Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Rachel is Still Weeping

As I was watching Amy Comey Barret's hearings, my heart ached for what she and her family were being put through just because so many are for abortion. I knew as I watched it was time to revisit the topic of abortion. I have shared before that when I read the Bible through for the first time, Matthew 2:18 left me feeling unsettled. "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more." I also shared that I first associated this verse with Moses' time when Pharaoh ordered midwives to kill Jewish babies and with Christ's time when all boys under the age of two were to be put to death to make sure the "King" would not rise to power. 

At the time I discovered these verses I was having my own babies and as I thought about those verses, I could not wrap my mind around the brutal orders given by those men that were responsible for the deaths of so many children. This was especially true as I stood over the baby-sized coffin weeping with my friend as she was burying her six-month-old baby, my heart ached for every child that has been lost and for every mama that has stood with empty arms and engorged breasts, weeping for a child she wanted with all of her heart, but had to lay to rest. It hurt my heart to know those mamas would never hear their babies cry again. Never hear them laugh cute belly laughs. Never hear them call for her after bad dreams. Never hear them sing or watch them dance. Never watch them play tag, catch balls. Never celebrate those milestones that we often take for granted--first steps, birthdays, graduations, holidays, and marriages, and grandchildren. I couldn't help but believe as my friend's baby was laid to rest that Rachel could be heard weeping with all grieving Mamas.  

As I read through the Old Testament, I saw some other things I believed might have caused Rachel to weep. As Israel moved into the Promised Land, some of them made unholy alliances with people who were steeped in pagan worship. Pagan religions were fear-based and centered around idols representing angry gods. To appease angry gods, sacrifices were made and sometimes the sacrifices were daughters who were taken to temples to be sexually abused and trafficked by temple priests. Some parents offered babies to be burned on the alter of stone idols. It was common enough that God forbid the practice in His Law, even requiring a death penalty for those sacrificing children. I can't help but believe as young daughters were taken and left in priest arms and babies were placed on altars to be burned that Rachel could be heard weeping. 

Its easy for us to judge those who sacrificed babies in pagan worship, but aren't we just as guilty of sacrificing children? Some sacrifice their children by letting godless schools and daycare centers raise and indoctrinate their children with perverted confusing ideologies so they can live more comfortably. Some sacrifice them by spending time on technology and watching TV, leaving their children feeling invisible, unheard, and unloved. Some sacrifice them when we vote for legislatures to go easy on those trafficking people's sons and daughters. Some sacrifice their children when they protect their families' or churches' reputations by covering horrific abuse going on in their home or their churches. Some sacrifice their children to the god of lust by bringing pornography into the home, leaving it in the bathroom or on computers where it randomly pops up for little eyes to see. 

Some sacrifice their children by having them literally sucked and scraped out of the womb for convenience sake. Our culture is covering the atrocities of abortion by blocking stories that talk about it in a truthful way. They also cover it up by calling abortion by different names like "women's health care" when it literally has nothing to do with a woman's health. They have also labeled it as a woman's right to choose while refusing to acknowledge that the choice can be made before a child is conceived. They have also cover it by calling a baby "a clump of cells." As I said in the past, we may not be offering our children to gods of stone, but we are offering them to gods of ease, god's of unbridled pleasure, god's of selfishness, god's of addictions, god's of pride, and god's of convenience. I can't help but believe that Rachel can still be heard weeping for the children who need to be loved and protected. When Cain killed Abel, God told Cain that Abel's blood is crying out from the ground...if we could see the blood of aborted babies crying out, we would be swimming in it.  

I have quietly been reading the reasons many women give for being for abortion. Some say it is needed because it interrupts the education and careers of women. Could it be that Barret's hearing enraged many people because by her life and her choices she has proven that with a caring and involved partner women can successfully wear more than one successfully. They can be moms and be judges, nurses, teachers, business owners, architects, Bible study leaders, authors, artists, dancers, musicians, singers, and a host of other things. Some have stated that it is needed for rape victims, yet the abortion industry doesn't always report sexual abuse of minors that resulted in pregnancy. And the number of abortions performed everyday and the number of women marching and saying they are proud of the abortions they have gotten points to the reality that many view abortion as birth control. I have seen posts where women were in favor of abortion they knew women who had more children than they believed they could handle or who were pressured by husbands who wanted to continue to have children until they got the preferred sex. Those are marriage and maybe spiritual issues that need to be handled in counseling offices before conception takes place instead of abortion clinics.  

The handmaiden costumes worn by women in protest of Barret's nomination showed how intolerant some are. My mom told me that as early as I could talk I wanted baby dolls and when I was asked how many kids I wanted, it was always six. As an adult I still wanted six kids. When I got pregnant with my fourth and fifth babies, I could count on one hand the number of people who were excited for us. Most people made jokes about us and others asked rude questions that I would never ask. One of my friends even admitted to me that she had told the doctor we both saw that she thought it was insane, and my doctor graciously told her, "If anyone should have a big family it is her. She is such a capable mom." We chose to stop after our fifth baby, because I wasn't sure my body would carry another child and I had suffered trauma at the hands of a brutal doctor during childbirth. It was a hard decision and one that I grieved. Some don't understand that some women both desire and enjoy children and want large families and take it on themselves to shame women who make that choice. The handmaiden's costumes, the media's judgmental posts, and those crying that her appointment sets women back a hundred years and the jokes and rude comments made to me and my husband prove that proabortion people are not really prochoice when the choice a woman or a couple make is different than theirs.    

I pray often that our government will reverse laws that allow abortion. As I have prayed the period in which legal abortions can occur has been extended to the point that in one state it is up to full term and babies surviving are left to die. It hurts to see women who God made to be nurturers smiling and applauding the lives that have so brutally been terminated. 

Our church sometimes puts up crosses in its lawn representing lives lost every day to abortion.

As I look at all of those crosses I can hear Rachel weeping for the children, can you? 

As I sat by the incubator of our granddaughter born at 26 1/2 weeks, I prayed for her as I observed how perfectly she was formed. She had a head full of golden curly hair, was super active, fought hard for her life, and showed her spunky little personality when she would be woken up from a sound sleep for tests. I knew I was given a glimpses of life as it is in the womb and wondered how anyone could terminate it. 

I do know children of church going people have been sacrificed as well. It has occurred when abuse has not been reported, but was covered up to protect the abusers and churches' reputations. It has occurred when church going women and teens get abortions to cover shame they feel over pregnancies conceived outside of marriage or when it feels overwhelming. Sadly, terminating lives doesn't solve sin or shame issues. In fact it increases guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, and regret, causing grief over a life time. Thankfully, churches in our area provide are providing safe groups in which women can confess to one another their sinful choices. They can come out of hiding and collectively grieve openly the babies they terminated, and experience grace that is bigger than the shameful choices made. I am sure every year in those groups Rachel can be heard weeping along with the ladies who have the courage to attend. 

The psalmist wrote, "For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me in my mothers womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." We must understand our God is the giver of life and not equate choice with terminating life. God at times revealed his plans for people's children before they were born. Samson's parents were told. Mary was told about Jesus role. John the Baptist's parents were told and amazingly, John recognized the Messiah Mary was carrying in her womb while in his own mama's womb. I believe he leapt for joy when Mary approached. 

Sarah Purcel, who was on TV when I was young shared in an interview that she gave the birth mom of her adopted child a tape of her singing songs to play against her belly. The birth mom complied and played those songs daily. When Sarah sang those songs aloud in the delivery room, the baby quit crying and looked around for the one whose voice was familiar. Babies in the womb are not clumps of tissue growing. They are humans fashioned by the living God. I long for the day that Jesus reigns in perfect love and righteousness and stops the death of children. I also long for the day that He will he wipe away every tear every "Rachel" has wept. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Reconciliation--An Interesting Doctrine

Some friends and I are working through Cloud and Townsend's book, How People Grow. This book written from a Biblical standpoint helps me understand the process of spiritual growth. As a new believer I was often frustrated because I thought when I got saved I was instantly going to be changed into the person God had created me to be, but it didn't happen. I still struggled with sin, with negative thoughts and emotions, and with maladaptive ways of dealing with hurtful memories and hurtful relationships. This caused me, a perfectionist, to struggle with a lack of assurance of my salvation. My imperfections, the ugly and hate-filled thoughts that sometimes passed through my head made the person I longed to be seem out of reach. We eventually landed in a great Bible teaching church and fellowshipped with loving, godly believers several times a week. These transparent people talked often about how to rightly handle the word of God and how to apply it to our lives. I grew in my relationship with God, my assurance of salvation, and in my relationships as I began to understand the process of sanctification. When we began working through the book, I was struck by how much the doctrine of reconciliation plays out in the gospel and in our growth as believers. I was also struck by the fact that through the gospel we are not only reconciled to God, but to others and to ourselves as well. 

To understand reconciliation, we need to remember God created us to be relational with Him and with each other. In the Garden Adam and Eve enjoyed a pure, unadulterated relationship with God and with each other--a relationship that was open, vulnerable, and without any shame. When they sinned, their relationship with God became fractured and they became alienated from God. Colossians tells us bluntly that we, too, became enemies of God as demonstrated by our thought life and by our evil behaviors. By their choices, Adam and Eve also fractured their relationship as was shown by their feelings of shame and the desire to cover their nakedness. As Cloud and Townsend put it, their  vulnerability and intimacy was replaced by alienation, unfairness, adversity, and a whole lot of dishonesty. We don't have to read very far into Genesis to see the truth of that. And in their attempt to become like God they became fractured people who were actually less of themselves. 

As believers, we know we are reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul in his letter to the Philippians tells us we are to work out our salvation. When I read the words "work out" I was so  relieved because I realized this thing called Christian growth isn't an instantaneous thing, it is a process that takes time and energy. It is what I call practical reconciliation with God, with ourselves, and with each other. 

Practical reconciliation with God occurs as we read His word and interact with Him over it. Sometimes it is reading narratives of how God and His Son related to people and looking for His interaction in our own lives. Sometimes it is meditating on passages of Scripture and asking Him questions about them and waiting for the Holy Spirit to teach us the deeper things we miss on our own. Sometimes it is praising Him for His attributes and for being a God who actively and passionately pursues broken people. Sometimes it means being radically honest with Him when we are struggling to trust Him or when we are struggling with issues of sin and find ourselves wanting to hide from Him or cast blame on others as Adam and Eve did. It is being radically honest about the feelings we experience, both positive and negative, and reframing our circumstances and suffering through the lens of His truth and His loving, compassion. 

Reconciliation with others begins to occur when we are in a right relationship with God. It living out the "one another" verses contained in the Scripture--love one another, live in harmony with one another, do not judge one another, forgive one another, instruct one another, greet one another, do not deprive one another, submit to one another, and comfort one another. And, these one another's are just the beginning, there are many others contained in the Word. Practical reconciliation can also mean choosing to stay present and involved when relationships becomes difficult. It can mean separating from some people, leaving the possibility for relationship open once sin and hurtful behaviors are acknowledged and changed. Practical reconciliation lived out well is important, because iron sharpens iron and if we hide and run from the hard of relationships we won't grow. It is also important because the world is watching the church and if we can't love one another and work through the hard, why would they want what we have? 

Reconciliation with ourselves is a new idea to me. The Scriptures instructs us to love God and to love others as we love ourselves. Over the years I have heard pastors say we all love ourselves and I remember thinking, "If I loved my children the way I love myself, I would be sitting in a jail cell right now." I have come to believe our ability to love ourselves was as fractured by the Fall as our ability to love God and others was. For me, practical reconciliation with myself included things like learning about my identity in Christ and replacing my identity as a victim of trauma with that. It included learning about the depth of God's love and trusting it even in the face of the hard, the aftermath of sin and shame, and the midst of prayers that seemed to be unanswered. It included spending time with Christian therapists who did not judge me, but gave me a safe place to share the shameful parts of my story, my life, and myself. It also meant learning how trauma had impacted my views, thoughts, choices, reactions, and actions so I could choose to move out of victimhood, learn to love my enemies, and refuse to let Satan use my suffering to keep me from experiencing God and His joy. It meant leaning in to the very things Satan had used to try to destroy me so God could display His glory and healing power in my life. That was what helped God's love become a driving force in my life instead of past trauma. The doctrine of reconciliation is an interesting doctrine as it helps us understand more about God's infinite love and grace.           


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!