How Haiti Has Changed Me

    A missionary once told me, “You aren’t going to change Haiti, in fact; Haiti will change you.”  He was so right because Haiti has changed me.  Each day of our stay in Haiti, I’ve changed in some way.     Once I get back to the states and process all that I’ve seen, I plan to write a longer post about our stay in Haiti.  Right now, I am witnessing hunger, poverty, homelessness, godlessness, which leaves me paralyzed for words.  At best, I can look over the last few days and chronicle how Haiti has changed me.

Haiti needs the Rescuer not to be rescued.

I will always distinguish between a want and a need.  I’ve seen the real need here, and I am aware of my over abundance.

I will suggest that more friends plan their next family vacation to a third world country, just once, rather than to Disney. 

Visit a Third World orphanage.  I can barely find the words to convey the helplessness I feel after spending a week at an orphanage.  The girls will steal your heart without trying…and you won’t want to take your heart back because you know how desperately they need it.  So,  I am thinking about leaving a piece of it here.

orphanage

After several sessions of crying for them back at my hotel room, I realized the need to equip them with the important aspects for survival: the Gospel and basic life skills.  Those are two life altering things I can actually offer them. 

I promise not to get back home to the states and get too comfortable in my American lifestyle that I forget those beautiful ebony eyes and charcoal hands.

It was good to be the minority.

Electricity, running water, drinking water, employment, indoor plumbing, and food are gifts, trust me. 

Missionaries deserve every one of those boxes of goodies sent to them from the states. 

I’ve learned that my children are color blind; they see skin as the color of water — clear.

sohpie and friends

In Haiti, never eat in front of someone, unless you are willing to share your food.

Saying goodbye to fifty five orphan girls (one little girl in particular who began to call me “mama”) is heart wrenching because every little girl wants and needs a mama.

Tainia

After visiting a second, very rural orphanage, and observing the living conditions of these children and then learning that the orphanage is a step up from their original plight makes me determined to return to these children. If I can’t do anything else, the children and I can hold hands and for those brief moments of hand holding the world might seem a little better for them.

holding hands

I’ve watched children retrieve out of the garbage what I’ve thrown away….and they think they’ve found a treasure.

Thank you Haiti, for changing me.

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You are Loved: History’s Greatest Hero

 

 Our world has a deficit of real heroes.  Every now and then one pops up in the news.  Often, we create our own versions of a hero or allow Hollywood to do it for us.    We wait for cinema or fiction to show us how the hero rescues someone in peril.   Often the hero in the movie or the story performs his act of valiance out of obligation.  We grip our theater seat allowing Tinseltown to depict our hero.  Or, we nose dive into a novel that defines our hero-love story.  All along, the greatest epic hero-love story in history was written and recorded for us long ago.

There is no need to pay anyone else to write the story for us.  We just need to read the true hero-love story and believe everything it has to say about us.

On the days we believe we aren’t loveable, turn then to the page of the story where the Hero vows his unconditional, never-ending, unwavering, love for us.

For those hard to look in the mirror days, the really bad hair days, the I am not pretty days, the Hero’s words of love cause us to take a second glance in the mirror and see beauty spilling from the inside, out.

The hero in this epic love story heals festering wounds of the heart.  No matter how the wounds got there, the hero’s love breathes life back into a tattered and torn heart making it whole again.

No other hero can do that.

He does it because we are really loved, and we literally can’t live without this Hero.

click here

You are Loved: History’s Greatest Hero

 

 Our world has a deficit of real heroes.  Every now and then one pops up in the news.  Often, we create our own versions of a hero or allow Hollywood to do it for us.    We wait for cinema or fiction to show us how the hero rescues someone in peril.   Often the hero in the movie or the story performs his act of valiance out of obligation.  We grip our theater seat allowing Tinseltown to depict our hero.  Or, we nose dive into a novel that defines our hero-love story.  All along, the greatest epic hero-love story in history was written and recorded for us long ago.

There is no need to pay anyone else to write the story for us.  We just need to read the true hero-love story and believe everything it has to say about us.

On the days we believe we aren’t loveable, turn then to the page of the story where the Hero vows his unconditional, never-ending, unwavering, love for us.

For those hard to look in the mirror days, the really bad hair days, the I am not pretty days, the Hero’s words of love cause us to take a second glance in the mirror and see beauty spilling from the inside, out.

The hero in this epic love story heals festering wounds of the heart.  No matter how the wounds got there, the hero’s love breathes life back into a tattered and torn heart making it whole again.

No other hero can do that.

He does it because we are really loved, and we literally can’t live without this Hero.

click here

Grace For the Prodigal, Hope For The Parent(s) Who Await Her Return

A spiritually wayward child, it’s become the cancer of the Christian community.  To determine the cause of this spiritual disease we leave to the experts, but my words are to offer hope to the parent who waits night and day for her child to reconcile with God.  The treatment for the disease (restoration with God) is the easy part; it’s the waiting part that’s difficult—waiting for the wayward to swallow the pill of repentance.

The stark realization of this spiritual malignancy came not long ago during a small prayer gathering.  As we prayed; one parent after another unveiled the hidden heartache of a child who went spiritual MIA.  Here of late, a quick scan in most North American sanctuaries reveals the absence of young adults who once occupied a pew.  Those young adults disappeared into spiritual oblivion.  The scary news for parents is this spiritual epidemic knows no boundaries; it strikes its blow on kids raised in the church, kids of church leaders, kids of all denominations, kids raised in youth group, not raised in youth group, kids who attended Christian school, kids who were homeschooled, and on and on.  Every parent silently prays that when the spiritual apron strings are cut, their young adult will choose the path of righteousness and not ruin.

bible

The good news is that the prodigal is all part of the love story between us and Jesus. There is glory in the seeming ruin.  Parents of prodigals need to be reminded that there is hope.  Prodigals are his sheep who strayed from the fold and he is their shepherd.

Remember This: God is Still Wrapping Your Gift

Your prodigal is still that same gift to you from God; she’s still the very one that took your breath the moment she entered this world and within a nanosecond you thought your heart would burst open because of the fullness of love you had for this new bundle in your arms.  She’s no longer the wide-eyed girl in pigtails who squealed with delight when you came home from work.  But she’s still a gift, a sovereign work in progress. God is still assembling the gift. We tend to forget that gifts don’t always come wrapped in neat packages.  Take the gift of Christ, for example, the King of kings arrived swaddled in rags and placed in a manure-stained livestock trough.  Oftentimes, the best gifts arrive in the messiest, unassuming wrapping.  Often, especially in our consumptive culture, the value of a true gift isn’t appreciated right away. The wayward child, your gift form God, doesn’t see the necessity in her gift of the Rescuer —yet.  Help her see the value of the Gift through the simple ways you value her.

Throw off Condemnation

Don’t let the fact that you have a wayward child be the pink elephant in the room.  Sanctuaries are filled with people in your same circumstance who could use some support.  During the small prayer gathering, the wife of the leader of an international Christian organization boldly asked for prayer for her prodigal.  Then suddenly another mother openly shared of her sad journey in dealing with the lifestyle of her wayward.

So shake off the guilt and dump it at the cross.  There is a good chance that your parenting didn’t cause your child’s waywardness.  If it did, then own up to it, leave it at the cross, and share that parental wisdom with another heartsick parent of a wayward.  That prayer gathering was a holy time because we embraced the sadness knowing that help is on the way; the great Rescuer is doing his work in the wayward, just not on our timeline.

Show them Grace

As hard as it may be, show her grace when it seems she deserves reproach− yes, show grace to a daughter who runs from the Rescuer so that she can fill her life with momentary pleasures of this world and when she shows up on your steps greet her with an embrace rather than a scowl.  Why? simple, at some point, you lived the life of a spiritual runaway(didn’t we all?) and God pursued us with a passion, until we fell into his arms.

Destitution Leads to Restoration, so Wait and Watch the Love Story Unfold

A person can run from God, pushing Him out of sight (or so she thinks) for so long until God puts up a roadblock, an intervention.  At that point, she can’t outrun God.  Pastor, author, and prodigal, Tullian Tchividjian points out, “it’s futile to try. It’s impossible to outpace his pursuing affection…He’s always in the position of authority and control, whether we realize it or not.”  If you forgot just how relentlessly God pursues his loved ones reread the book of Jonah.

Grab onto Gospel Fellowship (and Don’t Let Go)

The natural inclinations of parent(s) of a prodigal are to first worry, then withdraw and eventually drift into isolation.  Elyse M. Fitzpatrick asserts, “We’re called to be people in relationship because our God is a God in relationship. He is three persons in one…  Jesus had twelve disciples, but he also had three close friends and one best friend.”

Ask two or three of your friends to gather once a week or every other week for accountability, confession of sin, and prayer. Fitzpatrick calls it “gospelized fellowship.”  Christ-centered fellowship arms us with biblical truths.  It’s the biblical truths we rely on when the struggles in life leave us wanting to lock the door, draw the shades, and stay in bed.  Gospelized friendships point us back to the hope we have in Christ.  I intend to practice more of this.

 Gulp Down the Gospel (in Heaping Spoonfuls)

If you’ve lived the life of a Christian for any length of time, knowing that we ought to cling to God’s word is, well, so basic that it sounds trite.  As years pass, we, unfortunately, forget that we owe our life to the messy, shameful, scandalous crucifixion.  Every day I must remind myself “only a supremely powerful deity could turn the world upside down through a bleeding Messiah,” Fitzpatrick.  Tchividjian notes the “one expression of God’s amazing grace is that he pursues our rescue even though we cannot do one thing for him.”  Not only does he pursue our rescue but rest in the assurance that he also pursues your wayward.

Read and Delight in the Testimonies of Other Prodigals Who Have Returned to the Fold

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/12-ways-to-love-your-wayward-child

http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/september-2007/let-them-come-home/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/10/14/earrings-and-one-way-love/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/09/24/failure-and-one-way-love/

Grace For the Prodigal, Hope For The Parent(s) Who Await Her Return

A spiritually wayward child, it’s become the cancer of the Christian community.  To determine the cause of this spiritual disease we leave to the experts, but my words are to offer hope to the parent who waits night and day for her child to reconcile with God.  The treatment for the disease (restoration with God) is the easy part; it’s the waiting part that’s difficult—waiting for the wayward to swallow the pill of repentance.

The stark realization of this spiritual malignancy came not long ago during a small prayer gathering.  As we prayed; one parent after another unveiled the hidden heartache of a child who went spiritual MIA.  Here of late, a quick scan in most North American sanctuaries reveals the absence of young adults who once occupied a pew.  Those young adults disappeared into spiritual oblivion.  The scary news for parents is this spiritual epidemic knows no boundaries; it strikes its blow on kids raised in the church, kids of church leaders, kids of all denominations, kids raised in youth group, not raised in youth group, kids who attended Christian school, kids who were homeschooled, and on and on.  Every parent silently prays that when the spiritual apron strings are cut, their young adult will choose the path of righteousness and not ruin.

bible

The good news is that the prodigal is all part of the love story between us and Jesus. There is glory in the seeming ruin.  Parents of prodigals need to be reminded that there is hope.  Prodigals are his sheep who strayed from the fold and he is their shepherd.

Remember This: God is Still Wrapping Your Gift

Your prodigal is still that same gift to you from God; she’s still the very one that took your breath the moment she entered this world and within a nanosecond you thought your heart would burst open because of the fullness of love you had for this new bundle in your arms.  She’s no longer the wide-eyed girl in pigtails who squealed with delight when you came home from work.  But she’s still a gift, a sovereign work in progress. God is still assembling the gift. We tend to forget that gifts don’t always come wrapped in neat packages.  Take the gift of Christ, for example, the King of kings arrived swaddled in rags and placed in a manure-stained livestock trough.  Oftentimes, the best gifts arrive in the messiest, unassuming wrapping.  Often, especially in our consumptive culture, the value of a true gift isn’t appreciated right away. The wayward child, your gift form God, doesn’t see the necessity in her gift of the Rescuer —yet.  Help her see the value of the Gift through the simple ways you value her.

Throw off Condemnation

Don’t let the fact that you have a wayward child be the pink elephant in the room.  Sanctuaries are filled with people in your same circumstance who could use some support.  During the small prayer gathering, the wife of the leader of an international Christian organization boldly asked for prayer for her prodigal.  Then suddenly another mother openly shared of her sad journey in dealing with the lifestyle of her wayward.

So shake off the guilt and dump it at the cross.  There is a good chance that your parenting didn’t cause your child’s waywardness.  If it did, then own up to it, leave it at the cross, and share that parental wisdom with another heartsick parent of a wayward.  That prayer gathering was a holy time because we embraced the sadness knowing that help is on the way; the great Rescuer is doing his work in the wayward, just not on our timeline.

Show them Grace

As hard as it may be, show her grace when it seems she deserves reproach− yes, show grace to a daughter who runs from the Rescuer so that she can fill her life with momentary pleasures of this world and when she shows up on your steps greet her with an embrace rather than a scowl.  Why? simple, at some point, you lived the life of a spiritual runaway(didn’t we all?) and God pursued us with a passion, until we fell into his arms.

Destitution Leads to Restoration, so Wait and Watch the Love Story Unfold

A person can run from God, pushing Him out of sight (or so she thinks) for so long until God puts up a roadblock, an intervention.  At that point, she can’t outrun God.  Pastor, author, and prodigal, Tullian Tchividjian points out, “it’s futile to try. It’s impossible to outpace his pursuing affection…He’s always in the position of authority and control, whether we realize it or not.”  If you forgot just how relentlessly God pursues his loved ones reread the book of Jonah.

Grab onto Gospel Fellowship (and Don’t Let Go)

The natural inclinations of parent(s) of a prodigal are to first worry, then withdraw and eventually drift into isolation.  Elyse M. Fitzpatrick asserts, “We’re called to be people in relationship because our God is a God in relationship. He is three persons in one…  Jesus had twelve disciples, but he also had three close friends and one best friend.”

Ask two or three of your friends to gather once a week or every other week for accountability, confession of sin, and prayer. Fitzpatrick calls it “gospelized fellowship.”  Christ-centered fellowship arms us with biblical truths.  It’s the biblical truths we rely on when the struggles in life leave us wanting to lock the door, draw the shades, and stay in bed.  Gospelized friendships point us back to the hope we have in Christ.  I intend to practice more of this.

 Gulp Down the Gospel (in Heaping Spoonfuls)

If you’ve lived the life of a Christian for any length of time, knowing that we ought to cling to God’s word is, well, so basic that it sounds trite.  As years pass, we, unfortunately, forget that we owe our life to the messy, shameful, scandalous crucifixion.  Every day I must remind myself “only a supremely powerful deity could turn the world upside down through a bleeding Messiah,” Fitzpatrick.  Tchividjian notes the “one expression of God’s amazing grace is that he pursues our rescue even though we cannot do one thing for him.”  Not only does he pursue our rescue but rest in the assurance that he also pursues your wayward.

Read and Delight in the Testimonies of Other Prodigals Who Have Returned to the Fold

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/12-ways-to-love-your-wayward-child

http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/september-2007/let-them-come-home/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/10/14/earrings-and-one-way-love/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/09/24/failure-and-one-way-love/

Cure for PMS (Perfect Mother Syndrome)

The other day, I zipped out for what I thought would be a quick trip to the grocery store.  It happened right there in the dairy aisle in front of the yogurt.  A toddler lost it, maybe, because his mother refused to buy the yogurt with the neon sprinkles.  Whatever the reason for the melt down, the little guy ramped up the octaves full tilt.  The young mother employed diplomacy to try to get her tyke to relent.  This young mother’s other two children chimed in with whining complaints of being bored and hating the grocery store.  I live in a small, rural farming community and the grocery store often serves a dual purpose: visiting with neighbors while grabbing the goods on my list.  I recognized the young mom from around town, which probably packed on another layer of humiliation for her.

The young mother and I made eye contact.  Her eyes expressed a fear that every mother on earth has felt, “I am really not sure I know what I am doing; I am not even sure I am any good at this mothering bit. Just before the first tear trickled down her cheek, I told her that I’ve been there.  I assured her that after decades of mothering, there are days when I am transported back to that place of motherhood insecurity.

After a few minutes, I watched her wheel the car-shaped cart, with two of her kids jutting out of the windows and one still screaming, down the aisle, and out of sight.

There are no perfect mothers.  But how are we to grasp that reality living in a culture where such a high premium is placed on perfection?  Perfect job, perfect weight, perfect marriage, perfect teeth, perfect, perfect, perfect…  Women easily transfer that benchmark of perfection to motherhood.  There isn’t a surgery that exists to create a perfect mother.  A woman might possess a chiseled nose thanks to cosmetic surgery or maintain the physique sculpted by a personal trainer yet remain at a loss as to how to fix perfect mother syndrome (PMS).

wetpaint.com

Most of us arrive at motherhood clueless.  We inhale the top-rated books on how to survive motherhood or how to avoid the temptation of unleashing the tiger mom within us.  What happens when real life steps outside of the pages of the book and mothers are dealing with temper tantrums in the library, kids with learning challenges, sibling spats, or teens that make wrong choices? Yes, motherhood requires sacrificial love without any guarantees that all will have a storybook ending.  If we think it is anything less than sacrificial love, we are fooling ourselves. motherhood - blessing & sacrifice

Mary, the mother of Jesus, entered motherhood in less than ideal circumstances.  Mary, a poor, village peasant girl is chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the world.  She willingly accepted the challenges that motherhood brought her way.  God chose Mary, an imperfect girl, to be the mother to history’s only perfect child.  From the human side, Jesus lived in a home managed by an imperfect couple.

Like many of us, Mary arrived to motherhood inexperienced and apprehensive. If the Son of God can be born to a flawed mother and reared in an imperfect home, why do women subject themselves to a standard of perfectionism in motherhood? Mary serves as the blue print to the grace bestowed upon mothers.

The cure for perfect mother syndrome is to spend more time strengthening our character which will influence the way we mother our children. Motherhood is a calling not a choice or preference: Regardless of how some of us came to be a mother, God through divine sovereignty chose and selected us to be a mother.  Celebrate that fact. There isn’t another mother who arrived to motherhood in a more unusual and shocking way than Mary. After her shocking news from an angel (again shocking), she then embraced the gift and even endured social chastisement from her community because of the pregnancy.

Pray for a meek and quiet spirit:  Daily, I need to acknowledge my need and dependence on God for the task of motherhood which I’ve been called. Seek to create a humble and nurturing environment, not a perfect one: Clay Trumbull, Christian author and spokesmen and dedicated to the evangelism of children offers a suggestion for parents in his 1890 classic book, Hints on Child Training, the atmosphere of the home must be full of pure oxygen of love to God and love to man.  It must be neither too hot in its intensity of social activities, nor too cold in its expression of family affection, but balmy and refreshing in its uniform temperature of household living and being.  It must be gentle and peaceful in its manner and movement of sympathetic interaction.

Along with Joseph, Mary gave Jesus a home, which although it was most unpretentious, was yet the only home He knew in the days of His flesh. Because of the character of Mary, we feel that her home was permeated with mutual trust and love and sympathetic understanding.

Saturate yourself and your children with the promises of God, true perfection: The instruction manual for imperfect mothers is already written, the Bible.  Mary used the scriptures of the Old Testament as she brought Jesus up in their simple, village home. We aren’t called to be perfect mothers, just like we aren’t expected to have the perfect house or perfect body.  We are expected to listen for the voice of God so that we hear Him when he calls us to do really difficult jobs like being a mother.  

On Sons and Monarchs

 I knew it would happen, but not this fast, not this abruptly.  The metamorphosis from boy to man rocks a mother’s world.  I no longer find childhood remnants of our walks to the pond and back in the pockets of his jeans.  These days all I find are tattered gas receipts and scribbled notes for side jobs—swatches of manhood.

I remember years ago when my son’s feet dangled from the, too, tall kitchen chair, his untied shoe laces drooped to the floor— this image of boyhood was fleeting.  Knowing even back then, seventeen short years ago, as a young, inexperienced mom that I needed to sear that image into my memory bank of his boyhood because one day he would be taller than me and our talk of fish and frogs would change to jobs, colleges, and cars. I carefully captured every fragment of childhood I could knowing that I would need those recollections of his boyhood to cling to when the pulling away began.

 A son’s gradual, yet, inevitable pulling away from boyhood to embrace the calling of manhood leaves a bittersweet singe on a mother’s heart. 

Often the pulling away doesn’t happen neatly; it can get ugly and messy.  Words can sting a mother’s  heart like torrents of icy rain on exposed cheeks.  Those harsh moments, I’ve learned, are opportunities for grace.

I, reluctantly, release the boy to become the man he was created to be.  Picture mom not digging but heals entrenched in the soil clinging to his shirt-tail kind of reluctance.
 
It’s monarch season in our part of the world. We visited a friend yesterday who maintains an exquisite, lush habitat for Monarchs.  After romping through Tithonia and Tropical milkweed, we gently captured a trio of caterpillars to hatch. We toted them home in the cage bought for Hermit crabs that didn’t quite, well, how shall I say this delicately, adapt to their new environment.  We watch these relentless feast-ers bulge themselves with milkweed.  No matter how many books we read about the habits of these soon to be winged creatures, to observe the process validates the theory that we are created for a specific, Higher purpose.

Before migrating into the world, a son, like a Monarch, must undergo a metamorphosis from boy to man so that he can fulfill God’s intended purpose for his life. When the time comes for that son of yours to morph from boy to man, mothers remember that we are participating in a glorious,  partnership with God. I am being painfully honest, loving sons only to let them go— hurts.  A glimpse of this raising up and releasing is quietly tucked between the pages of I Samuel, and I pray that I am at least half as gallant and obedient as Hannah when she presents Eli to serve the Lord.

  “If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used we stunt the growth of the soul. What God gives us is not necessarily “ours” but only ours to offer back to him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of, if we want to be our true selves.

 “If God gave it to me,” we say, “its mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real life, if our hearts are set on glory.”  Elisabeth Elliot

As I watch these Monarchs in captivity change, my anticipation heightens with every new phase, same goes for the changes I see in my son.  When the Monarch chrysalis thins enough to reveal the caterpillar to butterfly, a level of relief sets in, I know that the transformation is just about complete.

My son’s transformation from boy to man isn’t complete yet, but not too far away.

We have time to finish our assignment: to raise a Godly protector (physical and spiritual) and provider (physical and spiritual). 

Soon enough, our Monarchs will hatch and there will be a waiting phase as the wings harden and strengthen for the inevitable take off…the migration.  Like Monarchs, sending my son into the world too soon, expecting him to fly before he is equipped to do so, makes him vulnerable and prone to sinking rather than soaring.

I know my son would much rather be compared to a fierce Bengal tiger rather than a delicate Monarch, but that’s the tricky part of raising sons, helping them balance tenacity and toughness while preserving and maintaining a tenderness that wraps like tendrils around his heart.  It’s the lionhearted and lamb-like combination that makes a Godly man.

It’s been almost a week since our Monarch caterpillars transformed into a jade green chrysalis.   Inside the casing dramatic changes occur.  Within a few days, there will be visible signs of the new creature as the outline of the ebony and orange wings press against the transparent protective shell.  Home has changed.

Mothers of daughters, as you pray for the future mate of your girl, pray that she desires a man with a Godly vision; a man who not only knows his purpose in this world but pursues it.

During the boy to man metamorphosis remember:

  • Maturity (spiritual, emotional) dictates readiness not a specific age. It is the wise hunter-warrior who reaches into his quiver and pulls out an arrow with perfect fletchings and a razor sharp tip. He releases that arrow confident that it will strike the target.  If the arrow is not battle ready, the arrow remains in the quiver.  The same goes for sons, begin the tender-warrior training as a shoe lace dangling toddler so that when the pulling away begins, you are confident he will become the lionhearted, lamb-like man you prayed for. 
  • Letting Go Does NOT Mean Giving Up.   When times get tough and the angst of becoming a man erupts and causes conflict, find a quiet corner to cry and when the last tear falls, brush yourself off, and get back to being mom. He needs you.
  • Prayer is Your Most Valuable Tool.   You talk to your son but the pulling away has created a crevice between mother and son.  Don’t press the panic button.  “Mature Christians are keenly aware that they can’t raise their kids. It’s a no-brainer. Even if they are perfect parents, they still can’t get inside their kid’s hearts. THAT’S WHY STRONG CHRISTIANS PRAY MORE.” Paul Miller.  Once he finds his footing, the crevice closes to a sliver.


    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