Dwelling with God

I’ve noticed in my Bible reading lately the word “dwell” keeps appearing. This word appears over four hundred times in Scripture. This morning I decided to do a short word study to see what ways this word can be applied to my current life situation. This is what I found in regards to a definition of the word:

Dwell:
1.(v. i) to delay; to linger
2. (v. i) to abide; to remain; to continue
3. (v. i) to abide as a permanent resident, or for a time; to live in a place
4. (v. t) to inhabit

The first three definitions are intransitive verbs. This means the verb does not require and object to complete its meaning. Meaning four is a transitive verb. It requires an object. One can linger or continue and leave it at that and the meaning is understood. However, if I say I am going to “inhabit”, the next logical question would be, “Inhabit what?”

A quick disclaimer—my life is very much like many others’ lives. No one walks through this world unscathed by the troubles and heartaches that exist here. My scathing may come in a different form than yours, but rest assured, we all have been dealt hands at one time or another that were difficult to play. Because of this universal fact, even though my struggles are inherently part of me mainly due to illness and yours may stem from something outside of you, the fact remains that life is often hard no matter what we try to do to avoid difficult circumstances.

The verse that started my searching came from the book of Psalms. This will not be much of a surprise to you if you have read much of what I have written. The Psalms comfort me through many difficult days. I actually accepted a challenge that our pastor put forth last fall. His premise for the challenge was the theme he chose for the ministry year titled “One Degree”. Simply put, one small change carried out over time has the potential to radically change our lives. This is true in all areas of life—not just spiritually. A change of diet with added exercise will cause a body to drop pounds, BUT this regimen has to be carried out over time. One week of change will not result in much transformation. The one degree of change I chose was to memorize Scripture. I decided that memorizing whole Psalms would be a good starting point given that I spend so much time in there anyway. The first Psalm I chose was Psalm 91. The first verse of that Psalm?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

This seems to me to be a conditional statement. IF I dwell—linger, remain, continue in—the presence of God, I am assured a rest that God gives. This rest is found in His shadow. Israel has a warm, subtropical climate. The average temperature in January is 53° F. Summer temperatures rule the region from April to October with an average temperature in June, July, and August hitting 86°F. Shade is a welcome source to escape the heat of the sun. The Psalmist, himself an Israelite, understood how refreshing a break from the heat of the sun could be. The Psalmist knows if he is overheated while tending to his work outside, a break in the shade is just the ticket for renewed strength to finish the job. The implication is clear…are you overheated? Have you been out in the sun too long? Seek out some shade. Take a break from the oppressive heat of the blazing sunshine and cool off a bit in the shade. Even a small break from the heat can do wonders for the body and mind.

Life can be oppressive as well. The day to day tasks coupled with the problems caused by living in a fallen world can sap one’s strength and beat one down to the point that the will to continue is hard to muster. God knows we need time of refreshing from the “heat” of this world. He wants us to find rest and rejuvenation in Him. But, the Psalmist goes beyond just rest and rejuvenation. A worker, seeking shade from the sun for a while to rejuvenate, eventually has to go back to his work. He cannot dwell in the shade and keep his job. The Psalmist instructs us, though, to dwell in the shelter of God…to stay, continue, to inhabit it! We are to live there—set up camp, move all our things and make this a new address. Five minutes with a devotional app on a smart phone does not for dwelling make. To have the rest of the Almighty God—to have the strength to face the daily battles—means we need to always be with God. Obviously, this does not mean we quit our responsibilities and move to a cave alone to spend every waking minute in prayer. What it does mean is that our mindset must always be on God—our thoughts should always turn to Him, our emotions should always be of Him, etc. It is only when we make a conscious choice to dwell with God that we will have the rest from the cares of this world—even as those cares rage around us.

It is an amazing concept actually. All around us life is happening and even though we are a player in the game, if our hearts and minds are dwelling with God, we are not being driven by the game. Instead, we are resting in the coolness that only the shadow of God can provide. I want to find my place there more and more. I want to learn to dwell with God and experience His rest among the cares and chaos of this life.

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Break my Heart For What Breaks Yours

The title of this entry is a line from a song we often sing in our church worship time. The song is sung by Hillsong United and is titled Hosanna. The entire stanza goes like this:

“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from nothing to eternity.”

I have come to realize that often in my lifetime I have been selfish in what I allow to break my heart. I have always been a sensitive person, especially when it involves animals. As a child, the sight of a dead cat or even a dead deer in the road would bring instant tears. Admittedly, sometimes that still happens.

Heck, it still happens a lot!

I’ve also spent more tears than I care to admit over personal difficulties. Of course, I think it’s okay to cry when one is in pain or grieving or dealing with hard stuff that inevitably comes with life in this world. I believe God is okay with those tears, for He knows we are human and have feelings and emotions. He created us to feel. If I knew someone who just lost a loved one or got news of a terminal illness and they were laughing and going on with life like nothing happened, I would question whether that person were indeed human. Jesus cried when He arrived to his dear friends’ Mary and Martha’s house and found their brother–also Jesus’ friend–dead and already in the grave. The Gospels also tell us that Jesus was in such anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane that He sweat tears of blood. I have been down in the pit of despair many times in my life, yet never have I been so distraught that I sweated blood.

Last month news broke of a local dentist who had paid money to kill a lion in Zimbabwe. The lion, it turns out, was protected. He lived on a wildlife reserve AND he even had a name–Cecil. I admit when that story broke, I could not watch any of the footage. Instant tears would fill my eyes (and still do even as I type this) as I pictured this beautiful creature, King of beasts, being lured away from safety and killed for no reason except for some idiot to be able to brag that he killed a lion. My heart was broken for Cecil.

Was God’s?

I can’t really say. I know Cecil was God’s creation and I know God loves and has compassion on all He has made. God values human life over animal life, though, which is why he gave man dominion over all the creatures that move on the earth.

Soon after the news broke the story of Cecil the lion, another news story broke. This one was also one that told of unjust murder. The only thing is, this was not a protected lion that was killed. Instead, it was a report of MANY killings–of human babies. The outrage should come there. Everyone should be outraged that babies, the weakest humans, were not only murdered and dismembered, but that it took place in what is supposed to be the safest of places–the warmth of a mommy’s womb. And this murder is legal. Abortion, as this murder is known as, is legal in this country. Most who choose this procedure simply do so out of convenience. The timing of a pregnancy didn’t quite suit the plans already laid out so the easiest thing to do is to kill the “inconvenience”. Abortion doctors lie to these women and tell them that what they are doing isn’t murder; it can’t be murder if what is growing inside them isn’t referred to as a baby. So, medicine and science has come up with terms to avoid the truth. A baby is now referred to as a fetus. I guess this is supposed to take the guilt out of the truth of what is really happening. Yet, if a pregnant woman is killed by a bullet from a random gunman, and that gunman is caught and convicted, he is usually convicted of double murder.

Abortion is nothing new (sadly). No. The shock of the news story came from revealing videos from the largest liars and performers of abortion in this country: Planned Parenthood. Not only did these liars kill innocent, tiny babies by ripping them out of the one place they should be completely safe, but they tore their remains apart to sell their tiny hands, feet, brains, and other organs.

Where is the outrage? Where are the Americans who protest the killing of a lion or the killing of a criminal by a police officer?

Why do most turn the other way and pretend something tragic isn’t happening here?

This morning, as I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, a post appeared that instantly made me sob. The link was to the most recently released video of Planned Parenthood slaughter. The picture was a baby—not a fetus—a baby. This baby was obviously a little boy. I only read the first two sentences. I will not repeat what was written there except to say that the person giving the story was a Planned Parenthood employee and had just been given the instruction to harvest a brain from an aborted  baby whose heart was still beating.

Did you catch that? His heart was STILL BEATING.

This was a real little baby—hands, feet, fingers, toes, a heart and a brain that would soon be cut out of him. I instantly thought of my beautiful baby grandson—Wayne, who turned 5 months yesterday. I couldn’t read any further. With no chance of stopping them, tears flooded my eyes and soaked my cheeks. Sobs came from deep within me as I thought of all the precious baby boys and girls who were killed because a woman felt he or she was an inconvenience. I continued to sob and I realized that my heart was breaking for something that most certainly breaks the heart of God. I thought about the millions of slain babies. How much pain did the murder cause them? What would they have become? How might they have changed this world? I could not stop the tears. I thanked God for the gift of our grandson and the joy he brings to our lives. I also prayed that God would hold the souls of those babies never given a chance at life—never allowed to be snuggled by a mommy or tossed up in the air and caught by a daddy or slide down a playground slide or feel the rain splash around them as they jump in puddles. More tears. More heart break.

I don’t stand in judgment of women who have made this choice. I do not pretend to know what it is like to find myself pregnant and scared to tell anyone. I do not have all the facts of every abortion performed. BUT, I don’t need any of this to know abortion is murder. You can call it something else to make yourself feel better about what is happening, but the bottom line is abortion is murder.

Planned Parenthood has duped many people into believing they are a wonderful organization that exists only to serve women in the most positive ways. In reality, that is a lie. This organization serves only to hurt women. They are only out to serve themselves and make money doing it. This should be an outcry to any person who has any sense of morals, but especially Christians should be outraged and moved to action. These precious babies are not forgotten by God and I believe justice will come on this nation that allows the murder of the most helpless and innocent among us. The question is, will we allow our hearts to be broken as this breaks the heart of God? And, if so, what will we do about it?

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Unpredictable

I remember when cable TV first came to the island community where I grew up. Yes, I actually grew up on an island. Pull up Google Maps and look for Grand Island, NY, and you will see a pork chop shaped island nestled in the Niagara River between Buffalo and Niagara Falls—that’s our hometown. Both my husband and I grew up there. Anyway, my parents resisted the cable bug for a little while, but eventually they caved.  Soon we had more than five channels to choose from on our television. Since it was the 80’s, I admit to spending countless hours watching MTV. That’s when they actually played music videos. Oh, and the videos weren’t of the sort that would need a parental advisory before airing. It’s why my parents didn’t raise too many objections, although they never joined me in my viewing habit. Instead, my parents found their own favorite station to watch. I can’t recall what my mom watched—she may have stuck to the original local channels. The Waltons and Wheel of Fortune were two of her favorites. MY dad, on the other hand, discovered The Weather Channel. Again, at that time, The Weather Channel actually aired weather forecasts. He became obsessed with always knowing what they were forecasting our weather to be. Of course, much of the time their predictions weren’t completely accurate. In fact, I remember him getting angry once, saying it was the only job where you could consistently be wrong and still keep your job and salary. He was convinced of two things. One was that the meteorologists were paid by the tourism departments to predict nice weather for the weekend even if that was not to be the case. The second thing he was certain of was that meteorologists purposely included a chance of every type of weather possible for the given season so as to make themselves look good. I can still hear him swearing at the TV: “Partly Sunny with a chance of rain showers. S*#t! I could get up there and say that day after day.” My dad knew, as I learned, that while meteorologists can predict some of what may happen, weather is, for the most part, unpredictable. A blue sky with bright sunshine can quickly be covered by dark storm clouds that soon release sheets of rain.

I’m finding life to be just like the weather.

Unpredictable.

Now, everyone knows that none of us can know what is going to happen. Any person at any given time can have their world crash down around them. But, the majority of people live their lives with some type of predictability. They wake up, shower, get dressed, eat some breakfast, drink some coffee (or Diet Pepsi), and begin whatever their work is for the day. Some leave their house and drive to work, while some, like stay at home moms, stay at home and tackle a never ending to-do list. Lunch is midday. Dinner is in the evening. Bedtime is pretty consistent. In a nutshell, predictable. I’ve lived on the edge of that kind of life before. Having four kids under the age of five, I have to say that predictability often went out the window! But, as strange as it sounds, the unpredictability of kids was, in its own way, predictable. There was always a part of me, though, that struggled with the not knowing what a day might hold. That part of me was the part that fought depression. As difficult as it was dealing with depression as a mom with four little ones, the busyness of those years often forced my depression to take a back seat to mothering.

That is not the case anymore. Those busy years disappeared much quicker than I ever thought they would, and now I find myself an empty nester. One would think that having an empty nest would make life much more predictable. I think that would be true for me if it weren’t for one thing–the presence of an invisible illness. MS has made my days, and therefore my life, unpredictable. Although I have struggled with depression for years, the daily battle with the chronic pain, fatigue, dizziness, and other issues related to my MS has added to the pit of depression in which I often find myself. I can wake up feeling lousy, literally having to force myself to even get out of bed but be feeling much better by afternoon. The opposite is true as well. I can wake up feeling wonderful, but by lunchtime I find any energy completely gone and need to hit the couch or pillow for necessary rest. One day I can get through most of the items on my to-do list, but the very next day find that vertigo is so bad there is no way I will be able to get much of anything accomplished. Likewise, I can wake up feeling refreshed and energized, but for no apparent reason, out of the blue will come streams of tears. This is not an easy way to live—not for me, nor for my family. Most of the time, I am skilled at hiding all that is going on inside. I have learned over the years of battling depression to compartmentalize. In other words, my heart, my body, and my mind may be in turmoil, but my actions don’t necessarily reflect that turmoil. I am often amazed how some people are just really adept at seeing through the masks I feel I have to don. Most, though, assume that if I am out and about, talking and acting like nothing is wrong that day, well then, nothing must be wrong that day. That’s just not the case most of the time. I have often returned to the book of Job as I have learned to ride the waves of illness. Job didn’t understand what was happening to him. He didn’t know why it was happening to him. He was fairly confident that he had not done anything to cause God to see him unfavorably, yet still he suffered tremendously.

Life, like the weather, is unpredictable. Sunshine and blue skies can quickly give way to dark clouds and storms. In these stormy times, I am thankful when I am reminded that God is in control of the storms— those found in the atmosphere as well as those that rumble through my life and heart. I don’t always like the storms. In fact, I usually resent them. But I am trying to remember that God works all things for my good and His glory—even depression that grips so tight I am certain my life will be snuffed out or illness that sidelines me and reduces me to one who feels worthless to those around me.

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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

wayne4

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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