If Miley Cyrus Were My Daughter

We are a TV-less household, so I learned about Miley’s vulgar antics (warning: photos of event are graphic) while at the pediatrician’s office waiting for my son.  Thank goodness he wasn’t present to hear the details of the shocking event most tweeted about since the Superbowl.   My feelings regarding her performance vacillated between outrage and sadness.  This morning the pendulum of emotions rests on just sadness for her.

I have four daughters of my own, so I know a little bit about raising daughters.  I also have two sons who will some day marry some one’s daughter, so there is much discussion in our household about being the prince who provides and protects girls.  If Miley Cyrus were my daughter or my future daughter-in-law, I would offer her a cup of tea (like I do with my daughters prior to a serious conversation) and suggest we talk on the porch.  The conversation might go something like this:

You are loved by a heavenly Father far more than you are loved by the fickle fans that wave their hands to you in shallow, fly-by-night admiration.  Reach your hands up to Him and not out to them.  He will never leave you, but one lousy performance and fame will send you on your way with heckles and jeers.  Fame is fleeting. Salvation is eternal.

There is no need to sacrifice your dignity and innocence on stage.  Jesus already made the most scandalous sacrifice in one night.  You will NEVER out do Him.

Girls around the world fight for their dignity as they are sold into slavery, bartered into child marriages, and forced into prostitution; yet, you exploit the freedom in which those girls are literally dying for.  Every time you shed your clothing for an applaud, a tweet, a photograph, you are really condoning the human peril of those girls who think the only way out of their circumstance is to set fire to their body as a means of escape.  You, on the other hand, have choices; you’re just making the wrong ones. You have freedom; you just forgot the sacrifice that it took to get that freedom.

You are fighting for your famous life and you haven’t figured out, yet, that you can’t save yourself.  In effort to retain your fame, you do the outrageous, forgetting that there is nothing new under the sun.  Put your clothes back on, stop sticking your tongue out like a rebellious toddler, and use your talent to benefit womanhood instead of demeaning it.  Madonna, the singer, songwriter, performer, pulled the same antics twenty five years ago and she’s still wandering around in the fog of fame trying to define the meaning of life.  The meaning of life is defined by a crudely made wooden cross and some shoddy nails.  Kant, Kierkegaard , and a host of others tried to strip that definition from history; but their efforts were in vain.  He still reigns as King.

Forgive your parents for forging your path to destruction.  Forgiveness is cleansing; it cleans the heart and the mind from the monsters of your past.  Once you experience the fresh water of forgiveness, trust me, you’ll want to tell all your friends in LA.  Call it the well-ness experience I encourage you to read the rest of the story in the Great Book.

Clean out your closet of those skeletons that trick you into thinking that exploiting yourself brings happiness.  While you are cleaning out your closet, use some of your wealth to purchase a new wardrobe.  Modesty is empowering.  If you want to be a radical role model then try modesty.

You’ve got beauty and brains, so please start using them to improve the world rather than contributing to the moral, faithless decay of it.  Go down in history as being the beauty and brains that contributed greatly to a world in deep need of compassion.

My daughters and I will not hurl criticism your way.  Rather, we will pray that your emptiness is filled with a desire for righteousness, and that one day soon you will wake up and embrace the authentic, freedom found in a humble obedience to God— that is the truly liberated woman.

What My Friend’s Cancer Taught Me

No quite awake, just before that first cup of morning coffee, I hastily picked up my Bible and a folded piece of paper floated to the floor.  Curiously, I unfolded the paper to see an old prayer request sheet from my Bible study.  As I glanced down the list, I noticed my friend Susan’s name on the list.  Her name appeared on the prayer sheet because she had slipped into a coma.  All went down hill so quickly. Earlier this summer, my friend Susan lost her battle with cancer.  Finding this piece of paper, evoked thoughts about Susan’s illness that I believe she wanted all who knew her to take seriously.

As I typed out the title for this post, a surge of guilt ran through my head and came to a screeching halt at my heart.  How could I benefit from my friend’s suffering?  

 It was just what Susan wanted. (earlier post about Susan’s battle)

It all goes back to a year or so ago when the cancer crouched silently like a ravenous leopard waiting for it’s victim to weaken.  A fall trip to the zoo served as the opportunity for Susan to impart soothing words of wisdom that would forever alter my approach to motherhood.

Adjacent to the zoo pavilion where we lunched, an old fashioned carousel attracted the attention of our younger children.  Trying to be frugal, I instantly denied my kids request for a ride on the carousel. 

It was at that very moment that Susan gently shared her wisdom.

“Come on, we are going to ride this carousel,” she chided.

Susan looked me square in the eye and said, “I see this ride as an experience with my kids, a chance to build a memory.”

She went on to say, “And I don’t know how many more of these memory building opportunities I have left, so I am going to grab as many as I can right now.”

 

She was right; she had less than a year’s worth.

That day we did more than ride a carousel; we built a memory.  Susan is gone now, but her children have pocketfuls of memories to pull from when those unspeakable moments of missing her overwhelm their hearts.

  • BUILD MEMORIES, LIKE YOU HAVE LITTLE TIME LEFT

   Memory makers can be made in the simple, mundane every day. Avoid the frenetic, exotic, or expensive. Baking cupcakes, cleaning a bathroom together, simple, take-it-for-granted tasks that with a twist in perspective can create something to look back on. 

  • MEMORY BUILDING DOESN’T MEAN BUYING THINGS

          Keep it simple, there’s a difference between pacifying whims and wants and building a memory: the impulsive request for a toy or a walk in the woods.

  • CAPTURE THE MEMORY

          Susan was a photographer; she toted a camera everywhere.  She captured the moment by snapping the memory into a photo.  Record memories somehow.  Journal them, share the details of the memory with someone, but get it down.  Nestle the memory somewhere, so that when the nest is empty you can cradle the memory in your hand or your head and happily reminisce about the occasion that produced that broad, beaming smile reflected in the picture or described on the paper.

Today, I look back and realize that Susan’s words of wisdom weren’t necessarily a Susan-thing but a God-thing.  Susan had a message that she wanted to spread like wildfire.  I got the message. Thank you Susan.

 

Letter to a Church Friend

Dear Church Friend,

     I’ve noticed for the past several weeks that your seat in church remains empty.  You don’t really know my family and I well; we sit across the sanctuary from you. A few months ago you shared with the congregation about your struggles with addiction and how God, through a series of tragedies, brought you to church. What you said took guts. We know your parents and loved ones helped you through those dark moments of your recovery, but God must have tethered you to his wrist and pulled you along much like the gentle shepherd halters his sheep through the pasture out of the blinding, blazing sun, and guides them to the water-filled trough where all they need to do is drink.

Your seat is empty because you are back in rehab.  So this letter, church friend, reaches across the miles to extend a handful of encouragement and to let you know that God loves messy people.  It’s His expertise. I am a bit of a mess myself, honestly, aren’t we all?  It’s through our messiness that we soon realize how much we need and depend upon Him.  Until we are knee deep in trouble, we won’t succumb to the free grace waiting for us.  Not much in this world is free, so taking something without feeling the need to repay something back seems like stealing.  Grace, though, is different.  Our debt for messiness was pre-paid for us on that scandalous night when the earth shook and the rocks split.

I bet you didn’t know that the lady who sits a few rows in front of you, the mother of three, poured out her untidiness a year or so ago.  She filled the  caverns of her heart with booze.  She shared with us, how for years, she smuggled scotch to her kids’ soccer games by pouring it into her three year old’s juice cup. No one noticed that she got stoned on the sideline sipping scotch and not apple juice—not until she drove home after a game one evening and slammed her SUV into a guard rail. She was a thirsty woman but chose the wrong drink to satiate her emptiness. She traded her alcoholism for Truth.

Three years ago, the young girl to the left of the pulpit, the one that sits attentively three rows from the front, found out she was pregnant by her abusive boyfriend. At first she thought he would come around knowing that she was expecting.  Evil doesn’t work that way, she soon learned.  She went into a clinic for a late term abortion but came out still pregnant and clutching a pamphlet about Jesus. She made the right choice. You’ve probably passed her three year old in the hallway; she’s the cute, curly haired blonde with freckles. Two lives were saved through that messiness.

The simply dressed man that greets you every week at the church door was a former millionaire.  He lost everything in the recession.  I often passed his estate on the way to church.  He and his wife gallivanted to exotic places that I only read about in National Geographic.  After every tropical jaunt, he and his family would return to church tan, well rested, and full of thrilling adventure stories. The recession hit and their business bottomed out. When he and his family showed up at church nearly destitute, fellow believers stuffed his pockets with rent money and shared the gospel until his heart brimmed to overflowing. Now they rent a modest rancher and do stay-cations. He has time to attend Bible study and conduct family devotions.  He got bit by the greed-serpent and the venom ran through his whole family. Jesus always kicks the serpent’s butt. 

The Assistant Pastor’s wife sends her best.  I mentioned to her that I planned to scratch out a letter to you.  Her cancer remains.  I watched her during worship  this week.  She tilts her scarf covered head and then stretches her hands  heavenward; her face beams with joy.  Their six children, all lined up in a row, exude happiness in the face of this trial. This chemo-filled, yet still radiant woman finds hope in her messiness, and she refuses to litter her hope with regret or anger.  Her tattered Bible tells me where she finds her hope. I know what you’re thinking church friend, that this mother of six did not cause her messiness.  You are so right.  She told me once that she uses her cancer as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.  She emphatically claims that she must show her kids and others that her cancer is a golden opportunity to show that Christ is worth more than life. 

When Jesus journeyed this earth, he chose to encounter people with scrambled, messed up lives.  He didn’t just meet up with them, do his miracle, and scurry away.  He often waited with them by a well or listened to their story in the middle of a busy town.  To put a modern spin on Jesus: He would meet you at Starbucks for coffee or stand at the corner of Broadway and 34th and listen to your story while a myriad of humanity passes by and the only person in the world who matters is you.

Perfection, my church friend, is unattainable. There aren’t perfect people. When you return, look around and realize that the sanctuary is filled with imperfect, messy people who exposed their deep, inner hurts to the One who heals, not condemns. This time sell yourself out completely to the one person who unseals darkness and pain— whose well never runs dry and whose grace never fails. Sanctuary seats are filled with people who exchanged adultery for faith, materialism for faith, atheism for faith, the list trickles on.  We bear consequences from our messy splattered lives, but the true beauty is that once we come to a heart-drenched saving faith in Christ we no longer clean up the mess alone. 

Keep these wise words, written by English writer and preacher John Bunyan, close at hand:

 “Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think… It is wounding work, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving… Where there is grafting there will always be a cutting, the graft must be let in with a wound; to stick it onto the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back or there will be no sap from root to branch. And this, I say, must be done by a wound, by a cut.” 

Let God do his grafting on you.

Many who occupy a seat in our church experienced the wounding work of the heart, the breaking of the heart, and then the glorious grafting.  There are no Pharisees among us.  You will not be judged. When God forgives a messy sinner, the realization of such bountiful forgiveness means the potential for great love. Jesus pursues messy sinners and meets us at wells, at dinner parties, on bustling streets, and, yes, even in rehab.

He tethered you once to his wrist, now don’t let go this time.  Follow Him into the pasture where immeasurable forgiveness and fathomless love await.

My family continues to pray for you friend. I look forward to glancing across the sanctuary to see you back in your seat, grafted. 

Grace and Peace,
Your Church Friend

(Letter written to any broken, hurt church friend in America)
All stories are fiction