Grace Michaelson

When Christianity Becomes the Problem

Apr
20

As you have seen on my blog many times, I am a strong follower of the Christian God.  I believe He created me, loves me, sent His Son to die for me, and lives to have personal relationships with us.  Why He does all this blows my mind when I consider how unimportant I am in the grand scheme of the world we live in.  However, He does and I am continually amazed.

Having said that, I don’t know how to feel about the American Christian Church.  I think we’re airing our crap in a way that is breaking God’s heart.  Even “our crap” is not in line with Scripture:

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

John 8:3-11, “As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.  “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”  They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Mark 2:17, “When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Unfortunately, the American Church has become a group of Pharisees that feel like they can pass judgement on other people’s issues and not worry about their own sin.  Why do I say that?  I say that because of the many people I have met who have been pushed away from the church because we choose strict adherence to a set of rules we have created, not God.  Where is love?  Where is grace?  Where is truth tempered with the knowledge that we’ve all made a mess of our lives, so who are we to pass judgement?

You may be saying to me as you read, well you’re passing judgement.  Your passing judgement on the Christian Church.  No I’m not.  The truth is I know that I’ve done this very same thing more times that I want to admit.  I’ve passed judgement on other’s personal problems, I have gossiped, I have slandered.  It all breaks my heart.  Who am I? who is the Christian Church? Why do we feel the need to categorize sin? Why must we ostracize the very people God has sent us to go into the world and bring into the church?  We’re giving God, our God, a very bad name.

So what is the answer?  Because I know that truth is important and it needs to be spoken.  Sometimes truth does not feel good to say.  Just like this blog post is so difficult for me to write.  I think we need to go back to where are identity is supposed to be.  Is our identity Judge, Jury, and Executioner?  Or is our identity to be Jesus’ Disciples.  As Jesus Disciples, what is the path to take?  What did Jesus do?  He walked with sinners.  He talked to sinners.  Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  The women at the well was an adulterer, James and John had tempers, Peter had a big mouth.  Did Jesus show any signs of passing judgement or putting on a holier than thou attitude because we haven’t sinned “as bad” as the rest.

What about God the Father?  What does he do?  He puts a prostitute, a foreigner, an adulterer into the lineage of Jesus.  What?! How can this be?  He was and is showing us by example that His Grace trumps.  Does that mean we only show mercy and never speak truth?  No.  However, when truth must be spoken, it must be spoken in grace and love.  You can speak truth if you really know the person.  You can’t speak the truth if your walk with God isn’t in the right path.  You can speak truth if your heart is to help the person.  You can’t speak the truth if in your heart all you want to do is rub their nose in the dirt.

I know that the basic truth is that most Christians mean well.  They’re not out to be brutes or Pharisees.  The mistakes we make come out of a heart that wants to please God.  However, it is still a truth that meaning well is not good enough.  We have to do our best to also do well.  The way we do well is balance our lives like God has done, in-between grace and truth.  It is hard.  However, it is the right thing to do.

In closing I’m going to share again a favorite quote of mine.  Theadore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Are you joining us in the arena?  Or are you just a critic?

Identity

Mar
25

I did a little cleaning on my site. I decided I have spent too much of my life obsessing over medical stuff – especially when it pertains to me. I took on an identity that was not the identity my God had for me. It consisted of all my post-cancer fears, all my medical labels, times of good interchanges with medical professionals – and bad ones.

Recently I read a book that has nothing to do with medicine, but I took away from it this quote:  “Every person in one way or another needs to exchange a false identity he or she has created for an identity in the risen Christ. Saying we’re a disciple and a [fill in the blank] creates a big problem. At the level of our fundamental identity, we are a disciple only.” Caleb Koltenbach

What this author has discovered, and what I’m discovering is that my identity is in the Lord and what he’s making me into. I am not mentally ill and a Disciple of Christ. I’m not any of my illnesses. I am separate from anything the world would like to label me. My identity is in Christ – His Disciple. That’s the only thing I am.

After beginning to realize this, I find myself asking why I’m hanging on to these false identities. I realized there is a new road to experience that is free from those false identity’s shackles. So I’m trying to mindfully refocus on who Christ made me to be.

I’m not talking about something like multiple personalities. There will always be me, just Kari.  Inside me there is not living Carmon, Karly, or Doug.  I am Kari and my personality will always be that. What I am talking about is identity, not personality.  Identity is what you, the personality, chooses to identity as – through action, culture, and beliefs.

I choose to identify as Christ’s Disciple and weed out any false identity  wanting to displace who that is and is becoming in me.  What’s your identity?

 

Who Owns the Bad Stuff?

Sep
14

As I was writing in my journal last night, I began to realize that what I was writing was the beginning of a good blogpost.  It is, in fact, a truth that people struggle with all. the. time.  Who takes ownership when bad things happen to good people?  Some of us take ownership ourselves.  Some of us try to make God own it.  Some of us force the ownership on other people.  Sometimes the ownership does belong to ourselves or other people.  Like if a person steals from you, then ownership belongs to the person who took from you. If you’re late too work too many times and you get yourself fired, then the ownership belongs to you.  What I’m talking about here, though, is about bad things that happen because we live in a world that is broken because Adam & Eve chose to break it when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Bad things that no one can own–like a natural disaster, a death of a desperately wanted baby, or; like in my case, the injury of an innocent baby that left a child scarred for life.

Let me tell you Caleb’s story:

Caleb is now 16 years old.  He is well-adjusted, smart as a whip, and dreams big dream.  He doesn’t let anything stop him.  He believes he can do anything anyone else can do.  He has a Totally Involved Left Sided Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Injury.  What that means is that he has paralysis in his left arm and part of the left side of his face (Horner’s Syndrome), and it happened during his birth (Obstetrical verses Traumatic).

I remember his birth as clearly as it was yesterday:

There came a moment when the doctor said, “Uh-oh, we have a problem!”

Michael remembers looking down at Caleb and seeing that his head and neck were out, his cord was rapped around his neck, and that the cord was white because it was pinched off and not giving Caleb the life-giving fluid he needed to get through the rest of his birth.

The nurse called, “Code Pink!”, and the room filled with more people than I could even count.

Some were up on the gurney with me, some were holding my legs.  The doctor had three minutes to get my son out before he passed away.  Nurses were pushing on my belly.  I was screaming in pain, even though I had an epidural.  My husband was bending over me trying to calm me down.

I kept screaming, “God please help Caleb.  Don’t let my Caleb die!”

Then the two and a half minutes were done.  He was out.  No sound came from my baby.  His first Apgar scores were so low.  Then came a soft cry and I knew he was alive.  The neonatal doctor came over to my bed and leaned over with Caleb in his arms.

“I have to take him, but here he is.  There is something wrong with his face and arms.  Otherwise, we think he’ll make it,” He said, then he was gone.

I turned to Michael and said, “Go!  Go with him.”

I was left wondering what had happened, shivering from loss of blood, and my body broken.  Later I found out that I would need extensive surgery to repair my pelvic floor.  So who owns this tragedy?  I could blame the doctor, and yet my son is alive because of her quick thinking.  The truth is I spent a long while after Caleb’s birth blaming God.  How could He allow such a bad thing happen to an innocent baby?  I slowly came around to the truth that God was not to blame.  The truth is that He was instrumental in delivering my son from his death, or even brain damage due to oxygen starvation, or Cerebral Palsy, or many other possibilities that could have come out of a birth like that.  God, when allowing bad things to happen to His servants, always puts boundaries around those bad things.

Then I turned my attention to myself.  I blamed my body.  It became apparent that I had never dilated to a full 10.  Doctor’s could never explain why, saying only that I must have had a “man-like” pelvis.  So I told myself that I had injured Caleb.  I told myself I somehow controlled my womb and my pelvis and it was my fault.  Do you see how silly I was?  I had no control over this situation.  Only last month I finally found out the exact truth of why Caleb was injured.  Through the advancement of the last 16 years, we have a new CT method that shows a clearer picture.  They were able to see my pelvis and womb and found that I have both a tilt and a heart shape uterus, making it impossible for me to ever be able to dilate to 10.  The truth is, that if Joshua my oldest, had been only a few ounces bigger, he too would have been injured or possibly would have died at birth.  God, instead of doing something bad to our family, did many good things.  He has allowed our children to be alive and only allowed the worst to be a disabled arm that doesn’t even stop Caleb from doing anything he wants to do.

I would love to be able to assign blame for every bad thing that happens to me.  It feels like closure.  It feels then like it has purpose.  The truth is, though, as I have worked through the realization that there is no ownership to be given to anyone in the case of Caleb’s injury, I have also come to realize that there is no less purpose in bad situations that happen to people where ownership can’t be established.  Things that happen to us find their purpose when we allow God to do His thing in us.  That’s when the tragedies of our lives start to become purposeful and have true meaning–when God makes them into something for His glory and honor.

The Bible says that our world is broken and waiting for the renewal of creation.  Romans 8:18-22 says, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  Someday God will fix His creation and there will be no more of this brokenness and sorry.  We can look forward to that day.  Until that day, we can find solace in knowing that we can trust God to give purpose to the things that don’t seem to make sense or that no one can own.  Bad things just happen to good people sometimes.  That’s just the world we live in.  That’s why we look to the future.

Revelations 21:3-4, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

 

Humility & Self-Esteem

May
19

As a Christian I am familiar with a few Christian buzz words that we all learn to either adore or abhore.  Two of those words are “humility” (to adore) and self-esteem (to abhore).  They are complete opposites in the Christian faith and they are both treated as appositional to each other.  A true Christian, it is believed, can’t be humble without being self-deprecating.  Self-esteem preaches the idea that you aren’t self-deprecating, right?  That you actually choose to accept and love yourself for who you are created to be and who you are.  Humility, it is believed, comes from the verses such as:

Luke 9:23. “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me”

James 4:10, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Humility is honored, Self-esteem is put down and made fun of.  I have spent years being confused and disturbed by the teachings of humility that I have gotten in my past.  If humility is truly self-deprecation, then why does God put such emphasis in Scripture about giving people gifts of the Spirit and having us use such gifts?  He obviously wants to use us in His Kingdom and use our strengths.  I doubt he wants us to worry about how we word what we say or how we say things, such as:

“I am gifted to write, by the grace of God…”

Just because we say “by the grace of God”, doesn’t change the fact that we said what we are gifted in or make us less or more humble.  I think it’s OK that I can acknowledge my gift of writing.  I also don’t think God needs me to play the game of adding a “humble add-on” like “by the grace of God” because it’s already a given that everything comes from God and everything can be taken away in a moment’s notice.  I could have a freak accident where I lose my arms and then my writing is gone, right?

Humility is knowing and understanding that our gifts are there to be used by God, but that they can be removed at a moments notice and being OK with that that truth.  Can you be OK with that truth?  Can I?  The trick is holding everything with hands palms up and fingers flat.

It’s OK to accept yourself, to even know that you’re “good enough”.  After all, God felt you were worth it enough to come down as Jesus to die on the cross for your sins in order to establish a relationship with you.  Self-esteem, with the latter thought in mind, is not so bad, is it?  Self-esteem with the thought that everything and everyone should look at you and keep you in mind as the next best thing to the Prince of Peace is not OK, of course.  Balance is the key.  Keeping in mind why we are good enough is a good idea. Knowing that we don’t have to play mind games or word games is also OK.  Christian Lingo needs to go and we need to just be ourselves.  The “ourselves” that God was OK with coming down to Earth to save because He loves us dearly.

James 4:10 is about being humble when we are confessing our sins, if we look at the whole passage.  It’s so easy to look at one verse and take a concept and twist it.  We must look at the whole passage to find the truth of the scripture.

Luke 9:23 is talking about sacrifice in the midst of service for the kingdom.  It has to do with the “open hands” concept that I spoke of earlier.  Although it does speak of humility, I believe, it’s not speaking of self-deprecation.  Self-deprecation is never spoken of in scripture.  That is a worldly concept that is a replacement the devil brought in to confuse and deceive Christians in order to side-line us and make us not useful for the Kingdom of God.

So the next time you feel tempted to be self-deprecating in the place of humility.  Remember who you are in Christ.  Remember your gifts God has given you and try a little honoring of those gifts God gave you– not with word games– just with honest honor to the gift God gave you.  Yes, it’s OK.

Open Hands & Open Heart

Apr
13

My husband is at this very moment going off to Lullaby Land under the Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital Anesthesiology Team’s capable hands.  While we were waiting in the tiny pre-op room they housed us in before Michael’s surgery, it became very apparent who was nervous about the surgery- and it wasn’t my husband.  He should have been the one who was scared, having never been under a knife, or under anesthesia, in his whole life, but it was me that was a nervous wreck!  I supposed I could pull the Anxiety Disorder Card as an excuse and chalk it up as that as to why I’m so nervous.

I think it’s the fact that he and I have swapped places for the first time in our 19 almost 20 years of marriage and it is uncomfortable to both of us.  He is so used to being the one out here in the waiting room waiting for the surgeon to come out and give him the report, and I’m so used to being the one going off to Lullaby Land.  After 8 surgeries with that being the case, Michael and I have just learned how to dance our parts, so to speak.  Now the rhythm of the dance has changed, and this girl feels like she’s got two left feet.

The Strong One is now one, the one that never shows any weakness, can’t even lean down and pick up a sock without major pain.  So it is time to go in and fix that shoulder.  After 12 years of refusing to pay the piper, he’s got to give in to weakness, and Kari has to play the Caregiver’s part and dig deep and be the strong one.  Can she do it?  Of course she can.  Is she a nervous wreck?  Of course she is.  The person that has been by her side unwaveringly for 19 years is laying on the surgery table right now for the first time.  So, yeah, I’m a little nervous.

Yet, I have a secret that helps me dig deep and draw on a Strength that enables me to be there for my wonderful strong husband during this time when he needs me most.  The strength of Our Father in Heaven.

Psalm 105:4-5a, “Search for the Lord and for His strength; continually seek Him.  Remember the wonders He has performed, His miracles, and the rulings He has given, you children of His servants.”

Psalm 31: 14, “But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, ‘You are my God!’  My (my husband’s) future is in your hands!”

Psalm 118:21, “I thank You for answering my prayer and giving me victory!”

Philippians 4:4, “Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say again- Rejoice!  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”

Well, well, look at the time.  Just talked to the Doc and all is well.  Michael’s shoulder is all fixed and he’ll be in less pain now that he was before the procedure.  What was I worried about again? Haha.

Anxiety and God’s Peace

Nov
16

As I have shared in many of my posts, I have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is not something that I fool around with. I hate the feeling completely. It’s an out-of-control feeling in the pit of my throat and upper chest that tells me that I am deeply, deeply afraid of where I find myself and what my circumstances are. My heart beats above 100 beats a minute resting and I have to take extra breaths or my head will start to spin and I will feel like I’m going to faint. My hands tremble and I can see “those looks” coming from people around me because I look anything but normal when I’m fighting panic. Have any of you tried to pretend you are perfectly OK while fighting back waves upon waves of panic for no reason at all? This is just part of what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a very read disorder. It’s not something you should deny or “just live with” or try to spiritualize and blow off. So what I’m going to share, though it may seem like I’m “blowing off anxiety”, I want to forward with a warning. If you haven’t sought help and gotten the physical part of your anxiety disorder dealt with, this post is not for you. This post is for people who have dealt with the physical aspect of their anxiety-are on medication that is replacing the hormones their body can not make on its own, or are taking medication to suppress the hormones they are making too much of.

After you have that medication on board, it’s time to deal with the bad habits your left with as a result of your brain having been broken (having too little or too much of the hormones that caused your panic/anxiety disorder.) All of us are left with residual effects, no matter what your mental illness might be. That is why it’s so important to add counseling, spiritual growth, and exercise to your regimen of healing.

So, lately my life has been very stressful. I have been very ill and one of my children has been very ill. We are both headed to Mayo tomorrow, in fact, to get checked out and hopefully diagnosed. This has caused some of my bad habits in the anxiety disorder to rear their ugly head. So I took some steps:

I immediately informed my psychiatrist that I was having trouble with my anxiety again. He was able to adjust some of my PRN meds to be able to get me through the next couple of weeks that will be stressful.
2. I decided to take steps in my spiritual walk. I found verses to encourage me that talked about walking in obedience to the Lord in regards to anxiety. I want to share with you some of the verses so that you can be encouraged, too. Philippians 4:4-8, Psalm 139:23-24, 1 Peter 5:6-7, John 16:33, Philippians 4:11-13.

The biggest thing I have learned about anxiety is that it can be beat by obedience to Christ and prayer. Pretty much all those verses above are either talking about casting your anxiety on Christ, or are about someone praying and casting their anxiety on Christ. That is where we must obey. We must cast our anxiety on Christ in obedience and ask him to replace that anxiety with His Peace as we pray and thank him for His answers in regards to what we were afraid about.

We can be set free from being victims to our fears. We can be victorious.

Thankless Job

Sep
10

Today I was at the local hospital picking up something at the pharmacy. An older gentlemen named Burt was there to open the door for me. I said, “Hi, Burt, how are you?” Then I stopped and waited for his answer. He became very confused and asked me, “Who are you?”

I realized that he was used to people not saying his name and just calling out a speedy “Thank you,” if that, or maybe a “Hi” as they sped off to their appointment in the building. He was anonymous. To have someone acknowledge his name, ask him a personal question, and wait for the answer was abnormal. Of course, I’m pretty abnormal anyway, so that doesn’t bother me.

This post has come out of that experience. I realized that that meant a lot to him when I left. He patted me on the back as he opened the door for me and he told me in a gentle voice, “You go and have a really nice day.” I’m asking myself how many people have thankless jobs like Burt? They open the doors for people invisibly, or park people’s cars invisibly, or check people in to the hospital or doctor’s visits invisibly. They have name tags, but their names are never acknowledged. They are invisible, but invaluable.

Take the street sweeper: what would happen if they stopped cleaning our streets? Yet, instead of waving, many of us curse them. What would happen if people stopped repairing the roads? Yet we curse road work every day for being inconvenient. How about the next time you inch by the road workers you give them a smile and a wave? Or what about the fast food worker? We’d never get our Big Mac with Extra Fries if some invisible worker wasn’t flipping burgers behind the counter. What about the person wearing the name tag sitting in front of you checking you into your next doctor’s appointment? What if you had to check yourself in with an automated system instead of seeing her smiling face? What is her name anyway?

What would happen if you read the front desk lady/man’s name tag at your next appointment and said, “Hi, _____, my name is _____, I’m here to see _______. How are you?” Then wait for their response. I guarantee you will get either suspicion or shock the first time, but if you continue (if you’re a regular) they will begin to look forward to seeing you because you are a spot of kindness in their lives. It’s time for us to be aware of people around us and start listening to hear them instead of listening to respond to them.

True kindness and acknowledgment of people’s presence seems to be the thing of the past these days. Yet, couldn’t it make a return? This post is for all of you who feel your job is invisible and unimportant. Just think what would happen if you weren’t there? The office, street, sidewalk, electricity, sewer, or whatever you are doing, would be an absolute mess right now! You are important! I acknowledge your name and your importance today. How are you? I hope you go and have a really nice day.

Women in Burkas

Apr
01

I recently had a debate with someone who I thought was a Christian and a friend. This person said she was offended at women wearing burkas because she felt that the Muslim population of the United States were here to take over the United States and that they were going to use their women and children to bomb us. I cannot tell you how shocked I felt. I truly want to believe that she is one of very few Christians who believe this about Muslim women, but unfortunately there were several people on the Social Network we were on that agreed with her.

I am sure that we have several terrorist burrows who would gladly use men, women, or children to get their way to destroy America. After all extreme Muslims have never been shy about letting people know that that is their goal. Having said that, I still strongly feel that the racists comments made by this women should not be spread far, because not every Muslim person is an extremist. Now, I am not someone who is a fool and is going to be like our politicians are doing and make foolish remarks in order to supposedly pacify the Muslim population here in the United States. But neither do I feel that the average Muslim takes those foolish remarks to heart and accepts them.

This is what I do feel, I feel the average Muslim Women is suffering and brainwashed and she hardly knows it. Let me educate the Christian Populous about the suffering of Muslim Women. Their men are constantly holding them hostage. If one of them gets raped in one of their countries, the rape victim gets tried and put to death, not the rapist. If they are here in America and they are raped, the family will often take care of killing them.

Most often then not, they are forced to marry a very old man when they are a young teen, just after they start ovulating. Their only purpose in life, per Muhammed, is to make children for their husband. Their husband is allowed to marry four times. They are required to hide their whole bodies to any other man. If one of them accidentally shows off their wrist to another man, and their husband chooses to get jealous, he can have her killed.

Americans think it’s just simple to remove their Burkas and defy their husbands and family, but any kind of defying done by a women is usually an instant death sentence. Even here in America. Very rarely are they caught, too, because the family will hide who has done the killing and shield any evidence from investigators.

The culture surrounding a Muslim family is a shame culture. If someone, for instance becomes a Christian, then you shame the whole family. You, at best, will be shunned by your whole family, and at worst, someone will be sent to kill you. In a shame culture you must comply at the upmost to do what the father says to do.

Has there been women and children used to bomb people. Yes. But do we need to relinquish our heart of compassion for these women locked away in this culture of shame and trapped away from freedom just because we’ve read some articles on some website full of sensationalism, or listened to some sensationalistic video? Absolutely not! Jesus said we are to love one another and pray for those who are suffering. We are to have compassion for the hurting. It is the ultimate of selfishness to forget what Christianity is about. What did Jesus do? He was there to reach out to those who needed Him the most. And he loved them. He did not judge them.

With Obama doing all the stuff that he is doing to create fear and division so that he can get his agenda done in the government, I know that it’s easy to lose sight of this. We can’t do that, though. We have to remember why God left us here. What our job is, ultimately, here on Earth. Don’t let Satan blind you because of the fearful things going on here in America. We are here to bring people to Christ. And we don’t do that by spewing hurtful, hateful lies wherever we are.