Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Great C.S. Lewis Quote to Ponder Today

Just had to share with all of you this quote from C.S. Lewis that popped up on my iGoogle page this morning:

"Every story of conversion is the story of a blessed defeat."

Isn't that the bomb?

Read up on Pete's Blog Today!

Hi Readers!

I'm finishing up some deadline stories for one of my magazine clients today ... but in the meantime, there is still some great fodder on my pastor's blog:


Pete was away from our church this past weekend (we missed you, Pete!), but he's entered two new entries that will spin your head like Linda Blair's. (except in a good way :-)

And if you happen to attend a church that bores you, or if you think, "Christianity is dead," you really want to check out Pete's entry from yesterday. It's really worth it, I promise!

Have a great day! Hopefully, I will have finished the mortgage-paying stories by tomorrow to continue with our discussion here at Priscilla's and Aquila's Place.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Guarding Neil's Heart

If you read my other blog "Kingdom Treasures," you know already that the Raffertys are huge Disney fanatics.

Yesterday, we had a banner Disney Day, first by hitting the newly-released 3D movie, "Monsters vs. Aliens." When we got home, we continued with Disney happiness and glee, watching one movie after another, first "Prince Caspian," then "Aladdin."

After that, although 8 p.m. is Neil's bedtime, I relented to let him stay up for the next Disney channel movie, "Mulan."

None of us had seen "Mulan" before, and we didn't know anything about the plot. But I knew its theme song was really pretty. And in general, we've been trying to expose Neil to diverse cultures and languages. He loves watching a Chinese cartoon girl on Nick Jr. named, "Kai Lan," and he can parrot Chinese phrases with the same ease as he does Spanish on "Dora the Explorer" and French via small lessons from me.

So I was looking forward to watching "Mulan" with him, and we snuggled together in our recliner under a warm and heavy crocheted throw.

Within 10 minutes of the opening, someone in the movie was praying to their ancestors. I thought this might just be a passing nod to Buddhism. But then the movie made continued references to that theme. Soon, I realized that "Mulan" was more than about a Chinese girl's adventure ... it was built on the idea that when she prayed to her ancestors, they sent her protection and watched over her.

I debated with myself over whether to turn the show off. But then I decided that my kid should be taught about this early on. Yes, he's only 5, but he is also astute enough to understand many complex theological concepts with which many adults struggle.

I handled it this way: I explained to Neil that we don't believe in praying to our family members. We only pray to God, and we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so we pray to him as well. But we do not pray to "ghosts" like Mulan did.

He nodded and said, "OK, Mommy."

End of subject.

You might think I'm making a mountain out of nothing, but I do worry about the influences in my child's world today. Really, do you think that Disney would make a film about someone praying for Jesus to help them? Highly doubtful. Yes, they went so far as to produce the two Narnia films, but even Liam Neeson, whose voice is used for Aslan, told reporters he thinks Aslan represents the Native American religions. Nothing is really as overt as what I saw in "Mulan."

We work hard in our home for our child to have a clear, undiluted message about Jesus. We want there to be no question in his mind that his parents believe and trust Jesus as their Savior. We know that when he reaches the age of accountability, he will have to make that decision for himself, but for now, we're doing all we can to guard his heart. When I see a seeming-innocuous mention of another religion that is counter to what we know to be true, I rail like a mother bear. I do what I can to make sure he loves other people without prejudice, but also that he does not take their gods as his own.

What about you?

What are some issues you've had in presenting Truth to your children?

How can I pray for you? How can I pray for them?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Feed Brownies to Jehovah's Witnesses

Lately we've had a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses visit our house here in the woods.

Personally, I think it's because I give them brownies.

What do you do when a Jehovah's Witness knocks on your door?

I have been told in the past to not even encourage anything with these folks -- just slam the door in their faces and make them go away.

But that changed for me after I started attending our church, Quest Community in Lexington, Kentucky.

I started viewing people through a different lens -- as lost wanderers seeking love and hope and a relationship with God. Well ... I have all of that at my house, plus brownies. I'll happily share it with anyone who knocks on my door.

I may disagree with Jehovah's Witnesses (strongly!), but does that mean I should be rude by shouting them down and shutting them out?

So now, I now view these visits as "evangelism opportunities."

If they can be so courageous to come to a stranger's home, I can be courteous and also share with them my beliefs.

"Come in," I tell them.

They hesitate. I smile. They smile back. They say thank you. They enter.

The dog wags his tail, sensing from me that these are friendly guests. They comment on the cute dog. I smile.

"My son Neil and I are baking brownies right now. You've caught us as we're mixing up the batter. Would you like to come into the kitchen and talk?"

They look at each other. Is this woman for real?

They follow me into the kitchen, where Neil has just immersed his little fist into the entire bowl of brown batter.

"Well, I guess you won't be wanting any of these brownies when they come out of the oven."

They laugh.

They ask me if I read the Bible.

As I clean up the little chocolate-covered monster, I say yes, not only do I read the Bible, but I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is right here in the house with us at this moment.

Now who is the crazy lady?

Who do you think wants to get away?

As long as they will stand there and talk to me, I will tell them what I believe.

I tell them gladly. I tell them sweetly. I tell them forcefully, but diplomatically.

And then I tell them that nothing will change my mind, because I am a fool for Christ and He died for my sins, and He died for their sins, too.

"Oh, by the way," I say ... "I write blogs about this. Here. Let me give you a business card. It has one of my blog sites on it."

They wait while I go to my office. I hand them the cards. They say thank you. I say you're welcome.

"Tell you what," I say. "I will read the literature you have brought here on one condition. You read my blog. The next time you come over, we'll have brownies -- and I promise you they won't be brownies that has had a five-year-old's fist in the batter -- and we will talk about your literature, and we will talk about my blog. Everything I believe is in my blog."

They say OK. But I know from their faces that they will not read the blog.

These specific two do not come back.

However, five weeks later, the same mini van pulls up in my driveway -- and different Jehovah's Witneses get out of it.

I guess this is a new pair that would like to try out some of my brownies.

I guess they really can't get enough of hearing about how much Jesus loves them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Open Hearts

All of you really encourge me.

I find it interesting that, rather than posting comments to this site, a lot of readers choose instead to email me directly.

The reason this is intriguing is the nature of the emails. All of them have been from people who are genuinely concerned about my own personal struggles. Rather than post their concerns in a public forum, these readers send me private bolstering notes.

I am so touched by this. It says two things about you. The first is that the people reading the blog are sensitive souls, and also fellow "children" in the Kingdom. The second is that, rather than post a comment that might be misinterpreted, readers choose to email, for fear that they might hurt my feelings in a public forum.

I need to be very honest -- you won't hurt my feelings, and you won't hurt the friendship. This is meant to be a place where everyone can share their concerns honestly so that we can air the issues that are plagueing us as we try to love people into God's grace.

Having said that, I'd like to share a really insightful email from one reader (who will remain anonymous). This addresses the earlier question of whether we are wasting our time with atheists. Take a look at her points (which are very good!).

Does this raise any questions for you, validate your beliefs or crystalize the issue?

It did help me a lot!

Here it is for your consideration ...

"Hi there - I visited your new blog. Very cool. Are you really
trading constructive dialogue from one of the authors of the atheist
blog? Constructive being the operative word here.

The reason I asked is because I've been reading Matthew and I was just talking to (my husband) about one part in it that makes me think of you and your dialogue with this guy.

First, please understand I'm not challenging you in anyway, I just
want your point of view on this.

In Matthew 10 vs 5-8 'Don't begin by traveling to some far off place
to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some
public enemy. Go to the lost and confused people right here in the
neighborhood. Tell them the kingdom is here.'

And Matthew 10 vs 12-15 'when you knock on a door, be courteous in
your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation.
If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene,
shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that of
Judgement Day they'll be mighty sorry-but it's no concern of yours

So, that said,how I saw that - (and I had this conversation with
my husband right BEFORE you posted about the atheist website, odd how
things happen....) anyway I how I interpreted that is Jesus was
telling his disciples to minister to those on the edge so to speak,
not the hard core, defying, unbelievingtypes. Made sense to me, you can't save everybody so help the ones most likely to be receptive your help. Help me understand, please!!

I am stuggling a bit with consistency, but do read from my Bible most days. What I get from it is amazing. The days I do read are more balanced and I seem to feel better about my actions. It's AMAZING. I am really enjoying reading Matthew.....lots of food for though in there.... "

So what are your thoughts?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Mood Monitor

I read and re-read sentences of great writers.

Partly I do this because as a writer, I am a student of expert wordsmiths. The other reason, though, is to fully absorb the intention of the writer, so that I don't take out of context future messages he or she is trying to convey.

The one writer I study more than any other like this is C.S. Lewis (who wrote "The Chronicles of Narnia").

Last night I found one of his essays, and it was never more needed than this week. I've been engaged in a lengthy email exchange with one of the atheists from the Proud Atheist blog site. He is very intelligent and very rational in the presentations of his views. But as I read this essay by Lewis, I realized how hugely important it is for us to monitor what goes into both our hearts and minds, even as we try to reach others with the good news about Jesus.

If you haven't studied Lewis, you may find the reading a little dense and difficult at first. But stay with it ... his final conclusion is an important and dire warning. Read it and let me know your thoughts ... Do you find yourself reflected in this essay? How do the words apply to you?

How can I pray for you?

Here it is, from his book, "The Business of Heaven."

Training the Habit of Faith

"Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where they get off,' you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently,one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change. The next step is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Compassion for the Critics

Did you ever hear a sermon that went straight to a question you had posed, or an issue that had befuddled you?

I did this morning, at my church in Lexington, Kentucky -- Quest Community Church.

My pastor, Pete Hise, has been doing a series called, "Loaded Questions." It has focused on tough questions that Jesus asked people. Today we looked at the discussion he had with Nicodemus, who was one of the spiritual rulers in Israel at the time of Jesus's ministry.

Pete said that when people seek out truth, they fall into one of three categories of "questioners."

The first is the Critic. This isn't a person who "thinks critically." Rather, a critic "hears the question of faith and thinks it's funny that you believe. They throw a stone ... because they don't want to grapple. The scoffer wants to make other people believe less. When they throw rocks, they don't consider the truth. They don't really want answers," Pete said.

The second is the Seeker. This person says, "I can't believe the impossible can happen." Some seekers come very near to God, but they learn the cost of following is so high that they get scared and walk away. Others finally give way and are more compelled than ever to accept what they have heard. Pete explained that in this story in John 3, Nicodemus fell under the "seeker" category.

And the third is the Follower. They graduate from the seeker state and enter into a full relationship with Jesus.

As I listened to Pete, my mind wandered to the types of people I have encountered online recently. Most of them are Critics, or scoffers. I have wrestled with an uncomfortable question ... When you encounter a Critic, do you abandon them? Do you leave them to their way of thinking and concentrate your efforts on the Seekers instead?

This is what I have been told by other Christians reading this blog. They mean well. For the most part, these are people who know me well and know my personal tendency to get caught up in the drama of the dialogue. They are afraid I will become immersed in debates that can't be won. They argue that I should "shake the dust" and move on to people whose hearts are ready to hear truth.

I agree up to a point. But as I sat in Quest this morning, I started thinking ... what if Tolkein had given up on C.S. Lewis?

Or what if I had given up on my friend Joy?

I have other friends who write and email me ... what if I said to myself, "They are happy in their misery. Leave them alone. Don't be bothered with them anymore."

And to the other extreme, I have encountered strangers on the Internet who scared me a little with their threatening comments. Shouldn't I go scurrying for cover?

Here's the thing, though ...

Pete read a letter from a Critic who had become a Christian on Easter 2007. This person came to Quest because his wife was a Christian, but all the time he hurled stones at the message. But people didn't give up on him.

I don't think that everyone has to engage the Critical personality. Some people really are better suited to reach the hearts that are ready. But there is still need for others -- people like me -- to be willing to sow the seeds, even if the ground they are striking is hard.

I have gone a full circle on this train of thought ... first with zeal to reach atheists, then with fear that I had pushed too many buttons, then with discouragement that they were impossible converts, then with resignation that I should focus on "seekers" instead ... and then to this morning, when I realized that it's okay to feel compassion for the critics.

Afterall ... Someone else feels compassion for them. He died for people who were critics.

If He has put it into my heart to aggressively engage them, debate them and ultimately, to love them, then I will follow His lead and pray for Him to reach the hearts of those placed into my life.

How about you?

Are you trying to reach "impossible" people? Is there someone for whom you would like me to pray?

How can I pray for you?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Joy, a Former Atheist turned Christian

I was still what those in the newspaper industry call a "cub reporter," in my early to mid 20s and trying to establish myself as a journalistic force.

The newspaper ... you can't make this stuff up ... was called "The Cecil Whig," and it was tucked in the northeast corner of Maryland.

Joy was my competitor.

She was about 10 years my senior, and she worked at the much larger newspaper across the state border in Delaware. We often found ourselves covering the same courtroom stories and trying to scoop each other.

It was during one such stint -- a trial of a Bonnie-and-Clyde wanna-be bank-robbing couple -- that Joy and I finally bonded.

As we'd wait for lawyers to emerge from the judge's chambers, or for the prisoners to be brought from their cells, or for the jury to return, we learned about each other's lives ... and about each other's beliefs.

Joy learned that I was a Christian.

I learned that Joy was an atheist.

For the most part, we talked about the best places to get crab cakes and the hot spots in nearby Baltimore. Sometimes we discussed her 5-year-old daughter.

And occasionally, Joy would ask me a spiritual question.

I got another job soon after that in Pennsylvania. Joy continued to write and call. She'd bring her daughter up to my little apartment for weekend visits and treks to the Gettysburg battlefield. All the while, in the background of our benign chit chat, the issue of God's existence hovered.

Then one day I received a call from Joy. She was sick with breast cancer. Could she come for a visit?

I didn't recognize her. Her rosy face was now drawn and jaundice-yellow. Her frame, thin before the sickness, was now skeletal. Her beautiful auburn curls had been replaced by a bald scalp, covered by wigs and scarves.

She said she'd come to tell me something important in person.

She had accepted Jesus into her heart. She was a Christian now.

"And it's because of you that I figured it out," she said.

She died about a year later.

When I think about Joy, I feel very peaceful. I'm really looking forward to seeing Joy again in the afterlife.

This past week as I have debated with atheists via the Proud Atheist blog site, and now through follow-up emails that some are sending me because of the discussion, I reflect about Joy.

I realize that in this age of the Internet, we lack something essential -- that of personal connection. I have been through a series of emails with one atheist in particular, because we have miscommunicated due to lack of visual body language. We have worked out our communication hurdles and now are engaged in a constructive dialogue.

But that wasn't the case with others who I have encountered, including the Proud Atheist site owner.

He said something that jarred me: "You may not like me or my beliefs ..." and then went on with his thought.

Well ... it's true I don't like the fact that he's blaspheming the One I love.

But actually he would be surprised to learn that I like him just fine.

I actually don't know him, so how could I dislike him? However, if we were continuing the conversation in the manner I conversed with Joy, I wonder if the outcome would be different. I bet it would be. Maybe he and I have similar political views. Maybe he enjoys the same types of hobbies. Maybe he's a really great dad. I don't know anything about him -- only the views he expressed on the Internet.

I think it's important in this age of technology that Christians look hard at this dynamic. It's true that we have opportunities never before available to us to communicate the love of Jesus. But we have to be really careful about misusing them, or misconstruing what people are saying -- or getting angry at them without knowing them.

I'm guilty of that. Are you?

What issues have you encountered?

How can I pray for you?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Proof of a Love Affair

One of my friends sent me this email, and I thought it was extremely insightful regarding the way that Christians struggle in conveying their experiences to un-believers.

Read this over ... and weigh in.

Do you also struggle with the "proof" question with unbelievers? What's your tactic in responding to it?

Hi Heidi:
I kept thinking “what if the debate were about True Love instead of God?” I had an argument with an acquaintance in college just as I was falling for my husband. She tried to convince me that “true love” was a figment of my imagination and all I really had was “the hots." Her proof was the high divorce rate. Her arguments centered on how ultimately unhappy one becomes when saddled with the same person for an entire lifetime. My response was similar to my Christian defense, “I’d rather be wrong and spend the rest of my life madly in love with him, than be right and be bitterly alone every morning for the rest of my life.” She of course took this as proof that I was the most pitiable, deranged, unenlightened, brainwashed girl ever.

It was plain that she was hurt by someone at some point, or was in such need of affection she had given up on ever falling in love and was only falling in bed every chance she got. I see atheists the same way. They have substituted true love for pornography and one night stands. And then they are hateful when they see someone totally, completely glowing with the real deal. How do you argue? All you can do is hope that one day they too will fall in love. And then it will be so obvious they’ll wonder why they ever doubted true love exists.

And how would you argue that “true love” exists? Your main proof is only a feeling. All the “you’re delusional” comments could be thrown at the in-love person and piles of statistics could be put forward of the horrors that love has “caused." But still, I’m in love with Jesus. (OK – and my husband. So much for ONE true love. Ha!) How do I explain it to someone who has never been in love?

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Calling All Former Atheists and Agnostics

Before my life as a mom and work-at-home freelance journalist, I was a newspaper and AP wire service reporter.

My former colleagues (who are friends) have a nickname for me, and it's not really a compliment: It's "AP Heidi."

What they mean by it is that when they knew me, I fully lived up to my heritage as a hot-tempered Irish(wo)man.

I knew how to pick a fight.

I knew how to win a fight.

I was brash and haughty, carefree and cocky, willful and belligerent.

This was true if I was chasing a shady politician ... or if I was challenging the bureauchief for sleeping with the younger male staff members and then promoting them.

It didn't matter.

If I saw an injustice, I went after it, and I made no bones about defending others -- or myself.

Problem was ... sometimes, even though it might've been justified, my anger was not always expressed in the "Christian manner."

Eight years ago I broke away from that career to start my own business at home. As I drew closer to old college friends who were Christians and also forged new relationships with mature believers in church communities, I began to realize that some of the ways I handled myself were very unChristlike.

Let's call my behavior what it really was -- sinful.

Anyway, I mellowed.

So the people who know me today who also knew me back then have a little joke -- if I start acting out as I did before, they put me in my place by calling me, "AP Heidi."

That's all it takes to quell the storm.

The problem is that the Enemy knows this is my weak spot.

So when I encounter a situation like the one at the "Proud Atheist" blog site, I bite down like a dog on a towel. Nothing shakes me from it. In fact, the creation of this blog is the perfect example of this behavior.

Here is the million dollar question for those of you who are now Jesus lovers and were former atheists or agnostics:

What approach worked for you?

In your former life, when Christians tried to debate you, what finally swayed you into seeing the truth about Jesus?

And what was the worst thing that a Christian ever did?

I ask, because I can honestly tell you that I'm probably the worst and the best type of person to deal with atheists. On the one hand, I'm not afraid of a good debate. And if I see an injustice -- like how the atheists on that same blog mocked the victim of the church shooting -- I am relentless in shining a light on their behavior.
But on the other hand, I run the risk of falling into my humanness, crashing up against my ego and pride.

We all have our failings. My pride and temper are mine.

What gets in your way of evangelism?

How can I pray for you?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Are Your Feet Dusty?

My brother Derek is no slouch.

When we were children, Derek often achieved As without cracking open a book, whereas I studied for hours on end to hit Bs. And he has his Doctorate from seminary, no small feat, either.

So I usually hit him up first for advice when it comes to chatting with people about my faith.

Today, he surprised me.

He told me to back off of a new relationship that I am forging with an atheist. This person found me via the debate that I described yesterday. He's been emailing me very good questions.

I don't know if you're anything like me, but when someone approaches me, unsolicited, and asks for my viewpoints on Jesus, I get very excited. This is what we long for as Christians, right? We are thrilled to share our experiences with others, and ultimately, we hope that by doing so God will infiltrate their minds and hearts. We want them to know Him as we do. We know the joy we experience from the relationship, and we sincerely long for other people to have that, too.

Because this atheist had some fantastic questions, I wanted to get my doctorate-level brother's take.

And his take was this:

"He strikes me as a smug know-it-all that has already made up his mind and is looking for a fight. Paul talked about this unhealthy interest in debate. Check out I Timothy 6:3-5, or II Timothy 2:14-19. I believe that there are answers to each of his objections, but to what end? You’ll find yourself researching and researching for someone who cannot be convinced anyway. Focus on the receptive ground, the people who are hungry for the truth, and shake the dust off your sandals of those who will not believe. Life is too short and the Kingdom awaits."


I never saw that one coming.

I feel conflicted about this. I think to myself, what if this person is genuinely seeking truth, and what if I turned him away for fear of wasting time?

I've come up with some answers since this exchange earlier today, but before I discuss them, I'd like to know how you handle these situations.

Are your feet dusty?

When do you shake the dust from your sandals and move on?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Safehouse for Christians

This past week I participated in a debate on a site called, "Proud Atheists."

I was lured there because of a poll question addressed to Christians. I answered the poll. Then I posted my reasons for my vote. Afterwards,I fielded questions.

The discussion with the atheists started nicely enough, with polite chit chat. But soon it became apparent that the blog site owner was only interested in provoking Christians into argument, then publicly ridiculing them. Eventually, he went so far as to alter my posts and then blocked my responses to further accusations that were hurled at me.

Today we heard the sad news about a pastor who was shot to death during his services. This same blog owner decided to use the incident as a platform and to ridicule the shooting victim for his faith.

So ... I decided ... why not create a blog that's a "safehouse" for Christians?

We put ourselves out there. We defend our faith. We allow ourselves to be taunted and slandered. This goes with the territory. Jesus tells us we're in good company with those who have gone before us.

That said, we need to support each other. Although many of us have Bible studies, Sunday School classes and other types of community through our churches, I also thought it would be nice to have a place online where we can chat.

I called this blog, "Priscilla's and Aquila's Place," because Paul writes, "Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." (1 Cor. 16:19 NASB; see also Acts 20:20, Romans 16:5, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2).

Welcome to the place where you are safe.

Do you have a situation with an unbelieving family member, friend, colleague, even enemy?

How can I pray for you?

And are others out there willing to add their supportive words and prayers?