The Siren’s Song

There’s a pain, a numbness, a vacancy left inside one who is molested. It doesn’t matter so much the degree to misuse or abuse… The hole presses in with the smallest infraction. There’s a shame that comes with the wounds made then that make the scar now that much more noticeable – a guilt that […]

Removing Splinters

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“I’m not one to judge… but…”

I knew what was coming, the same thing that comes anytime anyone starts any conversation with those words – judgment. I struggle with that. I think Jesus struggled with that, too. The same Lord that warned us, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Matt. 7:1) and the very God who cautioned, “The same measure that you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2), He wasn’t lax on this issue of judgment; in fact, of all the things He reprimanded the “religious” for, this was consistent.

What is in us that wants to judge?

Comparison.

That’s the nuts and bolts of it. We haven’t evolved past Cain and Able. We still feel the need to compare ourselves with one another, and lets face it when we can point the finger at a more public, more destructive sin, we will do it. Why? Because in the shadow of those failures, our gossip and little white lies don’t seem like anything that matters.

Jesus addressed judgment with the analogy of a log and a splinter:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42)

I’ve been there. I’ve been the pointer and the accused. But it truly wasn’t until I had to fill the shoes of the accused that I could fully understand how the logs and the splinters must be dealt with.

Jesus wasn’t saying they don’t exist or that we should ignore them. He was bringing attention to the flaw, not excusing it, to help us to see that we must first inspect ourselves before we can even begin to correct another. But that is also the mystery of it, because as you see your flaws and imperfections, when you become aware that you have something in your life that humbles you before God and man, then you are much more gentle in the splinter removal.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

The other day Lily got a piece of glass in her foot. She limped around until finally I convinced her to let me look at it. Reluctantly and with great fear she grabbed her foot, letting me have only the shortest (and non helpful) look. I could sympathize. I have been there – clutching my foot, crying, begging my mom NOT to get out the needle! I got her fear. As I gently pulled her foot back to me, I told her a story, a story of a splinter in a kitchen when I was exactly her age with my mom and my grandma and grandpa. I shared with her the absolute fear I felt because I didn’t know what was coming. And something happened, in the telling, in the sharing, in the confession, she relaxed. She loosened her grip and her eyes lost that stark white stare as she relinquished her foot to my care.

And that’s exactly what removing logs to help with splinters looks like.

Compassion.

As we gently approach one another with the confession and story of a life where we stumbled and fell but found the strength in Christ to get back up again, when we tell them, and remind ourselves anew, of the love that met us when we were convinced we would be disowned, we become credible, and the difficult work of healing seems more tangible, more possible, and less frightening. I think that is the very point Jesus was making – before you point out your neighbors struggle, deal with your own, and then you will see better to help them… because empathy begets compassion, and compassion doesn’t stand at a distance and point, it reaches out.

Life is loss.

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In Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” this is her admission, her announcement, her proclamation. Life is loss… when, what, who will you lose? It’s not a matter of will I lose, but solely when will I lose.

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Suffering for Jesus

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We use this term loosely in ministry, usually followed by a stay at an all-inclusive resort or a trip to some exotic place no one would consider “suffering” at all. But, despite our quips, suffering is a part of ministry; it is a part of relationship with God, in taking on His work in the Kingdom. No one knows that better than those that have been there, and yet we use comments like “Jesus isn’t suffering, broken, ill, or misused so neither are we.” Where does that asinine train of thought come from? True. Healing is in the name of Jesus, but Jesus didn’t heal everyone from everything. So if we suffer it isn’t because we do not believe on the name of Jesus.

 In fact, if you think about sovereign saints that believed whole-heartedly and passionately in the healing work of God and the manifestation of His grace, don’t you think of all people, the disciples would have been spared from suffering? And you cannot speak of suffering without bringing up Jesus Christ, a man who suffered and died a cruel death in a state of innocence so that we would forever be cleansed from the cancerous cruelty of guilt and shame. Therein you will find freedom, but we are never guaranteed freedom from suffering. If that were the case, what do we make of the words of Jesus that say, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world.” He didn’t say “might” or “may  have” but a definite “WILL.”

 The words that got John and Peter and countless other martyrs through weren’t based on the denial of their pain, but the Truth that got them through was the understanding that no matter what, God had not forsaken them, and any sacrifice or suffering was worth the love of Christ. It is the same Truth that gets the countless Christians persecuted daily for their faith through to the next day even as they bury their children, spouses, and friends.

 We have to stop pointing at suffering as punishment and pain as an act of disobedience. The truth is, we are all going to suffer in one way or another in the flesh as long as we are earth bound. We have a choice in how we react to that suffering, in bitterness or in joy. Let me explain, joy is not happiness. No one is happy to suffer, no one laughs through chemo or transplants, but at the end of the day, they walk through it knowing they are led by Hands that know suffering and unfair pain. It doesn’t mean they are not afraid or they do not have moments of hopelessness, but in the end, they rest in the knowledge that He sees, He knows, and He promises that there is more on the other side.

 We cannot be afraid to suffer, and we cannot condemn those that do, questioning their faith, and challenging their obedience.  If you do not suffer, praise God! It isn’t because of anything you have or have not done, and if you suffer, praise God, because He has seen fit to send a message through you. Some of the bravest souls I know, didn’t deny their pain or their suffering or their illness, they acknowledged it, embraced it, and made it a part of a lasting testimony of faith. 

What women need men to know about pornography…

1. It hurts us.
More than you will ever know. More than we can articulate.

2. It IS about us.
I’m not sure what twisted part of your male psyche allows you to think it isn’t about us, and maybe for you that’s true, but we won’t be convinced. You looking in lust at another woman, is very offensive to us, and we DO take it personally.

3. 8. We know its everywhere.
That’s not an excuse. We realize this makes it harder to not be assaulted by the images, but love transcends temptation… Or it should. True love would.

4. We don’t feel like we can measure up.
When we see what you look at, we see our bodies and know they aren’t the same, they don’t measure up. We can’t be airbrushed. Our stretch marks should speak louder and look sexier than their tramp stamps.

5. We don’t want to be a replacement.
You see, we aren’t sure you see us at all. We aren’t sure that when we are lying there, exposing our bodies and souls to you and longing to be cherished, you aren’t thinking of someone perkier, tanner, skinnier, or more voluptuous… Someone you’ll never meet.

6. It’s unfair.
Nothing about it is, but – We are faulted for every perceived flirtation, every look we give, and every appreciative glance in our direction, but you can spend hours ogling women in a world where no one sees, no one judges, and no one can point you out.

7. It’s adultery.
You can gloss over it. You can tell yourself no one is harmed by it, but the truth is, you are harmed, your marriage is harmed and your children will reap the consequences.

8. We aren’t just a hole.
You can’t use our bodies to fulfill your fantasies. We have a heart and a soul, and we have a desire for love that isn’t made up of the faces and bodies of strangers.

9. You remind us of our past predators.
Our past misuse, abuse, and assault come roaring back into our lives, and the lies that we are something to be used and discarded, unworthy of love and affection, and easily replaced become truths to our hurt hearts, which means Daddy God has to reach deeper to heal those places.

10. It damages our trust in you.
If you will do this in secret, what and who will it take to entice you for good? Who will you leave us for? And when, if ever, will we be enough? How do you see our friends, our sisters, our daughters? Can we trust you to stay at home alone with them? Will you take advantage of them if we aren’t there to be used?

11. You cease to be our hero.
This is a hard reality. You cease to be the Prince Charming we believed you to be, you no longer seem like a knight in shining armor, and you no longer resemble our protector. This is as painful to us as it is for you to hear it.

12. Pornography to us is more than a hobby, a simple attraction, an appreciation of sexuality. It is a blaring, painful, aggressive cancer that eats at all we believe and hoped for in love. And, to many of us, it is the nail in a fragile coffin of insecurities.

13. We can forgive you.
Forgiveness is easier to do than forgetting… So holding a grudge or keeping a record of wrongs isn’t our way of rubbing it in, it is the struggle we face to forget we’ve been hurt.

*This list is based on multiple conversations I’ve had with women who face this daily in their relationships, ranging from men who “casually indulge” in pornography to those that are addicted. Some of these couples are walking in victory because of the grace of Jesus Christ and a lot of hard work, but many women and men still seek healing from the thoughts listed above along with serial mistrust and destructive addiction. Pray for them.

I wear a Scarlet letter “A”

It was affixed to me a few years ago. I didn’t willfully walk into the title, it had searched for me for a long time. Exposing itself to me in childhood, beckoning to me in adolescence, and dangling just above my heart in my young adult years before solidly sewing its flimsy fabric over my heart.

Ironically, I didn’t set out to be an adulteress, in fact, this side of it all, I never was. I was a loving, passionate soul desperate to see a life find hope and help in what I was led to believe was a bleak world. I saw a hurting brother, and well, I don’t care to imagine what he saw. Mostly he saw a vulnerable woman that out of fear of failure refused to say no.

I did some stupid things. I’m not gonna lie. I cringe when I remember some of those things, but I could never paint as devastating a picture as he painted of me, broad red stitches on an already weathered and tattered soul. I felt like a pawn. Used and manipulated and set aside to try and figure out what had happened and where it had begun. And here is the thing about sin being turned from, it always comes back for one last play.

Luckily, Daddy God had gotten ahold of me. He had led me to confess and seek counsel and to expose the darkness… And just in time, because I didn’t realize how dangerous the game had gotten, and how vulnerable I had become. God only knows what I was spared that fateful night, but I know it is far worse than I ever suspected.

But, this blog isn’t about that night, or that sin exactly… This blog is about the freedom that broke through as I began to be honest about my journey. Even now some people will read this and say “There she goes again, whining about her story.” But those people don’t know me… And they don’t understand my purpose in this life much less this blog. Probably because they too wear the Scarlet Letter “A”.

“Afraid.”

They are scared to share their pitfalls and their failures because to do so will somehow compromise their righteousness. But this is what I found in my pit of self abasement, I was not alone. In fact, so many of us were held up in that tiny, airless, dark space we barely saw the others standing beside us. Our guilt and our shame was so thick, our letters sewed on so tightly we couldn’t make out anything. Some still linger there. Holding onto that last thread, allowing the enemy to label them and devour them with his lies, refusing God the ability to overcome them with love.

“Perfect love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
(1 John 4:18 NLT)

So I’ve risen from the pit, not perfect, but loved. And because I have been there and witnessed the lies – the pastors caught in adultery, the Bible teachers in homosexual relationships, the deacons dealing with addictions, and the heartache of a Christian mom of four still mourning her teen abortion, I can say with certainty, there is hope! We have wrestled the letter off of us and thrown it into the arms of our Daddy God and said “You saved me from even this!” You see, we know what others won’t dare to acknowledge, we are not perfect. We no longer look down from a pedestal of righteousness and offer grace, we jump in the pit, not afraid of the muck and the mire, no longer covered in shame, and we reach past their offenses into the hearts that just need mercy and grace and above all transcendent love. And they find it, not in our disdain but in genuine understanding, in words that say, “My sin may not look like yours but it is no less staining.”

So, I wear a Scarlet Letter “A” only because it is my ticket to help those who need it most… A ticket I paid dearly for, but one that Jesus paid in full. And, the crimson that covers its frame, removes my shame.

Dave Ramsey called me “STUPID”

I will never forget that day. I found myself in a tough financial situation, and needed some advice. Who better to get financial advice from than Dave, right? I called the number, I waited for what seemed like hours (but was more like 20 minutes), and an operator asked me my problem. “I don’t have health insurance and my daughter was recently hospitalized, I need some advice.” I couldn’t believe my blessing when I heard her say, “Hold on. We will patch you thru.”

What? Deep breath. (Okay, a few deep breaths and a quick prayer.) “Hello, you’re on the air…” It wasn’t an all together big thing to be on the radio, I cohosted a local radio show, mostly it was the knowledge that I was talking to THE Dave Ramsey. I began to share with him my problem, stating that my husband and I had been without health insurance for a little over two years, and we were suddenly stuck in a situation with medical bills that we weren’t altogether prepared for. I didn’t get much further. “What!?” He was appalled. I don’t remember the exact next few words, but he finished it with “Of course you are in a bad situation, you are stupid!” He rattled something off about finding an endorsed insurance provider right away and to never make that stupid mistake again. No time for response, the music played, the endorsements started and the show was over.

It was my turn to be dumbfounded. And then, I was angry.

Stupid is one of my least favorite words in the world. You can call me ignorant, unwise, naïve, but don’t call me stupid! I wanted to call him back, not in a fit of anger exactly, I was biting back tears of explanation. It wasn’t stupidity that led us to make that decision. It was faith!

My husband and I have never been in debt. We learned early on that you only buy if you have the money. You never borrow what you can’t pay back. Even then, we lived on a budget and were frugal; money wasn’t something we were stupid with. We weren’t living in “envelopes” but we were very aware of our expenditures. My husband was offered a new job, he had crunched numbers and looked at our present income compared to the adjusted income, it was driving him insane, almost literally. He was trying to figure out how I could stay at home with our kids, a priority for us, and him still take this job that would eliminate a 45 minute commute that he felt was wasted time that he’d rather spend at home.

One Sunday he was in that same state of mind, crunching numbers, a constant calculator running digits through his brain, but he was on stage at church singing with the praise band. It bothered him that he couldn’t even worship without numbers cropping up, so he prayed, “God, what do you want me to do!?” He says the answer was practically audible, “Don’t take the insurance. I will take care of your family, but invest in My House.” Weird, right? Absolutely. But any responsible child of God doesn’t hear that message and say, “Nah.” In His heart he replied, “Yes Lord,” and IMMEDIATELY the numbers stopped.

So we began a journey of faith. Two kids aged two and four and we opted out of health insurance. Stupid? According to Mr. Ramsey it was and by no means something we would haphazardly recommend to others, but we were absolutely convinced that God would take care of us. And He did, for exactly two years.

My husband admits that at the end of that time he felt that God was leading him to be insured again. He began looking and talking to people but procrastinated in making a decision on acquiring insurance for our family. Then, one of our daughters got really sick with double pneumonia and was hospitalized with white blood cell levels that the doctors were convinced were fatal. We were told we’d be in there for a week at least, probably 10 days. Even as we filled out admission papers, I trusted and believed that God would to take care of us. Three days later, to the doctor’s documented and utter amazement, my baby was healed and discharged. Three days and $6,000 dollars later, we had accrued debt that we weren’t prepared for, slight as it was compared to what it might have been!

It was that debt that led me to call the debt guru. It was that debt that God used to show us that it was time again to be insured. It wasn’t a fear thing. It was just very clear that our provision was shifting. And, in those two years, we had done as we promised by investing in His house.

But that isn’t the end of the story… this is the part that I want to tell Dave, “God used that debt to show us what our next steps should be financially, and in less than 6 months time, we not only had paid off every bit of that debt, but my husband’s employment changed and our income increased and that additional amount we were having to pay separately for the girls’ and my insurance didn’t seem to dent our budget!”

This isn’t a story about health and prosperity. This is a testimony of faith and faithfulness. A confession of being weird (never stupid!), and realizing afresh that God sometimes asks us to do the ridiculous, but in the end, He will give you wisdom and understanding that is like foolishness to the world. We continue to live weirdly. We happily live below our means so that we can do more for His Kingdom and His people. Not because we have to, or because we expect His blessing, but because we have seen that there is nothing in this world that can compare to serving God.