Hope & Grief After the Election

I am in tears in my dark living room, the clock ticking on the wall beside me. My three daughters are asleep. They begged me to stay up and watch the results of the election, but I sent them to bed, because I had begun to sense that a long night was coming, and tonight wasn’t going to end the way we had discussed this morning when we prayed together as a family for the election.

I hope if you’re reading this you will hear in me a broken longing for unity and understanding, not a partisan axe to grind. I hope you won’t stop reading as I process through this. I am not a Democrat or Republican, in fact I describe myself as a confused moderate. But I will tell you I did not vote for President-Elect Trump, and tonight I am struggling to process it.

There is a small part of me that wants to feel hope, wants to be relieved. Maybe this will mean Supreme Court justices that somehow curb the numbers of abortion. I get why people I know and love voted for this man – I can understand it. They hate abortion, as do I. But my family was scarred by abortion in the days before Roe made it legal, when there was no consent, and there were horrors in that time and in that experience for my very young, very afraid mother that I am thankful do not exist today. One evil does not lessen another. I am for life because my mother was devastated by abortion just as women and children are today in horrifying numbers, but Roe vs. Wade didn’t create abortion, and legislation is not the only answer.

To my conservative friends, please hear me say I understand. But please also don’t paint your fellow believers who mourn tonight as people who rejoice in death. Did you know that statistics show that 30% of people in your church, who follow Christ, are Democrats? Did you know that 30% of people who are Democrats are pro-life? Did you know that under President Obama, abortions are at the lowest levels they have been since Roe?

Please understand why I am sitting here unsettled, why friends are texting me devastated, why people of color feel unsafe tonight. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, and we have work to do.

This election was many things, meant many things to many people. But can we acknowledge that one of the things it was, one of the things it is, is a heartbreaking  empowerment to the darker undertones of this campaign. I am not justifying any actions of Hillary or Bill Clinton. She lost, it’s over. I understand your rationale for not voting for her. But now that she has lost, can we finally acknowledge the deep and terrible flaws of the man we just elected? Can we, especially us in the church, be big enough to empathize with those who feel afraid tonight? We are commanded as Christians to be imitators of God and have compassion for one another. God is described as close to the broken-hearted, so just for a few minutes, can we draw close as well?

I get that the media isn’t unbiased and that you may see people like me as simply uninformed. But I am not uninformed –  I read the same story at CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, and sometimes Al Jazeera for an international perspective because I am well aware of partisan bias in reporting. But if you watched speeches Donald Trump gave, completely unedited speeches, you can’t deny some of the racist and sexist things he said, or the racist and sexist factions who support him, who now feel justified in their belief. These are his words, this is the candidate himself.

That this man won is a sobering reality for people of color, victims of sexual abuse, and people who subscribe to religions other than Christianity. Can we hear their fear, and sit with it a minute? Not just dismiss it out of hand? Turn off our partisan minds and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking about people around us who ache, to whom we are supposed to be loving and ministering?

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” Romans 15:1-2 (the Message)

Can we find it in ourselves, whether we feel like the victor tonight or we feel devastated, to understand the feelings of those around us?

Several weeks ago, my oldest daughter came home from school and wanted to talk about the election. You need to know that one of the things we love about Houston is the diversity of the area where we live, and the fact that our daughters have friends who are every color and religious background. This is particularly important to me, because I grew up in an extended family that was covertly, and sometimes overtly, racist in the way that in my experience is completely normal in the white South even today. They didn’t call themselves racist, and wouldn’t to this day. The fact that I do name it is offensive to them because they do not see it as racism. But other races were joked about and talked about not only as other, but as less. Less intelligent, less hard working, less real American, separate and never equal. There was an underlying anger to it that made it more than a joke, and it was disturbing. So many Thanksgiving dinners of my childhood are tinted with the racism saturating our family tree.

So you need to know that, for me, racism is visceral, and personal. I feel it. I know the code words, and the fact that they are still used stuns me. The night President Obama was elected, I cried in relief hopeful at the healing of racism in our country that could elect a black man as president, all the while knowing across my city I had relatives who were angry and afraid. I hoped his election would help things. I’m not sure it did.

It was a cesspool of sin, and I was swimming in it. So I love the Gospel, I love the Gospel, because it cleanses me from sin. It forgives my guilt, it imputes to me a righteousness who is not my own, it gives me the Holy Spirit that begins to put to death the old racist nature and open up a whole new possibility of life and hope and joy and justice.” Jon Piper, on racism in the video Bloodlines.

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever watched was this video by Jon Piper on racism and how he grappled with it as he grew in faith, and every time I get chills because his story is my story. Racism crawls up my skin and is a weight in my stomach and a throbbing in my chest because I used to swim in it, and once you step out you don’t just want to be free of it, you want to shine a light on it and banish it because it lurks in the darkness all around you and it is insidious and persistent and subtle in devastating ways. My mother is an instrument of light and grace, and I believe she broke the curse of racism in our family. She taught my brother and sister and I to not only love people of color, but to fight for them and to fight our inherent sinful bias. To shine as lights in darkness to try to overcome the racism of our not-distant enough past, as if somehow by our love we could make up for the bias directed at people of color from the family that we loved.

So my nine-year-old daughter comes home from school a few weeks ago and tells me that her friends were discussing Donald Trump and how much he hates people from Mexico. Her friend from Mexico is afraid of him, afraid he will hurt her family. She asked me if I would vote for him, and if he really thinks “Mexicans are criminals and terrible people.” So we talked about it from that point forward. We talked about how he talked about people from other countries and other religions. We talked about it when he mocked a disabled reporter. We talked about it in very vague terms when the sexual assault accusations and the tape of him saying terrible things about women broke. We talked about it, because she and her friends were talking about it, and she needs to know that this is a safe place to talk about it. (And we talked about whether or not Hillary was a liar and a crook, which my daughter heard as well). My daughters think Trump is a bully, and I can’t disagree with them. In my oldest daughter’s class election she voted for Hillary Clinton, along with many of her friends. President-Elect Trump feels more unsafe to her. She looked forward to the first “Womans” President, as she called it.

And I understand that. To my conservative friends, can’t you understand that? Please tell me you can. Please tell me you get why this isn’t a simple issue, or a simple election. Please tell me you don’t agree with the truly awful aspects of this man’s personality and his speech and his behavior toward others who are different. Please tell me this isn’t a simple victory and the fact that you won doesn’t mean it is all okay.

Because I sit in my living room and write this with tears in my eyes. I cry because in a few hours I will walk into her room, and wake her up, and will tell her that he won. We will talk about it, about why a man who at times acted like a jerk can still win. And she will go to school with friends who are afraid, and they may have good reason to be afraid. And I will tell her to be a light in a dark world, to shine a light on darkness all around her. But it will be an incredibly hard conversation.

I cry because I know Muslim Americans who already are treated as less than, and as other.  I cry because they feel afraid tonight. I cry because refugees who are vetted more than any other group that comes into this country have been and will continue to be vilified. I cry because people of color, who already don’t feel safe and who know the code words better than I do feel even less safe tonight. Their President-Elect literally only talks about them like they all live in hellish inner-city war zones, highlighting the fact that he does not know or understand their struggles at all. I cry because my friends who are gay feel afraid and alone tonight – this was a message to them as well. Political becomes personal when people are hurt or afraid. Van Jones spoke beautifully about the way this feels for millions of people, and I hope we can hear him.

I cry because tonight racists are rejoicing, some of their views mainstreamed. Their sin does not weigh on them, it feels normal and right and now approved. And that makes me grieve, and I have to fight off fear. I cannot imagine how my friends who are people of color feel knowing that.

I cry as a victim of sexual abuse.

I cry as a member of a broken church, so divided. I feel so isolated, as do most of my moderate and progressive friends. We love Jesus and serve him. We are neighbors and church staff members and Pastors and deacons and children’s volunteers and we stand and worship with you and hug you in the lobby or the school, but we keep our political views off Facebook so you won’t think less of us or think we are “baby killers.” We too voted our convictions yesterday, we too prayed about who to vote for, we too truly want the best for this country. This idea that Christians must be Republican confuses empire with Kingdom, and we are family first – citizens of a Kingdom that absolutely without equivocation trumps our party affiliation. If we are questioning a brother’s faith because of their party, we need to repent.

I cry as a daughter of a King. This hurts me. This feels so wrong. He stands for so much of what I completely oppose. I ache, and that you may not feel it makes it feel worse, and makes me feel alone.

Tonight I cry. And I hope, even if you aren’t crying with me, that you understand why I do and you give me and my children the space and permission to grieve, along with the more than 50% of the country who did not vote for this man. I hope that those of us who feel afraid would realize that fear is never from God, and begin to look to Him in hope.

And I pray that tomorrow, we begin to fix this. He is the President-elect, that is reality and I will pray for and honor him as I did President Obama and President Bush and Clinton before him. But everything he stood for in the campaign does not have to be approved by us. It should not be approved by us.

We together as the church need to be a light to banish the darkness. I hope and pray that your endorsement of this candidate is not an endorsement of everything he stands for, that you will stand against racism and sexism with me throughout his presidency. That my daughters will be surprised by joy, that their fears will not be realized, that their friends will not be in danger and if they are, that we will stand and defend them in force and in mass and beat back the danger together. That we will never be silent in the face of oppression. That the racist factions will be minimized and vanquished back to the dark corners where they were before their recent boldness. That even if it costs us, as the church of Jesus Christ we will stand together for the poor and weak and the “other.” So many of you say that the government cannot do what the church was designed to do, and this is our chance to prove it. The church needs to step up.

saint-francis-xavierThere are enormous numbers of people in our country tonight who are afraid, who feel alone, who feel abandoned by the church and the country. They are terrified. Church, these are our people. These are the people Jesus would be walking with tonight, because He always found a way to walk with those who mourned and felt alone. We have to go get them and walk with them (and He will be there already, speaking comfort). And we do this today – there is no time for partisan gloating because the Republican won. All that does is divide and we are to be people of unity. People are hurting, and we are first of all Kingdom people. We have work to do. We have to pray for how to best share hope – maybe it is as simple as a smile and showing support and love to someone, and then we have to act. Maybe we take a meal to a family who feels alone and scared, tell them we stand with them. Maybe it is more – may the Holy Spirit lead us. If we don’t know anyone who is broken or afraid tonight, may that convict us. How could we be so insular when the world is such a beautifully diverse place? Please pray with me that we will know how to minister to the broken.

But we have to do what we were made to do. The church overwhelmingly tonight voted for the government to get out of the business of fixing everything, great, then the church has to fill the gap. We have to step up.

They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,
those who are left in Israel;
they shall do no injustice
    and speak no lies,
nor shall there be found in their mouth
    a deceitful tongue.
For they shall eat and lie down,
    and no one shall make them afraid. – Zephaniah 3:13

Jesus, help us. Please speak to Your church. Please speak to our President-Elect, give Him wisdom, lead Him in the ways of righteousness. Please heal our country. We confess our fear, and know You are never the author of it. Please give us hope. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. 

The Remedy

Courtesy longwood.edu

Courtesy longwood.edu

I read an article in a Worship Leader magazine today that really impacted me. It was a story about a woman in her late 60s who was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure after several months of shortness of breath, weakness, and feeling shaky. Her doctor explained to her the function of the heart: that the ventricles which are responsible for pumping blood throughout the body must also relax in order to be refilled after each pump. For her, disease had hardened her ventricles and her heart was no longer able to relax and receive the quantity of blood she needed to pump out. So fluid was getting backed up in her body and her life was in jeopardy even though her heart was technically pumping with strength. The magazine used her story to illustrate the need for rest and silence in our spiritual life, and it hit home with me.

I am a wife, mom of three, a student finishing my degree, and a very part-time producer. I have been proud of myself for my ability to juggle all of these balls and get it all done. I have started cooking more, and am breastfeeding my baby girl – both things I had longed to do. Tasks and projects keep getting added to my agenda and I am getting a good portion of them done (and doing a decent job at squashing the guilt from the things I just can’t get to).  It’s not pretty – but I’m working hard and accomplishing quite a bit more than I ever thought I could. So I should feel really accomplished. But I feel tired, out of breath, weak, and shaky. My eyes fill with tears at the strangest times.

I keep looking to my husband to help make me feel better. Maybe he can take me on more dates, or bring me flowers, or write me a sweet note. But he’s busy (his task-list each week rivals or surpasses mine), and I still need more. So I go to church, thinking that just one more worship service, a chance to raise my hands in praise, a sermon that will inspire and convict will get me back on track. But so often I leave church in tears. I still feel crummy. It was exhausting getting our kids up and getting them there, the baby was restless in service so I heard about a fourth of it, and it just didn’t do the trick.

Today when I read the article it hit me. I am a girl in congestive heart failure. I am pumping out as fast and furious as I can, but I’m not filling up. I can’t get a deep breath. I am shaky.

When you are diagnosed with CHF, the goal is to get the blood efficiently moving through the heart again. This means, if possible, reversing the damage to the ventricle so that it can relax and fill normally.  You need to get the blood pressure down, the heart rate stabilized, and the fluid balance of the body back to a healthy set point.

But for people like us, in spiritual congestive heart failure? What is the remedy?

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself…  Psalm 37:7

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. Exodus 14:14

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. Isaiah 32:17

There are good reasons why Justin and I do all of the things we do. We think each one is necessary for our family’s survival and right now I can’t think of one thing that I can drop without serious consequences. But I think we need to look to Jesus as our example. There was nobody in history with a more vital purpose on earth. He literally came to seek and save that which was lost. His mission was to redeem humanity yet the Bible is clear He took time away to pray and sit in silence. He slept. He rested. He is never portrayed in Scripture as panicked or frantic. In fact, He was almost always infuriatingly calm.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:30 (When Jesus said this people were literally chasing after them – this wasn’t a down time or a break in the schedule.)

How can I think that the things on my list are so important that I don’t have time to rest when I have a Savior with tasks infinitely more important who modeled rest for me? And how have I forgotten the truth that Jesus is all I need so much that I am relying on my husband and church to fill me up when I feel empty? I’ve clearly lost my way here.

Somehow, I have to start receiving from the Lord the rest I need to do the important stuff in my life with health and not just efficiency. I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. I’m not sure what things we need to extricate ourselves from. I’m not sure what balls I need to just let fall to the ground despite the consequences. But I’m planning to sit here for a bit in silence until the Lord reveals it. Because I feel like I can’t take a deep breath, and I know living in spiritual CHF is not God’s best for me, my husband, or my kids.

The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-25

What it Feels Like for Me to be a Christian Woman in 2012

Disclaimer – this one is going to get deep, and not necessarily be pretty. And I am not on FB or Twitter right now to explain or clarify my positions, so I just pray that my heart would accurately come across as I write and process. I just want to be light in darkness, and I pray that nothing I say would cause shame or hurt. This is my perspective – and I am warning you it is messy.

I know I can be more sensitive than most, but to be a woman in this culture of rhetoric and soundbites is really difficult. Politicians and the media are hurtling words across the aisle without thought – words like “rape,” “pregnancy,” “abortion,” and “contraception” – like these are arrows slung from a bow and not real personal issues that carry with them memories, hurts, fears, and a visceral reaction.

I feel assaulted by it.

I am tired of signing onto Twitter and seeing snarky comments about rape and abortion. I am tired of rhetoric about pregnancy and abortion without a meaningful plan to help women and reduce these shocking statistics that mask a terrible reality. I am tired of pregnancy, infertility, and contraception being issues hurled about in the public sphere without a heart for what these things mean to the women and men making these decisions. I am tired of women’s rights and women’s equality being words without complex meaning in a world where women are battered, raped, maimed, enslaved, and reduced to being less than we are worldwide on an astonishing scale.

Don’t people understand these are REAL women and REAL babies they are talking about? That these decisions and topics are gut wrenching?

Our world is so broken, and we need Jesus so much.

I hate abortion. I’ve written about it before. I hated it even before Roe, when it was done in the dark of night, when women were maimed in back offices, sometimes not even given a choice because they were too young and they weren’t the ones paying so they were ignored. They endured it without anesthetic or a voice. What a cruel world that would steal from a woman even the choice to bear life, but it happens worldwide every single day. Abortion isn’t an American issue – it is a world issue. I hate the fear and stigma that backs women into a corner, the broken systems that entrap women. I hate that even decades later in some homes, a past secret abortion is not dealt with so peace can be found, the growing crack in the wall that reveals the facade behind the “happy healthy family.”

I hate it now that it is legal in the US and “more simple.”  I hate when it is convenient and it can be done without thought, except that it is not without thought and millions of women will tell you it haunts them decades later because there isn’t support for after. I hate it when it is done in deception, when a “simple” pill is given that makes the woman horribly ill for days, in pain bleeding alone in her home, unable to tell anyone. I hate when it is done after viability, when the baby could actually live outside of the womb and should, without question, have the rights of every other human. I don’t understand how we justify that. I hate when is agonized over – a terrible choice in the middle of a difficult life made in quiet and shame and fear of discovery. I hate that anyone has had to face that terrible choice and live with the results. I hate that it has stolen from so many of us, including me, family members. I see tiny newborn children and I hate that so many of them have vanished in violent ends, taking with them a part of our world’s future. I hate that it has left some women as shells, pieced back together and afraid of discovery, unable to forgive themselves. I hate that it places the burden on these women and takes the lives of these babies, and either gives men no choice or voice at all, or it enables boys to stay in suspended adolescence and not grow into men. It leaves nobody unscarred.

I hate it. It has stolen so much. It is not a simple right, it is an anchor. And it is taking us all down with it.

And I hate that it has become a political tagline. I think that grieves the heart of God as much as it hardens those of us who hear it over and over. I think since the beginning of time we have tried to find human solutions to the problem of sin we created in the garden (God didn’t want to give us kings, but we wanted kings, and when we got them they ruled over us without kindness. God didn’t want to give us divorce, but we insisted on divorce, and we left untold damage in our wake. We keep demanding the things that only damage us and distance us from Him, and then we blame Him when the mess we insisted on creating is messy). Even still, I wish there was a human solution, like legislation, that could erase the terrible reality of abortion, but the reality is that abortion is part of our broken world and has been since Adam and Eve made their choice. The numbers have increased since Roe vs. Wade, certainly, and the price has been immeasurably high on our culture and our values, but abortion has been a reality since humans have had the ability to fear and the desire to control each other and our future.

I think abortion is a consequence of fear. Fear of the future, fear of consequence, fear of discovery, fear of inadequacy. And you can’t insulate someone enough, provide them enough healthcare and options and support, to erase fear. Only perfect love drives out fear. A genuine love for women, a genuine love for children, a genuine love for God and trusting Him with our days – those things are the only answer to the abortion crisis and they will never grow from a political affiliation. We have to ALL quit numbing ourselves and start looking around, not judging each other but jumping in and getting our hands dirty – loving women and men in the messy realities of life. Loves drives out fear. So it means we support our children and nieces and friends when they are faced with terrifying decisions. It means we love and trust others enough to cry out for help when we find ourselves entangled in a nightmare scenario. It means we love selflessly, opening our hearts, homes and wallets to help each other and to meet needs. And it means we stop ignoring the orphan crisis – how can we ask women to choose life when more than 170 million children worldwide need homes? We need to love the orphan and the birth mother – no matter how messy that gets. If our prayers are answered and there are less abortions, that will mean there are more adoptions, and we need to be ready for that.

And let’s all agree to stop using abortion as a hurtling arrow.

And let’s add rape to that list. Rape is not rhetoric, and it can never be boiled down to a soundbite. Rape is complicated. Sometimes it is violent. Sometimes it is quiet and quick, devastating in its ambiguity. The moments leading up to it are confusing, the years after it are devastating. I know women who only, after feeling safe enough to do an honest assessment of the past, have realized that what they experienced was, in fact, rape. That their rights and their bodies were actually violated and that it is okay to call it that. I would bet that the statistics on rape are far lower than the reality of rape. No politician has a right to judge it on the degree of force or desire. It is intensely personal and can devastating.

Rape and abortion are the epitome of brokenness and to treat them casually destroys the thing about us that makes us human.

This world is broken. And more and more, I believe that the political rhetoric is contributing to the brokenness, not solving it. It makes us hard. It makes us mean. Anything can be taken out of context and spun and the heart of the person and the complexity of the matter completely annihilated.

Don’t believe me? Try this. Go outside and spend some time in prayer and check your blood pressure after that. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, talk to yourself and listen to your voice. Then watch your favorite political commentator for an hour – the guy you agree with. Then try the experiment again. Look in the mirror and talk, listen to your voice, check your blood pressure. Even when you agree with the person, I have found you will sound and look more defensive and angry, your adrenaline will probably be flowing, and your blood pressure will be higher. People who watch and listen to the rhetoric all day are growing more numb, more angry, and more hard by the hour. We need to step away from it. I’m convinced this stuff is toxic to our systems. It is the same human solutions to a divine sin problem we’ve been trying since Adam and Eve sewed together leaves to hide their nakedness.

We need Jesus. We need healing. We need restoration. We need forgiveness. We need miraculous protection from the darkness in this world – the sin that so easily entangles. We need to pray. Prayer can help with the abortion statistics and the rape statistics. It will open our eyes and soften our hearts. We will draw close to God and He will lead us in the way we should go in helping and assisting moms and adopting these kids who need homes. Only God can grow a boy into a man – giving him the strength to be honorable in this deceptive world that tells him he doesn’t have to live with honor. When that happens, rape and abortion numbers will go down. When heart-change and heart-softening happens, as we turn to Christ and light, this darkness must flee. We have to pray for that – that God will do it. He’s the only one who can.

Jesus this world is broken. It makes me shake. I look at my children and I ache for them – the statistics are scary and I pray they never experience these things, but I know they will at least be touched by them in this world. I see the women I know who have experienced infertility, unplanned or lost pregnancy, rape, and abortion and I ache for them. They all carry the scars – they all have lost so much. I know if this rhetoric stuns me it may devastate them. Or maybe it doesn’t – maybe that part of them is so walled off. Either way, Jesus, please draw near to the hurting and offer your healing mercy. Help us please. Government is not our answer – YOU are our answer. Human solutions stink – they only make things worse. We need you. We have done it our way and we have screwed it up. Please call your church to be salt and light in a broken world. Thank you for the people who get this – for the men and women who stand on your Word as a light to the world – being light as they embrace the complexity of loving a broken world. This is not simple, and we need people brave enough to admit that. Thank you for pregnancy centers filled with volunteers and staff who actually love women and desire to help them. Thank you for people who are unafraid to jump in and do the heavy lifting. I know even as much as Planned Parenthood is reviled on one side of this debate, there are many people there who deeply desire to help women. Please lead all of those people to yourself  – you are our only hope. Help our country. Help our leaders. Convict them. Convict us to pray for them and not be cynical and hateful toward them. I need help with that – I can feel so hopeless about the weakness of our country’s leadership. Help us to turn off the rhetoric, turn on our ears to hear Your Spirit, turn from our evil ways, and turn from our dependence on human solutions. And Jesus, please, please, heal our land.

The Quiet Danger

On Friday my dad and I took my girls swimming. Grace is learning to swim, and fearless in a way that makes every adult around her nervous. Rebekah wears one of those swimsuits with the life vest installed in it (which she calls her chubby tummy) and is terrified of going under the water. Grace swam from me to my dad, and at the same time, Bekah had reached for dad and was crying because her face had gotten splashed. So dad is juggling two kids, one of which is screeching. We get Bekah situated, and I turn around to see that Grace has slipped under the water. Her head was about 2 inches under the water and she was looking at me with this look of panic but unable to get herself up to breathe. I grabbed her up, she coughed up some water, and within seconds she was raring to go again. But the image of my little girl, underwater and in such danger without making a sound, has rattled me for days. Although she was only under a few seconds, that image of her little face in the water has haunted me.

I used to work for a ministry who had Proverbs 24:11 as their theme verse. Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. It so impacted me because, especially when dealing with kids and teenagers, it perfectly defined the state of so many students. For years I have seen teenagers staggering toward slaughter. Pushing boundaries, making quick thoughtless decisions, damaging themselves in some attempt to impress others. And I have felt like my calling was to prayerfully help hold them back from destruction. To somehow restrain them just enough until they could come to know Christ or reach adulthood and begin to make wise decisions. Many of my students are now lovely and responsible adults living lives worthy of their calling (having kids themselves which makes me thrilled but also feel very old). Others have lost their life, and I have mourned their loss. They quietly slipped away and I long for the day when I will see them again so I can tell them that they were loved, despite how alone they felt. I pray they have found the acceptance they longed for in the arms of our perfect Savior. For years I wore around my neck the emblem of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, given that title because the legend behind his life is that he helped a child across a river swollen from rain, getting the child to safety. I saw that as my call long before I had children.

Then I became a mom. And this calling moved into my home in a literal way. Keeping my children safe became a daily, constant, intensely personal battle. They have choked on food and given themselves medicine and tried to pull away from me in a parking lot and fallen out of baby beds and just Friday, one of them quietly slipped under the water. And thank God so far we have been able to hold them back and protect them well, but it is hard work and we can seriously let fear rule our lives if we let it. I am thankful for the grace of a God who saves. I am grateful for every missed loss. I am aware of just how much we are blessed.

But still that image of the face underwater has made me pause this week, has made me grateful, and has made me more aware. We are constantly, as parents, in need of mercy and miracles when it comes to our kids and the task we have been given. We are constantly, as members of the body of Christ, in need of wisdom when dealing with children and teens. Because whether it is our own children, or the children around us in our churches and in our communities, we need to realize that their default condition is not stagnant, but is headed downstream toward destruction. We need to actively, vigilantly, and prayerfully, engage to be forces that turn children toward Christ and toward life and away from the destructive pull of this world.

Because when kids are in trouble it isn’t always loud and they don’t always call attention to themselves. Sometimes they are quietly drowning, and they need our intervention. They need us to see them and recognize their need. Then we can help. We can pull them up, help them get their breath, tell them we love them and we are rooting for them, and help them swim to safety. We can be instruments of change and of life in the lives of the kids around us. I am grateful God allows us to be a part of such a worthy mission. May He help us do this task well with wisdom and grace beyond ourselves.

*That call to carry children across danger is also why we support Compassion International and other ministries aimed at helping vulnerable children around the world. When there isn’t a parent around or able to do the work of protecting children, ministries like Compassion and World Vision step in to fill that role, and obey this command. There are forces in this world aimed at the destruction of children and families, and these ministries actively fight those forces with the love and life of Christ. So we give what we can because it is important and children need someone fighting for them, helping them before they are led away to death.

Mercy is Alive.

A few weeks ago, my parents kept my kids and allowed me to go to Keystone Church‘s Communion Gathering.  I was tired that Sunday.  Worn out, actually.  I had been working much, traveling much, and patient with my girls and Justin little.  I felt small and broken.  And there was a song we sang that I didn’t know but one line washed over me:

Now’s the time for us to rise

and carry hope to hopeless eyes

and show this world that mercy is alive

Mercy is alive.  As I sang those words, I realized that is what draws me to Keystone, and indeed to any gathering of authentic Believers.  Mercy is alive.  Mercy is alive.  Mercy is alive.

That rang through my spirit like a bell – shaking the core of who I am.  Mercy is alive.

It started me thinking.  About how much in need of mercy I am.  About how I can show mercy to others.  About maybe that the point of this life for us Believers left here on earth with a heart for heaven is to show mercy to the others remaining around us who are hurting and lost.

It also made me think that maybe I don’t show the church enough mercy.  And by the church, I mean the total number of Believers on this planet – the Bride of Christ.  I have struggled with frustration with the church for a while.  I feel sometimes like the church is sleeping, only slightly less self-involved than the world we are sent to reach.  And on those days, mercy towards the church is hard to find in this heart of mine.

So the Lord sent me to Hosea.  It is so frustrating and yet so powerful a picture of mercy.  In a nutshell, the Lord is angry with Israel.  They are continuously unfaithful, continuously returning to their sin, yet He loves them.  So the Lord goes to a prophet named Hosea and commands him to marry a prostitute who the Lord knows will be unfaithful.  Hosea, in small measure, is going to live a life demonstrating how the Lord feels every time Israel is unfaithful.  Poor man – his home is about to be the most unfortunate word picture in history.  Hosea’s wife, Gomer, despite his love and patience and kindness, returns again and again to her sin.  And each time, Hosea invites her back.  Throughout the book you see, in poetic measure, this push/pull relationship between the Lord and Israel.  He is kind to Israel, and they draw close, and then over time they run back to sin, so He rejects them for a moment as they face the consequences of their actions, and then when they are lost and hopeless, He woos them back and they return to Him.  And it all starts again.

Sound familiar?  It does to me.  This rejection/relinquishment/wooing process has happened in my own life a thousand times.  But it also reminds me of my relationship with other broken sinful people.  We hurt each other, we turn away, we realize our need, we return to each other.  This is why our families are so messy. Even the best families struggle with this broken cycle.  We are sinful people living out the story of Hosea over and over in every relationship in our lives, demonstrating our collective need for mercy.

And since we make up the church – the church lives this out too.  The church will draw close to the Lord, then run back to sin, and the Lord will reject them for a moment and allow them to glimpse life without Him, and then He draws them back repentant.  This is why the church has sometimes been on the wrong side of cultural issues, for example slavery.  The church is not perfect – in fact, we are like a prostitute returning to her sin.  But we have a bridegroom who pursues us, woos us, urges us to return to Him.  He loves us with an everlasting love, despite our continuous inability to get it right.

We aren’t rejected, we are still His bride.  Why?  Because mercy is alive.  Do you get that it is personal?  That it isn’t a concept – it is a PERSON.  Mercy is ALIVE.  Jesus is ALIVE.  Jesus is mercy.

So, since we are ourselves playing the role of Gomer, living in a church full of Gomers, may we recognize the Gomers all around us, and show mercy.  Because when we show mercy, we show Jesus to a lost world.

  • The son who runs away time and time again – he is a Gomer.
  • The daughter who returns to drugs despite the perpetual destruction of her life  – she is a Gomer.
  • The stubborn atheist in a search for truth anywhere but the cross – Gomer.
  • The people who have made sinful decisions that have hurt your family – Gomers.
  • Me in my impatience with my children and my stubborn insistence on my rights and control – Gomer.

But all of us have a Hosea, our powerful Creator who loves us and knew the circumstances of today before a single day came into existence. Jesus is alive, Jesus is mercy, and He will not give up.  He loves us and pursues us.

So we should not give up.  On ourselves, on others.

Our job, as Believers, is to live in the mercy of our King and to show the world that mercy is alive.  The same mercy that right now allows us to breathe……..this……..breath………. He is alive.  He loves us all.

Thank you Jesus for your love and mercy on me – a Gomer of Gomers.  Please help me to show mercy – to show YOU – to a world around me today.

Orphan

I am working an event for Christian Retailers in St. Louis this week.  It has been a great show with interesting sessions and no technical difficulties (yay!).  I have worked this show for three years and I found something unique about this year that thrilled my heart.

The Christian world really is awakening to the needs of the orphan.

Finally.

My husband and I have been on that track, we have many friends who are on that track, and we are seeing some churches on that track – but this week confirmed it for me – God is doing something across Christian culture in the name of the orphan.

This show is interesting – there is a sampling of people from every possible denomination and persuasion of Christian life represented.  It isn’t too often that you see conservatives and charismatics, traditionals and radicals, people in bonnets and headscarves and tattooed from head to toe all sharing the same space and interacting and worshipping together.  If they believe in Christ – they are here.  So it is a cross-section of people who you rarely see gathered in one place.

And speaker after speaker, singer after singer, sales rep after sales rep talked about the orphan. Even my crew, mostly people who do not share my faith, a wonderful hard-working motley crew of agnostics and atheists, noticed it.  And strangely, many of them were adoptees themselves or had siblings who were adoptees.  It was great for my crew to see that side of Christianity – to see the hearts of Believers that care for the least of these.

People who have a heart like Christ.

courtesy of adoption.net

I am so glad my crew got to see that – so often they see the dark prideful underbelly of Christian productions/events.  You ever wonder what technical people think about Christians – well, you wouldn’t want to know.  Techs watch every move and know who are divas, who are living double lives, who are one person on stage and another when my guys are putting a microphone on their lapel.  They have seen it all – so I was grateful when they got to see heart after heart touched with a love for those “being led away to death… staggering towards slaughter.

Don’t get me wrong – It still wasn’t a perfect show – there were still egos and issues.  They’ll never see a perfect Christian because there is no such beast in this world.  But this year it was better.

You guys who know me well know my bias – my mind and heart are centered on the orphan.  My desire to adopt is so ever-present that it is almost painful sometimes.  So I know I am hyperaware  – but in one session, 5 of the 6 performers talked directly about the orphan.  And my host was an adoptee.  That is not a coincidence.

God is doing something pretty powerful.  In high school we talked about knowing God’s will and someone once told me “You’ll know God’s will when you see where God is already moving and you join in.”

God is moving in the hearts of people to give the orphan a home and a family.

And we have the chance to get on board.

And I just have to wonder if this movement isn’t going to be how God redeems the reputation of Christianity in the United States to draw some people to Himself.  Let’s face it – we have a crap reputation.  And most of it is well-deserved.  We have not been about love and justice and peace, we have been about behavior modification, capitalism, and judgment for far too long.  But one thing we are beginning to get right is the heart for the orphan.  And the world isn’t necessarily getting it right.  Yes, I know there is Angelina Jolie, Madonna, and Sandra Bullock.  But I just googled the word “Orphan” to try to get a good picture for this post.  Almost every response was a screen grab from the awful movie Orphan that came out last year.  Pages and pages and pages of that awful image.  How sad that when you google “orphan,” you don’t get pictures of the 147 million actual precious human children who are going to sleep tonight on the street or in an institution or in a temporary facility, but instead you get a visually disturbing photograph from a horror movie.  We as Christians are supposed to be salt and light in a dark world.  How much more counter-culture could we be than if we reject the distorted idea presented in that film that the orphan is somehow unfit for a home or dangerous.  What if we sacrificed to show redemption and love to these tiny precious children who the world fears because of some jacked up horror movie.  The verse I quoted earlier  Rescue those being led away to death.  Hold back those staggering towards slaughter is just one of the verses the Lord has given Justin and I as He has called us to adopt.  The reality is that if most of the orphans are not adopted, they will die or be institutionalized for the rest of their childhood.  They are at tremendous risk for attachment disorders.  They often are the victims of trafficking and many enter the sex trade.  They are staggering towards death.  And they have done nothing to deserve that.  They are like my Bekah or my Grace – they deserve safety and love – they deserve to be cuddled and kissed and allowed to sleep in the home of parents who adore them.  If Christians around the world would be known as the force that gave homes to every orphan in the world, if we would just take the cause of the orphan seriously, there is no telling what we could accomplish and the lives that would be literally saved.  If we would stop investing in buildings and start investing in people – we could get somewhere.  Maybe instead of being known as the people who don’t “believe in” homosexuality and dislike liberals and don’t cuss or drink – we could be known as a force for good.  Maybe that could turn our reputation around and people might then be interested in the God we say we believe in.   Now not all – Jesus said we would be hated because of Him, but maybe some.

Maybe people like my guys.

I named this post Orphan because maybe someday Google will pick it up and it can be just one post that presents the cause of the orphan in a positive truthful light.  Maybe it will be clicked and bump at least one site about that terrible movie into the gutter where it belongs.

Mountain Moving.

I woke up this morning with this verse in my head.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

The Lord knows me well.

I am thrilled.

Terrified.

Excited.

Anxious.

Confident.

Concerned.

Faithful.

Faithless.

Sometimes all at the same time.  I am a woman – made by God.  Creative and imaginative.  Which I have found can be an incredibly positive thing, or can mean I anticipate every possible negative scenario.  So this morning the Lord led me to Psalm 139.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;  you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;  you have laid your hand upon me. (Isn’t that fantastic?  I love that picture).

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;  the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When I awake,  I am still with you.

If only you would slay the wicked, O God!  Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

They speak of you with evil intent;  your adversaries misuse your name.

Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?

I have nothing but hatred for them;  I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;  test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,  and lead me in the way everlasting.

There is a possibility on our horizon. Little more than a speck at this point, but that speck could turn into a great promise.  And I really have been asking the Lord if He would open this door for us – in my human understanding it seems the perfect scenario.  I sent a prayer request to some women in my life who I trust and who pray for our family.  One of the women wrote back and told me to begin to thank the Lord for this thing in faith.  I read that and thought, “Really Lord, it wouldn’t be presumptive to do that?  I could just thank you, in faith, for this thing?”

So I did, in my brown chair in my living room.  I thanked the Lord.  When I thanked Him I felt shivers from my head to my toes.  This weight seemed to lift off my shoulders.  It was a pretty powerful moment – I began to cry.  I can’t really explain the physical feeling of letting go of the hope of this thing and instead thanking the Lord for it.

One of the things I wrote these women who are praying for me is that I wanted to be careful that my hope was in the Lord, and not on this one thing.  I wanted to be able to say that God is good regardless.  So I know that the idea of thanking Him WAY in advance of Him actually giving us a thing seems contrary to that.  But I don’t think it is.  I think I was offering to the Lord the little faith I had.

In Matthew 17, Jesus takes three disciples up onto a mountain.  There, the glory of Jesus is revealed. They see Moses and Elijah and hear the voice of God.  As they come back down, they ask Jesus some questions.  You can tell that they are struggling to wrap their finite minds around the infinite nature of God.  Later, a man comes to Jesus to get healing for his son.  He tells Jesus that the disciples were unable to heal him.  With a word, Jesus heals the son.  The disciples ask Jesus why it was so simple for Him when they couldn’t help the boy.  Jesus replies, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I think, sitting in my chair in my house, I offered up to God my little mustard seed of faith.  I think that physical reaction I experienced was a bit like stepping out of the boat to walk on water.  For a moment, I did something supernatural.  It wasn’t much – but it was all I had.

Jesus could have left the boy unhealed – to teach the disciples a lesson.  Sometimes we see God that way, right?  We think if we don’t have the faith, He might punish us and not give us the thing we need/want.  But Jesus isn’t like that.  He understands and He helps us in our weakness.

I am thankful that Jesus walked among us in our skin.  That his 11 closest friends were human.  So He gets it.  He understands that our minds cannot comprehend even a small percentage of His plan.   These disciples SAW the glory of Jesus, heard the voice of God, saw two men long dead alive and glowing.  And yet Jesus said their faith was still too small.  So this passage in Psalm 139 talks about God knowing us completely – every day, every thought, every word – but also loving us completely.  In fact, it seems to indicate that He compensates for our weaknesses.  We are hemmed in before and behind.  I visualize two huge shields covering me as I ball up into the fetal position.  Or a parent covering over the entire body of a child in an emergency.  Yes I am weak, but I am not the important part of this picture.  I am safe.  Protected.  Fought for.  And someone much larger and more powerful is in control.

So this morning I am grateful that I am hemmed in, before and behind.  I am enveloped in the love and grace of my Father.  And He knows my days.  I have done my share of the mountain moving.  I rest knowing it is now up to Him.