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?

Smart Phones & Children

Feb
20

Lately my feed on Facebook has been bombarded by articles stating that children should not be allowed “Smart” phones.  While I agree that some of the concerns mentioned in these articles are possibly true, today I’m going to spell out why I allow my children to have Smart Phones.

I actually was probably the first parent in Middle School to start having my children carry Apple Smart Phones.  I am very comfortable with my decision and, in fact, will upgrade my children’s phones usually when I upgrade.  (i.e. They get my old phone.)

My biggest concern regarding the articles I’ve read about not allowing your child a smart phone is that they completely and utterly ignore parent involvement.  If my child had the same privilege on his or her phone, then, of course, it would be a very bad thing.  However, the fact that you might just possibly be a good parent makes it less dangerous.  Here is why:

  1.  My children do not have free access to their Smart Phones.  This is because, as their parents, I have chosen to say to them, “I pay for this, therefore you use it my way.”  Instead of banning kids completely from smart phones because you don’t actually want to parent them is ridiculous.
  2. At least on the Apple Phones, and I’m assuming the other phones have this, too, there are settings and safe checks to keep your child from getting his or herself into danger with their smart phone.  For instance, when my children want to download something to their phone, their phone automatically requests me to approve or deny their request.  Over the years, I will ease up on the control I have over their phones, because eventually I want them choosing these right choices themselves and not relying completely on me for their moral convictions.
  3. There’s this wonderful app on Apple Phones called “Find my iPhone.”  When activated, I am allowed to track my children’s movements when they are not with me.  I can also “ding” their phone if they are refusing to call me or pick up their phone when I need to get ahold of them.  Many, many times this has saved me from worrying about my children because I know 1.) They will always bring their phone with them in this day and age,  2.)because I act like a parent and require them to let me know where they are going, I know when they’re not where they are supposed to be when I track their phone, and 3.)I am not afraid of embarrassing my child in front of all their friends by dinging their phone (a very loud an obnoxious ding that the whole world can here) if they’re not responding.
  4. What about porn, and the like, you say?  Again, being the parent you’re supposed to be covers this option, as well.  Yes, the “easier” rode of parenting means I just forbid my child from anything that would be potentially dangerous to them.  However, if we do that, we might as well just place them in a box, hammer it shut, and don’t let them out until they turn 18.  What does that kind of protection do?  It causes the child not to learn from any mistakes they make while they are under your control and can train them in the way they should go.  Immature adults is what you get from it.  People who have no idea how to make responsible choices, have no idea how to combat the temptations of the “real world”, and lastly, children who will rush out and do everything you told them not to do because they have no moral compass of their own and no idea what is right and what is wrong.  Does this mean I give them access to porn, and evil that they can’t handle?  Of course not.  All smart phones have apps that allow you to block porn and evil.  However, the truth is, whether you give them a “smart” phone or a “dumb” phone, if your child wants to get a hold of these things, they will.  All “dumb” phones are equipped with internet access now.  There really is no such thing, as a “dumb” phone as we understand it.  So be a parent and teach your child what’s right and what’s wrong so that they will make choices that make you proud.
  5. I want to emphasize what my husband and I have done to safe guard our children from predators.  In a day and age where human trafficking is all over the news, it is hugely important that we keep our kids safe from these types of predators.  So, the rules of our house are simple:  1.) You don’t go anywhere you haven’t told us your going, 2.) You are home before city curfew for minors, 3.) Michael and I don’t go to sleep until all our children are home and safe, 4.) We have a secret password that we tell anyone we send to pick up our children.  Over and over again I remind my children not to go anywhere with a stranger unless they have my password.  5.)Finally, we’re not afraid to embarrass our children.  Again, we track their phone, if they’re not where they’re supposed to be their phone gets “beeped” until they respond.  No normal child will leave their house without their phone.  Once we had one of our children turn off the tracking feature.  He was grounded from all his activities for a very long time.  I sense a theme in this post, do you?  Be a parent.
  6. As far as social interference that a “Smart Phone” may bring:  My children have time limits on when they can and cannot use their phone.  Not at the dinner table.  Not during family time.  Not after bed time.  These are simple rules that teach your child that it’s more important to give their family and friends face time, rather than spend their whole lives in the virtual world.  Another thing: my children don’t get on Social Media without “friending” or “following” me so that I have access to their feed.  I also have wonderful people in my children’s lives who I know will “tell on” them if they block me from viewing something.  It does “take a village” to protect your child in social media.
  7. I’m not afraid to ask for my children’s phones and look through their texts if I feel they’re not being wise with who they text.  I don’t think this needs more explanation– except that this rule applies whether you give your child a “smart phone” or a “dumb phone”.
  8. Final thing:  Take the phone away if it becomes a problem.  We have no qualms from removing temptation from our children until they show they can be responsible.  The line goes like this:  “You can have a smart phone until I feel it’s unsafe or unwise for you to have one.”  If you’re the parent you should be, then your children will realize that you mean business.

As you can see, I do not believe it’s the “smart phone” industry that is dangerous.  The danger lies in permissive and unwise parents who are unwilling to put up protective boundaries for their children.  In every part of our parenting, whether it’s phones or computers, or just whether your child is going to wear designer clothes on your dime, it’s your responsibility to keep your child safe.  Sure, the easy way is to ban them from everything that may hurt them, but that doesn’t teach anything.  It makes you a bad parent.

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6