You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Words Words Words’ category.

There is a friend of mine who’s been brought to the dust.

Do you know what I mean by that? Brought to the dust?

It is a reference to Job, who experienced such profound loss and suffering that the only way he could cope was to sit in the dust and pour it on his head. Have you ever experienced that?  Pain at such a magnitude that you didn’t know what to do but you had to do something? My friend experienced this, and she told me that when she couldn’t take it anymore she would become very still, with her eyes closed, and envision sitting in the dust, scooping it up and pouring it over her head. It was the only true expression of what was going on inside of her. She made this concept so very REAL to me, and so from then on she would tell me when she was in the dust, and I would join her there. I am here, I would tell her, and she would know that I had also become still, that I had closed my eyes and I was in that same place next to her, making not a sound, only that of my hands scraping the ground, of the earth sifting down through my hair, catching in my eyelids, making mud tracks down my face.

You know who else was in the dust? Jesus Christ.

His mission was ugly and traumatizing.

It was not glorious, and so we have a tendency of feeling sorry for Him.

Isaiah says, “…we esteemed Him stricken.” (53:4b).

Five verses later we see, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to the crush Him…[and] the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (53:10)

Did you catch that last part? The part that says “prosper”? And did you notice how it comes AFTER the part about God’s will? Watch what happens next:

“Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous One, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous.” (53:11)

Apparently the best part isn’t getting out of the dust, its being put IN the dust, because in the dust we can accomplish the work of the Father… on behalf of others?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So my friend who is in the dust, these past months I have watched her endure utmost betrayal and constant neglect, and the hand of the Lord has told her to stay. Just stay. In my heart I know that this is about God and my friend, and the mighty work He has done in her and wants to do through her. It isn’t about my friend and the other parties involved, it isn’t about the other parties and God (although it is on their end, of course). It’s about my friend, and her God. My God. The God of the universe.

The details of this story aren’t necessary to get the main point, which is God telling my friend, “Look like my Son. I have a work to accomplish, and this is your part in it…”

This morning, during my prayer time, I was begging God to vindicate my friend. To not let her faint. To stop asking her to be in the dust. Raise her up, God! I hollered in my heart. I got really excited when, a few minutes later, I read in Isaiah, “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering…and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, ‘Bow down that we might pass over’; and you have made your back like the ground and like the street for them to pass over.” (51:22&23)

But then I kept reading. And I came across the part in Isaiah chapter 53 about how Jesus bore our griefs and sorrows, our transgressions, and about how “we esteemed Him stricken”.   Which means that we decided God had struck Him down, instead of seeing what was really going on: Jesus allowing Himself to be used by God, whatever that looked like. And what was the result? He saved the entire world, and everyone on it, until the end of the time! Said what?! And we esteemed Him stricken? Afflicted or not, the greatest work in history was accomplished.

The point is that “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.” (53:7a)

I had to swallow hard when I got here.

Really, God? Really? There was a heaviness that came over me. A deep sense of sadness. Because God was telling me that He was encouraging my friend to look like His Son.  That He has a will to accomplish.  But I was telling her to look like God, and accomplish her own will. And it really stung. It stung to have to sit back and just let her be in the dust, to just let her keep laying on the ground, so that her back was the road for her enemies to pass over.

Man.

What else is there to do but lay down too? And hold her hand. And hope that sometimes some of the steps would land on me, so that she could get a small, minuscule, infinitesimal break from all of the heels in her neck and kicks to the back of her head.

Because here’s how it worked:

Jesus Christ Himself never asked God to vindicate Him.

You know why?

Because He took God at His word (51:22&23). He was one-hundred percent sold out to the work of His Father, and so He prayed, “Your will, not mine.” He knew in His heart that God would take care of Him in the end, that He would be vindicated at the right time, and that it didn’t matter who saw it. And I have known all of that in my heart about my friend, and I was having a really hard time swallowing it. Until today. Well, it’s still hard to swallow. But I know for a fact that I don’t want to get in the way of the amazing work that God has for my friend. That would be like trying to steal her blessings, and thwart the amazing work that God can use her for. In fact, I even have to admit to myself what an honor it is, for the Father to ask her to look like His Son.

Allow me to reassure you that, despite my fallenness and the pressure I put on her, she is doing a fabulous job. She has basically grown a beard.

It’s church, people.  It could also be Christian, since Christians and church generally go hand in hand.

And why is that?

Because God designed the church.

So what is it?  And why did He do it?  And what does that mean for a Christian?

It seems that the people who have bad experiences in a church (or, heaven forbid, churches), or who do not know much about it, think that it is unnecessary.

Than why does it exist?  Better yet, why does it thrive?  Why do people risk their lives to meet in secret?  Regardless of the persecution of the church, and Christianity, regardless of how it is misunderstood, people continue to step through its doors, helping hands continue to reach out, and lives continue to change.

To be sure, attending a church doesn’t get you into Heaven.  You have to have reached the understanding that Jesus paved the way and bridged the gap, that He sacrificed so we could go free, and to acknowledge that you are in need of what He did.  So, no, attending a church won’t get me into Heaven, but it is necessary to help me be an effective and faithful Christian.  You can say you are on the soccer team all you want, and even wear the jersey, but if you aren’t going to practice and making it to the games than you are really just someone wearing a bright shirt.

I’ll only take a minute to address that troublesome spin-off which is ‘denominations’.  In my experience, which I admit isn’t terribly a lot, denominations do more for causing division than for supporting doctrine.  There are less mistakes to be made, less people to hurt, when our main focus is on Jesus and not on man-made protocol, or personal opinions about such things as clothes and food.  That being said, I don’t condemn or condone any or all denominations.  The most important thing to be considered is whether or not the Bible is being represented and taught accurately.  If you feel that you are honoring God by wearing skirts or by abstaining from alcohol, honor away; however, that is between you and God.  Not between you and me and God.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

I have heard it said that if we want to love God we have to learn to love what He loves.  Which would be His family, the church.  God loves the church so much, in fact, that He modeled marriage to look like His relationship with the church. (Eph. 5:22-32).  There is no greater expression of love than marriage!  To be sure, the church has had several failures throughout history; even now churches fail to appropriately express what God has asked of them.  The letters to the churches that Paul wrote thousands of years ago are just as applicable to us today.  We need to keep in mind that wherever there are humans there is bound to be failure.  There are bound to be hypocrites in a church because there are bound to be hypocrites everywhere.  We all fall short, but the point is for God to teach us how to love and help one another through it all.

Denominations aside, the Bible doesn’t specifically say, “You must go to church.”  It isn’t part of the 10 Commandments.  The Bible also doesn’t say, “Don’t do drugs.”  But it does say that we are to be imitators of Christ, and nowhere do we see Him advocating for the legalizing of marijuana.  We do, however, see Him going to church.  We see Him establishing communion, which is meant to be taken in a group setting.  I have known people who have thought that smoking weed was completely acceptable in the eyes of God.  Once marijuana was legalized in our state one particular individual wanted to start a small group for potheads.  The point is that we want what we want, and we are going to try and get it even if it conflicts with the Truth.  Nothing is supposed to possess or alter our minds and spirits other than the Holy Spirit.  And only people who are afraid, or angry, or even proud hide from the church.

For those of you that I haven’t lost after that last sentence, let’s hone in on the 10 Commandments for a few minutes.

The early part of the Bible (the first half of the Old Testament, really) focuses a lot on laws and regulations.  You will see the word ‘tabernacle’ and ‘priest’, ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’.  There is a lot about punishments, and even more about sacrifices.  All of this was spoken by God to one man; his name was Moses.  Moses relayed this information to his people, the Israelites.  The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and that didn’t mean He loved an Israelite more than a Canaanite, but the Israelites were supposed to be a representation of what His people were supposed to look like (i.e. act like).  Since nobody knows how to do the right thing off the top of their head, it needs to be taught to us, once God delivered the Israelites out of slavery He sat them all down and said, “You saw what I am capable of, and how much I care.  If you obey my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession.” (Genesis 19:4-5).  In essence, God was asking Israel to marry Him.  Marriage is a covenant.  He would be faithful to Israel if she would be faithful to Him.  That’s how marriage works.  The 10 Commandments is the core of the covenant.

For the record, the 10 Commandments did not introduce ‘sin’.  Just because the 10 Commandments are the first ‘rules’ we see written down doesn’t mean that no one had technically sinned up until that point.  All sin has its roots in idolatry, which is putting something in the place of the Creator.  In the instance of Adam and Eve, they wanted to be like God in knowing good and evil.  Once they understand what evil was they were suddenly introduced to a whole new set of choices, and making the wrong choice on purpose is sin.  Adam and Eve knew not to eat from that specific tree, which is what made that choice the first sin.  The awareness they incurred is what established each sin after that, right down to the ones that I commit.  It is my responsibility to communicate with God to make sure that my knowledge of evil isn’t clouding over my knowledge of good and that everything is in its place, so that I’m not committing sins.  I don’t want to sin because I don’t want to take advantage of His amazing gift of grace.  But before there was grace, atonement, there was the Law.

The Law said that a penalty needed to be paid for the sins an individual committed.  Our sins separate us from God- He can’t pretend that we don’t know what we aren’t supposed to know.  In order to be forgiven, and restored to Him, a penalty must be paid.  This is how life works: you do the crime you pay the time, and then are released back into society.  God required innocent animals to be sacrificed as a way of saying, “Sin causes innocent blood to be shed.  I will spare you and receive this animal instead.”   The tabernacle was generally the place where these sacrifices were conducted.  It was the physical place that God could be.  It was His holy place, and when the people looked at it they knew He was there.

The tabernacle is not the same thing as the church.  Once Jesus came as the ultimate price the need for sacrifices was removed.  It was still practiced, as the culture tended to continue living the way they had always lived, which was under the Law.  The New Testament is ripe with conviction about living under the Law, which negates what Jesus did for us.  We no longer have to go to a building and sacrifice animals to be in His presence; His Spirit lives inside of us if we ask Him too.

So what’s the point of church?

The very nature of God’s presence is relational: the Trinity!  The Trinity is God in three persons.  The word ‘person’ is not to be confused with the every day term for a human being, but the philosophical usage which acknowledges that a person is a ‘rational being’.  This Trinity does not mean one God with multiple personalities.  It doesn’t mean that God is a man who had a son named Jesus, and then has a soul, like us, called the Holy Spirit.  It doesn’t mean that God was God in Heaven, He came down to earth to be a human and went by the name Jesus, and then after Jesus died He became a Ghost.  The Trinity means that there is one God in three persons.  If this doesn’t make sense than you are on the right track.  If you have decided that you have made sense of the Trinity I can tell you right now that you are wrong.  God is not something to be made sense of.  He made us.  We did not make Him.  It is important to clarify who God really is before we continue on thinking of Him like we think of our own kind.

God moves specifically in a corporate setting.  He designed the worship service so that we could have the fullness of the experience [of His presence].  Attaching yourself to a body of believers is more than just showing up to a service.  Everyone has been given different skills and gifts, and these were meant to operate together for the good of the cause.  1 Corinthians 12 goes through this in great detail.  God established an entire system so that His message could be the most effectively lived out and communicated.  All throughout the New Testament we see the words ‘together’, and ‘fellowship’.  This is on purpose.  The disciples followed Jesus en masse.  After He was resurrected Jesus told the disciples to go and wait for Him together, not to just go back to their own homes and sit by themselves.  What happened when His spirit came upon them was the first church service: and it was amazing!  The entire book of Acts focuses on the growth of the church, and what an impact it made.

One person on their own can do some good, but when people common together with a common goal entire communities, even the world, is impacted.  When left to our own devices we always wind up losing a sense of reality, or urgency.  The entire New Testament stands on the back of the church.  The apostle Paul traveled and underwent extreme persecution and suffering to plant churches.  He knew that he was in a race against time.  If the churches weren’t built up, if people didn’t come together, than the amazing message of Jesus Christ would cease to be truly influential.

Going to church is a part of being a Christian.  It just is.  No, it won’t get you into Heaven.  But are you a Christian, or are you just someone wearing a bright shirt?

Is it really necessary to continue learning (or would it be called re-learning) the same lessons throughout life? It has been so frustrating to me, the thought that I must go up and down the same roads over and over again. What is the point of learning them if we must just learn them again?

Then, I think I figured out that we aren’t re-learning the lessons. That isn’t what happens at all. We learn them the first time, or whenever it is that we are actually able to learn them, sometimes it is many more times later. Then we pass through that season of life. What we learned ceases to apply, and so it probably goes to the back of our minds. It’s like studying for a test, or taking a class. We need what we need to learn, and then we forget it when the class is over. Class is done, it’s time to move on to the next one. We learn something different for the next class, and then we must forget that material in order to take the next class. So on and so forth until we have earned our degree, and we don’t really realize that everything we learned before actually helped us for the following classes. We took bits and pieces from each one to help us get to the ultimate goal.

That seems to be how it actually works. Right now, in my life, I am not actually re-learning a lesson. I am merely going through another time where something I learned previously has to come more to the forefront. I am struggling to remember how it goes, and I am feeling betrayed by life. I am even feeling that God isn’t on my side, and that He has forgotten about me. It was then, in the darkness of that lonely mindset, that I came to understand I was not being tried and tested. I was merely living. Life was happening to me. And a lot of life looks the same, over and over, just a bit different. I didn’t have to look inside of myself and dread digging up old skills, exercising muscles that I hadn’t used in a while. I was going to be tired, and sore, but I didn’t have to be bitter. When I realized that it was not being done ‘to’ me, that it was all just happening, I felt strength instead of weariness. I felt that I could do this [again] because I got through the first time, and there wasn’t actually going to be a finish line (that part will come later). It wasn’t actually about me at all. I just needed to hone those skills, tap into those resources, use them, and not take it personally. Perhaps someone else was learning a lesson, and I just so happened to be stuck in the crosshairs.

Maybe we do have to learn lessons over sometimes. But not all the time. Not every time. I probably will do better some times than others. But it helps tremendously to know that I am not being aimed at. It’s not like I’m the only one standing under the cloud. We are all under the sky, and sometimes it rains, and sometimes it is raining over here but not over there, and I am never the only person getting wet, with a little rain cloud following me around. Sometimes I might run through the rain, splashing, and sometimes I might use the proper equipment to stay dry, and sometimes I might pull over to let the storm pass. I think there is a song somewhere about singing in the rain, and I am not much of a singer, but I imagine singing in the rain would probably make someone a much better singer than they would be on a bright and clear day.

Whatever the case (as a dear friend of mine always says), if this is as hard as my life gets, I guess I’ll take it. Maybe not all the time. But at least today.

There are lots of different reasons that I love the Bible.  Probably my favorite is the way that it depicts God, which isn’t really as obvious as it sounds.  I think, a lot of the time, that when we read the Bible we forget that it is about God just as much as it is for us.  As much as we are meant to take its teachings and apply them to our lives, we are just as much meant to discover God, Who is so inclined towards us that He wrote the book to make it possible.  The Bible shows God to be a warrior for His people, coming with a sword, and an army: He does not take injustice lightly.  He will vanquish His people: and I am one of them, which is a pretty cool feeling when you get down to it.  Knowing that, one day, I will be vanquished… it’s enough to give me peace, to make it possible for me to surrender my battles, to give Him all of the small feelings, and the huge ones too, where I think someone has treated me poorly, or something went terribly wrong.  He can decide.  He is the warrior Who knows everything, Who is in charge.  He will do a much better job of vanquishing me than I ever could.  And I’m not talking about revenge, here.  I’m talking about justice.

The Bible calls God a roaring lion.  Such a simple phrase with so much significance.  Lions generally live in prides, with one male being the dominant leader.  He conquers the uprisings, and maintains order.  He is known to circle the periphery of his pride, keeping an eye out for predators, always on the ready to protect, and he NEVER shirks his duty.  Everyone else works together knowing that he will keep everything as it should be, and they need only do their part.  The sound of his voice clears the countryside for miles.  I just absolutely love this image.

 

I also love the Bible because of how ridiculously reliable it is.  There is just way too much to say about this, but I did want to touch on it briefly.  Not surprisingly, the Book about a perfect God, a sovereign Being, and an all-knowing Creator, contains no organic contradictions.  It’s not hard for me to say with confidence that any “mistakes” are assumptions developed by a human being- which isn’t really surprising at all since humans are actually really good at making mistakes, and they are even better at pretending like they never do; they are even better at thinking they should be God.

I don’t know how many times I have heard statements made about the Bible because that is what everyone else says, and we all know that something widely repeated has the most credibility.  The statement is made with an implied shrug, an attitude of “what are you gonna do”, and no real interest at getting an actual answer or seeing any kind of resolve.  Because that would involve accepting some sort of responsibility, which is the reason such statements are being made in the first place.

Just as much as I love it’s infallibility, I love that the Bible isn’t trying to convince anyone.  “Believe in me because…”  It simply lays out the facts, it sings God’s praises, it gives the examples, and the rest is up to us.  It is up to us to pursue the evidence; it is up to us to take the plunge.  More often than not people want to be ‘sold’ on something.  They need the small print, and a lawyer.  They are afraid of being had, so they try to have the upper hand by trying to look like they actually do.  “I don’t want to look like a fool, so I will say that the Bible is foolish.”  But they won’t do the work themselves.  They need it to be done for them, because if God really wanted them to believe in Him so bad, He would come knock on their door, open His briefcase, and say, “I can offer you these plans for this price, and won’t that be nice?”  God isn’t a salesman.  He’s a warrior.  He isn’t on trial; He is a roaring lion.  He doesn’t need you to grade His work, and He doesn’t have security problems.

I think the contradictions are born with God’s own people, and how they [mis]represent Him.  Many people who call themselves Christians have a hard time accepting the Word of God as complete and concise.  Often times they are acting like it is merely a rough draft, a guide that is loosely based.  However, a belief in the Bible is the foundation of the entire Christian system.  One cannot claim to believe in God but discredit His very Words of instruction and encouragement.  Not everyone believes that the Bible is holistically true, and a lot of people interpret where no interpretation is necessary.  Understandably, this method leaves the unbelievers to assume that the material of the Bible is inaccurate and absurd.  Not even it’s own supporters will support it entirely.

People develop contradictions when they fail to read the Bible as it was meant to be read.  An ancient text of Middle-Eastern descent cannot be read as a modern, Western piece of literature.  Sequence was not a priority for the writers of the Bible.  That simply isn’t how authors wrote in that time and location.  Most of the Old Testament was written as a song, because it was sung.  It was written as poetry, not as matter-of-fact, and for some reason that really bothers people.  The Hebrew language is complex and intricate and, lo and behold, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew.  Many people/places/things have different words to describe them in the Hebrew language.

A lot of times, especially in the Old Testament, a verse will represent one situation (God created the earth, and He was pleased with it.), and not too many verses later an opposing idea is depicted (God repented of what He had created, and He was saddened by it).  When the history of the Bible is studied, it is easy to see that fifteen hundred years passed between these two passages.  During that time was what Christians refer to as the fall of man.  God could no longer remain satisfied with His work after that, unless a similar change had taken place in Himself.  He would have had to become okay with imperfection.  And God doesn’t change.

The books of the Bible were written by different authors.   That fact that they say things differently is actually a credit to the Bible.  When people get on the witness stand and tell the exact same story, the same way, it is a red flag that they have conspired and concocted.  The Bible is full of the words of God and of good men, as well as the words of Satan and of wicked men.  The phrase, “You shall surely die”, were words spoken by God, where “You shall not die” were words spoken by Satan.  They are contradictory statements, but they are spoken by opposite individuals.  It is important to ask: Who is speaking?  Are they recorded as inspired language, or are they matters of history?  Does the writer endorse, or simply narrate, what has been written?

Each ancient writer chose to arrange their work in their own way.  Some of them were historians, so they elaborated extensively.  A different author could choose to omit or expand to suit his purpose and personality.  They haven’t left anything out, they merely chose not to use certain information.  If we have to study everything else to learn it, why don’t we also study the Bible?  It is rich with history, and when we start learning the history, the Bible begins to come alive.  Does anyone remember the uncomfortable story of when Jesus sent a legion of demons into a herd of pigs, who then threw themselves off of a cliff?  What an odd and unsavory bit.  How awkward and obnoxious it seems.  If you were to research the location and time period of the story, you would find that the people who lived in that town were pagan, and practiced pig worship.  It is appropriate then to see the demons wanting to go into the pigs, and even more appropriate that the pigs would be destroyed, as Jesus would not spare the demons from torturing a human being only to allow them to be worshiped.  I love learning these things!

Even something as simple as the passing of time was communicated differently during the times of the Bible.  If two ancient writers seem to be in disagreement about the time period of a certain event it becomes our responsibility to investigate whether or not they are using the same chronological method.  We don’t get to assume somebody got it wrong somewhere.  Fahrenheit may read 212, and Centigrade reads 100, but we know that they are both saying the same thing.  The Jewish people referred to a year in it’s entirety.  For example,a child born in the last week of an ending year was considered a year old as soon as the new year began, even though only a few days had passed.  (This method is still practiced in certain areas of the East).  The last hour of the day would be seen as the whole day which is why, even though Jesus died on a Friday evening and rose again on a Sunday morning, it is referred to as Him being three days in the tomb (since Friday is considered an entire day, as are Saturday and Sunday).  No discrepancy, only a different method of computation.

I already mentioned that the Hebrew language is difficult and extensive.  Thus, in ancient Arabic, there are 100 different words for the word ‘sword’, 500 for ‘lion’, 200 for ‘serpent’, and so on.  The Hebrew language has at least 50 words to describe a body of water, 12 for ‘darkness’, 23 for ‘wealth’…  Many people had different names (Jacob was also Israel), and a lot of times someone’s name changed after a certain event (which still happens today).  So when people begin to get excited about how the Bible says that the animals were created before man, but then it says that the animals were created after man, it would be crucial to evaluate the method of how that book was written, and then evaluate the original Hebrew words.  You would find that the contradictory phrase would be verified after the correct explanation of a word.

John Wesley developed a fabulous system for determining if something is “of God”.  It consists of four different sources, to be evaluated in order: Scripture, tradition, reason, experience.  It is a fascinating and reliable method for approaching the Bible.

Oddly enough, I learned about this method from a minister who was using a controversial passage of Scripture to apply it.  The odd part is that they were incorrectly using the method, proving the necessity of the process all the more.  The minister was saying that the Bible doesn’t always say the same thing (slash it contradicts itself), so the important part is not what it’s trying to say but in treating people well and not imposing the Bible on them (because it contradicts itself…obviously…).  Don’t get me wrong, treating people well is definitely a major theme of the Bible.  But this minister approached the Bible out of context entirely.  I don’t even remember how they were trying to apply Wesley’s method to the message, I just remember how they were doing the exact opposite of what Wesley intended.  It took me all of ten minutes, as a “layman”, to clear up the supposed discrepancy they were preaching about.  Sadly enough, this minister felt confident enough to convince the congregation that, since the Scriptures are unstable, we shouldn’t be focusing on them but on how we make other people feel.

There is no denying that the physical, Biblical manuscripts sustained some discrepancies, but these were very much man-made.  Men make mistakes- even scribes.  One ancient figure meaning one thing can look almost identical to a different figure that means something else.   It would have taken an absolute miracle for no copy errors to be made.

Plain old prejudice seems to be the largest accuser of inaccuracy in the Bible.  I will even take that one step further and say that the criticisms are more inconsistent than what they claim to be criticizing.

The Bible has awakened intellect inside of us like no other book, and I think that is why God chose, and allowed, to have it recorded in such a way that would encourage us to really learn it.  Jesus Himself sought to test the character and motives of people by how He spoke.  He said, “Unless you eat my flesh, and drink my blood,” because He knew that the superficial wouldn’t be able to get passed being grossed out, while the most sincere would understand He desired them to uncover what He was really trying to say.   Because what benefit would insincere people be to spreading His message?  The approach proved to be successful, as many of His followers chose not to follow Him anymore after He said that.

I have often been skeptical of certain passages in the Bible.  I could go on and on about which ones, and where they are.  Each time that I dug into the troublesome passage and studied it, I grew even more passionate about my beliefs, and fell even more in love with the delicacy and richness it presented me.  I only needed to care about it as much as it claimed to care about me.

The antique Bible has been preserved in such a fashion that far out-weighs any other ancient manuscript.  And that’s saying something.

The Bible is a powerful tool.  Yes, it has been abused, and that is so incredibly disappointing, even tragic.  But when people have chosen to truly follow it and it’s principles we see, all across history, even to this day, revivals, servanthood, miracles, people going to the ends of the earth, feeding of the poor, educating the unreachable, ministering to the dead and dying, fresh water, clean food, life skills, healthy habits…  Compare a society that believes to one that does not.  The result will be staggering.  True following of the Bible cleans the spirit, strengthens the heart, and blesses the person.

 

Life is hard, BUT God is good.

This might be the biggest BUT of all, because life IS hard.  Sometimes we just stop there: Life is hard.  Period.  We need to stop putting periods up.  And, goodness gracious, we really need to stop putting up those exclamation points.  Life is hard for everyone.  We all have hardships.  Sometimes they don’t even begin to compare to the hardships of another, and that’s just the honest and un-beautiful truth.  There are people whose skin is literally peeling off of their bodies because they don’t have enough food, and I still think my life can be hard.  We all lose people, forever, or sometimes for just a little while.  We all lose money, property, the feeling of self-worth…  We all second-guess and double-check.  The instability and uncertainty is hard.

That is a basic fact of life.  It is uncertain.  It just is.  No matter how secure we may feel, no matter what we may possess, or the people we may know, deep down inside we all must admit that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  This can be a truly hopeful thing to stand on, or it can seem like a dreadful curse.  People do some crazy things because they don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  It doesn’t matter how much life experience we pack into today.  It doesn’t matter how free we seem to think we are.  Tomorrow is a different day.  This can instigate people to live selfish lives, or it can encourage them to be selfless.

This is the part that I like: BUT God is good.

Life is hard, because every day changes, because every moment is a secret, BUT God is good.  That part doesn’t change.  There is ultimate security, stability, and certainty in that statement.  I suppose you have to want to believe it for it to be true.  If you don’t want to believe something, it just won’t resonate for you, no matter how obvious it may seem to someone else.  If you don’t want God to be good, you can make Him look however you want Him to look, and He really will look that way to you.  I have definitely known some hardships in my life, for sure they don’t involve malnutrition, and I still know that God is good.

When we say that life is hard, do you know what God says?  “It’s hard for you, BUT it’s not hard for me.”

Oh my goodness.

That phrase took the breath right out of me.  And it just did it again.  I am a small person in a sea of people.  Life swirls around me, catching on other people’s lives, pushing other people’s lives, being pushed by others too.  I am so weak, and so tired.  Sometimes I am just downright pathetic.  That is the blessed time where I have somewhere to go with my pain and frustration and hurt.  I have somewhere to go and drop off my baggage.  Everyone else can choose to do the same: go to God with that bag full of “This is hard, and this, and this…” and drop it off.  Or continue to schlep it around for the rest of your life, and probably beyond.

God is so ridiculously personable.  Our egotistical minds is what makes Him look otherwise.  He reaches out to us every moment of every day.  When I finally decided to try and see what that looked like I saw beauty, and love, and freshness: in my friendships, in nature, in my home.  It didn’t matter if my home burned down tomorrow.  For sure it would hurt.  For sure it would be HARD.  But this home was given to me, and so will the next one.  No worries.  For real.

I heard a tremendous story about a man.  He lost his wife.  He was overcome with pain.  I can’t begin to fathom what the feeling of losing my spouse would be like.  I have lost people, and I have been afraid of losing people.  None of that compares to what I feel when I think of losing my husband.  It could totally happen.  The more time I spend with him, the more irreplaceable he becomes.  How could anyone spend ten, twenty, thirty years with their spouse, lose them, and move on?  This man did.  He lost his wife, and his life looked like ashes.  This is what he said, clinging to a friend, tears soaking his shirt, “I lost my wife, BUT I will not lose my God.”

If the previous phrase took my breath away, that last one just about knocked me over.

What a glorious, glorious prospect.  We can lose anything, anyone, and at anytime.  BUT we don’t have to lose our God.  Life is hard for us, BUT it’s not hard for Him.  Life is hard, BUT God is good: because we can’t lose Him, because it isn’t hard for Him.

That man could have never dreamed that two years later he would be head over heels in love.  He would be a newly wed again and, get this, a stepfather to TEN children!  That same friend who had held him while he was sobbing after the death of his first wife, saw him sitting on the sofa, completely covered by beautiful step-daughters.  Yes, he lost one woman, and he gained many more.  This man knew that life was hard.  BUT he also knew that God is good.  He experienced the hardship; he experienced the goodness.

You can fill in that blank.  “I lost my ____.”  But don’t put the period there.  Choose something better.  “I lost my ______, BUT I will not lose my God.”

God is good.  Notice Him today.  Thank Him today.  ‘Til the end of your days, and the beginning of the next ones, you won’t regret it.  I know that I haven’t, and this hard life of mine has barely gotten going.

 

 

We are a people of the senses.  Am I right, or am I right?  We need to touch, taste, see, hear, and FEEL. And not just feel, but feel good. We are a people of fight or flight. Some of us flee from bad feelings, and some of us stay and fight. We think that a bad feeling is a sign of betrayal, but cant it sometimes just be a sign of reality? Do we have the courage to look into that bad feeling, or do we need to turn ourselves away and be soothed?

They say that a guilty mind is accusatory. The defense begins. It is a natural tendency to get defensive, but I think to behave defensively is just the sign of an under-developed individual. It is the inability to see the other side, to respect someone else. It is the lack of self-control, which is essentially immaturity. I think of my small daughter, only seven months old. Her reaction is to cry. When she is hungry, when she is uncomfortable, when she is frustrated, when she is angry, when she is scared, when she is in pain… she will always cry. Only as she grows older, only as she develops and matures as a human being, will she begin to understand that she does not need to cry. She will see that effective communication will take care of her. We don’t let children assume that they have reached maturity, and no longer need to develop. So why do we let ourselves?

I mention a guilty mind because of the times when I have been mad at God, looking back I can see so clearly that I was the guilty party.  And I realized: God cannot be our friend if we are not His friend.

I mean, think about it.

If someone does not reach out to me, if they don’t take the time to call me, or talk to me, or stay in touch with me, I don’t consider them a friend. They can tell people all they want that they are my friend, but that wouldn’t really be the truth. Friends are there for each other.  It’s safe to say that no one should be surprised if I don’t send a birthday gift to someone I haven’t talked to in years, and vice versa.  I remember the birthdays of my closest friends. But they are…close. Giving them a gift is kind of like giving it to myself.

I think I always come back to the same few concepts. We are unhappy and defensive because we are never satisfied. Only when we choose to be satisfied can we really be at peace. We don’t want to betray ourselves by admitting that maybe those bad feelings are our own problem, and not somebody else’s fault.

We cannot be a friend to someone without spending time with them. Without getting to know them. Without feeling on their behalf.

The thing is, people just don’t ‘like’ God. They don’t have a ‘use’ for Him because supposedly He hasn’t proven Himself to be useful.

How is it that we can get a new iPhone and immediately open it and begin to learn it? We don’t take the phone back to the store and say we don’t like it, we don’t want it anymore because it doesn’t work, only to find out that we never took the time to even turn the thing on. We do that with our iPhones because we know that they will work if we invest the time. If we do our part. Would more people be as enthusiastic about God if they knew that He would ‘work’? Same as an iPhone manual says that you WILL get phone calls if you turn the phone on, the Bible tells us that God will be there for those who ask Him to be. Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is “living and active”, so we know that it is as good today as it was back when it was written.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I you.”

We cannot abide in someone without them abiding in us. Someone cannot abide in us without us abiding in them. That is simply not how a relationship works. We can tell ourselves falsehoods all day long. We can set up the defense and stand behind it until we rot away.

And when the times come that I am praying, every day, and He still seems so far away, I can look deep into my heart and evaluate the nature of my prayers. If my prayers be true and pure, and not manipulations of our relationship, I can sit back and wait. I can hold on with both hands and know that the Lord is my friend because He said that He was, and that the down will become an up again because that’s just how this roller coaster of life works.  The real question is: am I His friend? Will I be faithful?

The story of Abraham on the verge of sacrificing his son always disturbed me. What a horrifying ordeal that must have been. The common assumption is that God wanted Abraham to prove himself. Even in Christian media we see it being communicated that God demands a test of His faithful servant. Can I just say, with all my heart, that simply isn’t true. In fact, God was communicating His deep love even in those moments. He walked His friend through the greatest trial a person could face, so that Abraham would know that he had more faith than he could have dreamed. Abraham had no idea how much faith he had in God until he took his son up onto that mountain and nearly sacrificed him. After that, Abraham was invincible. He knew that he would be strong through it all. He needed that strength, that credibility, to become the father of the world. Every last human being on this planet goes back to Abraham, just like God promised. In fact, if you want to get really serious, God did Abraham a favor. We talk about Abraham thousands of years after he died. We respect his passion and commitment. We revere and exemplify his character.

What an honor. How exciting. To know that God Himself wants to show us the strength of our spirits. He wants us to see the stuff that we are made of. When we get defensive, when we ‘give up’ on God, we are really only giving up on ourselves. Thinking about that actually makes me hurt in a physical way. And I think that is why the ugliness sets into people. Because they have given up on themselves, and they don’t even know it. They have no idea the strength that they could possess, because they do not use it. They have allowed their spirits to atrophy, and then they rage when they cannot even move aside the smallest burdens that come their way.

Relationships ebb and flow because they consist of two human beings. I know that human beings are unreliable, and that they are independent. We each have our own lives, and our own trials, and our own schedules. This means that sometimes we are in better communication than others. But I have found that during the times when I have stood by my friend, even when they knew that they weren’t being the greatest friend in return, we became stronger than ever. We have built that trust. They do the same for me, and those are the kind of people that I can call in the middle of the night when I need someone.

The best part about God is that He is perfect. He doesn’t ebb and flow. Numbers 23 reminds us that God is not human, so He does not struggle with keeping promises. In fact, God can bestow every good and perfect gift because He does not shift like the shadows (James 1:17).

So I know that when I am feeling like I am not close to the Lord, or that He isn’t being close to me, it is something that I need to work on. I need to just do my part. I need to hang in there. I need to use the strength that I know has been given to me (Phil. 4:13).  I need to be a friend to God.  I need to abide in Him, as Abraham did, and everything else will fall in line, to the end of my days and even beyond.

Dear Ones,

Sometimes I think to myself that you cannot possibly teach me more than you already have.  And then you do…

When I stepped into motherhood I simultaneously packed my baggage and embarked on another journey.  These journeys would run parallel for a time, and eventually intersect.  Along the way I would become whole, and real, and eternally grateful for the chance I got to become a better person so that I could be a healthy parent.

I could have never foreseen the intense of amount of pain that I would go through.  I was ripped up, chewed up, and burned to the bone.  Every day I was learning how to dress and clean the wounds, old and new.  I did this because I knew that if I did not there would be infection.  Infesting.  Poisoning.  And eventually: pollution.  More than anything I did not want to pollute my family.  There were parts of me that I needed to access and carve down, recycle and reuse; there was a bonfire inside of me, all day, every day.

My first prayer for you is that you never think you won’t ever need help.  There is always room, and time, for self-improvement.  Every day we should be working on ourselves, from the inside out, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Do not be a person that is chronically against admitting that they can be wrong, or are perhaps suffering, or even that you may need to change.  These people wind up chronically hurting and using the people in their lives, often even losing them.  The earth is constantly going through seasons.  The planets are continuously orbiting and rotating.  The animals are adjusting themselves according to all of this.  Why wouldn’t we?  There are always opportunities in our lives to step back, look at ourselves, evaluate and assess.  I pray that you can take healthy criticism, but mostly that you can criticize yourself in a healthy way.

As I left myself to become someone else, someone better, someone stronger, someone more beautiful, I discovered the intensity of how much Jesus wanted to come through for me.  He wanted to be the same Jesus who put coins in the mouth of a fish, instead of just pulling them out of His pocket.  He wanted to be the same Jesus who not only redeemed the woman caught in adultery, but also told her to go and sin no more.  The same Jesus Who spent His life doing nothing but good, even while people made fun of Him, and targeted Him, and eventually killed Him. 

He showed me that He knew my pain.  His generosity was met with skepticism time and time again.  His grace was mocked.  His mercy was twisted up and used against Him.  His love was accepted and then discarded by His closest friends, and He was taken advantage of by others who claimed to love Him back.

More importantly than knowing my pain, though, He showed me that there was a purpose for it.  That I was actually not supposed to leave this world unmarred, unstained, and unscarred.  He didn’t.  Even after He was resurrected His scars remained.  I never thought of that as significant before.  I just assumed that of course He would bear the marks of His ordeal.  However, His body had been restored.  It didn’t need to maintain those marks.  The Father allowed them to remain as a testament, as a story, to show the purpose.  This is what happens when we lay down our lives for others, for Jesus: and it is beautiful.  Every scar I bear transforms me that much more into the image of Christ.  They are beautiful on Jesus.  They are beautiful on me.    

I am so thankful for that. 

May these truths be true in your lives, dear ones.

The sweetness of surrender leads to the most empowered freedom possible.  I pray that you come to know this.  That you can embrace responsibility for yourself.  This is a two-fold wonderful process.  First, it means that you can experience injustice, but that you don’t need to justify yourself.  That day will come.  The battle has already been won.  Accepting this releases us from all of the pain, the strain, and the stress that we would otherwise incur.  You will spend your whole life waiting to get something back that cannot be returned to you.  That is the core of forgiveness: acknowledging that whoever has wronged you cannot give back what they have taken, and then moving on.  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”  We must accept Christ’s forgiveness on the grounds that we simply cannot repay Him.  Also, we must extend forgiveness in acknowledgement that we cannot be repaid.

Humility is the practice of not always needing to be right, or heard, or understood.  It is no one else’s job to make you feel better, or right, or beautiful. 

Grace is a tricky thing.  It goes hand in hand with forgiveness, truth, and love.  It is the sister of mercy, and the mother of humility.  But grace is not a free pass.  For anyone.  Including yourself.  The Lord extended His grace to us, and we must then choose to conduct ourselves in a grateful manner.  How tragic to take advantage of Grace!  At the same time, don’t let others trick you, even using the name of Jesus, into not keeping boundaries.  As human beings we are flawed and selfish.  Others will often expect you to fill the holes in their lives that they can, and should, be filling on their own. Maintain boundaries, dear ones.  We must openly acknowledge when someone else is treating us in an unhealthy way.

Sometimes the Lord will ask us to extend grace that we think will be impossible to extend.  This is where you must allow Him to bridge the gap.  He knows the hearts of everyone and sometimes, based on what you do not know, He will require you to pursue someone that you hate the thought of pursuing.  Sometimes He will tell you to take a step back.  Same as Jesus’ love is relentless, so must ours also be.  Ask Him to show you what that looks like.  If someone shows a change of heart, we must be ready to receive them.   

All of this has been monumental in my life.  As I have applied what I have learned I have felt the mountains move inside of me.  I cannot move the mountains inside of anyone else, nor do I want to, but by now I literally know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Remember: we cannot expect someone, anyone, to believe that God is love, that Jesus loves them and all of us, if we are not displaying that love. 

This means that we cannot hold nonbelievers to the same standards that we live by.  This makes absolute sense.  Someone who does not embrace the same life choices will not live the same life choices.  This is not the same thing as saying, “To each their own.”  It is crucial that we maintain our integrity.  But that doesn’t mean that we should only interact with people who have the same values.  Choose your closest friends as people who share the same beliefs, and will help you nurture and protect them.  But show love and respect to anyone and everyone, same as Jesus did.  Every last one of us was created in God’s image.  We have an obligation to represent Christ accurately.  We can learn how to do this by studying the Gospels.

Which brings me to a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.  Jesus was the most generous individual.  He donated His entire life to the health and well-being of others.  If we are to be like Him, we must do the same.  Your father and I are always looking for ways to help others: with our time, our resources, our words.  We never say, “We have no money… We are broke…”.  That would be a grievous untruth, and inherently ungrateful.  We have experienced times of financial strain, and times of financial surplus, but we will always have more than most people in the world, and the Lord will always provide.  Trust in Him to fill your needs.  That may not look a certain way, a way that you might want it to, but He can use you in any and all situations.  

Be content.  Be at peace.  Both of these are choices. 

The ultimate way to find fulfillment in this life is to see a need and fill it.  We don’t have to expect to change the world.  Just that one person.  I hope that someone would find you worth it, if you had a need.  So also, I hope that you find others worth it.

I pray wisdom in your relationships.  That you would never be intimidated by peer pressure, and succumb to it.  That you would accept your responsibility, and leave others to accept theirs, and that you would never allow yourself to be manipulated.  This means that I wish you would never be a people-pleaser, allowing yourself to be mistreated to pacify someone else, and that you would never be cold, thinking that someone else is not worth your time.  Don’t give in to the instinct that you must be heard, and that you must be understood.  We can never take back our dealings with others, and may that instigate you to be compassionate and careful.  Don’t say something just to say it, based purely on emotion.  Let your words serve a bigger purpose, and be beneficial to all parties.

I hope that this is how you know me as you grow up.  I was recently reminded that every day that I know Jesus should see me looking more like Him.  I don’t want to become harder, and more set in my ways, the older that I get.  I know now that I do not know everything, or deserve everything.  It is my goal to keep knowing that.  If anything, the older I get the softer I should become, as I will more intimately know the endless possibilities of this world and life. 

I will read this often, dear ones, to be reminded of what I am trying to teach you.  I hope that I can raise you to be honest with me.  To be able to communicate to me if you feel that I am not hearing you, or treating you in a way that is not ministering to you.  I want to be able to love each of you in a way that will reach each of you individually. 

When I tuck you in at night I pray that you will become people of strong character.  This is not a catch-all type of prayer.  It takes great courage to believe in something in this world.  It is so easy to become careless and complacent.  It is much easier to shrug your shoulders and decide you will do what everyone else is doing, or only what you want to do.  Be warned that you can still have a successful and happy life, even if you are not holding onto convictions.  But you will not have joy, and you will not have peace, and eventually you will not even realize that you are missing these things, and you will accept that living half of the life you could be living is okay.  This is not how we were meant to go along.  We were meant to live in favor with God and man.

There is nothing wrong with having personal convictions.  People will try to make you think this.  We don’t need to validate others, or be validated in return.  It is good to listen to others, and it is always right to be respectful, and we must never judge others.  But we must also be able to say, “I disagree.  I have an opinion, and it is different than yours.”  Or even, “Don’t sell out on yourself, or on God.”  I say again, it takes great courage to believe in something in this world.  It takes strong character not to make excuses for the people we are close to. 

There are always answers.  I have spent a long time studying the Bible, and getting to know Jesus.  I pray that I spend every day doing so.  Before you let someone try and shame you into turning from your beliefs, before you find the wrong answers in the wrong places, please hear me: there are always answers.  The Bible is always right.  I have invested my life, my heart and soul, in pursuit of the evidence, and the evidence is overwhelming.  Pursue the evidence.

Why do I say pursue the evidence?  Because your heart and soul and mind will not always alignInstead of re-writing your life every time this happens, take is as it comes and cling to the truth.  Everything around us is constantly changing.  With millions of people on the planet, how could it not?  We are just one person, constantly interacting with others just as insecure as we are; it is foolishness to think that things must look a certain way, or that we must feel a certain way.  It is then that we must cling to the truth all the harder, and go back to the evidence.

Never base your life on your feelings.  It leads to desperation, and then to selfishness.  Feelings change constantly, because our stimuli is constantly changing.  Don’t hold tight to those feelings, as if they must be protected because they are yours.  Accept that our feelings are not always reality, regardless of how real they feel inside of us.  There is great release in being able to feel something and then say, “I do not accept that for my life.” 

The most hurtful people I have known are those who demanded to be treated a certain way, who sought to be heard first and agreed with, who deigned to prove points in their relationships, and who tried to rewrite natural laws to better accommodate themselves. 

Seek to be strong; seek to be healthy.

That was the greatest journey I ever embarked on.  To be a strong, healthy person because I realized that I was going to be setting the tone for your lives.  We only get one life.  We only get one chance.

What are you choosing to do with yours?

There is always a choice.  We don’t get free passes.  Excuses don’t cover us: our age, our stage, our phase, our right… Instead of focusing on others, on what they are or aren’t doing, focus on you.  Invest in you.

Always, LOVE.

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know that Jesus was an optimist?

He said, “…In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

Jesus wasn’t going to pretend like life was great.  He acknowledged that it was supposed to be great, but things weren’t the way they were supposed to be.  He didn’t even pretend that knowing Him would make all trouble and care go away.  My goodness, His own life was destined for sadness and a tragic ending.  But then victory!  And this is why Jesus could be an optimist.  Because if He could walk around knowing that He was going to die a terrible death, that He was going to become intimate with all of the truly ugly things of this world (i.e. sin) when He was perfect (i.e. God), if He could still be optimistic knowing that was coming, then He knew that something even better was coming afterwards!

He knows that things were supposed to be better then they are.  He knows that life is troublesome.  That people are troublemakers.  That situations, and feelings, are troubling.  To all of that, He says, “I know.”  He once experienced the beauty of the perfection that He had originally designed.  He then experienced mankind’s design, and how trouble had become part of that.

He acknowledges the upset of order.  The finality of the statement shows that this is how it has to be right now.  But before He talks about “trouble”, He talks about “peace”.  The first half of verse 33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace…”   

 All throughout His Word our Heavenly Father is encouraging us.  Verses that talk about undying love, unprecedented protection, and ultimate freedom.  He wants us to be optimistic.  He is.  He wants us to be light of heart.  Sure, He knows that this world went wrong.  He sent His Son to redeem it.  He was, and still is, willing to be a part of it, even the pain.  Anyone who rejects God and His enormous goodness on loosely based accusations of injustice, invalidity, you-name-it, have nowhere to go with that pain, their pain.

He extended an offer of adoption to me, and I accepted, and regardless of how someone may treat me, or what butterfly effect I am caught up in, I can always take heart.  There are so many orphans out there, choosing to be orphans… I choose not to be one of them.

 He doesn’t tell me that He will take away my pain.  That He will make it so I never experience pain again.  We both know that is impossible.  There is no point in trying to fight something that is everything.  Stubbornness will get me nowhere.  He tells me to come to Him with my burdens, and I am happy to do so.  He tells me that He will always help me bear the weight.  I cannot pass up an offer like that.  I look all around me, and see and feel the world surrounding me, and I know that I could not possibly bear it on my own.  He tells me that I can have joy in everything, and I have finally discovered what that truly means.  It doesn’t mean that everything will be ‘a good time’.  While enjoyment is not possible in everything, joy certainly is.  The pain I have felt drives me to the feet of my Savior with a passion and intensity that takes my breath away, and there is nothing more wonderful than needing Him.  Without that pain I would not seek Him, I would not be desperate for Him to remove the weight of it before it crushes me down and I suffocate underneath it, heavy and alone.  When I feel the pressure of my emotions, the straining of my soul, I begin the race- a race against myself and everyone else.  I will always cross the finish line, and even if I don’t cross it in this life I know I will cross it in the next, because He promises that the war is already won.  It is only my job to persevere, because it is promised that I cannot lose.  And from every time that I do cross the finish line, and the tears stop flowing because there is a little less need for them, I absolutely know this to be true, and I am so joyful.  I am so hopeful for that final finish line.   

 As necessary as the trouble is, it is just as necessary to counter it with Hope and Endurance.  Don’t forget to tell your face!  I heard that explained in the most accurate way possible: sometimes Christians communicate with the right words but, unfortunately, they give off a negative vibe that speaks much louder.  The excitement of Victory doesn’t shine in their eyes, and the joy of Hope doesn’t resonate with a smile.  Those expressions should come with knowing the Lord.

Don’t forget to tell your face!

Don’t forget to tell your fellow believers’ faces!

I plagiarize here, but this person wrote it best: Are you willing to let someone critique your vibe so you can be the best you?  And if it’s hard to have your vibe critiqued, it’s got to be that much more challenging to have someone critique our faces…

The simple fact is that believing in Jesus IS hope! I admit that I am not a natural born optimist, so I sometimes have to be really intentional about being hopeful.  I just naturally tend towards skepticism.  I become overwhelmed by negativity when I see the magnitude of it around me.  I have felt that it is impossible to function in this [troublesome] world.  That my beautiful Christianity must be guarded from the ugliness of everything else. 

 But then I learned that I had bought into a lie.

You see: He has overcome the world.

 The battle is already won.

We linger because the Lord is merciful.  I knew that I needed to be taking my energy of paranoia and investing it in a much better way.

 I needed to accept that my troubles were not a personal vendetta against me; that they weren’t the very hand of God, or His blind eye.  They were merely the result of troubling people, a broken system, and my own bad choices.

I needed to take God at His Word and begin each day by laying those troubles at His feet, and exchanging them for a burden of hope.  I find that this one is much easier to carry.  Who wouldn’t rather carry the same weight of incense, as opposed to the same weight of …something that smells the opposite?  You get my drift.  Some people really have no idea how very badly they smell.

But what does Hope look like?

To me, it meant accepting that maybe politicians were dictating serious decisions about my life, and my freedom, but that they didn’t dictate my day to day.  I learned that I could pay taxes while undeserving parties received that money, or that I could always follow the rules while people all around me break them, endangering themselves and others, never being held accountable, but such things needn’t determine the quality of my life.  My husband could lose his job time and time again, and we could even lose our house, but it wasn’t going to be forever.  Nothing is forever. 

He has overcome the world!

If Jesus Christ bore scars, marks on His physical body from being banged up in this troublesome world, than I should be so blessed to receive my own wounds.

If Jesus can receive with Grace, and His Spirit lives in me, then so can I.

If Jesus can spread a message of Hope, even through His Own impending darkness at the time, but looking forward towards the time of healing and restoration, then so can I.

Sure, I see trouble, but I counter with Hope.

There is a thing that happens when Good is missing, and we generally call it Bad.

Bad always results in suffering, either indirect or direct, personal or projected.  And where would we be without suffering?

I think for most people this question is obsolete.  It is hard enough to just get past the word: ‘suffering’.  It is a loaded word, pregnant with hallucinogenic properties.  When we hear it, when we read it, when we think about it, there is an involuntary reaction that manifests in many different ways.   Stoicism, anger, bitterness, resolution, rebellion, sympathy… The reaction, though, is always one of mourning.  It is instant and tangible, and the spark is lit that fuels the emotion.  We immediately think of our own suffering.  We immediately think of the suffering that has fallen onto our loved ones, which in turn caused us to suffer on their behalf.  We think of Big suffering, such as the Holocaust and the Crusades.  We think of Personal suffering, such as our failed relationships, our illnesses and diseases, our sense of loss at the death of someone we were close to.  We think of how we have suffered at the hands of others, and how needless that was, and what an impact it has made on our lives.  We think of Scary suffering, which is all over the news and can happen to anyone, and which triggers a sub-suffering due to the anxiety: the ministrations of a serial killer, the school shootings, accidents as the result of negligence.

Standing alone, suffering is the ultimate injustice.  It is the truest agony.  It is the blackest hole.

I think we do not realize, though, that suffering is never alone.  If it were than it would not be suffering.  It would merely be Life; it would be total reality.  As it stands, suffering walks hand in hand with Hope; for many it is the conception of Faith (and for just as many it is the deterioration of it).  It is the precursor to Peace.  It is the forger of Love.  It is the recognition of Goodness, and it is the backbone of Compassion.

If we take the reverse journey: would we have compassion without suffering?  If we did not see the pain in someone’s eyes, if we did not watch strangers crying in their cars, if it was not depicted so dramatically in movies, would we even care at all?  I think we would continue about our daily lives with very little reason to interact on a deeper level.  Instead, we reach out to others when we are hurting; we expect them to console us, to feel it with us, to care.  And all of that is instinctual.  We must train ourselves, or be trained, to react differently.  The most regrettable thing is when there are those of us who have never experienced the caring.

If we did not suffer we would not recognize good things.  Sometimes that recognition can be out-and-out jealousy.  When we have those good things, when we are through the suffering, maybe they are not so good as we imagined they would be, or maybe they are the sweetest reward.

In everything there is balance.  That is the very law of nature, and nothing can be done about it.  We either fall deeper in love with people when we are suffering, or vice versa.  Ties are formed when the raw wounds are soothed and healed by another, and we see the power of what it means to love when someone stands by our sides at our most ugly, at our most wretched, and they help us to put ourselves back together again.  Without that suffering, which we should know by now is inevitable (why are people still so surprised when it comes?), there would not be any need for the ties.  There wouldn’t be any need for anything, really.

There would be no respect for peace at all if there was no suffering.  You might argue that naivety is peace, because there has never been any suffering, but I counter that naivety is its most basic definition:  it is simplicity, and nothing more.  To be naïve is to be inexperienced, and it is no secret that a human being must become subject to experiences in order to have life.  Peace is the sweet cloud on the other side of the opposite spectrum, and that is what makes it so delicious, and so seemingly unattainable.

Let us not forget faith, which is such a touchy subject these days.  People become so uptight when the word is used, but it doesn’t even need to be religious.  Jesus did not invent the word ‘faith’.  It is a perfect word to describe one’s belief in Him, but Faith and Jesus are not synonymous, such as Music and Rock Star are not synonymous.  You can have one without the other.  Faith is merely a confidence, it is a belief that something is true without proof (please note that I use the word Proof, and not the word Evidence, which are also not synonymous).  It takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it takes to be a believer in some religion, and that is just the honest depiction of the literal words.  I am sure any atheist would be outraged at this, and I am sure many religious believers would be indignant.  But you must believe that there is no God in order to call oneself an atheist, and that belief is based on the fact that there is no Proof.  To believe that there is a God an individual is willing to rely on the Evidence.  In association with suffering: the road of suffering always leads to decisions, and decision-making takes faith.  You can have faith that you are not a victim, or you can choose to believe that you are.  Either way is a life course, and you are making the decision to go down it.  Sometimes that faith is rooted in religion, as suffering opens our eyes to our infallibility, our vulnerability, our absolute mortality.  Sometimes that faith is completely self-reliant, and we believe that we are the only correct and trustworthy being.

Perhaps, most frighteningly, suffering is what really brings us face to face with the fact that we have no control.  You can argue the contrary, and I will allow that we actually have more control than we might think, but the truth is that we have control over ourselves and only ourselves, which is actually not the smallest control, as people tend to think, but indeed the largest.  Let us come out of the need to go global: what is one person’s control against billions?  Instead, we look at our own little worlds, and the people we come into contact with daily.  The control that we have to smile at the slow cashier, instead of hurting their feelings by being rude.  The amount of suffering that we have the capacity to inflict is unfathomable.  It jumps from person to person to person until, finally, the whole world is infected, and not just immediately, but for generations.  We have effect on people’s lives.  Only, the hard part is that we cannot control how others interact with us, and everyone else.  We can only control our reactions, and know that it will make a positive difference in the end.  It is so much better to endure the suffering than to inflict it.  It really is.   This is why respect is so important, why love is so crucial, and compassion so essential.  Strangely, some people spend their entire lives in denial that other human beings truly exist alongside them.  Or, even more horrifying, they just don’t care.

Hence, the suffering.

The compassion, the love, the peace, the goodness, the faith, the hope.

So what about hope?  If human beings, in essence, have only self-control, the most powerful and capable creatures on earth, brilliant enough to develop systems that connect every single person on the planet, rich enough to bend and mold the very earth surrounding us, and the water surrounding the earth, if these creatures have such limited control, what actually is Hope?  Hope is beauty, and it is married to Desire, and the offspring is Creativity.  Are you beginning to see that everything, even the good, is connected to suffering?

I am not a natural born optimist.  I have never been an optimist, and I always expect that optimism to me will be like peroxide to a wound.  I do not like the roller-coaster of optimism, and at times in my life I have seen hope as a great and grave weakness.  Even now, it is hard for me to decide to take action, to take control of my own personal sphere, and to hope.  What power is in hope!  It reminds me that my body is broken, and that even myself is unsafe, but that I can still get out of bed and contribute good things to my life, and good things to the lives of those that I come into contact with.

Three hundred sixty degrees has brought us back to suffering, and what it really means, what it is really good for, and how it pertains to God.  I think the most expected and readily applied question in regards to this topic is: why is there suffering?  And rightly so.  It is natural to ask this question, or else perhaps we do not really have an acknowledgement of the condition.

Every human being is designed for a purpose, and not everyone is willing to fulfill that purpose.  Not everyone is willing to accept that they make mistakes.  But it really does all go back to God.  He created the earth and gave man dominion.  Man decided he wanted to be like God, instead of being satisfied that he was created in God’s image.  He wanted more control than he was created to handle, and disorder came into effect.

For some reason, it is easier to get hung up on the flimsy argument of why man made a drastic choice, and whether or not God allowed the temptation and if so how could He, and that you could not expect the man to do anything differently since he didn’t know any better, and overall just how unfair it all is.  There is genuine rage at the injustice of God being omniscient, able to know everything, and how He still allowed things to progress as they did.  Why didn’t He just design it a different way?  The question causes people to turn their backs on God, to scoff at religion, to call the belief foolish and cracked.  I hasten to encourage us to remember that we are not God.  For some of us, this realization will be a relief, and the recitation of it will allow us to continue on in our lives in a more natural order, peaceful in the simple fact that the weight of the world is not on our shoulders.  For some of us, it will only fuel the fire.  That burden is just preferable for them to bear, I guess.  The real problem is not about whether or not God knows, the problem lies in the fact that we, human beings, do not know.  We just don’t.  We can go before Him for our guidance, we can study His Word for directions, and we can mingle with others of common belief to maintain clarity.  This was part of the design, and it cannot be rewritten.  Or, we can do whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want, and assume that the best has been done, the most effort has been given, and that all has no choice but to be well.  Either way,  we WILL suffer, so we can suffer for good or we can suffer for evil.  There’s no escaping it.

 Perhaps you have reached a level of acceptance that man made a mistake (and not God).  This is only the beginning of everything that came next, the most wonderful thing that ever happened.  And this is why I love God, and no other deity could ever measure up: He loved us so much that He wanted to save us.  No other higher power of any other belief system chose to save humankind.  Sure, they pose many options of how you can reach maturity by what you do with your life, but they did not decide to take the burden upon themselves.  They did not care about what we experience in our lives, and how much it just absolutely hurts sometimes.  They have left us to our own devices.  Not God, not His Son.  This is why Jesus Christ is awesome, and this proves His love for us.

Man chose suffering, and so suffering is on this earth.  But God designed a way to alleviate all suffering.  He understands that we still suffer while we are here, and He offers the solace that He takes our suffering into account, and that one day we will be justified, and He will bring everything to its full and natural order.  He reminds us that He suffered too, more than any other being because He bore the suffering weight of the entire world, and we bear only that of one person.

If we are honest with ourselves, we can see that the largest percentage of suffering occurs at the hands of other human beings.  This would be called “the missing good”, and it is less handsomely known as ‘sin’.  When good is missing, we allow the alternative to dictate our lives, and the largest cancer of these is selfishness.  From selfishness all fallacies are bred, and they feed on each other.  It would seem that, aside from natural disasters, disaster of all kinds is man-made.  Hunger and poverty are in direct descent of selfishness, and even now it could be eradicated in a miniscule span of time.  The problem lies in the fact that people have become quite comfortable, and have forgotten that sacrifice is to be pursued.  Sacrifice on behalf of others should be desired.  There are enough people with enough resources to relieve the pain that so many people endure every single day.  And yet the pain is not relieved.  Surely, that can not be blamed on God, for that is a choice that we each make every single day of our lives.  To sacrifice, or not.  From something as Big as human trafficking to something as Small as what words we use.

Yes, there are diseases and death.  This is the most unfortunate part of the whole thing.  Death was never supposed to be.  Disease was not in the plan.  Both made their appearance upon invitation by man, and since we are descendants of men, we remain the recipients.  Surely, there are accidents.  Sadly, we must endure a design that was not original, and is thus very, very flawed.

I urge you not to rush to your next question:  why doesn’t God just end it all?  Undoubtedly, that will be glorious, and the concept is magnificent.  But we mustn’t allow ourselves to be naïve or, even worse, ignorant.  If God were to step in and replace the missing good, time would cease.  The cessation of time means the cessation of life and death as we know it.  The cessation of life and death means that every being will be reunited with whom they have chosen: the Good or the Bad.  This is it.  That is all there is to it.  The fact that the world continues as we know it is a mercy on behalf of God.  At any moment He could sweep away the pain and suffering, but to do that would be to sweep away the cause of the pain and suffering, and that is us, each and every one.  By allowing us to maintain our existence, He is allowing us a few more moments to realize the missing good in our lives.  He is giving us the opportunity to bring to light the missing good to others, and this only by taking example of His Son, who lived as a human being to be the perfect example.

A vast and heavy existence stretches between the span our lives.  As time passes, as the missing good grows larger and larger, the link that binds us all as humans is becoming more and more corroded.  Before long, we will be making decisions based on what the animals do, if we are not already there: how can I fill my own needs?  How can I ensure my own survival?  How can I make sure that nobody takes what is mine?  A meager and narrow existence that is.

[DISCLAIMER: this contains graphic images.  Do not read this if you do not agree to being exposed.]

On January 22nd, 1973, the Supreme Court made a final decision on Roe v. Wade: which disallowed many state and federal restrictions on abortion in the United States, all in the name of the 14th Amendment.  On the same day, it decided in favor of Doe v. Bolton, which states that a woman may obtain an abortion after viability, if in favor of her health.

This week marks 40 years after those decisions.

Therefore, I have been thinking a lot about abortion lately.  My son was born on September 4th of this past year, and while I have always thought that abortion was detestable, I have recently become slightly distracted over its existence.

I am not fanatical about pregnancy.  I do not enjoy it.  I do not get a thrill from feeling a baby kicking around inside of me, unless you consider nausea to be a type of thrill.  But I always knew that it was a baby, and that his life was just as important as my own.  I do not think that birth control is wrong.  I think that it can be a very responsible choice for many people, although I do not condone taking it just so individuals can feel free to have rampant sex.  The key word there was: responsible.  It is irresponsible to have rampant sex.  Plain and simple.  If you don’t agree with me there, I don’t know what to tell you.  Sex is the one and only activity that leads to the conception of a human baby- the arguments for artificial insemination, IVF, etc. are moot since that child was deliberately sought.  Why then, after having sex, protected or not, do individuals feel that the embryo has somehow invaded them?  That the baby has just cropped up randomly and ruined their lives?  How else did it get there?  If it doesn’t belong there, where else does it belong?   From the point of conception, those parents are obligated to defend and care for that child.  They agreed to that when they engaged in sex.  If a mother is obligated to care for her born children, she is obligated to care for her unborn children.  How many times do women go to trial for killing their babies?  Too many times.  We look at Casey Anthony and say that she is a monster.  On the other hand, didn’t she have a right to do what she wanted to with her baby?  The baby was hers, legally.  Why does it matter if Caylee was inside, or outside, of her body?

I think of my womb, the dark and warm place that was my son’s home for the first nine months of his life.  I think of the blood that is in me being given to him.  I think of how my body fed him, and how he grew inside of me.  He was not a cluster of cells.  He was real, and he was alive, because he grew.  Things that aren’t alive don’t grow.  I think everyone can say that is true.  One minute he was there, kicking me from the inside out, and within a matter of seconds, he was suddenly out.   Nothing changed in those seconds.  He was not nothing one second, and then Osbourne the next.  I do not change when I get up from this couch and go into the kitchen, unless you count the calories I put into my body after leaving that room.  Enough of them would most certainly change me.  Why, then, does the thin wall of the uterus, the short tunnel of the birth canal, change a baby’s status?  Quite simply, it doesn’t.  It is just something that some people tell themselves so that they can continue to try and maintain control over their lives.

As I write this, the words of someone rings in my head: the safety of the mother always comes first.  I had never heard such a statement in my life.  Being in the health field, I have of course heard that a woman has the right to her own body.  I have already pointed out that if you engage in sex you are thereby agreeing to the possibility of becoming pregnant, and all that goes along with that.  (Now, hold on a minute.  There are probably a few of you shouting at the computer about how consensual sex is not the only way to get pregnant, and that not all pregnancies are without complication, and that not all fetuses will be healthy and strong.  I will get there.  I promise).  I have taken many classes on bioethical issues, from euthanasia to stem cell research.  However, I had never heard anyone say: safety of the mother comes first.  Allow me to clarify.  I had, of course, heard the argument that if a pregnancy is detrimental to a woman’s health, she can abort without it being considered unethical.  The actual wordage of “safety of the mother comes first” was new to me, and appalling.  Because, what mother would put herself before her child?  I am instantly barraged by all manner of scenarios in which I could put myself before my child.  Even an unborn child.

I wonder that selfishness has become so rampant these days.  Me me me me me.  Everyone says, “Me first.”  I can only imagine what a comfortable, worry-free world we would live in if people just took the time to say, “I care about you.  What can I do for you?”

What about the safety of the mother?  My husband has told me that he would want to choose me, if it came down to one or the other: me or our son.  I would have to agree.  I would choose my husband.  He is my second half.  We have become one.  I would never be able to endure the loss of a child without him.  I then snap out of it:  what possible scenario would ever make me choose between my husband or my son?  And what possible scenario could ever make him choose between me or our child?

My imagination takes a spin for a second.  Of course, we could be held hostage, and the kidnappers say, “I will let one of your loved ones go, take your pick.”  If that were the case, my husband and I easily say that we would die trying to save the entirety of our family.  I certainly hope that we would never be put in that position, and I would naturally like to assume the most honorable and brave qualities about myself, but I just don’t see bowing to the hand of another human being, and allowing them to make that decision for our lives: choose, your spouse or your son.  No human being can, or should be able to, dictate the life of another.

Okay.  So what about pregnancy?  What about when a pregnancy is unsafe for the mother?

If, for example, something tragic happens and an immediate choice has to be made (by immediate, I am referring to emergency proportions), it is ethical to choose which life to work on; coincidentally, which life to ‘spare’.  I think anyone could agree to the reality of that.

The problem arises when said mother has, say, cancer, and needs chemotherapy.  That chemotherapy would most likely be fatal to her unborn baby, or could cause some serious defects.  Most often, a physician would suggest an abortion.  It is then that I say the abortion is murder.  Would it be wrong for the woman to pursue treatment?  No, I can’t say that it would.  Even with the risks.  I would say that it is wrong to eliminate the baby for the sake of eliminating it.  If the pre-born baby is injured or dies from a prescribed medication that is necessary to save the mother’s life, such as seizure medications, the injury to the baby would be unintentional and, if truly medically necessary, not unethical.  Perhaps this would seem heartless to some people, or ridiculous, to say the least.  I don’t really know what to tell you, then.  I am not the author of life, and neither are you, and neither is anyone.  If a baby is conceived, it is no one’s right to take that baby’s life except for the One who granted it to begin with.  I always say: we can only work with what we’ve got.  If you have seizures, take your seizure medication, and leave the baby’s health and well-being up to the One who allowed it to take shape to begin with.

As far as a pregnancy sapping the actual life out of a woman: it just doesn’t happen.  Fetuses don’t kill their ‘hosts’.  They are not a virus.

What was that you said?  Ectopic pregnancy?  Yes, they are very dangerous for the mother.  In this case the embryo attaches to somewhere other than the wall of the uterus, such as the fallopian tube.  This will make the mother very sick, and could even result in her death.  The human body is incredibly resilient.  Many times the body will take care of itself, and ‘regress’ the ectopic pregnancy, removing it through a natural, biological process.  Those that take place in the fallopian tubes can, and have, never survived.  There is a fifty-fifty chance that the body will miscarry on its own, for the others it goes without saying that removal is necessary.  However, cases of abdominal, ovarian, or cervical ones have.  The key is that time and patience are crucial here.  I am not suggesting that the mother just grin and bear and pass away because that is the right and moral and self-sacrificing thing to do.  Now, one might wonder at the difference between a likely miscarriage and that of an abortion: why not just get it over with quicker?  A miscarriage is still a natural process, and an abortion is not.  And that is not just semantics.  There is no grey area in nature.  It is either alive, or dead.  It is either biological or artificial.  Nature is nature, and needs to be given its right.  The fact of the matter is, we have broken bodies.  They will succumb to sickness, perhaps to disease, and always to death.  We can only work with what we’ve got.  We can only try to survive, and that includes the protection of another’s survival.  Our own life loses its value if we devalue the lives of others.  If a mother’s condition during her ectopic pregnancy continues to deteriorate, surgery may become necessary to save her life.  This operation would be the attempt to remove and relocate the fetus to the uterus.  More than likely it would be discovered that the fetus had already died.  If not, an attempt to save the baby had been made, and its unfortunate death was not deliberate.  I am the first person to admit that I would have a surgical procedure if I had an ectopic pregnancy, but I hope that I would have given my body enough time to process, and try to correct itself.  My husband currently works with a man that was an ectopic pregnancy.  When I hear stories about that man, or when my husband relays a discussion they had, I try to envision the emptiness that would be present if he had been aborted.  My own body has been cut open, sewed back up, and completely resealed and healed on its own.  How fascinating, to know that my insides had been completely exposed, but that my cells were able to recognize the incision site, and go to work, and bring about full repair.  The body is resilient by nature.  Give it a chance.  Allow it time to try and survive.  An abortion to avoid an operation later is careless, and an easy scape-goat for a physician trying to avoid a malpractice suit.

I try to push away the thought, because I really don’t want to write it down, but all of this makes me think about Phoenix.  I think that is what bothers me the most about abortion, thinking about Phoenix.

October 15th is Infant Loss and Awareness Day, and the whole month was designated by President Reagan for parents and people to reflect on the infants that have died due to miscarriage, molar pregnancy, SIDS, etc.  Ironically, on that very day, in 2011, Michael and I witnessed the passing of our own eight-week-old pre-born baby.  The baby had come, and gone, and had served its purpose, and lived its life.  We all die when we were meant to die, unless you take your own life or, heaven forbid, it is taken for you.  Who was I to argue with the baby’s Creator?  I hesitate to say, for fear of appearing cold and calculated, that I did not struggle with the baby’s passing as many have.  I certainly do not compare myself to parents who have birthed and begun raising a child that dies at a young age, or even those who experienced miscarriage passed the proverbial ‘clear’ mark of twelve or thirteen weeks.  I respect that Phoenix was our baby, I respected that it was growing inside of me, and I accepted that we would be responsible for caring for it.

I spent a lot of time on the internet after that.  I wanted to know what that little person looked like, at only eight weeks of gestation.  This is what I found (the first picture is an actual photo taken of a six-week-old miscarried fetus, as I couldn’t find one at eight weeks.  But look how much that baby grows and changes, to become the eight-week-old shown in the second picture!):

miscarry     fetus

And then, suddenly, I couldn’t get passed the fact that people actually tear these fetuses, these babies, from their wombs, and I couldn’t stop myself from finding images of aborted, eight-week-old babies.  This is what I found:

abort1     abort2

And ya know what?  There was no difference.  They were the same type of baby.  Same little feet, same tiny fingers, already with eyes, and a delicate spinal column, smaller than the most delicate of bracelets.  Except that my baby had died on its own, and the other babies had been ripped apart.  They had been dissolved.  By choice.  Because of selfishness, and irresponsibility.

I didn’t want to be pregnant.  I didn’t want Phoenix growing inside of me.  I am not foolish enough to think that everyone should want their pregnancies.  I don’t think you are a terrible person if your positive pregnancy test makes you cry… and not with joy.  Having a baby, raising a child, can really ruin your life.  If that is the mentality you choose to take.  That is when we need to be courageous, when we need to be strong.  We need to get help and make plans.  Plans to prosper.

I did not want to be a mother.  God wanted me to be a mother.  He left the choice up to me.   I was not happy by agreeing, but I knew that my life would be empty if lived for my own gain.  Since Phoenix, and since Osbourne, we have experienced more blessings than we could ever ask for or imagine.  And they haven’t even stopped!  It is so exciting.  It is so refreshing, and it is what the Bible promises.

But who are we to say what is right or wrong for someone else!  I mean, am I right, or am I right?  Those people who flew the planes into the Twin Towers, according to their beliefs, they were doing the right thing.  So what did it matter?  You can’t hold it against them, then, right?

sept1     PEOPLE LOOK OUT OF WINDOWS AS WORLD TRADE CENTER BURNS

A serial killer prefers to take lives.  It makes them happy.  So who are we to judge them for that, or to try and stop them?

ser1

How could I be so terrible, right?  How could I dare to desecrate the memory of these people by posting such horrifying and sickening images?  I do not like watching the news.  I think it is wrong for the media to expose a family’s pain, a person’s dignity.  When it comes to abortion, those pictures are the reality of it.  I decided against listing the actual procedures of an abortion, since the decimated corpses in the pictures I show is pretty self explanatory; if you prefer to know the actual steps, it is not hard to find them listed on the internet.

What makes one life more important than another?

Nothing.

I am sure you would agree if you found yourself on the receiving end of a morbid plan.

All of that pain we just saw?  Man-made.  My baby died because it was time for it to go and be back with Jesus.  I can accept that; admittedly, a lot easier than some people might be able to.  The abortions, the attacks of 9/11, the serial killers: all of that pain, that horror, that devastation, is by the hands of another man.  Why do we give ourselves this power?  Why do we play God?  Why do we think we have the right?

I am tired of people and their ‘rights’.

I am not innocent of the fact that not all babies grow healthy and strong.  I have worked as a caretaker  for people with special needs.  And, man, are those needs ever ‘special’.  I have watched families struggle to raise their disabled children, and their healthy children at the same time.  I have watched the money stretch, and I have seen the pain, and heard the stories.

I have read accounts of parents that wanted their babies, but felt it was the right thing to ‘spare’ their children the suffering of growing up with a disability.

There are a large number of pro-choicers who agree that a fetus is a living, viable baby.  Their argument lies in that they believe a woman has the right to her own body.  I have already been over that.  When we stand before God and man and join someone in holy matrimony, we are agreeing to become one body, to become one flesh, to endure with one another through anything and everything, “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”.  We don’t get to kill our spouse or, for the sake of touching a less sensitive nerve, we don’t get to just walk out on our spouse when they get cancer, when they lose their mental faculties in a tragic automobile accident.  How detestable we would be seen as.  How shallow.  When an individual agrees to engage in a reproductive act, they are essentially agreeing to conceive.  When someone agrees to conceive, they are agreeing to the possibility that their pregnancy may destroy their body, it may leave them with Bells Palsy, they may experience life-threatening events such as hypertension preeclampsia or placenta previa, and even that the baby may have its own conditions, such as Downs Syndrome, or cerebral palsy.  Some babies are even born without brains!  There are numerous other factors that cannot be seen through an ultrasound, such as schizophrenia, or autism.  It is all part of the commitment, and it is terrifying, and we would like to think that we have control of it.  We have no control over nature.  It comes upon us as it wills.  It arrives and fashions and departs in a manner that we cannot alter.

The heart-breaking fact is that suffering and pain are a part of life.  They are unavoidable, as the parents who have aborted their disabled babies can attest; the accounts of devastation at the process of terminating those pregnancies, the emotional distress at feeling they needed to make that choice.  But they didn’t have to.  So many of the people that I took care of had become disabled in their childhood.  They weren’t even born that way.  It was not acceptable for those individuals to be dispatched of after their accident, so why do we argue that the lives of those disabled from birth should not be fostered?  There is no way to avoid disability, deformity, or suffering.  We can try, but it will always catch up with us.

Every life has a purpose.  It does not need to be healthy, and whole, to fulfill it.

I could understand the compulsion to spare a child a life of suffering.  I could understand wanting to just end it for that baby, if it was going to die shortly after being born due to a horrific condition.  I am a practical person.  Death is a reasonable, natural process to me.  And it takes many forms.  Those situations of parents being told that their fetus has a fatal or debilitating condition are very real.  They happen.  And they are a nightmare.  I must remind myself that each life has a purpose.  Each life was granted, and will be taken when it is time to be taken.  As a parent, that is not my decision to make.

Every single person that I helped take care, from those that needed one-hundred percent assistance to those that needed only minor supervision, all made an impact on my life.  Each one of them had a personality, and preferences, even if they could not communicate them.  Each one of them deserved to live their own life, to have their own experiences, to touch the lives of other people.  I watched even the most bedridden and helpless of them experience joy.  Experience pleasure.  They were generous, and friendly.  Those that could not even feed themselves tried to shower me with their most prized possessions.  The woman who could neither see nor speak, and was partially deaf, invited me to look at magazines- the horse ones were her favorite.  Disability does not equal dissatisfaction.  I know someone blind from birth who does not wish she had been born with sight.  She owns her own life.

Before ultrasounds were that common, or showing possible complications, numerous babies were born with numerous problems that resulted in astounding medical breakthroughs.  There is always a bigger picture.  Of course this is easy enough to volunteer for someone, anyone, else…  I try to think of the impact that every single life makes.  Someone that is very close to me has had the honor of being aquainted with a man with spina bifida, who just so happened to be the guitarist for a well-known band, and who runs a pain clinic to help others deal with their pain without the use of narcotics.  He uses his own pain to help others, consequently transforming those lives and, by effect, the lives that those people come into contact with.  I read an account of a couple who were devastated to learn that their third child would be born with spina bifida, and they felt it was more loving to end his life than to ask him to live it.  When I read that, I envisioned myself learning that news about my own son.  How truly horrendous.  What a lot of sacrifice, on everyone’s part, and we all know that sacrifice doesn’t feel good: or it wouldn’t be sacrifice.  After intimately knowing both demographics, I have always said that I would rather my son be born with a disability than to become a derelict of society, and you can’t screen for that in an ultrasound…

A well child will experience frustration, and anger, same as an unwell child.  Perhaps even more, if they are born with a syndrome such as bipolar, or a propensity for depression, or any other mental condition.  There is nothing to say that a child in a wheel chair will have to sit on the sidelines and watch others on the playground, seething with rage and frustration at the hand they have been dealt.  There is a place for everyone, perhaps not always on the playground, perhaps not always in the classroom, or on a sports team, or in the spotlight, but somewhere.  Pain and suffering are unavoidable, and I know many people, including myself, who can attest to the fact that pain of the mind can be just as debilitating as a physical condition.  It can rob you of mobility, access to others, the capability to excel and expound.  It can leave you shell-shocked and traumatized.  I had to choose my own path: one of desperation, or one of appreciation  Miracle of miracles, I was able to put the days of wishing I had never been born behind me, hopefully for good.  Everyone deserves the chance to make that decision, it should never be made for them.

And so that is the stance that I take on pregnancy from rape or incest.  I am sorry for your pain.  I am sorry for your suffering.  We must all find ways to deal with what has happened in our lives.  It is our responsibility, so that we do not base our relational decisions on circumstance.  Circumstances change.  As do feelings.  I have said before, there is a natural process to things.  This allows for healthy relationships, for procreation and population.  Emotions are fleeting, and unreliable.  We can only work with what we’ve got.

We forget that we are not here for ourselves.  We are not here to just walk the earth, and go to the grocery store, and get a degree, and hang out with friends.

Each one of us has a purpose.  There is a plan.

Sometimes that plan is hard to imagine.

But so is heaven.

I know that Phoenix is in heaven right now.  And that right now that little baby is welcoming another little baby.  And right now.  And right now…and now…and now…and now…  Today, over three thousand times, my baby will welcome another baby, an aborted baby.  Just today.  And tomorrow it will start all over again.

Whatever happened to Jane Roe, from Roe v. Wade?  She is now pro-life.  It isn’t the whole story, and I encourage you to research it if you have interest, but that is where she is right now.

Even Mary Doe, of Doe v. Bolton, recently sought to appeal the Supreme Court decision from her case.   She reveals that she had never wanted to have an abortion in the first place, she had been in an abusive relationship, and had been forced by her attorney to make the case.  It has been documented that she refers to herself as ‘pro-life’.

We named our Phoenix after the constellation.  We found it in the sky on the night of the baby’s passing.  It is a minor constellation, in the southern sky, consisting of many stars, some planets, and even a galaxy cluster.  The constellation was named after the mythical bird, which is cyclically reborn: it rises from the ashes of its predecessor.  The phoenix is a symbol of renewal.  I don’t think that this is ironic in the case of abortion.  Each baby that is conceived is dearly loved and welcomed by the One who created it.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”  Psalm 139:13-16

He welcomes each one that returns to Him.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Each one of them is a gift from Him.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3

Each one of them is deliberate, and individual.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you….” Jeremiah 1:5

He identifies Himself in them, and commands us to protect them, and care for them.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10

I wait to live in a world where we do not put ourselves before others.  Where we do not say that right and wrong is different for others.  Where we do not say that truth is subjective, for in that we lose truth in its entirety.  I know that my part is holding myself accountable.  It is treating others with love and respect.  Sometimes that is tough love; sometimes that is the most tender compassion.  I know that I must lead by example.

I am sorry for those of you who have wanted to bear children and could not.  I am sorry for those of you who have suffered terrible and detrimental pregnancies and births.  I am sorry for those of you who will struggle throughout your days as you care for a disabled child.  I am sorry for the pain and suffering that comes along with being a parent, regardless of how the parenthood was attained.  I am sorry to those who made the choice to have an abortion, and now must live with any guilt, or anger, or pain.  I am sorry that no one took you by the shoulders, looked in your eyes, and told you that you were strong enough.

Be strong enough.

phoenix

Post-Abortion resources: http://www.heartlink.org/hottopics/a000000266.cfm

You can also find post-abortion resources [on-line and] at your local pregnancy resource center:   http://www.pregnancyresource.org/