Being Saved…

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I am a Christian. I believe that I am saved and that after this life I will live eternally in Heaven. I keep finding myself in discussions about what “salvation” means and this morning I woke up with this post circling around in my head.

I’ll be honest. I’ve had more than one existential crisis in my life. The most recent was only seven or eight years ago. We were in a church with unhealthy leadership, I was grieving the many losses in a very short period of time, my husband was under federal investigation for something he did not do, and I was dealing with the reality of parenting a very broken and destructive little girl that I had been certain God wanted us to adopt. I was angry with God. I was disappointed. I was scared. I had no hope. And I began to question everything I had ever believed about my faith. If you’re in the middle of your own existential crisis, let me offer you some hope. You’re in the right place!

When I found myself at the lowest, scariest, most desperate time of my life, I made a conscious decision to start seeking truth from the Bible instead of looking for answers from books or sermons. I spent some time cutting out the middle-man. I won’t lie and tell you that it was easy. I had to come to the realization that much of what I’d come to not only believe, but practice and cheer for, simply wasn’t found anywhere in God’s Word. Probably my biggest revelation was concerning exactly what it means to “be saved”.

Romans 3:10 And the Scriptures agree, for it is written:

There is no one who always does what is right, no, not even one!

Romans 3:23 for we all have sinned and are in need of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. We are ALL sinners and deserve death, but God offers eternal life. But what if you’re a good person? We are ALL sinners.

James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Yeah. Did you eat well and care for you body today? Did you help the old lady at the grocery store that was struggling to load things in her car? Did you let the Mom in her minivan with three carseats have that perfect parking space you’d been waiting for? When your spouse said something that offended you did you respond with love and grace? Sin is sin is sin. It doesn’t matter if you committed adultery last night, or if you gossiped about your neighbor, or failed to pick up the phone and call your depressed friend when they crossed your mind. You’re a sinner.

But what if I’m a REALLY GOOD person?

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ! So no one will ever be able to boast, for salvation is never a reward for good works or human striving.

There is nothing you can do to earn salvation, except to choose it.

John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Dear friends, let me give you clearly the heart of the gospel that I’ve preached to you—the good news that you have heartily received and on which you stand. For it is through the revelation of the gospel that you are being saved, if you fasten your life firmly to the message I’ve taught you, unless you have believed in vain. For I have shared with you what I have received and what is of utmost importance:

The Messiah died for our sins,
    fulfilling the prophecies of the Scriptures.
He was buried in a tomb
    and was raised from the dead after three days,
    as foretold in the Scriptures.

 

To be saved means to wholeheartedly believe that John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 are true.

This is where what I believed about salvation got a little messy. Chances are good that if you’ve been in any church in America (and many other countries), at the end of a service you’ve heard someone ask those in attendance to pray a prayer if they wanted to be saved and then raise their hand if they’d “prayed that prayer”. While hands are raised the person who has led the prayer most likely counted.

Romans 10:9-10 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

My guess is that the “sinner’s prayer” (as the prayer is often referred to) is derived from the requirement of “openly declaring”. But guess what? There is no “sinner’s prayer” in scripture. I struggle with a visceral response to anyone that measures the success of a church on the number of people who “prayed that prayer” on a Sunday morning.

If you’re struggling with believing that you ARE saved, let me offer you some freedom. If you believe and you openly tell others that you believe, you ARE saved. It’s really that simple.

But it’s not simple.

Once you believe, you have responsibilities.

1 Peter 2:1-3 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

2 Timothy 2:22-26 Run as fast as you can from all the ambitions and lusts of youth; and chase after all that is pure. Whatever builds up your faith and deepens your love must become your holy pursuit. And live in peace with all those who worship our Lord Jesus with pure hearts. Stay away from all the foolish arguments of the immature, for these disputes will only generate more conflict. For a true servant of our Lord Jesus will not be argumentative but gentle toward all and skilled in helping others see the truth, having great patience toward the immature. Then with meekness you’ll be able to carefully enlighten those who argue with you so they can see God’s gracious gift of repentance and be brought to the truth. This will cause them to rediscover themselves and escape from the snare of Satan who caught them in his trap so that they would carry out his purposes.

Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

If you read those three passages and thought, “Holy crap!” How on earth will I ever perfect being a Christian?” Well, you won’t. If we could perfect it, we wouldn’t need a savior. But we DO need a savior. And I’ll let you in on something…

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! THIS MEANS THAT ANYONE WHO BELONGS TO CHRIST IS A NEW PERSON. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

When you wholeheartedly believe, you are changed. I once heard a sermon on salvation where the pastor posted a picture similar to this… screen shot 2019-01-04 at 9.47.12 pm

It is a great representation of what it feels like to believe and know Jesus. Sin is not the only thing we need to be rescued from. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t felt like they were drowning in some bad situation, or emotions, or illness, or addiction, or pain; at some point in time. Salvation is God reaching down and pulling you out of that thing you are drowning in, or at least holding your hand so that the thing doesn’t kill you. It’s a new and changed way of living.

Christianity offers so much more than eternal life. It makes it possible to endure human life.

It offers grace…

1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

It offers healing in relationships.

James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

It offers hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a HOPE.

It offers physical healing, and emotional healing, and freedom from all things that hold us in bondage, and peace, and favor, and all the good things we can never seem to find through our own efforts.

If you’ve read this far… wow! I’m impressed.

If you’ve read this far and want to share with someone that you believe, feel free to contact me. I filter my comments so you can leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

If you’re going through your own existential crisis, or you’re drowning in church wounds, or you prayed a prayer and raised your hand and nothing changed in your life, or this is all completely new information to you… I’d be happy to answer your questions, but I’m NOT the authority on Christianity. If you reach out to me I’d be happy to pray for you, but the very best thing you can do in any of the above situations is to READ THE BIBLE! If you don’t own a physical Bible I highly recommend that you get one (I’m a big fan of the NLT and ESV translations). If you don’t own a physical Bible and you’re not interested in getting one, you can download the YouVersion app on your phone or you can read it online at Bible Gateway.

Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

 

 

 

fire is hot.

When my kids were little, during bedtime roundup, I would often say, “Shadrach, Meshach, and ToBedYouGo!” It’s a cute saying.  But after spending some time in the footsteps of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I no longer use it lightheartedly. Those boys walked through fire. They may not have been burned when they came out and God may have been right there in the fire with them, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t experience the heat while they were in the furnace.

December 5, 2011 my husband returned to his job at the Pentagon after two weeks of leave. At the time he worked in a secure location where cell phones had to be left outside. An hour after leaving home he called me from his cell phone. I answered with a joking, “Why aren’t you at work?” Him – “I was fired.” Me – “Yeah, right. They can’t fire you. You’re an active duty Army officer.” Him – “I’m not joking.” He wasn’t.

For thirty months we scratched our heads, lost our minds, and came to the end of ourselves. We were thrown in a furnace and it was hot. onfire

My husband went to military school at age 14. He went to military college. He went straight from college to active duty and has worn a uniform to work every day since the summer of 1994. What started in him on December 5, 2011 was the extreme version of an identity crisis. Wives, if your hubby is in the middle of losing his identity, don’t get excited and tell him that you can’t wait for God to redefine him. Just don’t. Trust me.

What started in me that day was a different kind of crisis. Although he had been escorted from the Pentagon and had all of his keys and badges taken away, he was not told what he was accused of or who had done the accusing. The only information he was given was that he had indeed been accused of something and that he was under criminal investigation.

My crisis went the way of a writer’s imagination. My husband loves right and hates wrong. There is no gray in his world. He was working as the acquisitions adviser to the Army’s director of intelligence. The intelligence world and the government acquisitions world operate in the gray. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is what it is. My very black and white husband made quick enemies in that position and there were people who had much to gain financially by getting him (and his very loud Italian mouth) out of the office. So began my crisis.

In the first few months I wrote things in my journal like, “God, what are we going to do if he goes to prison?” I planned out what I would take with me if someone showed up and whisked us off to witness protection. I made sure our extended family knows that they are loved just in case we disappeared. I FREAKED OUT.

When the crises eased somewhat, depression set in. We stopped doing much or interacting with many people. We weren’t sure who we could trust and we didn’t feel free to share our situation with many people. So there we were. Together. All the time. Depressed. With little hope that anything would ever be okay again. We sat on the couch. We ate too much. We watched too much tv.

I used to think my love language was quality time. I was wrong. We’ve been together almost every minute, of every day, for THIRTY MONTHS. Any married person out there who thinks they want to spend every minute of every day with your spouse, you may be right. But I would not suggest that you initiate all that togetherness in the middle of a very hot furnace. When one of you is dealing with losing an identity that you have physically worn every day since you were fourteen years old and the other is freaking out over all the possibilities at the end of a criminal investigation, things can get downright ugly.

Somewhere around the twenty-month mark we received news that the investigation had been transferred from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to the Justice Department. As my husband freaked out internally and tried to keep me calm, well, I just freaked out. I’m not saying I actually did this, but I’ve heard of a woman who looked up what federal prison her husband would go to if he were to be convicted of a civilian crime by the US Department of Justice. I also heard that she calculated the distance to said prison from her home. And then looked at possible housing around said prison just in case she needed to move the kids there so that they could visit their Daddy in jail. Can you imagine? That woman must’ve had zero faith in the American justice system.

The same day that we hit the two-year mark (December 5, 2013), I received an email from an organization that provides therapeutic retreats for military families. We were chosen for one of their retreats in 2009, but we were unable to go because my hubby could not get the time off. When I opened the email, I cried. I had honestly forgotten all about the retreat, and I could not believe that God was giving us such an amazing gift at a time when we were so desperate for a little bit of hope. The icing on the getaway cake was that the organization providing the retreat was also offering to sponsor our travel to and from Colorado. And… they agreed to fly us out a few days before the retreat so that we could spend some time with my husband’s family. He grew up in Denver and many of his family members there have never met Sofija. For the first time, in a long time, we had something big to look forward to.

We planned our entire summer around the trip. Our teenagers found jobs that would allow them to take ten days off in June and we filled out the paperwork to withdraw Sofija from school a week before the end of the school year. The behavioral therapist that works with both of our stimmers began preparing them for flying and horseback riding. All the while, communication with the retreat organization was sporadic and giving me doubts as to whether or not it would actually happen.

Eleven days before we were scheduled to fly out, my husband was alone in a rental house we own in Columbus, Georgia. While waiting on contractors to prepare the house for sale, he received a phone call from an angel at the Army Inspector General’s office. He was calling to say that the Justice Dept. had found “no evidence to substantiate the accusations made against him”. No charges would be filed. All would be restored. He would walk out of the fire unscathed.

The next morning I received an email from the retreat organization saying that someone was calling that day to finalize our travel arrangements. God’s timing is so frickin’ unbelievable.

But… that phone call never came. For the next week none of our phone calls or emails were returned. Two days before we were scheduled to travel we received a phone call from the founder of the organization. They screwed up. Someone/multiple people dropped the ball. The retreat was overbooked and they had no space for our family.

For four days we processed our emotions. Processing emotions for us looks a lot like exchanging nasty email and phone calls with the people who dropped the ball. It wasn’t pretty, but we’re human. After being told that they were trying to “make it right”, I sent a message that simply said, “The only way to make this right is to honor your word. We have two teenagers who planned their entire summer around this trip, two children with autism who keep asking why we didn’t get on a plane and go to Colorado, and military leave that cannot be restored.” The recipient of that message responded with six round-trip tickets anywhere that JetBlue flies. An hour later, we had flights booked to one of the few places that had six seats open on the same day… Puerto Rico.

So here we sit, 35,000 feet above the Atlantic ocean, marveling over the fact that God truly does restore all that is lost.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire, King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see that they were not burned. He had asked his groupies to make the fire three times as hot as it’s normal heat and then watched those groupies burn up in the process of throwing the boys in the furnace. He also witnessed that although only three people were thrown into the fire, there were four in the furnace. When the boys stepped out, King Neb proclaimed that their God was indeed the one true God. He promoted them and gave orders that they should be exalted. God had taken what was intended for their destruction and used it for their increase. He did the same with Job. And the same with Joseph. For thirty months, when we weren’t in crisis or depressed, we’ve claimed that this was my husband’s Joseph season. That all that was lost would be restored in multiplicity. That someday he would have the chance to bless his military brothers who set out to destroy him.

We are out of the fire. We are not burned. God was ALWAYS with us, especially in the ugly. We are ridiculously excited about the future. If God could replace our lost retreat with a week in paradise, He must certainly have an A-MA-ZING plan for my husband’s career.

To each and every person that has stood by us and prayed for us and drug us off the couch and spoke hard truth to us, thanks isn’t a big enough word. I’m not certain that I/he/we would have survived this journey without God using you in our lives.

Now for a little time in paradise. 🙂 flamenco-beach

 

 

 

 

believing the truth…

truthI’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions this week.  While I was at home breathing easy over the news that I DO NOT have cancer, my precious still-a-little-broken baby girl was busy at school taking down four staff members and giving her lead teacher a concussion.  On the same day that I talked to my doctor about possible surgery dates that would give me time to heal before that baby girl’s school year ends, I faced the reality that her “school year” may be over in the terms of her actually leaving the house for a few hours a day.

And then, in the midst of the roller-coaster of emotions and seeking wisdom on baby girl’s school placement and dealing with an achy uterus, I was told some things yesterday that punched me in the gut.

“You are a narcissist and a hypocrite! You lack the ability to be truthful and you have no place doing any Christian counseling with anyone… Don’t blog or write anymore as your words are meaningless and untrue!”

It’s always interesting to me how those type of character attacks come when there is ZERO energy (or even motivation) left to defend myself.  But you know what?  I think there’s a reason for that.  I think God wants us to have ZERO energy for defending ourselves so that we can lean into Him.  So that we are forced to choose what we are going to believe.  I also don’t think it’s any accident that the character attack came at the same time I am being forced to choose what I believe about daughter.

So, for the record, I choose TRUTH.  I choose to only believe the things that the Word of God says about me and my child.  I choose to believe that God has given me a platform with this blog and that when someone is blessed by something I write, my purpose is fulfilled and HE is glorified.  I choose to give GOD credit for any good that anyone sees in me.

TRUTH: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for Sofija and Kaci,”says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give my girls a future and a hope.”  ~My baby girl is going to be just fine.  No matter what her school environment looks like, it will be a good thing.  No ifs.  No ands.  No buts.

Matthew 10:31  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. flock~See all those birds?  You, me, and my baby girl…. we’re more valuable to God than that whole dang flock.

2 Corinthians 12:10  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the INSULTS, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  ~ This is why I’m pretty confident God allows character attacks at times when I don’t have the time or energy to work it out on my own.  “…when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Romans 8:28 For we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~We’re all going to be okay around here and you’re going to be okay wherever you are and whatever it is that you’re walking through.  There is no guarantee that life will be easy for those who follow Christ.  There is however a guarantee that EVERYTHING will work together for your good.  I need to mention that sometimes “your good” doesn’t look like what you imagined it would look like.  It just doesn’t.  But that doesn’t make it less good.  It’s just different good.

John 1:12  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. ~ Did you read that?  “…children of God.”  That’s right, y’all.  Me and my girl…  We’re royalty.  We’re daughters of a king.  There is nothing that anybody can say that will ever change that.  

A couple of years ago, Prince Harry was caught on camera, sans pants, in Vegas.  For the Prince, what happened in Vegas, did not stay in Vegas.  Within hours the crown jewels were all over the internet and people were calling him all sorts of bad names.  You know what he did?  He got up the next morning, put on a suit and tie, and continued to be a Prince.  As crazy as it may sound, I want to be like Harry.  Okay maybe I don’t want the world to see me in my birthday suit through the lens of a cellphone camera.  But I do want to get up everyday, clothe myself in a suit of armor, and remember that no matter what anyone says about me (or to me), I am a daughter of a king.

Ephesians 6:13-17  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the BELT OF TRUTH and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News (the Bible) so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

 

a season of grace

Growing up in south Louisiana is a privilege.  I’ve been around the world and I’ve experienced no culture, food, or people, quite like those of my home.  In south Louisiana Mardi Gras is a season.  Much like Black Friday and tree sales initiating the Christmas season, I grew up with king cakes, parades, and Mardi Gras balls initiating the Lenten season.

As a little girl I wanted so badly to be Catholic.  I was just about the only kid in elementary school who didn’t ‘get to’ go to catechism.  We were (still are) non-denominational Christians and listening to the other kids plan out and talk about their catechism carpools and the mean nuns left me feeling like a red-headed step-child  (no offense to my ginger friends).  I wanted my own rosary and I wanted to see my friends get hit on the back of their hands with a ruler by a nun when they talked during prayer.  king-cake

I eventually got over the desire to be Catholic and decided to just embrace the parts of Catholicism that I found enjoyable and comforting.  Even so, not living in Louisiana for more than twenty years means that I’ve missed out on being immersed in the season.  For many years I whined about missing the parades and having to make my own kingcakes.  And then, a few years ago, I realized that I was not only missing all the fun aspects of the Mardi Gras season. I was missing the reverent aspects of the Lenten season as well.  Although I had been one of the few non-Catholic kids in school, just living in Baton Rouge meant that I didn’t have meat in the cafeteria on Fridays and that I didn’t have school at all the week of Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday.  And, even though my Mom would explain to me every year from the time I was six that I “didn’t have to”, I still gave up something every year for Lent.  I had to have something to add to the playground conversations and to be honest, I liked the discipline of the giving up.  I still do. I fast from various things at various times throughout the year and I am always blown away at the really BIG WAYS that God shows up when I’m giving something up and replacing that something with Him.

A few years ago, during the Lenten season, something amazing happened.  While I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana caring for my grandmother, my dear hubby was home in Virginia studying all things Ressurectionish.  I returned home to find a mezuzah attached to the frame of our front door and a book laying on the kitchen counter telling how to prepare the Passover Seder.  My former Catholic, very Italian husband, got in touch with his Jewish roots.  He found a desire to honor the beauty of Christ’ life, death, and resurrection in physical, tangible ways.

As dear hubby and I gave homage to all things Christ-centered, we talked to our children about the Lenten season and the crucifixion and the resurrection.  We reminded them over and over that all of it was for grace.  That Christ did not just come to earth and live as a man and die FOR us, but AS us.  We told them that he felt pain and misery and abuse so that we could let go of those things when they happen to us.  We told them that he was tortured and beaten for every wrong thing that any of us would ever do.  We told them that he conquered death so that all of those wrongs would not have the power to dictate how we live our lives.  We told them that he died for our freedom.  He died for our redemption.  He died because he loves us.  He died for grace.

Romans 8:38-39 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We’ve told our children these things throughout their lives, but grace and love and freedom are so much bigger than what can be told. They must be shown.

Yes, my children know what this season is about. But the same year that my husband found his Jewish roots, I found myself burdened. I want my kids to experience Christ, not just know about him. I desire more than anything for grace and freedom to be part of their identities, not just part of their knowledge base.  I knew all about Jesus when I was a teenager, but I was clueless when it came to grace and freedom and unconditional love.  Unfortunately, my lack of understanding led me to believe that choices I made could never be forgiven. My lack of experience with the realness of Christ’ sacrifice led to years of running and self-destruction.

I want more for my children. God, let them know!  Let them know how BIG your love is.  Let them know how BIG your grace is. Let them walk in freedom every day of their lives. Give them total understanding that NOTHING can separate them from your love. Give me wisdom in showing them these things. Amen.

John 15:13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

When I was giving up something for Lent as a child I appreciate that my Mom made it clear that I had free will and that I did not have to.  But I really wish she had taken the time to teach me what Lent was about.  I wish I had known that the “giving up” was in honor of what Christ gave up for us.  I really wish that I had had some tangible symbolic activity that I could connect to scripture as a reminder that freedom and love and grace are mine for the taking.  But I didn’t.  And now… I have a chance to redeem my story.  I have four (not-so) little people in my care that I CAN provide with a tangible symbolic activity that can be tied to scripture.  In my endeavor to find that activity, I came across this blogpost by Ann Voskamp.  Read it.  Be inspired.  repentence box

On New Year’s Eve 2012, we had a little party at our house.  Instead of having people sit around and discuss or write down their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and resolutions for 2013, I gave everyone a couple of index cards and a pen at 11:30pm.  I asked everyone to go find a quiet spot and write down ALL of the things that they would like to leave behind in 2012.  And then… just before midnight, we put our cards, one-by one, in the fireplace and watched them burn.

For the last few years, as an attempt to SHOW what Holy Week is all about, I build a repentance box. Our family (and friends who stop by during the week) write out our bad choices, our pains, every ounce of unforgiveness. All the junk Christ carried to the grave, we place it in the box and let it go.  And just before midnight, on the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday, we will turn it all to ash.

Happy Season of Grace!

Go build your box. 😀

killing babies

While I was in Serbia last May my eyes were opened to more needs than I could process.  On my flight home I filled several pages of my journal writing down the needs I’d been exposed to and praying for God to give me clarity about just what on earth this one, damaged, unqualified woman could do.  How could I make a difference for the kingdom of God in the land that gave me my daughter?  Out of all needs on the list, there was one that I intentionally placed at the very bottom…

On the day before that flight home, the Belgrade hotel room that I shared with my dear friends Lisa and Rachelle became a prayer closet.  People came by throughout the afternoon and evening to pray with us.  Some drove hours just to share space with someone who shared their God. The last person to stop by was a woman named Mila.  Other than the fact that she had been at a prayer conference in Sarajevo the month before, I knew nothing about her before she came to our door.  As she got comfortable on our little hotel couch and explained to the women in the room that God had spoken to her at that conference in Sarajevo about opening a crisis pregnancy center, I created a confidently smug reply in my head.  With the two women who know me (just about as good as I know myself) sitting nearby, I looked Mila in the eyes and said, “I’m not called to work with a crisis pregnancy center.  You see.  I had two abortions before I was married and I hope that God is more merciful than to call a person to minister in the one area that hurts the most.”  Lisa and Rachelle actually laughed out loud.

In the two weeks after my return from Serbia, I prayed over the list I created on my journey home.  I knew that I had no power to meet all of the needs on that list, but that I was called to meet at least one of them.  Over the course of those two weeks, God allowed me to have three very significant conversations (one of them with my own daughter) that led to a clear revelation about my calling.  In the seven months since that clear revelation I have denied that calling.  Today, God showed me that it’s time to come clean.

I killed my babies.  I have written an entire book about healing and I’ve led people to believe that it’s all about being healed from cancer.  It is not about cancer.  It is all about the process of being healed from the wounds that led to cancer.  You will have to buy the book if you want to know my whole story.  My whole story is not what this blog-post is about.  This post is about my disgust with the body of Christ over their approach to abortion.

When I was in middle school I participated in anti-abortion rallies.  I watched slide-shows of aborted babies and held up posters with pictures from those slide-shows that said things like, “Abortion Kills!” and “Don’t murder your unborn children”.  Seven or eight years later I walked across the parking lot of an abortion clinic on the way to kill my baby.  There were men on the edge of the parking lot wearing suits and holding Bibles up in the air while screaming, “Thou shall not kill!”  The next year I ended up facing the same decision.  I was doing drugs and still dating the same guy who once again stated that he wanted “Nothing to do with fathering my child” and promised that he would remind me as often as possible that “It was all my fault that this baby was “*#&@*d up” because I had done drugs while I was pregnant.  I ended up at the other abortion clinic in town.  This time there were teenage girls (probably passionate college students who were simply coached to do so) holding up signs with pictures of aborted babies.  The last words I remember as I walked through the door of that clinic were, “YOU’RE A BABY KILLER!!”

My point today is that the men waving their Bibles in the air and the young girls who called me a baby killer were very far removed from the God I have come to know personally.  The God who loves me DESPITE my shortcomings.  The God who taught me that His grace is bigger than any wound I have ever received….. Whether the wound was inflicted by others or self-inflicted.

For more than a decade of my life I tried to earn grace.  I tried to atone for killing my babies.  I thought that by refusing to enjoy the amazing life I had, I could somehow make the pain and guilt go away.  My plan did not work.

In the fall of 2002 I sat at Cascade Hills Church in Columbus, Georgia and listened to Dr. Bill Purvis preach a sermon on grace.  I grew up in church, attended a Christian school throughout middle school and part of high school.  Yet, somehow I missed out on the one thing God is really all about.

2 Corinthians 12:9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

One line in that sermon by Bill Purvis changed my life. “Who are you to think that ANYTHING you could ever do, is bigger than God allowing his son to die?”

Much like the moment today when I realized I was going to write this post, I was broken.  God is ALL ABOUT GRACE!  All the years I spent trying to punish myself were years wasted in an attempt to be my own god.  Vengeance and justice are not mine.  They belong to God.  If you don’t believe me, do a Google search on “scripture God vengeance”.  He is pretty stinking clear on the subject.

Those girls at the second clinic, the men with the Bibles at the first clinic, and me, myself and the thirteen year old I, are all just a part of the failure of The Church.  As Christians, we have spent our resources (man-power, money, time, and energy) fighting abortion by telling girls and women that abortion kills babies.  In that attempt we have not stopped abortion nor gained political ground.  We have simply made the wounds of the women who’ve experienced abortion that much bigger. I think we’ve all got it.  Abortion kills.  If you believe that life begins at conception, then you cannot argue the point that choosing abortion means choosing to end a life.

Jesus was pretty clear on one thing…. John 13:34 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: LOVE EACH OTHER.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.“NLT

Where is the love in screaming out, “Baby Killer!” to a girl who does not see any other option?  Where is the love in a church who shows slide-shows of aborted fetuses?  What kind of love does that show to the women (or men) who have lost a child to abortion?

If you have not walked in my shoes, you can not judge me (Read Matthew 6).  Am I guilty of murdering my babies? Yes.  Has the healing process been hell?  Yes.  Has the body of Christ made that healing process a thousand times more painful?  YES!  Is murder unforgivable?  No.  the apostle Paul was very clearly a murderer and thirteen books written by him still managed to make it into the New Testament of the Bible.  God is ALL ABOUT GRACE!!  He is ALL ABOUT HEALING!!  He is ALL ABOUT LOVE!!

Personally, I do not think we will ever see an end to abortion.  If the devil can get mothers to kill their babies before they are ever born then he doesn’t have to work to kill them throughout their lives…. John 10:10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy….”  Abortion kills a baby and destroys the life of a mother.  The other half of John 10:10 says, “….I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  The “I” in that verse is Christ.

Body of Christ, I challenge you to make a choice.  You can either be a part of the “destroying of lives” or you can be a part of the “life abundant”.  Do not call yourself “pro-life” unless you are actually pro-life.  You see…. Until The Church actually decides to show love and grace to women who have experienced abortion, there will never be any women to minister to those who are considering it.

I cannot tell you the number of CHRISTIAN women I have met that bow their head in shame and whisper, “me too.” when they hear my story.  Church, we have failed.

You wanna be like Christ?  The next time you meet a girl who’s pregnant and uncertain about what she will do, tell her that no matter what she chooses, GOD STILL LOVES HER!  Tell her that “HIS GRACE IS ALL SHE NEEDS!”  Talk to her about adoption.  The next time you hear another Christian talking about their stand on abortion, ask them what they are doing to encourage and support adoption.  After all, we were not instructed that pure ministry was to stop murder in James 1:27.  We were instructed that pure and undefiled ministry, before God, is to take care of the fatherless.

If you want to be pro-life, you must first be pro-choice.  CHOOSE to encourage the abundant life promised by God to both unborn babies AND to the women who have lost their babies to abortion.  CHOOSE to not be a part of the enemy’s scheme to steal (joy, peace, love, grace, you name it), kill (babies whose Moms feel rejected and/or judged by the body of Christ and who do not see any other options being promoted by the body of Christ), and destroy (the lives of babies, women, men, grandparents, aunts, uncles and anyone else who cares).

After explaining to Mila on that day last May how I was not called to work with her, I explained to her all the things I have just described for you.  I told her that the only way she would ever make a difference (in a nation that averages three abortions to every one live birth) would be to offer grace, love, and healing to women (and men) who have experienced the loss of a child through abortion.  Mila listened to me.  Her center will be a place of healing.

After seven long months and a roller-coaster ride of chasing after worthy callings that are not my own, one thing is clear.  God is immeasurably merciful mixed with a twisted sense of humor in the needs he calls us to fill.  He gives us love and grace to the point that we can overflow that love and grace to others.

This is my gauntlet.  Consider it thrown.


day 2 part deux (boundaries)

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. At this moment I can not begin to imagine what I will be twenty days from now. After only two days of fasting, praying and studying the sermons of Christ, I already feel like my load is a little lighter. How is it that we complicate our lives so much more than we really have to?!
I am about to climb in bed (no caffeine is forcing me to bed a little earlier than usual), but I wanted to take a second to write a bit about boundaries. That word has crept up in every productive conversation that I’ve had in the last two weeks. What’s funny is that I didn’t think I had a problem with them. I have this wonderful gift of being able to identify the lack of boundaries in the lives of others and to see how that lack of boundaries holds them back from living fully. If you were on the receiving end of any of those recent conversations, I apologize for sounding self-righteous.
Today I took a long painful look in the mirror. I’ve always been afraid that telling people they couldn’t call after a certain time or asking visitors to leave our home for fear that doing so would be perceived as rudeness. I’m a good southern girl. I don’t like to be rude.
But what if it isn’t rude to establish boundaries? What if it is actually respectable? I wanted to call someone today and thought that they were probably working and didn’t need to be interrupted. I realized that this person’s job has created boundaries that I have no problem respecting. Isn’t family supposed to come before work? If so, shouldn’t it be even more respectable to establish boundaries surrounding my family. I’m not really sure how people are going to take it, but “God has not given me a spirit of fear!”(2 Timothy 1:7) and he instructed me to “Not worry”(Matthew 6:34). So, I’m going to let go of my fears and stop worrying that people will think I’m rude and start laying down some boundaries. Feel free to pray for me in this process or share your pain if you struggle in the same area.
Change of subject…. Seth and Sofija sat at the table tonight doing their homework. Sofija kept pausing and rereading every part of her book that said something about animals. I noticed that Seth had stopped his own work and was just sitting and watching her just as he said, “I think God showed me what Sofija is going to be when she grows up. I think she’s going to be an animal scientist who studies the way that mother animals protect their young.” Maybe God was showing him something about his sister AND his Mom……

the invitation

Here is the invite I sent to several women in my life a few days ago. If you feel called to join in on this journey, I’d love to hear about it. God is doing something BIG!

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting.” – Daniel 9:3
There are several websites with information on the Daniel fast that I will provide at the end of this message. I’m sure if you go searching you can find a few more. They all have books and material for sale, but the printed material is not necessary to participate in the fast.
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
Daniel 10:2,3
If you want to do a literal interpretation, feel free to skip bathing and spit out anything that tastes good. I don’t like to stink, soooo, I think I’ll keep anointing myself. However, I will be giving up meat/animal products, my occasional cocktail or glass or wine, and pretty much anything other than veggies, fruits, nuts and beans.
That covers the what of the fast, so now I guess I need to cover the why. For the past two weeks, God has been speaking to me about fasting before Thanksgiving. At first I thought, “Hey! Good idea! I’ve gained about ten pounds since we moved into our new home (I like it here and I’ve grown quite fond of just sitting and eating all day). I thought maybe I was being called to fast so that I could shed the extra pounds in order to gain them all back over the holidays. But, no. God doesn’t work like that. In the last 48hrs, I have taken a spiritual beating. Several things have been revealed that have left Chad and I trying to catch our breath. We’ve been hit from completely unexpected angles and we’ve been kicking ourselves for not heeding discernment much earlier in the year. We do not want to land in October of 2012 repeating the same lessons simply because we haven’t listened to the voice of Holy Spirit. We want to be obedient. I will begin the fast on Tuesday November 1st and break it on Tuesday November 22nd. In those 21 days, I hope to lay down all the pieces of Kaci that are detrimental to God’s purpose for me in 2012. These 21 days will be about death and revelation. I know that there are pieces of Kaci that need to die and I pray for revelation on what God is trying to develop in me. I am seeking the heart of God inside of me. On November 22nd I want to wake up with less of me and more of Him than what exists today. And… I’m hoping he gives me some pretty clear answers on a couple of issues.
My own personal plan is to study the sermons of Christ. I’ve done this before and found that his preaching delivered a love story written just to me. This time I hope to find his heart buried in me, but I’m open to whatever he wants to tell me or teach me. I already know that at least one of you is being called to a study of the book of James. I plan to blog (big shocker, I know) through the scriptural and spiritual journey of the fast. I would love to hear what God is revealing to you if you decide to take this journey with me. If you’re interested in walking through one of the gospels or all of Jesus’ sermons, I found this site that has a pretty good guide. http://www.lifeofchrist.com/teachings/sermons/default.asp
http://daniel-fast.com/
http://www.ultimatedanielfast.com/
http://danielfast.wordpress.com/