The Major Thing

In the eulogy George W didn’t mention once that his parents made sure he had organic food his whole life, or had Pinterest worthy birthday parties, or the perfect monogrammed matching outfits with his siblings. He didn’t mention that his parents made sure their week was planned with playdates and millions of extracurricular activities. He reflected over and over again about how much his dad loved and was dedicated to his mother.

Compassionate Friends Fort Myers Chapter

When a child dies, at any age, the family suffers intense pain and may feel hopeless and isolated. Refuge.Church is starting a Compassionate Friends chapter in Fort Myers to provide personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and to help others better assist the grieving family.

Fearlessly Afraid

I hate Cheesy Christian tshirtsONE WORD – that was the challenge for 2014. Pick one word to focus on for 2014. After much thought, I chose the word FEARLESS. I was fresh off two years of greatness, as I perceived it, and was up for a challenge.

I had listened to God’s call and obediently adopted our youngest daughter, who has brought much joy to our house. I had tackled a mission trip out of the country without my husband. I had completed a triathlon. And now I was focusing my time and energy on a new challenge I felt God calling me to. I was ready to be even more fearless for God in 2014.

Then one week into the New Year on a Tuesday it hit me at 11am, the dread, the darkness, the fear, the stomach pain. By 2pm I had spiraled and depression had engulfed my whole being. I honestly thought I was immune. It had happened once a few years back, but I assumed it would never happen again.

I found myself angry at God. Why does He allow this to happen to me? Why isn’t He protecting me? Why would He choose to punish me when I strive to be obedient? Why, Why, Why?

This time when it happened, I didn’t try to live in hiding like I had previously. I informed my friends and family, who love me, and asked them to start praying. I knew from the last time, I needed to form an army to help me get through this.

Reflecting back on my most recent episode of depression, I wasn’t afraid to be honest. I wasn’t afraid to say, no I can’t be at the house by myself. I wasn’t afraid to call my friend and say I need to come to your house right now and ask her to pray for me. I wasn’t afraid to wake Brian up at 3am and say please pray over me. I wasn’t afraid to call my friend at 6am and say I need you to pick me up and take me to the doctor right now. I wasn’t afraid to go for a run at 4am; honestly, I was kind of hoping a bear would eat me to put me out of my misery.

I wasn’t protecting my ego. I wasn’t afraid of not being perfect.

Maybe when I chose fearless, God had different ideas for exposing my fears than I did. Perhaps He knew the deepest fear I needed to conquer was the fear of not always having it together, and He allowed me to suffer this so I could face it. I don’t pretend to understand all the reasons He allows us to suffer. I do know that through this, I have drawn closer to Him through reading truths in His word. Maybe He just wanted me.

Whatever it is, I am not going to abandon my one word; fearless. I’m sticking with it. I want more of Him. If suffering is what it takes to do that, I am fearlessly afraid to endure it.

I’m not a Republican.

Karen Culbertson Christian BloggerI’m not a republican. There I said it. Shocking right? I know you are probably replaying some conversations you have had with me, trying to think if you have offended me. I will save you the time, you haven’t.

Now you are thinking “how can she not be a republican, she’s a Christian?” Everyone knows Christians are part of the religious right who is owned by the Republican Party.

If that thought doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, some reflection might be needed. It seems as if everywhere I go within the Christian community there is some sort of subtle understanding that we are all republicans and must hate or look down on the “loose moral democrats”.

Recently I was at a lecture within a Christian environment and was so impressed and intrigued by the lecturer’s intelligence and depth of knowledge. Then he had to make the statement that CNN was the “communist news network”. At that point his credibility went from hero to zero. I don’t find hate amusing or appropriate within a Christian setting. Hate can be reserved for political conventions, the news and Facebook of course (where is the SarcMark when you need it). For about 8 years I have lived this truth about myself in hiding, out of fear of rejection or disdain from my brothers and sisters in Christ. They can be a very judgmental group.

So why the change of heart you ask? Why come out of the closet on my political stances right now?

Get ready for some more Protestant controversy, but here goes … the new Pope. Yes, I do believe the Pope, especially this guy, can be my brother in Christ. This guy is shaking things up and I find him incredibly fascinating! He’s hugging disruptive kids, firing Archbishops and converting their houses to soup kitchens, calling “the church” out on living the high life while there are people starving and he even has the audacity to live simply. He is saying, forget how things have always been done and what is “appropriate ” but rather he is looking to Christ for what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and worthy of praise. Bless his heart! His allegiance belongs to Christ and not to anyone else.

I find that to be refreshingly admirable and an example to be followed. We aren’t to conform to the world, or to the republicans or democrats, but we are to be transformed by renewing our minds so that we will be able to test and approve what is God’s will. Christ and only Christ is the one whom our allegiance belongs.

I’m not trying to convert anyone to the Democratic Party. I’m not a Democrat either. If you would like to classify me, you could say I am a values conservative and a process liberal. As my other Catholic brother Richard Rohr says “I believe in justice, truth, follow-through, honesty, personal and financial responsibility, faithful love, and humility-all deeply traditional values. Yet, in my view, you need to be imaginative, radical, dialogical and even countercultural to live these values to any depth”.

What I am trying to point out is we, as the body of Christ, need to cut the strings of the religious right. We are not their puppets; their battles are not ours to claim. Let’s not lose sight of our greatest commission by wasting time fighting wars that cannot be won or lost. This world is not our home, let’s set our minds on things above and not be distracted!

Eating Junk Food

My middle child Presley has always been kind of sickly. You wouldn’t expect such a big personality out of her tiny little frame. You know the saying “if momma isn’t happy, nobody is happy”? In our house the saying is “if Presley isn’t happy, nobody is happy”. This personality spills into her food intake, or lack thereof. The kid is very picky and doesn’t really like to eat food in general unless it is candy. This lack of food consumption, leads to her perpetual state of sickliness. No nourishment means a greater susceptibility to sickness.

She also has this nasty habit of putting her hands in her mouth, where she picks up more germs, and thus more sicknesses. As a mother I try to explain these concepts and every time she gets ill, I remind her if she would just eat and make better choices these illnesses wouldn’t be so frequent.

This week was another week of Presley being sick. We had to take her to the ER because she was so sick, undernourished and dehydrated. My level of frustration with her at this point is off the charts. I was driving home from church, fuming over her current predicament, when God does that thing where He convicts me. My thoughts were consumed with her malnourishment and in that moment God showed me my own malnourishment.

What does Jesus say at the last supper? Eat, this is my body; do this in remembrance of me. What does John say in the beginning of his Gospel? The Word became flesh. I realize the last supper is an act of remembrance, but I started thinking maybe when Jesus said to eat the bread representing His body, He was also reminding us to consume His Word.

I am as guilty of spiritual malnourishment as Presley is of physical malnourishment. I am getting a dose of candy by going to church for 2 hours on Sunday, which gives me an immediate boost, but then through the week I am slacking on continual nourishment of real food, which is the Word of God.

This is not a knock on Sunday morning worship or the pastors that provide the boost … unless the pastor claims they get special revelation from God and keeps changing the rules of what God says, or unless the pastor asks you to drink grape Kool-Aid. In that case RUN!!!!!

In this weakened state, I stick my hands in my mouth and get contaminated by the world.

This leads to the last problem. What does physical sickness inevitably always do? Spread, like wildfire; especially to those who are nearest you. The chain of physical sickness and spiritual sickness, really aren’t all that different.

No nourishment + dirty hands = sickness = contagious!

I like the counter formula much better.

Nourishment + clean hands = health = contagious!

Hallelujah God gives us his nourishing Word to consume. Don’t substitute it for candy…….ever! The price Jesus paid for us all was way too costly for us to rely on substitutes.

Unbalanced and Crazy

Karen SaltTeeFor pretty much 99.99% of my life, I have been aiming for the goal of living a “balanced life”. I have used phrases such as “everything in moderation” and have aimed to live a life that doesn’t have too much or too little of anything. I eat healthy, most of the time. I try to get enough exercise. I try not to watch too much television and have pretty much cut out all trash TV and trash magazines. My husband might disagree with that last statement. I’ve even extended this to my children. I don’t let them watch too much TV, eat too much junk food or get them over-extended in too many extracurricular activities, but I don’t deprive them either. After all, it’s all about balanced living; some might even call me Zen.

This morning on my run, I was having my usual morning conversation with God. Did I mention I am also a master multi-tasker? I was talking with Him about what our small group had discussed on Sunday night. Our conversation in small group was about what the first disciples must think of current day disciples and how little the Holy Spirit actually worked in our lives compared to how massively He worked in the disciples lives. We are talking about uneducated men penning and speaking some of the most eloquent words ever written or spoken through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’m more educated than the first disciples yet most of the things that continually come out of my mouth are completely ignorant. In glaring contrast, the disciples words were so powerful that they were bringing thousands to Christ. The first disciples are ultimately responsible for the spread of the largest religion in the present day world, all through the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind! What is wrong with me? Why isn’t the Holy Spirit working in my life like that?

BINGO! I figured it out. All this balanced living is like a Holy Spirit blocker. I am like the women at the well who has spent so much time searching for happiness in all the wrong places that I have completely missed the source of living water.

It finally hit me today … living a balanced life isn’t scriptural. Living a balanced life is a distraction implanted by the master of all lies. God doesn’t want me to live a life of balance; He wants me to live a completely unbalanced life focused solely on HIM.

Every night I’m sitting in front of a brain sucker (TV) when I could be communing with the maker of heaven and earth and I call that balanced. I’m on Facebook catching up on what food you ate for dinner last night when I could be reading His inspired word. Am I going to be one of those “crazy” people who doesn’t have a TV in their house? Probably not, baby steps, but maybe that is the key.

We have gotten the “crazy” switched around. I’m sure the angels in heaven are constantly in awe of how flippant we are in our pursuit of happiness when the source of joy, incomparable joy is right in front of us just waiting to be tapped into. For me, I’m going to not only start tapping; I’m going to start banging. I want the Holy Spirit to fill me up like the disciples were. I want to be so unbalanced people think I am “crazy”. I want to give and take all I can to my Savior. This is my story, this is my song … praising my Savior, all the day long. You can have the balance, I’m done with it.

While you’re here, why not check out our soft and non-cheesy Christian t-shirts. 100% of all profits are given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.

An Elder’s Wife

Until this week, I never gave much thought to the term elder’s wife. I can be a bit oblivious at times. This week my life changed though. This week I became an elder’s wife… dun-dun-dun (sing that to scary music when you read it, it makes it sound cool). When Brian approached me several months ago and asked me what I thought about him becoming an elder, I said sure, sounds great. I always try to encourage him to be part of working in God’s kingdom.

I assumed it would be very similar to many of the other things he is involved in. My role in it would probably be to plan and organize some events and just help out whenever I can. That is who I am, a worker bee. I love to be behind the scenes organizing and planning and then fall behind the scenes. I don’t do well in the spotlight. I don’t get on stage and I don’t like to pray out loud. All of these things give me hot flashes, sweaty hands, shaky voice, a blotchy red chest and stomach pain. I’m a blender.

So, you can imagine my surprise this week when I had people coming up to me congratulating me. The first congratulation took me completely by surprise. I had no idea what they were congratulating me for. Perhaps it was that I had done a good job getting a handle on my acne, perhaps they were congratulating me for a particularly good hair day. I just wasn’t sure, as must have been obvious by the puzzled look on my face, followed by clarification.

The other unexpected surprise was comments from people like “just wait, now that you are an elder’s wife everyone is going to be watching you close”. WHAT???? Then I started looking around at the other elder’s wives. They are so put together and distinguished. Brian is the youngest elder and only elder with elementary age children and a toddler. I’m the one in the fellowship hall who had to rip the piece of chocolate cake out of her two year olds hand, pick her up as she is having a freak out over the loss of cake, only to then get smacked in the face by her, all in week one of the job. Awesome!

There isn’t a book for this sort of a thing, so far the only advice I have received is don’t screw up. Great, that is a perfect job description for me. It seems like I can always find a way to screw up. I’m the person who thinks when the spiritual gifts test was created, the author left out the spiritual gift of sarcasm and cynicism. I think that is a gift, probably because it is one I possess. Don’t judge, I’m still a work in progress.

This new title, made me reflect on all of the people within our lives and our church who we hold unrealistic expectations for. The people I have empathy for are pastor’s kids. Bless your heart. How it must stink for everyone to watch you so they can judge your parents. I’m sorry for that. We have robbed you of the ability to be authentic, we have shut you down. As my friend Beth Moore said in Bible Study today, we shouldn’t give anyone enough power to throw us off course by his or her actions. Everyone is going to mess up. The only person that will never mess up is Jesus.

So, let’s extend grace, all of us at some point in our life will inevitably need to have that grace reciprocated. Be careful not to withhold it. Messing up and failure doesn’t necessarily make those scrutinized under a microscope frauds, they make them HUMAN. Some of the PK’s (pastor’s kids) I know are battling the enemy and winning. They aren’t in the stands rooting for Jesus, they are on the field making plays and I am so proud of them!

So, this is for them. Keep on, keeping on and don’t be scared to be yourself. That is who God made you to be and He doesn’t make mistakes, people do. Will you make mistakes, let’s hope so, it will take some of the pressure off me, but don’t let it stop you. I will be right there along with you, doing my best, but probably having my share of screw ups along the way. Let’s love extravagantly, let’s show grace and mercy, even to those who don’t give it, but most of all, let’s make some big plays together for Jesus. That’s who we are playing for!

While you’re here, why not check out our soft and non-cheesy Christian t-shirts. 100% of all profits are given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.

Worshiping at the Gym

There seems to be a lot of worshiping going on at the gym. Maybe that’s why they have so many mirrors. Don’t you just hate those big muscle bound men constantly staring at themselves in the mirror, worshiping their bodies? I was thinking about this today. Then as I looked at my body, that I don’t like so much, in the mirror, I realized I’m doing the same thing … worshiping my insecurities. Worshiping myself.

I have been back at the gym for the last 4 weeks now, and have been making some major changes to my eating habits. I am 38 years old, and to this point in my life I have refused to eat anything green. Well that’s not 100% true. I like green Jolly Ranchers and M&M’s. I rarely eat vegetables, unless you count the sauce on top of the best homemade pizza ever. I may grab an apple once every other week, but that has been the extent of my fruit and vegetable intake. I have recently come to realize I have also been worshiping food.

So a few weeks back I made the decision, I want to get healthy. Oh, I’ve made this decision many times before. In fact, I pretty much make it every Monday, but this time something is different. This time I made the decision because I want to be healthy enough to serve Jesus for the remainder of my time on earth. I want to worship Him through service, through how I raise my kids, through how I spread His love. This time, I’m not doing it for me; I’m doing it for Him.

As I was on the treadmill today I had my head phones on jamming to a great worship album (Top 25 Modern Worship Songs, various artists) and as each song played I began to think of how my work out was an act of Worship. Many churches have split over worship styles. Some like modern praise songs, some like southern gospel, some like hymns and some like a rock concert. I think too often, we think song is the only avenue to worship. It is important that we begin thinking of our entire life of an act of worship. Everything we do.

  • Give money in the offering … worship
  • Serve a small village in a foreign country … worship
  • Change a poopy diaper in the nursery … worship
  • Obey God’s commandments … worship
  • Give a dollar to the homeless beggar on the side of the road … worship
  • Share your faith with family members who don’t know Christ … worship
  • Run for 60 minutes on the treadmill … worship
  • Drink a carrot-kale-spinach-apple juice to improve your health … worship

It’s not about singing songs on Sunday morning, and it being your “style” … it is about your heart. It is about having Jesus at the center of everything.

As I ran on the treadmill and listened to music through my headphones, I would hear lines like …

“I lift my eyes up, where does my help come from” … as I was on the most challenging level of the hill climb workout.
“And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us” … as I approached the point of wanting to quit.
“Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me” … as sweat dripped from my body and the workout ended.

You see, God is there with us all the time. We are made to worship. God doesn’t have a standard on the type of worship He accepts. He just want us, all of us. How we worship is irrelevant. In the past, when I wanted to “get into shape” it was about worshiping me. It was about wanting to look better for me, wanting to feel better for me, wanting my pants to stop cutting me in half, for me. But this time it’s different, this time it’s all about Jesus (except when I make it about me). This time I want to change my health so I can live and serve Him longer. This time I want it to be about continuing to serve the least of these. This time I want to have the energy to raise kids who love and worship the one true God. This time, it’s all about you Lord.

Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page and let us know where you worship God?