Friday, August 17, 2012

Dear Joel Osteen......

A few weeks ago, we were standing in the narthex at our church and I saw a few papers that caught my eye.  One of the papers was titled: "An Open Letter to Joel Osteen" and it was written by a man named Greg Garrett.  I picked the paper up with the intention of reading it that afternoon, but as things happen many times in life, I stored it in the front flap of my Bible and I forgot about it.  So, the other day I was getting ready to do some studying when this paper fell out and I finally had a chance to read it.  It was amazing that what I read on this piece of paper is many of the things that I had been feeling about the "health, wealth and prosperity" preachers that I have seen and heard about.  I wanted to share this letter because I think that many others may be feeling the same way.

Dear Joel Osteen,

For some years now I've stood back and looked the other way as you preached your message of optimism and faith rewarded to tens of thousands of worshipers and to the millions of people who have bought your best-selling books, as you've become perhaps America's best-known preacher or inspirational speaker.  Earlier this year The Guardian actually called you "America's Pastor," which forced me to sit up and take notice

My attention during that time has been focused largely on those preachers and traditions obsessing with sin and suffering, on the death of Jesus on the cross as the only salvation for a wicked race.  And so I kind of lost sight of you, a couple of hours down the road from me in Houston.

You have said that you don't like to talk about sin--who does, really?--and that you want to dwell on the positive messages of God's love.  Those are nice antidotes to the mainstream American evangelical focus I abhor, and they may have given you a free pass until now.  But, I've come to believe that your nicey-nicey message and your God of infinite promises is as antithetical to genuine Christian faith as the always-dying and ever-angry Christ of conservative evangelicals.

Mr. Osteen, here's the thing.  I've realized that I've been writing, speaking, and preaching about you as well.  I've realized that The Other Jesus was also written in response to your Jesus of handouts and new cars--I can't hang with that Banker Jesus any more than with the Spiteful Jesus.  I've realized that I'm also tired of cleaning up your messes, of trying to constantly reorient Christian faith back to something real and true to scripture, tradition and reason.

You and other Prosperity Gospel preachers advance a vision of God that is transactional:  if you do this, then God will do that.  He has to, in fact.  Because a verse here and there in the Bible say so, however little it reflects God's actual redemptive work in the world.

And I'm here to tell you, Sir, in the same language I use with anyone who imagines we can be in a transactional relationship with God, that this isn't what Christian faith is.  Praying the right prayer often enough to get what you want, believing really hard in Jesus to get what you want are not true to the Christian story, or to logic.  To imagine that you, or your followers, or the person out in the bookstore or TV land who is exposed to your message somehow influences the God of the Universe, the Creator of All That Is, by his or her personal actions is not belief in God.

It's belief in magic.  Put your hands together, say a few faithful words, and the Universe will give you what you ask.

Your life is lifted up as a shining example of God's blessing, and well it might be.  But Sir, I suspect that the money to buy a former NBA arena for your mammoth Lakewood Church didn't just flow into your hands because God blesses you for your teachings.  I suspect that you got that money because you draw a crowd, because you sell a product that is always more enticing than the hard and lifelong work of genuine Christian spirituality and authentic belief.

I know Christians who feel uplifted by your focus on God's love, and non-Christians who love your sermons because they make them feel better about themselves.  And both of these things are lovely.  Telling people that God will give them whatever they faithfully ask for, assuring them that God will deliver them from their financial difficulties, that they can live their best life ever is tremendously appealing.  If you were my financial adviser, I could sleep soundly at night.

But this assurance of the good life is also a tremendous theological falsehood.  It's not true to the experience of a lot of Christians, who believe yet still suffer.  Many people of faith suffer from poverty that will never ease, from sickness that will not be healed, from losses that cannot be made right in this life.

Even during some of my times of greatest faith, I faced horrible emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual suffering.  My Assembly of God grandmother, the most devout Christian I have ever known, has lived her entire life in poverty, and has only the streets of gold she imagines as her heavenly reward to look forward to.  Students at Baylor show up in my office every semester after they have heard from their pastors that if they only had enough faith, their problems--that depression or anorexia, that unplanned pregnancy, the financial disaster befalling their parents--would be taken care of.  And when they aren't taken care of--when, in fact, as problems do when they're ignored, they get bigger and more complicated--my students have been left in a genuine crisis of faith, or with no faith at all.

But I'm not just upset about the bad theology of a God who works like an ATM, I'm also upset about the way that you and others preaching "your best life now" have defined that life almost exclusively in the terms our secular society suggests for success.  Instead of making Christianity a counter-cultural religion pushing back against society's mania for wealth and acquisitions and individualism, you've allowed faith to be co-opted by the power and principalities.

You want a house?  Pray for it.

You want more money?  Be faithful and God will give it to you.

This focus on money and temporal things is also bad theology--and perhaps even more pernicious, because it gives religious sanction for people to buy into the most un-Christian aspects of our culture.  Jesus didn't preach wealth, possessions, or prestige; his teachings, and his life, suggested the precise opposite.  In fact, this person most faithful, most in tune with God's will, lived in poverty and died in pain, so why on earth should we imagine that God will give us what we want when we only have a fraction of Jesus' faith?

No, it doesn't compute.  As the late comic Sam Kinison--himself once a charismatic pastor--might say if he were still around(and don't watch this if you're easily offended), if Jesus were to show up at the door of Lakewood Church, I think you'd have a reason to be very, very nervous, Mr Osteen.

I know that your church helps people in the community, and that you have given hope and encouragement to a lot of people, and I respect that.

But I feel a whole lot more comfortable when you're identified as the nation's most prominent inspirational speaker than when you're tagged as a preacher, Christian leader, or theological expert.  What you preach Sunday after Sunday about how God works may make people feel good, but it doesn't reflect the reality of many faithful people's lives, and it certainly doesn't reflect what I learned in seminary and in the Church about the reality of Jesus' life and message.

So spread your message of hope and optimism as widely as you like.  Nothing I could say, write or do would slow the Osteen juggernaut anyway.

But, please, please don't tell people that your spiritual message of hope and financial reward is God's holy word for their lives.  God is in the business of love, joy and hope, but that actually has very little to do with cars, houses, or  bank accounts.  As Matthew 6 reminds us, we're called not to invest in treasures of this world, but in those things that are everlasting and eternal, the things of God.

And anyways, as Don Henley sang, You don't see no hearses with luggage racks.

**Greg Garrett is the author of works of fiction, criticism, and theology, including The Other Jesus from Westminster John Knox Press.  He is Professor of English at Baylor University, and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church.**

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The book of Esther

Today I had the opportunity to sit outside with some rare peace and quiet and read my Bible.  The last time that I had been studying, I had started the book of Esther and today I decided to finish it up.  I only had a few chapters left, but there is so much to learn from this book that it took me a little bit of time to finish it.  I thought I would share a few of the lessons that I learned while studying this morning.

1.  A sense of self importance, arrogance and need for power and money is a destructive way to be.  One of the important characters in the book of Esther is Haman.  He was made the most powerful person under King Xerxes and had much power, money and recognition.  He did not use his power, authority or riches for good.  He NEEDED recognition and wanted everyone to bow down to him and fear him.  He did not like the Jews and especially Mordecai(Esther's uncle and father figure).  He was angry that Mordecai would not bow down to him and he planned to have all of the Jews killed in retaliation.  His sense of self importance and his arrogance was the beginning of the end for him.  I find that sometimes I focus on things that I do not have or things I cannot afford.  I would love to have a new house, I would love to have a new car, I wish we made more money so we could make improvements on our home.  I sometimes forget to be thankful for what I DO have and I forget that "things" are not what this life is about.  I not only see this happening in my own life, I see it in others as well.  I know many people that go into debt buying a car they want even though they can't really afford it or don't really need it.  I see couples with children who both work full time to afford a house that they don't really need instead of choosing to live simpler so that one can be home with the children.  Keeping up with the Joneses has become an epidemic.  It is not my place to pass judgment on these people and I love them no matter what they may decide to do.  Part of loving like God loves is to meet people where they are.  To love them no matter what their choices may be and showing God's love by our own actions and lifestyles.  I have found myself praying many nights that God help me control my covetous attitude.  Over time I have seen what a giving spirit and loving attitude can give in return.  I have seen God bless my family when we give selflessly our time our money or our goods.  Haman in this story is a good reminder that the need for power, money, and recognition is not the way God wants us to live.

2.  God will bless those who pray according to His will.  Queen Esther found out through Mordecai about Haman's plan to kill the Jews.  She told Mordecai to have all of the Jews fast and pray for three days and at the end of the third day she would approach the King even though it could mean that she would lose her life.  Many Jews spent days praying and fasting on Esther's behalf.  On the third day, Esther went before the king and was shown mercy.  She was able to bravely ask the King for a chance to speak.  She was able to finally disclose to the King her heritage.  She was able to show the King what Haman's plan was.  She was able to save her people from the decree(of death) that Haman had ordered before his own death.  God used her to save thousands and he blessed the Jews for being faithful servants who prayed and trusted in Him.  The Jews were able to eventually beat their enemies and turn many others into Jews into the process.  How wonderful it is to be blessed for your faithfulness to Him!!!  Here are some verses that reinforce this lesson:

1 John 5:14~
 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

Matthew 18:19-20~
19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Esther was such an incredibly brave woman who wanted to serve the Lord.  I am inspired by her and her faithfulness.  I pray that when trials and tribulations come my way that I am able to stand firm in what I believe.  I want to be able to speak with love and respect so that others may see Christ through me even though they may not agree with me.

I urge everyone to take some time to study the book of Esther and see what it means to you and your life.  I know that everyone can use the encouragement that this book offers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Today was D-Day.  

Today was the day that I gathered up the whole year's stress schoolwork, took it to the certified teacher and found out how they did this year.  I have been nervous the whole week, which is nothing new for me.  I get like this EVERY.YEAR.  I feel like I didn't do enough or the girls didn't do enough, or I didn't keep good enough track, etc....etc...etc!

So, I got to the building and had to wait a little while.  It was like torture sitting there.  Finally, the time came.  I sat down with the teacher(who is an AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL Christian woman and friend) and we started to go through Michaela's work.  She was aware of our struggles this year with the third grade and what we had gone through, so it was nice to have her up to date on how we were progressing.  

After she finished looking through Michaela's folders I was finally relieved to know that she was doing just fine.  She was right on track and there are only a few things that I really need to work on over the summer.  After she told me that, I finally felt like I could breathe and I wasn't going to be sick.

Then it was time for Alaina's assessment.  I wasn't nearly as concerned there.  Alaina is a lot like me when it comes to school.  It comes very naturally for her.  She doesn't struggle with new concepts and quite honestly, I felt like much of the first grade curriculum was too easy for her.  But, I decided it can't hurt to really cement those concepts into her mind, so we went ahead and stayed the course.  It was well worth it.  She did amazing!  Her work was great, she almost completely finished all of her books and she should fit into the Christian school next year without an issue.  She may even be ahead of her peer group.  Yay for her!!!!

After all was said and done, both girls got their papers saying they had completed their grade levels and we were on our way fairly quickly.  I had a chat with the girls to let them know what to expect over the summer and before school starts in the fall and we are finally at a place where we can really relax and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Thank you, Lord, for your blessings on my little girls.  Thank you for allowing us to have another successful school year under our belts.  I also thank you for giving my girls the ability to learn, comprehend and continue growing.

Now, we are moving on to a new chapter in our lives.  2012-2013 will be the first school year my girls have had that is not at home.  It will be an adjustment for us all and I am continuing to pray for success and a good transition for all of us.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cardboard Testimony

Cardboard Testimony from hillsidewired on GodTube.

Have you ever witnessed a cardboard testimony?  I have seen one in person at a church we used to attend.  It was an experience I will never ever forget.  I was touched to see the level of transparency that people were willing to have to show God's work in their lives.

I have often wondered what my cardboard testimony would say.  There are many times in my life that I have seen God at work, but I just wasn't sure if there were a few words that could sum up how I feel right now.  I saw this video and it made me think about it all over again.  What could I say that would make people understand ME better?  What could I use as a testimony to others to show them God's love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, etc?

Being a mom has done many things to change me and who I am as a Christian and as a person.  It has made me stronger, it has made me feel more passionate about things, it has made me more emotional.  It has also lead me to a stronger relationship with our heavenly Father.  My desire for my children to know and love God also played a huge role in where I am at with my personal relationship with Him.  It has helped to change/improve my marriage with my husband, it has taught me how to choose my words and how to hold my tongue.  It has taught me that I don't always have to give every person my opinion on their lives and their choices.  I have spent a lot of years working on being the least judgmental person that I can be.  It is so easy to look at others and judge their choices and their actions.  I have had to ask forgiveness for judging others more times than I can count, but that sin is showing up less and less in my life and I thank God for that transformation.

I think that my hysterectomy almost five years ago has played the biggest role in who I am today, though.  That surgery sent me down a road of anger and depression that I had never experienced before.  I affected many areas of my life and it took me a long time to finally get away from that hurt and pain and turn towards God and not away from him for what I "thought" was a punishment for something.

I am so thankful to see what finally laying those burdens down before Him has done for me and what it can do for everyone else, too.  When I finally surrendered all of my hurt to Him, I actually felt free.  I felt like I could finally breathe again and I wasn't being suffocated by my pain and depression.

I think my cardboard testimony would go something like this....

Suffocating from depression and anger towards God

The Breath of Life has set me free!

New Living Translation (©2007)
For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

What would your cardboard testimony say?  What is your story?  How has God been at work in your life?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Good friends

It is so wonderful to have a friend that just "gets" you. It is a safe and comfortable feeling. I am so glad that I have a friend like that. We have a standing coffee date every week and we just meet at one of our houses and chat and laugh while the kids play. She is like my twin. It is scary how alike we are! We like the same things,have many of the same views on life and religion and politics. I truly think we were separated at birth! Thank you, Lord, for great friends!!!!!


I know that I am constantly hearing about cyberbullying on the evening news, in movies and in the newspaper.  It is a huge problem right now!  Kids can be so mean, so immature and so unaware at what they are doing could have serious consequences.

As a mom to three little girls I have witnessed a less obvious kind of cyberbullying(at least it is cyberbullying in my opinion).  I think that women, moms especially, are most times the ones who are involved.  Of course, I could be totally off base here, but this post is going to cover my opinions and feelings on this matter.

I have seen, first hand, moms who have been at social gatherings where they have received unsolicited advice or questions that seem a bit unwarranted.  They take these comments and they then turn them into facebook comments and blog posts, and explain that these people just don't "get it".  They don't give the right advice, or ask the right questions.  Then starts the pack mentality.  All of the other moms out there who feel like they, too, have been given unsolicited advice will post the questions that they were asked or the advice they were given.  Everyone will then agree at how silly this person at the party was for ever opening their mouths to ask such questions.

To be fair, I agree that unsolicited advice or intrusive questions about your family can be irritating.  Sometimes you will hear the same comment over and over again and it begins to grate on your nerves.  Those are some of the things that you just have to deal with as a mom.

However, in my experience a lot of these "advice-givers" are older women, women without children, or people who aren't used to a particular situation or circumstance.  Older women raised their children in a different era and they did things differently.  A lot of the questions that I received were from people who hadn't experienced what I was going through at the time and maybe were curious or maybe just didn't understand my situation.  We should all remember that someday we will be the older women trying to give helpful advice to a new generation that will, undoubtedly, do things differently.

Let me give an example. There was a time after I had my first daughter that she was about three-four weeks old and I was going stir crazy.  I had been on a very long amount of strict bed rest at the end of my pregnancy, I had a difficult birth, and since it was winter time, we had been very cautious and were trying to keep her away from germs for as long as possible.  However, on this day, I just needed to get out!  So, I packed up my daughter, my diaper bag, my husband and we headed to wal-mart for a few things that we needed.  It was so nice to stroll through the store and just be somewhere besides on the sofa at home.  An elderly woman stopped me to see the baby and she then told me that I shouldn't have her out when she was that small.  Back in her day they didn't take babies out until they were at least six weeks and that I shouldn't have brought her out in public yet.  Honestly, I was taken aback at how forward she was.  I just quickly explained that it was our first outing and that I felt that she would be just fine for the short amount of time we had her out of the house.  That happened to me nine years ago.  Many other pieces of advice have come my way since then.  I have also had many questions about decisions we have made as a family.  But you know what, as strange as it may seem at the moment, I never really did dwell on those comments.  Sure, I would sometimes vent to my friends about a weird thing that happened, or I would call my mom and tell her a funny story about a woman in the mall, but it rarely went further than that.

When a person openly points out something someone said or asked and then makes it sound silly or stupid, it makes me feel bad for the nameless person who has to see that post.  Maybe that person had no idea how their question or comment came across.  It very possibly could have been an innocent statement that they now feel foolish about.  Like it or not, that kind of stuff can make a person feel self-conscious.  It can make them over-think and worry about things they may say in the future.  If you didn't like what a person asks you about your family or your life, then you should probably take it up with them personally.  Maybe you should take unsolicited advice with a grain of salt and just move on.  When everyone has a good laugh at someone else's expense, that is bullying.  It is much easier, and doesn't feel as "wrong" to do it online when the victim remains nameless in the post.  That is exactly what I have seen happen.  It makes me sad.

I think that most moms, in general, are doing the best they can.  I think that most people innocently make comments or ask questions and don't realize how they may come across.  Sometimes people have a life experience that makes them wonder why we do the things we do.  We will never fully know because we haven't walked in their shoes.

I think that the internet has a wonderful way of bringing like-minded people together.  It can make us all feel accepted or understood in some way, many times with people we will never meet.  But I don't think it should be used as a tool to make a person feel like they have been singled out.


I have never really pictured myself as having my own business.  I mean, sure, when I was younger I always thought I would own a restaurant or something of that nature, but I never really thought I would be running my own small business from home.  I have to say that I am loving it!  I love the fact that I can earn some money all while doing something I love and being around for my kids.  I have a very strong conviction that I feel like I should be there to raise my girls.  I didn't want someone else doing it and missing out on those moments.  If I HAD to work, I would gladly do it.  I can and have succeeded at jobs outside of the home when my two oldest were little.  I enjoyed my job, I was good at it, and I would still be there if we hadn't made the step towards becoming a single-income family.  I admit, times can be tough.  We have gone through rough patches where we struggle and there are many times we live paycheck to paycheck, but that is the choice that we made.

All of this is what lead me to start finding ways to make extra money.  I knew that I loved crochet and I knew that I wanted to do it more than once in a while when my kids needed a hat.  So, I started making them for friends and family.  Then, I started selling a few online just for fun.  After a while, I decided to try craft shows.  That turned into a wonderful and loyal clientele that I can't thank enough for their love and support!  

This year I decided that I wanted to actually make a real go at it and I obtained my DBA and my vendor's license.  I am now and official business through the state of  Ohio and it feels great!  At times when I thought my business would slow down, it did just the opposite!  I have met amazing people whom I can't imagine not knowing and made a small network of other WAHM(work at home moms).  It is nice to have those women to share stories with and to sometimes barter with!

I am so very grateful for this opportunity.  I am very happy with where I am right now, and I hope that my business continues to grow.  I am looking forward to all that comes with this opportunity and I 100% give my thanks to God for providing me with this talent and this job!

**Remember, if you have the opportunity to go to craft shows and buy from other hard-working artisans, know that you are buying American and that you are supporting your local economy!  Praise those men and women who are doing those shows because it takes A LOT of work to prepare, stock up, set up, sell, and tear down at those shows!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I am finally back to having a few quiet moments to myself where I can sit down, concentrate and actually blog again!  I haven't posted anything since the beginning of the school year and it honestly has been a blur.  I can't believe we only have a few short weeks of school left before my girls are officially done and moving on to 4th and 2nd grade!

However, that is not the purpose of this blog post.  The true purpose is to tell all of you about a fundraiser that I am taking part in.  Some of you may already know that I lost my gramma last May to a horrible cancer.  She died from pancreatic cancer.  Many of you may not know much about this cancer, but it is definitely a sneaky one.  Most people who have this awful disease have no idea they even have it until they are in the 4th stage of it.  There is no routine testing that is done to find it and most of the time it is through as serious illness that it is found.

My gramma was not feeling well and she finally called the ambulance one day and had herself taken to the emergency room.  She was extremely jaundice and they ruled out as many things as they could before they finally found out that is was, in fact, pancreatic cancer.  She was already stage 4 and her life expectancy wasn't long.  Gramma was an extremely faithful servant of the Lord and loved God more than most people I know.  She decided against any extreme measures to save her life.  The only thing that she did was radiation to help with the pain since it such a painful disease.  She had lost my grandfather in 2007(they had been married over 60 years) and she knew she was ready to be with him again.  She made her arrangements herself, went through all of her collectibles and valuables and personally gave them to those she would most treasure them.  I was fortunate enough to get nine of her Precious Moments collectibles along with some other things like holiday decorations, milk glass, etc.  

On May 16, 2011 my gramma went home to be with Jesus and her beloved husband.  She was such an important part of our whole family and she is greatly missed.  Because of her, our family is taking part in the Purple Stride Cleveland Fundraiser.  We are walking/running at the Cleveland MetroParks zoo on June 16, 2012 in order to raise money for research and awareness of this horrible cancer.  We want to find a cure so that others may not have to suffer from this disease.

Would you consider donating to the cause?  If you are from the Cleveland, Ohio area, would you consider walking with us?  Your sign up gets you the whole day at the zoo along with a shirt.

Please click the link in the upper right hand corner if you would like to donate.  Our family would truly appreciate it!

Thank you!