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Archive for the ‘Celebrating Southern Culture’ Category

In a conversation about spirituality in the South, it is hard to know where to start. There are tons of examples of Christian influence in the everyday occurrences of Southern life.  The music of the South that so many of us listen to is often spiritually based and the artists remain unashamed of their belief system.  (Check out this Carrie Underwood song on Youtube.) Church buildings stand on every other street corner.  Public and private standards for people’s behavior is often framed within Biblical principles.  But was it my Southern culture that allowed God’s Truth to penetrate my heart?  Is that what really drew me to Him to trust in Him for the payment of my sins?

The truth is that while there are many Bible-Belt advantages to growing up down South, there are also a fair share of spiritual negatives.  Not the least of these disadvantages is when everyone knows the “right” answer it can be easy to pretend about who you really are spiritually. Rebellion can breed deep down in a heart even while external surface actions appear pure to friends and family.  It can be easy to ride the wave of spirituality not out of conviction but out of laziness.  But this simply brings home to me how it is only by God’s grace that He brought my rebellious nature close to His heart and in to a saving relationship with Him.

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.”  Isaiah 30:18

Over all, I do appreciate the way I was brought up.  I can celebrate the good things of Southern culture because God used them to help me know Him (and His character) better.  But most of all, I celebrate how God can and will use anything in our lives to reveal Himself to us.  His love is amazing!

How about you?  What has God used in your life to draw you closer to Him?

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Pride is a big thing in the South.  Pride in my country.  Pride in my family.  Pride in my southern upbringing.  Hometown pride that brings the whole town out to the bleachers for the high school football game each Friday night and to Main Street for the annual parade each Fourth of July. But is pride a good thing?

Pride often gets a pretty bad rap because we think of how it is abused.  After all, there is nothing worse than someone so puffed up in their own self that they are about to burst!  They boldly boast about any and everything, won’t listen to anyone else, and all you want to do is get away as quickly as possible.  Can pride ever be appropriate?

Here are some times when pride is authorized in Scripture:

~“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”  Romans 1:16

~”Therefore, as it is written:  ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”  I Corinthians 1:31

~”If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to someone else, for each one should carry his own load.”   Galatians 6:3-5

~”I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you…”  2 Corinthians 7:4  (These were Paul’s words regarding his dear friends who remained faithful to God.)

It appears that if our pride is based on Christ, on the things of God, and the things that glorify our Lord we are in good shape.  But if our pride carries us into the territory of sin (speaking un-lovingly, acting judgmental, self-focus) we have crossed the line.

~“…I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”  Proverbs 8:13 (God’s voice speaking here…)

~”Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”  Proverbs 13:10

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Friendly waves in the neighborhood and the welcoming plate of cookies to the new family are hallmarks of Southern Hospitality. But Southern tradition dictates that this care is extended not just to those nearest or dearest but also to the strangers who you meet up with throughout your day.  Just off-hand I can think of a number of times when I and my family have been blessed with Southern Hospitality in our time of need or just because someone wanted to be nice.

It has been said that Southern Hospitality finds its roots in the story Jesus told of The Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:30-35.

“ A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead…But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  Then the next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper.  ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  “

And at the end of this story, Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”  (Luke 10:37)

The South is not the only place hospitality is valued.  Many cultures and traditions uphold going the extra mile for a stranger and welcoming them in.  After all, it isn’t natural to go out of our way to help someone and when someone does take that extra step of care and love we find it inspiring.   How much more inspiring would it be if we do hospitality in the name of Jesus Christ, out of love and obedience for Him?

It makes me wonder…who can I show a little Southern Hospitality to today?

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“She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family…” Proverbs 31:15

Food plays a pretty big role in southern family life.  When I think of comfort food from the South I think of sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, cornbread, green beans with bacon, and other foods that are commonly found on the family dinner table in southern culture.  And I think of conversations that flow effortlessly between bites of food.  Comfort food is closely linked to quality family time.  Kids are a little more open about the ups and downs of their day after a few bites of bbq.  The parents let some of the tension of the day ease from them over their Chess Pie.   The meal time is a time of connection surrounded by delectable smells and tastes and a chance for a family to relate to each other.  It is comforting!

Scripture records many meals in its pages.  From the royal banquets to annual feasts, from the miraculous feeding of thousands to the Last Supper, the consumption of food has been an important part of life since the Garden of Eden.  Food provides practical sustenance for our physical bodies but also can be used to impact our emotional and spiritual life.

I think of the passage in II Corinthians 1:4 that encourages us to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have been given.  I was fortunate to grow up with this atmosphere of care and love around the dinner table and I want to pass that on no matter what part of the country I live in.  I want my kids and my husband to feel that same sense of security as we connect around our dinner table.  I want to invite that same atmosphere of open communication about heart level topics around the family meal.  I may not serve up biscuits and gravy, but my goal is to prepare “comfort food” for my family that will nourish them physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

What do you think of when you think of Comfort Food?  Feel free to leave a comment!  Have a favorite recipe, please share!

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“May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Psalms 19:14

Combine a drawl (or accent, twang…) with a colloquialism (or down-home phrase) and it is undeniable that conversations of the South have a distinct flair.  This communication skill isn’t so much taught as absorbed as a child in the South. Much of that Southern-Speak I grew up with still comes easily to my tongue today, though I may get funny looks when I say them.  But in my defense, some Southern Sayings sound a whole lot like Scriptural principles from God’s Word.

~ “No, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am”   (As in Yes, Ma’am, I would love some more biscuits and gravy.) 
This non-negotiable in southern etiquette is the appropriate response to just about anyone, and in particular, to those older than yourself. A principle of respect for your elders can also be found in Leviticus 19:32, which says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly…”  Now come on,  that is just nice!

~Oh, honey, bless your heart!   Down south, when we find we have to say something a bit harsh, adding a “bless your heart” can soften the sting.  (As in, Bless your heart, you really need to work on your anger issues/manners/eyebrows/etc….)   I am reminded that Scripture says  “speaking the truth in love” is the perfect way to communicate.  (Ephesians 4:15)   Unfortunately, this one gets abused, but when the heart is in the right place it all works out just fine.

~Sweetie, it is time to fish or cut bait.  This makes me think of the passage in James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word… Do what it says.”  Sometimes we need this kind of straight talk in our lives.  I know I do!

~Now don’t go off half-cocked.  Sounds a lot like Proverbs 14:8, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways…”  It is never a bad idea to take a moment and think before you speak or act and a good friend will remind us of that when we are in danger of going off half-cocked.

Southern etiquette is all about outward display of a pleasing attitude towards others, but God takes it deeper.  He wants my words and my thoughts to be pleasing in His sight.  My southern roots gave me a boost in the right direction with this concept of watching my mouth, and though I am still a work in progress when it comes to pleasing Him perfectly in this arena, He is more than patient with me.

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