Monday, April 7, 2014

A Gem at the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards

If you had the opportunity to watch the ACM Awards last night, it will come as no shock that this years awards show was on FIRE! From the moment The Band Perry took stage to the closing statements by Blake Shelton - signing off with anticipation for the 50th anniversary of the ACM Awards, to be held at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX - I was tuned in and engaged with everything the #ACMs had to offer.

I was especially captivated by the Kohl's commercials and presentation of the New Artist of the Year award to Justin Moore. A brief summation of the message was the word 'YES.' The commercials repeatedly depicted the priceless opportunities presented in life by taking a chance and saying, 'yes' when opportunity knocks. Prior to announcing Justin Moore as the winner of New Artist of the Year, the presenters commentated the life of each nominee - showing youthful photos and mentioning the moments in their life when they said 'yes' to the opportunities that ultimately led them to the 2014 ACM Awards stage that evening. It was a beautiful tribute, and one that brought tears to Justin Moore's eyes as he expressed his gratitude for the award. It was a breathtaking moment that brought a senes of reality and authenticity to the evening. I found it aptly apropos that the context of the word 'yes' was to remember the moments in life where saying 'yes' brought fulfillment to the lives of each nominee. Since we are in the season of Lent, the concept of saying 'yes' fully resonated with me. I submitted a post on Facebook about how we are constantly encouraged to say 'yes' to God each day. I remembered Mary, and her being the most beautiful recipient of this action, as she said 'yes' to God, through the Angel Gabriel. How scared the young Mary must have been, that she would be the vessel to bring life to the Messiah. We see her faith in God great - her mighty faith, and 'yes' to God is a profound example to us, and as the Angel Gabriel said, "but nothing is impossible for God" (Luke: 1:37). Although it may sometimes seem as though we will never grab hold of our purpose or reach our dreams, I think it is imperative to continuously seek God's will for our lives through prayer, and discern the chances we should take, and greet those chances with a resounding 'yes.'

It is my encouragement to find God in everything, and to find a gem in the ACM Awards show last night was lovely. There were many other great moments at the ACM Awards: A heart-warming tribute to Merle Haggard; sung by the king himself, George Strait, and the endearing, Miranda Lambert. Jerry Jones and George Strait announced that the AT&T Center in Dallas, TX will hosts the 2015 ACM Awards. The performances were all well executed, creating a stellar energy throughout the entire awards show.

Merle Haggard tribute - ACM Crystal Milestone Award:

ACM Awards winners:
Entertainer of the Year: George Strait
Song of the Year: Lee Brice "I Drive Your Truck"
Vocal Group of the Year: The Band Perry
Male Vocalist of the Year: Jason Aldean
Single Record of the Year: Miranda Lambert
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
Vocal Duo of the Year: Florida Georgia Line
New Artist of the Year: Justin Moore
Album of the Year: Kacey Musgraves "Same Trailer Different Park"
Video of the Year: Tim McGraw featuring Taylor Swift & Keith Urban "Highway Don't Care"
Vocal Event of the Year: Keith Urban & Miranda Lambert "We Were Us"

By Malarie Roxanne Rodriguez | Founder of P.S. Chic 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014



Here we go...Abortion and the Bible

A co-worker in California once told me, "Lauren, there are two topics you should never discuss in a social setting: politics and religion. "Well, I'm double-breaking that rule today as I dive into an issue that falls into both categories: abortion.

With recent actions taken by the Texas Legislature making headlines nationwide, now seems like an appropriate time to explore the controversial subject that has seemingly divided Americans down the middle, including Christians. The package of legislation recently considered by the Republican body would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, while also limiting the procedure to surgical centers - effectively giving the Lone Star State the strictest abortion regualtions in the country. Protestors and activists on both sides of the issue have demonstrated at the Capitol in recent weeks - some citing Bible verses, others citing women's rights. Interestingly enough, Christians are among both parties, which begs the question: what role should our faith play in politics?

I don't believe that your political perspective defines your Christian walk; however, I do believe that your faith should be the foundation of the political platform on which you stand. And when it comes to the issue of life, there isn't a gray area in the Bible. Though the Bible doesn't mention the term "abortion" (since the word's origin post-dates that of the Bible), Scripture makes God's view of conception and human life abundantly clear. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" (Jeremiah 1:5).

He doesn't say, "When you were born, I knew you," or, "In your third trimester, I knew you." The key word here is "before." He purposefully created each one of us in His own image (Genesis 1:27), and though He gave us free will, I don't think He ever intended for us to destory human life - especially not the life of the innocent. "Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him" (Psalm 127:3). Again, there are no loopholes here. The Bible doesn't say, "Only children conceived in wedlock are a gift from the Lord," or "Only children born into financially stable homes are a gift from the Lord." All of them are, regardless of how, when, why and by whom they were conceived.

The pro-choice perspective supports a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body. The problem with this logic lies in this: once a woman is pregnant, it's not just her body anymore; it is occupied by two human beings, one of which sadly does not have a voice. I know many women who ask, "What about cases involving rape?" Believe me: I am passionate about protecting women from this horrific experience that no human should ever have to go through. My heart breaks for them, truly. If a woman conceives a child from this tragedy though, I don't believe that killing the baby is the answer. The child is the innocent party here and should not bear the punishment for a crime committed by its father. I beg of women who find themselves in this tough position: please consider giving the child up for adoption so it can have a life that may have started in the worst of circumstances but can blossom into something beautiful.

Christians believe that God knit each of us together in our mothers' womb (Psalm 139:13) and that He created mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, we believe that humans are God's personal and purposeful creations. To undo or interrupt His design or to give someone else permission to is a sin. Having said that, is it an unforgivable sin? Absolutely not, and it should not be treated differently from any other sin. If you're a woman who has had an abortion or is considering having one, this article is not meant to condemn you in any way. Jesus said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7). I refer to this verse in instances of all sin because I fear that Christians have done our faith a great injustice by condemning sinners when we are none the better. Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and sin no more" (John 8:11)

Christians, let our shared goal be to stand for what the Bible stands for and love the way Jesus loves. Let us offer compassion to women with unwanted pregnancies, and let us pray for those who have made the life-changing decision to have an abortion - I guarantee you they are hurting and need our love. Finally, let us unite in our faith to stand for life and advocate for the unborn. Our nation needs God, plain and simple. What are we going to do about it?

By Lauren Thurston | Guest Blogger (first posted on June 25, 2013)

Battle of Faiths

A conversation found its way into my office today. It's one that I've heard dozens of times throughout my life, and the arguments from both sides are usually the same. I typically (and happily) take on the role of pacifier in these instances because I feel there isn't a right or wrong answer, and at the end of the day, I don't think anyone is going to switch sides. The good news is (though, I don't think the opposing parties always see it this way): we're actually on the same team! Yes, I'm talking to you, Protestants and Catholics.

For centuries, this argument has persisted with momentum and it generates great animosity within our shared faith. Catholicism and Protestantism are both divisions of Christianity. Divisions -- the state of having been divided. I can't help but recall Abraham Lincoln's wise words: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." And this isn't just any house; this is God's house.

Satan must have been cheering on the sidelines as he saw the church splitting back in 1517. Don't get me wrong: I respect the history of the events leading up to the creation of the Lutheran Church, and I in no way intend to place blame on either faiths. My point is this: if both sides could cease from nit-picking the others' traditions or lack thereof, couldn't we focus on our shared goals -- winning souls for Christ?

So, some of us drink wine and the others unfermented grape juice. Some of us baptizes babies and the others children/adults. Some of us sing from hymnals and the others off digital screens. Some of us repent of our sins in confessionals and the others perhaps on the ride to work. I know that there are greater differences than these, but I'd rather not focus on what divides us. I'd like to take a look at what or rather whom we share -- the amazing Savior we both serve and worship, albeit in different ways.

To be fair, this division isn't just present among Catholics and Protestants. The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that there are some 33,000 denominations within Protestantism. That's 33,000 churches out there questioning each other's orthodoxy. I wish I had a dollar for every time I walked out a church door and heard someone complaining about a tradition, or a song, or a preacher, or a message...Folks, I think we're missing the big picture!

We're distracted. We're caught up in the intricacies of religion. That was never Jesus' intent when He died on the cross. At the risk of sound all kumbaya and naively optimistic, isn't it time to put our differing opinions aside and do God's work? We can debate tradition and rituals until we die, but that will get us nowhere. And think about all the time we're wasting. What must a non-believer think when s/he hears the bickering between churches?

You're free to choose your denomination/religion -- that's the beauty of being an American. But I'll end on this: celebrate what you stand for, celebrate what you believe -- not what you disagree with.

By Lauren Thurston | Guest Blogger (first posted on June 21, 2013)