (Matthew 19:13-15)