The Life Free of Disappointment

Sometimes in our world there is news or a circumstance that breaks through the cloud of Christian clichés that give us an illusory sense of control over our life. Do you know what clichés I mean? We’ve all heard them. Someone puts their house up for sale, and it sells immediately, and someone posts “That’s God’s favor, right there!” Or the guy speaks up at community group about how every time they give to the Lord, money just appears out of nowhere.

And I always think, “That’s great, but that’s just not how it goes for us.” In fact, lately, as I look around, many of our friends are in this place with us of trusting God despite great disappointment and amidst the carnage of broken dreams.

  • What do we do when the miracle we hoped for, prayed for, and desperately needed, missed the deadline?
  • When the adoption we knew we were called to falls through, leaving us devastated with an empty nursery?
  • When we feel called to be a wife or a husband, but the years of waiting for a partner has made our hope weak?
  • When we find out that the parent who is the glue that holds our family together has a body racked with inoperable cancer?
  • When the money we needed to make the payment doesn’t show up?
  • When the path we know God told us to take leads us into a valley deeper than anything we’ve ever known?
  • When month after month after month our body betrays us and the baby that we hoped for isn’t there, and we feel broken and forgotten?

Where do we go when life is real and tough and the clichés and “what you give, you get” faith doesn’t pan out? This week I, along with the rest of the world, have watched Rick and Kay Warren face every parent’s nightmare scenario. We all know the fear that we will lose our child, and it is hard to even imagine that these righteous wonderful people are now facing the aftermath of the suicide of their youngest son after his lifelong struggle with depression. I am broken for them.

These earthly realities, and the Warrens’ pain, confronts us with the simple terrible truth that sometimes, in this world, the miracle we need doesn’t happen.

 

What do we do with that?

I think we have no choice, in these places of brokenness and desperation, but to force ourselves to look up to the Lord and look ahead to the next world. To say, with abandon, this place is not our home and the circumstances I see now are not the whole picture. To allow ourselves time and space sometimes to grieve. To cry out in justifiable anger and fear and disappointment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Because, just as the Lord not only allowed but ordained his Son to die on a cross in this world, to achieve a greater good in the world to come, unimaginable sorrow and pain is sometimes allowed in our lives in this world to achieve a greater good in the world to come. And we don’t always get the luxury of understanding why.

The healing we hoped for comes in the next world, leaving only devastation in this one. The investments we are making are in the next world, leaving debt and insecurity in this world. The children we want to carry in our wombs and fill our homes in this world are sent instead to heaven, where we will someday hold them (and hopefully understand). The path we are on will sometimes take us into pain and loss in this world, to reap a harvest of joy and righteousness in the next world.

We do have hope for a future, because of Christ (and for that I am so grateful), but sometimes we need to release our desire to see that hope realized in this world. Because the simple fact is, sometimes it isn’t.

I think that is the hard lesson of the Warrens. They will see their son again. He will be whole, at peace. They will be reunited. But everyday until then, as they walk this earth, they walk it with the weight of grief. And may God help them, and us, to bear that weight well until they can say, with their Savior, “It is finished.”

And then the life free of disappointment will begin.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

Until then, we “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15) and we “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). And we stop with the ridiculous unhelpful Christian clichés that do nothing but add weight onto our brothers and sisters who are bearing burdens.

 

The Lonely Hard Road of Motherhood

Can we all just be honest that this motherhood thing is tough? I’m pregnant, and I’m pretty unfiltered, so buckle up because I have many feelings about it.

Yesterday I read this post on my friend Kristen’s blog, “For When the Mother In You is Desperate,” and the post was great, but the responses stopped me in my tracks. Mom after mom after mom poured out her heart in the comments about how desperate and overwhelmed she felt, and how alone she felt in that place of desperation, like she was failing on a desert island. Woman after woman shared how much she needed grace.

And boy do I relate.

Yesterday my oldest child snuck into Valentine’s candy and ate it all in her closet before 7 am, and in a sugar craze then made huge messes in room after room after room in our house throughout the day every time I turned my back. I spoke harshly to her many times yesterday, which made me feel small and horrible. This morning I spent almost an hour cleaning up glass from the Christmas lights that she unstrung and broke in our backyard (because she wanted colored lights, not white ones) during the 20 minutes I sent her outside to give each of us a small break.

Exhausting.

And although I know, rationally, that the sugar played a huge role, and that these things are her expressing natural creativity and curiosity and I am proud of her and I truly think someday God has great plans for her as a creative artist, I do look at her sometimes and think “how utterly I am failing at this.”

A good friend one time asked me why, when our children rebel or disobey, us moms tend to feel like it is our failing and not just our children’s. And I didn’t know the answer to his question. But I do know that is how it feels. And even as moms, when we see other children rebel, we do tend to blame the parents, don’t we, if we’re truly honest? We forget the sin nature and the curiosity and the immature self-regulation and the power of impulse and instead we just feel like the worst mom in the world. We are so quick to judge, and so slow to give ourselves, and other moms, grace.

What a terrible tactic of our enemy. He lays the blame trap, and so often we fall into it. May God help us to see as He sees and avoid this trap. We need to know that we aren’t failing and that our children are just growing and learning, and that just because this is hard doesn’t mean we are bad at it. We need God to help us see the grace that is ours.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 4

Courtesy graceformoms.com

And to compound this problem, it’s hard to know where to go with these feelings, because it is lonely being a mom. Which is another tactic of our enemy. Isolate and destroy. Isolate and destroy. It’s been his battle plan since the beginning. And he is good at isolating moms of young children.

My friends with children who understand where I live are themselves too overwhelmed to do much more than check in occasionally, and my friends without children have their own busy lives and although they try so hard, the world we live in with young children is hard to comprehend. True friendship is hard to maintain when you are the mom of young children – and it is a season of life where I think we may need friends the most. True friends give perspective when we have lost our ability to see the bigger picture. Thank God most of us have those friends who you can see or hear from once every three weeks and still pick up where you left off, but the hours and days and weeks between significant adult interaction can sometimes spread out before you in an overwhelming chasm.

And social media, although it seems it would help with this problem, just isn’t sufficient to fill that void and I think may even exasperate the problem. I think sometimes we post the fun stuff, because we don’t want to appear crazy and put out there all of the bad feelings, so we fake each other out so we don’t reach out and we don’t know what is on the heart of our friends. We are connected virtually but alone relationally. It’s a bastardization of the true community that we need as humans to grow and thrive, so false and yet what we have settled for. Maybe even what we’ve been deceived to settle for.

And lately, the whole thing has had me on my knees. Justin and I are talking through what to do about the difficulty of parenting and the isolation in the midst of it, and thankfully he understands and relates and takes my feelings and needs seriously. Because I am more needy than usual. I feel lonely and overwhelmed. I want to battle it all – but when we are tired it is hard to battle. So together we are working through what to do with all of it.

  • First of all, I deactivated Facebook for lent to force me to have real interactions with people I love and not settle for the social media fake-out. And in those relationships – I’m trying hard to be real and transparent.
  • Second, Justin and I are trying to talk to each other more about deep things we feel and about our struggles with faith everyday, making sure we connect over more than TV shows and work updates.
  • Third, we’re trying to have more people over into our house and visit the homes of people we love. In-person interactions are truly the best community.
  • And fourth, I’m trying to call or text friends to see how life really is beyond the mask of social media and momentary interactions at church on Sundays, especially when the Lord lays them on my heart.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10

For all of you friends who feel unsettled and alone, I guess I just want to say “me too” and I’m sorry you feel that way. For my offline friends, I am sorry for my part in any relationship that is all surface and no substance. I am working on being refined in this area and truly praying for a revival in the relationships in our life. Because we need each other, especially in this season of life. Because we aren’t failing. This is just hard. It is a season, and it will end someday, and for now we just need to keep working, keep trying, stay humble and loving to our kids when we can, and take a break when we can’t. We need naps and date nights and occasional ugly cries and texting each other the terrible things we think when we are just too tired to fake it anymore. We need the grace and perspective that true community brings. We need new mercy each day. We need more grace than we even know how to ask for.

So what do you think? What has the Lord shown you as a trick to maintain relationships when times get tough and schedules are insane? How do you keep a wise perspective on parenting and avoid the “blame” trap the enemy sets for us? Any wisdom for us overwhelmed moms?

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.

2017

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

Grieving and Hope After the Election

Many people are grieving for our country today. My Facebook feed, made up mostly of conservative Christians, is like the day after a bomb dropped. Early polls showed 80% of evangelicals voted for Governor Romney, and many are shocked and grieved by the outcome of the election.

I am grieving for the church.

Many people are posting on Facebook that this win signals people want handouts and don’t want to work, signals the death of our country’s ideals and an electorate who doesn’t care enough to be informed, and is a national endorsement of abortion, gay marriage, and weed. Most of these posts that I saw came from people who are Christians, and to those posts I have to give the following response:

I humbly and sadly disagree. I think this split in our culture is about the church. I think it is about the marginalized (the people the church should love and support). The Democrats made a compelling case that they cared about those people. We in the church have not made that same compelling argument. Even on election day, in some of our responses, we demonstrated a lack of care for people, a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty, and a lack of obedience to His commands to not fear. I am going to get into the issues and hopefully present a thoughtful view of these things so that we can understand the “other side” a bit better and respond in love instead of rhetoric – but first of all let me say this – Jesus gives hope to each of these issues. We have hope in Christ.

“The Handouts”: On election day, thousands of people tweeted jokes like “Don’t worry if Dems are leading, Republicans will vote once they get off work.” I also saw comments about the over-half of our country that voted for the Democrats that go something like this – “they want something for nothing so they’ll take our country down in debt.” And it breaks my heart. The rhetoric simply isn’t true, and this attitude is what is alienating us from not only the voting world but from the lost world. Our country has one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any industrialized nation. Over 18% of our children don’t get enough to eat. And the assumption and the rhetoric states that is the lazy parent’s fault. But the facts, according to the Institute of Child Development, are that 75% of poor children have at least one parent who works. The remaining 25%? Mostly single women who cannot afford quality childcare to be able to work. And some call them welfare queens. But guess what, 1 out of 4 of those women don’t qualify for any federal assistance whatsoever. And the ones who do face restrictions to protect them from living off “government cheese.” There are some lazy Americans, yes, but for the most part, the working poor are just that, working poor, and not lazy Americans. These are desperate hurting Americans trying to make a living wage and failing. For example, over 50% of Walmart employees don’t make enough to live and because of this, qualify for food stamps. But they are working. Not full-time, because Walmart fights to keep employees at 39 hours per week. But hard. They aren’t looking for a handout. They are trying. And we as the church have bought into the rhetoric and ignored the reality. Church, we have to quit buying into this political “us vs. them” rhetoric of the working versus the lazy and instead buy into church’s command to love the least of these. Because our command to love is absolute, even when people take advantage of the system and are lazy. We in the church certainly do help the poor – but in the last 20 years we have helped the poor quietly and shouted the rhetoric loudly. Let’s stop the rhetoric and instead let our quiet consistent support of the poor define us.

“The Gays”: What if, in the early days of AIDS in the 1980s, the church had embraced homosexuals as they struggled in terror to understand this new disease that was wiping them out? What if we had been the ones known for our care for them? What if instead of fighting them on every right and constantly reminding them of their “terrible sin,” we remembered how Jesus treated the tax collectors and sinners and how he got to know them and ate with them, and they followed him because they loved him and knew he loved them? Dr. Stanton Jones, provost at Wheaton College, said at Dallas Theological Seminary that the church has failed in the treatment of homosexuals by treating “them” as our enemy in the culture war, and considering “their” sin as irredeemable while failing to consider our own sin and brokenness. A study by the Barna Group showed that when asked, 91% of non-Christians defined Christianity as anti-homosexual (in fact, this was the first word they used to describe the Christian faith). We have failed. We have defined the grace, love, and death of Jesus Christ to a lost world as “anti-homosexual.” Father, forgive us. Do you think they would still seek protection in a political party if we had been their ally instead of declaring “war” on them? I think that is what this election was about for them. They were aligning themselves with the party who demonstrated care for them.

“The Illegals”: The Hispanic vote overwhelming went Democratic, despite their dominate Catholic pro-life worldview (much more conservatively pro life than even most evangelicals). Why? I think it was more “us versus them” rhetoric. What if we were the ones fighting for immigrant children, brought here because children have nothing to eat in the place where they live, instead of the ones calling them “illegals” and demanding their deportation, many of them to a place where they don’t know the language and have never lived? What if we not only supported but demanded programs like the Dream Act? And I know there is a legal path to immigration, but I also know it is broken and takes sometimes decades and that path is terribly narrow and needs to be fixed. My friends in ministries like International Friends and refugee ministries, you are doing great work – and we need to partner with you more in those ministries as we seek to reach out to and love on our minority population in this country.

“The Stoners”: What if, instead of seeing the weed legislation movements as “slacker stoners” wanting to toke in public, we recognized the reality that our “war on drugs” has not raised the price of drugs or limited access, but instead only succeeded in imprisoning more Americans than any other country in the world? We have a broken legal system that criminalizes the social and medical problem of addiction. In 2010, 1.64 million people were arrested for drug violations, 80% of those were for possession. A friend’s son took his own life before a mandatory minimum sentence would send him away to prison after a repeat possession charge. The cost of that to my friend is unmeasurable. Over 2.3 million people in the United States are imprisoned, over half of those for non-violent drug offenses. This is devastating the African American community (which plays into both the poverty and abortion problems in that community). I’m not saying legalization is the answer – in fact I think it isn’t, but maybe if we looked at the problem with sympathetic hearts and a willingness to work together toward solutions instead of cynical political goggles, we would join together to find a better solution. Big Brothers and Sisters does great work on the mentoring front, which helps prevent this problem, and Prison Fellowship does an excellent job once people are in prison, but there is room for us to minister alongside these groups to help this marginalized group.

“The Babies”: I’ve addressed this many times before (here, here and here), and my views on abortion are clear. Abortion is terrible and we are all paying a terrible price for it. But even if reversing Roe was a possibility, which I truly am not sure it will be  until there is a major worldview change (which comes from the inside), abortions didn’t start with Roe. My family was affected by abortion long before Roe v Wade. Abortions are a consequence of spiritual, family, and economic factors. When marriages are strengthened and divorce rates go down, the number of abortions go down. When women escape poverty, abortion rates go down. When the healthcare and childcare options for women improve, the number of abortions go down. When women are in community with people who care and feel supported and encouraged, abortion rates go down. When women find hope, abortion rates go down. Legislation is not the best answer to the abortion crisis. Jesus and the church is. Our crisis pregnancy centers have done more for life than any legal battle we have ever fought. Well done friends who are part of those powerful ministries. The church is starting to get this right – and we need to continue on that path.

There is a sense that America rejected God in the voting booth yesterday. But I think there is an argument that we as the Church rejected these groups first, either directly or through the party we have closely aligned ourselves to. Church we are not the Republican party. And by the way, we aren’t the Democratic party either. In fact, the parties may be hurting us not only in mindset but also in reputation. I think we need to remember that both political parties, and partisan media sources, have not only financial interest but ultimately derive power from us suspecting each other, fearing each other, and not compromising with each other. And that is the exact opposite of what our faith is about. We cannot let the “us versus them” mindset of the political landscape hijack our message of love for all people and grace by faith in Christ alone. In this political environment, if you disagree (or even compromise or seek to understand) you are the enemy. But Jesus taught us that we not only love our enemies but lay our lives down for them. We can disagree, but we must disagree well because we don’t just represent us, we represent Christ in us.

We also have to be careful with the reputation of our faith. We cannot let extreme personalities like Trump with his “I’m a real Christian” and his honorary doctorate from Liberty, alongside his twitter rants and conspiracy theories about long forms and secret Muslim allegiances, define us. And why do so many I know believe him, but we have a president who has claimed faith in Christ, but people discount that? People seem to be mourning as if all hope is lost and the President’s heart is beyond God’s realm of control. Instead, we should be praying that the Holy Spirit would convict and lead him. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it wherever he will. Prov 21:1. The President’s heart is in the hand of God – so when we pray, we can affect where it turns. That is power we have in Christ! We should be encouraged by it. We truly have no reason to fear.

It feels like we have forgotten that Jesus is our hope. Jesus alone.

My former pastor, Brandon Thomas, tweeted today “Bringing people to Jesus will build our great nation to its best days, no doubt! Life in Christ = love God, love others.” I say Amen. Max Lucado tweeted “Lord, please: Unite us. Strengthen us. Appoint and annoint our president.” I say Amen. I am not saying compromise on any of these things – nor are these pastors. I’m not saying change your vote or party alignment. I’m not saying you have to agree with the Left or the Right. I am saying let’s assume a position of humility in dealing with these really difficult issues and seek to understand each other so that we can reconcile with each other. I’m saying when we are kind, we lead people to Jesus, and we make our country stronger.

Courtesy CathNewsUSA.com

I’m visual – so I keep thinking of nuns (habits and all). Everyone knows what they believe. But how do you see them portrayed, even in liberal Hollywood? Positively. Why? Because they are known for helping people – for humbly working toward the good of the people around them. So they are beloved. We could learn from their example. We need better PR and we need a return to our true hope.

America is not the hope of the world. Neither is a political party. Jesus is. Church, let’s return to him and follow His lead in loving the hurting.

The Backup:

Dr. Russell Moore on a Christian response to the election: http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/11/07/christians-lets-honor-the-president/

Abortion statistics: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_07.pdf

Prison Statistics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/20/americas-invisible-incarcerated-millions

Drug War Statistics: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/business/in-rethinking-the-war-on-drugs-start-with-the-numbers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Childhood Poverty Statistics: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/

Dallas Theological Seminary Article on Homosexuality: http://www.dts.edu/read/5-failures-on-churchs-treatment-sexuality-5-ways-forward-jones-stanton/

Non-Christian Perceptions of Christianity: unchristian by Kinnamon and Lyons

Rich Stearns, CEO of WorldVision, author of The Hole in Our Gospel, wrote this response to the election: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-stearns/goodbye-christian-america-hello-true-christianity_b_2082649.html

Tim Keller on Signs of Political Idolatry: http://kellerquotes.com/the-signs-of-political-idolatry/

Ian Simkins on Politics and the Church: http://isimkins.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/politics/

This post has been shared far beyond anything I ever thought possible. Thank you for sharing. I want to clarify a few things. First of all – pretty much everyone I know, love, and respect is a conservative. I am not saying that every conservative feels this way or has responded this way since the election. Most people I love and many millions more have not. And although I am not in the liberal Christian circles, I’m sure there has been a ton of rhetoric in that camp as well. This post was intended as an encouragement for us, in the church, on both sides, to open our eyes to each other and shut off the rhetoric – to see that the things that unite us (a love for country, a love for God, a love for people, and a desire to achieve the best for our family and people we love) are far greater than the things that divide us (our differing ideas for how we achieve change in our country).  I believe in Christ we have hope and in Christ we are brothers and sisters and that disunity, even because of partisanship, is a tactic of our enemy. Thank you again for reading. 

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.