Friday, September 4, 2015

Unfair

Yesterday I was listening to the news as I was driving home from work.  Sitting in my air-conditioned car, ambulating myself home on my own timetable, I heard the report of Syrian refugees who had been stopped in a train station in Hungary.  Attempting to get to Germany by train, the issues of borders and politics and governments had stopped them in a station.  To avoid being forced into a refugee camp they had refused to get off the train.

And so they were still in the train. All day in the heat.  And then into the night.  Men, women and children.

As I pulled into a gas station and turned off the key and the news, I was struck at the intense contrast of where I was at that exact moment, and where they were.  I got out of my own car.  Swiped my debit card.  Filled up the tank of my personal car with fuel.   Got back in, turned on the key, drove to my home.  A nice house in the country of my birth, in a safe neighborhood where I live as citizen in freedom and security without fear.  My children are waiting for me there.  They are watching TV.  We sit on comfortable couches, eat dinner, use computers, talk, and go to bed in our comfortable beds.

This is utterly unfair.  It is unfair that I should have a home, and they should not.  It is unfair I should have freedom to go anywhere I want, and they do not.  That I can offer my children security, education and a future, and they cannot.  I did not do anything to deserve to be born in America any more than they did anything to deserve to be born in Syria.

I lay in bed, thinking about them.  What can I do to reconcile this sense of unfair contrast?  I care.  I pray.  I fall asleep.  I wake up this morning and wonder.  Are they still on the train?  I roll over on my Egyptian cotton sheets covering my pillow top mattress and reach for my iPhone to check the news.  They are, as far as I can tell.  I feel slightly too hot.  I go turn down the air conditioning, use my private bathroom, and return to my comfortable bed for a few more minutes.

I wonder if someday I will be in a disaster or a crisis like that and someone will be reading about me on the news.  What would I want from someone on the other side of the world completely unable to help?  

I would want them to know.  I would want them to care.  I would want them to pray.

I do all those things.  And I go back to sleep.

(I also wake up, do my research, and find that I can donate online to the refugee crisis through the reputable Samaritan's Purse.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dear Anna Duggar, I've been there. Here's what I learned.

In the recent aftermath of former 19 Kids and Counting reality TV star Josh Duggar's infidelity to his wife becoming public, I write this letter to his wife, Anna.  




Dear Anna,

Oh girl.  My heart goes out to you.  I know where you are right now.  I was there fourteen years ago.   Pretty much exactly.  The number of years married, the very young children, the Christian husband in ministry who was caught living a double life- one in public as a Christian husband, father and leader, and the other in private with a pornography addiction and multiple affairs.

I’m so sorry for your loss. You have my deepest condolences.

The only difference is, you are a household name and I wasn’t, and the internet has made your situation much more public than mine ever was.  You probably hate that right now, and just wish the ground would open up and swallow you, and you could deal with it all privately.  It may be hard to believe, but it’s actually better this way.  Addicts struggle with serious denial and reality issues and tend to re-write their story as they go along.  Your husband has already been caught doing this, editing his confession online more than once.  No matter what reason he gave you for changing his statement, this is part of the denial and self-scripting all addicts do. But the internet is unforgiving and won’t let Josh do this, which is the best thing that could ever happen to him (although it really sucks for you and the kids).  It is his best chance of really repenting someday- the fact that he will never get to pretend his sin didn’t happen, or wasn’t “as bad as people said it was.”

You see, right now he is just sorry he got caught.  Otherwise he would have told you the truth before he was exposed.  But that sorry can lead to real repentance eventually.  Don’t be confused, it hasn’t happened yet.  I know he told you he has.  He may even think he has.  He may currently be acting VERY repentant and very loving. But only time will tell if that is real and permanent.

I know also, as many people may not, that it isn’t like you had a good marriage or a decent marriage or even a normal struggling marriage and then, boom, this came out of the blue one day.  No.  Sexual addicts have lots of destructive behaviors in their “normal life” that wears away at their spouses and children.  Sex addicts are angry people.  You’ve wondered why.  You’ve tried really hard.  You’ve questioned what is wrong.  And all this coming out about his sexual addiction is the answer to the questions you’ve been asking and the prayers you’ve been praying. 

You aren’t just hurting now.  You’ve been hurting, badly for a long, long time.  And you haven’t been able to really talk about it or get help.  I know.  I’m so sorry. 

It isn’t your fault.  Your husband was a sexual addict when he married you.  This was 100% his sin, his choice. He is responsible for his sinful behavior, before and after his marriage.  Yes, I know you aren’t perfect and you’ve also sinned and made lots of mistakes.  But you aren’t the dysfunctional addict in your marriage.  You aren’t the one who was living a lie.  You aren’t the one who broke your marriage vows of sexual exclusivity.  You aren’t the one who smashed your marriage covenant.

Let me repeat.  What Josh did isn’t your fault AT ALL. There is nothing you could have done that would have kept him from cheating on you, I promise.  You see, it’s not about sex.  It’s an ADDICTION more deadly than if he was hooked on heroin, and addicts never have enough.

I hope this gets to you somehow.  I want to share with you everything it took me years and years alone to find out the hard way.  If any of it can be any help, take it. 


  1. As soon as you possibly can, get someplace, out of town, away by yourself, with your children but not with your husband or with your parents.  No, really.  You need to get away where you can hear from God and not from all the voices around you. You aren’t leaving him.  You are taking time to pray.  It may just be a couple of days, or it may be longer. You may need to do this more than once.  It’s okay.  You don’t need to apologize for needing this.  If Josh is truly on the track to repentance, he won’t have a problem with it. If he does, it shows he isn’t even close.  Find a hotel, a B&B, something.  Take someone along to watch the kids if you can.  The sooner the better.  I know he will say you need to pray together and heal together. That's for later.  Do it alone first. 
  2. And then you need to cry.  And let yourself get angry.  It is normal to be angry when you have been betrayed.   That kind of anger isn’t a sin.   Even God had that kind of anger when Israel was unfaithful to him.  God gets angry at sin.  It is a righteous anger.  You don’t need to feel guilty for feeling righteously angry about the sin your husband has committed against you and against God. 
  3. Journal your feelings.  Be honest, let it all out.  And keep that journal private.
  4.  Pray.  Like never before you are going to need to strengthen your own relationship with Jesus.  You know you can trust Him to give you good advice.  But you need to think of yourself in a different way now- not as part of your parent’s family, not as part of your husband’s family.  Just you as an individual directly talking to Jesus and getting direction in a way you never have before for you and for your children.  You must do this.  Take responsibility to hear from God directly for you and your family.  You are the moral head of the household now.
  5. Start reading and learning about sexual addiction.  Online and in books.  Pray for God to lead you to the right sources, the information you need in particular.  Go to Amazon and type in “wives of sexual addicts,” and “sexual addiction.” Google “resources for wives of sexual addicts.”  There are so many more good websites, articles and books than there were when I went looking- because this problem is becoming bigger and bigger and people are dealing with it more openly. You aren’t alone Anna, many other Christian women and couples have been down this path, and they have wisdom to give you.  The first one I read when I was reeling from the pain was “Love Must be Tough” by James Dobson.  It’s not about sexual addiction specifically, but there are some things in there you need to know.  The sexual addiction book I read that helped me understand what my husband was struggling with was “An Affair of the Mind” by Laurie Hall.   More recently written: “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners can Cope and Heal” by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means. Also, get the book and the accompanying workbook, “The Healing Choice: How to Move Beyond Betrayal” by Brenda Stoeker and start working through it.  The other one you may want to get is “Restoring the Fallen- A Team approach to Caring, Confronting and Reconciling” by Earl and Sandy Wilson.  And finally, please be sure to read “Boundaries in Marriage.”  You may find things you don’t agree with in all these books.  That’s okay. I did too.  But I also found nuggets of information that the Holy Spirit used in all of them as well when I was desperately trying to understand what had happened to me and what I needed to do next.  Order them all.  Jump around, pick and choose, ask God to help you discern what applies to you and to Josh.   Anna, I know these aren’t the kinds of books on your shelf.  I know you may believe that they are too worldly, or not Biblical.  I believed that too.  Here’s the thing.  None of the books on your shelf cover your situation. Not much in your world prepared you to handle the awful situation, because you thought it would never happen to you.  I didn’t either. It wasn’t supposed to happen to girls like us who did things right- who homeschooled, stayed pure, saved ourselves for marriage, didn’t date, and married a Christian.  But it has.  So now you are going to have to go beyond your world, and what you have learned up until now about marriage and relationships to cope with this terrible thing.  I know that’s scary, to look for answers in new places, and it feels wrong.  And people may even tell you it’s wrong.  But here’s the deal- it was your husband who did wrong, and now you are trying to cope with it.  Looking for resources to help you cope and survive and heal is not wrong. A word of caution.  In an addiction situation, where your husband has lied about multiple affairs and pornography, pretty much everything the regular Christian marriage books tell you won’t work.  They only work when you have two people on the same page.  Josh is in a completely different book now. 
  6. Okay, this is going to be hard.  I know you aren’t going to want to face this, or do this.  But, you have to.  You have to get tested for STDs.  You don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood.  You can do it anonymously. (Google it.) But the fact is, you’ve been exposed.  No matter what Josh said about how he always used a condom (did you ask?), or was careful, you can’t know for sure, (and anyway, condoms aren’t 100%). So make sure you get tested for HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Hepatitis A B and C, Oral and Genital Herpes. You don’t have to go to a doctor and have a long embarrassing exam, nor do you have to go to a sleazy free clinic.  You can fill out paperwork online and then slip in and out of a lab close to where you live, and get the results by mail or phone.
  7. Next. Your husband needs to get tested for STDs too.  Insist on it.  Don’t have sex with him until he tests and you test and they all come back negative, as I pray they do. If he won’t agree to test, or gets angry when you ask, it is an indicator of lack of repentance, and possibly that he hasn’t given up his addiction.  If he is repentant he will understand and agree that is what he needs to do and be willing to do it.  Anybody you are counseling with should have mentioned STD testing for you both first thing.  If they didn’t, they aren’t on the right track.
  8. So speaking of counseling-You need to find a good counselor.  Not a church based staff counselor at your church.  Not a trusted pastor, not an elder with a counseling certificate on his office wall.  Not an older woman or couple that you look up to that does marriage counseling in their home.  And above all, not anyone who is related to either one of you. A real honest-to-goodness licensed professional counselor with a degree in psychology (PhD or PhyD) who specializes in sexual addictions and will keep everything you tell them absolutely confidential (as long as you don’t talk about harming yourself or others or report the molestation of a minor).  Pray that God will lead you to the right one.  I know this may be way, way out there, and that you have been told and believed that all counseling should come from church leaders and your spiritual authority, not someone with a secular education.  Please, I beg you, for your own sake, skip the church based counseling with pastors.  It set us back years and did great damage.  Pastors and church leaders can definitely be a part of the healing and accountability process, and God can use them to bring wisdom, but when it comes to sexual addiction you need a specialist.  Just like you wouldn’t go to a doctor who is general practitioner if you needed heart surgery, you can’t go to your pastor and get the kind of help you need right now for your very intense specific need for help with sexual addiction and betrayal on the level it is present in your marriage. This professional counselor can still be a Christian, and in fact should be. This isn’t for you and Josh to do together, by the way.  This is for you.  If you want to help him, if you want to be strong for him and for your children, if you want your marriage to have a chance, you have to help yourself first. Alone. I remember when I finally got up the nerve to go with great fear and trembling I told my first counselor “I have three months to get my issues dealt with,” and he just smiled.  It took a couple of years.  That’s much more realistic.  Seriously, a real counselor can’t even legally tell people you are coming to see him or her.  It’s a safe place to talk and get perspective.  They won’t lead you astray.  You are too well grounded for that.  But you do need help and this is the kind of person who can potentially offer that. It’s normal for their quoted price to be $100-$150 per hour.  Don’t let that stop you from going.  You are worth it, and your marriage is worth it. Most of them offer a sliding scale to pay, and are very willing to work with you without a lot of financial paperwork.  Tell them what you can afford.   Josh should be absolutely willing for it to come out of your family finances.  It’s no different than paying a doctor bill for you after a family car accident left you with fatal injuries. If he doesn’t want you to go without him, it indicates a problem in his heart, not an indicator that you are doing something wrong or want to leave him.  Remember, you didn’t break his trust, he broke your trust.  You have many options open to you that I did not- counseling by phone or Skype, for example.  I am not recommending these sites or organizations specifically, but here are a couple for you to check out.  Click around, read their articles and information, call, ask questions, learn what your options are: www.comfortchristiancounseling.com and www. drbarbarasteffens.com/safe-passages. These both offer phone or Skype counseling/coaching sessions and/or support group that supports the trauma model and do not label you a co-sex addict.  The first one offers an online wives support group.  I joined one of those that helped me immensely as well as attending one in person. They do not tell you to leave your husband.  I know.  I was afraid of that too. 
  9. You can also do professional marriage counseling, and will definitely need that as well.  Follow the same guidelines in finding a joint counselor.  Consider not going to friends or people in authority you both already know.  You need objective help that is professional and effective and unbiased.  You are allowed to decline to talk to someone you don’t feel comfortable with.  You are allowed to help decide who you and Josh will go see together.  Find someone who will back you up if you need help talking to Josh about this. If he refuses to get professional counseling, then you carry on and go on seeing someone for yourself individually until Josh is ready.  By the way, that would be a strong indicator he isn’t repentant and ready to be fully honest.
  10. Don’t listen to any time frames people are giving you for “healing your marriage”, especially Josh.  The truth is, it’s going to take many years and it depends on Josh’s choices what that looks like.  Don’t let anyone pressure you (and don't pressure yourself either) into making promises or commitments you aren’t ready to make.  Anything or anyone that pressures you or makes you feel guilty right now is wrong.  You shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for hurting, for talking about your feelings, for reaching out for help, for being angry. You are the one who has been wronged.  You are not the one who caused this wrong. (Yes, I know you aren’t 100% right all the time.  I’m not saying that.)
  11. Find things that help keep you stable and keep them close.  That can be constantly playing your favorite hymns and praise and worship music, or audio Bible - especially at night.  It can be favorite movies you watch over and over.  It can be a place you stop in every day for a cup of coffee.  It can be a walk you take.  It can be a trusted friend or friends you call to pray with you day or night.  It can be taking a really high potency B-Complex vitamin daily and keeping some Bach Flower Rescue Remedy (all natural fast acting anxiety supplement) in your purse.  It can be getting a massage or a pedicure without the kids once a week.  Nothing is “too much”.  Do whatever it takes not to go crazy.  You are investing in healing the most devastating of wounds.  It’s okay.  Don’t feel guilty for not being the most attentive mother right now.  Get help with the kids.  As long as your children are safe and fed it is okay that you are just maintaining and not 100% on top of everything. Don’t worry about doing school work with them. Videos are fine.
  12. Don’t let people pressure you into forgiving your husband.  Of course you have to forgive him.  But forgiving doesn’t mean instant trust restoration and everything okay, or everything okay in a few months.  He can be forgiven, but he has to earn back trust by years of accountability and faithful loving humble behavior, in private as well as in public.  If he gets resentful when you need time and patience from him in this area, it indicates he isn’t really repentant, and maybe hasn’t given up his addiction. If people pressure you about what you are “supposed to do” right now, they aren’t on the right track either.  You need support, not pressure, and that’s what healthy people truly hearing from God will give you. Support for you, accountability and boundaries for Josh. No one should rush you.  And don't rush yourself either.

Anna, even after you do all of this, I don’t know what will happen.  There are people telling you that you have to stay with your husband.  There are people telling you that you should leave him.  I know you don’t want to lose your marriage, even after everything that has happened.  I get that.  That’s a godly desire.  But the truth is, only God knows how your situation is going to go.  And that revelation is probably going to be one step at a time with you not knowing the end of the story til you get there.  I’m guessing if your situation is like most, you won’t know what you need to do permanently for quite a while.  It takes a long time to see if Josh will really change and stay committed to change.  This process is going to be a lifetime for him, not something he does and moves on.  (Common misconception.) There is a lot you can do to set the stage for your husband’s repentance, accountability and opportunity to change, as well as moving toward your own healing from betrayal and working on personal issues that this has brought up.  But no matter what you do, it is still his choice whether he gives up his addiction or not, and then stays free from it.   If he makes the wrong choice, it isn’t your fault.  

Just like you doing the right things up until now didn't keep this from happening, doing the right things from now on can't give you a guaranteed outcome, only the best opportunity for it to happen.

Josh getting caught isn’t the same as him giving up his sin.  Please, please hear me.  I thought once everything hit the fan and became public it meant my husband would of course not continue seeing other women or looking at pornography- it seemed like such a no-brainer to me that once he had been exposed he would never do any of that again.  And of course that is what he told me as well- that now it had all come out he was glad and ready to move on.  But getting caught doesn’t set you free.  It can be the first step.  But it isn’t automatic.  (I went through a lot of pain to learn that that truth.)

Josh can’t help you heal right now, because he isn’t healthy himself.  You are going to have to turn to Jesus and trust Him, not your husband.  God is faithful, your husband isn’t.  I repeat, Josh getting caught is not the same as Josh changing and giving up what he got caught doing.  Not at all.  I know he thinks it is.  But he has disqualified himself as the spiritual head of your home.  In the same way you can’t submit to an intoxicated husband when he demands the keys to the car to drive you and the children home, Josh isn’t able to drive your family car right now.  And that authority over you and the kids doesn’t revert back to your parents.  Or his parents.  Or your pastor. 

I know that doesn’t sound right.  Just pray about it.  See what God tells you about that.  Listen to God each day more than you listen to people.  You are in a very important window of opportunity- use it wisely.

I’ll be praying for you.  Seriously praying.  Lots of other people are praying for you as well.  We aren’t all out here judging and thinking badly of you and Josh.  Some of us have been exactly where you are, and we know how it feels.

Again, I’m so sorry for your loss. You have my deepest condolences.

Love,
Roxanne

PS It's going to be okay.  I don't know what "okay" will look like for you in the future, but I know God is faithful and He will never leave you or forsake you.  That's my ultimate definition of "okay".




Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cutting Versus Healing (Not just for VBACs)

It only takes five minutes to perform a C-section.  Five minutes to cut a woman open, and pull her baby out of her body.  Of course that’s not counting the prep time, or the delivery of the afterbirth and suturing up afterwards- that’s another 30-45 minutes.   The physical healing of that incision will then take weeks, and for some women, months.

It takes five minutes to put a permanent scar on a woman she will carry for the rest of her life, both physically and emotionally.  It may have been necessary.  It may not have been.  But the scar is the same.  It doesn’t take much time to mark a woman with something she will always have with her, inside and out.

In contrast, consider the process of a woman deciding to try for a VBAC, a vaginal birth after cesarean.  When the woman who has had a C-section gets pregnant again, she may not want to accept the outdated “once a C-section, always a C-section” saying, which more and more people are realizing isn’t true or always the safest choice.  She will do research, read studies, and find out that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now states that it is acceptable for women to have a trial of labor after a C-section and many will be able to give birth vaginally.

That statement does not make it automatic however.  The woman now has to find a health care provider who can support her in this goal of laboring and delivering naturally, in spite of her scar.  Many providers are not interested.  It is, after all, much easier to schedule a repeat C-Section that will be a convenient date on the calendar and take five minutes.  So women may turn to midwife based care to meet this goal, and here is often the place she finds a safe supportive environment.

This is where I come in.  Several times a year I get to walk alongside special women in their journey of attempting a VBAC.  My role is to assist the healing, the “do-it-right-this-time”, the “try-again-for-what-I-want.”  I provide the same high quality prenatal care for VBAC moms as I do for all my pregnant ladies, but the VBAC mamas have special needs. 

As their due date approaches, they will have more anxiety.  Will their bodies work?  Will they go into spontaneous labor without being induced?  What if they don’t?  What if they get stuck again, at whatever point they got stuck at before?

Unfortunately they not only have to deal with their own internal questions, but the external ones coming at them from friends and relatives and even strangers. What does your doctor say?  Is your midwife trained to handle this?  You mean she won’t induce you?  What if you don’t go into labor on your own? Isn’t that dangerous to go so far past your due date?

At this point I become a life coach as much as a midwife.  I expect daily texts and phone calls.  I expect my VBAC clients to go past their due dates, and to have to discuss each day how we will manage that.  There will be extra sonograms to make sure baby is doing well, extra chiropractic adjustments to make sure mama is doing well, extra supplements to buy, extra office visits to evaluate contractions that will be happening on and off for days before “real” labor sets in. 

Then, at last, labor.  It may be her very first attempt, or just her first attempt since her surgery, but either way, a big FIRST.   I will be there with plenty of encouragement, extra mama and baby monitoring, reassuring family when needed, and with constant presence.  There will be physical and emotional hurdles and much need for patience and endurance.  We will all invest many hours and much sweat and probably some tears in reaching the final goal.  

All this effort to get past something that took five minutes to do.  

Years of waiting and thinking and reliving the past experience, months of research, days of interviewing providers, more months of pregnancy care, weeks of nail-biting, days and hours of early labor, more hours of active painful labor…to achieve natural birth.  

Past the scar. 

That scar that took someone five minutes to make.

But that’s how it is in life.  It is easy to cause pain.  It only takes a minute to cut someone deep, to speak words or behave in a way that makes a permanent scar on a person's soul. It is much harder to be a part of healing the scars the pain leaves behind.  And it takes many times longer to heal than it did to get hurt in the first place.

It’s one of the things I enjoy about being a midwife.  I like being on the healing team. As someone who has many scars myself (not the C-Section kind) – I know how important it is, how necessary if we are to go on living, and go on living well. 

And all the time, all the “inconvenience”, all the lost sleep and personal time on my part as a midwife is worth it in exchange for being a part of a woman’s healthy healing redemptive experience that will also stay with her, for the rest of her life.

To me, that's the more valuable skill to offer a woman. 

This skill is not exclusive to midwives with VBAC clients, but what people need all areas of life. Everyone needs someone to be patient with them when they are anxious, to be longsuffering with them when they are needy, to speak words of encouragement when they are discouraged, and to offer hope of a better outcome in the future.

Particularly those people who are trying to push past their scars.

It's a skill all of us can develop.  It's a choice to build up instead of tear down, to heal instead of hurt, to fix instead of break, to be patient instead of impatient, to stop and listen instead of being in a hurry.  

Because everyone has scars and everyone needs healing. 

And most people can push past them, if they just have the right support.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

21 Days of Grace, plus a lot more




In two days I’ll be a published author.

The funny thing is, while I have written prolifically all my life both in jobs and for pleasure, this was not a goal I was actively pursuing.

It’s kind of one of those extra unexpected gifts from God.

We all have things we pray and pray and pray for, and finally see happen, and that’s cool. Most of us also have things we pray and pray and pray for that don’t happen, and that’s hard. 

So getting something you hadn’t been praying for- well, that’s like getting a dozen roses when it isn’t your birthday or Mother’s Day. You could say getting published in 21 Days of Grace with a bunch of other cool authors for me is like getting flowers delivered on an ordinary Monday.

It feels redemptive as well.  I find personal significance in the fact that this book is being released almost to the day of the 7th anniversary of my very painful divorce.  The Pain Redemption.  It started as one of my many blog musings and ending up developing into a devotional.

On so many levels, God has indeed redeemed my pain.  The pain of parental rejection has helped me be a better parent and highly value my relationships with my kids.  The pain of spousal betrayal and the shame of divorce taught me about grace and the importance of extending it to others.  The pain of church and ministry conflicts taught me not to overlook character issues in leadership for the sake of the work of the ministry, or for the sake of acceptance.  

God redeemed the preparation I was doing for the mission field into job training that allowed me to support my family in work I love here in the States as a midwife.  He redeemed my time overseas as a missionary into understanding for the issues my missionary patients face, as well as cultural sensitivity for my international patients.   

And finally, he has redeemed the writing I have done to process my pain and my journey toward healing into something that will hopefully be an encouragement to others as well.

My prayer is as you read each story in 21 Days of Grace, you will be encouraged by the themes of grace and redemption that are present in them all.
 

Available from Amazon, Walmart.com, Christianbook.com, or BarnsandNoble.com

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Everything

As a full time midwife and a single homeschooling mom of three teenagers, I’ve noticed a recent reoccurring emotion.

I feel like I’m perpetually on the giving end.  The person in any and every given situation who does the most, sacrifices the greatest, works the hardest, and stretches the farthest.  I do so much for others with much less help and support than everyone else gets. Whether it’s the parenting, the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the shopping, the scheduling, the school work teaching and grading, the driving people around, the budgeting, the bill paying, the car maintenance, the yard maintenance, the honey-do list I do for myself, the working to make a living for my family, the life and death 24 hour on call responsibilities of my profession, and most of all (dramatic sigh), the going behind others to fix what wasn’t done well.  With so little appreciation.

Because really, you know, I have to do everything myself.

On Maundy Thursday while taking communion, I tried to focus my mind off of my never ending to-do list and on the elements and all they represent.  Taking the reminders of Jesus’ blood and His broken body was a sharp contrast to my stressful week.  As I struggled to focus on the Last Supper and all Jesus suffered and sacrificed, I suddenly had a beautiful thought. 

Jesus gave so much, much more than I ever have, for me, and for everyone.  He sacrificed more, suffered more, loved more- and surely has gotten much less in return from every person he made that sacrifice for, even the most appreciative.  I cannot “one up” Jesus.  I cannot play my martyr card in the face of the One who died for me- who gave me more than I could ever give Him- who did for me more than I will ever do for Him.   

I felt peace in the revelation that everything was not, after all, up to me.  Everything does not begin with me getting up in the morning and hitting my to-do list with a running start, and end when I fall exhausted in bed at night.

Because actually everything began with Jesus.  And He ever so perfectly finished everything on the cross and with His resurrection.  Without my help. 

Or going behind Him to fix things. 

Because the redemptive work of Jesus in His life, death and resurrection changed everything.

Hallelujah.

 





Saturday, January 31, 2015

God is everywhere... but we aren't.



After reading yet another abrasive Christian blog, ranting on rude Christian people who had been railing on another Christian blog that offended them, and then here come the follow up blogs to the original blog, (all on women’s clothing!!! OMG- stop the madness!!) I’m pondering again the many sided monster the body of Christ sometimes is. I guess it always has been, but now on the internet we get to see it displayed like never before.

There always have been debates and different points about life styles among Christ-followers all the way back to the time of the Apostles- but they weren't blogging their points of view on the internet with the churches of Asia minor reading them instantly, re-posting on Facebook, and then blogging responses and commenting vehemently back and forth.

More and more I’m becoming convinced it is important to step back from our forums, from our blog postings, from sharing about the path we are on, from making the direction God is moving us in lifestyle our doctrine de facto, and see what God is doing in someone who is moving in the opposite direction.  Yes, it is possible.

Consider these blog debates on (primarily) first world life style issues:

One woman is convicted by the Holy Spirit that she’s been dressing too provocatively and decides to stop wearing leggings, while another woman who has spent years trying to get free from a legalistic dress code finally gets the freedom from the Holy Spirit to wear yoga pants to church. 

One Christian support group on Facebook exists to support survivors of a legalistic cult who celebrate the escape from dress, eating and lifestyle behaviors that another Christian Facebook group (not a cult) exists to help its members develop. 

One mother blogs about how she’s been convicted to get her space organized, and another shares how she’s learned to relax and not be so uptight about housework.

One mom posts a “get off your iPhone and pay attention to your kids” blog and then there follows a, “I am a good mom and actually this phone is helping me get stuff done while spending time with my kids,” response.

One person blogs about books and movies of all genres and what spiritual lessons they gained from them, and another encourages Christians be more discriminating in their media choices and stick with God’s Word for teaching and revelation.

Someone posts about finally getting motivated to exercise and lose weight and makes that a part of his or her spiritual journey, and someone else posts about getting free from an exercise and image obsession and learning to be comfortable with the body they have.

One person blogs about being convicted not to spend so much time with friends, and to have more serious quiet time with God, and someone else journals about getting set free from being too serious and realizing that it isn't nonspiritual to go out and have fun with friends.

And Christians keep weighing in their opinions on each other’s peripheral and random issues, very much based on what God is doing in THEIR lives at the time, and not considering that God could be taking someone else the opposite direction.  

Consider for a minute that God is everywhere, on all sides of us.
 
He is with the recovering alcoholic who celebrates every day of not taking a sip, and also with the Christian who has come to believe it is not a sin to have wine at dinner with friends.  He is with the mother who is blogging about child training and the importance of teaching manners, and also the mother who is blogging about accepting her children’s behavior and seeing beyond the external.  He is with the young person being convicted to have a more disciplined lifestyle and with the older Christian convinced to lighten up.

He is with the woman convicted to be more be more modest in her dress, and the woman who has been set free from a legalistic dress code.  He is with the parent convicted to put down her phone, and with the one set free to pick it up.  He is with the single person who decides they won’t date and the one who decides they will.  He is with the family blogging about getting healthier in their food choices and posting gluten free recipes, as well as the one posting pictures of sugar frosted cupcakes from their last birthday party.

I’m a blogger myself.  I have opinions too, and I like to blog about them.  I’m on a life-journey with the rest of humanity, and I like to write about that journey.  Furthermore, I love finding blogs with like-minded people, moving in the same direction.  It’s like a high five. Someone else ‘gets it’, someone else affirms my direction. But what about when I read a blog that reflects a place I was ten years ago and now have a different perspective on?   It’s easy, for example, as I travel from supreme legalism toward grace, to judge blogs that extol things I’m moving away from.  I can easily project that they must be legalistic if they do things I did when I was legalistic, but, it ain’t necessarily so.  And even if it is, rarely will a blog debate change anyone’s mind.  In fact it can quickly get very vitriolic and nasty with everyone firmly in their own point of view, and no one really hearing anyone else’s except through the filter of “you aren't doing the right thing because that’s not where I am now, or how I see it, and I know God is on my side ‘cause I have a good relationship with Him, and I’m well informed on this topic, so that means by default you need to be enlightened.” 

Er, no, actually not.  God is not limited by the same time period, culture, age, generation, lifestyle, doctrine, preference time space continuum that we are.  Not at all.  He is everywhere.  We aren't.

So this one is for all the spiritual bloggers.  Keep writing.  Keep posting your journey.  Keep walking the direction you feel God is leading you.  Keep looking for like-minded people. But remember to be kind to others you meet going the other direction.  Don’t make assumptions. Don’t bash them.  Don’t counter blog their blogs.  Just keep blogging your own.   Nicely.   The golden rule applies to the internet world too.  Just sayin’.

Don’t bash others and end up bashing Him.

‘Cause God is everywhere, in lots of places that you aren't.