A Time to Rest

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Grace, leaping off the dock. So proud of my sweet girl for conquering her fears and leaping.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28

We just went on a big family vacation with my parents, my brother and his family, and my sister and her boyfriend to Lake Martin, a beautiful lake in Alabama. It was a week at a beautiful place, with my favorite people in the world, and everything in me needed to disconnect and refresh and relax. Since we moved to Houston seven months ago, and even the months leading up to the move, we have been sprinting. Our world, and our children’s worlds, were turned upside down (in the best possible ways), and we haven’t had time to really catch our breath. So we go on vacation knowing we need it, that God has ordained rest for us, and that we are ready to receive that rest and renewal and enjoy one another. I, in particular, had several goals in mind as we left Houston:

1. A rest from being me-centered. Fifty one weeks a year our girls have to comply with our schedule, getting up at a certain time, following certain rules, being places sometimes for hours on end while Justin and I work and serve our church. Although they are not deprived (#firstworldproblems), and they love COF and get our mission here, we also know they deserve a week off to relax and enjoy us. So we try, for these times on vacation, to turn our normal paradigm on its head. They can wake up and go swimming at 7:40 in the morning. They can have ice cream sandwiches at 8:30 pm. We bought fireworks for them to shoot off the bow of the boat. If I had just sat down for the first time that day, but they needed something, I tried to not sigh and make it a big deal, but to get up with joy and let them see that they were more important to me than my rest. I don’t believe in a kid-centered home, and I don’t believe in making our children happy at the expense of making them holy, but for this one week, this fantastic week, I determined to do everything in my power to give them magical childhood memories and make it all about them.

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The cousins.

2. A rest from fears. I am a creative mind, and one of the manifestations of that is that I imagine every possible horrific scenario that can occur at any given time, so I can somehow prepare for it. I do this more when I am stressed or tired or feeling out of control, so I went on vacation at an eleven in the freakout category, to be really honest with you. I was having visions of car accidents, drowning, secondary drowning, heat stroke, boating accidents, critters, brain eating amoebas, furniture falling on children, all of it. So this week I asked the Lord for a rest from that nonsense.  I decided to not give those voices an audience in my mind, to pray when I felt fear, and to not be that mom keeping my kids from having fun because of a Facebook posting of a crazy scenario that is designed to perpetuate fear-based news cycles, that could keep a mother and her children curled up in the fetal position forever. So we swam in lakes, let the kids shoot off fireworks, went tubing, let the kids run around with freedom. And guess what? No nightmare scenarios happened, even without my watchful worrying guard.

The three girls were going to hold hands and jump, and Bekah just couldn't do it. It was so funny watching her let go and just stand there.

The three girls were going to hold hands and jump, and Bekah just couldn’t do it. It was so funny watching her let go and just stand there.

3. A rest from ingratitude. Vacationing with kids is hard, as a mom, and a few times I let myself slip into a pity mentality where I felt tired and wanted a break, but I was continually countering that state of mind with the truth that I am blessed, and that this trip was evidence of how blessed I am. I asked the Lord over and over for the gift of gratitude. One morning I was on a kayak in the middle of the quiet cove where our lake house sat, looking back on the dock where our kids were swimming and laughing, with tears in my eyes. This was my dream for our kids, this idyllic childhood moment, and I was not going to miss the chance to be grateful for it. To be grateful to serve at a place where we have not only the vacation time, but the extra funds to pull off a week like this with our kids. To be grateful for a family who loves us and who wants to travel with us. To be grateful for a mom who conquered her fear of lakes to swim with my kids everyday, and a dad who is the best grandfather I could ever have wished for. To be grateful for the relationships with my siblings that are healthy and affirming, full of life and peace. To be grateful for all the Lord has done in our family’s lives this past year, and how He has carried us. Something about my heart needs beauty and quiet to give God the due He always deserves, and in that moment, on that lake, all I could do was cry with gratitude for where we are in life, all by His design.

It was a great vacation, and was the rest my spirit needed. I met God there, in the squeal of my daughter as she jumped off the dock, and the quiet moments alone, and the love of my sister-in-law as she made a meal for our kids, and the laughter of my family. I am grateful for every moment of it.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1

Take a rest, my friends, sometime this summer, doing what your soul needs. You deserve it, and the Lord will use it.
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The Powerful Woman

“Your husband is a brooder. And brooders brood.” – Bates (Downton Abbey)

powerFor years I have been working through what I believe about women and power (I call it processing, but really, like Bates, it’s brooding). Because there are two extremes in our culture, and I disagree with both. There is the world’s definition of female power, distorted by our enemy until somehow women choose to do things that are absolutely terrible for us to demonstrate we have the right, and then the church’s definition of female power, which in many places is no power at all, or worse, no voice (although certainly not everywhere). Both extremes make me very uncomfortable.

I’ve not always thought about women and power in a righteous way – in fact most often probably the opposite. The rebellious contrarian nature in me (that aged my parents like my rebellious contrarian child ages me) rises up when someone addresses this issue, and I struggle to understand and work through what I believe about rights, submission, surrender, and the power that is mine as a child of the King. I’ll search the Bible for answers, and feel my spirit lift and fall as I read things that encourage or confuse me when it comes to women and power. Paul, for example, writes some pretty strict limitations on women’s leadership, but shortly after praises a female apostle and writes greetings to several women leaders in the early church, and after that says there is no male and female in the Kingdom. It is confusing, and anyone who tells you it isn’t apparently possesses some secret Bible decoder ring that I’d love to borrow for a month or two or forever. And again I’m a contrarian, so I want to know the truth, but I won’t believe something just because you say it is true.

I’ve always been this way. As a child, in my Christian school, I submitted a science fair project on my attempt to determine the point where life begins, studying it both in the Bible and from a scientific viewpoint, trying to work through what I believed. And let me tell you – the entire project didn’t go over well in the school I attended, despite my genuinely pro-life viewpoint (I think I got a 72). Sometimes questions, even asked innocently, make people uncomfortable.

And that discomfort certainly exists when you start discussing women and power in today’s church. We all have a point of view, often shaped by our experiences. For years I served in churches where women on staff were the absolute minority and relegated to non-ministerial “director” roles. On one staff, I was the only woman on the executive staff (terrifying, right?), and I felt like I had to represent all women at a table full of men, all of the time. It exhausted me. So I left ministry, aside from serving beside my minister husband, because I couldn’t figure out how to be me in those environments.

But in the meantime, I kept being drawn to these women who were both powerful and righteous – and I loved watching them be all God had made them to be. I longed to see more of that from the Church that I love.

So this position comes up at Community of Faith for me to serve full-time on a church staff again.  Honestly, I’ve never cried or agonized over a decision more in my life. I actually said no several times. And then I visited here and saw that this church is defined by so many things that move my heart: mission, Prayer, restoring the broken, redeeming the lost. This place is real and simple and powerful. There is freedom here. Beauty. Vulnerability. God’s presence so thick you can feel it. Prayer like I’ve never experienced. I wanted to be here but I was not sold on my role on the staff until I met a woman who demonstrated quiet graceful strength. She is our Pastor’s wife – but we also call her our Pastor. She doesn’t claim that title or call herself that as if it were her right – but she started COF with her husband and her wisdom saturates this place and she completely fills that role in the right way, so that is what we call her, because we honor her. On the drive back to Dallas, after seeing the church and meeting the Shooks, Justin and I talked and wrestled and prayed and processed like our life was on the line – because it was. During that talk, I cried when I told him that meeting her, I finally saw myself here. I knew if I came on staff I would never have to represent all women, because they are very beautifully represented in the women on staff here already. But more than that, I felt like I had seen the right kind of power displayed and honored, and it felt like coming home.

(There are some who will shut down as you read the last paragraph, and I get it. I  hope my heart is coming across correctly, but I also know we all have entirely too much baggage when it comes to the issue of women and the church. We have seen abuses and been taught rules and boundaries quite forcefully, so I get the complexity and discomfort).

So we decide to move here after the Lord confirms our decision about eleven different ways, and I return to full-time ministry. We are at this church, this church of our dreams, serving with people who are fully alive to the world of the Spirit and fully on-mission to reach the world. Last weekend I filmed sixteen people as they were baptized, and our Pastor stood at the top of the steps of the baptistry and said “I’m proud of you” to each one as they timidly stepped into the water and into the new life of obedience to Christ. This place is not perfect, I know, but it is special and the Lord’s hand is here and we are moved by it week after week after week. So many times since we moved here Justin and I have said to each other, “This is worth giving up our lives.”

But even still, it hasn’t been easy for me. I brood. I feel unsettled. Awkward. Striving. Inadequate. Insecure. Too tall. Too loud. Too much. Not enough. I am fighting to process all of this because it is all so new. This new culture. This new paradigm. Even the new roles Justin and I are filling at home and my role at work. In every area of our life there are massive changes, and I am stuck in my head working through them. Most of all, I’m working through how to walk through this door the Lord so clearly opened for our family. Because it’s amazing and refreshing to meet a woman walking in the right kind of power, but it’s hard to be a woman walking in the right kind of power. I feel a little bit like I’m learning to walk again, wobbling between extremes, trying to find my way. Too fearful one moment, too bold the next. Too confident in my own wisdom, then plagued with self-doubt, all the time not relying enough on the wisdom of my Father. My feelings are all over the map, and although rationally I know my feelings aren’t truth – still I feel so many feelings and it makes me uncomfortable.

Finally I come to tonight – and the reason I am writing. There has been some serious violence in our new area in the past months, and the women on our staff were invited to a prayer meeting to stand together against the forces of evil in our town. So I go with some female staff members and staff wives, and we walk into a room with about 16 people total, where we are led in prayer. And it was powerful. All-caps POWERFUL. We are praying in unison, quiet at first, but with more and more boldness as we go. We are humbling ourselves, begging the Lord to intercede and move and change hearts and rescue. We have been afraid, but we aren’t going to live in fear anymore. Instead we are laying down our requests before the God who controls armies of angels. We are also stepping into the power that is ours to fight against the enemy. The leader of the prayer time says,  “We don’t have to take this – we don’t have to be subject to this violence and the schemes of the enemy. We have power in Christ to push back this darkness” and my spirit felt free to walk in that power. It was glorious… and I’m not a person who uses the word “glorious.” We are women, praying in power, as if we have the right to claim this victory and take back this land for the glory of the Lord. Because we do. And I just kept thinking as I left – this is the right kind of power. This is the undefinable thing that moves me about this place.

(As a sidenote, in that room praying with us was one of the most powerful and influential women in the entire Christian world – a name every single one of you would know without question, crying out to the Lord alongside us, revealing the Source of her very formidable strength. When the Lord shows me something, He often has to repeat Himself until even I can’t miss the lesson).

Tonight these conflicted ideas stopped being conflicted for me. The power is not in me, and yet is in me. I am a simple girl. A mess more often than I admit. I know better than anyone how utterly unqualified I am on my own strength to lead anyone or represent the Lord in ministry to a hurting world. And yet I am a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, so His power is in me. He uses me despite my weakness. He empowers me with His strength. And when I walk in that power, there are no limits to what I can or should do for the Lord and His Kingdom. The difference between power out-of-control and beautiful righteous power is the Spirit in which I am walking. Am I walking in surrender to Christ, filled with the Spirit? Then I am powerful and I have no reason to fear or limit myself.

Pray for me, sweet friends, and I’ll pray for you, that we will walk in the power of Christ in the way we were intended, without fear and without a desire to glorify ourselves. And may we progress from infants struggling to walk in this power to daughters dancing and running, pushing back the darkness and bringing glory to the God who created us male and female, for His glory.

For consider your calling, brothers (and sisters): not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God,righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I Cor 1:26 – 31.

I think this is appropriate given the subject matter. 🙂

With Eyes Fixed

My youngest daughter, Lucy, is an active, exploring four month-old. We love this stage, where you can see on her little face her focus and concentration as she learns about the world around her. I also love this stage because she is showing signs of attachment to me as her mom.

photo-21She will be looking around, checking out her surroundings, and something loud will startle her or scare her. If I am in the room, she will turn to me and stare into my eyes before she reacts. If I look at her, smile at her, talk to her in a sing-song voice, and draw her close, she will smile and return to what she was doing because she knows she is safe. If I don’t give her my attention or draw her close, her bottom lip will stick out and she will begin to cry. It is the sweetest thing. This is a very healthy sign of her attachment to me and her understanding that I am a secure base from which she can explore her world (see Bowlby’s attachment theory).

I was thinking about this today and saw a definite correlation to what I, as an adult, look to when I am afraid. I will be going about my day, busy exploring my world… and something scary will happen. Government shutdown. A terror attack in a major city. An unexpected expense. Something in one of my kid’s behavior that seems abnormal. And it unsettles me – it makes me anxious. The fear starts to spiral.

Until I look into the eyes of my Father. Until I remember that He is in control, that my days are in His hands, and that I have a destiny beyond this world. Then I can calm down, secure in the fact that the God of the universe protects me.

Every time I find myself frantic and anxious it is an indicator that I have forgotten to look to my Father. That I have left my primary attachment relationship. When I am making lists and plans, trying to mitigate all the negative circumstances in our lives, feeling alone and abandoned, my fear defines me.  But when I check in with Him first and settle my heart with the knowledge that He is FOR ME, suddenly the very real, and very scary things in our world lose their power to define me.

I need to fix my eyes. I need to seek His comfort. I need to let His Spirit remind me that I am His, and I have no reason to fear. I need to learn from my little Lucy and look to my Protector.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

Talking Ourselves Out of Being Flawsome

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our happiness. Stephen Covey

We are all pretty smart people. God gave us brilliant brains that operate simultaneously on many different levels. We have a thought life, and a personality, and a personal history, we have areas of strength, and areas we feel insecure about, and all of those thoughts result in words, actions, and eventual consequences for those around us. Most of the time the areas of our mind work together to make us sensitive and smart and caring toward the feelings of others.

But occasionally, our actions or our personality can hurt someone around us, damaging a relationship. Or we can feel a sense of conviction about an area of our life that maybe needs improvement, correction, or healing. Someone may even confront us about something that we don’t ourselves see, but as they are speaking, something in our spirit agrees that yes, maybe our actions could be construed a certain way that could be hurtful.

And that is a big important moment in our lives. That is the space Covey described above.

When we are convicted, or realize we’ve hurt someone, or are confronted, it stings. Suddenly we feel tattooed with the scarlet “flaw” and we feel exposed to the world. There is no part of that process that is fun or feels good. And we have this very natural defense mechanism that kicks into high gear when this discomfort of conviction or hurting someone happens. Suddenly our brain rushes to our defense. Our rationalization and reasoning and sense of self-preservation are churning in our minds, minimizing the damage we’ve done and shifting the blame to others. And it is quick and subconscious and completely natural to us as humans (a perfect example is Adam and Eve when they hid their nakedness in the garden and blamed someone else for them eating the apple). We may even have friends or family members who also jump to our defense, ready to do battle with not only our own convictions but with anyone who implies we aren’t perfect, ready to take anyone on who questions our motives. Because in our world, our Christian hard-working world, although we know how dependent we are on grace, it is still hard to admit and deal with flaws and sin in ourselves or people we love.

So there are a cacophony of voices in that important moment of choice. There is the discomfort of conviction. There is the loud insistent voice of defense. There is the voice of embarrassment or shame. There is the stranger in our head of another person’s perspective. There is our anger at being exposed or confronted.

And, if we will stop and listen to it, there is the quiet whisper of our Father.

He is HARD to hear in that moment. I would say, in my life, I have stopped and listened to his voice before reacting maybe 15% of the time. The rest of the time? I have gone off full-bore while listening to one of the other voices. His voice speaks, but is hard to hear in that moment not just because it is quiet but because most of the time, in fact in my case always, He is going to say what I don’t want to hear. He is going to call us to “die to ourselves” and to “take up our cross” and to “turn the other cheek” and to “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord.”

And let’s be honest. We much prefer the scenario where the other person is just “too sensitive” or the standard is “impossibly high” or we just had a “moment of weakness,” where we can shrug our shoulders and say “we’re human and we’ve done our best” and we can go on, unchanged but fully justified in our reasoning.

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Image courtesy wearealight.com

But when we listen to His voice, his quiet voice, something amazing happens. I worked with a speaker last week who talked about being “flawsome” (and can I tell you how much I love that word?). He said in our failures, there is always an opportunity to grow, and if we could learn to “fail forward,” learning and growing as we fail fearlessly, we could transform ourselves, and our relationships, to where we are truly living a healthy, flawsome life.

It’s comforting to convince yourself that your biggest problems are outside you; the problem is, it’s not true, and for this you need grace. Paul David Tripp

So how do we turn the uncomfortable moment of conviction into the flawsome life? How do we silence the loud voices of rationalization and hear the quiet voice of Jesus calling us to confess sin? How do we go from feeling crummy and flawed to feeling flawsome? I think we do what the Bible tells us to do. We humble ourselves. We approach our God and confess our sin. We admit again that we need his grace. We approach each other with love and humility – even when it is hard. We say we are sorry, even if the offense was never our intent. We lay down our lives for each other. We heal. We grow.

The tragedy is not that we hurt each other or that we fail. The tragedy is that we settle for that – we leave ourselves and our relationships there, instead of growing beyond it. And doing so is beneath us, as Christ followers, and beneath the genuine community to which we have been called. We must confess to each other and forgive each other. I have an aunt who does this so well. She and I have battled, and she has forgiven me and she chooses to love me, despite me. Our relationship is stronger because it has scar tissue reinforcing it. I treasure my relationship with her. It is an example to me.

When we follow Jesus’ way, we all get a little more flawsome, together. It’s hard. It hurts. It means listening to the still small voice. But it is so much better than talking ourselves out of change, and healing, and being flawsome. It reminds us that it has always been not about our goodness, but about his grace. And that is awesome.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. Titus 3:4

Jesus I can talk myself out of so much that is good for my soul. Help me with this. Please help me to not be afraid of the flaws that I know are inherent to my nature. Please help me hear your voice of conviction in my many moments of sin and hurting others, and to act on that conviction without hiding my sin and shame. Thank you for your grace that covers over all that is flawed in us.

Raw – A Response to Newtown

I’m raw. I feel bruised. The light seems too bright, the noises too near. Today, the fact that this world is not our home is overwhelming. We took our girls, 3 and 5, to a restaurant last night and I felt exposed and fearful. I saw adults look at them with kindness and sadness, and even that made me want to hide them away. I live half a country away, my girls are safe, and I feel traumatized. I cannot fathom how people in that tiny town in Connecticut feel, especially the ones who woke up today to realize that the nightmare of yesterday was real and that their home is truly empty. I ache for them.

It is like we are all grieving. And the stages of grief are flowing over us.

Courtesy WKOW

Courtesy WKOW

Denial. Yesterday I kept praying that the media was wrong, that they’d somehow find the children okay. That a survivor would be found. That somehow this was all not really happening.

Anger. I confess – I’m furious at everything. Furious at our enemy (damn you. Your end is certain, and I pray it is soon. Jesus has won.). Furious at sin and the death that has wrapped itself around humanity since the garden. I am READY for its power over us to be OVER. Furious at the killer. Furious that he could get his hands on weapons that are that lethal and quick. Furious at our broken mental health system and the casual culture of violence as entertainment. Furious at everyone who is racing to defend their position instead of putting everything on the table to FIX THIS and STOP IT. I’m livid. I just want it to stop. I hate this fear.

Bargaining. I want it not to be true. I keep analyzing it thinking what would have happened if one factor had changed, wondering why and how someone could EVER do this, and even looking at my own kids and begging God to somehow spare them the hurt of this broken evil world.

Depression. I can’t stop crying. Yesterday a scary part came on a movie and Bekah curled up next to me and said, “Mom, will you protect me?” and I prayed “Jesus please” as I cried and held her tight. I just keep imagining those rooms and what those babies saw and felt. I see my Grace’s kindergarten classroom in my head as I read the stories and my heart breaks for those parents. How do they go on? I pray and I pray all day and although I want this to lift I know that for thousands in Connecticut this won’t lift for years, if ever. So I pray and I ask the Lord to somehow supernaturally let my sadness ease someone else’s – let me, from afar, bear another’s burden and lift their sadness. That maybe a parent or a family member or a counselor or a first responder or a teacher or someone in that town will be able to breathe today because I felt a little of their weight on my chest.

Acceptance. I don’t know how any of us are supposed to ever accept any of this. It is fundamentally against all I believe – life and hope and love and the promise of the future. I am grateful that Jesus drew little kids to himself and I believe that those children are with him tonight, and that gives me a small measure of hope, but honestly even that doesn’t seem enough.

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

So what do we do while we grieve? How do we lift this sadness? Should we even want this sadness to lift? I don’t know. How can we help these broken families? What do we do with this helpless feeling?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

We’re trying to process and yet protect our kids from even knowing it happened. We are letting each other cry and vent. We are praying with all we know to pray for the families in Newtown. We are holding our kids tight. We are trying to shine light into a world so dark, and asking the Lord to renew our hope even in the midst of this sorrow. I know Jesus is the answer – and I pray that somehow in this people will turn to him and find comfort and hope. We are asking the Lord to return soon, and to give us strength in the meantime. We are worshiping and praying – listening to hymns of hope and strength. We are sad and sorry and just trying to stand despite all of those feelings.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

Shifting Gears

Courtesy NY Daily News

Still taking a break from Facebook, mostly because I want to still love everyone I know once the election is over.  I have gotten back on Twitter, because without cable, it’s my news source. But even that I’m taking in small doses.

I have shifted modes, though. The damage on the eastern seaboard and the storms plaguing 20% of the American population are heavy on my mind. It has forced a perspective shift. So I am no longer praying for the election or worrying about the outcome. I prayed for months before I voted about who to vote for, and I know that the Lord is in control.

No man in the White House has the power to save us or condemn us, and no matter who wins, our country has survived worse.

I am praying for the people in our land, and in the lands around us also hit by the storms. For those who have lost loved ones, for the thousands displaced from their homes and their businesses, for the millions of people without power on this cold night and the cold nights coming with the next storm hitting in days. For the relief workers, local government leaders, and first responders who are exhausted. For the millions of people processing the events of the past week – for their PTSD-affected minds and hearts. Jesus be near and give peace. We need the voice that said “Peace, be still” to the waves, and the waves obeyed, to speak in might and power and shift this newest storm away from these hurting people.

I am also praying for our country after the election. For peace in our land. For the side that loses to respect and honor the leader the Lord has allowed to be at the head of our country. For protection for our next president. For whoever wins to lead with honor and wisdom. For the voices of division and hatred to be silenced. For the next president to humble himself in the sight of the Lord, so that He may lift them up. I believe that neither of them is too far gone for the Lord to draw to Himself, and that is what I am praying for, in faith. The weight of a nation is too big for any man – and I am praying whoever wins would take that weight to the one Power strong enough to carry it.

I’m shifting gears. I’m praying hard. I’m believing for good. And I hope you’ll join me.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Psalm 107:28-31

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.