Friday, March 28, 2014

My Take on World Vision…..

I have thought long and hard about this for several days. I started a blog post yesterday. Then I deleted it. Then I started another one. Then I deleted that one too. So here I am, trying again. We’ll see how it goes.
First of all, a quick summary for those who live under a rock (kidding, mostly): World Vision is the second largest charity organization listed with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), only outdone by the Salvation Army. Just a few days ago, they made a policy change and announced it to everyone: they will now recognize same-sex marriage as acceptable under its national employment conduct policy. As long as the employees abstained from sex before marriage, spouses of a same-sex marriage could now be employed by the organization. They did not want to “get involved” in the complicated theological discussion, and claimed that this was not their personal endorsement of same-sex marriages.
Um, okay. We’ll deal with that part later.
Naturally, the people of America exploded. Some with support, some with anger. Many were excited that such a large Christian organization were now “tolerant” of same-sex marriages. Many Christians took to their social media sites to applaud this move. But then, many Christians immediately reacted with such anger that they immediately dropped their support of their sponsored children.
After just two days, World Vision made an announcement that they had reversed their decision and issued a “sincere” apology.
Alright, so these are the rough details. I encourage you to read some of the facts surrounding this if you didn’t know before you jump to any conclusions….just in case I didn’t paint a clear picture of it here. And please know as you read this, that I am still very much so immature when it comes to dealing with the “sticky” issues of our times. I highly value the opinions of those around me, so if yours is different than mine I would LOVE to see your comment on this post. (Just keep it polite, please.)
If you ask me, the CEO/Board who made this decision should be immediately relieved of their positions. How in the world can you have such a strict policy that you will fire an employee for not believing in the Trinity, yet think that it is okay to recognize “same-sex marriage” as acceptable conduct? And why would you make such a huge announcement over it? To me, this whole thing was nothing but a politically motivated, financially motivated, PR stunt. In fact, it was a PR stunt directly orchestrated by the enemy, because the whole world is on fire over it. You now have the LGBT community lamenting over how judgmental Christians are and how much they persecute others. “Look at how pushy those intolerant Christians are.” “They are not following the example of Christ because they are so hateful.” Good gracious, the comments I’ve read on some of these blogs and news articles are enough to make me want to hide in a cave for the next fifty years.
Problem is, the PR stunt didn’t go as planned, because right after they announced the policy change over 2,000 children lost their sponsors. So OF COURSE the natural response would be to issue a moving apology to the Church, reassure everyone that they did not think this through, and reverse their decision.
Surprisingly though, my issue is not just with World Vision. My issue is also with the Church, and how we as a body of “believers” handled this. Because the truth is, some of those comments I’ve read about how hateful the Church acted were kind of accurate.
Over 2,000 children lost their sponsors in just two days. I have traveled to Peru. I have spent a week with the types of children these sponsorships program help feed. I have walked their nasty streets and washed my hands in their dirty water. I have played soccer with the kids who don’t have sponsors yet. The kids who have to wait outside in the dirt and heat while the sponsored kids get to go inside and eat their meals.
And I wonder to myself…..should the Church’s response have been to immediately drop their sponsorships? Because you aren’t really punishing anyone except those poor children. Sure, some of your money goes to the administrative costs, but most of it truly does go to the kids. And what will they see? Will they see the “issues” surrounding their lost sponsorship? I’ll answer that for you: no. All they will see is a sponsor that used to write them letters….who used to send them birthday and Christmas presents….who used to pray for them and tell them about Jesus….gone. Just like that. Gone.
What I think we should have seen happen is this:
a)     The Church should have been unified on this. I can’t stand knowing that so many pastors and “Christians” rallied around World Vision’s decision in the first place. I expect the secular world to applaud their decision, but the Church? Really?? If we can’t be unified on something as big as same-sex marriage, then what in the world are we doing??
b)     Rather than dropping sponsorships, we should have waited first. We should have profusely rebuked the decision. We should have written letters, made phone calls, stuffed their e-mail inboxes with Scripture. Not with angry rants and “shame on you’s.” Scripture. Because at the end of the day, we can give our opinions all we want, but Scripture is the only Truth we have. And by wielding the Sword of the Word of God, we are able to have a righteous and pure anger, and not a selfish attitude.
c)      If Scripture did not change their hearts, then churches should have started issuing public statements of their disapproval. We should have made it very clear where we stand. We should have done this with all the love and kindness we could muster. And then we should have started providing information on other charities that were available for us to support that upholds God’s Word.
d)     But I still believe that even if after all of that, World Vision continued to stand on its policy change, we should have prayed long and hard before cancelling our sponsorships. Really, really, really pray. Because deciding to no longer support orphans and the neediest our world has is a big decision.
I personally do not sponsor a child through World Vision… little Indian girl is through another sponsorship program. But I think of what I would do if the organization that handles her sponsorship would have done something so selfish and stupid. Right now, I think I would still have sponsored her. She is almost fourteen years old….so very close to finishing her education and doing great things in her country. I don’t know if I could just stop supporting her and hope that her life turns out okay. I think of those poor little ones in Peru that had to wait outside while their friends went inside to eat. Would she ever get a good meal again? Would she finish school? Would she go on to do great things? Of course, God holds each of us in His hands, and so hopefully her life would still turn out just fine. But I made a commitment to this little girl, and I do not think I would have the heart to break that commitment, despite my intense displeasure with the organization over the sponsorship.
I hate that the poorest, most helpless beings on our planet got caught up in such a political, nasty battle. A battle that they may not even know exists as they walk down the dirty streets looking for food. I hate that World Vision made such a poor decision and put so many at risk. But I also hate that the Church reacted in such anger and made over 2,000 brash decisions.
And it’s got me thinking…..I don’t know if World Vision’s apology to the Church is genuine. Did they truly realize their mistake and repent? Or did they realize how much money their organization lost and try to put a band-aid on the issue my issuing the apology?  I suppose, we will never really know now.
But guys, if we call ourselves a Christian, then we’ve got to get unified on this. So now it’s your turn. What do you think? Am I just totally off the mark on this? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this one!

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the Church. Then if he or she won’t accept the Church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” ~Matthew 18:15-17

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fit-Tips that I’ve Learned (That may not Work for You)

Roman and I have been trying *super* hard to get fit. Not just fit, but all-around healthy. My New Year’s Resolution was basically to just try and take good care of myself, and part of that includes trying to get healthier. I don’t have any weight loss goals (although I’d be lying if I said that I don’t want to lose a few pounds.) We just joined a gym and have tried our very best-est to go on a regular basis.
But I know a *ton* of my friends are legitimately trying to lose some serious weight, and so I thought I’d share a few tips that have worked for us. You can love them or hate them….I promise you won’t hurt my feelings either way.
When it comes to the gym…..don’t go by yourself if at all possible. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Roman making me go on some days (like yesterday) I probably wouldn’t go at all. I suppose some people have the self-motivation to go it alone, but I am not gifted in that area. Plus, because we go together, I train harder. A few weeks ago I was doing a particular ab exercise. Roman walked up and said, “Holy cow those are so hard; I could only do eight.” So me, in my naturally over-competitive spirit, cranked thirty out. See? It’s better when you have someone you can compete against (and who makes you actually go when you don’t feel like it.)
Good gracious, the sweet tooth….anyone who knows me knows I love chocolate. But one thing I’ve found that really helps me when I’m craving something sweet is a grape-juice slushy. Here’s what you do: take a small paper bathroom-cup (does anyone still use these? we don’t) and fill it with grape juice….preferably the no-sugar-added kind (like Welch’s.) Put the cup in the freezer for about twenty-thirty minutes and voila! Grape-juice slushy! It tastes just like a popsicle, and the sweetness of the grape juice tricks my sweet tooth into thinking that I just indulged in junk food when in fact, I did not. This obviously would work on anything that you can freeze. And of course, you can use a bigger cup. Just know that the bigger the cup, the longer you have to freeze it before you can slushify it.
But I don’t have enough time….yes, you do. Turn NCIS off and exercise for a little bit. I promise, you can DVR it and watch it later. OR, you can do exercises in the living room while it’s still on. We make time for what we really want to do, and we make excuses for what we don’t. We Americans are super good at that. Have lots of kids? Jump on the trampoline with them or play a game of kickball. You don’t have to physically go to the gym to get some daily exercise.
And please, make it worth your time…..I am no fitness expert or trainer or anything, so let me preface this with that little statement. But if you are going to spend the money to join a gym and then take the time to go, then make it worth your time. I watch SO MANY ladies casually spinning on the elliptical while reading a magazine and not even breaking a sweat. Trust me, if you aren’t getting your heart rate up, you probably aren’t going to lose any weight. And if you do, it will take you months (if not years) to make any headway. It’s been proven over and over that running for just twenty minutes 3-5 times a week can make a huge difference in your weight loss progress. I’ll take a twenty minute run over a 90 minute casual elliptical exercise any day. And if you don’t like running, there are plenty of other activities that will get your heart rate up. Zumba, anyone?
Sleep is everything…..this is one of those times where I really need to start practicing what I preach. Seriously though, if you aren’t getting enough sleep (as in, the recommended 8-10 hours) then your efforts are going to be thwarted. Your body doesn’t function when it’s sleep-deprived. It doesn’t burn fat during/after exercise if it’s expending all of its energy to keep you moving. So really, DVR the NCIS show and watch it another day so that you can get in the bed on time. And believe me, I know how difficult that sounds because I myself generally am not in the bed before 11 p.m. and I don’t even have kids yet!
Okay, so there you have it. Again, I’m not a fitness expert, so I encourage you to do some research. This is just some things that I’ve learned along the way that I thought might be helpful to someone else. Or not. Maybe you are reading this and thinking “duh, everyone knows this Sarah.” Insert Napoleon Dynamite “GOSH” here.

What about you? Any ground-breaking (or not-so-ground-breaking) fit-tips that you’ve learned? Does anyone else really want a bowl of ice cream right now? I might have to make three of my frozen grape-juice thingies tonight…..

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” ~Colossians 3:23

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Servant's Heart

Over the last three weeks I have been really sick two times. The first time was a sinus infection that lasted for ten days. It took me a week from the time I came down with it to feel like I was not going to die….that was a rough one. The second time was a three-day long stomach bug. Yay for me. Needless to say, the last three weeks have not treated me very well and things have not been great in the Casterline house (because Roman had the sinus infection for a week before I had it, so there’s that too.)
But you guys, I scored the jackpot when I married this man of mine. One thing that I can say he does extremely well is taking care of his wife, especially when she is glued to the recliner claiming that she is going to die within the next five minutes. Ahem.
Through all of the bowls of chicken noodle soup and sweet tea refills, he was right there….patiently doing everything he could to make sure I was taken care of. He cooked, he cleaned up the kitchen, he took care of all the animals. Seriously, if you took a glance at my house right now you’d never know that I’m three weeks behind in vacuuming and my bathroom mirrors should also probably get cleaned, because Mr. Husband did a pretty dang good job holding down the fort.  
All of this got me thinking last night, because I know that not every wife has it this good.
We had an evangelist come to our church a couple weeks ago for revival. He was awesome, and we really enjoyed getting to eat dinner with him after service a few times and learning more about him. He would randomly throw out questions like “do you hate your job” and “how long have you been married” as we talked and joked. One time, he asked “so does Roman help with the housework?” to which I enthusiastically replied “yes!” He looked a little surprised at my answer, so I continued. “No really, he really does. I never have to beg him to help out around the house. If I ask him for help, he helps. And a lot of times I don’t even have to ask.”
My point in all of this is twofold:
1)      Roman seriously deserves some credit. This husband of mine is living, breathing proof that men are not who the media says they are. Not all men are lazy and inconsiderate. There are men out there who actually have a servant’s heart. Men who are willing to be there for their wives and share some of the load when it comes to housekeeping. I happened to snag a really good one, and I like telling you about it-not because I’m prideful-but because sometimes it’s nice for us to brag on our guys in front of other people. And I could brag for a long time on Mr. Casterline.

2)     To challenge you.
If you are a man: I challenge you to step up to the plate (if you aren’t already.) We women do a lot. Many of us work. And then we come home and cook. And take care of kids. And do the laundry. And you get the point. Yes, I know that you guys work too, and this is not to discount everything that you do. But this is not a contest to see who works more and therefore who deserves to sit on the couch while the other person plays house. Marriage is a partnership, and both partners should be striving to make the home run smoothly. So my challenge is for you to survey your household. Does your wife seem overburdened with work/kids/house? Is there something you can do to help out? Perhaps you can volunteer to do the dishes while she cleans up from dinner. Or you maybe you can help Junior out with his math homework so she can fold some of the laundry. And don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking, and I’m about to address that.
If you are a woman: let him help you. We can be control freaks sometimes. And yes, I’m speaking to myself here. We desperately want him to help us, but we want him to do it our way. So we’ll nag him when he does it wrong instead of thanking him, or we won’t even let him help in the first place. Listen, it doesn’t matter if he sweeps the floor differently than you. He’s getting the fur balls out of the corner! Trust me I KNOW we like things to be done a certain way. I have 100% gotten in an all-out brawl with Roman over how the towels needed to be folded. If I clean our house all by myself on a Saturday, it will look awesome. It will also take me six hours and I’ll be a zombie by the time I get done. If I let Roman help me, the house will still look awesome even though he does things a little bit differently, it takes less than half the time, and we still have the time/energy to do something fun on Saturday evenings.  
And one more thing, to all of my unmarried readers……
Learn to take on that servant’s attitude before you ever get married. Know that when you do get married, it will take the two of you working together to have a happy, efficient home. Look for that same servant’s attitude when you are searching for your spouse. It’s easy to spot….a servant’s attitude will cause you to be the first to start helping clean up the kitchen at church after a potluck dinner. Or help the lady with two buggies of groceries get to her car. Or volunteer at church to clean the bathrooms. You get my point.
Believe me, life is so much easier when you have a husband that serves you soup while you’re sick. And those fur balls accumulate pretty quickly when you’re doing everything on your own. Just sayin’.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tired of trying to just be accepted? Yea, me too.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, then you might have seen some of my posts from our revival services we are having this week. Let me be the first tell you: I’m exhausted. We are entering the last service tonight, and I am excited to see what God has done and yet incredibly sad to see the evangelist close his last sermon. Evangelist Mike Holt has done an amazing job speaking at our revival, and I’m so thankful he was able to come. But holy moly, having extended worship services several nights in a row while simultaneously going to work the next morning is tiring!
Anyways, as I said, the services have been amazing, on point, and totally relevant to where I am in my walk with Christ. God has revealed several things to me that I need to work on in my life, but I have also felt His presence stronger than I have in a long time. It has definitely been every bit of the definition of the word “revival” in my soul.
God has definitely awakened something in me though, and that is my immediate need to start working for His kingdom. Really working. Yes, I know, I am a worship leader. So “technically” I already am working for His kingdom. But can I just be really, blatantly honest and transparent with you guys? I am a worship leader who has never personally led anyone to Christ.
That burns my heart to actually type those words, because I am ON STAFF AT A CHURCH. I am supposed to be a shining example of Christianity…..and yet, I have never walked someone through the salvation process. I have never walked up to a random stranger at the mall and witnessed to them. Shoot, I’ve never walked up to my own family members that I know for a fact are dying and going to hell if they don’t change their ways and witnessed to them. Sure, I know I’ve made an impact in other people’s live….and perhaps later they might get saved because of something I have said or done. I have gotten e-mails and messages from people telling me that what I’ve written on this blog has made a difference in their lives, and I am truly grateful for those comments. But still, shouldn’t I be doing more? Shouldn’t I be more proactive about living out my faith? Shouldn’t I be itching to tell others about all of the wonderful things that God has done in my life? I mean, this is eternity we’re talking about here!!!!
I’m tired of living under a rock. I’m tired of trying to fit in. I’m tired of doing things and acting a certain way so people will like me and respect me. I’m tired of holding my tongue because I’m afraid that someone might get mad at me or not want to speak to me anymore. My introvert personality has choked out my courage, but God has revealed that to me and I am ready to see Him take this shy soul of mine and make it bold and courageous for His glory.
Our God is a living, breathing God. A thought that came to me this past Sunday while we were worshipping was this: sometimes I am up on that stage singing to God like I am singing to an innate object. Sometimes my worship and my lifestyle reflects a view that I don’t really recognize an active, personable, responsive Father. But the truth is, He is here, in our midst. The Holy Spirit is on this earth, pricking our hearts towards His love, asking us what we will do for His kingdom, seeking after our lives. I forget that while I am on stage singing my lungs out, the Holy Spirit is there in the room with me. I forget that while I am at work joking with my friends, the Holy Spirit is there in the room with me. I forget that while I am driving (too fast) on my way home from work with the radio blaring, the Holy Spirit is there with me.
I want to be present. Not just physically, but spiritually. I want to be aware of God’s constant presence in my life. I want to show Him the love and respect that He desires, and not just the actions that I perform out of habit. I want to branch out, to stretch, to grow, into the calling He has placed on His life.
And more than anything, I want to personally see lost people come to know Christ. I want to be a shining light that leads them. I want to personally see people getting baptized in the Holy Spirit. I want to encourage and disciple new believers in their new relationship with Jesus. I want to see His kingdom grow. I want to see my community changed. I want to see my family members, my friends, and complete strangers have their lives turned upside down by a living Savior who loves them every bit as much as He loves me.
I just wanted to share where my heart is at right now with all of you, because I know I’m not the only one who needs to hear words like this. And I hope to see some of you at our last revival service tonight, it’s going to be a good one…I can tell! (If you need directions to our church, please message me or leave a comment on this blog.)
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshipped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” ~Matthew 28-16-20