Cringeworthy Christianity: Stuff We Say

Today I issue a formal apology to all humans who have innocently bumped into a Christian only to be accosted with offensive or perplexing language that feels, at best, nonsensical or, even worse, makes sense, but is flat-out weird. We have our own language. Some of us also have wine. If it’s been a while, you should at least try church again. It’s not the pearl-clutching society of old bitties it once was. I swear. I have a tattoo on my neck. You can trust me. But I digress…

Hi, welcome to church! If you’re not washed in the blood, maybe you need to come to the river and drink. Hey, while you’re there, have you been baptized by water? Fire? Are you filled with the Holy Ghost, as evidenced with the speaking of tongues? The great cloud of witnesses is watching you run your race so run for the prize! Do you want the full armor? We’ll know you by your fruit so we will lay our hands on you before we take up a love offering. First, we’ll eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood. Let’s lift up our hands and surrender. Are you ready to take up your cross and die for Christ? Hope to see you next Sunday! Amen!

As a pastor’s kid and now a pastor’s wife, I have seen it and heard it and cringed at it all. I still suck wind through my teeth when we ask visitors to stand up or wave and then 250 people turn and stare, clapping wildly as they try to shrink into their chair and maintain a brave smile. The thing about Christians is that most of us are all so genuine in really, really wanting to show people what joy we have found in Jesus Christ that our unbridled enthusiasm becomes clown-with-yellow-pointy-teeth-and-drippy-makeup scary. Please stop.

Christians speak their own language, it’s true. How did that happen?! Do we know how we sound to the rest of the world? I’m guessing we don’t, not most of the time. Paul got it. He wrote, “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save them. This I do for the gospel’s sake…” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Let’s all agree that telling people things like God will take coal and cleanse their lips is not the way to interest them in learning more. Let’s stop saying weird things about an enemy shooting fiery darts and crouching at their door seeking to devour and instead invite them to coffee and just listen and say things like, “Can I pray for you?” (We can tell them about the foot washing once we’ve got them in our clutches.)

5 Reasons Why a Christian Would Have an Abortion

NOTE: This post is one I originally wrote it for my local news outlet, The Times Union where I run a blog called “An Everyday Kind of Jesus”. I am posting it here as well because the lives of unborn human beings are under threat now more than every before- and the numbers are rising. Did you know that in New York City in 2017 more black babies were aborted than were born?? That is horrific. What can you do to help?? A LOT!!!! Please read on and I will share my story with you…

While this travesty sometimes seems overwhelming, you CAN help in a meaningful and life-changing way. Please take a few minutes to read my thoughts on why a Christian would choose abortion over all the other options and PLEASE copy the URL and SHARE this on Facebook, in text, via email, print it out – share with anyone and everyone you can. You will see as you read why abortion feels like the only choice even for Christians… and what you can do to change the course of one woman’s life and even save the life of her unborn child. God bless you! Here it is:


Christians having abortions? Impossible….. right?! Actually, very possible- probable even. Every day and all over the world. But isn’t that a sin?? Let me start with this: Abortion is the most intentionally racist and heinous action ever perpetuated upon mankind and yet people of all races laud it as progressive, evolved and even godly. If it weren’t so deadly serious, the irony of that could almost be laughable. The worst part of the willful dismemberment, disembowelment and beheading of unborn human beings? The participation of Christians. If we don’t cry out, if we don’t DO something, who the heck will?

I have known the agony of staring down a life-or-death choice when you are a Christian who knows that abortion is an act of murder and yet here you are- pregnant, unwed and a pastor’s daughter. We all say things like “abortion is murder” and maybe it boggles your mind why a Christian would have an abortion, but it does happen. I hope you’ll read what I have to say here because there are Christians out there, right now, who are faced with this choice, and you might be the person they see, or overhear or turn to or confide in and what you say in those moments could change everything for the unborn, God-breathed human being waiting for a chance to live the life God has created them for….

NOTE: This will be longer than my usual posts, but I implore you to read on and learn something that might one day, literally save a life…

I won’t lie- these truths may hurt, and maybe they should, but from one who has walked this path, here are five reasons (there are more, of course) why a Christian would rationalize abortion as an option. Which of these resonate with you??

1. Shame: For Christian women faced with an unplanned pregnancy, abortion isn’t a “convenient choice”- it’s a desperate one. Shame is a powerful and motivating force. We all want to hide the things we are ashamed of, but it’s a lot easier to fly under the radar with a porn addiction or alcoholism or the tendency to slap your wife or kids in the face when they mouths off than it is to hide a growing child in your stomach. Historically speaking, people of faith have not been kind to women who sleep around, or even women who made one mistake, one time. If a baby shows up, it’ll be a forever reminder of her shame. “Who’s the father?” People will demand answers. She’ll always have to tell people how her husband isn’t the baby’s “real father” or people will do the math and figure it out, and that woman? She knows it’ll be that way. She’s seen you do it to everyone else and she knows she’s next. Shame.

Let’s be honest – we all judge on a “sin scale” and when a desperate woman sees a positive pregnancy test, make no mistake: She can already see the look on your face, and hear the things you’ll whisper behind her back. Removing that baby from the equation sounds like freedom.

2. Fear: Actually, I should rephrase that to “terror”. The terrors of a Christian woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy range from Who is going to take care of it while I work/go to school? to Will it be loved and accepted by my friends and family/boyfriend/church? to What about my life/my plans? The fear of bringing a “bastard child” into the world has a rich history in the church so much so that plenty of Christian women died from coat hangers, poultices, ritual cuttings, self-mutilation and worse in an attempt to hide a baby that will forever be the hallmark of what led to that pregnancy. While that’s not necessarily true in every Christian circle, those things regardless do run through the mind of every woman who got pregnant from an affair, or from a one-night stand, from a boyfriend or even from incest or rape. What good, Christian man would want to take on someone else’s used goods/baggage? Who would choose her over a virgin,or  over someone with a less sordid sexual history?

She’s terrified on every level that her life will never be the same – which is true either way – and she will cling to whatever catharsis will make her feel better now. The antidote to fear is LOVE. But if you wait to show love after she’s pregnant, you’re too late and that baby is as good as dead. Change the way you speak about this issue now. Change the look on your face now. Change your tendency to gossip now before she gets pregnant. She is watching you now, and the baby that results from her mistake depends on your example of love, forgiveness and redemption now.

3. Guilt: We Christians thrive on guilt. We have a guilt culture. Let’s be honest for a sec. We say that the Lord brings conviction and that Satan brings condemnation, but we are often quick to judge people who don’t seem like they feel guilty enough for their odious sin or who look a little too forgiven too quickly, don’t we? We like people to feel guilty because it makes us feel like they’re truly sorry and that they’ve learned their lessons and that they’re now, officially, deserving of forgiveness. Been there, done that. The Christian woman feels plenty guilty, I can promise you that. She doesn’t need your help. Maybe she’s smiling and putting on a brave face, but most of us seriously think about killing ourselves when we see a positive pregnancy test and the realization hits home that our sin/shame is about to find us out. How could we be so stupid? We ask ourselves that over and over.

Instead of facing our guilt and running to the cross of Calvary, the baby dies in our place, taking our guilt and shame away forever (we hope) like a little tiny Messiah – except the difference is Jesus was a willing sacrifice. An abortion feels like catharsis, but instead of dissipating, the guilt becomes a permanent fixture, branded into the heart for all of time an eternity. Abortion is a deception on every level and the only winner is Satan.

4. Hardness of heart: When I was 22 and starting graduate school at a Christian university I found myself unwed and pregnant. I took a blood test to confirm what I already knew and then then doctor tossed a stack of Planned Parenthood literature on the bed and left the room. Abortion. The only reasonable solution. The literature was very clear: There was a path forward to freedom. It would be quick, painless, inexpensive and private. Sign me up. I knew abortion was murder. I grew up sitting outside of abortion clinics with literature and prayers and signs. My dad had once gone to jail for blocking the doors of an abortion clinic. But when it’s youeverything changes. You steel yourself. You harden your heart and ignore what you know. You pretend it all away. You try to convince yourself it’s your life, your body and your choice, that the baby will be better off. You turn a blind eye. You justify. You rationalize. You compartmentalize. You apologize to yourself and your baby. You tell yourself the Planned Parenthood mantra: It’s viral. It’s just a lump of tissue, that it’s not “viable” yet. You tell yourself that God will forgive you. And you get yourself to Planned Parenthood under cover of night and a fake name.

Unless… Unless a Christian stops you. Unless a Christian asks what’s wrong and you pour out your heart. Unless a Christian speaks words of life over you. Over your unborn baby. Prays with you. Loves all over you. Rubs your back. Reminds you of your courage. Of God’s grace and mercy. Reminds you that you’re not alone in the fire. That’s what happened to me and 18 years later, I look at my son who is an artist and plays the saxophone and is in college and I desperately thank God for a woman named Renee Ross in Virginia Beach, Virginia, who saw me and stopped me, and softened my heart and saved his life. Who can you see, and because of that, who will you save?

5. Reputation – As the daughter of a pastor, I was often, and against my will, expected by my friends’ parents to be some kind of example of Christian purity, godly characteristic, 9 fruits of the Spirit and womanhood that all other girls should want to look up to. Not a chance. I was as self-serving and bratty as the rest of those pretenders. The biggest difference is that I tend to, ahem, “live out loud”. It’s both a blessing and a curse- pray for me. If discovering myself pregnant was a shock to me, it was Hiroshima to my parents. It launched me into “how the mighty have fallen” status for many years to come from smug frenemies and their parents everywhere. I can’t tell you how many people to this day “do the math” and realize I wasn’t married when my son was born. To this day. What the actual heck?!

For any Christian woman who has had an affair, or a one-night stand or a even slipped into sin with a committed boyfriend or fiancee, she already knows her reputation is about to be torpedoed. Most of us read “The Scarlet Letter” in high school so we are keenly aware of how “the church” views purity and sexual sins, even if we go to a grace-heavy fellowship. There is still a pretty pungent stigma surrounding pregnancy out of wedlock.

Maybe Christians aren’t overtly using words like “whore” and “bastard child” anymore, but plenty are still conflicted about the questions of whether a child conceived out of wedlock should be celebrated or hushed up. (The answer? CELEBRATED.) So, the Christian woman who just found out she has a very unplanned and probably unwanted pregnancy pictures the look on your face when you find out, what does she see? When she imagines what you will think of her, what words does she imagine you’ll say about her? About her baby? For the Christian woman who was, perhaps, raped by someone of a different skin color- she knows everyone, ever, ever, ever will notice and wonder why one of her kids is clearly not of the same father as the rest. She cares what you think so much so that she’s willing to dismember or chemically burn her unborn child to death so you can continue smiling and approving when you think of her. What the heck? An unwed pregnancy is, sadly, a brand we carry forever. And in one way or another, we are forever reminded that our child was conceived in a manner “Other” than a holy marriage.

Whose life do you hold in your hands?

Lots of people are pro-life and I applaud that, and many will be gathering to stand for that, but we have to do more than march and stand, and picket, and even vote.  We need to adopt children, and foster them, and embrace and love, support their confused and scared mothers…So, maybe you flat out don’t approve of what the Christian woman did who should “know better”… but you know what? We all should know better, about everything. And yet here we are still doing all the things Jesus died for- cheating on our taxes, speeding, being disrespectful, lying, fighting, holding grudges, murder, gossiping and having sex outside of marriage. Sin happens. No more high horses, please! But if you insist, at least go with this: A baby has nothing to do with it. That baby chose nothing. It simply lives. GOD KNEW life would come from that choice and He was okay with it – why aren’t you?

I didn’t become a news anchor, you know. I didn’t become a world traveler. I didn’t become an actress or a model or a missionary either. Those were my plans at the time I saw my pregnancy test. Instead, I gained 25 pounds and became a mom. And I realize now that that adventure was more wild, thrilling, frustrating, scary and maturing than any other experience could have afforded me. Satan tried to get my to kill my son, my heritage and God saved his life. I found a godly, Christian man who loved my son and raised him as his own. The joke is on you, Satan. All because of this: A Christian saw past my mistake and helped me to see past it too. Can that be you?

Christian woman consider abortion every day. They feel they have nowhere to turn. Can you be the person she can turn to before she needs it? Someone’s life depends on it.

If You Want to Hear from God, Go Stand by Him

There’s a story behind the picture in this post. This old man, praying over his bread. It’s actually part in a series because there is an old woman as well, in a separate picture. In my family, this picture is a big deal. All of my aunts, uncles and cousins have this same picture hanging in our homes. It’s iconic for us and we all have different memories of times we we’d spent at my grandparents’ house, doing various things while that picture watched over us. I used to ask myself- what is he praying about? Just his food? Maybe the weight of the world is on his shoulders and, at the end of a long, difficult day, sitting down to his meal, he is praying for grace to face another one. Who knows. But everyone in my family has a different theory.

I’m not one to pretend I know much of any one, particular thing, but after walking in relationship with the Lord all of my life, I do know this: Prayer changes things. Prayer doesn’t change God, no. He never changes. But prayer changes hearts, minds, attitudes, entrapments, strongholds, situations and everything else because prayer engages God’s power and releases it into our lives: On earth as it is in heaven.

We become the agreement on earth, for things to align in God’s will, as they already exist in heaven. That’s an Amen!

On my mind today: Deuteronomy 5:31, “…but as for you, stand here by Me, so that I may speak to you…”

As I’ve been working my way through the book of Deuteronomy, I’ve been reading it with fresh, new eyes. I remember trying to read it so many times in the past and just about falling asleep, partially because I thought it was boring and partially because I’ve read it so many times, since it’s one of those first few books you encounter each time you try to read the Bible through in a year…

Our proximity to God is a crucial part of our ability to hear from Him. James 4:8 tells us to ‘Draw near to God…” – it is our responsibility to place ourselves closer to God and we do that through building a relationship with Him, getting to know Him through His Word and through time spend seeking Him in prayer and even just being quiet in His presence.

There is a geography in the Kingdom (Read the post, “The Geography of Sin” for more) – you are either close to or far from God- and those are your choices to make.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses had just finished giving the Hebrews the Ten Commandments that the Lord spoke to him “on the mountain, out from the midst of fire, the cloud and the think darkness with a great voice” (don’t you wish it could just be that easy to hear from God…?!) and the Word says that even though the people heard the voice of God up on that mountain as the Lord spoke to Moses, they had no sense of honor or awe. They wanted to get as far away from it as they could.

In fact, they said to Moses, “Now, therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.”

One of the biggest mistakes the Hebrews made (over and over and over) is that they consistently ping-pong’d back and forth in their geography to God. If God did nice things, they got closer. If God didn’t do what they wanted, or not fast enough, they made golden calves and distanced themselves from Him.

One thing we know about God from His Word is that not only can God be found, but also- He wants to be found, but it is our job to seek.

In Deuteronomy 5:30-31, after the Hebrews got weird about being too close to hear God’s voice, the Lord says to Moses, “Go say to them ‘return to your tents’, but as for you, stand here by Me, so that I may speak to you…” As for YOU. As for me. “Stand here by Me.” Could there be any more inviting, amazing statement God could make? He wants to be near me?

The Lord wants to be close to us, so that He can speak. Need a word from God about your situation? Read the Word. Pray. He can be found, but you must seek Him, His face. You must place yourself close to God so that He can speak and so that you can hear. How can we expect to hear and know the voice of God if we aren’t standing close enough to Him to listen?

Food for thought. Pray before you eat it.

 

Bye, bye baby (#4)

(This post may be difficult for some to read, due to the expressions of healing amid a miscarriage, but I felt it necessary given that it’s something many women experience, and yet few are open to discussing. Through this difficult time, the Lord ministered to me in a new way through this situation and I wanted to share what He showed me in case it’s of any help to someone else going through the same thing. Blessings!)

I lost a baby recently – my fourth miscarriage. By now, you’d think it would just be another unfortunate experience that I just ‘get through’ because it’s become almost routine, and because we weren’t even trying for a baby, but nope – this one hit me just as hard as the ones we’d planned for. The surprise, unplanned pregnancy was no less devastating in the loss, but to compound my pain, I had to deal with the knowledge that this one was my final chance to have another child.

All my life I’d dreamed of having 5 children. I couldn’t tell you why – just a number that I have always felt was the perfect number of kids for me. I had my first one in college, before I was married. Then, I got married and two more children joined my life. Next, we had an “ours”, totaling four children, but I wanted five.

Growing up, it never occurred to me that I would struggle with fertility issues like this. Each time the bleeding started, I got that pit in my stomach, that heart-stopping fear, and then the grim sense of knowing – it’s over.

Each miscarriage that I have had has its own story – of what I experienced at the time, physically, spiritually and emotionally – and this one was no different, except that it had a greater sense of finality – and I struggled with that, a lot. I wasn’t ready to give up, but my body was.

I don’t bother asking questions like “why” anymore – and I don’t blame God for one second. We live in a fallen world where the choices of evil people affect the good, and where babies die before they take a breath because someone kills them or because they were not formed to the point where they can survive. It’s not God’s fault. It’s just life and it happens and we have to deal with it and move forward, and God, in His faithfulness, is there to walk through it with us. Oh, how I needed Him this time, maybe more than the others before.

However, last night I started cramping and I got worried, so I reached out for a time of prayer and crying and talking with my mom and a dear friend, I fell asleep and had a dream that impacted me deeply. You can say what you want about dreams, but I absolutely believe that some dreams are sent from the Lord, to serve a purpose and this is what happened in mine:

I walked into a bedroom and I heard the song “Once Upon a Dream” playing on an old record player, with that gritty, scratchy sound you remember hearing on old records. Specifically, this one by Lana Del Ray . Sitting on the bed was my grandmother. While, in real life she has passed onto glory, there she sat – a younger, happier version of herself – and she was holding a baby boy with bright blue eyes. He was about 6 months old. The baby turned and looked at me. I asked my grandmother if I could hold him. When I spoke, he reached out for me and said, “Mommy”. 

I took him and held him very close, to my breast as if to nurse him and for a split second, I got to look into his sweet, little face and I smiled.

I woke up to a rush of blood leaking from my body and I knew, in that place in your heart where your spirit just knows, I knew I was losing my baby. I tried to pray and stand in faith, but I knew he was leaving, especially in light of the dream I had just had. I felt that the Lord had sent me that dream to let me catch a glimpse of him – to validate that he was, indeed, a real person and that he had a place in heaven.

And so I grieved.

I prayed that this baby’s life would serve some purpose in the greater purposes of the Kingdom of God – and I was determined not to define what that purpose would be – even if I don’t personally get to witness that purpose during my time on earth. I will not ever say this little life served no purpose, because we know that God is a God of purpose and no life, no matter how small, isn’t breathed with His spirit and given a purpose.

We have to be careful not to define “purpose” with our own definitions, when God’s purposes are well beyond our ability to comprehend. He sees all things, and all times, everywhere, so it would be really narrow-minded to define the purpose of a life based on what we see. God exists in eternity, as do His purposes – they are eternal, which means that not even death can cause the purposes of God to cease. I felt like I could let my baby go if I knew that his little life would not be for nothing – that he was seen and known and made and existed for a purpose.

I was reading in the Psalms – my go-to for comfort in times of pain or trial – and I read several chapters before running into Psalm 139. I almost skipped it because I already knew it had a lot to do with unborn life and I didn’t want to comfort myself with a cliche. I told God I wanted a “fresh revelation” – but I read it anyway and I’m so thankful I did.

Isn’t it funny how we try to TELL God what we want and don’t want, and don’t just trust Him to know what we need?

As I read Psalm 139, the Holy Spirit quickened His Word to me from Psalm 139:46 which says, “Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed, And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them…

That phrase jumped off the page to me: when as yet there were none of them

I knew in my heart that the Lord was speaking to me that although this little life may have no days here on earth, God not only saw my little baby, but had written out days for my tiny one. Not 6 weeks of days on earth, but days written into eternity. Perhaps in eternity is the only place my little one will live – and that’s okay – because I’ll get there and when I do, he’ll be there, living out the days the Lord has written for him.

How short sighted it is of me to think that life on earth is all there is. I know better than that! Just because someone passes into eternity, we have this sense of finality, but in Christ, we know that this life is only one part of what we were created for in the expanse of God’s time, not our own.

It gave me a tremendous sense of comfort to catch the revelation that this life DID have purpose, even though it has not fully unfolded yet, and even if he never has “days” as I understand them right now, on this earth.

So, I grieved, but “not as others who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13-14), but as one who knows that my hope is in God.

I thank my Friend, the Holy Spirit for the dream that I had about my baby, right before he passed. I know that He used it to bring me a measure of comfort and to be faithful to His word in John 16:13 to tell us of things to come. I was also so comforted to know that my grandmother was there too and that she was happy, because she had died a slow, painful death, and because she loved to rock babies in a rocking chair. It was one of her favorite things in life and she used to volunteer at hospitals to rock very ill babies and sing to them and pray over them. So, to see her with my baby was a beautiful image I will always treasure.

All that to say – if you’ve experienced a miscarriage – there is hope in God. Remember that our limited understanding of eternity is not God’s eternity, and our idea of purpose and will, are not His. We cannot say His purposes didn’t not prevail or that His will was for someone to die and that their purpose ended with their death. That is NOT TRUE. God sees in all times, in all places and His Kingdom will advance through the unfolding of the purpose He has placed onto every, single life – whether or not we experience it in this life, in this time and place. Every life is one of destiny  and I am so excited to see how it all plays out.

In the meantime, I will move forward as a healed and whole person, happy to know that the Lord knows what He is doing and I rest in His unfailing love.