Legion.

The day had been long and tiring. Jesus had taught and healed in the hot sun by the sea shore all day long. The crowd had been immense, forcing Him to balance precariously from a fishing boat while continuing to teach in parables. He was spent.

Night was fast approaching, so Jesus told His disciples to get in the boat and push off to the other side. The crowd was not anxious to leave Him; many hopped in their own boats to follow, more out of curiosity than actual need. Jesus was exhausted. He promptly went to the helm and fell fast asleep on a borrowed, fishy-smelling pillow.

Hidden in the inky blackness of the night sky, a storm was brewing over the Sea of Galilee. It swept in from out of nowhere, taking the disciples by surprise. Though many of them were seasoned fishermen, this storm was like nothing they had ever encountered. Bailing felt more like backpedaling; the boat was beginning to sink.

They rushed to their Master and were dismayed to find they had to physically shake Him to wake Him up! But, when He did, He did the incomprehensible: He rebuked the storm. The disciples were taken aback. Not only had the storm completed dissipated at the sound of His voice, He had actually treated it like it was alive – an entity of its own, not just a weather phenom. Who is this Man?

Arriving at the other side of the shore, the shaken and weary disciples trudged through the coast to drag the borrowed boat on to land. Jesus joined them in the shallows. A mundane task in the quiet morning was rudely interrupted by the sound of shrieks coming from the hillside.

They all turned to see what could possibly be making the racket. A man, completely nude, with broken chains hanging around his wrists, unkept hair nearly to his waist, and a scraggly beard, was charging towards them, screaming obscenities – and calling Jesus by name. Now, who was this man?

The man stank; he was covered in bruises, bleeding and scratched on almost every orifice of his dirty body. He was thin, almost famished. While he looked quite aged, the disciples wondered if that was merely from living in a cave or in the sun for an unknown amount of time. His entire being shook, foam slipping from the sides of his mouth, as he slid in front of Jesus, face to the ground. He addressed Jesus by name, but simultaneously refused to look Him in the eye. With his face to the ground, a raspy, otherworldly voice, quaking with palpable hatred, asked, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, don’t torture me!”

The disciples glanced around at the weary travelers who were still hauling in their boats from the previous night’s excursion across the waves. They couldn’t help but wonder if this was the show they had followed Jesus to see – first a violent storm being stilled for no reason and now a crazy man begging Jesus, Who had so far done nothing except walk ashore, to leave him alone. A show it definitely was; the question was now, how would it end?

Jesus could have asked anything. He asked for the man’s name. A pause. Then the raspy, obnoxiously loud voice answered, “Legion.” In their Roman world, the word ‘legion’ instantly drew mental images of at least 3000 soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder, armed to the hilt and ready to fight. A few disciples took unintentional steps backward. A host of demons were in this man; it was unimaginable.

The man’s voice changed then from one, distinct tone to what seemed like hundreds, if not thousands, of different voices speaking simultaneously. The demons were begging Jesus not to destroy them. They knew Who He was and the power He wielded over them. And they were terrified.

The man looked up at the hills and pointed. Everyone swiveled to see what he was pointing at. Only then did the silent onlookers hear – and smell – the thousands of pigs milling about on the hillside above the lake. All of a sudden, their presence, which hadn’t even been noticed yet, was all-consuming. The stench, the grunting, the stamping of little hooves on the ground – it was all everyone could hear aside from the slapping of waves on the untethered boats.

“Send us into the pigs.”

The crowd held their breath. Jesus nodded. With His consent, the man began to shake violently and was flung like a lifeless toy onto the beach. Shrieking was heard and the atmosphere tangibly cooled, as if a north wind had gusted around them.

Then, the pigs began to shriek. Their calm grunting had turned into mass chaos. Thousands of swine could be heard for miles shrieking, stampeding. The quiet morning was shattered as they took off for the cliff. Completely unorganized, the pigs flung themselves off the edge and into the deep waters and rocks below. The onlookers who were still standing in the shallows quickly dashed either into their boats or onto the shore as the red, defiled pig blood began to wash towards them.

Before they all reached the shore and long before the events had fully registered with the astonished disciples, more shouts were heard. A crowd came running from the village having been told by the herdsmen that their entire livelihood was lost. They pushed and shoved their way towards Jesus. They ignored completely the fact that the man who had terrorized their town for years was sitting, in his right mind, clothed and having a sane conversation. They stuck their accusatory fingers in the air and adamantly demanded Jesus leave immediately.

Calmly, the Master rose from the rock He had been seated on and motioned to His followers to begin to push the boats back out to the water. The newly healed man clung to Jesus’ robes and begged Him to come, too! “No,” He responded. “Go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful He has been.”

As quickly as their morning began, it was now over. The morning sun still sparkled on the lake and stomachs still begged for breakfast as they began to row back across the water to where the journey had began less than 12 hours before.

One man. He did all of that – for one man. If He pursued this man that hard, just imagine how He is pursuing you.

Oh, the confusion!

I have now stopped and restarted this blog three times and I’m still not 100% sure where I’m going with this. So bear with me while I take some time to write out the thoughts spinning around my head. 

This week, President Trump signed something preventing immigrants from select countries from entering the U.S. for a while. My social media has since blown up with arguments and discussions – not that it has been silent since the election, inauguration, women’s march, first week of Trump’s presidency, and the March for Life. But, this seems a big exorbitant.

And I find myself torn.

I usually know precisely where I stand on issues. That’s why I have a whole category on here entitled “Soapboxes.” I know where I stand and I’m usually not afraid to voice my opinion.

This time around, though, I stand shrugging my shoulders in the middle. Not that I don’t care about it; it’s just that I find myself smack in the middle of an argument that no one will ever really win.

See, here’s one thing that sufficiently bothers me. Here we are saying that “Christians” lump all “Muslims” into one, terroristic category. That “Christians” are all “pro-life” but “don’t think past the birth and don’t care what kind of home babies are born into as long as they’re born.” “Christians” are “pro-life but hate refugees.” “Christians” voted Trump into office even though he’s [fill-in-the-blank with your word of choice].

But, aren’t you also lumping all Christians into one category as well then?

See, I am a Christian – and adamantly so. But, here’s where those stereotypes differ from me:

  • I am pro-life and anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood. But, I am anti-women’s march. I am for proper sex education, funding of pregnancy care centers, women’s health, and better healthcare options. I want a total over-haul of the foster care and adoption systems as soon as possible. I think our inner city schools need a make-over and teen moms need a support system. I 100% do care about the well-being of a baby after its been born and think there are ways to do that beyond Planned Parenthood.
  • I am pro-refugee and have even talked with my husband about opening our home up to a refugee family if the need came about. However, I am also all for vetting and slowing down the process of just walking across our borders. We need to know why they’re coming in, where they’re going, and where they came from. It is no small coincidence that most of the terror attacks on our country came from one group of people; so isn’t it simply prudent that we take a step back and figure out how to make it at least more difficult for them to continue to enter our country and kill our citizens? That just seems responsible.
  • I am a Bible-believing, Bible-reading Christian and yet I take full offense to fellow Christians throwing up verses that say we are to feed and clothe those in need as a response to this new, temporary mandate. Context is crucial and I think those verses are being taken out of context and being used to throw guilt on the U.S. for protecting its rightful citizens.
  • I am a Christian – and I have Muslim friends. I do not hate Muslims nor am I afraid of them. I welcome them to my home, my dinner table, and my children’s lives. They are people with a minority who do terrible things. Kind of reminiscent of every religion, every culture around the world, don’t you think? Just like many people claim to be Christians and know nothing about Jesus’ saving grace on the cross – there are many Muslims who know nothing about the Qu’ran’s mandates to commit atrocities on “infidels.” However, there are a group that are intentionally, frequently murdering hundreds of innocent people. If there is a way to protect us from that minority, I think we should figure it out.
  • I am a Christian and my heart breaks for the refugee children trapped in Syria with no way of getting to a safe haven. This is where my confusion begins. While I agree we need to do something, I am not sure what we can realistically do. We are not the only country in the world watching these atrocities occur; therefore, we should not be the only place they can run to for safety. I do not want another WW2 on our hands, though – a time when every country closed its ears and borders to millions of people who legitimately were running for their lives, and ultimately lost the race. We can’t let that happen again. I do not have the answer to this horrid decision.
  • I am pro-traditional marriage, but I do not hate homosexuals. I believe it’s a sin; one is not born homosexual. I believe children should not be allowed to “choose their gender” like they would an ice cream flavor. I believe you should use the restroom that goes with what’s on your birth certificate. Do I hate everybody? No. Am I scared? No. I am, however, saddened that it is believed that line of thinking can be forced on me and yet I am to remain quiet and not voice my opinion or make a stand. I am not a gay-hater; I simply do not agree with the lifestyle they have chosen… just like, dare I say, they do not agree with the lifestyle of Christianity that I have chosen.

Christians are doing themselves a disservice – to themselves and to Christ – when they get on social media and begin to debate. Amongst themselves, no less!! This is what erks me the most: Christians debating other Christians about the smallest nuance and wording in a verse in the Bible. I interpret it one way; you interpret it another. Both of us have reason to believe the other is wrong. We debate, debate, debate using Christian-ese and huge words no one really understands — only to find out that neither side has changed and we have, in the process, turned away our unbelieving friends who not only did not understand the debate or even why we’re having it, but the wording we used while we debated it!

We are pushing people away from God and out of the church while we are trying to figure out where we stand on all these socio-political issues in the U.S. right now.

We have got to stop. 

We are showing the world how divided and opinionated we are. How close-minded we can be. How “cultish” Christianity appears. We are proving them right by debating in social forums. We are allowing Satan to divide us even further while we think we’re doing the right thing – sorting through tough Scripture passages to figure out how they apply to what’s happening in the world around us.

We need to apply Scripture in a culturally-relevant way, there’s no doubt about that. We need to, more than ever, be in the living Word of God and see what He has to say about these real issues plaguing our society. I love that the Word of God truly is “living and active” and applies to every culture, every century.

But we need to do that “figuring out” in a way that doesn’t turn people off to Christianity and make us mad at each other. We’re dividing ourselves in our attempts to apply Scripture. Doesn’t that seem dangerous? Shouldn’t that shoot up red flags that something is majorly wrong with these conversations? 

Satan would like nothing more than to divide us and split us up. He would love to see us marginalized even more and for the world to look at us as the enemy even more than it does already. In doing so, he will win more souls than we will. We’re losing the battle in our generation because we’re spending too much time splitting hairs over God’s Word. 

Let’s get a grip. Study the Word. Invite people into your house for coffee and conversation. Get real and go deep – absolutely. Figure out those nuances and help us all discern how it applies to what’s up right now. But, don’t do it online in a way that turns everyone off to Jesus and puts every person who claims to be a Christian into one, giant category.

I am a Christian. But please don’t lump me in with every Christian you’ve ever met.

Until this violent storm is past.

No one ever thinks it’ll happen to them, their family. I was in this same boat three hours ago. I have a good, solid Christian family – immediate and extended on both sides. By God’s amazing grace, my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and cousins’ kids are almost all believers in Jesus Christ.

Which makes the word “suicide” that much more devastating.

When I got the call a few hours ago that my cousin’s boy had committed suicide on the way to school this morning, I had no words. I mean, what do you say? I burst into tears. I don’t know him – I met him when he was a baby and he’s 16 now. But, I know my cousin. And I’m a mom. Those are bonds that time and distance can’t touch.

I hung up the phone, tears streaming down my face, and reached for my 4yr old. I wrapped him in my arms and let my tears soak his blond head. He’s such a gentle boy, he didn’t mind. He held me back and let me cry, not saying anything. I held his face and kept repeating, “You are loved. You are special. God has a plan for you. You are loved! You are special! God has a plan for you!” over and over. What else can I do?

I snuggled my baby in my arms as I laid his wriggling little body down for a nap. He kissed me and I savored the moment longer than I usually do… because all of a sudden, moments are too short and the only image in my mind is my cousin’s arms, devoid of her son’s touch.

You aren’t meant to lose a child. Ever. But especially not like this.

A knot sits in the pit of my stomach. I can’t stop crying. I have been trying to continue with my routine, but I can’t. So, I did what I always do when looking for consolation: I grabbed my Bible.

Not the new one that’s still being “broken in.” The old one. The one that’s been everywhere with me and been through everything with me – except this. The one that’s marked, bent, stuffed with papers, and written all over. I held it to me like an old friend and begged God to speak again because I need something to hold onto besides grief.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!

I look to you for protection.

I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings 

until this violent storm is past.

I cry out to God Most High,

to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.

He will send help from heaven to save me,

rescuing me from those who are out to get me.

My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.

These words from Psalm 57 hold comfort right now. Being able to hide under God’s wings – His love and protection no matter what is going on. This is truly a violent storm like nothing I’ve experienced before. What do you do? What do you say? How do you process something like this?

I have nothing to offer. My hands, my heart, are empty. Right now, I’m just so thankful that my first instinct was to run to God and His Words because in them are life, hope, and our very breath.

God is still God; He has not forgotten us, this does not surprise Him, and He still loves us. It won’t ever make sense. The pain will never get all better. But, we are not abandoned.

There is no situation we can encounter where God’s grace cannot reign down and cover it all. May He truly send forth love, faithfulness, and grace to our family in the coming days.

The other Baby J.

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In all my writings, somehow, I neglected to ever share about my Other Baby J. I am nowhere near his birthday or any sort of milestone; it’s just on my heart tonight to write about my youngest… so I shall. And yes, it’s long.

Baby J #2 was highly anticipated. Brother J was getting older and all of a sudden, I had this sudden urge for a newborn! While my dear husband was a little more reluctant, he finally agreed. We found out #3 was on the way Labor Day weekend, 2014.

I kept the news hidden from my family for awhile. Literally the week before I took the test, my mother had told me I had my plate full with two and should maybe consider not having a third. Little did she know… So, I was a little apprehensive of sharing the good news with them! Thankfully, they took it really well and were super excited for us.

As per usual, I was horrendously sick. The nausea was uncontrollable and I would hit the sack every evening feeling like I was floating on a ship – my world tipping and turning and unable to get the sea of my bed to calm down and just hold still for a moment! Brian spent countless nights on the couch since his every movement simply increased the nausea.

Within the first six weeks, I began to bleed. I immediately called my OB and they scheduled me for an appointment that afternoon. I called my mom and she dropped everything to come over for the day. I put my feet up and drank gallons of water while she chased the children and did my laundry. Finally, the time for our ultrasound came. My mom let me cry on her shoulder before Brian and I left; I was just certain we would return with the news of ‘no heartbeat.’

I remember lying on that hard bed, staring at the ultrasound monitor while the sweet tech talked our ears off. She explained every ounce of what we were looking at and what it all meant – something brand new for us. In Peru, we had lots of great ultrasounds, but for most of them, the techs were dead silent or gave us minimal information, whether because of the language barrier or cultural differences, I really do not know. But, this time – it was such exquisite bliss to understand what was on the screen. Then – finally – the blessed “blip-blip” of his little heart. I cried. She handed me tissues and rejoiced with us. I will forever remember this sweet ultrasound tech who was so loving in how she handled us! Baby was just fine, but I was to keep my feet up for a few more weeks.

During my “keep my feet up” stage, I got the usual massive blood work-up done and found out that my thyroid, which has forever plagued me, had gone way out of whack. I was informed by a specialist that my level was supposed to be between a 2-5 and I was at a 12. The higher the number, the less the thyroid is functioning. My friends with thyroid issues told me the highest they had ever gotten was a 7 and they were immobile. My 12 quickly helped me understand why I had zero desire to get off the couch and watched my two children run laps around the house while I dozed all. day. long. I was horribly sick. A year after I gave birth, I was still getting it under control. Not cool.

Shortly before Christmas, I took my mother with me to the BIG ultrasound – the one where we found out what we were having! I took my mom because she had never gotten to go to an ultrasound for any of the grandkids yet and I thought she might enjoy it. Brian wasn’t offended and was totally on board with it. It was a special moment and I’m so glad my mom was there. Afterwards, we ran to Target and I picked out a cute little onesie to surprise the rest of the family with the gender when I got home. So fun!

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We called him Peanut. I was shocked it was another boy – for some reason I had convinced myself it was a girl. But, God knows what each family needs and He knew we needed another crazy boy.

December also meant sickness for me. I was so sick with a nasty cough and congestion that seemed to go on forever! I couldn’t get over how sick I was! Once that finally ended, I had such horrid ligament pain I could barely walk. I kid you not, this entire pregnancy was one issue after another.

But, my little peanut was just fine. Healthy. And HUGE!

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I still had a month to go in this picture. I felt like a TANK by the time I was done. I hibernated the last few weeks and barely left the house, I was so embarrassed. That probably sounds dumb, but I was criticized so badly about my size during my previous two pregnancies, I just couldn’t do it again. This time, I was hearing it from people that mattered the most – family – and, emotionally, I was not stable enough to listen to criticism. There was nothing I could do about it; he just kept growing! But WOA. I was big.

My doctor was amazing. She never got any medical history from me. I was never able to get my records from Peru. So, she was going off of only what I could remember from my past pregnancies and trying to piece together what probably happened medically. Even with the info I gave her, she was still willing to let me try a VBAC! I was floored and SO excited! And horribly nervous. It felt like I was giving birth for the first time, which, in essence, I was. I had never had a real contraction, my water had never broken, I had never done any pre-labor anything! I had no CLUE what would happen.

She warned me I’d probably go past my due date and she was right. I did. Longest five days of my LIFE! Older Brother arrived the day I turned 37 weeks. E came during my 38th week. To go PAST 40 seemed inconceivable! I have been lied to! Pregnancy is SO NOT “9 months” like we have always been told. If you know, like I do, from Week #3 that you’re pregnant, pregnancy is ALL of 10 months. Trust me.

My neighbor had given birth to 4 children, all naturally, and so she had lots of ideas and tips. The day before baby arrived, she yanked me out of my house and made me walk. We began early in the morning and walked almost 2 miles while she wrangled my older children. After nap time, we did it again. The kids went home with Brian and she invited me over and fed me a huge, nutritional shake and gave me a pedicure. Then, around 7:30pm, she made me walk again. I was so sore I could barely move! But, before I left for that last walk, contractions had finally begun. By the time I got home, I knew this was the real deal.

We put a movie on and I puttered around, trying to relax and get some stuff ready. We texted my dad and put him on alert since the plan was for him to come watch the kids if something happened overnight. Around 11, Brian told me to go ahead and call the doctor. Of course, they asked me to come in. Arg. I had no desire to go in at midnight! But, we did what we were told – we knew no better or different. My dad showed up in record time and fairly pushed us out the door. We laughed in the car, talking about how my dad acted like the baby would just drop out with no warning at any second!

They did a full examine at the hospital, but I just had a gut feeling I was going to be sent home. When the on-call doctor found out I had two previous c-sections, but my OB was letting me try for a VBAC, he about flipped his lid. There was no way, on his watch, that I was going to do a VBAC if he could prevent it. He was obviously adamantly opposed. They did an ultrasound since baby was so late and decided he was doing fine, but needed to come soon. I was to have my final appointment at 7am in the regular office and that was to be when my OB would decide what happened next. We had just always assumed I wouldn’t need that appointment! I also knew, in the back of my mind, that she was on vacation, but assumed she had found a replacement for that particular appointment since it was kind of important. They discharged us at 5am (so. tired.) and told us to be sure to get to that appointment at 7.The doctor insinuated that I may need to wait until Wednesday to have a c-section when my regular doctor got home from my vacation. I lost it mentally, thinking about having those contractions all the way until Wednesday!! NO WAY!

We went home and crashed. My dad had no idea we ever came in and he left the house at 6:30 when my mom showed up since had had to be somewhere by 7. My mom was shocked when we came out of the bedroom, showered and ready for my appointment! We explained what had happened and she noticed my contractions were much harder and longer and told me she hoped the next time she saw me would be with a baby! I agreed! No way did I want to come home again – I wanted it over! At this point I knew I had never had a ‘real’ contraction with E. These were miles upon miles different than anything I had ever experienced before!

We went back to the office. It was closed. What?! I used the bathroom like twice. Paced. Held onto a chair in the lobby and tried not to cry while the contractions intensified. Waited. Finally, around 7:20, doors were unlocked and we went in. The receptionist informed us that my appointment had been canceled and none of the doctors in that day had any room for another patient. I was in tears. I held onto the counter and asked them to wait a second while I had another contraction, then demanded they help me figure out what to do since we had just spent all night in the hospital, I had a standing appointment that no one had told me was canceled, and I was in active labor! A nurse standing there said, “Go back to the hospital. They’ll keep you this time, I promise. Good luck.”

By the time we got back, it was shift-change time. A sweet night nurse we had seen the previous night encouraged me in the hallway to be an advocate for myself. She gave me tips on what to ask for and how in order to ensure a natural delivery and no c-section. Unfortunately, she was then done for the day and I never saw her again!

They did keep me. And strapped me to the bed, covered in monitors. I begged to be allowed to walk around and was met with a resounding ‘no.’ I was too high-risk with him being late and my previous sections. I was frustrated, but honestly, I was so sore from walking the day before and SO TIRED from being up all night that when a contraction hit while I was standing, the pain was so intense down my legs that they buckled and couldn’t hold me. Brian was amazing and helped me breathe through every contraction, letting me hold his arm and staring me in the face. He kept me going as they got more and more intense.

The day doctor was nicer, but still not a big fan of the idea of a VBAC. I was barely dilated and not effaced. However, my contractions were three minutes apart and strong enough that I should have been nearing delivery. But I wasn’t. It was as if my body began labor and then went, “What the?! You want me to do WHAT?! NO WAY! You’re on your own!”

My body never did prepare itself for delivery. Thanks to previous sections, there was nothing they could do without risk of rupture and we were not okay with that. By 1pm, it was obvious that even though my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and super intense, nothing else was going to happen. When he told me, “We’re going to go ahead and prep you for a c-section,” and then left, I lost it. I sobbed and sobbed. I could not control it. One sweet nurse came over and comforted me, letting me cry and listening to my reasonings behind why I was so scared.

The last thing in the world I wanted was another c-section. No epidural had gone well. Surgery scared the heck out of me. Recovery sucks. I couldn’t hold my baby. And I would be apart from Brian. No thank you.

This time was blessedly different. God is such a good Father, isn’t He?

He gave me an amazing anesthesiologist and a wonderful assistant who was SO comforting the whole time.

In this hospital, I didn’t get an epidural; I was given a spinal, which makes you completely numb from mid-chest down. I turned into a Pentecostal while they did the procedure, muttering out loud, “Oh Lord Jesus, help me. Oh Father God, please hold me. I do not have a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind” over and over and over until a nurse finally leaned in and whispered, “Are you okay?”

As soon as my back began to grow cold, they slammed my giant, pregnant body down as fast as they could move onto the tiny, cold, metal bed. I didn’t know I could be moved that fast! The spinal was great, except I had worked myself up into almost a panic-attack and couldn’t breathe. They continued to ‘up’ my meds until I was super loopy the whole time and I still complained I couldn’t breathe, even though they assured us that I was just fine.

Brian was brought in and sat by my head. Two minutes later, James Lee entered this world kicking and screaming!

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With the other two, I was allowed to “look, but don’t touch” as my hands were strapped down and they whisked the babies away moments after birth. This time, they opened up my robe and plopped him right on my chest moments after he was born. They let me hold him, but I was shaking so bad I thought I’d drop him, so someone supported him and someone else held the paper over my head since the lights were too bright for us. I got to kiss him and snuggle him and get skin-to-skin time right there in the operating room. I could’ve held him a lot longer if I hadn’t felt so horrid and miserable. Brian held him while they finished me up and then we all were taken to recovery.

My two days of recovery in the hospital were glorious. I felt awesome. I had wonderful visitors, my pain was manageable, I got rest, and I got to hold my boy as often as I wanted, whenever I wanted.

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Best of all, my parents got to see and hold one of my newborns. It was a moment I will never, ever forget seeing my dad cry tears of joy as he held his namesake (“Lee” is my dad’s middle name).

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And that, my friends, is how we became a family of 5. 

I can’t imagine life without our little stinker. He is LOUD, busy (began walking at 9 months!), and full of crazy energy. Sweet, smart, and musical. I love my 2nd little Baby J.

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7 months

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1 year

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1 1/2

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Christmas Day, 2016

Fresh Start. Again.

It’s a quiet start to 2017 on this frontier. Just me, my laptop on a nice little breakfast tray in bed, “A Year in the Life” of Gilmore Girls, my pj’s… and my thoughts.

I ended 2016 doing something that, for me, was hard and looked impossible. I was discouraged before I began, yet beyond surprised with the results. In fact, the results were so good, it’s inspired me to do something that looks intimidating and impossible this year just to see how it turns out!

What did I do? I lost weight.

With no back story, that statement is no big deal. If I went into the entire ugly ordeal, one might better understand why this is so huge for me. To summarize: since I was 19, I’ve had an awful thyroid, to the point where I actually had doctors tell me, “You won’t ever lose weight again. Just deal with it.” Two international moves and three kids later, I had convinced myself they were correct. I have watched the scale teeter but ultimately stay put for more than 10 years.

In September, I was depressed and annoyed with my metabolism. I vented to my sister and she told me about a book she thought I should read. I read it. It changed my life. Three months later, I’m down nearly 20 pounds and a crazy amount of inches that I wish I had documented!

I did what I thought was impossible. I lost weight. I look in the mirror and smile for the first time in about 12 years. I asked my daughter to take my picture this morning and – get this – I did not delete it! I’m telling you, if I can do this, I can now do anything.

It feels as if I’ve jumped a giant hurdle. It’s been inspiring. I was so adamantly opposed to dieting and I dreaded the idea of “healthy eating” because that has always equaled “vegetables,” “ew,” and way too much math. But, it’s not been like that – at all. It got me thinking: if that wasn’t so bad, maybe some of the other things that I’ve been wanting, needing, to do won’t be so bad either.

The biggest on my list has to do with my writing.

I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. Just this week, I pulled out the first book I ever wrote. I was 11. I wrote a mystery, in near-perfect cursive, in a pink, spiral-bound notebook, complete with an illustrated cover, a table of contents, and little pictures on the chapter headings. I even did a dedication and an “about the author” at the end. So embarrassing! Yet, my 6 year old adores it!

I would really like to do more than just blog and hang onto a “book” from my childhood. I write for our missions magazine, but that’s really about it. I have projects in my mind and unfinished works on my hard drive. I have an underlined, circled, and dog-eared copy of the Christian Writer’s Guide on my end table. And I have done nothing with any of it.

I’m terrified of rejection. Writing is so much a part of me, I get nauseous thinking of someone tearing my heart apart and analyzing it from their own point of view, which might differ from mine, not understanding my POV or writing style and slashing hours of work to pieces. It sounds more appalling than exhilarating! So, I stall. I don’t write. I make excuses and find other things to do with my time, all the while knowing that this is something God has asked me to do and I need to do it.

In February, I do something super hard for me. I get on a plane, alone, and fly to Houston for a one-day conference with Beth Moore specifically on writing, teaching, and speaking as a ministry. I get sick on planes. I miss my family. I’ve never been to Houston. Totally, completely, and utterly out of my comfort zone. I am sick to my stomach thinking about this trip, yet every time I re-read the description of the event, I float because I remember I got in. I’m going.

My immediate “hard things” of 2017, then, are: finishing losing this horrid weight and find the “me” that’s been literally buried for almost 15 years, fly to Houston and attend a crazy huge conference on my own, and begin writing more diligently and actually sending manuscripts off to… somebody.

I enter 2017 hopeful yet filled with total fear and trepidation. I know what God has asked of me in previous years and once again, I feel like I’m standing on a precipice. He’s pushing me towards the edge and I know that very soon, I’m going to be asked to leap, not knowing if I’m jumping to the other side or to a ledge I haven’t even seen yet. For now, I prep. And wait.

What officially tipped my vote.

January of 2010, in the middle of the Peruvian jungle, I had an OBGYN tell me that what was in my uterus was “not a baby.” She couldn’t tell me what it was; she could only tell me what it was not. When I pushed her on the subject, she answered with, “Well, it’s not cancer, no. If it stays there for a few more weeks and continues to grow, then you might end up with a baby. But right now I can’t tell you what it is.”

I walked out of that office and cried because I knew in my heart of hearts that what had blipped on that little screen in the tiny, hot, jungle office was not “nothing”. It was my first child. A little one that grew into the beautiful six year old she is today.

My friend who came with me explained afterwards that the doctors in the jungle see so many unwanted pregnancies and know of so many abortions that they can no longer bring themselves to call an unborn baby “a child.” They have to distance themselves from truth in order to justify all the illegal abortions in the city.

This campaign season has been horrid. I have struggled back and forth on what I’m going to do with my vote. I love the U.S. and I have always taken great pride in voting. I couldn’t wait to turn 18 and cast my first vote! I was literally in tears a week ago when I talked with my husband because I feel so hopeless about this election and had no idea what I was going to do. I am a firm believer that you cannot complain about our government if you choose not to vote. I just couldn’t figure out for myself who in the world I was going to vote for.

I didn’t think the debates would sway me one way or the other. I mostly just want to jump through the TV screen and slap a hand over Mr. Trump’s mouth and make him JUST STOP TALKING! For the love of anything good and lovely, JUST STOP TALKING!! But alas, we haven’t figured out that kind of technology yet so my husband had to endure my narrative each debate night.

This week, though, something actually was said that finally persuaded me. The topic? Abortion*. Finally {finally!!!} Mr. Trump said things I can firmly stand behind and agree with 100%. But, what really tipped me over was the response from Mrs. Clinton.

She talked extensively about her desire to continue funding Planned Parenthood and how they do such great things for women, but then she talked about the medical needs of late-term abortions. She talked about how it saves women’s lives to abort their babies at the last second. And then beyond that, she talked about how sometimes parents get awful news about the health of their child and instead of giving them a quality of life that would never be any good, they decide to end the pregnancy.

Remember when Mr. Trump mocked a reporter who had special needs? He then said he didn’t realize he was special needs, but there was a big fiasco anyway about it all. As well there should have been! What he did reminded me a 12 year old bully – someone so wrapped up in themselves that he didn’t even notice that someone had a disability. He didn’t like the question, so his initial response was to just mock the person submitting it. It was dumb, it was immature, it was uncalled for. It happened once.

Mrs. Clinton said Wednesday night that she is okay with terminating a pregnancy when there are disabilities present that would alter their quality of life. So, right before a child is born, a parent has the option of killing it simply because they have some sort of disability. Wait, wait, wait… how is that okay?

I’ve been pregnant three times. I’ve watched my babies wiggle, grow, suck their thumbs, wave, hiccup, and bounce. I’ve seen my children move to be closer to my husband’s voice. I’ve watched them change positions and have an all-out trampoline fest in utero.

Babies develop a sense of taste, hearing, and sight before being born. They begin to recognize voices and sounds. And most importantly: they feel pain. 

If a pregnant woman is murdered and the baby dies, the murderer is charged with double homicide. Yet, moments before giving birth, a mom can choose to “terminate the pregnancy” with no repercussions. What hypocrisy!

While we stand and judge Mr. Trump for a lapse in judgment, we applaud Mrs. Clinton for her stand for “women’s rights.” It makes no sense whatsoever. Mr. Trump mocked a man one time. Mrs. Clinton advocates making sure men similar to that reporter are never even born.

She talks about “quality of life.” I personally know families with children who have major disabilities. One girl is completely non-verbal and always has been. Yet, these children are some of the happiest children you will ever meet. They have had experiences with travel and life that most of us can only dream about! The girl who is non-verbal was told she would only live a few years. She is now 19 and so happy, you can’t help but smile when you meet her. According to Mrs. Clinton, she should’ve never even been born. And we’re okay with this?

No, I am not satisfied with my options this election year. To be honest, I think Mr. Trump has shot himself in the foot enough times that there’s no way he’ll be elected at this point. But, I refuse to allow my vote to go to a woman (the irony there slays me) who advocates late-term murder of viable, beautiful children. This is a slippery slope that will lead to so much more if we allow this kind of sinful thinking to continue to develop in our nation.

Pray about whom you will be voting for. Don’t just vote for one because you truly dislike the idea of the other. Research and see what each party stands for and pray for Godly direction. I can’t tell you what to do with your vote anymore than you can persuade me what to do with mine. I can only tell you that for me, this issue pushed me towards Mr. Trump. I’m not proud of that – there’s certainly others I prefer – but it is what it is. He is not supposed to be our spiritual leader; he is supposed to be our President. The choice is ours. Let us choose wisely.

*The clip I am referring to can be accessed here.

Stop the Sliding.

Have you ever watched an Intervention reality show? You know the ones: a family member or close friend confronts, usually with the help of a professional, someone with a major addiction problem. There’s tears, anger, and usually resolution (it is, after all, “reality” TV).

When you watch, do you find yourself thinking that the one doing the intervention dislikes the other person? Or do they love them? They love them, right? Their love drives their deep desire to intervene in order to save their loved one. In fact, if they didn’t love that person, they would not go to the extremes of intervening because they wouldn’t care.

“Reality TV” always showcases best case scenarios, though. In real, real life, there are times when interventions and therapy don’t work. When a person that is deeply loved and cared for simply will not make the choice to change their lifestyle, be rid of their addiction, and be who they were created to be. Then, their loved ones need to make a choice: continue enabling them and getting run over, or – let them go. They reach the point where they must simply let them run with their choices, their lifestyle, their issues, until they hit a final wall and have sense knocked back into them the hard way. There comes a time when even intervening becomes useless and the loved ones have to release them to their desires.

Worst case scenario. It would be devastating, right? Yet, you wouldn’t say that the loved one doesn’t care for the addict. No – you would argue that because of their great love, they had to let them go to learn on their own when they have exhausted all their efforts, done all they could do, and can’t do any more.

We learned this from God. He talks about this exact same thing in Romans 1. Paul is talking about how sinful the world had become. People had turned their backs on God and were worshiping created things rather than the Creator. They abandoned the natural and chased after the unnatural. They didn’t want God, didn’t seek God, didn’t love God. So, God: “gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…, gave them over to shameful lusts…, and gave them over to a depraved mind.” He let them go.

The United States was originally founded on Christian principles – there is absolutely no denying that, no way around it, no way to distort history about it. Was it perfect? No. But, it was Bible-based. Over time, however, society has progressively turned away from those Christian principles. Now, in 2016, we’re unrecognizable as a Christian society. Slow, yet deliberate changes in the culture until we are a different people.

I grew up in Vermont and was a teen when the civil union law was put into place. I remember our church, which was the biggest building in the surrounding community, being used for a political rally to oppose the law. It was not a religious event; it was purely political. In fact, most churches refused to get involved. They were against law, absolutely, but they were afraid to be vocal about it. The rally was mostly attended by community folks who were also opposed. The Christian community was unsure if they should “get involved” in politics.

We know how that “opposition” ended. Civil unions in Vermont were merely the beginning. Today, gay marriage is legal nationwide.

A few years ago, a law was put into place that enabled people to change their gender on their birth certificate. There was, to my knowledge, no real outcry from the Christian community. However, this past Sunday, we had a petition in our church in order to oppose the bathroom law allowing people to use whatever bathroom they want based on how they “identify” themselves. All of a sudden, people being able to change their gender affects us and we are now vocal about it. But… is it too late?

Christians nationwide are asking the question, “How did we get here?” They are crying out that God is going to judge us.

You know, I think we’re past that point. I firmly believe we are living what Romans 1 described: God has let us go.

Paul talks about trading truth for a lie. Thinking they’re wise, but are really fools. Men with men and women with women committing shameful acts. Look at this list: “gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.” I’m not sure you can look at that list and not identify the U.S. with it.

We have a serious problem. See, we are slowly dehumanizing ourselves and doing what Paul says – worshiping (putting above God) the creature rather than the Creator. We are taking away gender. We are taking away the value of life by allowing abortions, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. We care for animals – endangered, abandoned animals – more than unborn children. This is a slippery slope and we are plummeting fast.

Two years in a row, endangered animals have made the headlines. Cecil the Lion in 2015 and now Harambe the Gorilla just this week. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. In fact, if you look at my papers when I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a monkey trainer. Don’t ask why a little girl from Vermont dreamed of training monkeys; I never said I was a logical child. The truth remains – I love animals and mean them no ill will.

However, both of these animals have taken over the headlines, dominating above humans. Last year, Cecil was the major headline, taking predominance over the abhorring Planned Parenthood videos. While that poor dentist is basically unable to live life as he once knew it, Planned Parenthood continues their atrocities, essentially fully-funded.

This year, the Gorilla has taken over the headlines, filling our Facebook feeds with links to petitions and news stories about people protesting his death. The real issue, however, was not that the Gorilla was shot, even though this is definitely sad. There are so many other underlying issues that are so much more important – and we’re ignoring all of them and focusing on the death of a primate.

I have a small boy. Two of them, actually. They are curious, devious, and fast. I don’t doubt that it takes milliseconds for a child to escape his parents’ confines on their little hands. I do, however, take issue with:

  1. the fact that it did not take him mere seconds to climb the fence, run across the separating space, and fall into the moat. This was a couple minutes of nobody interceding. And I mean nobody. None of the many bystanders (because they claim it was “very crowded” which is why she lost him) and none of his parents or guardians, whomever was there watching him.
  2. the fact that he climbed the gate to begin with. Wasn’t he told not to? Did his mom let him play on gates previously making him think that it was okay to begin with? In which case, his mom was disobeying the zoo rules, too. See, even adults have developed this horrible case of disobedience – thinking rules are merely “suggestions” and they’ll comply when it “makes sense” to them. No! Rules are there for our protection… and apparently to keep gorillas from being shot when we disobey.
  3. the fact that we are more concerned with what the zoo officials did than simply making sure that this child is okay. I can’t even watch the video of the gorilla slamming him through the water without my stomach churning in horror. The boy was not being protected; he was being used to show the gorilla’s power and scare off the screaming humans above him. It is a miracle the boy survived as long as he did and will live to tell his story. I’m sincerely glad the boy is all right, but I don’t think he should’ve ever been near the edge of that enclosure to begin with.

Our value on human life is slowly going downhill. It’s beginning now with prioritizing lions, gorillas, and abandoned dogs (Sarah McLachlan, anyone?) over babies, the elderly, and those with terminal illnesses. Our own President – a father of two beautiful girls – can’t even call an unborn child a “child” but chooses instead to call it “a fetus.” It’s much easier to dispose of a “fetus” than “a beautiful baby girl.” We have a woman running for President of our country — a woman who has a child of her own and a beautiful grandbaby– who advocates abortion at any time during a pregnancy. At any time they can rip a baby – with a beating heart, who can hear and see, who feels pain – limb from limb and throw them in the trash can. At. Any. Time.

Oh, but shooting a gorilla that was going to crush a little boy’s skull is way out of line.

Remember, Jesus didn’t die for gorillas, lions, and dogs who have no soul. He died for the babies that aren’t even being given the chance to take their first breath.

What we are seeing today is the beginning of another downward spiral. Just like when the Christian community didn’t stand up to the civil unions in one State (one of the smallest, mind you) because it didn’t affect every State yet – and now we have people unsure of what bathroom to use – we will eventually have dogs with more rights and better healthcare than our children. It begins here and will continue to spiral unless…

…Unless we finally stand up and take a stand.

I don’t mean a boycott because oh good grief, that never works anyway (I’m pretty sure all that Disney boycotting when we were kids was absolutely pointless). I mean we do what we were supposed to do all along: Not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. If Paul could stand up and defend his faith in the times of Nero, then we can do the same today.

We need to make it clear that we believe in the grace of Jesus Christ – and what that can mean to our society, if they would do the same. We can help people find the identity that they feel they have lost. We can help people find purpose so assisted suicide in their last days is not needed. We can give the elderly hope of a beautiful eternal life. We can share love, hope, and purpose with the pregnant teen down the street and offer her real options instead of the easy out she thinks is her only choice.

We don’t need to stand on Capital Hill with signs, marching, protesting, and making obscene “Christian” comments on Facebook to strangers. We do, however, need to raise our children with God being first priority so they can be the change for their generation. Jesus said people would know we are His followers by our love, not by our petitions. Love that transgender neighbor and draw Him to the saving grace of the cross by making them wonder what makes you different.

I do believe we are past waiting for judgment from God and are living in judgement, reaping the consequences of years of sin and turning our backs on God. But, even in judgment, God offers grace. Because grace is more than just an attribute; it’s Who He is. And if we are being conformed to His image, then that’s who we are, too.

We need to start now, though. God has let our society go into its depraved, senseless, foolish way of life. That simply means our lights on the hilltops need to shine that much brighter.

The Real Way to Change a Nation.

Lately, I’ve attended a number of lectures that were focused on some of the core issues plaguing our country today. While a lot of their information was accurate, they lacked any real substance or any solutions to the problem. What I mostly hear over and over is that we need to pray for our government, pray for our elected leaders, and pray that they would make laws and changes that would be God-honoring and nation-changing.

I don’t think that’s how it works, though.

We don’t expect our unsaved friends to live Godly lives. We are not surprised when they get pregnant out of marriage, live with their boyfriends, claim to be “bisexual”, and don’t attend church. They don’t know Jesus as their Savior; we can’t expect them to live like they do.

So why do we expect our government to be Godly?

The majority of our governing officials do not know the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior. They are rich men and women who had great connections and wielded a lot of power and achieved some of the highest positions in the nation. This does not mean that they hold to Christian values and principles or that they have even attended a church service in their lifetime. It just means that they had the ability to get the right number of votes to get into office. That’s it.

While they do have a civic duty to uphold our Constitution and pass laws and legislation that are for the good of the people, they are under no obligation to do so along Biblical standards. And why would they? If they don’t have the Holy Spirit to guide them, and if true wisdom comes only from God (as it states in Proverbs), then the wisdom they are using is fallible and not from God. Period.

Yet we put so much stake and hope into these men and women and get so angry when they go against Christian principles and guidelines as if they honestly should know better – yet we know they can’t know any better if they don’t know God for themselves! So, what are we so surprised about?!

This election is lost. The state of our nation is hitting an all-time low. There is a good chance that God has given America its supply of chances and we have now entered judgment – the time when God just lets people go and do as they wish so they can see the consequences of continually not choosing Him (Rom. 1-2). If this is the case, then we can expect a blinded nation who thinks wrong is right and right is wrong. A nation with a distorted, humanistic view of God. A nation wondering where God is while simultaneously pushing Him out of every corner of their lives except the {empty} church building.

Is there hope then?

I believe there is, but it’s not going to happen immediately. I believe hope lies in the next generation. Just like we are always only one generation away from losing our children and them having zero knowledge of God, we are also one generation away from revival.

But it does not start from the top down on a national scale. It starts with individuals. With children. But only if we’re willing to work on it. And herein lies the issue.

Believers today are so busy making sure their children have “opportunities,” scholarships, and education that anything to do with church and God is put on the back burner. We want to develop our child’s potential and “church” doesn’t fit in that mold. Our children are also so used to entertainment and gimmicks that we turn church into a circus hoping to entertain them and in so doing keep them coming – forgetting that God is not concerned with entertaining us, but with changing us.

Until we are more concerned with our children’s spiritual well-being than scholastic potential, we won’t see the next generation grow up to be God-fearing, society-changing individuals.

Think about this: the men that we are seeing duke it out on TV, calling each other names, being blatant bullies, and basically demeaning the highest position in the world – where did they learn that? They had to grow up seeing others disrespected in order to find it okay to do themselves. They had to see an example of name-calling and bullying in order to make it so commonplace in their lives.

So, if we don’t want those traits developed in our children, then we teach them the opposite at home. We connect them with a church family that exemplifies the character traits we want to see in our own children. We use what is happening on TV as talking points and teachable moments instead of being afraid of it and angry that it’s happening. While we might like to expect more of people in their position, we really can’t if they don’t know Jesus as their Savior; they are simply incapable of it. So quit expecting it and getting angry that it’s not happening and just use it to teach your kids what not to do – and why.

But, teaching can’t be limited to the home. My husband and I are intentional with our children, teaching them about God and doing all we can at home. Yet we know it’s not enough. Simply having our oldest in a Christian school has done amazing things for her young spiritual life – teaching things we had forgotten and reinforcing truths we began at home. Then, we have her in church – every opportunity we can get – and we talk with her all week long about what she’s learning. Her spiritual growth has been phenomenal this year and we know that it’s because it’s the community of believers who speak into her life, not because of how amazing her home life is. We are not meant to do this alone, no matter how awesome we think are at it.

Parents need to see the benefit of getting their kids into church, though! Making church activities and programs a priority in their own lives and that of their children instead of putting it on the back burner to sports, vacations, and even family time. Understanding that developing their spiritual life is the most important, most beneficial thing they can do for their children; everything else is temporary and secondary. Remember Scripture: what does it profit to gain the whole world and lose your soul?

If we want to change our nation, reverse anti-God policies that have been instituted, the change does not, cannot, and will not begin at the top and work its way down because the change has nothing to do with laws (don’t forget the Pharisees) and everything to do with the heart. Individuals change a nation; government does not.

We need to quit placing our hopes, dreams, frustrations, and anger on politicians and start building into our children’s lives. Start reaching out to our neighbors with the true, full Gospel of Christ, no matter which politician’s sign they plant in their front yard this year. Show that our hope, joy, peace, and contentment does not rest in our how well and wise our government is or who wins the election. We need to be resting in the One Who says He controls who is in charge and holds their times in His hands.

When we ourselves begin to grasp the complexity and fullness of the Gospel, we become compelled to share it with others. Our job is not to convict of sin, change people’s minds, or convince a community to obey new laws. Our job is to present Jesus Christ and Him crucified and let the Holy Spirit do His job on the rest of it.

Changing a nation begins with individuals, not government. Changing the future means building into our children what really matters. Get out and vote, yes, but leave the results in God’s capable hands, tuck your head down, and get back to work sowing the seeds of the Gospel, starting at home.

 

Be Radical.

Everyone knew his name. It was a name they feared, though, not a name they were excited to hear. He was an imposing man who caused children to hide behind their mama’s skirts in fear and men to keep their heads close to their work and avoid eye contact when he walked by. His every request was granted by the government, making him a man to be respected – and hated. He was highly religious, but had no relationship with the true God, though he was convinced otherwise. He felt he had one goal in life: to help God wipe out every Christian in existence. And he had the blessing of the government to do so. Imagine the fear of dads who heard the sound of boots on the path outside and then the pounding on their door as soldiers came, by his orders, door to door to take Christians off to prison, never to be seen or heard from again. Families must have had contingency plans in place for their children for when, not if – but when, the knock finally sounded on their door. It was only a matter of time. He led a small army in their quest of ridding the kingdom of Christians. They were at his beck and call and he held their coats while they carried out the murders. His silent, approving gaze was enough to instill resiliency in the cause in the hearts of his followers, and fear and trembling in the hearts of the hunted. No one was safe. No city was far enough away to escape his reach. He was coming for them; it was just a matter of time.

Then, the very One he was persecuting intervened. With a flash of lightening-bright light, this murderer was transformed. Not only was he converted into the very belief system he had been trying to destroy, he became a champion of it. Not only did he understand now what he had been trying to wipe out, he became a chief teacher. His letters were not just an encouragement to the early church; they are now the foundation upon which we live our very Christian lives hundreds of years later.

Paul is an ancient picture of a modern day terrorist.

Yes, he was Jewish, not Muslim. But, his goal was the same: wipe out every Christian in existence. His hatred was just as pure, just as evil. He was just as feared – and revered. He was just as radical in his thinking.

Yet, God chose to save him. And not just save him, but to use him more than possibly any other Christian in history. His writings make up the bulk of our New Testament and have shaped the Christian way of life ever since. He was inspired by God to write letters we never could have fathomed.

Here we sit, hundreds of years later, being confronted by another enemy of Christianity. He has many names – Boko Haram, Al Queida, Hamas, ISIS. Yet the goal is the same: rid the world of every Jew, every Christian, everyone in opposition to the Islamic faith.

We are scared of them. We look at every bearded man or lady in a burka with great suspicion. They don’t dare ride on airplanes or carry back packs in public anymore. However, fear is exactly what the radicals are going for. If they can get us to live in fear, they will have done half their job.

Whenever a huge event like the attacks in Paris happen, we scream, “Death to the terrorists! Bring them to justice!” We cower and hide in fear. We may post our solidarity all over Facebook in hopes of telling the terrorists that they have not scared us, but in reality, we are taking fewer trips to sight-see in the Middle East and working less at befriending our Muslim neighbor. We don’t want them to think we are scared, so all over social media we make it sound like they have done nothing to frighten us – but, we silently praise the security guard for more thoroughly searching the Arabic man with a turban in the airport and we subtly pull our children off the playground when a mom in a burka shows up with her kids.

Instead of praying for these men and women, we shun them. We fear them. Worse yet – we ignore them. We pretend we don’t see them and we certainly don’t befriend them.

After all – they hate us and want us dead, right? We’re just staying out of their way.

But, let’s think this through: for one thing – just like there are those who believe in radical Islam, there are those of us who are radical Christians. What if there were more radical Christians than there are radical Muslims? What would that look like?

  • They pray three times per day, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. It’s repetitive, but it makes them stop and focus.
    • We are commanded to not just pray three times a day – but to pray continuously. We are not given prayers to memorize; we are told to pray about everything, with thanksgiving. We are told to pray for our enemies – their salvation, not their death.
  • They take serious time each year to fast and offer sacrifices.
    • We are told to fast regularly. For us, sacrifices are no longer necessary because Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice. We remember this by taking the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis.
  • They are commanded to proselytize and make sure all convert to Islam. They are not ashamed of their faith and how they are commanded to dress.
    • We have been commanded to make disciples – not just converts. All nations, all people are to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are to be the vehicle that tells them.
    • We hide our faith and do our very best to blend in with everyone else so we don’t appear strange. Our clothing styles and way of life mirror the world because stepping out and being different draws attention and makes us uncomfortable. We believe we can make more converts if we blend in. What if we did the opposite? What if we did what we are commanded to and NOT be conformed to this world? What if we didn’t care so much about outward appearances and quit blending in so strongly that people have no clue we’re Christians?
  • Their ultimate goal is to give their life for their faith because that means instant, guaranteed paradise.
    • Our ultimate goal should be to spend our lives for others, making sure everyone knows the Gospel, including our neighbors, family, and those across the globe. Martyrdom is feared and avoided. Though being martyred has absolutely no bearing on our salvation and eternal destiny, it certainly should not be something we are afraid of.
  • They are not afraid to let people know where they stand, even when it’s offensive.
    • We were warned that we would be an offense to others because Jesus was an offense to the world. So, we hide that we attend church, carry small Bibles that are inconspicuous if we pull them out in public, and avoid controversial topics so people don’t suspect that we might be “religious.”

What if we lived radically?

What if we did the unpopular thing and prayed for the terrorists? We claim prayer is the biggest, best weapon for fighting disease, depression, divorce – yet we don’t utilize prayer for the biggest worldwide battle in our time.

Many terrorists are coming to faith in Christ because Jesus is appearing to them in dreams and pursuing them even when they don’t think they need to be pursued. They are hearing about Christ through those they have captured who are not afraid to continue to preach because the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be chained. What if we just prayed for them on a regular basis? What if we stormed the gates of heaven and implored the God of the universe to fight this terrorist battle for us?

What if, among the terrorists today, there is another Apostle Paul? God did it once; He could certainly do it again.

What if we were just as radical in our Christianity as they are in their Islam?

If they can do so much damage by being radical, imagine the amount of good we could do by being radical?

The most feared man who once walked the streets of Jerusalem terrorizing Christians became one of the most revered, respected apostles of Jesus Christ to ever walk this earth.

We know the early church met often to worship and pray together. I wonder how many people were praying for him? We have no reason to think they didn’t; they were pretty good at following the other instructions Jesus had given them.

Maybe we should spend more time in prayer for and befriending the Muslims in our lives and around the world and less time fearing and hating them. Let’s be radical, too, but radical the way Jesus commanded us to be. You know, simply fully living out the commands He gave us to begin with. 

Let’s change the world, one radical Christian life at a time.

Why I’m Not Excited about the Pope’s U.S. Visit.

I turned on the news last night specifically to hear about what happened to the 717 who were trampled to death in Saudi Arabia during the Hajj. Instead, Live news was put on hold so we could watch the arrival of Pope Francis to New York City and his subsequent drive to the Cathedral in his Pope-mobile. Everything in me wanted to cry as I watched the swarms of people screaming, crying, and holding their phones up for pictures of this man. My husband demanded I change the channel and that was the end of the news for us last night.

It has been extremely difficult for me to watch in silence the events surrounding the Pope’s visit. I’ve wanted to put to words my reasons behind WHY it bothers me so much, so today, I’m going to give it my best shot.

I have no doubt that Pope Francis is a different kind of Pope. I also see that he has made great strides in making the Catholic church more appealing, especially to the next generation. He is definitely friendly, humble, and strikingly different than preceding Popes.

However – it’s these differences that I take issue with.

Satan is the Master Deceiver and he does his absolute best to twist absolutely everything around until all of a sudden, up is down and down is up and left is right and right is left and everyone is so confused, they can’t even figure out how to fix it anymore, so they just assume it’s now all correct and leave it. The mess gets bigger and bigger until the True Light becomes all but a pinpoint in the distance – so far away that it looks more like an illusion than the sun itself.

The Pope has been so busy trying to make the church more appealing to the younger generation that he has become a sort of god in his own mind. Catholicism in general neglects to take into account most of Scripture. It’s so sad, too, because the freedom offered in Christ is so much better than what the Pope is offering in the Catholic church. See? Satanic deception. People think they’re getting the better end of the deal and instead, they’re missing the real thing.

Some examples:

The Word of God makes it clear that only God can forgive sin. One of the best stories is in Mark 2. Friends bring a paralyzed man to Jesus. Unable to reach Him through the door of the building, they lower him through the roof. Jesus first addresses the man’s bigger issue: his sin. After forgiving his sin, Jesus listens to the religious leaders’ thoughts and says, “Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’?” He then goes on to prove that He can, in fact, forgive sin by having the paralyzed man get up, take his mat, and go home.

Compare this to the Pope. People are so desperate for him to heal them, to forgive them, to bless them and their children. They are convinced that he has the power to forgive sin and to make them get out of their wheelchairs. Yet, where is the proof? The crowd burst into applause last night when he merely touched a lady in a wheelchair in the Cathedral – yet, she didn’t even attempt to get out of her chair. Jesus didn’t have to touch the paralyzed man, or even be in the house to raise the dead girl, and it happened. He said He could heal, He said He could forgive sin – He can obviously do both because healing is way harder than just saying some words.

Can the Pope do either, I ask?

The children running to the Pope is so reminiscent of them running to Jesus. Parents bringing their children to Jesus for a blessing. The Pope is obviously a kind and gentle man, of that I do not doubt. But, has healed the children? Has he held them on his lap and told the crowd to become like a child to enter heaven? Or does he merely listen to them, pat them on the head, take a selfie, and walk off?

Thousands upon thousands of people are cheering this man as he arrives in a humble car. Can’t you hear the crowds cheering for Jesus as He arrived on a donkey? However, when Jesus arrived at the Temple, He was furious that it was a place for buying and selling and no longer a House of Prayer. The Pope praised the new grandiose new Cathedral in New York and was enthralled by the riches of the wealthy who paid for it.

The Pope had the opportunity to stand before Congress yesterday and make a worthwhile speech specifically condoning the atrocities of Planned Parenthood. The Catholics are ravenously pro-life and anti-abortion. The things Planned Parenthood has been doing are disgusting and needs to end. The Pope had the power in his hands to stop all that – and he didn’t even touch on it. 

Jesus was never afraid to touch a controversial topic. He even called the leaders in His time “hypocrites” and “broods of vipers.” He spoke the truth because “the truth will set you free.” The Pope will not speak the absolute truth because it could cost him his reputation and attendees of the Catholic church.

We are told repeatedly in Scripture not to worship another human being. In fact, we always know that someone is truly sent from the Lord because they command those that bow down to get up and NOT worship them (ie – Daniel and Peter); worship is only for the Lord God . People are worshiping the Pope this week – taking their kids out of school to meet him, crying when he passes by, cheering when he waves at them, begging him to bless their child. How can we look at that and be okay with it? Worse yet, how can we look at that and desire to be a part of it?

The Bible warns about False Teachers. Look at Jude 4: “…some godless people have wormed their way in among you, saying that God’s forgiveness allows us to live immoral lives. The fate of such people was determined long ago, for they have turned against our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” More warnings are spread throughout Scripture. We are to be on the lookout because they’ll sound great – maybe even quotable! They’ll look righteous and religious. But, if they are not preaching Christ and Him crucified – salvation through faith and grace ALONE – not of works so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9), then it is a false Gospel and a false teacher, no matter how white the robes or how great the following.

The Pope may be a good guy with good intentions, but do not be deceived. He is not God. He is not God’s Son. He is not doctrinally correct. He is not building up GOD’S church; he is building the Catholic church and those are two very different things.

Watch everything he says. Compare all of it with the Word of God. If it doesn’t line up, run. The second he says he has the power to forgive sins, get out of there. Who alone can forgive sin? Jesus Christ. The Son of the Living God.

We have been warned over and over that those preaching in Jesus’ name will come and wow, will they look legit! When you begin to wonder if it’s too good to be true, open that Bible up and study it out. If he doesn’t line up, he is not for real. Satan lives to deceive and he’s doing a great job right now. Bow to no man. Worship none other than the Living God. Follow His teachings alone. Salvation by grace through faith. It is the GIFT of God, not of works, so that no man can boast. You cannot earn it, you cannot be given it by another person because we all need it. Run straight to God Himself, not the Pope.

I urge you, church, do not be deceived by flowery words and humble living. If you know Christ as Savior, then you bow to no man but the Son of Man.

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