God Sees the Good Guys

fathers-dayContinued from here.

This week, I’m responding to an excellent blog article entitled The Good Guys, written by my favorite blogger, Gary Thomas. I encourage you to read this article first.

The final point I’d like to focus on from Thomas’ article is this:

I do want to encourage the men who feel taken for granted and who often get lumped in with those who deserve censure: God sees your service and your sacrifice…For the good (not perfect) guys: thanks for your sacrifice.

I echo Thomas’ comment. Thank you to all of you good guys – the ones whose sacrifices seemingly go unnoticed. God sees you. He knows what you have done, are doing, and will continue to do. He knows the heavy price your sacrifices have cost you, even if nobody else in your life does.

I honor you this Father’s Day, whether or not you are a father. Fathers are so sorely needed in society. Did you know that the vast majority of people in prison grew up without a father? The one characteristic that the vast majority of inmates have in common is not race, religion (or lack of religion), gender, socio-economic class, or education level. It’s the lack of a meaningful relationship with a father!

Good guys – I know you are out there. I know because you are in my life. I see you. I see the sacrifices you make for the people in your life. I see you carry the weight of judgmental comments because of poor behavior by the bad guys out there. And yet, you continue on. You continue sacrificing, providing, protecting, and encouraging, even when it’s not appreciated. And what’s much more important – God sees it so much more than I or anyone else does. He sees all you do, and what you do matters. We need you – your wives, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends, congregations, and neighbors. We all need you. Society needs you.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

Thank you to all of you good guys. May God bless you this Father’s Day Weekend and always!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace mowing a lawn with the words, “Happy Father’s Day!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Extending Grace to the Good Guys

Continued from here.

This week, I’m responding to an excellent blog article entitled The Good Guys, written by my favorite blogger, Gary Thomas. I encourage you to read this article first.

Thomas said:

But can we do one post to celebrate the good husbands, the ones who heroically serve, authentically love, sincerely cherish, and sacrificially give to their wives and children? Can I do that without raising the anger of those who want to vent about how awful their husbands, boyfriends, bosses or pastors have been? The challenge in doing this is the simple fact that since every man has his compromises and conflicts, the question arises, how perfect does a man have to be to be celebrated?”

To me, Thomas’ question is really about grace. We all want justice for everyone else but mercy, or grace, for ourselves. We want those who have hurt us to pay for what they have done while, at the same time, want to experience God’s forgiveness, allowing Jesus to pay the penalty for the many ways that we have committed spiritual mutiny.

Thomas essentially asked why a man must be “perfect” before he can be celebrated for all he has done right. You’re not going to like the answer, Church: It’s because we, as a Church, are mired in the sin of unforgiveness. We cannot see past our own pain because we choose to continue to hold onto our ashes, even though the Bible clearly requires an exchange: God will give us a crown of beauty, but we must first release the ashes (see Is. 61:3).

I say this as a woman who has been deeply hurt by men. I was sex-trafficked as a child from ages 6-11, and rapes were not the only sin committed against me as a helpless little girl. I’ve seen and experienced firsthand just how cruel a man can be.

But you know what? I’ve also seen and experienced how kind a man can be. One man’s kindness drove him to a cross, where he paid the penalty for all of the time I spent (enjoying!) visualizing murdering my child abusers. Another kind man spent hundreds of hours guiding me through the healing process as my therapist. A third kind man stayed married to me for decades as my post-traumatic stress wreaked havoc on every aspect of our marriage. I wouldn’t have blamed him for leaving me, but he didn’t. Other kind men pastored me, changed my flat tires, opened my car doors after I locked the keys inside … and I could go on. Before I submitted to God’s instruction to forgive the bad guys, I was blinded to the numerous ways my life has been blessed and enriched by the good guys.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why? Courtesy Amazon.]


Lumping the “Good Guys” in with the “Bad Guys”

Continued from here.

This week, I’m responding to an excellent blog article entitled The Good Guys, written by my favorite blogger, Gary Thomas. I encourage you to read this article first.

Thomas pointed out that there’s a valid reason why many women have a negative attitude about men:

I am surrounded by men who heroically serve, honor, respect, support and cherish their wives. But when I read Christian blogs and go on social media, I’m bombarded by how awful men are, how they are abusive, power-hungry, dismissive of those who prey on women, and misogynistic. I don’t doubt these stories; many of the readers of this blog have been deeply hurt by men in all those categories. I agree with the voices of many that there needs to be not just less tolerance but no tolerance for the way women have been mistreated by men. But for this one post, I’d like to highlight and pay deference to some of the good guys.”

I don’t like when people make assumptions about me because of what other people who share a characteristic with me have done. For example, I don’t like when people assume that I cannot handle a direct conversation because I am a woman or that I’m an intolerant bigot because I am a Christian. And as a survivor of child abuse and rapes, I really don’t like it when people make comments that someone who has been raped is “damaged goods,” likely to abuse others, or too broken to be healed. Yes, there are child abuse survivors who remained emotionally damaged for life and even a handful who go on to abuse children themselves, but that is NOT who I am!

I don’t like being judged by the negative traits of others in a group, so why do I tolerate this widespread lumping together of all men into the same category as those who exhibit the worst traits? After all, both my husband and son are “good guys,” so I know better. I know the quality man I married and the young man I have raised, and I certainly don’t want the world assuming these awful things about them. Thus, I’m joining Thomas in speaking out, using the same platform that he did.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? Courtesy Amazon.]


Double Standard in How Men versus Women are Treated

Continued from here.

This week, I’m responding to an excellent blog article entitled The Good Guys, written by my favorite blogger, Gary Thomas. I encourage you to read this article first.

Thomas pointed out that many “good guys” live with a double standard that most women fail to notice. As an example, Thomas’ article opened with his friend pointing out that when he returns from a trip, he’s expected to take an Uber home from the airport whereas when his wife returns from a trip, he’s expected to drive to the airport to pick her up. Thomas also noted the differences between how Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are treated, even within churches.

This Mother’s Day versus Father’s Day difference is something I had been pondering before reading this article because of a comment made in my Journey Group. I belong to the United Methodist Church, and my local church has reinstituted Class Meetings, but we have labeled them as Journey Groups because the members “journey together” as they grow their faith. I have been leading a Journey Group for couples since March, which has been a new experience for me. While I have been leading small groups through my church for 14 years, most have been for women. I’ve only recently been co-leading a coed Sunday School class. Leading a small group for couples as well as being in a small group as a couple is a new experience for me.

For the first 8 weeks, our Journey Group met weekly on Sunday afternoons. However, as summer rolled around, we realized that we needed to cut back to meeting every other week because of summer travel and holidays. It was a given that our Journey Group would not meet on Mother’s Day because all of the couples had big plans. Our senior pastor is retiring, and the big church celebration was scheduled for June 9, so we obviously were not going to meet on that day. I assumed we would have to skip two weeks because of June 16 being Father’s Day, but the men quickly jumped in and said that would not be necessary – that Father’s Day is quite different than Mother’s Day. Meeting as a group on Father’s Day wouldn’t interfere with anything.

All of these husbands are really great guys. They love their wives. They provide for their family. I jokingly call our Journey Group the “Reluctant Spouse” Journey Group because all of the husbands only committed because their wives asked them to. So, why was Mother’s Day so sacred that we needed to cancel the meeting and Father’s Day so unimportant that it was OK to meet on that holiday?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. Courtesy Amazon.]

A Salute to the “Good Guys”

My favorite blogger, hands down, is Gary Thomas – author of several books on godly marriage, such as Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband. I subscribe to his blog and read every blog entry he posts. If you have never read one of his blog entries, I hope you will change that today. His blog entries are much longer than mine, but he generally rolls them out weekly, so it all evens out.

While Gary Thomas’ blog entries typically address an aspect of marriage, the topics often transcend marriage, making them worth reading even if you are not married. He recently wrote a blog entry entitled The Good Guys, which I have been pondering since I read it, and it’s applicable to anyone with a man in your life, whether it’s a husband, father, son, friend, pastor, neighbor, or whatever. I encourage you to go read his excellent blog entry now. Don’t worry – I’ll wait. Click here.

Thomas’ blog article opened with the stories of three men who, in his words, “heroically serve, honor, respect, support and cherish their wives.” I’m married to a man like this – one of the “good guys.” He takes his responsibility of providing for his family seriously. He has given me many options for work throughout our 27-year marriage. I’ve had seasons of not working outside the home, both without and with a child. I’ve had seasons of working both part-time and full-time. I’ve had seasons of driving a ridiculously long commute by my own choice, and I’ve had seasons of what I call the “8 step commute” as I telecommuted from home. I’ve worked as a lawyer, a temp secretary, a program administrator, a technical writer, an instructional designer, an online college instructor, and an executive director in the nonprofit world. I’ve worked in jobs that paid well with great benefits and in jobs with low pay and no benefits. My career path over the last 27 years has been all over the map, mostly by my own choice.

What has enabled me to have the freedom to work or not work? To work long hours or only part-time? To change from one career option to another? I’m married to a man whose career path has not varied. He’s worked the same long hours in the same stressful career for 27 years, continually sacrificing for his family to give me these options. Thomas is right – there’s a double standard that favors wives, and yet far too many women fail to appreciate the sacrifices the men in their lives make for them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband. Courtesy Amazon.]


Eastern Orthodox Church: Final Words

wordContinued from here.

I hope you have enjoyed my perspectives on some of what I have learned about Eastern Orthodox theology from Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader. I want to reiterate that all I have written in this blog series is based on my understanding of Eastern Orthodox theology based upon this book. I have no personal knowledge outside of reading this book. My goal was not to try to convince anyone of the “rightness” or “wrongness” of Eastern Orthodox theology. Rather, I was seeking to explore some perspectives on the Christian faith that, as a United Methodist, I had not previously considered.

I find it fascinating to learn about the perspectives of a segment of Christianity that went a completely different direction from the Roman Catholic Church and, by extension, Protestantism, over a thousand years ago. Eastern Orthodoxy comes from the same root and even shared the same stem for half of its existence, but it went its own direction. Even though I do not, personally, agree with all of the positions I have read about in the book thus far, I have learned a lot, which has helped me consider my own faith from a different perspective. I suspect some aspects of Orthodoxy are not “either/or” but, instead, “both/and.” Some of what I am learning about that aspect of Christianity may help me deepen my own faith without my having to convert to Orthodoxy to do so.

While I am only a quarter of the way through the book, my impression thus far is that Eastern Orthodoxy appears to agree with Catholicism and Protestantism in the most important elements – man was created good; man fell from God; Jesus restored man to God; and man can now be reconciled to God through Jesus. The rest is details. While I find some of those details interesting, what matters is the big picture. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to consider my faith from a different perspective, allowing that perspective to challenge some of my assumptions while never losing sight of the fact that it’s all about God.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace rapping and wearing a necklace that says, “Word.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Eastern Orthodox Church: How to Transform into God’s Likeness

beautifulContinued from here.

Everything I write about the Eastern Orthodox Church in this blog series comes from Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader. The transfiguration plays a huge role in Eastern Orthodox belief. Jesus showed the disciples what to work toward when he revealed to them who he actually was, enabling them to see the divinity in Jesus that most people did not see. Transfiguration is the goal not only of the individual but for all of creation!

Sin is something external that interferes with the transfiguration process, resulting in interference with attaining fullness of life. Through Jesus, God’s gift of grace enables immortality to unite with a fallen world, bringing the fallen world into union with God, which results in divine beauty … hence the emphasis on divine beauty in the Eastern Orthodox worship services. As Jesus was both fully God and fully human, he was/is the perfect union of humanity and divinity. Through Jesus, mankind can experience the same transfiguration as we transform into God’s likeness by degrees.

Interestingly, I have found a couple of verses–2 Cor. 3:18 and Gen. 5:1— in which the New International version appears to use the terms likeness and image interchangeably whereas the Eastern Orthodox translation (I have no idea what version of the Bible they use) does not. From the Eastern Orthodox perspective, image = God’s part (creating man with the capacity to choose harmony with God) and likeness = man’s part (choosing to enter into union with God).

The Eastern Orthodox church believes that transforming into God’s likeness requires choice. God gave man the capacity to transform into His image by creating him in His image. Man has the freedom to choose to do so or not. When man chooses to do so, he reverses the effects of the Fall, which not only delivers himself but also the universe from the disorder that resulted from the Fall.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling under the word, “Beautiful.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Eastern Orthodox Church: Man’s Responsibility toward God’s Likeness

mirrorContinued from here.

Everything I write about the Eastern Orthodox Church in this blog series comes from Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader. I was particularly intrigued by this observation in Genesis, which I had always overlooked. Before God created man, he said,

Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” ~ Gen. 1:26

However, when He created man, He did so only in His image, not in His likeness:

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.” ~ Gen. 1:27

The Eastern Orthodox position, as I understand it, is that making man in God’s image was God’s part, but making man in God’s likeness is man’s part. By creating man in His image, God provided man with the possibility of developing into His likeness. However, to grow into the likeness of God, man must take proactive steps to grow into unity and harmony with God.

I see this as the Old Testament explanation of and complement to Paul’s admonition to work out our salvation. Receiving Jesus as Savior is not the end – it’s the beginning. My job is not simply to receive Jesus as Savior so I can avoid hell and go to heaven: I am to “work out my salvation,” which takes effort as I transform day by day into the image of Christ.

So, how do we do that? The Eastern Orthodox perspective is that man unites himself with God, which not only affects his own soul but also everything around him. After all, man was created to rule over the earth, so as man grows in harmony with God, this not only affects his own soul but also his sphere of the world, bringing about not only the transfiguration of the person but also the transfiguration of everything under that person’s influence.

I’ll share more about the Eastern Orthodox perspective of how this works in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking at herself in a mirror above the words, “Why am I the way that I am?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Eastern Orthodox Church: “Unhurried and Timeless” Worship Services

running_lateContinued from here.

Everything I write about the Eastern Orthodox Church in this blog series comes from Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader. I confess that I knew nothing at all about this segment of Christianity and am fascinated by what I am learning in this book.

The first chapter of this book talks about the worship services because the way the Eastern Orthodox congregants worship is of central importance to their faith, prioritized over both doctrine and discipline. As someone raised in the Protestant church – sampling many different denominations along the way – this is such a different perspective from what I have experienced. With each new denomination I sampled, one of my first questions was what distinguishes this denomination from the others – immersion for baptism? services on Saturdays? specific restrictions for partaking in the Lord’s supper? So, I found it fascinating that in the Eastern Orthodox church, what’s of primary importance is form of worship, not doctrinal differences.

I won’t go into the details of the specifics for worship services, but I would like to talk about the end result: an “unhurried and timeless quality” of a service, which sounds like a slice of eternity to me. One of the ways Dallas Willard challenged me in some of his books was by admonishing me to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” from my life. As an American with a Type A personality, hurrying is as natural as breathing. However, there’s no hurry in eternity because we have forever — there’s no reason to rush. So, the thought of attending a service in which hurry is removed altogether sounds attractive to me.

One aspect of God that I find intriguing is that He exists outside of time. Because time is such an important factor in my life (particularly while I am juggling work, school, and family), I cannot wrap my mind around an existence outside of time. From what I have read in this book, it sounds like the Eastern Orthodox church has found a way to provide a sense of this timelessness in its worship services. I can see how this could result in experiencing a slice of heaven during a worship service.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running above the words, “Running late.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Alternative Perspective of the Eastern Orthodox Church

I am taking a class on the survey of church history. One of the assignments is to read a book (selected from several options provided in the syllabus) and write a book critique. I selected Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader because I know next to nothing about Eastern Orthodox churches. I once asked someone in my local community about the Greek Orthodox church on “church row,” and the person told me that orthodox churches are “very different,” but I didn’t know what the person meant.

In this class, I learned that about a thousand years ago, the church split into two, with the Western church becoming what we know today as the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern church becoming what we know today as the Eastern Orthodox church. So, I was fascinated to learn about the beliefs of a large segment of Christians whose influences were completely separate from the Roman Catholic church (and, by extension, Protestantism) for a millennium. Considering the Orthodox church came from the same root as my United Methodist Church but grew in a different direction a thousand years ago, I thought it would be interesting to consider the Eastern Orthodox perspective on the same Bible that I follow.

I am only about a quarter of the way through the book, but I have already been challenged by some of what I read, which I plan to discuss in this blog series. For the rest of this blog entry, I’ll simply mention some of the big picture differences that I have found interesting. The Eastern Orthodox church incorporates icons into its worship services, which are used as a visual aid in helping the congregation see past the material world and into the spiritual world. Orthodoxy also places much emphasis on divine beauty. Another big difference is that the emphasis is much less on doctrine (what they believe) and much more on how they worship. Considering the basis for the numerous Protestant denominations is differences in what they believe in relation to particular aspects of the faith, it’s interesting to read about a segment of Christianity that focuses on worship over doctrine.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary ReaderCourtesy Amazon.]