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.

 

 

 

URGENT NEED!

When we adopted Sofija in 2010 , our eyes were opened to many needs in Serbia. One of those needs was the lack of life skills children had as they transitioned from orphan care to independent living. Those who spend their life in an orphanage enter adulthood with very few independent living skills. And… There are A LOT of orphans entering adulthood without finding a family.

The need for transitional care weighed heavy on me, but after a few inquiries it was made clear that Serbia isn’t a fan of privatized care of their citizens being done by outsiders. Eight years have passed and Serbia is  now a member of the Hague Convention. Joining the Hague Convention greatly improved orphan care, legalized and legitimized the adoption process, and provided an extra layer of protection between orphans and traffickers.  Even so, for the last eight years, what happens to all of those who “age out” has continued to weigh heavy on me.

Fast forward to the spring of 2017…

I had lunch in Orlando with several coordinators of Operation Christmas Child distributions throughout Serbia. I took some time getting to know everyone around the table and saved the lady to my immediate right for last. Her name is Tatjana (Tanya). When I asked her what she does she replied with, “Well, I have to tell you the back story before I tell you what I do.” I responded by bringing my hand to my chest and smiling as I said, “Oh, we’re going to be friends!”

Tanja then told me that she has four biological children and that she and her husband decided a few years ago to foster a child who was about to age out. They then learned just how many children were getting ready to age out and they desperately wanted to help more than one. Because there is a limit of five children in the home for foster families, they decided to open a transition house. From their desire to love big, HOP (pronounced “hope”) House was born. It stands for House of Opportunity. 

Before Tanja had finished telling me the story, I knew I had to partner with her. I’ve learned SO MUCH about the odds against a child who ages out and has no transitional care. It’s U.G.L.Y. We’re talking about real, precious humans who are filled with nothing but potential that mostly just disappear. Their lives are lost to suicide, drugs, trafficking… Being accepted into one of the houses is literally the difference between life and death. The kids at the HOP Houses are going to school. They are working. They are learning to cook, and budget, and care for a home, and play instruments, and make crafts and candles that they sell at various venues in an attempt to support themselves. More importantly, they are learning what it means to be safe, live in a family setting, and to be loved unconditionally. They’re not just finding hope. They’re experiencing Jesus.HOP Houses are in urgent need of support! The houses currently have enough funding to carry them through July and they will close in August without an influx of money. Below you can see the exact cost of keeping the houses operating and what their current needs are. If you would like to help, you can contact Tanja or myself and we’d be happy to tell you how to get money to them. 

I hardly know a person who hasn’t been outraged by some aspect of the situation with families being separated at the US/Mexico border. I’ve seen countless people on social media ask how they can help. Here ya go… If you want to make a difference in the lives of children who’ve been orphaned or separated from their families, this is a great opportunity.

passover, prodigal parenting, and temporal lobes



Tomorrow, March 30, 2018, is the beginning of the Jewish Passover. Passover is a celebration of freedom commemorating when God liberated the Jewish people from slavery. You can read all about the Passover in scripture HERE, but the gist of why it’s called “Passover” is that the Jewish people were to put the blood of a male goat or sheep around their door frames so that their homes would be “passed over” on the night that God delivered judgment on Egypt by killing the first-born child of each home. The homes covered by blood were protected from judgment.

I’m not so great at Bible timelines, but around thirteen hundred years after the Jewish people were freed from slavery, on the first day of Passover, Jesus had dinner with his disciples, washed their feet, and told them that one of them was about to betray him. On the Christian calendar, that last supper is commemorated today. So yeah, it’s a good day to wash someone’s feet. 😉 In the three days following that last meal, Jesus was betrayed, tortured, beaten, crucified, and on the third day arose from the dead. For those who believe that Jesus was crucified and resurrected so that we may have eternal life, our passover looks like a cross and an empty tomb. The blood of Jesus spares us from judgment.

I sat today and read the story of the crucifixion and I was brought to tears.  I just kept thinking about God the Father witnessing his son being tortured and killed. He allowed the horrors of the crucifixion so that every human thereafter could live in the freedom of the resurrection. He watched and waited because he had complete faith in His ability to fulfill His promises. As a parent, I can’t even imagine.

At the moment, I have one prodigal child and one that has recently developed epilepsy. In both situations I’m having to make daily (sometimes minute by minute) choices. I get to choose fear, or I get to choose faith.  In all the choosing I’m also doing a whole lot of seeking wisdom.

Parenting is hard, y’all. I firmly believe that the Bible is meant to be the guide book for everything in life. But guess what? Other than dishing out discipline and leaving them an inheritance, it doesn’t give many specifics when it comes to bringing up little humans. Wouldn’t you just love to know how Noah convinced his kids to get on the ark? We know they were there. But seriously… just getting my kids in the car for church is like herding cats. Or how God, knowing the pain and suffering Jesus would endure, didn’t interfere?

Because I already know that someone is going to comment with, “What about Proverbs 22:6?” I’d like to point out a few things about that verse. 1) It says, “Raise a child in the way they should go and WHEN THEY ARE OLD they will not depart from it. It doesn’t say a dang thing about when they’re young and stupid, and have an underdeveloped frontal lobe, and the inability to make rational decisions. 2) It’s REALLY vague. The writer makes the assumption that every reader actually knows “the way they should go”. Hello?? Have you met the human race? NONE of us have “the way” all figured out. 3) The very next verse says, “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” So maybe, just maybe, that verse is actually referring to teaching our kids to work hard and stay out of debt.

Although it’s hard to find many intimate conversations or outtakes between parents and children in scripture,  I have found one thing that is always consistent: when children are sick, struggling, or even dead, moms and dads always seek and cling to God on their children’s behalf. Biblical parents had crazy faith, y’all.

I believe that the only two tools our enemy needs to keep us from being in intimate relationship with God are isolation and distraction. Unfortunately, I think we’re living in a time when everyone is more isolated and distracted than at any other time in history.  I’m pretty sure that my need for my laptop and phone have made my faith look ridiculous when compared to the mom in 2 Kings who literally held onto the feet of the prophet Elisha until he came back to her house to raise her son from the dead. I want that kind of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Possibly the most detailed account of parenting in scripture isn’t something that actually happened. It’s a parable (a simple story used by Jesus to illustrate a spiritual lesson) about a prodigal son. I love the story for many reasons. First off, I’ve been a prodigal child. I’ve run from God, made some pretty awful choices, squandered things He’s given me, and come crawling back begging for grace. Every. Single. Time… God has wrapped his arms around me, celebrated me, and given me waaaaay more love and grace than I could ever possibly deserve. I also love it because the father in the story was there waiting and prepared to celebrate the son upon his return. He had a ring and a robe and new shoes and a fattened calf just waiting for the celebration of his son’s return. He had faith that his son WOULD return.

In 2010 our baby girl had an MRI that showed she had scarring in her temporal lobe. To be specific, she had extra tissue on her right hippocampus and right temporal horn. In that first year that she was ours she would frequently freeze. We, along with her pediatrician, had suspected that she was having seizures so we saw a neurologist that ordered the MRI and two EEGs. The first EEG showed some abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The second EEG also showed some slow/abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The freezing stopped and we just assumed it had been caused by her brain trying to process a whole new world of information.

Fast forward to two weeks ago… she climbed in bed next to me one morning and in the middle of rubbing my face and asking if she could have cake, she got a look of terror on her face, screamed, began smacking her lips and swallowing, and then couldn’t form words. It took two or three minutes for her to be able to speak. A few hours later, it happened again. The next day we saw it happen two  more times. The day after that, it happened four times in three hours. On the third day I started recording what we were witnessing and sent it to her doctor. While waiting to hear from her doctor, Dr. Google quickly told me what is happening looks like temporal lobe seizures. Last week an EEG showed bilateral seizure activity in her temporal lobe. We’re still waiting to get in with a pediatric neurologist for an MRI to see if there is any change from what the 2010 MRI showed, which means she is not yet on anti-seizure medication. She’s still having several seizures every day and her mental and verbal processing is definitely “off”.

Let me tell you something. Watching your child go from doing complicated math to not being able to form words in a matter of seconds is NOT fun.  It’s realllly hard to choose faith in those few minutes when I can’t reach her. It’s also realllly hard to choose faith in the moments when I can’t reach my prodigal.

But then I remember…. we’ve been passed over. This house and this family are covered by the blood and God ALWAYS fulfills His promises!

When she is old she will NOT depart from the way she was brought up

Jesus was wounded so that she IS healed

It only takes faith as small as a mustard seed to move mountains…

I hope you experience all that Resurrection Sunday has to offer. May your dreams be resurrected. May your faith be resurrected. May your joy. and hope, and relationships, and all the goodness that this world tries to steal be RESURRECTED. And may all the yuck pass you over.

If you’ve actually read all the way to the bottom, thank you. I forget that I even have this blog and I do appreciate those who haven’t given up on me as a writer.

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Luvin’ Louisiana

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What you see in this video is what you see when you drive down street after street after street in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Everything that people have worked for their entire lives has been reduced to a pile of wet, moldy trash at the curb.

My baby girl often says, “I need some luvin’.” just before piling her 5′ 4.5″ self into my lap. Right now Louisiana needs some luvin’. It’s time to hold my people.

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Many of you have contacted me asking how you can help my family. I’ve asked several who’ve lost everything what they need most. They still need hands to help with gutting homes. If you are able to go there, go. I can connect you with housing while you’re able to be there. The immediate need for cleaning supplies and food is being met.

The immediate needs are just the tip of the iceberg. The needs are HUGE and hard to wrap my head around. The majority of homes that were flooded were not covered by flood insurance because they were not located in a FEMA designated floodplain. Federal aid is miniscule. Many people that I know and love are still trying to figure out where they will live and how they will rebuild and replace EVERYTHING.

Please look back over the list of my family that has been impacted. If you are interested in adopting one of them, let me know. I will send you the address of where they are staying and you can send help directly to them. I recommend gift cards (Amazon is great because they sell everything from groceries to furniture and clothing) and personal notes. Or, just send a personal note of encouragement. People are tired and short on hope, send some words of hope.

My uncle started a GoFundMe for my cousin Cori. She is a single Mom that worked her tail off to buy a home for her and her son. She has lost everything, including her car.

If you have a spare car to donate, we will find a way to get it to someone who has lost theirs.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has a flood relief fund that is a trustworthy place to make donations.

Every time my son Seth prays he says, “God thank you for giving us so much love so that we have love to give others. Please give us more and more love so we have more and more to give.” For the record: I didn’t teach him that. It’s not a parenting win. He just gets it. He knows that He is dearly loved by the Father and that the love he receives is to be given to others.

1 John 3:16-17  This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

In this last week I have witnessed The Church acting like Jesus in bigger ways than I can ever recall. People have shown up in Louisiana, worked, cooked, fed, encouraged, and loved like Jesus. People are pouring out the love of God on my tribe and it makes my heart smile. But there is still SO MUCH to do.

Galatians 6:9 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good…

Excruciating…

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Throughout the Lenten season this box has greeted anyone that walks into my home. For six weeks words of repentance and forgiveness have been scratched out on pieces of paper and dropped into the box.

“I forgive _____ for hurting me.”

“God, I repent for not trusting you.”

“God, I forgive you for not yet healing my child.”

etc…

All those words meaningless without the power of this day, the very best and the very worst of Fridays.

The word “excruciating” was created just to describe the events that took place on Good Friday. Its Latin derivative is literally “out of the cross”.

    Excruciating:
    adjective
    1. extremely painful; causing intense suffering; unbearably distressing;torturing:
Every single thing that holds you back in life? Every bit of suffering, pain, distress, and torture.. Let it all go. Jesus experienced “excruciating” on Good Friday so that you don’t have to carry any of it. ANY of it!
As a tangible reminder of what died on the cross, the forgiveness/repentance box that greets those who enter my home will be burned on Resurrection Sunday.
Today, on Good Friday, I encourage you to let go of anything that holds you back. Build your own box to burn on Sunday.
Resurrection is coming.
Redemption is yours for the taking.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful to forgive.
Matthew 6:14… Forgive others. …Be forgiven.
Hebrews 4:16 Boldly approach the throne of grace…
2 Corinthians 12:9 His grace is ALL you need…
John 19:30 IT IS FINISHED!

 

 

 

Have you found your ‘thing’?

I have.  I’m supposed to gather stones.

In the book of Joshua (in the Bible) the Israelites FINALLY get to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.  In the process of crossing the river, the Lord speaks to Joshua and tells him to have one man from each of the twelve tribes go back and gather a stone.  They are to carry the stone on their shoulder to the place where they stayed the night (in the middle of the riverbed that God had dried out just for them).  The stones were to serve as a reminder that God cut off the flow of the water just so they could walk into the territory that had been promised to them.  Hope I haven’t lost you, but this story is extremely significant to me at the moment. You see….

From 1998-2000 our family lived in a little Korean city called Tongduchon (I’m quite certain I spelled it wrong.)  Those two years opened my eyes to something that I previously had no idea was going on in this great big world. I could not walk one block down the streets of Tongduchon without recognizing that all around me, women were living in slavery.  I began to build relationships with girls from the Philippines who were promised the world by a woman or man who brought them to Korea and held their passports while forcing them into prostitution.  My friends and I did what we could to help the girls make money outside of “the clubs” and we successfully raised money to buy the freedom of a few who were able to return home to their families.  What we did never felt like enough.

While living in Korea we vacationed in Thailand.  If my eyes had not been opened to the sex-trade in Korea, they had no choice but to acknowledge its ugliness in Thailand.  Everywhere we went we saw older white men walking around with young Thai children that they had purchased for their time in the country.  While shopping we would have flyers thrust at us by children with price lists of the sexual acts they were willing to perform.  Thailand was one of my most beautiful and disgusting life experiences all rolled into one package.  At the time I was five months pregnant with Seth and I cried myself to sleep on several occasions over the thought of bringing another life into a world that contained such ugliness.  My heart ached for those children.  Where were their mothers?  I could not imagine anything I could do that would ever be enough.

In the last few months of our time in Korea we noticed a change happening in the business of sexual slavery.  When we first arrived the girls were mostly Filipino.  By the time we left, they were mostly Russian and Eastern European.  It was a very strange phenomena to be in a place where you rarely saw anyone who looked like you and then come across someone who did and not be able to communicate with them.  The Filipino girls always spoke English.  The new girls did not.

A pimp rented out the apartment above us and filled it with seven or eight of these girls.  My heart ached.  I watched them come and go.  I watched the Johns (mostly American soldiers) come and go.  I heard screaming and crying through our ceiling.  I smiled at them and took them cookies and brownies and ached for a conversation.  Once again, I felt overwhelmed.  What could I ever do that would be enough to erase the ugliness of what these girls were experiencing?

Something else happened while we lived in Korea.  Several of our friends adopted children.  A dialogue on the possibility of us adopting in the future began.  A dialogue that eventually led us to the home of the girls who lived on the other side of my ceiling in Korea.  A dialogue that led us to Sofija.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you know it began as a way of documenting our adoption process.  Throughout our adoption journey I never took the time to document all that took place in our lives leading up to the day Sofija found us.  I find it so entertaining that we just knew she was meant to be ours when we learned about her even though we had no clue where in the world she lived.  When we did find out that she was in Serbia we actually had to look at a map to see exactly where that was.  And… it wasn’t until we were in Serbia (hearing the spoken language) that I began to realize that the girls living in slavery in Korea, the girls whose floor was our ceiling, must’ve come from there.

The day we met Sofija we were asked if we planned to prostitute her.  It had never crossed my mind that someone might suspect we had bad intentions for her.  But for the people who loved her in Serbia, such a fate was a very real possibility.  We spent three weeks in Serbia seeing things through gray-cloudy lenses.  The food was great.  The people were beautiful.  The oppression was heavy and real.  There was this feeling I got anytime I was close to the girls living in slavery in Korea.  The air around me would thicken.  It took an extra effort just to walk or breathe or speak.  It was like being under water.  I felt the same thing when I saw the children in Thailand.  For the entire three weeks that we were in Serbia, that feeling never lifted.  I felt the yoke of slavery.

I also felt the disgrace of discrimination.  People looked at us everywhere we went.  Not because we looked different or spoke a different language.  But because we had two children with us who are autistic.  They make noises.  They jump around and rock and spin and flap their arms and tap things and sniff things.  People stared with disgust.  We looked and looked and looked some more, but we never once saw another person in public that had any special needs.  They were hidden.

Last year I returned to Serbia and had the honor of getting to know people who have dedicated their lives to breaking the yokes of slavery and discrimination in Serbia.  I met parents who were forced to choose between keeping their child born with special needs and maintaining relationships with their extended family.  Those same parents have dedicated their lives to educating their children and taking part in changing laws regarding special needs citizens.  And…  God gave me the honor of building relationships with people who have a heart to bring His message to their nation.

Which leads me to gathering stones.

While we were in Korea and Thailand and Serbia, I did often feel like I was under water.  But you know what?  I wasn’t.  I was camped out in the middle of a river bed with the waters held back on every side of me.  I could feel the pressure and the moisture, but it never consumed me.  And now I have an opportunity to gather stones and take them back to that place where God held the waters back.

Those people I met who have a heart to bring God’s message of salvation and hope to Serbia have taken on something BIG.  Have you ever seen the movie Faith Like Potatoes?  If not, watch it on Netflix NOW!  My friends have taken a ‘faith like potatoes’ leap.  They have reserved two venues in Serbia for September 21st and 22nd and they have Nick Vujicic coming to speak.  If you don’t know about Nick, click on his name above and read his story.  He’s AMAZING!  Nick was born with no limbs and he’s proven that we are not defined by what the world says we are.  He’s proven that there is no special need that God cannot use.  He is a bringer of hope.  Oh. Did I mention that his parents are Serbian?  And… we’re gonna see him at Creation Fest in June!

On May 2nd, 2011, I wrote a post called ‘set up’.   Sleep evaded me that night.  My heart was aching for the people of Serbia.  I was there and I could see a lack of hope, a lack of God’s love, in the eyes of people everywhere I went.  It was that night that I begin to beg God for opportunities to bring hope and to bring His love to the people of Serbia.  Even if it’s never enough, I want to end this life saying that I gave it my all.

So… will you help me as I pick up a stone and carry it on my shoulder back to Serbia?

We’ve set up a fundraiser through wepay.  I’m working this week to transform my blog to accept widgets, but for now the link will have to suffice.

I have spent a year questioning why God stopped Paul (repeatedly) from going through Serbia.  Why he made him turn back south from Macedonia and didn’t let him cross the Adriatic Sea to reach Italy will be one of my first ‘Heaven questions’.   Whatever God’s reasoning, I do know that he has provided a voice and a time for Serbia to hear His message.  The voice is Nick Vujicic and the time is this September.

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.