Mentoring

A few nights ago I was watching an episode of The Middle. I’ve written about this show before so I won’t go into the basic information about it. If you aren’t familiar with it, Google it and you’ll find a synopsis for each of the main characters. The show is a typical sitcom, meaning there is a problem (often several in one episode) faced by the Heck family and by the end of the thirty minute program, the problem(s) has been solved and the family members bask in the glow of the happy ending. We all know that real life doesn’t work that way. Yes, on some days we are able to overcome a few of the obstacles that present themselves to us, but most obstacles that plunge us into crisis mode aren’t solved in the span of thirty minutes. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most obstacles aren’t solved in the span of twenty-four hours or even a week’s time.  Regardless, though, I enjoy this show because it portrays what a real family often looks like. Moms and dads sometimes don’t know what to do or what to say so they pretend that they do. This, of course, often exacerbates the situation. This is typically where Mike and Frankie Heck find themselves.

In the episode I was watching earlier this week, one of the issues presented was the failure of daughter Sue to pass her driver’s test. She had tried—and failed—five times. At first, the ever optimistic Sue didn’t seem upset by this. She kept a positive attitude, telling herself she would get it on the next try. Her positivity was halted, though, as her friends started passing their tests. First, her best friend Carly passed. Then, others who she associated with declared their victory over the driving test. Sue was still okay. When Carly asked if Sue wanted a ride rather than take the bus to school, Sue refused, saying she still had Brad to ride the bus with. At that moment, who drives up in his new convertible, waving at Sue and the others, excited that he too had joined the club of new drivers? Yep, you guessed it. Brad. Sue was devastated. With her parents busy dealing with problems brought about by her siblings, Sue turned to the only other person she felt she could talk to—her youth pastor, Reverend Tim Tom. Sue always felt that when others just didn’t understand her, Reverend Tim Tom would. He was always willing to sit down and talk with her. Well, actually, Sue talked. Reverend Tim Tom always gave his advice in the form of an impromptu song while he strummed his guitar. In the end, Reverend Tim Tom helped Sue to accept that while she may be jealous of her friends driving, there was so much about her that her friends were jealous of. By the end of the show, the positive, smiling, optimistic Sue was back, being cheered on by her friends, Reverend Tim Tom, and even her mom (who Brad had called and got her to drop what she was doing by telling her it was an emergency).

As I watched the show’s plot unfold, I thought back to the time in my own life when I was Sue Heck’s age—16. I lived with two parents who gave me just about everything I asked for. (I’m not saying this was a good thing. It’s just a fact.)  I had every reason to be happy, content, and optimistic. To people looking at us, we appeared to be the perfect family. My dad owned his own business. My mom stayed home and did the bookkeeping for that business. We lived in a nice, middle class, suburban neighborhood. Our house had a swimming pool in the backyard. Of course, these things do not make a perfect family. They are just things, and sometimes things can hide reality. This was certainly true in my case. Those who knew me knew me as an intelligent, athletic, straight-A student who never pushed the boundaries set for me. In spite of all these positive things, I was not a happy kid. In fact, I distinctly remember coming home from school one afternoon, going to my room to be alone (something I did every day), sitting on my bed, and crying. I was certain that nothing could be worse than being sixteen years old. Life was so hard and I felt so alone. I knew a lot of people yet felt so distant from just about every one of them. Looking back on those days now, I realize that my battle with depression started in childhood—even before turning the dreaded age of sixteen. If you know me or have read much of my writing, you know that depression is still a beast that too often rears its head in my life. I don’t know if others noticed it as I was growing up. But as I watched Reverend Tim Tom sit and talk with Sue Heck about her driving test problem, I wondered if my life would have been different if someone had taken an interest in me. What if someone had taken the time to invest in a sixteen year old who desperately wanted to fit in but was a square person in a round world? Would I still be battling the beast of depression as an adult? Would I have learned tools to help me fight the battle more effectively? Would the simple fact that someone saw me for who I was—an introvert that definitely enjoyed alone time but also really needed friends—change how I would see myself over the years? Would I have turned to alcohol to numb the pain as I ended up doing? Would I have attempted suicide? Would I have been brave enough to trust someone with what was really going on in my life? I cannot answer these questions. Once time is gone it can never be had again. I was sixteen only once in my life. I’m far removed from that year now. God has done so much in my life, but still, I am haunted by this question: Would I have surrendered to God sooner had someone influenced me in that direction?

As a Christian adult, I know there are kids who need someone in their lives to influence them in a positive way. I will never be a youth pastor like Reverend Tim Tom. I will most likely never teach school again, nor will I be a camp counselor. Health issues have made these things impossible. Still, I know that God can use me somehow. I pray that my eyes—that all of our eyes—would be open to see the kid who is pretending that all is okay. I pray that God would put me in a position to be that adult that encourages the weary heart of a child who just feels that the whole world is against him or her. I pray that somehow, even with the limitations I have, that I can make a difference in someone’s life.

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Identity Thief

While watching some television last week, I saw a few commercials that dealt with an ever increasing problem in this age of technology—identity theft. One of the commercials was an advertisement for a company that offered monthly monitoring of your important accounts. If any suspicious activity occurred with your credit card account or bank account, the company would immediately disable the account and notify the owner to make sure the activity was legit. Another commercial was advertising a wallet that held everything a wallet would normally hold, but it held credit cards and money in a way so that the wallet was thinner, thus reducing the risk of someone pickpocketing you. It also featured a special feature that prevented remote scanning of your credit card or debit card number. I didn’t even know this was possible, but my IT husband assured me that it is possible, although he did qualify that by saying that someone would need to be very close to you to remotely scan account numbers. Of course there are multiple ways to have sensitive information stolen from you. If you shopped at Target a few years ago, you were most likely concerned when they announced the data breach that took place with their computer system. Because that breach took place over the holiday shopping season, thousands of people were affected. I imagine most people, me being one of them, do not think twice about sliding their debit card or credit card through the readers stationed at the end of every checkout line in every major retail store across America. Once Target announced their data breach, it didn’t take long for hackers, very talented people who have way too much time on their hands, to break into other retailers’ systems. Michaels, Home Depot, and even Anthem, a health insurance company, also announced major data breaches where sensitive information was compromised. I have heard stories from people who have fallen victim to these identity thefts. It can be disastrous to straighten out, and for some people, it takes years and years to overcome the fallout from a stolen identity.

I was thinking about how we tend to identify ourselves. Many people, when meeting someone for the first time, ask the question, “So what do you do?” The one inquiring is really asking what that person does to make a living. Their job. What type of work fills the day and makes a living. For many, their job becomes their identity. Of course, most people have more than one job that can fit into this identity category. For example, my husband is in IT (I actually have no idea what his official job title is; I’m not sure he does either!), but he is also a husband, a father, a grandpa, a father-in-law, etc…  At one time I was a mom, a teacher, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. If you’re a full time mom, then there is a host of other identities wrapped up in that one! If you are a homeschooling mom, well, as you can see, this identity thing can get pretty complicated.

In the last couple years I’ve struggled with my identity. I wrote about it here:
https://wordpress.com/post/57572056/3179/

Yesterday, though, after leaving church, the words of a worship song sang during the service kept echoing through my head. The song is by Citizens and is titled, Made Alive. The lyrics that kept going through my head were:

“If ever I forget my true identity,
Show me who I am, and help me to believe.
You have bought me back with the riches of,
Your amazing grace and relentless love.
I’m made alive forever with your life forever,
By your grace I’m saved.”

As I thought through the various identities I’ve held over the years, I realized that I have often allowed someone or something else to define who I am. For example, I grew up in what I consider to be a legalistic environment. The rules were made known and breaking any one of them would result in instant consequences. The church I grew up in emphasized the law much more than grace. If you know my story, you know that I spent many years believing I was a Christian only to realize a few years ago that I really was not. I still wrestle with the fallout from those years. Because rules were important, especially in my home, I became what others wanted me to be. My parents wanted a good student, so I strived to be the perfect student. Straight A’s were all I would accept of myself, and if I fell short of that mark, I labeled myself a failure. I loved sports and when finally allowed to participate on a team, I worked hard to be the MVP. I spent every afternoon with a soccer ball at my feet, practicing so I could be the best athlete on my team. My parents like most parents, demanded obedience. I made it a point to try to be the perfect child. Of course, no one is perfect so I fell short quite often. When that would happen, my identity became one of loser or failure or disappointment. As I entered the teen years, I desperately wanted to be accepted by others. The two friends I had seemed to garner much more attention from boys than I did, so I set out to be what I thought boys would want me to be. I could only achieve this to a certain degree, though. The feeling of failure hit over and over during those years. I could go on, but the bottom line is that I have spent most of my life trying to be either who others want me to be or my idea of who others want me to be to gain acceptance.  As the lines of the above song played through my head last night, I couldn’t help but wonder who God wants me to be? I know without a doubt that I am a daughter of the King, yet my identity is wrapped up in what the world tells me is important.

The world, more specifically, the prince of this world, Satan, tries to steal my identity and rename it to what is acceptable in worldly terms. The world says I must be pretty to be accepted. The world says I must have a valid job—not just a homemaker– to have worth. The world tells me that one mistake makes me a loser, a failure. The world tells me I am not worthy of friends. The world tells me I am unlovable because I don’t fit the mold that dictates who is lovable. The list could go on. I have believed all these and more, and because I have believed them, I have struggled greatly with feeling like others accept me. After almost every church service, our pastor concludes with the words, “You are loved.” Most often I mentally scoff at those words because I do not feel lovable. In addition to struggling with feeling accepted, believing these lies has stolen any joy that I could have. There have been times I have felt joy that could only come from God, but it is short lived as I listen to the lies that tell me I can’t be joyful because _______________. Some days the blank is filled in with “I can’t do what others do”. Other days the blank is filled in with “I have limitations that prevent me from being what others can be”. The blank varies but it always defeats any joy that may have bubbled to the surface.

“If ever I forget my true identity…” What is my true identity? The question can be answered with a line from another song; “Hello my name is child of the one true King.” The truth is, I am a child of the King. God loves me even though I often do not love myself. Our pastor has told me that God is crazy about me. Oh, how I want to be able to believe this with ALL my heart!

As a child, when I told a lie and it was an obvious lie, my dad used to tell me that the truth will always come out. As I commit to spending more time with God and in His Word, my hope is that His truth will permeate my being and trump the lies that have held residence there far too long. I am tired of trying to wear an identity mask that others have decided is right for me because my true identity is not acceptable. MY true identity is acceptable to God, and His opinion is the one that counts the most.

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The Lies of Planned Parenthood

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Today I got to watch my little grandson for a few hours so his mommy could go out. I love him so much! Of course, you would think it strange if I said otherwise. How could I not love this precious little boy born to my “little girl”? I can’t get enough of his toothless smiles, his funny faces, his chubby cheeks, and his soft coos. Today, when his mommy dropped him off, he was wide eyed and full of smiles. She told me that he had not taken a morning nap yet, meaning he had been awake at that point nearly five hours. His mommy left and I placed him under the new play gym we bought for him to enjoy at Grammy and Grampa’s house. He reached for the fishy and tried to get it to his mouth. He kicked at the purple octopus that hung near his feet. He turned his head to see if the television was on. As much as his mommy doesn’t want him watching television, he sure loves to look at it when he comes to visit Grammy!  After playing for a half hour or so, the fussies started. Grammy swooped him up and moved to the rocking chair to feed him a bottle. As expected, not more than an ounce into his bottle, he was sound asleep. I sat and held the sleeping angel and couldn’t help but think about the recent news release regarding Planned Parenthood.

If you have been on social media or have watched the news in the last few days, you’ve surely heard the news that Planned Parenthood, the organization responsible not so much for planning pregnancies but rather killing babies via abortions, was caught admitting the fact that they sell body parts from the babies they aborted. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, if you have any compassion at all, you had to be disgusted at that revelation.

I have never tried to hide the fact that I am a Christian. I believe that life-ALL life–is ordained by God. Psalm 139 tells us that God knew us before we were born, that he planned each life, and that each of us is made in the image of God. Holding those beliefs means that I am adamant that abortion is murder. I have heard the argument that a woman has the right to choose what is done to her body. Where do the rights of the baby conceived out of irresponsibility (usually) come in? Who speaks for the tiny human being formed in the womb of his mommy? Who will stand up for that baby before someone decides he or she is not a baby but an inconvenience and ruthlessly tears him or her from what is supposed to be the safest place? These are all questions that Christians have wrestled with in the battle against the slaughter of millions of tiny human lives.

But with this week’s news report admitting the sale of body parts of these “fetuses” (as Planned Parenthood refers to them) a new question has to be acknowledged:

If Planned Parenthood does not believe that what they do is murder babies, real, tiny human beings, then how can they sell the body parts and market them as baby body parts on the black market? In other words, according to Planned Parenthood officials, the abortions they perform are not killing babies but ridding mothers of unwanted cell blobs that haven’t quite made it to baby stage yet. How does that definition change, then, when they approach the black market and advertise baby body parts? Did the blob of cells miraculously become a baby somehow when the money for their tiny organs suddenly became worth more money? Do the women who pay for the destruction of their babies realize that not only did Planned Parenthood make money off of them in terms of the procedure, but they also plan to sell the organs from the babies they paid to have removed? They do now if they didn’t suspect it before.

Christians need to be all over this news report. They need to take this opportunity to show the American people that abortion is NOT just removing cells. It is killing a human life–a crime that would earn jail time if performed a mere ten months later. The church needs to stand up and let it be known that children are not an inconvenience. Children are a gift from God, regardless of whether they are “planned” or not. The mom and/or dad may not have planned their child, but God did. God knew the baby He was gifting to that mommy and daddy. He had plans for that child. He was forming that baby in secret places and preparing him or her to enter the world under the care of the chosen parents. God does not see any child as an inconvenience that can be done away with by a procedure in a medical office.

Somewhere along the way in America, people got the idea that personal desire and convenience trumps responsibility and morals. I know women who were married and had children and decided, upon becoming pregnant again, they did not want this additional child and opted for an abortion instead. Personally, I don’t see how any woman who has carried a child and given birth could go through with the murder of her baby. When my first baby was born, I was in awe of how perfectly human this tiny little baby was. While pregnant with him, I cherished the kicks and tumbles I felt inside my womb. There was no doubt, even with the sonogram pictures of twenty-five years ago, that what was inside of me was more than just a blob of cells. He was a tiny human with fingers and toes and a beating heart. Could my husband and I give him all the finer things in life? No. Did we sacrifice so I could stay home with him? Yes. And I don’t regret one single minute of the days, the years, I spent at home with this baby and his subsequent siblings. And I get to enjoy babyhood even more now as I gaze upon my beautiful grandson as he sleeps safely in his Grammy’s arms.

I believe that God sees the slaughter of His precious children that takes place every day–every minute–in clinics and medical offices all across this country. I believe He knows and keeps track of all those innocent lives and that He holds them safely and lovingly in the palm of His hand. I believe He is aware of leaders and officials who grant the right to women to kill their babies. I also believe that judgment will come for the slaughtering of these precious lives. Until that day, I pray regularly that America will wake up and see what exactly is happening behind the doors of Planned Parenthood, and that Christians and churches across the nations will be more outspoken about the horrors of Planned Parenthood and abortion itself.

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The Package

I guess I’ve been pretty quiet lately. There is a lot going on in my head nearly twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes I forget that I am the only audience to most of those ruminations.

Perhaps it is best that way. After all, who really wants to hear the thought processes of someone caught in the throes of emotional misery?

Yes, I once again find myself ensnared by the demon known as despair. I once heard Pastor James MacDonald rank the four “D’s” we can find ourselves in. I wrote it down somewhere. Like many things lately, though, I can’t find where I wrote it, nor can I remember what all four were. I remember depression and despair, but I can’t remember the others nor which of these two is considered worse. Regardless, it is obvious that I am not only experiencing one of these—I’ll call it despair—but also a serious case of not being able to remember much of anything. In the MS world this is referred to as cog-fog. Cognitive issues are a result of MS. There have been multiple times in the last two weeks where I have grabbed my laptop to do something, and by the time I open it and sign into the operating system, I have forgotten what it was I was going to do. The table next to my chair has become a place for little sticky notes. If I don’t write it down, I may as well consider it gone. That is, until 2:00 AM when I suddenly wake up and remember what it was I wanted to do. Then I am awake for hours trying to shut off my brain. It is a vicious cycle.

I think I can pinpoint what started my descent into the pit this time. It came via FedEx over the weekend. It was a bittersweet delivery—one much anticipated after hours upon hours of research, yet one that brought instant tears to my eyes.

If you are familiar with MS at all, you know that for many people, heat is arch enemy #1. Think kryptonite with Superman. That, for me, is heat with MS. It paralyzes me and renders me useless. It sucks just about every ounce of life out of me. It also keeps me inside our air conditioned townhome. I wish I had kept track of how often I have sent a prayer of thanks heavenward for air conditioning. I may not actually be able to count that high. Most people hate winter because they are stuck inside, unable to enjoy nature. I hate summer for the same reason. I can get out in the winter, take a walk and enjoy the fresh air and beauty of the snow. But summer is a different story. Summer heat and humidity is evil to my body. A walk to our garage in any type of heat and humidity instantly makes me dizzy and weak and overheated. And once overheated, it takes a LONG time for my body to cool down. Because of the issues people with MS often face with the onset of heat, there are several styles of cooling vests out there. These are not cheap! Even the lowest end vests are priced over $200.

This year, my husband decided it didn’t matter how much it costs. Insurance would cover it most likely so he told me to start researching which one would work for me. I spent hours on several MS websites, looking at all the pros and cons and personal reviews of the cooling vests that fell in the price range our insurance would pay. I finally settled on one that got good reviews for quickly cooling the skin as well as being somewhat portable. I filled out the necessary information and clicked “Order”. Over the weekend, this was the box that FedEx delivered to our door.

Now, I should be excited, right? This is something I had only dreamed I could have. This was something that promised more mobility in the hot and humid summers. I was excited. I opened the box with anticipation, pulling out the vest, the many cooling packs that would be inserted into the pockets on the vest, the neck cooler and gel packs for that, the wrist coolers and gel packs for that, and the instructions on how to make this vest work for me. I put the vest on to check for fit.

And then I cried.

I cried because I already struggle with how I look. Eight months of walking with a cane and being unable to exercise took its toll on my weight. I hate myself right now because all the weight I worked so hard to lose a little over a year ago is all back on my body. As I looked at the figure in the mirror, sporting what looks like a park ranger vest, the tears were unstoppable.

I cried because I need the vest at all. I know what heat does to me. I know my family is tired of hearing me complain about it. I know that if I could even go for a walk each day I would probably feel better and maybe even lose some of the weight that makes me hate myself. Still, I wish I didn’t have to need this cooling vest to do that. Ten years ago I was coaching youth soccer, running on the field with my team. It didn’t matter if it was hot outside.  Now, a simple walk down a path in the sun renders me nearly lifeless.

I cried because of the burden this disease has put on my husband. Our electric bill is higher than it would have been had MS not taken up residence in my body. Our air conditioning is set to a very low temperature. Even with that setting, our upstairs stays too warm for me to always get a good nights’ sleep. I run a large, powerful fan every night to try to keep me cool. More draw on the electric. Cooking dinner is nearly impossible in the summer. Standing over a hot stove or turning on the oven just heats up the house (and me). My husband works hard and deserves good meals when he is not traveling (which isn’t often this year unfortunately). I hate that I am often unable to give that to him and that we eat out so much.

I cried because, once again, I realized how much of a burden my illness is to the people I love. Even though I am thankful that there is such things as a cooling vest that may give me back some of my life in the summer, I cried because I wish I didn’t have to have it.

I have found that Psalm 6:6 plays in my head a lot: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with weeping.” In the midst of all the tears, I know God is here. He sees. He cares. He weeps with me. He gives me the strength to face each day. He has to be strengthening me, for in my own strength, I would have given up by now.

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Paved or Gravel

One activity that my husband and I enjoy doing together is hiking. We stumbled on this mutual affection quite accidentally three years ago during a weekend get away to a city not too far south of where we lived at the time. On our last day there, we were looking for something to do. Browsing the literature at the hotel, we saw an advertisement for a nature preserve that had a hiking trail. Although the day was quite warm, we headed out to find the park. The hiking trail was about two miles of wooded path that, at times, was not well marked. We got lost a few times and had to turn around and find our way back to the path, but that added to the fun of the day. By the end of the hike, which included rocky paths up and down hills, we were both sweaty yet thrilled with out accomplishment. We bought t-shirts from the nature center to change into and some bottles of cold water to quench our thirst. On our drive home we replayed that hike and the enjoyment it brought us. We agreed that it was definitely an activity we would love to do more of; we also agreed that hiking in tennis shoes was not the best idea and a quest to find hiking boots that would be suitable to various weather conditions began.  Since then, we have made it a point to seek out hiking trails both locally and when we travel to other areas.

There are two types of paths typically found on a hiking trail. One is a paved path. In our experience, this type of path is usually a flat blacktop path that winds through green space. The other type of path is a gravel or dirt path. This is often the type of path that is found winding through wooded areas and up and down hills. Some hikes combine the two types of paths, while others are exclusively one of the two types. I personally prefer the gravel path through wooded areas. On one trip to Illinois a few years ago, we decided to find a place to take a hike. My husband left it up to me to choose. I powered up Google and began a search for the perfect place to take a good hike. I found one, hubby punched its location into his GPS and off we went. The internet promised a hike that would be around five miles and culminate with a beautiful waterfall. The problem, though, was that part of the path was under construction so what was labeled on the map to be about five miles actually ended up being TEN miles! And the waterfall? Yeah, that was non-existent. Oh, the hill was there to climb to see it, and the rocks were there. The problem, though, was it hadn’t rained in Illinois in weeks, and the lack of precipitation meant no water falling over the rocks. We were about eight miles into the hike, our hiking boots, normally tan and brown, now white from the limestone path, when my husband said he couldn’t go any farther. I’m sure there was a look of panic on my face as I encouraged told him that he needed to keep going–I couldn’t get a vehicle back there to get him! Two miles later, both of us were never happier to see our van in the distance. The next day, neither of us could walk very well and our feet had multiple blisters.

I don’t think I’ve been allowed to pick the hiking trail since then.

In the last few weeks I have likened my walk with Christ to the various hiking trails we have found and challenged ourselves with. Sometimes the path is paved and flat and winds through green space. While this path can be easy to walk, it does get boring at times. More often, though, the path is gravel. It is hilly with branches and stones that, if I’m not careful, will cause me to lose my footing. This path is much more difficult and tiring, and, like my husband that day, often I want to just stop. I don’t feel that I have one more step left in me. This type of path has caused something more than just weariness, though.

It has caused confusion.

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriage in all fifty states, my Facebook news feed, my Twitter feed, and my blog reader were all filled with opinions written by various people on both sides of the issue. Some spoke out against the ruling. They cited reasons that ranged from the fact that homosexuality is a sin and goes against God’s design for marriage (a stance I very much agree with by the way) to the fact that the Supreme Court does not have the Constitutional authority to force all the states to follow a certain law (a stance I also very much agree with). Others wrote in favor of the ruling, proclaiming a victory they felt was deserved. Now, I would expect such a statement from those living the homosexual lifestyle. The Bible tells us “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”. What really frustrated me, though, was the number of Christians who spoke openly about their support not only of the Supreme Court over stepping its boundaries, but also spoke out in favor of homosexuality itself. I read posts by people who claim to be followers of Christ that said Jesus would marry a gay or lesbian couple if He had been asked to do so.

Um, no He wouldn’t.

Some of these Christians rainbowed their Facebook profile picture to show their support of the sin as well as used the hashtag #lovewins as part of their posts. The fact that many of those who used that hashtag said nothing loving whatsoever about the Christians who opposed the ruling went right over their heads. One friend of mine was verbally attacked by a gay rights supporter, called a hater and a discriminator, yet at the end of the tirade, the poster hashtagged #lovewins. Really? That doesn’t seem very loving. Although, having been on that end of hatred being spewed out of a keyboard by a so called Christian, I know all too well how often it happens and how it feels to be on the end of it.

Perhaps those Christians who not only accept homosexuality, but also insist that Jesus accepts it as well, are the Christians walking the paved path. That path is easy as it is flat and winds prettily through sunny fields of wild flowers. Their shoes stay clean and they are relaxed at the end of the hike.

I’m not one to take the easy path, I guess. I like the challenge of the gravel, the hills, and the woods that block out the light of the sun. I like my boots to be covered in gravel dust and to feel, at the end of the hike, that I accomplished something. This makes me a minority, even among fellow Christians I guess.

Confusion seems to be the rule of the day for me lately. I am not confused about the clearness of Scripture when it comes to homosexuality. I believe it to be 100% a sin and I believe the Bible is very clear on that. But, why is it then, that some “Christians” condone it? What else in the Bible do these Christians dance around? And with all the voices out there, how do I hear God’s voice and know for a fact that it is His and not just a man’s interpretation of His Word? Even more important, how are the lost supposed to know what the Bible really says if there is such disagreement among Christians on some very tough subjects?

One thing I do know. The hashtag #lovewins, while maybe not completely incorrect since we are commanded to love others, would better be represented with this one: #Godwins. For, in the end, God does win.

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Identity Crisis

The dictionary defines the word crisis as “a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger; a time when a difficult or important decision must be made”. Most everyone, at some point in their life, will face some sort of crisis. For some, it will come in the form of a financial crisis. A sudden job loss or a stock market crash results in financial ruin, maybe even to the point of bankruptcy. For others, it may hit as a health crisis. A routine physical reveals something that is unexpected and unwanted. Perhaps that undesirable revelation occurs in your child. You are forced to stand by and watch your child suffer, and with each treatment, each needle stick, each test, you cry out to God to allow you to be in that place instead of your baby. Sometimes what is defined as a crisis is not quite so dramatic. We’ve all heard of the mid-life crisis that many go through. A man or woman reaches a point in life where they have raised children or they have reached the pinnacle of their career and they wonder what might be next. They remember with rose colored glasses the past and how wonderful it was to be young. Some try to recapture that youth by things such as buying a cool sports car. That will make them feel young again—cruising the freeway with the convertible top down and some 80’s classic rock blasting from the stereo. Others take a more drastic approach and decide that their spouse, the one they once looked at with desire, is now old news (literally). They decide to find someone younger who can give them that spark they once had. For some it is a secret affair while others outright divorce and go out and play the field again. There is one particular type of crisis that I was thinking about last night. It is that crisis that plagued me throughout the night and into today. I’m not sure the name I assigned it is exactly correct, but it seems to be a good fit. I am talking about an identity crisis.

It started yesterday afternoon as I was reading the blog of a friend. The following is an excerpt from his post and it is this paragraph that got in my head and under my skin, causing what I am calling an identity crisis:

Are we all ready to meet Jesus?  Are we all ready to give an accounting of what we have done with the talents He has given us?  Are we all satisfied with number of disciples we have made in Jesus’ name?  Are we all ready to give an accounting of our works done AFTER salvation to the Creator of the Universe, Jesus Christ? If not…what are we waiting for? (thetrumpetblows.blogspot.com)

The paragraphs before this discussed the events that took place last week around the world. Specifically, he was discussing the legalization of gay marriage by the United States Supreme Court in this part. His premise was, and always is in his writings, that Jesus told us in His Word to expect the acceptance of blatant sin. In Matthew 24, Jesus told His disciples, and now us, that “as it was in the days of Noah”. If you know anything about the Bible, you know that in the days of Noah, the sins of the people were so great and so blatant that God decided to destroy His creation and start over. He saved Noah and his family and two of each kind of animal by instructing Noah to build an ark. Everything else was destroyed in a flood that lasted forty days and forty nights. After the water had receded, God promised he would never destroy the earth by flood again. His symbol of that promise was a rainbow. I find it interesting that the LGBT movement has hijacked a symbol from God as their own symbol while they blatantly mock God by their sin. Hitler hijacked the cross in the same way as he mercilessly destroyed millions of God’s chosen people—the Jews.

That’s for another time, though.

As I read the words written by my friend, I couldn’t comfortably say that my answer to his questions, with the exception of the first one, would be yes. I am definitely ready to meet Jesus. I know that if the trumpet blew today and Jesus was to return to gather his church to be with Him, I would be included in that gathering. I spent the greater part of my life wondering about the answer to that question, so I am very thankful that I now have the assurance of my salvation. The remaining questions, though, I was not satisfied with the answer I would have to give. As I lay in bed last night, thinking about my life, I grew depressed and upset over my lack of spiritual resume. I thought about what I had done with the talents God gave me. And I came up with precious little. In fact, I couldn’t even think of one talent that would count. I thought of our pastor and how every Sunday, he delivers a message from God’s Word that challenges and inspires growth. He planted this church with a small handful of people and no staff. He now leads a staff of several and preaches to an almost full auditorium every Sunday.

I can’t do that.

I thought about our worship pastor and how every Sunday he stands on stage, surrounded by a team of talented musicians, and leads that full auditorium in amazing worship to our God.

I can’t do that.

I thought about people like Beth Moore and James MacDonald who write Bible studies and lead conferences that challenge others to grow in their faith.

I can’t do that.

The more I thought about all the people around me that I see impacting the world for Jesus, the more discouraged I became. Once again, tears stung my eyes. What will I offer God on that day when I see Him face to face? Will I hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”? I am scared I will not. I live in a country that, for now at least, allows me to believe in God and read His Word without persecution. I do not fear on Sunday mornings as I drive to church that someone will walk in and kill me because I worship God. I know there are people in heaven right now who are there because they lost their lives for believing in Jesus.

I am struggling with what God wants from me in terms of service to Him. It isn’t that I don’t know I should serve Him; it’s knowing how He wants me to serve Him. What are my talents? If I am not a good leader, a good singer, a good speaker, etc. then what is left that I can do to serve the God I love?

I am smack in the middle of a spiritual identity crisis.

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SCOTUS laughs at God

This morning, in a decision that most likely surprised no one, the Supreme Court of the United States spit in the face of God and gave the LGBT movement a victory by declaring gay marriage to be legal in all fifty states. If you’ve read some of my writings, it will not come as a surprise to you that I disagree vehemently with this decision. To begin, I am unashamedly a Christian. I believe in God, I read His Word, and I believe with all that is in me that you cannot be a Christian and be in favor of gay marriage. The two are NOT able to coexist. Oh, I know there are those who twist Scripture to make it agree with whatever they want to believe. The truth, though, is they have been deceived and are deceiving themselves if they really believe that Jesus would condone homosexuality. I once had a friend was convinced of this very thing. The problem with that line of thinking is that for Jesus to approve of homosexuality and gay marriage, he would have to disagree with his Father’s definition of marriage. Marriage was defined and instituted by God in the very beginning of creation, for it was then that God created a WOMAN for Adam and declared this union to be good. The old cliché is “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.”  God said that a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. That sentence right there is chock full of evidence that marriage, by God’s definition, is between one man and one woman. God also commanded the marriage relationship to be one where humans could reproduce. “Be fruitful and multiply” God told Adam and Eve. His design and purpose for marriage was and continues to be reproduction so that parents can raise up a next generation in the ways of the Lord. Jesus would not go against His Father’s design, regardless of how those in favor of this abomination would twist His words to say otherwise.

How did we get to this place of acceptance of blatant sin?

I believe it started when we decided that we all have the right to be our own God. We bought into the lie that we deserve to be happy and that God would want us to be happy. That is an obvious lie, for if we go back to the Bible, and those who claim to be Christians who support gay marriage also claim to believe the Bible, so this argument would apply to them, we see many instances where God’s people were not happy. They didn’t always have what they wanted. Job lost all he had. He wasn’t always happy about it. Jesus willingly went to the cross even though he pleaded with God to take that cup from Him. But somewhere along the way, and I would be bold enough to say it came with preachers like Joel Osteen and Rob Bell, the idea that God really desires for us to always be happy seeped into the Christian teachings, and many churches let their guards down and agreed with this prosperity gospel, and the slide down the slippery slope was started.

Why is it such a big deal that homosexual marriage is now legal?

Sin is never content to stay small. Ask any recovering alcoholic—and I put myself in this category—how they got to that point where alcohol became their master. None would say that they woke up one morning and decided to start drinking uncontrollably. No, it happened little by little. Perhaps they started out with something simple like a few beers or wine coolers. When the buzz needed or enjoyed no longer came from that, they progressed to something harder. Then the harder stuff had to be consumed more often. It didn’t take long to “need” the escape more and more and the slide down the slope was unstoppable. Sin never looks bad at first. If it did, we would not struggle with it. No, sin parades as innocent and glamorous and harmless. Once its hooks are deep enough, though, it is too late. Even if one recognizes their predicament, and many do not, it is often too difficult to break ties with the sin that entangles. That sin becomes a millstone around their neck that will certainly be their demise unless they allow Jesus to intervene. Yes, Jesus loves the alcoholic and the homosexual, but His goal is to deliver them from that sin—not to pacify them into thinking it is okay as long as they are happy. I also think the officials that the American people have elected have contributed to the downfall of this country.

Where will the slippery slope end?

I believe the only answer to that is in the mind of God. We know from Scripture, and again, if you call yourself a Christian you admit that you believe the Bible, that God will judge this earth. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for sexual immorality. I believe this is only the beginning of the immorality of this nation. I have to almost laugh at people who dismiss with naïve arrogance that marriage between a man and his horse or a man and his twelve year old niece will never happen. Seriously? Do you not see the handwriting on the wall? Look back at Hitler’s dominance of the German people. He started with the schools, for Hitler knew if he could indoctrinate the children to his agenda, then it wouldn’t be long before he would have the entire country under his thumb. History doesn’t lie and rest assured, it does repeat itself. America has allowed the indoctrination of the LGBT movement into its schools. Days of silence in support of this movement are held nationwide. “Bullying”, which often is not really bullying at all, is said to have zero tolerance in schools, but this only holds true if this is directed at any who identify with the LGBT movement. It’s acceptable to hurl insults at “Jesus Freaks” or those who bow their head to pray before lunch or carry a Bible. Where is the zero tolerance in these instances? It does not exist and each time someone gets away with putting down a Christian student, more indoctrination takes place. Why would we question how we got to this place, where men can carry on shameful acts with men? Why would we be ridiculous to envision a day when a forty year old man says he is attracted to ten year old girls and will be allowed to do what makes him happy? If God withholds judgment long enough, that day will come.

It is time for TRUE Christians to stand up for what the Bible says is true—that homosexuality IS a sin, that God does not condone it, and that God has not nor will He ever change the definition of marriage. Perhaps God will have mercy on this nation. My hunch, though, is that will not be the case. God is a just God and will only tolerate His creation spitting in His face for so long.

Even so, Come Lord Jesus.

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An Unraveling

The other day I was doing laundry. As I transferred the now dry clothes from the dryer to the empty laundry basket in order to fold them, one of the socks had a thread dangling from the top of it. I tugged on the thread in the attempt to pull it off. Instead of ending up with a small piece of thread in my hand, the once short piece of thread grew longer and longer as the entire top of the sock came unraveled. Before I realized what was happening, the top of the sock was completely void of any elasticity to hold it in place on one’s leg. One small piece of loose thread led to the sock being rendered useless.

Lately I feel as though someone has pulled loose threads in me and around me.

The daily challenges of living with any illness can prove to be difficult. I am the first to admit that the path I walk is no way comparable to the path that some have had and continue to have to endure. My body is not subject to harsh chemical treatment as one who is dealing with cancer must do to their bodies. I do not pretend to know the grief a young mom must feel as she is told by the military chaplain that her young husband and father of their children did not survive the helicopter crash. I do not know what it is to cower in fear because Christian music is playing on my radio station. While none of these things pertain to me, I do understand the difficulty that getting out of bed each day can bring because one’s body is wracked with pain or one’s world looks so dark and lonely that even the brightest light seems unable to penetrate the depths of sadness. With each medical test result that is unfavorable, I find that I am feeling my world unravel. Each day spent battling my own thoughts and finding myself weary from the battle to keep my head above water is more unraveling. Each relationship that has changed–and not for the better– because life has brought me to a new location and loneliness now lives where friendships once resided has contributed further to the sense of unraveling.

Looking outside myself, I see a world around me also unraveling.

A man, once lauded as being one of the greatest athletes of all time, is now lavished with attention for becoming a woman–something he said he always felt anyway. And the attention is not coming from a negative vantage point. No, it is just the opposite. He is being praised for his “courage” to be true to who he really is. Seriously? Fifty years ago, the attention received for such acts was anything but positive. In addition to that, in all likelihood, the highest court in our land will soon rule favorably for homosexual marriage–something that legally they have no right to do but are taking the liberty to do so regardless of what our Constitution states about the constraints of what this court is allowed to rule on. Fifty years ago, no one would have ever predicted that the blatant sin of homosexuality would not only be tolerated but also encouraged.  On the opposite of the spectrum, it is now illegal to have the Ten Commandments displayed on public property. (yes, there are areas of the country that are exceptions) Placing a nativity set on state owned property is sure to cause an uproar by those who are offended by  the Baby Jesus. Praying in school or holding an after school Bible study in an available classroom is now forbidden by school authorities, yet they allow an entire day of silence devoted to the advocates of the LGBT movement.  An unraveling of morals is taking place.

If you’ve ever watched the television show “All in the Family”, you probably remember the lyrics to its theme song:
“And you knew where you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men…”
In too many families, men are no longer taught to be men. Instead, they are taught to be whoever they feel inside they should be.  Gosh, I think maybe I identify more with cats than I do people, so maybe I should change my identity to that of the feline persuasion. At the rate things are going, I may soon be able to do just that. After all, no one but me really knows how I feel, so I can legitimately feel any way I desire.

In my own life and in the world around me, the unraveling can be frustrating and scary. I don’t pretend to know where it all will end in either case. In the case of my sock, it ended with the sock being useless. In my personal life, because I am not a sock but rather a child of God, I know that I won’t be useless until God makes that clear by calling me home. In the meantime, while I struggle greatly with the effects of illness and depression, I am being forced to lean hard on Him to get me through each day. I see His hand in my life most days–when I wake to rain and thunderstorms instead of hot sunshine, when summer gives way to cooler temperatures of autumn, when my daughter comes and she and my sweet little grandson spend the day with me, or when my kitties jump up on my lap and purr as they fall asleep. Some days I struggle to find Him. My heart longs for some kind of reassurance that just doesn’t come. Even in those times, though, I can remind myself that just because I cannot see Him does not mean He isn’t here.

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The Eagle’s Nest

Enjoying the Word of God is fairly new to me. Although I am familiar with its stories, it is only within the last few months that I have found myself longing to spend time in it. With the exception of Psalms and Proverbs, I never really paid much attention to the Old Testament. Then, this past year, I participated in a Bible study that went through the life of Moses. That meant I had to read the first five books of the Old Testament. Yes, that meant reading even the book of Leviticus! Truth be told, though, I learned so much from those first five books. Of all the stories and verses that are contained in those books of Moses, one small section in particular really caught my attention. As I studied it more, I was touched by how God really cares for us as His children.

Deuteronomy 32:9-11 says, “For the LORD’S portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.”

These verses are part of a song of praise that Moses was singing to God. Moses had led the often rebellious and whiny Israelites for forty years through the wilderness after God had rescued them from bondage in Egypt. The book of Deuteronomy is mostly a retelling of the events that took place from the day they left Egypt until the death of Moses. It was verse eleven, though, that made me want to dig deeper. What did Moses mean when he compared God to an eagle stirring its nest? Since research is one of my favorite things to do, I decided to learn more about the ways of the majestic eagle. What I found struck me anew with love and awe for my God.

To begin with, eagles typically mate for life. From what researchers and naturalists can determine from eagles that have been banded and studied, an eagle will only stray from its life partner in the case of the death of its partner or a partner unable to reproduce. The eagle newlyweds build large, sturdy nests, comprised of sticks and lined with softer materials such as grass or cottonwood. Eagles’ nests are thought to be the largest nests of any bird. They build these nests high up in trees, usually near water.  Each year, the male and female eagles produce two eggs although sometimes only one is produced and sometimes three are produced. The eggs are tended to by both mom and dad eagle. For the first two weeks after the eggs have hatched, one parent is constantly with their offspring. Both mom and dad hunt for food to bring back to the nest to feed their new little ones. They tear the food into pieces and feed it directly to the little birds for the first few weeks. Eventually, they just drop the pieces in the nest and the little birds feed themselves. Baby eagles are ready to fly around the age of ten weeks.

Here is where the majesty of God and the beauty of Moses’ song come in…

A baby eagle is pretty comfortable in the nest mommy and daddy built for it. The baby is well protected from predators not only by the location of the nest, but also by mommy and daddy keeping a watchful eye on their offspring. Eagles, though, weren’t designed to sit in nests all the time. In fact, one of the most majestic sights one can witness in nature is that of a bald eagle soaring through the sky, showing off for a potential mate or hunting for food for its family. The eagle parents know that it is going to take a little persuading to get the little one(s) to try out their wings. So, momma goes through the nests and “stirs” it. She pulls some of the sticks out of their carefully intertwined design so that they protrude into the inside of the nest. Enough sticks are disturbed that whenever the baby eagle, which by now is almost too big for the nest, moves, it is poked by the end of a stick. Home is no longer as comfortable as it once was. The small eagle may still be reluctant to leave the safety and security of the nest, so mommy and daddy give it some help by nudging it out of the nest. Of course, momma loves her little bird so she isn’t really going to allow it to fall to the ground, but she desires her little one to learn how to use its wings so it can survive in the world in which it has to live. The little bird frantically flaps its wings but does not have the strength yet to prevent a crash to the ground. No worries, though, for momma bird is watching closely and swoops down to grab her little one and carry it in the protection of her strong and developed flight wings. After several exercises like this, the little bird gains strength and learns to use its wings to fly on its own power.

As I read about this process and compared it to the verses found in Deuteronomy, I was struck by how Moses likened our God to the protective mother eagle. Sometimes, God has to “stir” up our nests to make us uncomfortable. Maybe we’ve allowed our walk with Christ to become nothing more than routine habit. We read our Bibles because it is the first (or last) thing on our to-do list. We go to church because it is what a “good Christian” is supposed to do. We sing because it is expected of us. Our prayers have become nothing more than a laundry list of things we bring to God to make our lives more comfortable. But, like the mother eagle, God knows that our comfort is really a disservice to us. Then, after stirring our nest so that we get poked by sharp sticks and we are not quite as comfortable, God takes us a step further and nudges us completely out of our comfort zone. He refuses to let us stay where we are, for He knows we need to learn to survive in this world in which we live. But be certain, God does not push us out of the nest and then watch as we fall helplessly to the ground, scratch His chin and say, “Well, I thought she was ready. Guess not. Oh well. I have other children I can work with.” No. God doesn’t do that. Instead, He keeps a close eye on us and, like the eagle, will rescue us and protect us under His wings. He will not let us crash to the ground.  Time and again, God will push us out of our comfort zone in order to strengthen our wings—our faith. Each time He rescues us, we are reassured that He is there, He is in control, and He loves us.

What “push” has God applied to your life? What has happened that made you think that you would for sure crash and burn, yet here you are, still standing because God rescued you? I’m not saying that every difficult and uncomfortable event in our lives is caused by God. We live in a world that is full of evil and pain and sadness. But, nothing comes into our life that isn’t filtered through the hands of God. He may not cause it but, for whatever reason, He allows hard times to fall on all of us. He wants us to turn to Him during those times of discomfort—He desires that we trust Him to rescue us and protect us under His wings. Sickness and disease and pain may permeate our bodies. Anguish and sadness can torment our emotions and mind. Anxiety and fear can paralyze us.  The ground is still there. The storm rages on. The nest is still uncomfortable. But under the loving wings of our Savior we can be sure of one thing—we are safe from ultimate harm.

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Grandma Prays

I read a quote the other day on Pinterest that really caught my attention. It said:

“Grandma’s prayers are the reason a lot of us are still here.” (No author credit was given)

Almost twelve weeks ago, I entered into a new stage of life. I became a grandma to an absolutely perfect little boy. He is named after his great grandfather, he looks a lot like his daddy but has his mommy’s eyes and a little of his Uncle DJ in him too, and he surprised us all by deciding to make his appearance three and a half weeks early. He has ten tiny little fingers and ten tiny little toes and more hair on his head than his grandpa Dave has. :)  I knew I would love him; what I didn’t realize is just how much my heart would be full of love for my grandson. I treasure the moments I can hold him and sing to him (he doesn’t mind the fact that grammy doesn’t have a very good singing voice) and read to him (yes, I have read to him already). I don’t look around my house and panic because there is so much to get done. I don’t care if there is. I know from experience that this baby will grow to be big way too fast. I don’t want to miss it. That’s what is so awesome about being a grandma–I have the time now to cuddle and rock and sing and love and teach without the stress of siblings and housework and obligations.

Yes, I absolutely love being a grandma.

I am also finding that, often as I hold him, I am praying for him. A grandma has time to pray–especially a grandma who has an illness that keeps her sitting a lot anyway. I pray that God will protect him from harm. I pray that he would learn at a very young age that Jesus loves him SO much. I pray for his mommy and daddy that they would have the strength to withstand the sleepless nights now and those to come. I pray that he will come to know Jesus at an early age and desire to follow Him. I pray a lot for him. Don’t get me wrong–I prayed (and continue to pray) as a mom too. I ask God for many of the same things for my now grown children and I did pray for them as they grew up although not nearly as often as I should have. I didn’t understand prayer very much back then. I didn’t realize how important it is. As I have come to know Jesus in the last couple years, I have been learning more about the importance of prayer. Because of this, I find my prayers for my grandson to be so much deeper than how I used to pray as a mom of young kids.

I did not have the benefit of a grandma who prayed for me. I only knew one of my four grandparents. The other three had passed away long before I was born. The grandma I knew was nice enough. She even lived with us for a while. I remember one time she gave my friend and me money for the ice cream truck as it came down our street. She watched TV with me. But she didn’t go to church. She never talked about God–at least not in a way I could repeat. She respected those who desired to pray before meals or before bed, but she never initiated it. I’m not sure she really knew Jesus personally.

I do not want to be that kind of grandma. I want my grandson to know his grandma prays for him, for his mommy and for his daddy. I want him to know who Jesus is. I want him to know Jesus has a special plan for his life. I want him to understand that without Jesus, his life will not be complete. I want him to grow up knowing that his grandma, above all else, loved Jesus more than anything this world can offer. As I softly sing “Jesus Loves Me” to a little boy who already fights sleep (just like his Uncle DJ used to do), I pray that some day he will remember and know without a doubt that Jesus does love him.

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