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A life worth living.

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That one time when I took a screaming kid to church.

screaming kid

Phillipians 2:9-11

“9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

I took a very restless and wiggly child to a baptism service a few weeks ago.  I should mention that in addition to being restless and wiggly, she is also slightly troubled. On a daily basis she is prone to outbursts of anger and frustration that can explode into fits of rage and shouting.  I don’t know what I was thinking as we sat in the second row.

And then it happened.  A young man got up to share his testimony and the word “No!” bubbled out of her as if it had been waiting for that exact moment.  She began to wiggle and kick the seat in front of her.  The “No’s” spilling out louder and faster as the speaker continued with his testimony.

I knew any attempt to move her out of that seat would result in a louder scene, all I could do was squeeze her into a tight hug and rub her back.   And as quickly as the outburst occurred, it stopped.  She was perfectly still.  The speaker finished his testimony and the church clapped with joy to witness another baptism.  Speaker two stepped up to the plate.  In the excitement of the baptism I had missed my exit opportunity.

Armed with fruit snacks, I was determined prevent another outburst with a sugary distraction.  However, the child shocked me when she looked into my eyes and yelled, “Shush, your wrapper is too loud, I can’t hear!”

What?!?  My wrapper?  This is to keep you quiet, kid.  But I didn’t need it.  I didn’t need the fruit snacks.  She was perfectly still listening to the testimonies of believers.  She was caught up in the gospel and didn’t need any distractions.  The power of the gospel had literally silenced her rage.  It was one of the most powerful scenes I have ever witnessed.

The enemy determined to silence believers, using this young child as his pawn.  And in the end, he was silenced.  He couldn’t use her.  She was caught up in the power of the gospel and neither the devil nor sugary fruit snacks would keep her from hearing it.

Oh how often we forget the power of the gospel.  How often we forget the power of Jesus name.  I can honestly tell you, I will never forget the day I took a screaming kid to church and watched first hand the power of both.

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

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Come and I will share with you our story

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

This week we received the greatest of gifts.  Our daughter Jennifer responded to an alter call and asked to be baptized.  We honestly couldn’t wrap our minds around it until we heard her testimony.  You see, we have been in battle for Jennifer’s salvation since she walked into our lives at nine years old.  When Jennifer became our daughter, she had already spent half her childhood in trauma and chaos.  She was hardened, willful, and most of all wounded.  We knew that the key to her healing was salvation.  But Jennifer was not interested.  She was a self-admitted hater of God.

It is no easy task to be at constant war in your home.  To watch Satan lie to and control your precious daughter.  She was so wounded by the sins of others she could not see the power of Jesus to defeat that sin.  It was wrapped around her so tight, choking and stealing her very life.

But we were not helpless.  2 Corinthians 10:4 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”  And so we fought.  Our church family rallied around us, praying constantly for our daughter.  We changed jobs, minimized expenses, and spent as much time as we could at home with her.  These were very long days and very sleepless nights.

And in the blink of an eye it happened.  Jesus spoke through the words of a stranger and in that instant  those “strongholds” that were suffocating our daughter were demolished and turned to rubble.  It is a miracle.  And when you see a miracle you praise God.  It is the only response.  There are no other words.  All these years in constant battle and He has come and saved the day.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow…

Below is Jennifer’s testimony.  I hope it will lead many to turn and praise God.

When I was a baby, I was baptized in a Catholic church. But I didn’t know what that meant until I met my mom and dad while living at a group home. One Sunday morning they took me and my sister to this church where I heard about Jesus dying for us on the cross to save us. I also heard other amazing stories about Him. I wanted to tell everyone about Him. One day my mom got a call from the hospital. They told us that my brother Tony fell down the stairs. The only thing keeping his lungs going was a machine. I broke into tears, it felt like a nightmare. That day my brother died.  Everything fell apart after my brother died. I felt like it was my fault. I got into trouble at school. I started hanging out with people that did drugs.  So my parents took me out of school.  They put me in counseling. But the counseling didn’t help.

But everything changed after this youth group trip to Magic Mountain. It was last Sunday that I heard this guy talking about how his father died and how he hated God but then later became a Christian. In that moment everything changed. I realized that the story he told us, was the life I was living in. I had hatred toward  God because my brother died, even though it wasn’t His fault. That day I cried, because I saw that everything God did was for my good and my family. In that moment I also had so much love for Him and joy because I knew my brother was with God and that he is taking care of me. So on that Sunday I decided to give my life to God and to change my ways, to start all over again as a follower of God and to see what he has planned for my life.

Ephesians 1:5-8

In love [e]He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the[f]kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In [g]Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He [h]lavished on [i]us.

Let’s talk about sex…

The other day my husband and I were discussing Christianity and sex.  A little Google search revealed there are too few helpful resources in the blogosphere on the topic.  Granted, this is an issue that Christian authors have definitely written about.  There are a myriad of books to choose from, but I didn’t want to sit down and read a book.  I was just looking for a good article or blog.  Having been left unsatisfied with my internet search, I decided to start my own blog series on sex.

Christianity and Sex

We live in a world obsessed with sex.  This is nothing new and will never change.  We were designed with an innate will and desire to have sex.  It is an intentionally created part of us that will always be expressed in one form or another.  That’s not the problem.

The problem comes with our sinful nature.  Sin separates us from God and mares His design.  Something that is good and a part of us becomes twisted and abused.  Something God designed for good, man takes and destroys.

But there is a bigger problem.  You see, God designed sex.  God created us to have sex.  And you know what?  The church has largely said “no thank you” and handed it to the world.  We let the world define and talk about sex while most Christians treat the topic as taboo.

The Result

The result is a body of sexually silent or deprived believers and a world that is playing with a gift they don’t understand and can’t fully comprehend.  This leads to a complete misunderstanding of sex and sexuality.

Pornography is a perfect example.  On the one hand, many people derive their sexual standards from content in pornography, and if their sex life doesn’t compare with these artificially epic levels, they feel they are missing the mark.  On the other hand, many Christians are rightly disgusted by the industry and don’t want their sex life to look anything like it.

This has caused many believers to wrongly associate pleasurable aspects of sex with being worldly.  Rather than approaching Scripture and defining what is acceptable for the marital bedroom, the Church has allowed the world to corrupt their beliefs of sex, and to believe that many pleasurable aspects of sex must be sinful because they are reminded of pornography or sex in media.

This thinking destroys the gift of sex, which married couples were meant to enjoy.

The Solution

So what role should the church play in this? The church is already diligently working to help people understand the dangers of pornography and sexual sin, but that is only one side of the solution.  The church must also start to converse about what a truly healthy sex life looks like.

I mean a real conversation, not one that only promotes abstinence until marriage.  One that teaches how totally exciting and thrilling it is to have just one partner to share your sex life with.  A new movement that tells people the truth about sex.  The real truth.

The truth that if you’re a Christian, you have the tools and resources to have the very best sex life possible.  Why?  Because sex was designed by God, and therefore can be most fully understood by His people.  The world should look at Christian couples and see the best example of a healthy, pleasurable, and complete sex life.  The world should be looking into Christian blogs and forums, wondering what it is makes our sex lives so complete.

And what makes our sex lives so complete?  A personal relationship with God and understanding His Scriptures.  This leads to true understanding of His perfect love and selflessness, which is then expressed in all aspects of our relationships and marriages.  Christ will be glorified by His Church talking about and biblically defining sex, which will also reveal truths about His character to the world.

The world will remain largely ignorant, and believers will remain largely conflicted, if we refuse to talk about sex.  So Christian, let’s talk about it…

A Christian’s Response to Abortion

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A Christian’s response to abortion
I’ve been wrestling with this for some time.  I’ve always abstractly fought against the normalization of abortion.  High school and college afforded many opportunities to speak about the issue. 
As I’ve matured, I’ve grown restless with “speaking” about the issue.  Speaking is a very nominal way to build awareness.  I don’t want nominal, I want radical.  I don’t want to just have someone consider the realities; I want to take actions that change norms.  Changing the norms of our society will save lives.  Lives of babies, lives of mothers, lives of families. 
Picketing has been the standard approach for the pro-life movement.  While this might raise awareness that there is an issue, this does not solve the problem.  1.2 million abortions take place in this country each year because a woman does not want, or is unable to care for a child.   
So the church is approached with two issues.  The issue of want and the issue of need.  And low and behold, the church is fully equipped to deal with both.  God has given the Christian every resource to deal with this issue, so Christian, let’s deal with it. 
The issue of want:
An American woman is not raised in a society that values children. Children are not considered a blessing, they are considered a burden.  They cost time, money, energy, and more than likely your youth.  The very treasures Americans are taught to obtain, value, and hoard.  
I dare to say even the American Christian has fallen into this twisted thinking.  Psalm 127:3 tells us that “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.”  I can tell you I’ve seen many a Christian woman cry when she received that “unexpected” gift from the Lord. 
It is an emotional reaction that is soon replaced by the truth of a child.  But those emotions are a result of living in such a society.  A society that emphasizes the cost of a child, not the blessing.  And ironically, is more than wealthy enough to pay the cost.
This takes us to our next issue. 
The issue of need:
Many woman face abortion because of need.   They just don’t have the resources.  So this is an important one Christian.  You cannot advocate pro-life and in the very next breath advocate to eliminate public assistance.  You don’t want the government involved?  Fine.  Then get out your checkbook and pay for it yourself.  Don’t lead a woman to choose life and then hand her the bill.  If you’re in this, you’re in this.  Start to finish.  It’s not one sided.  You can’t advocate life and then leave a girl hanging. 
She’s going to need you.  They are going to need you.  So yes, pro-life is going to cost.  It’s going to cost you your time, energy, money, and youth.  Goodness, not just your youth, your life.  This isn’t just a young man’s game.  This problem is meant for the whole church to solve.  Young to old.  On judgment day, no one is without excuse.  God will judge the couple or woman who chooses to abort, and He will also judge the Christian who stood by and watched them do it.  It’s time church.  It’s time to get up and move. 
Stopping Abortion:
Check your view on children.  Do you have an American view of family, or a Biblical view?  Changing society starts with the church.  We have the power, but are we using it?  Are we hoarding and restricting our blessings in the pursuit of time, money, energy, and youth? 
Do we value children?  Are we plugged in where the children are?  You don’t need a family to be responsible for this.  Children are a blessing, not just for a family but for a society.  Get into your society.  Treat your children like the blessing they are.  Plug in.  Share Christ.  Move the church. 
Are we helping women in need?  Are we going to the single mother, the struggling couple, and the broken family?  The time is not later, the time is now.  
Fighting abortion is a movement, an action, a call.  It doesn’t just start at a picket line or in a law office.  It starts with you, in your family, in your life, being the very hands and feet of Jesus that you were called to be.
Do something.  Change our society.  Change our view of children.  Show love to those in need.  Take care of the widowed and the orphaned.  Value children.  Value families. Do that and you will open the flood gates of God’s power to stop abortion in our country. 

 

Looking for opinions

I watched this video tonight and felt totally disturbed. It is produced by an anti-abortion group and documents their attempt to expose the truths of abortion.

Honestly, it just makes me feel very confused. When I was in school and learning about atrocities in history, I always envisioned myself as a player for justice. I pictured that I might be a part of the underground railroad or engaged in the fight to introduce child labor laws. I just knew in my young heart that I was too motivated by truth to not be a involved in justice.

So abortion leaves me feeling restless. I don’t think abortion is murder, I know it is murder. But when I look at these activists, my heart is not stirred to join the cause. Is this how we fight for life? Is this what advocacy and historical change looks like?

I’m honestly looking for opinions. Is my heart not stirred to this because there is another way? Or is this behavior bizarre to me because I am naive to the cost of change. Ignorant to what is required to move society.

And if there is another way, what is it? I don’t want to stand by as history plays out. I don’t want to be silent or do nothing. Any opinions?

The Gift of Adoption

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I just spent the day getting my daughter ready for her junior prom.  Moments like these are bittersweet for moms.  Shopping, nails, shoes, makeup, and hair are all on this mom’s list of favorites.  Watching your daughter combine all those activities and emerge looking less like a teen and more like a young woman, changes the dynamics.

As an adoptive mom it’s even a little harder.  Prom night is just another reminder that the time is slipping faster than I can savor it.  It’s another reminder that graduation and that 18th birthday are just around the corner.  It’s another reminder of all those missed moments that have led to this milestone event.

But it serves as another reminder too.  Seeing my daughter so beautiful and happy is just another bow on the gift of adoption.  We may have missed many moments, but the memories we’ve been a part of can’t compare to the ones we lost.

I wasn’t there the day she was born.  I wasn’t there when she took her first steps or said her first words.  I missed the first day of kindergarten and the chance to teach her to ride a bike.  But I was there today.  Today I helped my daughter get ready for prom.  And it reminds me that the moments missed just can’t compare to the memories made.  And that my friends, is the gift of adoption.

The Power of a Touch

The Power of a Touch.

A Case for Homeschooling

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If you have children, you may have considered (or are considering) homeschool.  If you don’t have children, you may just be curious about those odd families who do school at the kitchen table.  At either rate, this post was written by a guest blogger who shares some important thoughts when reflecting on this issue.  

A Case for Homeschooling by Randi Brunansky 
  Randi is a graduate of Wichita State University with a BA in communications.  More importantly, she is the mother to four amazing and squirrely kids ages 1 to 6 and has made the brave choice to homeschool.

Our oldest daughter is in the last few weeks of her first grade year, and our second daughter is finishing preschool.  Unlike a majority of their peers, their schoolteacher is their mom. We sit at the kitchen table to have spelling tests. We do science experiments on the back patio. I change diapers, mediate play, and fix meals in between teaching addition, subtraction, and reading. My kids have no category for school bells, homework, large classrooms, and daily hours away from home.

My husband and I both attended public school and have our bachelor degrees from state universities.   Homeschooling wasn’t even on the radar for us when we got married. 

 I had heard homeschooling was on the rise in the United Sates, but according to this study, the number of children from kindergarten through 12thgrade who are being homeschooled has grown by 75% since 1999!  Why are so many more families making this choice?

To understand our decision, and perhaps the motivation of some other Christian families joining the homeschooling ranks, I think it’s best to start with a list of reasons that did not motivate us to homeschool. 

  1. We are not homeschooling our children because we are afraid of exposing them to sin and think we can shield them from it if we keep them home with us. Adam and Eve were tempted in God’s perfect garden at a time in their lives when God Himself was walking with them. We would be fools to think that we could protect our kids from sin in our less than perfect home with less than perfect parents.
  2. We are not homeschooling our children because we believe it’s sinful to put them in school. It’s a preference.
  3. We are not homeschooling our children because we think we can make them Christians by educating them ourselves. Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit, not the work of homeschooling parents (Titus 3:5). 
  4. We are not homeschooling our children because we think it’s non-stop fun and easy.  If we only did what was fun and easy, we probably wouldn’t homeschool.
  5. We are not homeschooling our children because of the poor test scores of our nation.  Having the opportunity to teach mastery of subject to our children is a perk of homeschooling, but not the reason we do it.

So why did we choose homeschooling?  

 Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

In our nation’s quest for tolerance, God is not only ignored in the school system, He is attacked or dismissed. Children are taught that they make their own truth.  One’s religion and one’s academic life are treated as separate entities with the mantra cry of our nation’s leaders “separation of church and state.”  

But for the Christian, there is no separation of church and state. Our faith is the lens by which we interpret the world around us and make all our decisions.  We clearly see in Proverbs 1:7 that God and knowledge are intertwined. God and academics are intertwined.

As a family, we see homeschooling as way to give our children an education that teaches them from the beginning that the science, math, art, and communication they are learning about are rooted in the characteristics of the God who created those subjects.

We have four children. We learned early on that we would not be able to afford private school for all four of our kids. I’m thankful it’s the path the Lord had for us. Teaching my girls (and one day my little boys) to read and to write, and the importance of these subjects related to studying the Bible have been the high of my mothering moments.

Homeschooling allowed me to teach my oldest about the Fertile Crescent and Confucius right along with the Creation account in the Bible and the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.  It wasn’t Sunday school and regular school, it was just school.

In the early years, we are seeking to build a solid foundation in the Word of God with our children’s education. Working them both out together. Our hope is to be able to put them in the public school system when the foundation has been laid, and watch them be a light for truth there.

The time we spend together, the fruitful discussions, the enjoyment over learning something new, the relationships of siblings being strengthened, the ability to go slower over challenging subjects, the freedom to do a mastery of a subject before moving on, the absence of peer pressure and bullying, are just some of the benefits we’ve experienced personally as a homeschooling family.

 These aren’t the reasons we made the decision to keep our children home.  They are unexpected benefits that make our choice sweeter. We chose homeschooling because it allows us the freedom to teach our children that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” on a daily basis. And that makes the work of teacher and mom worth it. 

 

 

 

The Devastation of Separation

I attended a conference today.  The conference highlighted research by the ACE Study.  Before I get to the heart and soul of this post, let me just throw some fast facts your way.

In a nutshell, your ACE score is calculated by the various types of adverse childhood experiences encountered while growing up.  The score is not per incident, but per category.

If you’re feeling brave, have a moment of self-reflection and find out your score here.  The categories are:

  1. Recurrent physical abuse
  2. Recurrent emotional abuse
  3. Contact sexual abuse
  4. An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
  5. An incarcerated household member
  6. Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
  7. Mother is treated violently
  8. One or no parents
  9. Emotional or physical neglect

According to the Center for Disease Control, as your ACE score increases, your risk for the following health problems increase dramatically:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • Liver disease
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy

As a worker in the social services, this research is of particular interest to me.  So as I sat and listened (getting totally bummed out b.t.w), I thought the information was fascinating, but now what?  How do I reduce these risks for people with high ACE scores?

The solution?  There really isn’t one.  Of course there were some panelists who gave great suggestions for our community and the legislators.  But the true reality that Dr. Vincent Felitti pointed out was that there has been no research conducted showing the efficacy of interventions on the health of those with high ACE scores……insert jaw drop here.

No one else on the panel wanted to touch that.  They politely interjected that there are great programs with great successes, but not ones that have been tested against this data.  (Enter moment of panic as I pictured the futures of my high-scoring loved ones).

Now it’s time to back up.  Programs are great.  Early intervention programs are critical.  Research is necessary.  But as Dr. Felitti pointed out, they’re not the cure.  And if we pretend they are, we are slapping a band-aid on a festering wound.

As a Christian in a secular culture, I have been very well indoctrinated that faith is to be kept separate from every other aspect of life.  Keep your faith out of school, government, health care, public opinion, and particularly research.  And as a student of history, I can point out many times when individuals have taken “faith” into these areas and run amuck with their personal agendas in the name of Christ.

But the devastation of this separation is band-aids for people in need of major surgery.  The gospel was not written for perfect, rich, individuals living in their castles.  The gospel was written for those individuals with high ACE scores.  It was written for the sick, for the dying, for the lost, for the lonely, for you, and for me (Matt. 9:12-13).

And the solution is not to create a “Christian” government or “Christian” programs, but rather for the church to rise up and share this truth with the people.  Rise up church.  Rise up Christian.  Because the reality is, if you know the truth about Jesus Christ, you have the truth that makes the power of an ACE score obsolete.

It is the power of Christ over sin.  Not only the power for you to overcome sin, but also to overcome the scars embedded by the sins of others.

Set that Truth free.  Don’t be afraid to share it.   Don’t separate it from the rest of your life.  The devastation of that separation is death, disease, and more devastation.  But the reality of the Truth is everlasting life and healing, in this life, or the next.

John 8:31-34

31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’

The truth about gay marriage and Christianity

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I was a little surprised last week when Facebook was flooded with the red bars for gay marriage equality.  Not surprised that it was being shared, but more surprised by who was sharing it.  Many people whom I know profess to follow God in one form of Christianity or another were changing their profile pics in support of gay marriage.  It seemed as though a serious line was being crossed.    

When I was in college I was approached to sign a petition to define marriage in the AZ constitution as between a man and a woman.  I declined the request.  I just felt the issue was too polarizing.  You had to either hate gay people or be liberal.  I felt like signing the petition put me on the side of hate.  So I did neither, I chose silence and called it love. 

The arguments I heard just weren’t enough to help me “choose” a side.  I don’t think America is a Christian nation so why should everyone have to pretend to be Christian?  If the majority wants gay marriage then let the majority have it. 

I now understand that my choice was misguided.  The truth is, God created and designed marriage (Gen. 2:22-24).  Not me, not you, not the forefathers, the constitution, or some ancient tribe.  God outlined marriage in the Bible and it is a Holy covenant (Malachi 2:10-17). 

We don’t have the right to redefine it.  And if you call yourself Christian, you should fear our country’s attempt to do so; not parade around with the movement and call it equality. 

I write this because I too have been so confused by the issue.  Many so-called Christians have taken homosexuality and made it the flagship for sin in America.  They spew hate and Bible verses side by side. 

I don’t stand with them, and I know if you were a Christian who changed your profile pic, you don’t either. 

So what are our choices?  Hate, equality, silence?  Or how about love?  It is out of love that I am not ashamed to say that marriage is between a man and a woman. 

Because if you have read any of your Bible, you know that God takes His covenants very seriously (Leviticus).  God’s Holiness is not a voting matter.  He will preserve His covenant.  And a country who chooses to attempt to distort that covenant and call it equality, is rushing into judgment (Hebrews 13:4).  That’s a judgment I want no part of.  It’s a judgment I don’t want anyone to have a part of. 

We don’t get to redefine marriage.  We can pass a law and pretend, but that law will have consequences.  It is not out of hate that we fight to preserve marriage, but it is truly and wholly out of love.