Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19: Taking Care of Widows and Orphans

Let me start by saying, “I think I was wrong.”

Those of you who know me know that’s not the easiest thing in the world for me to say.  But I’m saying it: “I’m pretty sure I was wrong.

I was one who said, “this is all being blown out of proportion.” News media was twisting things. It wasn’t any more severe than the flu, so why were we getting so excited? I was convinced it was a big to-do about nothing. Let me say it again: “I believe I was wrong.” That is not to say I think we needed to run out and buy 44 rolls of toilet paper (seriously, get a grip people!). That is not to say I’m huddled at home in fear and trembling. But I am ready to admit that I was wrong… and to plan on staying home. Not in fear. But in an effort to do my part to slow the spread.

I’m honestly not afraid of the virus. I’m not in a high-risk category. I’m healthy. Relatively young (lol). Decent hygiene. Strong immune system. And I know where my final destination is. (Although I’d hate for my kids to lose a parent even as a young adult!)  But here’s the thing: Jesus told us to take care of widows and orphans. And after watching the personal accounts coming out of Italy, and what other countries across the world are doing/have done… I have to think that asserting my “rights” to gather and move about at will is probably not what Jesus was concerned about when he told us to take care of the widows and orphans.

I was actually out and about yesterday afternoon… I wanted to see the new movie “I Still Believe” mostly because I’ve been looking forward to it and partly because I didn’t want it to tank because of the virus. But it was while we were out that I began for the first time to believe that maybe I should be altering my behavior more than I already had. I’d been being careful the last few days… washing hands after handling a menu… trying to avoid touching. But....

But the account I read from a doctor in Italy about how they don’t have enough equipment and are having to make the decisions about which patients get the ventilators, etc…. another post from a nurse there… another from one of our US military families there ( and an account of someone in the DFW area who most likely has the virus but was sent home without testing because they weren’t high risk enough and we don’t have enough test kits… Yeah, I’ve changed my mind. Trying to prevent myself from catching it isn’t what’s really important. It’s trying to prevent myself from spreading it. It’s putting others’ needs above my own desires.

COVID-19 may not be more deadly than the flu. It may be mild for most people. But because we may not know we even have it for two weeks, it’s more likely to spread. When we get the flu, we know pretty quickly we’re ill. We don’t go out in public till it’s cleared. This is different. Italy’s medical community is overwhelmed, having to make tough choices about which patients receive the resources – which patients live or die - because they didn’t take it seriously in the beginning… just like many of us haven’t here. They don’t WANT to make those decisions… they HAVE to.

I repeat – I’m not panicking! I’m not living in fear. I am most definitely not hoarding. Truth is I’d normally be out grocery shopping today – getting my fresh meat for the week -- but I have decided not to. Not because I’m afraid to go out, but because I don’t need to. I know I have stuff in the deepfreeze... and... some people don’t. Grocery shelves have been wiped out by fear-driven people. My daughter watched a coworker struggle not to cry yesterday as she had to tell a customer that they were completely out of baby food. Honestly, that’s a reason to cry. To cry for that parent trying to just feed their child. To cry for our nation at what we’ve become.

There is a difference between healthy fear and non-healthy fear. God gave us fear to help keep us alive. It does serve a purpose. But unhealthy fear drives us to think only of ourselves. Hoarding, panicking, is not what I’m doing or saying we should do. But concern for others… taking the needs of others into consideration… that’s what my Jesus taught. Take care of widows and orphans.

I do think we’ve got a good chance for better outcome here than what Italy is seeing – we have nearly 3x as many critical care beds available per capita. On the other hand, the account I referenced above from a US military family in Italy paints Italy in a better light – people caring for one another instead of emptying out a grocery store based on what-ifs and fear. We live in a nation of rugged individuality. Italy appears to be more family/community driven. What can be our strength can also be our downfall. We need to quit fending for ourselves and start taking others’ well-being into consideration. It’s not as simple as them staying home… they need people to care for them.

This social distancing is not something I take lightly. I have friends who work hourly for the school systems that depend on that income. Friends who waitress. I have my own daughter and her roommates who’ve just begun their post-college lives working for a production company (Kayla) and as tech support for Toby Mac’s tour (her roommates). They are recent college grads with a year lease in a town that is built on the entertainment business. A business that has ground to a sudden, shocking halt. They are kids with college loans that just became due. I believe at least one of them pays more in college loans than she does rent. It’s not as easy as hunkering down with a book and the tv remote for some people. It’s scary. It’s overwhelming. For a LOT of people. They worry about the rent… how they are going to eat. I get that and my heart breaks. Somehow, we’ve got to care for them, too.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think I even have all the questions. But I do have my Savior’s example – serve others. I do have His words – “care for the widows and orphans.” And right now, I believe that caring for them means doing my part to slow the spread, not worrying about and asserting my “freedoms.” We’re only a couple of weeks behind Italy. We’ve got to do something different. Italy is not something the media made up. It’s real. It’s happening. Taiwan took faster action and despite their closer proximity to China are doing much better than Italy. (see

One more thing… if you’re in my area… and are someone who shouldn’t be going out to shop… and you need groceries… I’m willing to do that for you. I can’t guarantee that the packages and bags I hand you would be virus-free. I don’t know how we can get around that possibility for everything we bring into our homes. But I can help you stay away from the general public. I wish I could do better.

NOTE: after writing this, I learned that the Busco Sav-U-More is doing their part to slow the spread. From their FB post:

“For the safety of our customers, we are now offering a drive through option you can utilize. Call or email us with your order, and we will get everything for you (with gloves on) and you can pick it up and pay at our drive through, minimalizing exposure for you. Call 260-693-2708 or email at savumor. Certain items we might not have due to demand.”


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

What I Couldn't Imagine

My sister sat at the front of our Celebrate Recovery group last week, teaching. She asked a question: “What fear keeps you from taking the next step?”

My mind didn’t actually go quite where she was asking. It went to the past. With blinding clarity, I suddenly remembered an answer I’d penned to one of the first questions in my recovery journey. The workbook had asked what it was we were feeling/scared of as we began the first chapter:

I am feeling scared. Mainly scared of the change that will be required. Letting people in; putting myself in situations outside of my comfort zone… are all totally terrifying to me. I realize that says I’m doing it on my own – not depending on God, but thinking change is something I have to do. Fix-it mentality strikes again.

Part of me wants to be healthier. But part of me likes where I am and is scared of the change needed to do even simple things… like helping clean up after a church dinner. I don’t want to be where people see my uncertainty… see my inadequacy. I know from reading The Wounded Heart that the path to growth and healing is one of becoming assertive and loving boldly. But that scares me.

I’m also scared of not being able to let my emotions out. I still feel like I have no real emotions tied to my abuse. Do I really have any? Can I get at them?

There is a sense of hope – becoming the person God intended me to be. I’d like to be confident, assertive, loving boldly. But… I can’t imagine actually being that. So I guess what I see is me acting it, because I should. Yep, there we go – Jenn is once more driven by the “should.” I will act like who I’m “supposed to be.”

So… no wonder I’m afraid of change! I’m not afraid of being a different person… I’m afraid of having to act like a different person… when inside I’m still the chicken that I am. Still the insecure little girl who doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing….

(excerpts edited from TWH workbook CH1 Q7 journaling)

When I wrote that, I couldn’t begin to imagine being different… being the person whom I’d been told God had created me to be. I couldn’t imagine anything really feeling different inside. The only outcome I could see, then, was me acting in the manner I knew I was supposed to act… despite how I felt. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps; suck it up, buttercup… because… Here. We. Go.

I wasn’t afraid of being a different person. I was afraid of having to act like a different person…. That’s what I was supposed to do, right? Push through and overcome the feelings of inadequacy and fear inside me?

In a way, that’s true. If we wait for fear to subside, we’ll never take a step forward. And without that step forward, there is no change.

But in so many other ways… it wasn’t true.

It was… what I couldn’t imagine....

You see, as I sat reflecting on the fear I'd held at the beginning of my journey, I realized... I’m changing. It’s been slow-going – that original journal entry was nearly 6 years ago! And I’m not exactly sure how or when it happened. But somewhere along the line, (fairly recently, I think)… something has changed.

My actions aren’t coming as much from a place of “should” and initiated with dread. They are coming more from a place of joy and initiated with hope. I’m not taking a deep breath and doing something that seems terrifying but necessary (as it seemed to me when I wrote that journal entry). Instead, I’m stepping out in excitement and celebrating the change when I manage to “do something different.”

Something fundamental has shifted. I think it’s hope. I think it’s feeling different. And I think it’s being able to imagine something even more different yet to come. It’s moved from “I need to/should” to “I get to/can.” I’ve tasted enough to make me hungry. Seen enough to make me believe… to imagine… to dream.

Am I “there” yet? No.

I still avoided helping out with something just last week because I didn’t want to risk the clueless little girl being seen. Instead, I disappeared and went to take care of something I did feel confident on (notably something I work on alone).

And the thought of forging a friendship (or admitting I need one) still scares me.

But just a couple of days ago I initiated a conversation with my husband that I would have avoided not that long ago. After I had gotten snippy with him, I went to him and admitted I had handled it poorly. I admitted I was feeling hurt about something else (and was open with him about what). And I admitted I used contempt to push him away and shield myself. I admitted wrong (oh, how I hate to be wrong). I admitted hurt (opening up that soft underbelly and being vulnerable). And I admitted need (more vulnerability). And it felt… GOOD! Not scary. Not weak. Not me having to “act” like a different person. But me… taking joy in becoming that person… the person God made me to be.

There have been other changes, too… I’m beginning to feel, recognize, and identify my emotions (instead of stuffing them so deeply even I don’t know they are there). I’m beginning to recognize and voice my own needs (again, instead of burying them so deeply even I don’t know what they are!). I’m finding my voice. And there’s something inside… something I can’t even put words to yet…. Something that’s more whole, I guess? Not exactly confidence… yet. Somewhere between confidence and shalom, maybe? I can’t name it… but I can feel it… a shift. The changes yet to come don’t seem as scary and impossible anymore.

It’s been slow. It’s been subtle. And I still can’t tell you when or how… but I do know He’s making all things new. I am different. Inside. Not just acting differently – doing what I’m supposed to do. But being different. Healing. Becoming. And… able to imagine something even more different… and more exciting… yet to come.

Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19 (HCSB)

Then the One seated on the throne said, "Look! I am making everything new."
He also said, "Write, because these words are faithful and true."
Revelation 21:5 (HCSB)


Monday, December 31, 2018

Do Something Different

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. Or even the newer trend of choosing a word for the year. But as I drove into church Sunday morning, I found myself contemplating the phrase "Do Something Different."

My sister had given a lesson with that message at our Celebrate Recovery meeting on Thursday evening. She had shared that doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity. Instead, we need to recognize that what we’ve been doing isn’t working and then do something different.

Friday morning, I sat in my psychologist’s office hearing basically the same thing. He pointed out that the value of the therapy we were applying was in being self-aware, recognizing the influence of the past in my reactions, and choosing to do something different in the present… something I was incapable of as a child. In my case, the “do something different” was to find my voice… and chip away at the lie that my voice, my feelings, were unimportant.

Later that evening, facing a small hurt, and trying to gather the courage to give voice to my feelings instead of simply shutting down and withdrawing, I found myself silently repeating to myself, “Do something different… do something different....” In the end, I did do something differently. I did find my voice. And it ended well. It felt good. Progress.

In the midst of all that, a friend had posted on Facebook asking people to share an accomplishment, favorite memory, or goal met during 2018. After some reflection, Saturday evening I wrote:
Losing 35 pounds since the end of September, dropping my insulin and getting blood sugar numbers greatly reduced with diet alone. BUT - even bigger than that for me... is finding my voice... including speaking in front of 385 people in our church about the effects of the childhood sexual abuse in my past and what Celebrate Recovery could do – not only for addictions, but recovery/restoration from all sorts of hurts, habits, hangups... and leading a small group for survivors of abuse. Huge for an introvert. Huge for someone whose PTSD includes feeling like I don't have a voice. Yeah... I feel really good about that, the healing it shows, and the work it has taken to get there. :)
I did feel really good about it. My friend’s question gave me not only an invitation to reflect and recognize, but also an invitation to celebrate the accomplishment. That, in itself, is a “do something different” for me. I tend to not even recognize my growth and accomplishments, let alone celebrate them. Instead, I usually downplay them. But this time, through her invitation, I reflected... recognized... shared... and celebrated! All kinds of “do something different” going on there!

All that was on my mind as I headed to church Sunday morning. Finding my voice. Doing something different. The growth I’d seen and celebrated. And the knowledge that this was just the beginning of what was looking to be an exciting journey – a journey that's been scary to contemplate at times. And I considered that “do something different” just might be something I need to keep in front of me for the new year. I’d never chosen a word for the new year before… but this phrase… at this moment.... It seemed right. And it seemed time. Worth considering, at least.

A little while later I sat listening to the Sunday morning message. Our pastor led us to Joshua… “Be strong and courageous.”

I quickly flashed to a counseling session just a few weeks ago. My psychologist had asked me what I felt God was wanting to say to me in that moment. I’d hedged, afraid of mistaking my own voice/thoughts for God’s. I’d said I had no clear answer, but agreed to pray about it. A few moments later, my counselor had opened his Bible to Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” I’d laughed out loud and admitted that "Be strong and courageous" was actually what had come to my mind when he'd asked his earlier question. He'd smiled and commented about seeing God’s fingerprints all over that. I knew he was right. And I've got to admit,  the affirmation had felt good.

So here I sat on a Sunday morning just a few weeks later with my pastor leading us to the same passage… “be strong and courageous.” Not only that, but he was teaching a message on change (my “do something different!”). He laid out the circumstance of the passage – Moses had just died. Joshua was taking over. And he was preparing to lead his people into the promised land (after 400 years in Egypt and 40 years wandering in the desert). Talk about change and new beginnings! But what amazed me was that our pastor's message was blending the exact two themes I’ve seen in my life in the last few weeks: Be strong and courageous; Do something different. Wow. God’s fingerprints? How could I think anything else?

So, yeah. I think I’ve got my direction and phrase for the year.

Do something different.

No... actually... it's more than that.

Be strong and courageous – do something different.

And... with a promise...

"Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."


Oh! And just because I'm working on sharing and celebrating... here's a video of my message to our church....

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Abuse... Accusations... and Adonai

I’ve avoided saying anything on this. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like being in the middle. And I have friends on both sides. But I’m hurting myself with my silence. Literally. I woke up yesterday with my lips clenched between my teeth so tightly I could taste the blood. My unconscious evidently echoing my attempt to clamp my mouth shut…. So… here goes….

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I was abused on two separate occasions when I was probably 6 or 7. I don’t actually remember the date or even how old I was. Many years later, when I first disclosed the abuse, we narrowed it down based on where the abuser lived at the time and the knowledge that it happened before my mom gave me “the talk.” So… I don’t remember the date or even how old I was. That’s not uncommon.

I remember some things with a high degree of detail – I remember exactly what he said to get me to do what he wanted (he’d seen something in a magazine he wanted to try). I remember my confusion at why he would want to do what he was doing. I remember being asked to perform oral sex on him and refusing (that was too “gross.” All I knew about that body part was that boys peed with it!). And yet I don’t remember how my clothes were removed (did I do it? Did he?). I don’t remember what I was wearing (was it pants or a dress? Was my top unclothed or was it just from the waist down?). I don’t remember what happened after he was done. I don’t remember getting up and getting dressed (was he still there?). I don’t remember leaving the basement (did we leave together or one at a time?). I don’t remember returning to the family upstairs or how I interacted with anyone afterward. I don’t remember… a lot. So… while I remember the events in some pretty clear detail, I don’t remember what happened before or after. That’s not uncommon. It’s how the brain works under trauma.

I didn’t tell anyone about it until I was nearly 19. Early on it was “our secret.” Later, after I realized what “we” had really done, I was afraid of someone finding out what “I” had done. That wasn’t something “good” girls did before marriage! It wasn’t until years later I fully realized it was something he had done to me… not something I was responsible for. So… I waited more than a decade before telling anyone about it. That’s not uncommon. Some for the same reason as I; some because they fear retribution; some because they fear not being believed.

I realize that if I were to try to press charges now… or even back when I first disclosed… there would be no credible corroborating evidence. There almost was… my younger sister started down the stairs to that basement while I was lying unclothed on the floor. My abuser yelled out to her to go back upstairs. She remembers it – entirely independently of my memory – and remembers feeling scared and like something “really bad” was happening in that basement. It’s a moment engrained in her memory as well as mine. But she didn’t actually witness it. And a decade later there wouldn’t have been any sort of DNA or any other corroborating evidence. So… I have no evidence. Again, that’s not uncommon.

So… I can see the fallacy and weakness in arguments some of the Kavanaugh defenders hold up. I really can. And I want to point out those things. Those arguments are damaging to those who have been abused and to how we approach those who have been abused. A delay in disclosure and what would seem like significant missing details are normal! We cannot hold those things up on their own as evidence to discredit the accuser or judge the allegations as false.

After my abuser's funeral, I finally disclosed for the first time to my future husband. And… after that… rather reluctantly to my parents. I’m not sure why I was still so reluctant. I actually wouldn’t have disclosed to them then if I’d had any choice. But... I was lucky… I was believed. Unfortunately, my participation in various support groups has shown me that belief is all too often not the case. Skepticism and disbelief are not uncommon… and are frequently even more damaging than the abuse itself.

And yet….

And yet we are a nation whose legal system has been founded on due process and the belief that a person is innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof lies with the accuser, not the accused. And in aggravated criminal cases it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The reason for this should be clear: if not for due process and the burden of proof, anyone – at any time – could be accused of something of which they are innocent. A person could face imprisonment or death by a simple accusation.

We look back on the Salem Witch Hunts as a dark time in our history. Innocent people were burned at the stake due to mob behavior, vigilante justice, and a lack of due process. False accusations with no burden of proof. If you didn’t like someone, just accuse them of being a witch and problem solved. If someone were to defend the accused, well, then, that person must be guilty too.

Today, I see people rising up and condemning without due process in all sorts of situations and my heart sinks. We see something on the news or on social media and with mob-like vengeance we shake our fingers in condemnation and call for what we believe to be justice… Without ever really allowing for due process to know what justice really is.

I wonder if our great-grandchildren will look back on this moment as an equally dark time in our nation’s history. As of this moment, there is no preponderance of evidence against Judge Kavanaugh. In fact, those very witnesses which Dr. Ford herself has named have refuted, not corroborated, her story. And yet we are ready to destroy a man we do not know. He stands lashed to that stake with the flames licking at his feet. And the mob gathers. If you don’t like someone, accuse them of sexual abuse and… yeah…. And if someone were to defend him well, then… yeah….

That’s why our legal system is based on the precept that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It’s too easy to lob an accusation at someone and destroy a life. There are those who argue that this is not a criminal case. True. But, honestly, a prosecutor wouldn’t touch it – there is no supporting evidence; no way to prosecute. Yet in a very real and crushing way, he has been declared guilty – his life forever changed. Not because there is any credible proof, but because a woman said so.

It sounds a little like Joseph. Tossed in jail because a woman said so. Actually, Potiphar’s wife even had a little more proof – she had a torn garment belonging to the accused. We sometimes question how Potiphar could believe Joseph would be guilty of such a crime – this man he completely trusted, who had lived an exemplary life in charge of his entire household. But isn’t that where we are today? Are we no better than Potiphar? Are we willing to destroy a man’s life because a woman said so? A woman without even a torn garment?

As a child who was abused, and as an adult who has many friends who have suffered abuse and then not been believed, I want to be able to always believe a child… always believe a woman… or a man… who claims abuse. But through my study and my work to heal I’ve learned a lot about how memory works. It’s not static. It evolves and changes with the story we tell ourselves. I actually have two different memories of how the stairs to that basement looked – one was straight and one was more of an “L” shape. I know memory is not infallible. There is a story in our family that has been told enough times that my husband swears he was there to see it. I know we were in a car on our way back from college and only heard about it. Memory is not infallible. And, furthermore, as a Christ-follower, I know we’re all messed up. We all lie at one time or another, for one reason or another. We live in a broken world with broken people.

And… as a believer… living in a broken world… I am given similar instruction to what the jurors in our legal system are given.

In Deuteronomy, Moses outlines to the Israelites the biblical qualifications given by Yahweh for bringing an accusation against someone:

“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” (Deut. 19:15, NKJV)

There it is… to bring an accusation we need at least two, preferably three, witnesses. Let me clarify that witnesses don’t necessarily need to be human. In our day and age a “witness” could be DNA, a fingerprint, a recording, a weapon… something that corroborates the accusation. The point is we are not to bring an accusation without any evidence. God is saying, long before the U.S. government, “Innocent until proven guilty.”

I admit… that can be a little hard to swallow when we can point to cases like mine where the accused would walk away due to lack of evidence… lack of witnesses. But the truth is, in a broken world, we either require evidence (witnesses) in order to have some sort of civility and in the process allow the possibility of injustice at times, or we require no witnesses at all and allow the possibility of injustice every... single... time. We either require evidence, or we allow a witch hunt. God sees the danger and He outlines His plan to protect the innocent in a fallen world: Two or three witnesses provide corroboration… which leads to credibility… which leads to clarity.

And it’s not just Old Testament that requires more than an unsubstantiated accusation. Jesus himself requires it. He actually quotes the Deut. 19:15 passage in his instruction:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.” (Matt. 18:15-16, NASB)

And in 1 Timothy 5:19, Paul reiterates the same principle:

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.”

When God says something three times we need to sit up and listen. He’s serious. He does not want us to miss this. And if we look at the rest of the passage in Deuteronomy we see just how serious He is. First, He gives instruction on what to do if someone does bring an accusation without a witness. Then He tells us what should happen if the accuser is found to be false:

“If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deut. 19:16-21, NKJV)

God takes false accusations seriously! The accuser is to be dealt the same punishment the accused would have if found guilty. Note, though, that God puts limits on it. The same, not more. Life for life; eye for eye… we can’t go life for eye. He is a just God.

Still, even with limits, the punishment may seem harsh. Why does God insist on such strict measures? Because God knows the human heart. If the accuser is allowed to bring unsubstantiated accusations and faces no consequences then false accusations will run rampant. The accused may be unfairly judged and have his reputation ruined or receive unearned punishment. And if not, well… no harm, no foul, right? Move on and try again another day. The accuser has no incentive not to try again. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

If we allow someone to be found guilty (either legally or public opinion) without corroborating evidence (witnesses) then false accusation will be rewarded and not punished. People will be motivated to use it, not deterred by any (non)consequences. It will become an everyday weapon. We’ll set a new precedent while abandoning both God’s law and the time-tested ways of justice. Every single one of us will be guilty until proven innocent.

I am not saying Dr. Ford has brought false accusation. She could be telling the whole truth. She could be telling truth as she remembers it (keeping in mind that memory is fluid and fallible). What I am saying is she has not brought forth anything to back up her accusation. And, in fact, her witnesses have refuted it and her own testimony gives us reason to question her honesty. (E.G. she claims she didn’t want to testify because she’s afraid of flying and yet we find that she flies for fun, family and business).

What I am saying is that even if she is telling the entire truth, we set a dangerous precedent if we derail Judge Kavanaugh’s life without some sort of supporting, credible evidence. If we let that happen, all that is needed to ruin someone is an accusation. No evidence. Guilty until proven innocent.

And, finally, one more thought. If the accusation she brought were undeniable, unrefuted fact (which it is not)… Does a sin 36 years ago, as awful as it is, disqualify a person who has lived an exemplary life since then from becoming a Supreme Court Justice? Please know, I am NOT saying boys will be boys and we should turn our eyes away. Boys need to be taught better and disciplined severely for that type of behavior!

But if you are quick to say something 36 years ago does disqualify him from service today – despite his apparently exemplary life since then and even now – I’d ask you to consider Moses. Before he was a lawgiver… before he sat and made decisions on the disagreements of the Israelites (he did act as judge for his people!)… before that… he was a murderer. It was witnessed. He never served time. He must have been terrified to go to Pharaoh knowing what was in his past! But 40 years (and God) had changed him. He went from lawbreaker and murderer to lawgiver and trusted judge. I’d ask you to consider David, Israel’s greatest king… also a murderer and an adulterer. I’d ask you to consider Paul the apostle, who was Saul the persecutor and murderer. God seems to forgive and use. We tend to accuse and abuse. And, finally, I’d ask you to consider Joseph, a convicted attempted rapist who became the second in command for all of Egypt. Yes, he was wrongly accused. But Pharaoh had no way of knowing that.

I want to make clear that my heart breaks for victims of sexual abuse. My heart is torn into shreds by the stories of those who weren’t and aren’t believed. I see them on my support groups with heartbreaking frequency. I’ve met several of them. Listened to many more. I know they are out there. But I couldn’t, even given that, toss aside the time-tested ways of justice and the mandates of God’s law in order to condemn a man whom the evidence has shown to be an honest, God-fearing, woman-cheering, man.

I have to ask... which is the more grievous error: to set free a guilty man, or to condemn an innocent one?

Based on Deuteronomy 19, I’d have to say God would answer the latter.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fishing Boats & Falling Chains

I saw something out on the lake last night I didn't expect. Felt something I didn't expect. But... well... I guess I should back up a little....

Healing is hard work. And while I recognize the people and circumstances that God has placed in my life at just the right time, truth is… most of the time I feel like I’ve done a lot of it. I’m the one who has had to look at it… see what it means… recognize the way things have impacted me… fought to step out of those protective mechanisms and become more whole. But there’s one area that’s just hard. I haven’t figured out how to do it. It’s not as simple as learning to be more open; or gaining the courage to face conflict; or trust someone else enough to share what’s going on inside me.

No… this is about actually feeling what’s going on inside me.

Emotions. Ugh. I learned to “stuff” them a long time ago. And despite the fact that I know it’s not healthy… and I know I need to feel and express them… I haven’t been able to figure out how. How do you feel something you’ve shoved so far down that you aren’t even fully cognizant of it yourself? There’s no book that tells you how to feel emotions; no 10-step method to success. I simply cannot fathom how to begin.

Earlier this year, it came up in a therapy session (again). And as I pondered it in the following days, I eventually came to this conclusion: This is something I can’t do. This is something only God can do. This… this is where I wait on Him… this is where He gets to show off. I. Just. Can’t.

It was only a few days after that revelation that my pastor preached from the pulpit on Acts 12:7:

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell. Striking Peter on the side, he woke him up and said, "Quick, get up!" Then the chains fell off his wrists.

As my pastor made the point that nothing can hold what God wants free, I knew I was hearing from God. He was giving me confirmation of what I’d come to days before: He wanted those stuffed, bound, emotions set free… and He had every intention of loosing the chains that held them. Him. Not me.

A few days later, some other things began unfolding that took my focus off my struggle with my emotions. Honestly, I kind of forgot about it in light of other things happening. And yet… those other things… unbeknownst to me… were loosing the chains without me even noticing.

It started a couple of months later with beginning to feel the good emotions – extremely joyful, contented emotions. A compliment from my husband a couple of weeks ago actually unleashed tears of joy as it touched something deep within me. Definitely not my norm! But it didn’t stop there… on the heels of that burst of emotion, I felt something else… something sad and grief-like. I told my husband, "'s like opening my heart to the good emotions cracked open the door to others, buried deeper." I didn’t really recognize them, or where they came from… just a general feeling that there was something sad there.

And then… then last night… a grief I could recognize and name… a grief I should’ve dealt with 25 years ago… surprised me as it pushed through that door. I journaled:

Quiet day.
The first day with all the windows open. A slight breeze coming in off the lake most of the day. The sounds of water lapping the seawall… flag rustling in the wind… birdsong… neighbors putting in their dock. Sun coming in the windows….
As I worked on supper, the breeze laid. I turned on some soft praise music. And as I turned in the kitchen and saw evening falling on the lake… with quiet music filling my heart… peace… joy… out of the corner of my eye, in my mind, I saw my grandpa’s fishing boat out on the water. I felt it as much as saw it.
I don’t often get emotional thinking of my grandparents (it’s been nearly 25 years since Grandpa began swapping fish stories with Jesus’ disciples).... But tonight, tears gather. And to be honest, I’m not even sure if they are tears of joy or sadness. I feel joy in my heritage. Not just this lake, but my faith. Not just my grandparents, but the great-grandma whom I only have vague memories of, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt prayed for us. It was who she was – a woman of faith and prayer. And so… there’s joy… at knowing my heritage… knowing they would have loved this evening… in this place… the same way I do.
And yet… at the same time… a longing…. To share this evening with them. To hear my grandpa’s laughter echo out over the water… to see his pole with a line out over the side of the boat… to feel their love surround me…. To sit and talk with my great grandma Cora about her life and faith. How did she become the woman she was? What was it that shaped her into such a strong woman of faith?
And, oh… to see Grandpa’s boat headed toward shore.
He would’ve loved this evening on the lake.
And I would have loved to share it with him.
And the tears fall.

Yeah… I’d say God’s working on those chains. :)

Slowly… gently.… Without me even realizing it.

I am realizing that my chains aren’t going to just fall off like Peter’s. They’ve been too tight for too long. Too much, too quickly… in something that’s been so cutoff for so long… would cause more harm than good, I think.  And so I know... it’s kindness that loosens them a little at a time.

It is… Jehovah Rapha.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Even When You Don't Know You Need It (Life Lesson from my Chiropractor)

Two days ago, I woke with a hip that did not want to move correctly. It was tight and painful. It didn’t matter whether I sat or stood, I couldn’t find relief in any position. Yesterday, it was worse. I couldn’t bend forward. At all. Just the weight of my hands in front of me rinsing out an article of clothing in the sink caused enough pain to make me feel nauseated. My husband urged me to call our chiropractor. I did. But... I kid you not, less than five minutes after making the call, I put my heel up on a stair for a hamstring stretch and heard a very deep, very solid “pop.” Oh. Yup. That was it, I just knew it. But I felt a little foolish thinking about calling back just a few minutes after making the appointment to tell the office staff “never mind.” I wasn’t entirely sure, anyway – muscles tend to take a bit to settle down after something like that. So… I didn’t call.

Sure enough, this morning the hip felt pretty much normal. I considered calling and canceling my appointment. But I have this thing about commitment – especially when someone’s livelihood depends on it. I feel like it’s really rude to cancel without significant notice. What if they can’t fill my spot? So… I kept the appointment. I drove the 1.5 hours into the office (yes, I love my chiropractor that much, lol). I told him what had happened and he went to work. We chatted as he worked on my normal problem areas and I got in the car to come home.

And you know what? I felt better than I had on the drive in. I hadn’t felt bad on the drive in… if you’d asked me, I would have said I was fine and didn’t really need the appointment. I wasn’t in any pain, no noticeable tension… it was a good drive up. But on the way back, I could feel a difference. I felt looser and more “free.” And not just that hip, but my entire body – neck; back; shoulders; even a foot, lol. On the drive up, I honestly hadn’t noticed feeling tight or stiff at all. But after the visit, I noticed the absence of the tension I didn’t even know I was holding. I noticed the more relaxed feeling in my body.

And it hit me… how that picture of freedom I didn’t know I needed… healing I didn’t know I needed… reflects my life as a whole. I saw how my chiropractor’s touch on my body reflects the touch of God on my life... brokenness healed by a touch I didn’t even know I needed.

I was 18 when I first disclosed that I’d been sexually abused. I’d been 6 or 7 when it happened, and I assured those I disclosed to that I was fine – it had been a long time ago and I’d dealt with it… hardly ever thought about it. The only reason I thought about it then was in large part due to my abuser’s recent suicide. I actually felt compassion and grief realizing he had hurts I knew nothing about. My anger had dissipated years ago. My grief now was for him, not me. I was fine. I even counseled a few people in later years who were dealing with their own experiences with abuse – assuring them that it was possible to live a normal life after abuse. I was good, after all.

And then… over 20 years after I disclosed… in my mid-forties… I sat across from a Christian psychologist and told him I didn’t know why I had trouble sharing emotion and hurt with my husband – I knew he would never hurt me. And our counselor looked at me and asked who had hurt me. I couldn’t come up with anything other than childhood bullies. But as he began flipping though my chart, I suddenly knew what he was looking for. My abuser’s name quietly slipped through my lips. I argued, though: That was years ago; I didn’t harbor any hurt or anger – I’d forgiven and moved on.

What I began to see, though, – starting that day and continuing over the next few years – was the damage I hadn’t even been aware I carried. It’s been hard work. It’s still hard work at times. But there have also been times I’ve felt the difference. I’ve stepped out in a freedom that felt new and different. Lighter. God was (and is) slowly healing things I didn’t even know were broken.

I won't lie... sometimes that healing involves pain. It means touching areas I'd just as soon leave alone. But afterwards there’s a new freedom in places where I didn’t even realize anything was "stuck."

Like the visit to my chiropractor, sometimes I’ve felt the new freedom more than I’d noticed the existing tension. It’s funny how you can be broken and not even realize it. I think we all have those places. We're used to it. It feels normal to us. Only when healing comes do we notice the difference.

And… as I sit here feeling the beginning of tension in my hip again… I know, too, that there’s still work to be done. It’s a process. And one I need to participate in. It’s time to stretch… in more ways than I probably want to consider. But that’s how freedom comes… even when you don’t know how much you need it.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Resting in the Moment

I'm a quick reader. I always have been. As a child the people around me were always astounded by the speed with which I would devour a book. I was pleased at that. I have to admit the recognition felt good. But mostly... mostly I just couldn't wait to find out what happened next.

I'm still that way. It's harder now that my eyesight isn't as good. It takes me longer to focus; longer to make sense of the words on the page. But, still... I've torn through two books today. That's in addition to spending time shopping with my daughter; doing laundry; checking facebook; fixing supper, etc....

I'll admit that the first book was a fairly quick read. The second, though, was a little more intensive... a little more thought-provoking. And there were several times I thought "This is good.... I need to journal and explore this some...." I was anxious, though, to find out where the author was going to end up. This wasn't fun fiction. But I still wanted to see what happened... what the answers were. I tore through it looking for the next good piece of info... figuring I'd journal about it after I'd finished it.

But when I finished... I realized... I don't necessarily remember those things that punched me in the gut as I was reading. I was so anxious looking for the next bit of info, wanting to know how the author dealt with the things in her life... that I blew on through, pushing past everything to get to the "end" and see what was there.

And after I closed the book and started preparing for bed, I realized... I should have stopped. When those bits brought emotion or provoked thought... I should've stopped right then. I should have allowed myself time to process and explore; to discover what meaning and application it had for my own life. But the things that should have been savored and chewed on were gulped down like a fast food meal. My incessant search for knowledge and my incredible drive to find out the ending cheapened the journey my heart could have taken. I went flying past to see what more there was when I should have rested in those moments.... wrestled with those moments, even. It's in those moments of wrestling, after all, that we begin to know God... that we begin to know ourselves. But my insatiable need to know the ending... to gather all the knowledge... took me right past all that.

And it dawned on me... how often I do that.

As a child I was always anxious for that next milestone. I may have been the only Kindergartner asking "When are we going to start getting homework?" No wonder my classmates had issues with me! LOL! But, seriously, I couldn't wait to be older... each milestone reached only meant a renewed hunger for the next one. It's only natural, I suppose. And yet, in the quiet of this night... and in the reflection of a book I should have journaled through rather than sped through... it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, I need to be more purposeful about being here, in the moment God has me in right now... and less concerned with trying to get to what's next.

The end will come, after all. It's there waiting. I don't really need to miss the journey in trying to get there.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

31 Days - Falling

I have a confession to make. Whenever I see the "trees" starting to grow in the gutters at my parents' home, I cringe and hope that my sister can talk her husband into taking care of the problem. No, I'm not really that lazy. I hate feeling like I'm shirking work. But any more than one or maybe two steps up the ladder and my heart starts pounding furiously. With the death-grip on the ladder, my hands wouldn't be much good for doing anything useful, anyway.

I'm also not one of those people you'll see peering over the edge of a canyon with fascination. Sure, it's beautiful. And I appreciate God's handiwork immensely. But unless there's a fairly high and very sturdy guardrail, I will be appreciating it from a safe distance. A very safe distance. Okay, maybe a slightly paranoid distance.

Because if I'm honest? I have to admit that just standing on our bed to change the direction of the air vent in the ceiling causes me to feel disoriented and unbalanced. I steady myself against a wall or by touching the ceiling because I feel sure I am going to lose my balance and topple over. Hello? It's a queen-sized bed, for crying out loud! Even if I did lose my balance, it's a fairly soft place to land! So why on earth does it induce panic?

I'm fairly sure it's not because my parents warned me against jumping on the bed as a kid....

It's because... my fear for the final day of 31 Days of Fear:

I am afraid of falling.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. History – my history – proves falling can be dangerous – and that I have a certain proclivity for it! There's the ankle I tore getting on a horse in college (yes, getting on... that was fun to explain to the ER staff). And the other ankle I tore up several years ago getting down (yes, down) from putting decorations on our Christmas tree. And the knee I messed up as a teen on my first (and only) snow-skiing trip (yes, in Indiana... and no, I don't have any plans to ever go again). Falling happens. Especially to me, it seems. And it usually hurts. So there's some truth in the fear. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

When I first considered writing on this topic, I thought I would be talking about a fear of heights. I don't like being on the edge of a cliff... I don't like being on a roof... I don't like being on a ladder. But as I started thinking about it, I realized it wasn't really the height that bothered me.

You see, when we were in Hawaii several years ago we did a helicopter tour – with the doors taken off. The pilot warned us that takeoff can unnerve some people. We shot straight up and banked and I laughed out loud. Seriously! I loved every minute of it. Except... I did have a death grip on my camera. Truth is, I was even afraid to switch from my SLR to my videocamera – I was sure I'd drop them out the gaping hole of a door if I tried. I may have been strapped in, but my camera wasn't!

And a few years before that, Carl and I spent a day at an amusement park. Despite his fear of heights, I managed to talk him into trying Cedar Point's newest roller coaster, Millennium Force. At the time it was the highest, steepest, fastest coaster in the world, breaking six different world records. I loved it! My hands were up all the way with a grin on my face the entire time. (BTW - the hands-up isn't a show of bravery... it actually helps lift your body for that coveted "air time" – which I love!) It was a blast! At least I thought so. Carl hated it.

So... how can I feel panicked while simply standing on a bed and yet laugh out loud in a helicopter with no doors... or throw my hands up with a smile on the world's fastest, highest, steepest roller coaster?

As I thought about it, I realized it's not really a fear of heights. It's a fear of falling (or dropping something important). Still, why am I panicked on the bed and positively giddy on the roller coaster?

I think it comes down to one thing: trust. What am I trusting? You see, if I really look at it...

Fear reveals something about my faith and trust.

If I am standing on a roof; the edge of a cliff; or even my bed, the only thing I have to trust is my own sense of balance. Myself. And I don't trust myself. I know I mess up. There's fear; and quite frankly, a reason for the fear.

When I am on a roller coaster preparing to plunge from a staggering height at unbelievable speeds and I'm smiling about it? You have to know that I am trusting in something I believe to be far greater (and more reliable) than myself. I'm strapped in; secured by the safety arm. There is no fear. There is only joy and an anticipation of that moment of weightlessness where I feel like I'm flying; feeling free... and yet safely confined... by arms I trust more than I do my own.

So... fear is a flag:

Fear gives me the opportunity to stop and ask,
"Am I trusting in myself? Or Someone greater?"

King David wrote:
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
(Psalms 20:7-8, NIV)

Chariots and horses were the tanks and fighter jets of the day. They represent the strength and power of men. But David says those who trust in them will fall. Deep down I think we know that. We know we're not infallible. That's why we fear:

We fear because we're trusting in the wrong things.

We trust in chariots and horses; in ourselves and things of this earth. And we know they are not infallible... that we are not infallible... and so we fear.


We fear because we're not fully trusting in the right things.

David says that those who trust in the Lord will stand firm. So if we trust Him – really trust Him – there's no reason to fear, right? God is perfect. His plan is perfect. His love is perfect. It's what we've been told all our lives. Sometimes we even smile and repeat it back during the tough times... maybe trying to convince ourselves as much as everyone around us. It's what we're supposed to believe. We're not supposed to question; not supposed to doubt; not supposed to fear. Because perfect love casts out all fear, right? (1 John 4:8).

But.... What do we do with that when cancer strikes our friend, leaving her kids with no mother... or a drunk driver takes the life of a child? What do we do with it when our spouse walks out the door... or our teen is trapped by an addiction? What do we do with it when we look at the harm in our own lives and wonder, "Where was God? Why did He let that happen?" What do we do with it when we feel like we're falling hard and fast into a pit of darkness? And what do we do with it when Jesus himself tells us that we will have trouble in this world? (John 16:33)

If God doesn't keep the bad stuff from happening, how can we not fear? How can we really trust Him to protect us when we know He lets us fall?

I asked my psychologist that same question a few months ago. He asked me to consider what it was I was actually trusting God for. As I considered it and we talked about it, I suddenly remembered something I'd written after another tough season over a decade ago:

August, 2002
About a month ago I asked a question about regaining the blind faith I realized I'd lost. I don't know that you do get that same "blind" faith back, but I think maybe what you do gain is even more valuable. I don't have that same naivety. But somehow my trust is actually, I believe, even stronger. Somehow I think trusting having seen the danger that's out there is more valuable than "trusting" while oblivious to it. It doesn't take much trust if you don't see the dangers.... Kind of strange to explain, but the faith I'm finding I have now is even more sustaining. I think that before all this I trusted Him to keep me from falling. It seems quite naïve, but it really didn't dawn on me how precarious of a position this life is or how hard a fall He might actually let me take. Now I trust Him to keep me in the fall and I think that's more than trusting Him to keep me from the fall.


As I think about that, my mind goes back to that roller coaster. My favorite part of the ride is that moment of weightlessness at the top where you feel like you're flying. But falling is still part of the ride; part of the plan. When that safety bar was locked into place and the ride started moving, I knew I was going to fall. No question. But I wasn't scared because I trusted those arms – greater than mine – to hold me in place during the fall. You see, they weren't there to keep me from the fall, but to keep me in the fall. Huh. Just like my journal entry.

That's the truth I need to hold onto:

God won't always keep me from the fall... but He will always keep me in the fall.

He promised through Moses:

"The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.
He will not fail you or forsake you.
Do not fear or be dismayed."
(Deuteronomy 31:8)

Truth is, that coaster was falling. I was falling. But I wasn't falling alone and that made all the difference. The arms were there to ensure I was held safely in the fall... controlled within the boundaries set by the creators; not flailing around on my own. I trusted the arms... I trusted the creators and their design – even though I had no idea what was ahead or how exactly it all worked. I trusted... and I enjoyed the ride.

Is that kind of trust easy in real life? No. Carl couldn't trust the coaster and spent the entire ride desperately wanting to abandon ship. And if I'm honest, there are times in this life when the ride gets a little rough and my head bangs against the safety bar and I think "This isn't so fun! I'm scared and I don't understand what's happening. Get me off – now!"

But that fear... it gets my attention... it asks what it is I'm trusting... and it points out where I'm not trusting. I've had to wrestle with that more than once. If I'm honest, I still wrestle with it. And I will most likely wrestle with it the rest of my life. That kind of trust just isn't easy. At all. But when you've wrestled it to the ground (yet again), for that moment you can actually grasp it... it's amazing.

The rest of that entry from August, 2002:
Now I KNOW bad things can happen... and yet there's more peace and trust than I ever remember really having before. I don't have any more answers now than I did at the point when I was angry, when I was throwing accusations God's way, or when I realized I'd lost my trust. And I can't tell you where that anger and distrust went. Only that it's gone. Only that once I admitted it, God took it. And in its place is a faith, but a different faith. Maybe it's kind of like the difference between believing what you can see and believing even when you can't see anything. Maybe it's the difference between just being oblivious and actually trusting. I don't know... but for the first time in my life, I don't have to look for answers. I'm NOT looking for answers, not trying to figure out the game plan. I don't need to know. My sense of well-being isn't based on figuring it out and knowing where He's taking me or why He's doing what He's doing. I'm at rest, at peace. I am just content to be.

You see... the psalmists had it right:

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
(Psalms 125:1)

... we rise up and stand firm.
(Psalms 20:8, NIV)

So as I wrap up this series on 31 Days of Fear (& Truth) I'd just encourage you to ask, "What is it that my fear is revealing?" Are you trusting yourself, leaning on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)? Or are you trusting Someone greater than yourself?

Father God, thank You for this journey of looking into my fears and for the things You've shown me through it. I have to admit that it's still hard to trust sometimes. It's easy to look at the pain of the past and think I need to protect myself. It's easy to get scared and brace for impact. But help me to remember that the fall is part of the ride. Without it, there would never be that moment of flying. And while You may not keep me from the fall, You will always be there keeping me in the fall. You're the Creator. You've laid out the course and set the parameters. And I can trust Your arms to keep me safely within them. I will struggle with that, at times, Father. Probably more often than not. But I know that even in the struggle You hold me. And I want to be able to hear You say, "Buckle up!" and look into Your eyes with a smile, throw my hands up in the air and say...
"I'm in... let's fly!"

Fear: I am afraid of falling.

  • Fear reveals something about my faith and trust.
  • Fear gives me the opportunity to stop and ask,
    "Am I trusting in myself? Or Someone greater?"
  • We fear because we're trusting in the wrong things. (Psalms 20:7-8)
  • We fear because we're not fully trusting in the right things. (Psalms 20:7-8)
  • God won't always keep me from the fall (John 16:33)... but He will always keep me in the fall. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  • Those who trust in the Lord cannot be shaken but will endure forever. (Psalms 125:1)
  • Trusting in God allows me to stand firm. (Psalms 20:7-8)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).

Monday, January 25, 2016

31 Days - Desire

photo by Kayla Dietz

Don't ask me to make a decision. I can't do it. Seriously, I've been known to laugh as I point out that it takes me 20 minutes to make a decision in McDonald's – before they expanded their menu to include wraps, etc.! Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration... but only slight. And....

I have to admit that nearly every time my husband asks where I want to eat, my answer is the same: "I don't know."

What do I want to do? "I don't know."

If I could have one wish.... "I don't know."

What's my favorite.... "I don't know."

Over ten years ago I wrote:
Our small group is on marriage enrichment. Carl asked the question, "Yeah, but what if SHE doesn't know what she needs?" Afraid that the group would think he was being funny, I looked at our leader and told him, "Ummm... it's a real question."
And... I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

Do you see a pattern?

Until recently, I didn't really see the connection between any of those things. I thought I was just easy-going at best; indecisive at worst. I'm beginning to see things just a little differently.

I think I have attempted, as best as I know how, to kill desire. I don't recognize my own wants or needs because I've done my best to kill them. I'm not sure of all the reasons, but I at least know some of them. Ranging from my childhood sexual abuse, to friends turned bullies at school... desire for relationship was dangerous – it was a weakness which opened me up to pain. Other desires felt unattainable; out of reach; and therefore foolish. (To be accepted by my peers; skate like an olympic ice skater; sing like Amy Grant; write like John-Boy Walton....). And those desires I didn't label as foolish, I usually labeled as selfish or wrong.

Desire made me weak; foolish; or a jerk (or all of the above). And that... usually brought the sting of rejection. And so somewhere along the line I decided it was better to kill desire than to feel its pain. It just hurt too much.

So... my fear for Day Thirty:

I am afraid of desire.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. History – my history – proves desire can be dangerous. Even scripture tells us "but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed." (James 1:14, NIV). So there's some truth in the fear: desire is dangerous. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids - blind, lame, and paralyzed.
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him,
"Do you want to be healed?"
(John 5:2-6,ESV)

Evidently there was a belief that at times an angel would stir the water and the first person to then enter the pool would be healed. So as Jesus passes by this pool with a multitude of invalids waiting for such a stirring, he sees a man lying on his mat who has been paralyzed for 38 years. Jesus stops... looks at him... and asks... "Do you want to be healed?"

Imagine for a moment the indignation of that man... "Do I want to be healed? What kind of crazy question is that?" He may have even believed for a moment that he was being mocked. I'm sure it wasn't the first time. He was lying at the edge of a pool with no way to get in – even if the waves did come, he had no one to help him. I can hear the taunts he's suffered at times: "How do you think YOU'RE going to get in there, cripple? Huh? Get real – you're never going to make it. Why don't you just go home?" He's heard it all before... and in truth it echoes the same despair that he feels in his own heart. Noone is going to help him. Noone ever has. Noone ever will. Noone cares. He's alone. And he's been lying on that mat a long time. A. LONG. Time.

Honestly, how long can we hold onto desire that is continually denied? A year? Two years? Five? Ten? Twenty? How about... thirty-eight? Ummmm... yeah. That's tough. We all eventually move to a place where we begin to protect our heart – numbing it with resignation or even bitterness. We find ways to deaden the pain. Maybe it's biting cynicism as we lash out at others. Maybe it's sitting down with a full container of ice cream and a spoon. Or maybe it's disengaging and "vegging out" in front of a TV, or my favorite – a book. Whatever our method, we try to find a way to build calluses around our tender hearts... to kill the pain of unmet desire... to kill desire. And I think what I am discovering is that you can't just kill one desire. Where one is damaged, others will follow. Like dominoes, they fall until there are none left.

Proverbs 13:12 tells us that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." I believe that's where this man is. Heartsick. Numb. He's an odd mix of hope and hopelessness. He's there, yet he really doesn't believe he has a chance. Not daring to dream, he's lost the heart-connection to his desire. He's just going through the motions. He has no answers to those who might mock him and ask "How are you ever going to get in there first, old man?"

And now someone stands above him asking, "Do you want to be healed?" What kind of question is that?! But when he looks up into Jesus' face, he doesn't see mockery. He sees compassion. He doesn't see rejection. He sees an invitation. And as he searches his heart for the answer, I think he feels something that was nearly dead begin to stir in his heart again. Desire. Yes, he wants to be healed. And his heart beats a little faster as he dares to dream. Maybe this man with eyes full of compassion would actually help him into the water....

But Jesus doesn't even look at the pool. He looks at the man. Actually, He looks in the man. He doesn't need the stirring of the water. He wants the stirring of his heart. He sees success in what's happening inside the man's heart, not in the pool.

Jesus wants to stir and awaken our desire!

We see a similar story in Matthew 20:29-32 where two blind men call out to Him. The crowd wants the men to be quiet, but Jesus stops and asks the two men, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

You can't tell me that Jesus didn't know what they wanted. So what was the purpose of His question?

I think He wanted to stir their hearts enough that they would give voice to their desire. Sometimes that's hard. If I give voice to a dream that seems out of my reach, I look foolish to the people around me. "Who am I to dream something so big?" So I keep quiet. Sometimes I'm afraid to give voice to it because it seems selfish. So I keep quiet. Sometimes I'm afraid to give it voice because denial (rejection) would hurt too much. So I keep quiet.

The crowd tells these two men the same thing I tell myself sometimes: "Be quiet!" But Jesus tells them (and me): "Tell me. Don't listen to the voices telling you to be quiet. I'm telling you to speak up! Dare to dream! Dare to ask. Dare... to give voice to desire."

Jesus wants us to have faith enough to admit to and give voice to our desire!

He's serious about that. We're even told in James 4:2 that we have not, because we do not ask.

So why is Jesus so interested in stirring our desire?

I don't think I'm the only one who has been hurt or disappointed by desire. And I don't think I'm the only one who has denied desire. But here's the thing: if I attempt to deny desire, I'm not just killing desire – I'm making an assault on hope. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "We can only hope for what we desire." Think about it: we can have desire without hope, but we can never have hope without desire. Hope can't exist without desire!

The New Testament is full of messages about hope. In fact, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that the three foundational things to the Christian life are faith, hope and love. And 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be prepared to give an explanation for where our hope comes from. Peter indicates that our hope is what draws people to us; to our story; to our Savior. He tells us to be ready with an explanation when we're asked about it. And yet... there aren't many people knocking down the doors to our churches asking us about our hope. Why? I think it's because we've dulled our desire. Our hope is mild and bland because our desire is bland.

People should see and want our hope. But hope cannot exist without desire.

But Jesus doesn't want to stir our desire just for the benefit of others:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
(John 10:10 )

The thief comes to steal our joy. He also wants to steal our desire. He works to turn the desires God places in our hearts – misdirecting them towards his own purposes. If he can't steal our desire, he will work to kill it. He is even crafty enough to get us to do his dirty work for him – convincing us to kill our own desire. And in stealing our joy and killing our desire, his main objective is met: he destroys any effect we might have for the Kingdom of God. Without joy and without desire we are no longer a threat.

Jesus sets Himself in complete opposition to satan's purposes, though. Jesus tells us that He came so that we could live life abundantly; life to the full. We don't live abundantly when we are vegging out in front of the TV, numbing our desire and deadening our hearts. We live abundantly when we dare to dream; when we dare to give voice and pursue it; when we dare to reach to be all that God created us to be. And we just can't do that without desire.

Jesus came so that we could live life to the fullest and we can't do that without desire.

Look again at Proverbs 13:12:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
(Proverbs 13:12)

What does it really mean to say that "desired fulfilled is a tree of life?"

Genesis 3:22-24 tells us that our access to the tree of life was blocked after the first sin (eating from the tree of knowledge). God took it seriously enough that He posted guards with flaming swords to protect us from it. (Yes, to protect us, but that's another thought for another post).

In Revelation 2:7 and 22:14 we're told that we'll regain access to the tree of life in heaven. But for now? In between Genesis and Revelation? For now we don't have access to the tree of life. So what does it mean that desire fulfilled is a tree of life?

The first part of Proverbs 13:12 tells us that hope deferred leaves us heartsick. It saps our strength and leaves us weakened... despondent. But second part of the verse tells us that desire fulfilled renews our strength and rejuvenates us – bringing life back to the despondent, deadened heart. It is as if we were in Eden – resurrected and plucking the fruit from the tree of life.

Desire fulfilled gives us a taste of Eden – what our lives were meant to be.

And that... that is the way Jesus intends us to live... with a taste of Eden... an abundant life... and a desire for more.

Oh, Father... I wish I weren't so afraid of desire... afraid of looking foolish; afraid of rejection; afraid of pain. I want to reach out for desire... and I know that's what You want for me... what You want from me.... and yet I pull back and put up walls to protect my heart. Oh, Daddy, I'm sorry. Sorry for joining with satan to kill something that You meant to be beautiful. It's scary to even think about, but I'm swallowing hard and asking You to give me the strength to break that agreement with evil; to instead reach out for the desire that You want to stir within me. Help me dare to dream... dare to desire... dare to live life... and dare to live it... abundantly!

Fear: I am afraid of desire.


  • Jesus wants to stir and awaken our desire! (John 5:2-6)
  • Jesus wants us to have faith enough to admit to and give voice to our desire! (Matthew 20:29-32; James 4:2)
  • People should see and want our hope. But hope cannot exist without desire. (1 Peter 3:15; C.S. Lewis)
  • Jesus came so that we could live life to the fullest and we can't do that without desire. (John 10:10)
  • Desire fulfilled gives us a taste of Eden – what our lives were meant to be. (Proverbs 13:12)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).

Friday, November 20, 2015

31Days - Stuck

I thought I knew what I was writing about for this blogpost. I'd started my research, was planning it in my head. And then... then today happened.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I sat down on our counselor's sofa and as he looked us over he commented how relaxed and contented we looked... and asked about the difference.... I was feeling really good about where I was. The 31Day challenge had been good for me. I felt I was growing. I felt more confident in who I was as God's child. I felt content.

Today... today couldn't have gone much more differently. First let me clarify – it's not "couple" stuff. We're good. It's not even "husband" stuff. He's good. It's "my" stuff. I'm not so good. I went into today knowing it probably wasn't going to be pretty. Truth is, if my counselor had asked me to put a word to how I felt inside before we started, I would have said "toxic." There was a rage boiling just beneath the surface that I didn't understand and I didn't want to even look at... It's too scary to get too close to it. But I knew I had to. So... yeah... it was a tough session – trying to get to areas where I still shut down; I still can't go.

By the end of the session I didn't feel toxic anymore... but I also didn't feel capable of going where my next blogpost was "supposed" to go. In part, because I just didn't have the emotional energy to deal with it (or anything else). In part, because... if I'm honest... I was letting satan whisper those all-too familiar accusations in my ear: "Look how messed up you still are, Jenn! You thought you were growing? Well, think again! You can't keep it together for more than a couple weeks. You haven't gotten anywhere! How on earth could you believe that you have anything to say that could possibly benefit anyone else? How arrogant! What a hypocrite! You know you haven't learned a thing. You're nothing but a poser and you have absolutely no business writing anything!"

Can I just admit that even typing out those lies has my throat tight and tears in my eyes?

So my fear for Day Twenty-Nine:

I am afraid of being stuck (not making progress).

Evil doesn't play fair. He knows just where to push. He knows where I'm vulnerable. He knows that I hate the thought of being right back where I started... of all my effort and tears being for nothing... of being stuck here... forever. He plays on my fear; uses it to try to disable me. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

Maybe I should start with what my counselor told me as I prepared to leave his office. As I stood to walk toward the door with my shoulders slumped and head hanging, he looked at me and said, "You can do this. You know how I know you can do this?"

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:13)

He continued, "You know what else I know? Apart from Him you can do nothing."

"I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit,
for apart from Me you can do nothing.
(John 15:5)

I can do all things through Him, but without Him I can do nothing.

To be honest, I simply nodded my head. They were familiar verses that at that moment didn't have the impact they should have. They should have been freeing. They should have impressed on me that it's not MY battle. It's God's. And while I may feel "stuck" at times, God never is:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 1:6)

It is God who began the work in me.

The word "began" in this verse carries the connotation of the very beginning (creation). I didn't begin the work that's going on in me. My therapist didn't begin the work that's going on in me. God and God alone began it – long before I even saw it; long before I even knew I needed it. It wasn't my responsibility to begin it. It isn't my responsibility to complete it. My responsibility is to simply submit myself so that I'm working with Him, not against Him. My responsibility is to allow Him to work in me.

for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:13)

It is God who is at work in me!

Not only did God begin it, but He is at work in me at this very moment. God – the all-knowing, all-powerful, God of the universe – is working in me! For His pleasure! That's a pretty amazing piece of Truth.

And circling back to Philippians 1:6:

God will continue His work to perfection.

"He... will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." The work in me is a continuing work in progress. It won't be finished until Christ returns. But it is in process. I am in process. I am His work; His masterpiece. And God is not going to quit. He doesn't give up. He doesn't stall out. Paul is reminding us of what David told us long before:

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
(Psalms 138:8)

God will complete His plans for me... with mercy, kindness and faithfulness.

David tells us God will bring to completion the plans and purposes He has for us (the things concerning, or applying to us). But do you see what comes next? In the very same breath, he talks of God's lovingkindness: His kindness, mercy and faithfulness. David is painting a picture of work done with love and care. Listen to what he's saying –  a work done with love and care... like an artist laboring over his work.  An artist creates not just with his hands, but with his heart. That's the picture David is painting.  That's what our Father is doing:

But now, O LORD, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
(Isaiah 64:8)

God is working with the love and care of an artist;
carefully sculpting and shaping each detail.

You know, I've heard that verse a thousand times. Somehow, though, I've always envisioned a messy lump of clay being transformed into a simple, monochromatic, functional piece of pottery. When I started writing about Psalms 138:8 today, though, the image began to change. He's working with love and kindness... He's working with the heart of an artist! Suddenly, instead of a simple, functional piece of pottery, I am envisioning an exquisite piece of artwork bursting with color and creativity; a masterpiece labored over with great attention to detail.

The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
(Deuteronomy 32:4)

God's work is perfect!

The problem with a masterpiece? All those fine little details... the careful attention... it all takes time.

But listen to what God says through Habakkuk:

For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
(Habakkuk 2:3)

In the first part of the verse, God promises that His goals will be accomplished. But if we look at the next part of the verse we see just how well God knows us. He knows our impatience. He knows we're going to look around; not see anything happening; and become frustrated, disillusioned, or even try to take things into our own hands. He knows! So He answers us before we even get there and says, "Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay."

God knows it will seem slow to us!
So He warns us and tells us to wait for it.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
(Habakkuk 2:3, NLT)

God's plans are not delayed – they are right on His time schedule.

It seems slow.  But it only seems slow to us. He's still working; still fine-tuning all those little details that will bring me – His masterpiece –  to perfection. Sometimes from my perspective it may look like nothing is happening; nothing is changing; no progress is being made. The artist sees the little details that I don't notice, though.

My daughter is an artist. She notices things that I miss. I can look at a painting and appreciate it as a great piece of art. She, however, notices the details that I don't: the intricate shading; the color variation; the attention to shadows and light. I don't really notice those details. She not only notices them, she spends what sometimes seems to me an inordinate amount of time on them. And yet it is the artist's patient attention to those details – details I don't even notice – that makes it a masterpiece. Those little details take time. And the work is coming together whether I can see it or not.

As I was studying Habakkuk 2:3, I discovered that the author of Hebrews actually quotes it in Hebrews 10:37 (and Hebrews 10:38 goes on to quote Habakkuk 2:4).  I took a look at it in Hebrews and was a bit surprised by what I found:

35Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. 37FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. 38BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. 39But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul
(Hebrews 10:35-39)

Oh wow. Think about that for a minute. The NT scripture is quoting an OT scripture (in all caps) in which God tells us that what may seem slow to us, is in fact still coming. It will happen, just wait. And then the NT scripture starts off the reference with "do not throw away your confidence?!" That just blew me away.

I don't know about you, but that speaks to me right where I'm at: As I'm walking out the door of my counselor's office, head hung low, shoulders slumped, with the words of satan echoing in my head: "You thought you were growing? Well, think again! You haven't gotten anywhere! How on earth could you believe that you have anything to say that could possibly benefit anyone else? How arrogant! What a hypocrite! You haven't learned a thing. You're nothing but a poser and you have absolutely no business writing anything!"

And God answers, through His written word – words written long before I was born – "I know it's taking awhile... but I'm working... it's coming... wait for it, Jenn... don't throw away your confidence."

My head lifts and my heart jumps.

Don't throw away your confidence!

The confidence I'm to keep hold of is not a confidence based on I can do, but on God; His Word; His promises; His faithfulness; His process; and His timing. I am to have confidence in the Artist. He's working on a masterpiece! That... that's enough to put tears in my eyes. Not the tears of despair and lost hope that satan wanted to push on me... but the tears of hope, love and gratitude; the tears that flow when you realize just how very much you are loved and understood... and how very special you are to the one who loves you.

But the encouragement doesn't end there! After God tells us to not throw away our confidence; after He reminds us of the OT scripture that tells us to wait for what's coming; then the author of Hebrews tells us:

But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction,
but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul
(Hebrews 10:39)

We are not to retreat, but to have faith.

When satan filled my mind with the lies that I was getting nowhere, it felt useless to even try. Part of me wanted to retreat, pull into myself and quit. That pulling into myself? That's one of those destructive protection mechanisms I've been learning to overcome. And retreating into destruction is exactly what satan wanted. He wanted to disable me by convincing me to give up; to return to those things which would destroy me instead of reaching toward the things that could destroy him. But the God of the universe knows my weaknesses; my vulnerability to losing confidence and retreating. And He whispers words of encouragement and understanding, "Don't draw back, Jenn; don't retreat. I know it's taking awhile, but I'm working. It's coming... wait for it. Don't throw away your confidence, Jenn. Have faith!"

Do you hear the love? The tender reassurances from a God who knows you better than you know yourself? The only thing I can do at that point is relax in His grip with tears of gratitude and echo the words of thanksgiving from the Apostle Paul:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21)

And even those simple words of gratitude have a message all their own:

God is the power working within us...
and He is able to do much more than we can imagine!

Father God, thank you so much for speaking to me through Your word. Thank You for the reminders that You are working in me – even when I don't see it. Thank You for the beautiful picture of an artist creating a work of art with love and patience. Thank You for knowing me and providing the words of encouragement that I would need – long before I needed them! Oh, Daddy! Help me to remember. Help me to hold onto confidence; to not retreat back into destruction. Instead, help me to have the faith to know that You are working even when it seems slow to me. I am a masterpiece! And You care enough to spend time on the details. 

Oh, Daddy... Thank You! 

And to You who can do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works within us,
to You be the glory!

Fear: I am afraid of  being stuck (not making any progress).


  • I can do all things through Him, but without Him I can do nothing. (Philippians 4:13, John 15:5).
  • It is God who began the work in me. (Philippians 1:6)
  • It is God who is at work in me! (Philippians 2:13)
  • God will continue His work to perfection. (Philippians 1:6)
  • God will complete His plans for me... with mercy, kindness and faithfulness. (Psalms 138:8)
  • God is working with the love and care of an artist; carefully sculpting and shaping each detail. (Isaiah 64:8)
  • God's work is perfect! (Deuteronomy 32:4)
  • God knows it will seem slow to us! So He warns us and tells us to wait for it. (Habakkuk 2:3)
  • God's plans are not delayed – they are right on His time schedule. (Habakkuk 2:3)
  • Don't throw away your confidence! (Hebrews 10:36)
  • We are not to retreat, but to have faith. (Hebrews 10:39)
  • God is the power working within us... and He is able to do much more than we can imagine! (Ephesians 3:20-21)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).