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What is Family?

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

I am exhausted.  Dead dog tired.  My back hurts, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, my head hurts.  I have absolutely poured sweat today, seasoned fish for the first time in my life, run around in the pouring rain, and have eaten zucchini pie.

It’s been a great day.

Today we had a picnic with our sister church, Rising Sun Baptist Church.  Our church, Seaford Baptist, was invited by Rising Sun Baptist to join them in their annual church picnic.  Last spring, I was asked to join two other friends from my church to join their committee to help plan this event.

I love my church.  And I love the people of Rising Sun.  And I love it when our churches come together.

But, I will admit that when I think of picnic, I picture a 2 hour event, 3 hours tops.  Eat some hot dogs, some hamburgers, some delicious desserts and go home.  How hard could that be?

Well, friends, what I found out during our first planning meeting was that Rising Sun does not have an annual church picnic.  They have an annual church PICNIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Set up starts at 8:00 am.  Picnic starts at noon and goes to 6pm.  And, this isn’t just hamburgers and hotdogs.  No, we are talking that plus chicken, crabs, fish, wings, and more sides and desserts then you can even begin to fathom.  Plus an amazing D.J., music, tug-of-war (be sure to check out the video above!), Bounce Houses, give-aways, decorations, games, face-painting, kettle corn, and I seriously can’t think of all the rest of the list at the moment.

It’s been a great day.

Sure, it was hot and sticky, then wet and rainy.  But who cares?

Because we were with family.

At one point, I paused long enough to take in what was going on around me, and I was amazed.  I shouldn’t be, though.  Because what I was observing was family.  It was brothers and sisters, in Christ, working together, playing together, laughing together, and doing life together.

It was Romans 12:5, put into action:  So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

One body.  In Christ.  Brothers.  Sisters.  Family

I saw this clearly worked out my own, little family’s life this week, up close.  My oldest son has wanted to enlist in the Navy after high school from the moment he joined JROTC his freshman year.  After 4 years of this dream, it became a reality for him yesterday, when he traveled to Fort Lee, VA and was processed into the military.

When we first started down this road seriously, it was a bumpy ride.  Not knowing anything about the process or what was involved, I was of absolutely no help to my boy.  I drove him one day after school to the recruiter’s office.  Tim was so nervous.  He wore his JROTC uniform and was a wreck.  And it wasn’t a pleasant experience.  In fact, it was downright discouraging.

I was at a loss as to how to help my son achieve his dream and goal.

In stepped a Navy Master Sergeant from our church family.  This man not only advised us on what to do, he got involved, walking Tim through every step of the process.  We learned so much from him that we would have never known.  And, after Tim scored extremely well on his ASVAB test at school, this MSgt. accompanied Tim back to the recruiter’s office.  When we ran into a medical bump alone the way, he explained the reason behind it and encouraged Tim to keep going.  Once Tim was medically cleared and his date for processing was set, this gentleman took an entire day off of work, drove up to Richmond to the processing center early in the morning and patiently waited for Tim.  I couldn’t be there because of work; but I wouldn’t have been any use to Tim any way.  Tim’s mentor was able to advise Tim throughout the job assigning stage, he was able to ask questions that I wouldn’t have even known to ask, and he was able to see Tim all the way through to his ceremonial swearing-in.

And, he has assured Tim that he will follow-up with the recruiter to make sure things keep moving forward.  He helped my boy achieve his dream–his calling.

That, my friends, is what church family does.   When there is a need that can be met, they step up to the plate.  When there is someone hurting, they are cared for.  When there is something to rejoice over, they join in that rejoicing.

And when there is good food to eat, they do that together, too.

Seaford Baptist has been family to my family.  Rising Sun Baptist Church has been family to my family.  Zion United Methodist Church has been family to my family (we live in their parsonage).  And Yorkminster Presbyterian Church has been family to my family.  And other churches, too.  And I pray that I and my crew have been family to them as well.

And Christ has been the foundation of it all.

And not just the foundation, but the cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:19-20:  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The whole structure….being joined together….growing into a holy temple in the Lord.  A dwelling place for God.

That is family.

Together We Point to Christ.


Miracles: The Current Beneath—A Book Review

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Wonder Working God

What are miracles, really? Sure, we read about them in the New Testament–the healing of the blind, the resurrection of Lazarus, the casting out of demons–all performed by Jesus, the Son of God. And yes, the are striking. Astonishing, actually. But they tend, at least for me, to raise more questions than answers.

Such as “Why did Jesus use spit on a couple of occasions?” and “Why did He choose to heal seemingly selectively as opposed to every person during that time who needed healing?” and the biggie–“Why don’t we see such astonishing acts today?”

Jared Wilson, author of The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles, does exactly what his title suggests–he shows us the glory of Jesus, the Son of God, through the miracles that He performed. And it is a brilliant glory. Nearly blinding, in and of itself.

I received this review copy of this book from Crossway Publishers. I was unsure of what I was looking for in reading it. I found out that I wasn’t looking for something–I was looking for someone.

Wilson walks us through, chapter by chapter, several miracles. Miracles that, if you are familiar with Sunday School, then you’ve probably heard before. But Wilson also dusts off the accumulated layers of time and repetitiveness to offer a fresh look at not only the actual event, but the underlying current that courses through each event. No, he doesn’t add extra-biblical insight into these wonders. Instead, he points us to see what is truly there: Jesus.

In fact, His last chapter, titled “The Singular Miracle of the Eternally Begotten” is about the greatest miracle of all. Jesus, Himself. And as I read that chapter, I was woefully reminded how often I forget–or rather, do not even comprehend–the fact that Jesus is a miracle. The greatest miracle. And if we can’t grasp that, then none of his other miracles make any sense.

Wilson’s writing didn’t answer my “biggie” question, of why we don’t see such blatant miracles today that we read about in Scripture. But, then again, in reading his book, that question of mine actually shrank just a bit. Scripture is truth. And so I found my “biggie” question slowly overshadowed by the sheer awe of who Jesus was and is today, and who He will continue to be in the future. He is the Miracle of the Eternally Begotten. And as such, I was deeply convicted by this paragraph in Wilson’s Conclusion:

“Our boredom at any time, then, is a sin. Sin is, at its essence, a failure of worship, and failing to worship is failing to be astonished by the presence and activity of God in the world. Sin is a failure to marvel at and be motivated by the miracle of the gospel.”

I do not want to fall prey to boredom, ever, in regards to the miracle of the gospel. Being reminded of who Jesus is, and that God is a Wonder-Working God, prods me to worship and marvel. As it should be.


Needing a Heart Transplant (Not for the Squeamish)

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Heart of Flesh

It’s been a challenging week.

I’m not completely sure why.  Nothing major.  A growing to-do list that never seems to reach the “To-Done” state.  Anxiety over little things like bills, the upcoming school year, decisions that need to be made.  A foot injury that I stubbornly and obsessively am refusing to allow me to slow down in my quest for a healthier lifestyle marked by consistent exercise.  A readiness to see my crew back at school and being productive, instead of me getting frustrated that, as soon as their chores are done for the day, they instantly turn into slugs–as teenagers are prone to do.  You know, the little things that make up life.

And a maybe a few bigger items.  Like the realization that my amazing oldest girl will be 21 on Monday–and how much time has just flown by.  And the realization that it’s been exactly 5 years this week since Jack’s incarceration…and all the memories and thoughts that drudges up (5 years?  Really?  Where have I BEEN the past 5 years??  Where did the time GO??)  And, of course, the fight against skepticism and cynicism that has crept a bit more into my brain this week than usual.

So…a few challenges.  But, in the grand scheme of things, they are just that:  Challenges.  These challenges—-along with the joys of spending time with my crew, worshiping with my church family, anticipating celebrating my girl’s birthday with her, seeing good results in the exercise and healthy eating choices I’m making, and rewarding work in areas that I’m passionate about and that God has called me to—–all of it combined is what this life is made up of.  Joy, sorrow, challenges to overcome, challenges to face, meaningful relationships to relish and enjoy, good books to read, grief to experience, pain to endure.  There is so much to life.

So much to experience.  So much to feel.  And “feeling” can be terribly frightening.

Feeling hurts some times.  Even joy can be painful–the joy of watching your sweet babies grow up can leave a hint of pain in your life.  But other pain is much deeper than a hint–other times pain can be gut-wrenching.  Terrifying, even.  When a loved one is sick and there are no answers.  When a child makes wrong choices in their lives and you hurt deeply for them.  When your marriage crumbles.  When heinous crimes are committed, destroying families.  When racial tension threatens to undo an entire city, such as Ferguson, MO.  When Kurdish Christians are forced to flee or face death for not converting to Islam.

When our questions about God and pain and suffering become almost too much to bear.

And so we react, by not feeling.  We react by becoming automatons.  We react by returning to a heart that is stone cold.  A soul full of skepticism, because we fool ourselves into thinking that skepticism is oh, so much easier.  And way more intellectual.  The smarter choice.  Because if I choose to not feel, then I can’t get hurt.  Not only can I not get hurt, I become completely absolved of any responsibility of doing anything to try to alleviate the pain that I see others around me in.  I become completely absolved of praying for or caring for those who are hurting in Ferguson.  Or in Iraq.  Or next door.

And I can use my skepticism as a fancy, trendy tool to justify my doubt.  To justify my cold heart.

How can I say all of this?  Because I’m the queen of skepticism.  I’m the queen of using doubt to push away both joy and pain.  I’ve got a doctoral degree in holding on to my cold, stone heart, when God clearly longs to give me a heart of flesh.

In fact, He did give me a heart of flesh.  It says so in scripture.  And scripture is truth.  In Ezekiel 36:26 we read:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

How did God do this?  Through salvation.  Through the sacrificial death of his Son on the cross.  Through forgiveness of my own heinous sins.  Through His tremendous love for me.

So why, why, why do I try to return to that cold, stone heart time and time again?  Why do I do that, when that heart of stone is gone.  It is gone.  It was dead, and now it is alive.  I was dead, and now I am alive.  Why would I want to return back to skepticism, to cynicism, to coldness?  To protect myself from pain?  To not have to do something about the suffering I see in the lives of those around me?  To absolve me of responsibility to pray, and then to act?

Because if that’s why I do it, I’m a fool.  I’m a fool, because in doing so, I miss out on the joy of watching God’s grace pour out time and time again both in my own life and in the lives around me.  I miss out on the wonder of who my God is.  And I do nothing to protect myself from feeling pain, because–no matter how much I try to return to the world of skepticism and cynicism, the truth is, God has performed the miraculous in my life.  The heart of stone is gone.  What beats in its place is a heart of flesh.  One that feels, deeply.  One that sees.  And one that is called to act, not live a sheltered life under a thick skin of un-feeling.  A thick skin of disbelief.  A thick skin of not caring.

N.T. Wright, a new Testament scholar and brilliant thinker has said “It’s time to be skeptical of our own skepticism.”  There is great truth in that statement.  I know it full well in my own life.  It is time for me, to be skeptical of my own skepticism.

I’m including a video below.  It’s of a complete cardiac transplant.  It’s bloody and gory, hence the disclaimer in the title of this blog.  But it’s fascinating, too.  Especially around minute 5:11, if you want to skip to there.  Because it is at that moment that the transplant becomes complete.  And the patient who previously was suffering from a diseased heart (dead) all of a sudden is the recipient of a new heart.  A heart of flesh that is healthy, and alive and beating.  Amazing.  But no more amazing than the truth in reiterated in Ezekiel 11:19-20, which tells me:

 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.


Don’t Waste Your Life Sentence

Sunday, August 17th, 2014


Never once did I ever fathom the idea that the word “incarceration” would enter into the life of our family.

Never once.

That was something that “other” families experienced.  That was something that was foreign to me.  That was something I read in novels.  In the news.  Saw on TV shows and in movies.  It couldn’t possibly be something that would become a part of our everyday life.

How quickly life can change.  How quickly sin can rob a family of a father, a mother, a sibling, a child.  One day you are an intact family, the next—there is abandonment, chaos, and adjustment to the fact that someone you loved deeply is now going to spend their days in a cell.  Separated from their family–rightfully so–because of crimes/sin that they have committed.

And they have a choice to make in that prison—especially those who are serving life sentences.  They can’t choose what food to eat.  They can’t choose when to go to bed or when to wake up.  They can’t choose what job they are going to be assigned to, or who their “cellie” is going to be.  But they do have the choice as to whether they are going to waste their life away in that prison cell, or not.

I watched a video today, produced by John Piper and Desiring God, titled “Don’t Waste Your Life Sentence”.  I will add the video on down below.   It’s a powerful video.  An important one.   It’s been available for over a year, I believe, but I wasn’t ready to watch it until today.  Oh, I’ve thought over the months “I should watch that….” or “I’m curious as to what that video is about…”, but my soul wasn’t ready yet to watch it.  Until today.

My soul wasn’t ready yet, because I hadn’t come to a place where I, myself, had made the decision to not waste my own life sentence.

You may be asking yourself now “What in the world does she mean by that?”  Stay with me..I’ll try to explain.

There’s a certain sense in which a family who has a member incarcerated is in “prison” too.  In many different ways—spiritually, emotionally, financially, even physically if they find themselves homeless or restricted in where they can live.  It’s a very complicated existence.  It’s not one that I can describe to you, not really, unless you’ve lived it yourself.  Unless you’ve answered your children’s questions regarding their father.  Unless you’ve watched your children be patted down in order to visit their father.  Unless you’ve received envelopes in the mail stamped with the prison stamp that let’s you know the letter inside has been investigated.

And, quite honestly, it’s very easy to default to not doing anything.  To allow joy to be robbed, to allow despair and depression to win, and to allow the days to wash over you, piling up one right after another–doing only what is absolutely necessary to provide for your family and to survive yourself.  That’s why they call it survival mode.  You live to survive the next day, then the next, then the next.  And they pile up, just as if you were marking time in a prison cell yourself.

But you know what?  We are all in some ways, given a life sentence.  No, we may not be sitting in some cell, making jailhouse recipes (seriously, there are real recipes inmates create using food they hoard from their dinner trays).  We may not be making hash marks on a wall with the one pencil we are allowed to own as we rack up the time we are serving for our crimes.

But we are living a life sentence.  We see that clearly in Hebrews 9:27 which states:  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Yes, this may sound morbid.  For that I apologize.  But it is truth—we are appointed to die once.  We have one life on this earth as we know it, and after that comes judgement.  We have a life sentence.

But, as you can see, verse 27 ends with a comma, which means there is more to this thought.  Verse 28 goes on to finish the thought by reading:  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Yes, the first part may be morbid–depressing even, but it is truth.  But so is the second part of the sentence.  And that is where the hope comes in.  Jesus Christ was offered as a sacrifice for our sins.  And He is returning a second time……for those who eagerly await Him.

But what do we do in the mean time?  What do we do if we die before Christ returns?  What do we do with our lives?

I had to come to a place following my ex-husband’s arrest and incarceration–and the subsequent abandonment, doubts, fears, joblessness, depression and challenges for myself and my amazing children–where I had to examine my soul and make a decision.  Was I going to waste my own “life sentence” here on this earth, or was I going to choose to live–to work to parent well, to make a decision that I wanted to be well and wanted to allow God to make me well (John 5:6), and to seek to glorify God and try to obey the things I feel He is calling me to do.  I had to make the decision that I did not want to waste my life sentence here on earth.  I don’t want to waste my life sentence here on earth.

Do I do this well?  No, not at all.  Not in the least.  I am too full of pride, to ate up with self-pity, to easily robbed of joy.  I fail, often.  I waste entire minutes, hours, days, wallowing in self-centered, selfish pity instead of working hard to parent well, working hard to be obedient, working hard to comfort others with the comfort that I have been given. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

But I’m trying.  And an amazing thing happens when I try.  When I refuse to waste the moments that God has given me.  Hope emerges.  And an interesting thing about hope:  Hope begets hope.  And joy.

So, I leave you with this question tonight, or rather, this admonition.  Don’t waste your life sentence.  Evaluate what you are pursuing in your life.  Or refusing to pursue.  Matthew 16:26 states:  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

What will it profit us if we work hard to gain the whole world, yet forfeit our very soul when our appointed time to die comes?  What will it profit our families if we work hard to gain the whole word, yet forfeit investing in their lives and leaving them a legacy that is steeped in obedient living?  What will it profit us if we while away our life here on this earth, just marking time, while those around us are hurting and in deep need of the hope that we can give them through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Frankly, I’m tired of wasting my life sentence.  This tired, hurting soul wants to be made well by her God.  And she wants to be obedient to the things He has called her to do–to parent well (even in her many failures), to comfort others (even though she is guilty of not seeing real need at times) and to glorify God (even when it means being pushed outside of her selfish comfort zone)

I’m tired of wasting my life.  I want to live.  Not for this weary soul, but for the only person who has given me real hope:  My God.


Giving Up

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Noland Trail

I wanted to give up today.  I really did.  I wanted to stop and not take another step forward.  Literally.  Not figuratively.

You see, a friend and I tackled The Noland Trail today.  A beautiful trail, located on the grounds of The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News.

I’ve been walking.  A lot.  2.6 miles in the morning, with another 2.4 or so mile walk in the evening, so I thought to myself this morning “You are ready.  It’s only 5 miles.  How hard can it be?”  And I’ve wanted someplace different to walk instead around here in my neighborhood or the nearby 2.6 mile White Oak Trail in Newport News park.

I was wrong.

I thought I was ready.  I was not.  And somehow that little 5 mile hike, came out to be about 6.76 mile hike according to my GPS tracking in my MapMyWalk app.  And somewhere in my brain, I thought it would be a nice, flat walk.  I nice saunter.  Yeah, I didn’t account for the HILLS–both the ones going UP and the ones going DOWN.

At about the 4th mile, I literally thought I was going to die.  My face was blood red.  My hands were swollen.  I felt sick.  And I seriously thought—can I honestly take another step??  I’m going to have to sit down.

But I didn’t sit down.  For one thing, that would have been embarrassing.  I didn’t want my friend to think I was THAT much of a wimp, even though I whined about the trail the entire way.  (It’s ok, I know she’s read this).  Plus there was this creepy guy who literally followed us the entire trail, despite our efforts to get him to go around us.  I certainly wasn’t going to pass out in front of him and risk mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

So I kept going.  One step at a time.  Actually those “one steps at a time” added up to 12, 120 steps–well past my goal of 10,000 steps in a day.

And yeah, I’m glad I did it.  And yeah, I’m proud of us.  And yeah, I’m glad it’s over.  And yeah, I’ll probably not walk that blasted trail again until I lose another 30 pounds (I’m at a 31 pound loss as of today).

I know, it’s a silly story.  But let me use this silly story to be serious for a moment, if you don’t mind.

Sure, I wanted to give up today on this little hiking adventure of ours.  But I didn’t.  I kept going.  But you know what.  There have been plenty of other times in my life—real times, dark times, hateful, evil times–when I have seriously wanted to give up.  I mean really give up.  As in permanently.  No more steps forward.  No more strength.  No more hope.


But God’s grace has intervened time and time again.  Both in very real, physical, literal ways and in very real spiritual ways.  And, His grace continues to intervene.  Just when I can’t go another step.  Can’t parent another moment.  Can’t pay another bill.  Can’t make myself interact with the world one more time.  In He steps, with grace, love, compassion—and the incessant prodding of my soul to keep moving forward.  To not stop.  Because there remains work to be done.  In so many areas.

I love Psalm 31.  I won’t put it all here, but I’ll give you a brief overview and hope that you will read it for yourself.

It’s a call for rescue.  It’s a call of honesty.  The writer pens the famous words “Into Your Hand I commit my spirit”.  He speaks of enemies.  He speaks of distress, of anguish.  He says the following words, that my soul has echoed so often:

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

But you know what is remarkable through out this Psalm?  The writer never seems to doubt God’s love.  Or His faithfulness.  Or His ability to rescue.  Other Psalms do.  But not this one.  No, this one ends on a note of hope.  On a note of encouragement to those who might read his words.  It ends on a note of hope.  A note to urge the reader to keep walking.  To keep moving forward.  To cry out in honesty to God–YES, a thousand times yes!!  But to also trust that God is who He says He is.  The ending verse is this:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord!

Be strong.  Even in tremendous weakness.  And I have known (and still do know) tremendous weakness.  Let your heart take courage—-even in the face of overwhelming fear.  Debilitating fear.  And wait for the Lord.  Wait.  Because He has “heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.”

And just like I knew my friend was not going to let me stop and die on the Noland Trail today, I have to believe that hope is truth, and that my God hears my pleas for mercy when I cry out to Him.  And, as a result I intend to keep going.  To keep pushing forward.  To keep moving forward.  To not give up.

Below is a video that came across the internet this week that I absolutely fell in love with.  It demonstrates this so well.  He’s two years old, and due to some tragic incident, he does not have his original leg anymore.  But he has a prosthetic.  And this video captures some of his first moments walking with his prosthetic and his walker—and the great encouragement of his therapist and his family.  Besides it’s incredible cuteness, I love his reaction at the end.  He starts saying over and over again “I got this!  I got this!”  And you know what, with God’s continuous grace and patience with me–and with you–even in the most difficult and darkest times, we can say “I got this”–not because we “man-up” and do it in our own power.  That doesn’t work.  Tried that.  Failed miserably.  But we’ve got it only because we have a God who sees, who knows and who is faithful–even in the times that we do not sense His presence.  Even in the times that hope is absent.

Be strong my friends.  Let your Heart take courage.  Wait on the Lord.  Please.


Important Response: Reeling in the Midst of Healing

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

I find myself reeling a bit this week.

A good friend of mine recently made a comment along the lines of “Healing is a Strange Thing”.  And she’s right.  It’s a very odd thing.

Just when you are so certain that healing is completing its course, strange things happen that open up old wounds, allowing them to sting.  To hurt.  And the healing begins all over again.  Not from the raw beginning, no.  Because much healing has taken place.  But rather, from a new layer.  A new beginning point.  Almost how like a scab that is repeatedly scraped off, eventually DOES become smaller and more “healed” every time it scabs back over.  Or, at least, that’s how I think healing works in theory.

God has done the miraculous in my life; in our family’s life.  He has healed.  He continues to heal.  How often have the words of Jeremiah 17:14 poured from my lips and my pen:

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
    save me, and I shall be saved,
    for you are my praise.

So many times.  Over and over.  And He has.  He has healed my heart.  My kid’s hearts.  Through so many different ways.  He is my praise.

And yet, there remains healing to be done.  And I wonder if there always will.  And I wonder, if the only true healing, will come when this broken world is no more.  Or when we are called home.

This week, I am reeling.Every time a sin, a crime, a story that hits close to home occurs somewhere in the limited sphere of my world, it rocks it to a bit.  Such is the happenings of this week.  And my heart breaks all over again.  For the victims.  For the family of the arrested.  Even for the accused.  For the community.  For my kids.  And yes, for my own self-centered soul.  It hurts.  So much.But there is also a part of me that wants to run to the family of the accused and grab them and tell them “I know it’s black right now!  I know it’s ugly and horrible and horrendous and so many other adjectives right now!  But there is hope!  God is still God!  Even when you may doubt that He is not!”

But those are not words that are easy to hear.  Not in the aftermath of tremendous trauma.  I know, because I certainly couldn’t hear them at one time.  No, it’s taken day after day after day of God’s patient–I don’t know–consistency? to lead me to the belief that He is still who He says He is.  And honestly, there are still days when He has to lead me there–sometimes I quietly follow that leading, other times I go, but it’s with much kicking and screaming.

There was an article published this week in Christianity Today, that also has opened up these raw wounds.  It was an important article.  An important read.  It was in response to a grave mistake that The Leadership Journal division of Christianity Today made a couple of weeks ago, in publishing an article written by a sex offender.  The title was “My Easy Trip From Youth Minister to Felon”  It was an article that made me sick.  For the author did not call his sin for what it was—sexual molestation.  I don’t remember the particulars–I didn’t want to!!–but I do remember that it was chock full of justification.  Of rationalization.  And very light on remorse.  Remorse that should wreck a person.Rightfully so, Leadership Journal removed the article and published an apology after much public outcry.

Partly in response, Maureen Garcia wrote an article for Christianity Today titled “How it Feels to Love and Hate a Sex Offender”  It’s a sobering reminder of the impact a sexual predator has on his own family.  I in no way share this so as to diminish the horrific impact on the primary victims–the victims who are directly victims because of the acts violated upon them at the hands of the abuser.  I know too much in my own life, to never diminish that nightmare.But Garcia does give voice to secondary victims–the spouse, the children, the family, the church, the community–of the predator.  And it’s a valid voice.  Her words ring true.  Many of the things she had to say, I could echo right along with her, like:

One of the legacies of being groomed and betrayed by a sex offender is a horrific ambivalence. We struggle with experiencing and processing more than one opposing emotion at one time. I would feel love and hate in the same moment or pleasure combined with disgust and aversion. I would feel empathy for my ex-husband punctuated by horror.


It is like being ripped in shreds. Betrayal rends. It is an attack on one’s integrity. I felt no longer whole. I was fractured. I was shattered.  And, reality took on a surreal quality. It seemed as if everything I knew to be true was a mere veil upon a dark writhing reality that lay beneath… lurking, waiting like quicksand for me to step in the wrong place.

These words are true.  So true.  And so, there is a part of me this week that is reeling.  Grieving afresh.  Hurting anew.

And, there’s an added element when you are the (ex)-pastor’s wife.  The (ex)-youth minister’s wife.  Who had a good marriage.  Who believed the future held ministry together.  Who deeply hurt for her church family as they, too, suffered horrific pain.  Not that it is worse than what Garcia experienced.  There is no “worse”.  There is only different.

There is only grief.

But I do not grieve without hope.

Because, with the passage of time, my God continues to repair these hurting places.  And it is miraculous.  There is no other words for it.  And, unlike some of the unfortunate experiences that Garcia experienced, I have been completely supported by my church, other churches in the area, and my community.  I do not remember one single word of admonish toward me or my children.  Not one single hurtful word.  Only words of love, protection and support.  And those words continue to this day.  And God uses all of that to foster deep healing in my soul.  And in the souls of my children.

So yes, this week I find myself deeply sad.  And saddened.  Saddened by sin.  Angry at sin.  Heartbroken for many, many, many victims–both primary and secondary.  And I cry out to God “Come, please!”  I write.  I weep.  I question.  I ache.

But I keep pressing forward.  I keep moving forward, because I do not grieve without hope.

And I am reminded deeply, deeply, that my God gave His Son for my sins.  And for my healing.  Because of His love for me.  For my children.  And for victims.  And yes, I have to force myself to write it, because it is truth–for sinners that commit heinous, nearly un-forgiveable crimes.  He even died for them.  As hard as it is to stomach that idea.  But it is truth.

And that very same sacrifice that brings about forgiveness also brings about healing in my soul, for Isaiah 53:5 is also truth:

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.



We Know Nothing of Religion……

Sunday, July 6th, 2014


I’m an inquisitive person.

Or maybe I’m just nosy.

I want to know things.  I love to learn things….all sorts of things.

I am constantly researching something.  Reading something.  Making notes about something.  I’ve always been this way.  I suppose I always will be.  It’s how I was wired.

I want to KNOW.

The same is true about religion.  I ask a lot of questions.  I seek a lot of answers.  I do a lot of thinking, a lot of studying.  A lot of “asking”.

And, before I was a follower of Christ, this was particularly true.

Oh, how I wanted answers to all of my questions.  And they were the hard questions, too.  Questions about God’s sovereignty.  Questions about inconsistencies I thought I saw in scripture—and definitely inconsistencies I saw in people.  People who proclaimed to be Christians.  People who actually “preached” Christ.

Oh, how I struggled to find answers to my questions.  In some instances, I asked the same question, over and over again, just in different ways.  I sought out reading some of the leading theologians, top philosophers, asking questions of ministers, and eventually, reading Scripture.

Yeah, you read that last one right—I started to read Scripture.

And, you know what I found?

I wish I could tell you I found all the answers to my questions.  I wish I could tell myself that!  But that’s not what I found.

No, what I found was not a “what” at all.  It was a “who”.

As I poured over the words of the Gospel of John, I found myself baffled.  Who was this man, Jesus?  Who was the Father, God?  The words unfolded before me–was this truth?  Was God real?  And if God was real, was Jesus real?  And was He God?

At first they were just words.  But then those words began to work upon my soul, in a way no other words had before in my life.  Something was different.  Something was different about these words.  Something was different about this God-Man.  Something transformed this from being a religion to dissect, to question, to doubt, to fight, to argue about.  Could this be something that was truth?  Could this be something to believe in?

I recently finished reading a book by my favorite author, C. S. Lewis, that I hadn’t read yet.  The title was The Great Divorce.  In it, through allegory, Lewis explores the concept of heaven and hell.  Well, not really the concept—the reality of it.  Not that he purported to know what heaven or hell is really going to be like.  But he quite smartly introduced wonderfully new thoughts about the subject for his readers to ponder.

One of my favorite quotes in the book, regarding what heaven is like, is the following:

“We know nothing of religion here: we only think of Christ.”


Wow.  Yes.  That is what I want–now–of my relationship with Christ.  I want nothing to do with religion.  Nothing.  Because all religion does is leave me empty.  Without hope.

But a relationship with Christ?  That’s a completely different world.  No, it doesn’t answer all my questions.  I still have many.  And I will keep right on asking and studying and learning.

But my relationship with Christ is just that–a relationship.  With the God of this universe, who loves perfectly, forgives to the deepest depths, and provides the utmost hope.

I’ve done a fair bit of thinking and writing on this verse in Isaiah.  I think after considering Lewis’ quote on knowing nothing in heaven of religion, and only thinking of Christ there, I understand it just a bit better tonight:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.

Isaiah 43:10


My Trap of Self-Pity: Shaking my Fist at the Gospel

Monday, June 30th, 2014

John PiperThose of you who read my writing, know that if I am nothing else, I am pretty gut-honest here.  I think that comes from two things.  First, I lived under so many pretenses in my life before coming to know God and believe in the truth that He is, that I never want to go back to that false way of life again.  Second, when I write here, I honestly don’t think people will actually read what I have to say.  I know that will make some of you laugh, but it’s true.  When you comment on something I’ve written or send me an email, I’m always like “What?  Someone actually read that?”

So, tonight, I find myself drawn to write about self-pity.  Yeah, it’s an ugly topic.  And yeah, I’m pretty guilty of indulging in that ugly sin.

What’s even worse is that I can wallow in it.  For days.  I can look at this life that can honestly be so hard at times, and I can whine.  Mostly to myself.  But a lot of times to God, too.  I can fill pages of documents with whining to God.  How embarrassing.  How shameful.

Just yesterday, I was whining to God about how lonely I am.  Not in a prayerful, godly way of expressing to God the pain in my heart, because the loneliness is truly painful.  And to be honest about what is painful is always crucial.  Real.  And is actually invited by our God.  He wants to know our hurts.  He sees and knows.  We see that clearly in His response to the Israelites in Exodus 2:25:  25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

But I’m also learning that there is a fine line between pouring out my soul to God–which He is always ready and eager to hear–and the line I cross when it becomes whining.

I don’t always know where that line is, though.  But I think I’m starting to get a clearer picture of it–a clearer picture of when my honest words about the hurt (and there is much) become self-pity and unproductive–and sin.

I think it is when I forget the Gospel.

Yes, this is a new thought to me, shared last night through the preaching of John Piper at The Gospel Coalition’s National Women’s conference.

He said something astonishing.  And, He almost seemed angry when he said it.

You see, he was preaching on Nehemiah 9 and 10.  Nehemiah 9 is a prayer by the Levites, in which they richly retell God the history of the Old Testament.  They recount the rebelliousness of the people and the mercy of our God.  Even His mercy of judgement upon them.

Why were they praying all of this to God?  Because they were in distress.  Not just any distress.  They were in great distress.  In fact, you can see just how much distress (deserved, in this case) they were in when you read Nehemiah 9:36-37:

36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. 37 And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress.

But our God is merciful.  Our God is gracious.  And the stories of the Old Testament, such as this one in Nehemiah, point us to Jesus.  Yes, all of them.  They point us to the Gospel.  They point us to Good News.  Because even in our sin,  even in our despair, even in our pain, there is good news.  That good news is that God gave His Son to die on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  That we can know God.  That He is merciful.  Even when our pain is brought on by our very own sin.

But sometimes I don’t like this Good News.  Sometimes, as ugly as this is, I want to wallow in my own self-pity.  I want to say “Yes, that Good News of the Gospel is for everyone else, but have you seen my life?  Have you seen what I have lost?  Do you have any idea of the sin I struggle with day in and day out?  Don’t tell me about Good News, God.  Don’t tell me that it is for me, too.  Don’t tell me to pursue joy in all things!”

Here’s where Piper got nearly angry.  I mean, red in the face angry.  He said:

Do not say to God “This text is not addressing my need.” No one may escape the good news of this text. We have no right to tell God He can’t give us good news.

Whoa.  Wow.  That stopped me right in my track of thinking.  Of taking notes.  I probably missed the next 5 minutes of his message because I had to think that over.

It struck me hard, because I know that I am guilty of this.  I am guilty of approaching a text of Good News and, in my whiny-ness, refuse to accept or see the hope that is there in scripture.  Refuse to except the Good News that God has for me.  Refuse to accept the Gospel.

So, tonight I am greatly chastened.  Necessarily so.  Oh, that doesn’t mean that the hurt is still not so real and so tangible-sometimes as real as the very day certain events have happened in my life.  Especially when I wake up in the middle of the night in the throes of a nightmare.  It is real.  God knows that.  And please hear me out, much of that hurt was brought on by other people’s sinful actions.  But I have done plenty of sinful actions in my life to create the hurt in my soul, too.  I am guilty.  We all are guilty, before God.

But we can not escape the good news of scripture.  We simply can not.  And I, in my arrogance and ugly, ugly pride, can not say to God (which I have, many times) “You can not tell me Good News.  I won’t accept it.  I will remain right here in my self-pity and turn my back on the good news of the Gospel.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve also found out that this is a miserable way to live.  Simply and utterly miserable.  Joyless.  And I don’t want that for my life.

Of course, I’m going to continue to pour our my hurt to my God.  He alone sees, knows and understands.  I will continue to ache, and take that ache to Him, my comforter.

But I want to be much more conscious of the Gospel and the Good News.  I want to be a lot less arrogant and prideful and to stop telling God what He can and can not do.

I’ll close this with one more statement from Piper that pretty much sums it up.  He said:

You don’t negotiate with God. We are defined, He is definer.

Amen.  So be it, God.

Don't Tell God He Can't Give You Good News from Desiring God on Vimeo.


To The Utter Depths

Sunday, June 29th, 2014


Who am I?

I don’t mean that rhetorically.  I’m serious.  Who am I?

Sometimes, I just don’t know.

Pastor and author Timothy Keller managed to shove that question in my face last night.  Thanks Tim.

My crew is all out of town right now.  Keli and her boyfriend Jimmy have taken a road trip to Jimmy’s mom’s house for his birthday.  The other three–Tim, Mark and Bethany–are all on a trip to Seattle with their grandparents.  They’ve been gone almost two weeks.  Good grief, I miss them.

Their being gone has changed things up around here a bit.  For one thing…my house is a lot cleaner than normal.  The laundry is all caught up.  It’s given me a chance to attend via online this years The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference (which is where I heard Tim Keller speak last night on Nehemiah), and it’s given me a bit of a taste of “empty nest” syndrome.

And I don’t much like it.  And it has caused me to ask myself “Who am I?”

Last night, Keller opened up God’s word and taught from Nehemiah 3 and 4.  I don’t know if you’ve ever read Nehemiah 3 (I had, but only in one of my many attempts to “read the Bible through in a year”–not in any real study).  Let me give you a spoiler—there’s not much there.  In fact, I’ll put a sample of it here for you (you can skim it if you want to–I did.):

Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah.[c] They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of[d] Jerusalem, repaired. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.

Ok, so what do you see—besides a lot of incredibly difficult-to-pronounce names?  (Which, much to my delight, Keller did trip up on a couple of them).  At first glance, I didn’t see much really.  And I started to feel sorry for the guy.  Here’s this big conference, and he’s been assigned Chapter 3 in Nehemiah… the way, the whole chapter carries on like this.

But then Keller pointed something out that I didn’t see at first.  He pointed out the “Next-to’s”.

You see, throughout this chapter, the chronicler records who is repairing the wall.  Who is working next to who (or whom?)  And the list is lengthy.  But what is even more remarkable than the obvious fact that everyone worked together, is that everyone worked together across all stratospheres of ethnicity, class, job, social status, and gender (there is record of two daughters working on the wall).

Keller’s point?  We are all ministers.  He pointed out that Paul says this over and over and over again.  We need all hands and gifts on deck.  No one gets an out.  Not you.  Not me.

That was a great point–and something worth remembering, but then he said something that struck my soul.  That I’ve had to chew on today.  He said this:

When you become a Christian, your experience of grace goes to the utter bottom of who you are.

And so I got to thinking.  Does it?  Does it really?  And do I believe that to be truth?

Because, honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine a grace so big, so powerful, so forgiving, so loving that it would reach the inner depths of who I am.  The good, the bad and the really ugly.  That it would reach beneath the fact that I am a single mom, a co-worker, a friend.  That I am an ex-pastor’s wife, that I was a non-believer, was a victim, was an alcoholic, was a mess.  That I am full of pride and selfishness.  That grace would reach beneath all of those things, and make me who I am first and foremost today, which is a child of God’s.


But if I believe that scripture is truth, it’s right there.  In John 1:16:  16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Grace.  Grace upon grace.

So, I had to ask myself, who am I?  Who are you?

I want to remember that I am many things, but most importantly and very firstly, I want to remember that I am a follower of Christ.  That has to cover all of who I am in this world.  My parenting.  My working.  My friendships.  My place in ministry.  My place in church.  My writing.  All of it.  And because of His grace, I can rest assured that that very grace goes to the utter depths of who I am.  Even when I don’t sense it or act like it.  Because from my Jesus’ fullness, I have received grace upon grace.





Fighting Excess—-and Finding Hope

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Well, today was the day.

I had told myself all weekend that I would force myself to get back on the scale today.  Yeah, it’s been awhile.  And while I knew I had lost some weight, I only expected to see maybe a 5 pound weight loss.  Maybe 10.

You see, I have this really cool, nerdy scale.  It’s a Wi-Fi scale, that instantly shoots my stats (including body FAT!!) to my computer and records it in multiple places, so there is no cheating.  There’s no pretending.  It’s right there in my nerdy spreadsheet.

So, with MUCH trepidation, I jumped on that stupid scale today.  To my complete and utter shock, it registered 20 pounds loss.  In fact, not only did it register a 20 pound loss, it promptly emailed me a “Badge” that said “You’ve Lost 20 Pounds!”

Yes.  I did the happy dance.  Yes, it was ugly.  But it happened.

It’s interesting, though, that finally I’m starting to see progress again on weight loss.  I had done well at the beginning of last year, but then I seriously fell off the wagon as soon as I hit some particularly difficult challenges.  I’m not one of these people who can’t eat when they are under duress or stress or upset.  Nope, I go straight for the Ice Cream.  The Whole Tub.

But in the last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about excess.  Not just weight, though that has definitely been on the top of my list.  But I mean excess in life.

As my crew and I have frantically prepared for graduation company, we have ransacked this house.  In doing so, I have been ruthless.  I have purged this place of so much “excess” that we don’t need—-clothes that no longer fit, toys that my kids are WAY too old for, broken appliances, bulging files—I’ve even cleaned up my computer files.  I like space.  And lots of it.  I guess you would call me a minimalist.

But getting rid of excess weight has got to be a part of this.  My health is not good, at all—and I am FAR from old. :)  It’s not good because I’ve not taken care of myself.  At all.  I’ve let the despair and tragedy of this life cause me to often give up.  Why bother?  Why work at being well?   Why work at living?

Because the alternative is selfish.  There is much God would have me to do.  And I can’t do that if I’m not well.  Or if I am dead.

Depression is an evil thing.  I can’t think of a better word for it, that isn’t so sinister.  Despair crushes your spirit.  It creates a fog that has to be fought through.  And, sometimes, can’t be fought through without help.  This I know very well.

But hope—that’s a completely different thing.  Hope is life-giving.  It is motivating.  It is God-given.

But what do you do when you can’t find that hope?  Because I also know that.  I also know that feeling of having absolutely no hope.  Of being so shrouded in despair that hope seems like a fairy tale.  Like a lie.

It’s in those moments that you have to fight.  You have to fight!  And please hear me, if there is anyone who knows what it feels like to suffer defeat and to have no desire to fight, it’s me.  I promise you, I understand.  But I also know that fighting for joy, fighting for hope, is the only way forward.  There is no other way.

And this fight can not be fought on your own.  No, that doesn’t work.  I’ve tried that, too.  And have failed.  At least 1000 times.

So, what do you do?

Go to God.  Yes, I know what that sounds like.  It sounds impossible, especially when you can’t sense Him.  Especially when you can’t seem to find Him.  Psalm 46:1 says

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

This is not a cross-stitch verse.  It is not a platitude.  It is truth.  He alone is our refuge.  He alone is our strength.  And when we are in trouble—and we all are in trouble at one time or another–it is He who is a very present help.  How do you go to Him?  With honesty.  Tell Him where you are at.  Tell Him your doubts, your questions, your frustrations, your fears.  Say them outloud.  Write them down.  There are days—many days—that I don’t have a desire to spend time with God; that I don’t have a desire to approach my God.  Maybe I’m too tired, or maybe I’m afraid that it will do no good.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that your relationship with God is just that-a relationship.  And relationships take effort.  And time.  And communication.  Go to God.  He sees, He knows.

And don’t give up.

Stand Fast. 1 Thessalonians 3:8



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