Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Doing Something Together

"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper who is just right for him.'" -Genesis 2:18

"It's about doing something together." -MacKenzie, "The Newsroom"

Today is February 19th.  Valentine's Day, that holiday of manufactured affection and sales bumps for the chocolate and diamond industry, is over for another year.  Last Thursday, I took cupcakes with pink frosting and heart sprinkles to the office.  I wore red and lace and smiled and complimented other girls' roses and jewelry and cards, and it was fine.  Honestly.  It really is a made-up holiday, and not one that really bothers me to be alone for anymore.  I'm well practiced at it.

But now, it's over; and since today was a very special day for me last year, I thought I'd write a little bit about what I carry with me in my heart - my fondest hope and dearest petition to my Daddy, God.  

It might not be exactly what you'd think.

When I was in London in 2006, spending the most creative, faith-challenging, and also the loneliest year of my life following God to another country to get my Master's degree, I spent a lot of time listening to a certain pastor and his wife.  (I won't say who it was, because people can get kerfluffled quickly about pastors, and not seeing the forest for the trees is one thing I don't need to be manufacturing, believe me.)  The pastor himself is a spunky, lively man, a former professional musician who sings every chance he gets and whose charmingly infectious laugh comes easily.  His wife is one of the women I want to be when I grow up:  a petite lady, she is nevertheless a powerhouse of faith, supporting, praying over, and edifying her husband and their ministry together.  He is strong where she is weak and she is steadfast when his faith falters.  He often says that she has pit-bull faith and when she grabs onto something God has spoken to her, she won't let it go for anything.  In those long weeks when almost all I did was listen to their messages and spend time in the Word, I asked God to give me pit-bull faith too.  I didn't know what I was asking for at the time, but I'm pretty sure He was listening.

During that summer, they both spoke at a conference with other pastors and leaders of their denomination.  When the pastor got up to introduce his wife, he started out by saying, "This is the woman that God has put by my side." She then went on to deliver a message that, no exaggeration, tangibly changed my life from that day forward.

Let me bottom line it for you:  I've been single for almost all of my 30 years.  I am not afraid to be alone.  In fact, often times I prefer it.  I will isolate myself purposefully:  to pray, to spend time with God, to recharge.  For these many years, it's just been God and me, and praise Him, I know Him better and myself well because of it.  

I don't want to be married just to be married.  I don't want to be married because I want someone to take out the garbage, or change the clocks, or kill bugs, or get things down off high shelves.  (Though in truth, those will be perks - I'm tiny!)  I can manage my own money and make my own decisions.  I'm not afraid to sleep alone in my apartment or go on trips by myself.  I've done it all - I know I can do it. 

I don't want to be married because I'm lonely, or because I'm incomplete, or because I'm waiting for my life to start. I don't even want to be married to have children, necessarily - that's up to God and I don't know where He stands on the subject yet.

I don't need a savior - I already have One.

What I want, what I glimpsed just a glimmer of last year at this time, what my heart cries out to my Daddy, God, for, on Valentine's Day and every other day, is a partner.  A ministry partner.

I look at marriage as a joining together of myself and my ministry partner so that we can live a life together poured out in service to our Lord:  bringing each other closer to God by virtue of who we are, and using the spiritual powerhouse that will be us together to work for good in ways that neither of us could do separately.  We will be doing something together.

During that summer in London, God spoke many things to me about my future life.  I know He is calling me into active, purposeful ministry.  I know He is calling me - in fact, He calls me daily - to step up, to use my passions and my talents and my substance - to minister to others, to help them grow in their faith, to help them see Him and experience His love in new, radical, relevant ways.  He calls every Christian to do this, but He's spoken specifics to me then and now. I'm even pretty well sure on how He wants me to begin my lifelong journey of service to Him - in fact, I've already started.

But I know that there is more for me to do than I can do alone.  I know that there is someone out there with whom I can do more with him as my partner than I could do on my own or that he could do by himself.  I know there is someone whom God is calling in the same way, with the same pull on his heart, with the same love for our Lord and the same desire to step up and serve Him that I have had flickering and burning inside of me like an ember that just won't die, despite the years and struggles and gallons of discouragement heaped on them since those whispers of the Holy Spirit in my dorm room in north London.  Someone who is strong when I am weak, and someone for whom I can be steadfast when his faith falters.  Someone who will be proud to have me by his side and who will be overjoyed to be half of our partnership.

Now, whoever that is, it's up to God to tell him about it.

In the years since London, God has put me through a lot.  Wilderness periods followed by seasons of happiness and blessing, followed by being dragged out into the wilderness again.  Pounding and shaping and molding.  Learning patience, gumption, self-assurance, professionalism, maturity, when to stick my neck out and when to keep quiet; toilet scrubbing, bill paying, getting my oil changed or my tires fixed, how to roast a chicken to perfection or make Eggplant Parmesan from scratch.  Thinking I might know what on God's green earth I'm doing to suddenly having the rug yanked out from under me and hitting rock bottom, hard - more than once.  Learning how to say I'm sorry when I should be, and also learning how to say that really hurt me when it needs to be said.

I can only hope and pray that these years have been preparation for the day when God blesses me abundantly with my ministry partner for life:  the man who will be proud to say "This is the woman that God has put by my side."  Not because my life will begin then, but so that the life that I've lived thus far will add and contribute to the ministry that our life will be as we are doing something together for Him.

"Let us hold to each other until the end of our days." -Rob Thomas, "Now Comes the Night"

"So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What God has joined together, let no man separate." -Jesus, Matthew 19:6

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Sleeping at the Wheel

I would give anything
But for the grace of God I'm here and still aware
We know the end is overrated
We've become the walls we raise
We don't believe enough but we still care
Standing on the edge without a prayer
So come on, come on, it's all we've got
Our hands are full, our lives are not
The loose affiliation with the real
We're sleeping at the wheel. -Matchbox Twenty

A niggling, prickly restlessness has been growing in my spirit for some time now, unsettledness about my own faith and that of the people around me.  Talk is cheap.  Promises are hollow.  Words mean nothing when they’re not followed by actions.  I believe is a boldfaced lie when it isn't followed by and because of that, here’s what I’m going to do about it.

We can say we believe; we can say we’re people of faith - but are we acting like it?

Life is hard.  I get it.  Really, I do.  As people in my generation get older and we no longer have the protective shelter of our parents’ homes or our parents’ money or our parents’ reassurances to comfort and coddle us about what special snowflakes we are; as we go out and face the big bad world which, frankly, doesn't really care and expects us to show up and earn our keep, our faith is tried and tested and twisted and changed.  I’ll be there is easy to deliver on when you have all the time in the world, but in the real world, we don’t.

So I ask again – what are we doing about it?

Let’s bottom line it here:  what kind of faith do we want?  Do you want a pat, cotton-candy “belief system” that pacifies us by the “power of positive thinking” into believing that everything is perfect, wonderful, sunshine and fairy dust, and then the bottom falls out when things go wrong?  A “religion” that’s a band-aid?  A “doctrine” that’s a placebo?  So many of us have been living in that magical bubble of a fairyland and simply don’t know how to react when, as our Lord Jesus assured us it would, tragedy strikes us and the people we claim to love.

Or, instead, do we want to engage in active, living, mature relationships with the Creator of our souls that push us to be better, to do more, to step up and prove that we mean what we say when we say we have faith?

What do you want?  Do you want a faith that honest-to-goodness changes you, matures you, grows you, and improves you?  Do you want to know a God who isn't content to leave you the way you are, but instead wants you to be all you can be for Him and His glory?

Or are we all just sleeping at the wheel?

I used to call myself a “hippie dippy Christian flower child” and was proud to do it.  I thought I was being accessible to people of all faith walks.  But that’s not good enough anymore.  Now, I’m taking an even firmer stance.  I don’t want to be a hippie. I don’t want to just frolic around a field or in a forest making like the world is perfect and everything is wonderful and nothing bad can ever happen.  I don’t want to be an ostrich with my head in the sand, ignoring the needs of God’s children in a fallen world.  The thing is, God never said that our lives would be perfect.  In fact, He said the exact opposite.

I want to be a radical, fanatical, genuine Christian.  I want to be just like Jesus.

I think it’s high time we started being real with each other.  This isn't just about holding hands and singing Kumbaya on Sunday mornings or affirming each other on Wednesday night and doing whatever we want the rest of the time. Don’t get me wrong, those things are great; but there’s so much more to it than that.  It’s about love – real, unconditional, unwavering love.  It’s about stepping up and doing what’s needed.  It’s about being loyal when loyalty counts and being on the other end of the hug or the phone or the table or the prayer every single time.  It’s about meaning what you say and saying what you mean.  It’s about sticking by your word.  It’s about showing grace to those who disappoint you and forgiveness to those who hurt you, just like Jesus did.  It’s about saying “I love you” and then showing it, over and over and over again.

I have seen so many people who have been devastated by others not being there for them.  I've seen so many people profess love and affection when things are good, but they’re nowhere to be found when the skies get rough.  They don’t show up by the sickbed.  They’re absent at the memorial.  They won’t visit the prison.  More than that, they can’t even entertain the idea that those types of things could even happen.  They can’t talk about the real stuff, the uncomfortable stuff.  They flake out.  They run away.  They’re just, very simply, not there.  Their “belief system” doesn't have an answer for when life happens and stuff gets real.

I hate to admit it, but I’m guilty of the same thing.  I've not shown up when I said I would.  I've made excuses for how busy I am or how hard my life is so I don’t have to deal with tragedy.  I've pushed people away and put up walls rather than admit my own mistakes or insecurities.  I've kept quiet out of “meekness” when I should have extended a word of comfort, kindness, or support.

That’s not real faith, and I’m sick of it - in myself and everyone else who claims the name of Jesus.

So what’s the answer?

I don’t think there is just one.  But right now, in this moment, after living through more than half a year of more tragedy than I've seen in any nightmare, I’m taking a stand in my own life.  No more excuses.  No more whining.  No more running or hiding or flaking out.  It’s time to decide who we’re going to be, and in Jesus’ name, I am a Christian woman and that means something to me. 

Lord, help me to be more like You – every single time.

How about you?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Streams in the Wasteland

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." -Isaiah 43:18-19

In the more than five years that have passed since I obeyed God’s call to move to Raleigh, I've felt as if the battle has been constantly uphill.  I have had nine different jobs. My toy poodle and I have lived in six different apartments, one of which I found just days shy of us being homeless.  My closest friends have suffered more injury and injustice than anyone should in a lifetime, much less in five years.  Also, I've been through several failed relationships (and pseudo-relationships), the most recent dissolution of which was nothing short of just pitifully tragic and left me feeling like a life-giving, spirit-illuminating candle had been snuffed out in my soul.

When I woke up this New Year’s Day, I found myself looking blankly up at the ceiling and realized that in the last few months I had settled into an attitude of forlorn complacency.  I’d accepted that this is it, then, and at 30 years old staring down the barrel of yet another long, cold, lonely winter, I realized I’d been behaving for months like there is just no more fight left in me.  I had become a modern day Miss Havisham, rotting spiritually and emotionally in the ruins of hope continually deferred.

But God.

Suddenly, words God spoke to me six months ago rushed into my ears like a flood.  I remember it like it was yesterday:  I was sitting in a church basement on a Wednesday evening.  It was mid-July, and God’s rich blessings to me throughout the previous year were now totally up in the air.  Everything was uncertain, and the foreboding scent of approaching tragedy wafted around unmistakably.  As I sat there during the service, I knew that things were going to drastically, starkly change, and I was not happy.

In fact, I was furious.  I felt duped and betrayed by God, like I was watching Him wrap His fingers around the rug He was about to yank out from underneath me.  As the certainty settled into my spirit that I wouldn’t be back at that church for awhile, knowledge that was surely being divinely given, I flung my anger and heartbreak back at God in silent but virulent consternation.

The service was an hour long.  Forty-five minutes into it, I had not given God one second of respite from my heartbroken vitriol.  (Those of you who know me in person will believe this easily.)  Why was all of this happening?  Why did I have to suffer this way?  Why, why, why?  What was the point of all this?  What had this whole year meant if this was to be the conclusion??

Approaching minute 46 of the service, God had had enough.  In my spirit, I heard STOP!

I stopped.

For a moment, there was silence.  The clock ticked by for a few seconds.  My mind was frozen in startled obedience.

And then, “You need to trust Me.  I will make all things new.

I wish I could say everything changed right then, but I honestly didn't believe it.  I was so brokenhearted that the Creator of the Universe spoke promises to me and I second-guessed Him. “What, Lord?  Can you repeat that?” 

He did!  “You need to trust Me.  I will Make. All. Things. New.”

And this New Year's morning, after half a year of feeling like a light had gone out in the parlor of my heart, He spoke those same words to me again.

If I believe what I say I believe, then I have to believe Him when He speaks - especially when He speaks His Word, and I know His Word to be the truth for my life.

He will do it.

For Him, nothing is impossible.

He will make everything new.

He will make a way where there is no way.

In fact, it is already done.

I’m still looking up.  

And wouldn't you know it?  I'm already starting to see the beginnings of His streams in the wasteland.

"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." -1 Thessalonians 5:24

Sunday, December 02, 2012


But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. -Romans 8:25

I do not do well with waiting.  Throughout my life, I've been the girl who gets it - or at least thinks she gets it - way before everyone else, and then I'm ready to move forward, like, right now, please.  C'mon, let's get this show on the road!  What are we waiting for?

I was raised in the United Methodist Church from the time I was a tiny, pre-redheaded group of cells in my mother's belly.  At the ripe old age of seven, after listening to our pastor talk about the saving love of Jesus Christ every Sunday, I asked Jesus into my heart as the Lord of my life.  I remember that Sunday, that I just got it, and that was it.  Holy Spirit, come on down!  I was His, He was mine, let's do this thing.  I've been serving the Lord ever since.

The next step, as far as I could see, was taking communion.  Now, the way my mother was raised, children don't usually take communion until they've been through Confirmation class around age 12.  Most parents aren't as strict with adhering to that rule anymore, but wouldn't you know it, my parents were.  The first Sunday of every month, I watched kids younger than I was, or kids that I knew hadn't asked Jesus into their hearts, go up and take communion with their parents.  It was totally not fair and I wanted to do it, too!  

My parents were unmoved.

In my own characteristically dramatic fashion, I pathetically begged them every month to let me take communion with them.  It went something like this:

Me: But Moooom!  Daaaad!  I asked Jesus in my heart!  I get it!  His body, His blood, I understand!  Why can't I take communion with you?
Mom & Dad:  You can take it after you've been through Confirmation class.
Me:  But that's SO LONG FROM NOW!
Mom & Dad:  You'll survive.
Me:  But all those other kids are allowed to take it!
Mom & Dad:  We can't control what their parents let them do, but you're not taking it until after Confirmation.
Me:  But that's FIVE YEARS AWAY!  
Mom & Dad:  We said no!  You might as well stop asking.

Every month, I swear, it was the same thing.  There may also have been some flinging of myself on the floor, weeping, wailing, whining, and pounding my fists on the ground.  But still, every month when everyone else went up to the altar and took communion, my parents got up and left me in the pew by myself with my arms crossed, glaring at the backs of the heads of my classmates who got to be up there when I didn't.

And then, one Sunday, it happened.

I was nine years old by this time, and had been throwing my Communion Plea Extravaganza for well nigh on two years.  My sister was a toddler.  I found myself alone in the pew one Sunday morning, the first Sunday of the month - communion Sunday.  My father was either serving as an usher or watching my sister, and my mother was in the choir loft.  

Up to this point, I had almost resigned myself to waiting until Confirmation, but I was not okay with it.  Three years might as well have been a lifetime.  I felt like it was never going to happen, and I had been a Real Christian for two whole years now, people.

It took me a few minutes to realize it, but suddenly it dawned on me:  I was alone.  I could go up for communion - there was no one to stop me!  What was my mother going to do, barrel down out of the choir loft and yank me away from the altar?  She'd never do that in the middle of the service.

My excitement grew as the service went on.  I was going to do it!  I was going to take communion!  I listened as the pastor explained the meaning of communion, the bread and the cup, the body and the blood and the sacrifice, and I nodded along emphatically.  I totally understood.  We went through the responsive readings and the hymns.  And then, when everyone else stood up and began to file up to the altar to kneel and take the sacrament, I did, too.

As I knelt down on the velvet pillow in front of the altar and bowed my head, I could feel my mother's saucer-like eyes burning into me.  My hair probably got redder from the effect.  Just like I knew she would, though, she stayed in the choir loft.

I prayed.  I ate.  I drank.  I took communion   Honestly, I'm pretty sure I asked God for forgiveness for disobeying my parents in taking it...that day, and every day thereafter for quite some time.  I don't remember if I was punished (who punishes their kid for wanting to get closer to the Lord?), but I didn't really need to be.  I had already experienced conviction from God Himself.  Little did I know, that was just the beginning.

My first communion is a funny story I tell now, and my friends think it's hilarious because they know how I am.  The way I tell it, I've had people crying with laughter a few times, which makes me pretty happy. In the last little while, though, I started thinking about it again...and I wonder what would've happened if I'd waited for Confirmation like my parents had wanted me to?  Would I have been even better prepared?  Would I have understood more?  Would it have been more meaningful?  God certainly used it to bring me closer to Himself, but I would've escaped quite a bit of conviction if I'd done it differently.

There's a boy in my Sunday School and Awana classes now that reminds me so much of myself at his age.  (That's right, parents, rebellious communion hooligans like me grow up to be Sunday School teachers to your impressionable children.  Don't say I didn't warn you!)  His older sister just got baptised by immersion in our Baptist church at age 12 last week.  He's nine, and he's been ready for several years to be baptised himself.  Part of me is so proud of him and wants to see him baptised really soon, but part of me remembers this story and thinks that maybe he'll be even more ready in a couple years' time.

Faith is such a personal journey, and all throughout my life I've felt more than ready for the big steps well before God called me to take them - pretty much every single one, in fact.  But then, there have been many times when I've looked back and thanked God for making me wait, because it made me so much more prepared, appreciative, and ready to use the blessings He gives me to glorify Him than I would've been if He'd given them to me right when I wanted them.

"Just trust Me," He whispers to me daily.  "Soon.  I promise."

Friday, November 23, 2012

My 29th Year

Well, this is it, folks.  Today’s the day.  I have officially now become a red-headed, Christian Bridget Jones, a single thirtysomething woman, and I'm expecting the proverbial scales to appear on my body any minute now.

I had all sorts of ideas on what to write about today, but ultimately, all my thoughts came back to one thing:   this past year.  So, instead of waxing philosophical about turning 30, I thought I’d take a minute and look back on year 29, because it was, indeed, one for the books.

This year, God brought me closer to Himself than I've ever been.

This year, God shoved me out of my comfort zone with regards to faith, theology, and knowledge of Himself.  He challenged me in the ways I thought about Him, His love, His grace, and His will.  He pointed me towards a new church and watched me sit in the parking lot after getting there early (I'm never early!), praying nervously before the service started.  He pried open my mind with a holy crowbar and dumped in ideas I’d never dreamed of in all my previous years serving Him.

This year, God forced me to face some of my deepest-seeded fears.  The fear that I'm not good enough.  The fear of trusting someone else with my heart.  The fear of sharing the most hidden parts of myself.  The fear of all my flaws, my shortcomings, and my secrets being laid bare.  The fear of saying, “This is me, faults and all” to someone who really mattered.  He even held me in my seat when, sitting in a huge auditorium in downtown Raleigh, I was so completely terrified that all I wanted to do was run to the parking lot and drive away.  (I'm so glad I didn't.)

This year, God trusted me with the beginnings of a significant, powerful, multi-denominational ministry.  He called me to step up in ways He never has before.  He pushed my introverted self into new situations, new challenges, and new moments where I had to step forward, shake a hand, introduce myself, and talk about my faith.  He put everything on the line and asked, “Will you?” – and, of course, I knew I had to say yes.  He gave me brand new responsibilities and accountabilities, put children with wide eyes in front of me to teach, and branched out my own personal ministry further than it’s ever reached.

This year, God showed me just a little bit of the future – of things He had promised me and spoken to me years ago during my time in the desert with Him in England.  When I first meet someone new, my question to them is “If you could be doing anything, what would it be?”  If I had to answer that myself, I’d say I’d be doing what I was doing this past year:  working in ministry, growing in closeness with God, entertaining, learning, teaching, sharing, and bringing people together, all in a mutually supportive, respectful, loving, laughter-filled, faith-challenging partnership.

This year, God blessed me with the knowledge of what it is to really be in love.  To love someone so deeply that I’d drive until I run out of gas because he’s asleep in the seat beside me.  To love someone so completely that it feels like a light has gone out in the room when he’s not here.  To love someone so spiritually that our personalities, ideas, world-views  and personal ministries lined up with each other’s like puzzle pieces I didn't even know I was missing until God snapped them together.  To know what it feels like to have found the person who brings me closest to God, and about whom I can confidently say that we can do more together than we can do apart.

And then this year, God spoke to me and molded me through overwhelming, heart wrenching, soul-confounding grief.  He watched me weep – angrily, bitterly, and then just sadly.  He let me vent; He listened silently as I questioned Him and yelled at Him.  His heart broke as mine did.  He waited months for me to lean in and actually try to hear Him, and when I finally did, He told me it’s not about me.  He answered my cry of “What do I do now?!” with four simple words that shouldn't have surprised me:“Let Me use you.”

I will do it, my dear child.  I will keep My promises.  But right now, it’s not about you.  You want to know what you should do?  Pray.  Get closer to Me.  Get stronger in your knowledge of the Word, your fruits of the Spirit, your understanding of My love and grace and forgiveness.  Let Me prepare you.  Let Me strengthen you.  And then, let Me use you.

So that is what I intend to do – continue, always, to let Him use me.

That was my 29th year.  Let’s see what my Lord does with my 30th.

Friday, November 02, 2012

As Political As Ever I'll Get

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. -1 Peter 2:13-17

A couple of years ago, I was in the habit of taking my writing notebook into Applebees in the evenings after choir or play practice at church and sit and penning a few paragraphs there while feasting on their half-price appetizers after 9pm.  One nondescript Thursday night, after spending my evening at church directing our latest skit, I was doing just that.  Usually the servers could tell that I wanted to be alone and would generally leave me as such; but tonight, I had been seated in the section of a young male waiter who was obviously not getting the hint.

After several minutes of him trying to engage me in conversation, to which I responded politely but succinctly, as I really had some Very Important Writing to get done, I happened to mention that I had just left church.  His interest was immediately piqued.  Standing by my table and totally abandoning his side-work  all he wanted to do was talk to me about faith.  He told me that he had been raised in a household where his father was Catholic and his mother was Pentecostal (or perhaps the reverse, I forget which), and they hadn't done a great job of making things clear for him.  He was understandably confused and seeking answers.  (I've since gained some rather strong opinions that children can most certainly be raised well in faith even if their parents are of two different denominations, given the right amount of openness, maturity, and mutual respect, but that's another thought for another time.)

When we started talking, I'm ashamed to admit, I secretly wanted him to just leave me alone.  I wanted to write!  I had things to do and I didn't have all night - I didn't want to bothered with talking to someone I didn't know.  It literally took God speaking to me in His still, small, yet very commanding way that this was more important than my writing and I needed to give him my full attention before I really got it.  Yes, I know how that sounds.  I'm not proud of it.

As soon as I really started engaging with him about God and faith, he actually slid into the booth opposite me and got very serious.  "I have to ask you a really important question," he said gravely.

Oh no.  I prepared myself for the worst.  The question of salvation?  Purgatory? The rapture?  What was he going to ask me for which I was probably by no means doctrinally or knowledgeably prepared?

He looked me right in the eyes and stared me down as he asked, "What do you think about abortion?"

I was honestly shocked.  I was taken aback, really.  Why did a 25 year old guy care about abortion?  It wasn't like he was ever going to have one.  I  barely thought about it, and I'm a woman!  For a minute or two I was silent, trying to make sure I even knew what I was going to say, and then make sure it came out right.  Eventually, I said something like this (though perhaps I've added a touch of elegance in the retelling):

That's a very tough question.  It's a very hard thing.  For me, I can say that I would never have an abortion.  I could never do it, ever.  If I had a friend who was considering abortion, I would be so heartbroken for her.  I can't even imagine.  I would pray with her, I would cry with her, and I would read the Bible with her.  Ultimately, I would counsel her to not have the abortion and instead give the baby up for adoption if she didn't want to keep it.  But I hope I never have to be in that situation. Also, I would never judge someone else if she told me she'd had one, and I would do my best to show God's love to her as I do with everyone.  I would just be so sorry she had to go through that.

He seemed satisfied.  I think he told me it was the most real answer he'd ever heard.  Praise God.

If you de-construct all that, what I said is that I'm anti-abortion, but pro-choice.

I believe the Bible.  I believe what God says, and I try the best that I can to live my life accordingly.  I believe unswervingly that accepting Christ as our Savior is the correct choice for every person's life and the way to Heaven, and ultimately that a relationship with God is what everyone in our country should seek with all their hearts.

But here's the thing:  not everyone believes what I do.

God gives us a choice.  In fact, He gives us the ultimate choice:  whether or not to follow Him.  To love Him.  To serve Him.  To accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.  He doesn't force us - He gave us free will.  

If God Himself gives us free will, it's not up to the government to force us to believe, or to institute governmental rights based on beliefs that not everyone in the United States holds.

I believe that when the decision in question comes down to something that separates us from God, then that decision should be between that person and God.  Not between that person and the government.

What political party do I affiliate myself with, you may ask?  Well, unfortunately, both sides are made up of people, and people are imperfect, so as a result, I really don't affiliate myself with one or the other with abject loyalty.  I vote for the candidate and the party whom I feel will be the most fair.  You're free to take that as you will.  Ultimately, though, politics don't really matter, because God's law is supreme.  Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, they've got nothing on the Creator of the Universe.

This election is important. But what's most important is who you elect to be the Lord of your life.  That choice goes way beyond the next four years:  it affects eternity.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Hearing the Music

I have very limited experience with death.  I've only really lost grandparents and an aunt, all of whom were quite sick for a long time and for whom it was almost a relief to see their suffering end.  All of those losses were sad, yes, but not at all sudden.  My family was pretty much prepared for all of them.

I wrote back in May that the future was up in the air for my relationship with the amazing young man God brought into my life last year.  At that time, well, I had no idea just how much things would change.

In the past week and a half, though, everything has changed.

First, he was offered a permanent job, which he'd been searching for for months, three hours away in the small town where his parents live.  His father was not well, suffering from an issue that came on very suddenly barely a month ago, so he accepted it to move back home and help his family.  The very next day - the night after his first day at work - his father passed away.

I have never experienced grief like this, and it wasn't even my own father.  Watching my friend, my spiritual partner, the man who, even now, holds so much of my heart, go through this terrible time has been more overwhelming than I could have ever imagined.

Two days ago, I travelled three hours west to that same small town for his father's memorial service.  Out of deference to my "inconvenience," he said I didn't have to come.  He seemed surprised that I would come, actually.  But how could I not?  This is his father.  He is...well, everything he is and will always be to me.

Even so, it was one of the scariest and hardest things I've ever had to do.

I realized in the days leading up to this past Friday that he and I had spent our time together in a bit of a bubble for almost a year.  He had met my family when they visited for Easter and spent four lovely days with them, but I had met none of his yet.  There just hadn't been opportunity.  I sent a card to his mother almost immediately after he called me on his lunch break at his second day of work and told me through halting words that his father had passed.  But I didn't know her.  I didn't know his sisters or his nieces and I was going to roll up in there, a relative stranger, telling them how sorry I was and oh, by the way, here I am, nice to meet you.

Plus, as I said, I have very little experience with death.  I had no idea what really to say, or do, or how to act, or what I should expect from my friend when I saw him.  I wanted to be the best support I could be, but I didn't know how.  Honestly, I still don't.  In one week, everything for us had changed and now he was going through more grief than I could even comprehend.  I wanted to do anything and everything I could, but I didn't know what that was.

I knew, though, that I was going to this memorial service to support him.

I have never been more nervous in my life.

Last week, in the days leading up to Friday, I laid it all out to God.  I cried every single day.  I asked God to give me strength, courage, and peace.  More than anything, I asked God to shine out through me.  Let my presence be a source of comfort and calm because of You, Lord, I begged.  More of You and less of me - all of You and none of me, more like.

Also, I asked God for a sign.  Something from Him to know I was doing the right thing.  I didn't know what I was asking for, really, but I just needed to hear from God somehow.  I read the story of Gideon and the fleece directly from the Bible for the first time.  I didn't really have a fleece, per se, but I wanted a sign that was unmistakable.  I needed one.

The memorial service was lovely.  Beautiful, touching, and I saw my precious friend's work all through it.  He had obviously orchestrated everything.  I watched this young man who is so dear to me be a steady, solid support for his grieving mother, taking care of every detail and stepping up now as the authority in his family.  I listened to people I didn't know praise his father's familial leadership, which, from knowing him, I already knew was based in faith, character, and God's love.

After the service, he hugged me several times and thanked me for coming before going home to be with his family who were spending the night. 

I went back to my hotel room, feeling even more overwhelmed.  I felt clumsy and inelegant, like I'd said all the wrong things after the service and wishing I could do it over.  I didn't know what I wish I would have said, but I wished it was something else.  All I could do was hope and pray that God had spoken through my clunky words and rather awkward presence.

I settled into the king bed in the hotel room, feeling very small and sad and alone.  I watched tv, talked to my little sister on the phone, prayed.  I was emotionally and mentally exhausted.  I tried to sleep, but couldn't.  Finally, I emailed my friend words that were just sort of falling out of me about the service, our relationship, and the future, and eventually fell into a heavy, uncomfortable slumber.  I hadn't heard from God in the way that I'd asked.

A few hours later, I was very gently woken up in the darkest part of the night.  At first, I couldn't figure out why I was awake when I was so unbelievably tired.  My head was fuzzy and everything was black and strange.

But then, ever so faintly, I heard it.

Coming from outside, somewhere I couldn't pinpoint, was the sound of a single violin playing.

The fuzziness in my head started to clear a little as I began to realize what I was hearing.  A violin.

Both my friend and I play the violin - it's one of the many things we have in common.  I've watched him play a few times now, and it's been something I absolutely treasure.  For nearly a year, every time I hear a violin, I think of him immediately.

The violin kept playing.  It was faint, but it was definitely there.

I don't know what I was expecting, but I got out of bed, slid into my slippers, and went to the window of the room and looked out.

No one was there, of course.  The violin kept playing.  It was somewhere around 4am.

I got back in bed and laid there, listening to the violin and slowly realizing that it was God giving me the sign I  had asked for.  In the dark stillness of the night, when I felt so alone and sad, here it was.  It didn't come when I expected, it wasn't big or loud or obvious to anyone else, but it was there.  The violin.  The confirmation from God that He was still there and I was in the right place.  The reminder of my precious friend, of how much I care for him, of all that we shared and that God had brought us together.

For the first time in more than a month, a peace washed over me like I had forgotten existed.

The violin only played for about five more minutes, and then it softly faded away.  I drifted back to sleep.

The grief isn't over.  The changes are still and will continue to be hard.  But God is here, and He is in all of it.  And someday, ever so softly at first, we'll hear the music playing again.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. -Psalm 30:5