Christine Rhyner

Meet Christine

Christine Rhyner is an adoption advocate, mother to two internationally adopted children and a Christian "work in progress." She writes about infertility, reproductive technologies, adoption and personal experience. Her debut book, "How much did you pay for her?

New Book

SCRIPT-FLIPS: Clips from Heaven & Hell on Earth And Why They Matter Shakespeare summed it up in “All the World’s a Stage.” We are performers. We play inquisitive child, seeking student, restless, young adult, employee, parent, and so on. While our life stories play out...

Journey

Read about Christine's Journey: I love to write nonfiction because people are always curious, seeking...and struggling as they open the doors life presents to them. It is my passion to examine God's word and allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate its meaning and application to daily life in my work.

My Book

How Much Did You Pay For Her? Understanding why people say what they do is the first step toward compassion, as it allows us to glimpse another s perspective. This can lead to giving others grace an undeserved gift of letting people off the hook for what they say that eventually leads us to forgive them.

Recent Posts

Is the Church Changing?
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

 

Though I met some wonderful people at our church of eight years, there were painful reasons that led to my decision to leave.

After some time of both reflection and sorrow, I began a church search of fits and starts, pauses and reboots. There has been an endless string of places of worship, frankly. But none has seemed quite the right “fit.”

Perhaps it sounds like my expectations are high. Sincerely, at this moment in time I just want a place firmly rooted in Biblical teachings where I can truly connect with other believers, make sense of life beyond the church doors, use my gifts and talents and know that my children will be spiritually nourished in ways that speak to teens.

Yet as I have wandered into churches from the mega-type to those with a dozen or more congregants, I have noticed some things. The church appears to have changed, and not for the better. I understand this may not at all be your experience. But if you left your church right now and stepped out to find another, it just might be.

Leadership is not what it should be.

Imagine a gifted, prophetic preacher. He delivers his Bible studies not among us but to us from the pulpit. It’s something like a second sermon for the week. Then he promptly disappears into his office. Who can answer my questions? Concerns? What about the journey that brought me to this tiny church that I am still attempting to recover from?

This is not an assault on pastors. I find so many take their job to preach in a Biblically sound manner seriously. Yet, interaction with the flock (or newcomers) feels quite limited. In fact, in one church the pastor told us, “Don’t expect me to pray for you. That’s not my job.”

Disconcerting, yes. If your calling is to lead Christ’s church, why would you not want to know your flock? 

The church is becoming more segregated.

We thought a church with a large Asian population might be a positive place for my Asian-born children. Yet, these congregants shied away from interaction with those not of their ethnicity. It’s uncomfortable to try and be a united body while you are worshipping and fellowshipping in segregated clusters.

Many large churches are trying to provide something for everyone. There are services and groups catering to dozens of languages. Meetings only for the divorced, or hard of hearing, or those with disabilities. While addressing specific needs can be a good thing, I’m not too sure that separating the body this way is healthy. All of these individualized groups cause people to stick with “their own” and further diminish unity. Besides, should we not grow to understand those with certain types of special needs? Perhaps it would increase empathy, understanding and even provide ministry opportunities with those who differ from us. 

The church is growing cold.

Do you ever get the feeling that fellow Christians believe they are going to heaven with their favorite ten or twenty people?

In many fellowship halls and Bible studies I have felt alone. While Christians in many churches we have visited seem to have solid relationships with each other, the newcomer is often left to flounder. With little exception, we had to reach out to strangers rather than the other way around. Where is the follow-up with visitors, the phone calls, interest in the heart of a believer that found you, your congregation and may be like a wounded bird needing help to yet again fly? The world is supposed to know us by our love for one another. Sure, I hear believers enthusiastically share about witnessing to the unbeliever, or how ministries in other countries are leading people to Christ. These things are awesome, yet there seems to be a lack of valuing one another, a superficiality growing among Christians that is sad and rings hollow.

The internet is eroding human contact among believers.

There are churches we have visited that do not allow participation in various things if they are not done online. Though the internet has made things easier in some ways, it has also diminished contact and face to face communication, which is obvious. Sermons, information, forms, blogs...all online. And this is so often a one-way street or worse, an empty well that the believer may go to for a refreshing drink and come up empty.

The church is ignoring current events.

While Bible teaching is vital, there is little focus on current events and the world as we are living in it today. While I do not expect the church to be a political entity, nine times out of ten I do not hear pastors address a right perspective on the awful, exponentially growing turmoil in the world. Of course we are to pray unceasingly for spiritual revival and we know that Jesus is the answer to all of the globe’s ills. Yet, politics has also caused fractures and divisions among believers. We need the elephant in the room, the things crashing down on us daily addressed in some way that will help us to deal with it all with wisdom and provide us with insight for how to live when we venture out into the world.

Small and home-based groups are on the decline.

The first thing I did at our old church was make a phone call to join a small group. Immediately we were assigned to one. But small groups and meeting in homes are on the decline. Several churches we have attended do not even provide such a thing! None of the endless visits to new churches has resulted in a single one that joins people together in each other’s homes. This type of connection is vital. There is such a loss to the body when we do not extend hospitality to one another in our homes, when we do not provide a setting for fellow believers that is warm and relaxing. It diminishes intimacy.

Connection is determined by life stages.

It’s no secret our culture is obsessed with youth. Thinking back to my early days of becoming a Christian, how much easier was it to connect with others! It seems that just like life, the church makes it more difficult to connect the older one gets. If you are young and single, you may find a singles ministry with which to connect. If you have small children you may find a group of moms struggling with issues pertinent to raising a young family. But the older you get, it seems the less is available to you, the less others see you. 

There is a growing need to “multi-church.”

Mostly at smaller churches, there is a void. So many have nothing to offer teens, of which I have two. Some have barely had any teens who attend. Some as mentioned, do not host small groups. The list goes on. Ultimately, this leaves believers who tend to shy away from megachurches as I do, with the need to multi-church, or seek a couple of different churches to meet various needs. Perhaps, in the end, this is the way to do church these days. Though doing so may fill different needs and interests, it is still a collection of loose associations within the body.

I’m not bitter, but I am sad. Yes, people have wounded and disappointed. Yet I too have hurt myself by allowing the enemy entry into my thought life and by sitting in my feelings. And I cared too much about this sense of belonging, expected too much, failed to understand that the body is made up of other bruised and broken, flawed and sinful people. But if there isn’t a place and a people with whom to open up and share about our wounds and pain, people who care to really know and understand us within the church, then there isn’t a place to be healed. I fear the church is becoming less of this kind of place. I won’t give up on the “gathering together” as the Bible commands, but I just have this feeling that “church” is growing more difficult to find as that welcoming, embracing place it was for a fleeting moment in time.

 

What Are Our Values Anymore?
Friday, April 14, 2017

 

When I listen to politicians and pundits speak of values I’m left with an unsettled sense that we are supposed to understand what this means, but it’s not possible. Admittedly, I cannot because it seems that values are abstract perceptions of reality that America is in rancorous disagreement over. Moral relativism and political correctness having taken over large swaths of our society. So just what are our values anymore?

I value the sanctity of life from conception, while some of those close to me say they value a woman’s right to choose. I value our nation built on Judeo-Christianity stemming back to a Constitution I believe before written was bathed in prayer to the God of the Christian Bible. There are Christians I know that, despite the firm Christian roots of our Constitution, believe it should guarantee us freedom from religion. Despite believing in a Bible that tells us that “there is no other way to the Father except through Jesus Christ,” they find it reprehensible to question the validity of another’s religious beliefs and that essentially all roads lead to Rome—or heaven.

This is why I was particularly struck by an interview with a Swedish journalist on a cable news program soon after the recent terrorist attack in that country. She said that a lack of values in her country was making room for Isis to fill the void. A highly secular nation has found itself pitted against those with a strong sense of their own values—barbaric as they may be—a strong national identity and unwavering dedication to their religious beliefs.

This got me thinking how our own ever-increasing secularism, lack of pride in our own national identity bordering on hatred for this country, increasing disrespect for authority, globalism and increasing multiculturalism with isolated enclaves of refugees and migrants all works against a nation that has been exceptional. For there was a time not too long ago when our so-called value system stemmed from our Judeo-Christian ethic. I believe that an acceptance of all ideologies, all morality as equally valid, erodes a nation’s fabric and national identity leaving a void that those as motivated and extreme in their cause will fill.

Our Constitution in its original context and purity—not an evolving document as some would have it to be—and our Judeo-Christian heritage made America exceptional, special, united and more cohesive in just what values constitute. And I think that the farther a nation tilts itself away from these very roots, the more danger it is in to succeed and thrive. In my eyes, the divisiveness in our nation, the anger, the hatred for a new administration, the polarized perceptions of just what is reality by the media and downright warring between and among political parties all seem to bear this out.  

A multi-ethnic country of varying religious beliefs can and does work. But one steeped in multiculturalism, moral relativism, political correctness and secularism cannot. We are in a war for the very soul of our nation and in fact the globe is on fire for lack of united and cohesive values. The big truth is that while we tout values as important and noble to us as a nation, we are completely schizophrenic in our assessments of just what they represent. We lack understanding of the power we have through Christ to wage battle and bring defeat to the enemies that are tearing apart our country. If only we were to turn to Him, humble ourselves, confess our sins and unite as people of one faith, not multiple values, we could make an enormous difference in the war on terror.

But then this would mean that America would experience a great Spiritual awakening, revival and large numbers of people would receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Though this is my ongoing prayer for this country, America is not and perhaps will never be a predominantly Christian nation. But left to its own subjective devices, a country that becomes more alienated from one another in sharp disagreement over just what is good and right and true is not destined for peace and unity.

The Final Frontier (Part Two)
Monday, April 03, 2017

Though I have never had a Near Death Experience, I have dreamed of heaven.

When I was eleven, death touched my life for the first time with the sudden passing of my grandmother.  

Soon after, I dreamed of a sunny sea of purple flowers. In the distance stood Grandma, outside of a mansion of the most brilliant white. In a flash I covered the length of that field, not a blade of grass crushed under my feet. She greeted me with joy and I felt happiness, love. I don’t remember any conversation except for her telling me soon after I had arrived that I had to go back.

That dream and her “appearance” one night sitting on my rocking chair praying through rosary beads I had lost left a big impression on me. The next morning, the rosary beads that I could find nowhere sat on that rocker.

While I do not negate  anyone’s experience of heaven including my own, the Bible does gives us some information about heaven while making clear there are things that cannot be revealed.

For instance, the Apostle Paul shares his vision of heaven in 2 Corinthians 12. He says, “I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven (this would be where God resides). Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know—but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

Similarly, the apostle John in the book of Revelation, Chapter 10, speaks of an angel that came down from heaven and shouted “like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.’”   

Says GotQuestions.org, a Bible question and answer site: “Are books such as 90 Minutes in Heaven, Heaven is for Real, and 23 Minutes in Hell biblically sound? It would be very strange for God to have Paul and John withhold aspects of what He revealed to them, only to, 2000+ years later, given even greater visions, along with permission for full disclosure, to people today.”

One wonders, would a God who has created the heavens and the earth, who has told us in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” reveal the totality of heaven? The scripture is clear: Verse 10 “...but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” Therefore, we cannot discover heaven through our limited human senses or reason. If His Spirit lives within us, it can reveal great wonders to us. I do believe God has used glimpses of eternity to speak to us earthly creatures. However, I also think there are likely subjective components built into these experiences that stem from our own subconscious telling us what we want or need to know.

NDE’s that communicate hell receive less acceptance from a growing population that might not believe in its existence.

After reading Bill Wiese’s account of  23 Minutes in Hell “What I Saw, Heard, and Felt in that Place of Torment,” one reader had these striking words to say:

“I am thankful that I was able to overcome my faith. Most Christians I know are loving people and reject the nonsensical and hateful idea of a literal hell.”

I do not know that any Christians would reject the Scriptural truth of a literal hell in the name of “love.” If they do, then we can assume they have rejected the truth of the Bible in exchange for an apostic faith.

Mainly, those who greatly disliked Wiese’s book and gave it negative reviews have a more universalist, all-inclusive idea of the afterlife. Anything other than this they feel is unloving, abusive and discriminatory, kind of in keeping with our PC culture. This is frightening. I think it’s fair to assume that the case against hell is making its way into “Christian” churches across the country and beyond. If Christ’s gift of salvation is integral to the Christian’s faith, then just what is it we are rescued or delivered from if not hell?

And more curious is that while I have read and viewed accounts of NDE’s where people have experienced Jesus, I have never heard of anyone “coming back” from a near death experience to share about a chat with Buddha. Nobody seems to have encountered the Muslim prophet Muhammed or taken a ride through the galaxies with Zeus. 

And thus, one of the more disturbing aspects of Cox Chapman’s book is that she claims we will all be provided the heaven that is “right” for each of us. It is as though she is asserting what we can drum up in the ten percent of our brains that we use, and what we perceive as the reality of the afterlife based on experience, is what we will get in eternity. I do not want what I can only imagine, but the heaven of the Lord Jesus Christ and the transformation of the me that will occur when I get there. The place where there will be no sun because He will be the light. The one where we will worship Him for all eternity. The one where He has told me about things that will exist but has withheld those incredible things I have never seen, heard or my mind can conjure up.

It would not be for decades after my dreams of my grandmother that I turned to the Lord and became a Christian. I was struck by the verse in John 14:2: “In my Father’s house,” says Jesus, “There are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” 

Was the glowing white mansion outside of which I met my grandmother in my dream the place that Jesus had prepared for her? Maybe yes, perhaps no. Yet the deep, rich purple of the flowers separating us I discovered to be a color the Bible associates with royalty. And there is perhaps evidence in the Bible that those who have gone on to be with the Lord ahead of us can pray for us, as Grandma did in the rocker at the end of my bed in the second dream. At any rate, these impressions are imbedded in my psyche all these decades later and a comfort to me. But I believe Grandma is with the Lord because of her faith while she was here, not because of what I have dreamed or imagined.

Yet, in my humanity, in this vessel I live my earthly life in with its longings and memories, sure, there are things I would love to experience in heaven. But I cannot paint the earthly one I want in exchange for the partially revealed stunning canvas the Lord has for all of us who believe in His heaven.