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Posted 1/21/17 at 9:01 PM | Diane Castro
The title of a Christianity Today article from the year 2000 stuck in my mind and became a mantra of mine: “Get Thou Over It!” As author Jody Vickery wrote,
We believers are the most offended, wounded, upset, shocked, thunderstruck, consternated, and (the enduring favorite) outraged group of people on the planet. Is there something in the baptismal waters that makes Christians thin-skinned? Once I even read a letter from a correspondent that began, “My wife … was disturbed.” Well, pardon me. Didn’t mean to disturb the Mrs.
The problem has only gotten worse since the turn of the millennium. Like our society in general, evangelicals are taking offense at the slightest provocation, and the proliferation of Internet comment wars has produced hordes of appalled and insulted and dismayed Christians.
Did someone challenge a cherished belief of yours? Is it worth getting so worked up about it that your relationship with him is damaged? Did someone say something to you that feels hurtful? Chances are the person didn’t mean to hurt you. And even if she did, is it worth getting your panties all in a wad and letting it ruin your day? Do online commenters mock your faith? It is to be expected. But does your indignation reflect the message of the gospel? FULL POST
Posted 1/15/17 at 6:55 PM | Diane Castro
When I was growing up, I was not a particularly nice person. My sister Karen was the nice one—the do-gooder, the Candy Striper, the kind and thoughtful one. I didn’t have much patience with weak or needy people; I thought they needed to just suck it up and get a grip. When my mom would take us to visit someone at a nursing home, Karen was very sweet to the old folks, while I was thinking, “Get me outta here.”
Well, God has a sense of humor. He let me become weak and needy myself, and gradually, over decades, He has given me a heart for all people. He has brought across my path many hurting people, and now, instead of thinking “Get me outta here,” I can enter into their lives and offer them some of the comfort I have received from “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1 Cor. 1:3).
The first time I recall someone really opening up to me was when I greeted a young mom after church one Sunday morning. I didn’t know her well, and I just said the customary “Hi, how’re you doing?” She burst into tears and a whole tale tumbled out—a story of abuse by her husband and stress with her small children and struggles with money. I think the reason she felt safe with me was because it was no big secret that I had troubles of my own. I had let down my façade of pretending that I had it all together, and therefore she could be open and vulnerable with me. FULL POST
Posted 10/15/16 at 2:03 PM | Diane Castro
When I read the book Unbroken, which documented the treatment of Allied POWs in Japanese prison camps during World War II, I thought it revealed the very depths of human depravity. But it may be that there are some who sink deeper still.
While visiting my daughter Joanna, we went to her church for a viewing of the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, which exposes the dark world of human trafficking. The odious practice of buying and selling human beings has been going on since ancient times and is burgeoning today, not just in Asia and Africa, but in developed countries, quite possibly in your own community. Inflicting unspeakable torment on prisoners of war is despicable enough, but kidnapping and violating children is incomprehensibly wretched. As described in the synopsis for Nefarious,
Victims are systematically stripped of their identity, battered into gruesome submission, and made to perform humiliating sexual acts on up to 40 strangers every night. Most are held in dingy apartments and brothels, forced to take heavy doses of illegal drugs, and monitored very closely. Victims are often thrown into such ghastly oppression at 13 years old. Some are abducted outright, while others are lured out of poverty, romantically seduced, or sold by their families. FULL POST
Posted 9/28/16 at 11:40 PM | Diane Castro
Recently I attended a Sunday school class in which we explored the question “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” Many Bible-believing Christians would be quick to answer “no.” But a quick answer to this question reflects a failure to grapple with the many nuances and ramifications of the problem. It is a critical theological question that deserves thoughtful consideration. And it is not simply a theoretical question on the level of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin; it has practical implications for how we live. How does the answer affect the way we view and treat Muslims, the way we interact with them, the way we witness to them?
I will not attempt to answer this question but rather will raise some more that are prompted by this one, in hopes of stimulating thoughtful dialog on this important topic. For example,
How similar do your views of the character of God have to be in order to say that you worship the same God? FULL POST
Posted 9/28/16 at 11:29 PM | Diane Castro
As of this week my blog, “Ambassador of Reconciliation,” is five years old. It has been a record of my spiritual journey as I have tried to capture what I have been learning.
A major theme of my fifth year is that all human beings are created by God in His image. This fundamental fact has monumental implications, which I have explored in several posts: “The Inestimable Worth of Every Person” (116) was prompted by a sermon given by our pastor. It looks at the ramifications of our being created in God’s image with respect to how we view and treat people and how we think God views and treats people. A follow-up to this post is “You created my inmost being” (118), in which I tell about some people whose life stories touched me in some way. “Who Am I and Who Will I Be?” (124) contains reflections on the intrinsic humanity of every person, even those with severe impairments, and on who we will be after death. “Can You See Beyond” (127) is a challenge to view others not as enemies but as lost sheep; not as insignificant beings but as sons and daughters of the King, future fellow believers, and brothers and sisters in Christ. “Tomboy Grandmas Have More Fun” (129) is my story of growing up wanting to be a boy but being grateful that my gender identity as a girl was never called into question. It is an encouragement to every human to be the unique and wonderful individual God created him or her to be. FULL POST
Posted 6/29/16 at 11:27 PM | Diane Castro
With six strong-willed, opinionated children in our family, there was never a lack of conflict in our household when the kids were growing up. I once calculated that with six individuals, there are 57 different combinations of two or more, each with its own unique dynamics. Throw in two stubborn parents, all in a small house with one little bathroom, and you have plenty of potential for clashing of the wills.
Sometimes we let the kids battle it out on their own, and sometimes we acted as referees. Since I hate conflict, my tendency was to intervene and attempt to reason with the combatants. I would try to help them see each other’s viewpoint and come to a mutual understanding. I wanted them to learn to listen, compromise, and get along.
But it often didn’t work that way. If I tried to be a mediator between two warring parties, often I would end up with both of them mad at me. Each one wanted me to be 100% on their side, to see the justice of their cause and the unreasonableness of the other. Each one wanted me to support him or her completely and to punish the other. Their inability or unwillingness to see through the other person’s eyes and to come to a mutual understanding was a reflection of the fact that they were children—immature, self-centered children. FULL POST
Posted 6/1/16 at 7:31 PM | Diane Castro
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me if I had been born in the twenty-first century to gender-identity-conscious parents. From as early as I can remember, I wanted to be a boy. Girl stuff was boring. Boys had more fun. I wanted to dress like a boy, wear my hair like a boy, and play boy games. My cousin Carolyn and I (who as toddlers were caught walking on the railing around my aunt and uncle’s second-story balcony) gave each other boys’ names; she was Charlie and I was Duane. I wasn’t into anything domestic; I preferred to climb trees and jump out of them, pretending I could fly. I didn’t want a frilly bed; a sleeping bag on the ground was fine with me. When all the girls in my kindergarten class were taking stupid ballet lessons, I just wanted to be outside sledding with the boys. I didn’t have tea parties or play house with dolls; I pretended to ride a horse on the basement railing, and I played war with sticks for guns. My favorite sport was football, and I played tackle football with the neighborhood boys. For my ninth birthday, my Nana (prim and proper as she was) gave me a football outfit, complete with helmet, jersey, shoulder pads, and padded pants. One year for Christmas all I wanted was boys’ black buckle boots. Under the tree was a box that was a promising size and shape; I remember my annoyance when it turned out to be a dumb old piano lamp. FULL POST
Posted 4/20/16 at 11:04 PM | Diane Castro
One hundred twenty years of history were packed into Monday’s running of the most famous marathon in the world. More than 30,000 athletes ran and wheeled their way into history, with half a million enthusiastic spectators cheering them on at every step along the 26.2-mile route. With fluctuating temperatures ranging from the 40’s in the early morning up to around 70 in Hopkinton at the start of the race, and back down to around 50 at the finish line by the official close, runners had to deal with a variety of conditions, but the sun was bright and spirits were high.
For some it is a fun run—like the guys in tutus or the Elvis impersonator. But for many, it is a very sacred event. They run to overcome personal challenges, to honor a loved one, or to raise money for a cause that is dear to their heart. My friend Kristen Havey was running with the Race4Chase team, to support the CMAK Sandy Hook Memorial Foundation, in honor of Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski. As Kristen explained, “The CMAK foundation is named after a talented runner and passionate little boy named Chase. Chase was my daughter Livvie’s age when his life was tragically taken as an active shooter entered his school on December 14, 2012. As both a teacher and a parent, the events on this day were heartbreaking for me, but the resilience of those affected was inspiring.” Kristen raised over $8,500 to help CMAK in its mission of serving children and families. FULL POST
Posted 4/11/16 at 5:56 PM | Diane Castro
Think of someone who is hostile to the gospel—maybe a cynical scoffer or a hardcore atheist or a militant Muslim. What is your attitude toward these enemies of the cross of Christ?
Now suppose that God laid one of these people on your heart and gave you assurance that the person would eventually come to the cross and become a brother or sister in Christ. Would your attitude be different? How would you treat the person? What would you say to him or her? How would you respond to the person’s hostility? How would you pray?
Could you look into that enemy of the cross and see the lost sheep inside? And do you have the faith to look beyond the lost sheep to see a future fellow believer and citizen of heaven? Can you see past the person’s present condition—dead in trespasses and sins—and envision his future as a redeemed child of the heavenly Father, alive in Christ and taking his place in the family of God?
Now imagine for a moment that everyone who comes across your path—whether close family member, good friend, belligerent foe, slight acquaintance, or anonymous stranger—is destined to be raised up with Christ and to become a son or daughter of God and fellow servant with you. Would it have a positive or negative effect on your relationships with them? On your love for them? On your witnessing to them? FULL POST
Posted 2/26/16 at 1:14 AM | Diane Castro
Some friends have just returned home after a fabulous trip to his birthplace—Hawaii—to celebrate his seventieth birthday—his threescore and ten. All seventeen members of their family were able to go—Mom, Dad, five kids, three spouses, and seven grandkids
As I have looked at their pictures and heard about their adventures, I have to admit that I feel some twinges of envy—not just for the spectacular place where they gathered, but even more so for the fact that their whole family was together. Everyone was there, down to their newest little granddaughter, who was only six weeks old. And even better than the fact that they were all together—they all got along! As the mom reported, “Family members still on speaking terms after all this togetherness!” FULL POST