My Christian Faith in a “Social Media Fearing” Society

If I ever ended up on a reality TV show, one where they had me living in a house with people of opposing beliefs and lifestyles and habits, I’m not sure there would be enough drama from me to make the episode controversial enough to be considered modern entertainment.

faith family friends sign

There are 2 main reasons for this:

Here’s the 1st reason.

Despite me being concrete on what I believe in and stand for, as my Christian faith is the basis of my existence, my role is not to “convert” anyone who is close-minded to what I believe.

I will gladly share my faith with anyone who I believe is searching for hope; which is what I believe Jesus and His followers demonstrated in the New Testament.

But Jesus didn’t seem to argue with nonbelievers and skeptics.

The people He seemed to really have an issue with were the people of His day who believed they already had their golden ticket into Heaven, but who weren’t willing to truly surrender their hearts to God’s will for their lives; which typically involved simply loving their neighbors as themselves.

(Apparently though, it’s not that simple; otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this today.)

Therefore, I feel I have no business in arguing with a “non-believer” of Christ, the Messiah; whether it’s a person of a different religion, or a skeptic of religion, or someone who simply doesn’t participate in religion whatsoever.

I feel that if my faith is not evident through my attitude and actions, words alone definitely won’t help the situation.

From a secular (and marketing) perspective, what good is a professing Christian on a reality TV show if he or she isn’t willing to argue, lose their cool, and demonstrate the opposite of Jesus’s mentality? The hypocrisy of Christians sells.

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But if a Christian is actually helping others overseas to get access to clean water, that’s apparently not worth prime time advertising dollars.

I feel the media is quick to give pedestals to the most opinionated and argumentative professing Christians, which helps make the rest of us appear as fools.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I fully accept my title as “fool for Christ’s sake,” as the Apostle Paul puts it.

But what if there were more examples of… I guess I could simply say… level-headed, nonjudgmental Christians in the media?

I don’t think America is really accustomed to that.

Here’s the 2nd reason I don’t think I would make for a controversial enough episode in a reality TV show:

I would quickly and openly admit I am not perfect.

There’s a stereotype that Christians are the most judgmental people; that they think they are “holier than thou.”

If I was on a reality TV show, the 1st thing I would proclaim to the other people in the house was that I definitely, absolutely do not believe I am better than anyone else.

I would share with them that my understanding of the Christian faith is not that we are people who think we are perfect.

It’s quite the opposite. I know for a fact I am far from perfect and therefore have no right to judge anyone else. Instead, I depend on God’s grace not only for eternal salvation from my imperfect state of being, but also for constant salvation from my greedy, selfish mindset.

I believe we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. I’m simply in the same depraved state as everyone else.

Our society (on both sides of the fence) places so much value on the morality/immorality of homosexuality, as the controversial topic only further divides America in its own civil culture war.

I remain publicly mute on the topic, because I’d rather focus on the things listed in the Bible that I personally struggle with every day:

Like pride.

And greed.

And gossip.

(Those are items people tend to overlook in the New Testament the moment they see a reference of homosexuality; even when those things are listed together with homosexuality in the same verse.)

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Our society actually places a high value on gossip, in case you haven’t noticed.

What should be a shameful thing is instead worshiped.

Let me be clear: While our society is divided on homosexuality, we love gossip.

In actuality, gossip is condemned in the Bible; the whole way throughout the book.

But it’s easier for us to question the things in the Bible that only some people relate to, like homosexuality… while the more identifiable issues to the mainstream, like pride and greed and gossip, are virtually excused.

So if I was in a reality TV show, my role would be to help other people alongside me. For example, if I was placed in a house with self-proclaimed slobs, I would help them do their dishes every day before I would allow myself to lose my temper with them.

Granted, I would still fear my scenes could be edited to be taken out of context, packaged into bite-size morsels, so convenient to be blasted all over Twitter- making me out to be the judgmental character I most wished to disassociate myself from.

After all, I fear that in some regards, as we live in a time when the Internet has become the modern day Tower of Babel, we have learned to fear social media (and its potential backlash) more than God Himself.

At the same time, isn’t it safe to say that we as a culture even worship social media, as well?

It’s sad, but that concept helps me better understand the concept of both worshiping and fearing God; though at first it seems like a paradox.

In a reality TV show setting, I would consider myself as a “competitor” in a contest, whose agenda was to prove that Christianity is serving others; not judging them.

Christianity is about demonstrating love, by being patient and kind and understanding and forgiving.

If we dumb down Christianity to “heaven or hell” or “traditional marriage or gay marriage” or “Republican or Democrat”, then I feel we’re not talking about the same faith Jesus taught His followers.

It seems that would be a compromised and ultimately misleading version of the very Gospel we are called to share with our “neighbors”…

Now, the question is, would an American audience buy into a concept so revolutionary… that serving others, not judging them, is what faith in Jesus is all about?

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A Family That Prays Together… Ah, You Know The Rest

April 2, 2013 at 10:42 pm , by 

2 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

You started noticing that Mommy and I hold hands and pray before we eat dinner every night.

It’s not some beautiful, poetic thing. We let our words be few: “Dear God, we thank you for this food today and all you have blessed us with. Amen.”

Last week you started wanting in on the action. You smiled at us and lifted your hands out for us to hold them.

So now before dinner, and at night as we’re putting you to bed, and before our family leaves the house for our separate ways in the morning, we pray together.

And you now not only expect it, but I can clearly see you like being a part of it.

I actually think you’re pretty aware of what’s going on. You know who God is from yourBeginner’s Bible, as well as from church.

Tonight as I sang “Away In A Manger” as part of your bedtime routine, you stopped me in the middle of the 1st verse and said, “Jesus makes!”

I asked you what Jesus makes and you responded:

“Jesus makes oatmeal… and beans and rice!”

My immediate uproar of laughter pretty much killed the mood for helping you get to sleep. Mommy later explained to me you were referring to the 2nd verse, which she sings to you: “No crying he makes.”

I think it’s really cool that you want to be a part of our family’s prayer times throughout the day. I figure at best, what you gather from us praying is that we not only believe in God, but we trust him.

We have no idea what’s in our future, five minutes from now or five years from now. But we want to be in God’s favor and we know that means loving others as ourselves.

I know that’s a very simple way of explaining our faith to you, but I think if I as your dad can remember that much of it, I could have the faith of a child.

From what I understand, that’s actually a good thing.

 

Love,

Daddy

 

 

 

 

Brainwashing Versus Successfully Influencing a Child

September 27, 2011 at 9:20 pm , by 

Ten months.

What’s the difference between a parent brainwashing their child versus successfully influencing them? After all, a child will ultimately grow up and make up their own mind when it comes to stuff like moral issues and relevance of religious faith. Yet it would be unwise to discount the impressions made on a child by an involved and encouraging parent.

Brainwashing carries a connotation of something forced and militant. That’s obviously not how I aim to influence my child. Instead, it’s a matter of making what’s normal and accepted to us as parents, normal and accepted to him.

My strategy is to simply raise my son in the way I know as right, so that when he is older, he won’t depart from it. My son Jack was born into a specifically Christian household. His exposure to our family’s religious beliefs won’t be presented as a respectable suggestion, but as reality and actual history.

But I can’t make him believe anything for the rest of his life; nor would I want to. As his dad, I can only influence him in ways that most other people will not be able.

What parts of our parental influence will really stick with him by the time he’s our age? I guess we’ll know when we’re sixty. But as for now, we’ll continue brainwashing influencing him in our quirky ways.

Unexpected Bonus!

On a related subject, I am giving away 5 copies of a brand new book called Sticky Faith, which specializes in giving parents everyday ideas to build lasting faith in their kids’ lives, specifically at key transitional stages (i.e. elementary, middle, high school, etc.).

Just be one of the first 5 people to leave a comment on this post, and within 60 minutes, send an email to nickshell1983@hotmail providing your name and address so the publisher will know where to send the books to.

UPDATE: Congrats to the winners of this free book!

J. Valentine from Pompton Lakes, NJ

S. Cruce from Fort Payne, AL

C. Williams from Cincinnati, Ohio

W. Pierson from Houston, Texas

G. Grey from Berlin, Germany

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Jack’s Baby Dedication: Faith and Parenting

June 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm , by 

Six months.

A few weeks ago on Mother’s Day, my wife and I had Jack “dedicated” at our church.  If you are not familiar with this Protestant practice, a “baby dedication” is a public ceremony where the parents of a new baby promise, in front of the pastor and the congregation, to grow up their child in the faith.  As Jack’s parents, it is our responsibility to lead and guide him in our own moral and spiritual beliefs.

My son will not be left on his own to figure out who God is and why we believe that God’s love is the reason for our existence. Sure, Jack will have to make up his own mind when he gets old enough, but my faith is so crucial to every fiber of my being, that as a father I believe that one of the most important tasks I will ever have is to teach my son about the next life, as well as, teaching him to love others as himself in this life.

While I do value the public act of dedicating my son to the building up and growing of the heavenly kingdom we believe comes after this earthly life, the private version happened before he was even born.  As Jack was still in the womb, I prayed for him. And now that he’s here, I continue to pray for him. After all, I believe that I haven’t simply brought another life into this world, but that I am also responsible for bringing another soul into existence– a soul I am unmistakably accountable for teaching what I believe is the meaning of life.

Whether you have been following my daddy blog since the beginning (April 13th, 2010) or whether you just recently started tuning in thanks to Parents.com picking up my series, something noticeably undeniable yet decently subtle in my writing content is the intertwining of my family’s everyday life events and our Christian faith. According to Wikipedia, nearly 80% of Americans identify themselves with Christianity (from Catholic to Protestant, and everything in between).  So I would assume that nearly 80% of readers will identify with me when I write about my faith.  For the other 20%, who have a different religion or maybe not one at all, please know that I welcome you just as much to The Dadabase.

Because no matter which faith we call our own, something we all have in common is that we are parents.  We have children who we are trying to raise the best we can.  And just like the faith of our choosing, so parenting is also a journey.  By no means do I have my faith 100% figured out- I’m being humbled and broken down more everyday, and therefore maturing as a believer.

Just like, as a parent, I’m learning as I go.

dad from day one: Will We Be Moving Jack Back to Nashville? (Part 1)

Week 17 (4 months).

*While this entry is actually the 5th chapter of my series entitled “God-Nudged Leap of Faith”, it is just as relevant to “dad from day one” as well. Therefore, I consider it a cross-over episode.

A few weeks from now, on April 4th, it will be four months since my wife and I took our God-nudged leap of faith.  We carefully planned and prayed over our decision to leave our secured careers behind in Nashville to live in a small blue collar town in Alabama where my family lives.  Having our first child, a son named Jack who was born on November 16, 2010, was a big part of the motivation to move.  It made sense to slow down our pace of life, not only for ourselves, but for him.  We wanted Jack to be surrounded by his grandparents, aunt, and uncle.

My wife and I both were born in 1981.  As children of the 1980’s, we were always told that you can do anything if you really believed in your dreams.  Maybe that’s why we were brave enough to take this leap of faith.  Maybe that’s what got us into this situation: Having almost depleted our savings and unable to land the right jobs back in my small hometown, we are now at a breaking point.

But in this moment, I don’t feel brave. Perhaps there’s a thin line between bravery and foolishness.  The way I see it, that thin line in my case is actually having a steady job.  It’s not a matter of the choice that we may have to move back to Nashville- it’s simply the only option if at least one of us doesn’t get a job within the next 2 and a half weeks.  We need to make the most responsible decision at this point.

That 2 and a half week deadline is both how long our savings will last us as well as how long it should take to know if the most recent job I applied for will be mine or go to someone else.  I can’t say that there were truly no job opportunities for me here.  The first week we were here, I interviewed and was offered a job that was similar to my one in Nashville for the past five years- however, I found out during the interview that it meant working every Saturday and three nights a week.  So I turned them down.  Looking back, it’s easier to say I should have jumped at the chance.  But at the time, I felt that it defeated the purpose of moving here if I couldn’t spend Saturday’s and many evenings with my family.

And the day I published the last chapter of this series, I interviewed and was offered a job as an account representative.  It seemed like the perfect fit at first, but soon I realized I was the wrong guy for the job- like an accountant trying to do a computer administrator’s job or a forklift operator trying to work in a cubicle on the phone.  I was very appreciative, and maybe too honest to not waste their time, but after a week and a half, I had to face the inevitable and re-entered the gloomy world of “much qualified but unemployed”.

My heart was set on raising my son in the same small town I loved while growing up.  But it’s starting to seem like I’m playing Red Rover and I just can’t break through the other side.  And while all of my family’s lives and futures will change if end up moving back to Nashville, I think of how Baby Jack’s life will be the most effected.  Nashville is a wonderful city; after all, it’s where my wife and I met and got married. But his grandparents (my parents) had set their hearts on seeing him nearly every day (the house we live now in is barely a half a mile from them).  And Jack won’t get to grow up with his cousin (my sister is due with her first child in July, who will be in the same school grade as him) as closely.

We chose love over money.  We chose faith over security.  I would love to believe that this story ends the way I intended.  But unless God provides a miracle, because that’s the only saving option, then we have to count our losses (emotional, physical, and financial) and abandon our simple dream.

In Nashville, Jack will have to be raised by babysitters while my wife and I work. As compared to living in Alabama, my sister was going to babysit him since she is going on maternity leave for awhile.  That’s hard for me to grasp.  It makes me think of a divorce in that Jack will only see his family (other than my wife and I, of course) on most weekends.  That’s not what I had my heart set on.

My intentions were good.  My heart was right. My faith was real. My God can still intervene.

One of the main reasons I decided to write this God-nudged leap of faith series was to show how God would provide for my family.  He has always provided for me before.  I just can’t imagine this story ending with this all being for just character building experience.  Not that God’s faithfulness and providence depends on my story.  So to be fair, no matter how this story ends, I will continue writing it- even if we have to pack our lives back up and return to Nashville (where I could go back to my gracious former employer).

I realize that our willingness to move back to Nashville away from family could simply be like Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  Maybe it’s simply a test of our faith.  But I also fully realize that despite all it took to get here, we may be required to actually make the sacrifice. For the next two and a half weeks, I will be looking for that ram caught in the bushes, like Abraham was given.  I’m counting on a miraculous whirlwind to catch me and carry me either to safety on the ground, or back up to where I leaped from in the first place.

Like Bruce Springsteen said in the first track of my favorite album of his, The Rising: “In God’s hands our fate is complete… I’m countin’ on a miracle to come through.”

It’s in God’s hands, where it’s always been.

Countin’ on a Miracle to Save My Fall in This God-Nudged Leap of Faith (Like a Whirlwind)

The next two and a half weeks determine the future of my entire family’s life… especially my son Jack’s.

*While this entry is actually an pivotal entry from my baby blog “dad from day one”, it is just as relevant to this “God-Nudged Leap of Faith” series as well. Therefore, I consider it a cross-over chapter.

A few weeks from now, on April 4th, it will be four months since my wife and I took our God-nudged leap of faith.  We carefully planned and prayed over our decision to leave our secured careers behind in Nashville to live in a small blue collar town in Alabama where my family lives.  Having our first child, a son named Jack who was born on November 16, 2010, was a big part of the motivation to move.  It made sense to slow down our pace of life, not only for ourselves, but for him.  We wanted Jack to be surrounded by his grandparents, aunt, and uncle.

My wife and I both were born in 1981.  As children of the 1980’s, we were always told that you can do anything if you really believed in your dreams.  Maybe that’s why we were brave enough to take this leap of faith.  Maybe that’s what got us into this situation: Having almost depleted our savings and unable to land the right jobs back in my small hometown, we are now at a breaking point.

But in this moment, I don’t feel brave. Perhaps there’s a thin line between bravery and foolishness.  The way I see it, that thin line in my case is actually having a steady job.  It’s not a matter of the choice that we may have to move back to Nashville- it’s simply the only option if at least one of us doesn’t get a job within the next 2 and a half weeks. We need to make the most responsible decision at this point.

That 2 and a half week deadline is both how long our savings will last us as well as how long it should take to know if the most recent job I applied for will be mine or go to someone else.  I can’t say that there were truly no job opportunities for me here.  The first week we were here, I interviewed and was offered a job that was similar to my one in Nashville for the past five years- however, I found out during the interview that it meant working every Saturday and three nights a week.  So I turned them down.  Looking back, it’s easier to say I should have jumped at the chance.  But at the time, I felt that it defeated the purpose of moving here if I couldn’t spend Saturday’s and many evenings with my family.

And the day I published the last chapter of this series, I interviewed and was offered a job as an account representative.  It seemed like the perfect fit at first, but soon I realized I was the wrong guy for the job- like an accountant trying to do a computer administrator’s job or a forklift operator trying to work in a cubicle on the phone.  I was very appreciative, and maybe too honest to not waste their time, but after a week and a half, I had to face the inevitable and re-entered the gloomy world of “much qualified but unemployed”.

My heart was set on raising my son in the same small town I loved while growing up.  But it’s starting to seem like I’m playing Red Rover and I just can’t break through the other side.  And while all of my family’s lives and futures will change if end up moving back to Nashville, I think of how Baby Jack’s life will be the most effected.  Nashville is a wonderful city; after all, it’s where my wife and I met and got married. But his grandparents (my parents) had set their hearts on seeing him nearly every day (the house we live now in is barely a half a mile from them).  And Jack won’t get to grow up with his cousin (my sister is due with her first child in July, who will be in the same school grade as him) as closely.

We chose love over money.  We chose faith over security.  I would love to believe that this story ends the way I intended.  But unless God provides a miracle, because that’s the only saving option, then we have to count our losses (emotional, physical, and financial) and abandon our simple dream.

In Nashville, Jack will have to be raised by babysitters while my wife and I work. As compared to living in Alabama, my sister was going to babysit him since she is going on maternity leave for awhile.  That’s hard for me to grasp.  It makes me think of a divorce in that Jack will only see his family (other than my wife and I, of course) on most weekends.  That’s not what I had my heart set on.

My intentions were good.  My heart was right. My faith was real. My God can still intervene.

One of the main reasons I decided to write this God-nudged leap of faith series was to show how God would provide for my family.  He has always provided for me before.  I just can’t imagine this story ending with this all being for just character building experience.  Not that God’s faithfulness and providence depends on my story.  So to be fair, no matter how this story ends, I will continue writing it- even if we have to pack our lives back up and return to Nashville (where I could go back to my gracious former employer).

I realize that our willingness to move back to Nashville away from family could simply be like Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  Maybe it’s simply a test of our faith.  But I also fully realize that despite all it took to get here, we may be required to actually make the sacrifice. For the next two and a half weeks, I will be looking for that ram caught in the bushes, like Abraham was given.  I’m counting on a miraculous whirlwind to catch me and carry me either to safety on the ground, or back up to where I leaped from in the first place.

Like Bruce Springsteen said in the first track of my favorite album of his, The Rising: “In God’s hands our fate is complete… I’m countin’ on a miracle to come through.”

It’s in God’s hands, where it’s always been.

Falling Downward in a God-Nudged Leap of Faith (Like Wile E. Coyote)

I’m still in it and eagerly looking to land.

When a person leaps from one ledge to another, there is that moment when they soar up into the air, then for a moment they are airborne but not yet falling back down to land.  That has been my leap of faith so far.  Now, I am in the descension of my God-nudged leap of faith.  In the most previous installment, Airborne from a God-Nudged Leap of Faith , I explained that my current inspiration for documenting this series is that my wife and I (along with our infant son) packed up our financially stable life in Nashville and moved to my hometown in Alabama.  Yes, it would either take a fool, or a guy who truly believed it was his calling from God, to do a crazy thing like that.

When I say I am falling, I don’t mean that I am losing faith in God’s providence, nor do I say it to signal that I am in a crisis mode in my life.  Obviously, being in this situation is very stressful, wearing, trying, and intense.  I have begun to question whether this seemingly absurd move was truly what God wanted us to do, or whether it was simply my own artistic attempt to live a simpler life.  Here’s what I know: Either way, at this point, it couldn’t be more clear that only God is in control of this.  And there’s obviously no one else I’d rather be in control. Whether or not I “should have” or “shouldn’t have” made this extreme decision in my life, God is still faithful and I am eager to bring attention to that.

At this exact minute, I’ve just had a visual pop into my head.  This whole time I’ve been picturing this leap of faith as me jumping across to another ledge of the same height.  But I don’t think that’s what this is.  Now I’m starting to see that I am actually jumping to a lower ledge, which requires even more faith and more strength than I realized.  It makes it much more difficult to even see where I am even supposed to land.

I have been wondering in these last couple of weeks how much spiritual warfare is involved in this story.  A few weeks ago, the job that I prayed that God would create a job for me here (since it evidently didn’t exist already in this small town) which would utilize my five years of marketing and sales experience along with my writing abilities.  And it happened.  Three weeks ago a local company called me ready for the interview, the position would start immediately, and I virtually had no competition.  And then, “Mr. Budget” flew in from the corporate office and made it clear that position would be postponed (for who knows how long…). I was told I had everything they were looking for and they were all excited to get me, but randomly, I lost out.  Not cancelled, at least.  But still, annoyingly, postponed.

In the likeness of the on/off switch as seen on the finale episode of Lost, I wonder if right now, there honestly is nothing I can do but wait- because the switch is off. Is it spiritual warfare on just simply bad timing?  God is well aware, He is constantly prayed to about the situation, and again, still in control and faithful.  It’s hard to feel completely overwhelmed and helpless when, ultimately, I have this strange, still, quiet peace about it all.  This is currently taped on the fridge door at my house:

“Teach me good judgement and discernment, for I rely on your commands.” -Psalm 119: 66