Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Life is Sacred

This time of year many churches talk about the sanctity of life. We take time to acknowledge the number of babies being killed by abortion every year. I have shared several times in this blog 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 first associated this verse with Moses' time when Pharaoh ordered the midwives to kill Jewish babies and then with Christ's time when all boys under the age of two were to be put to death to make sure the new born "King" would not rise to power. 

I discovered this verse when I was having my own babies and I found myself frequently meditating on it. I could not wrap my mind around the brutal orders given by the men in authority that were responsible for the deaths of so many little ones. It became even more disturbing when I stood over a baby-sized coffin, weeping with my friend as she buried her six-month-old. My heart ached for every child lost and for every mama standing with like my friend, with empty arms and engorged breasts, weeping for a baby wanted. It hurt my heart to know those mamas could never hear their babies cry again. Never hear cute little belly laughs. Never hear them call, "Mama," after bad dreams. Never hear them sing or watch them dance. Never see them play tag, catch balls, or swim races. Never celebrate the milestones we often take for granted--first steps, birthdays, graduations, holidays, and marriages, and grandchildren. As my friend's baby was laid to rest, I could hear Rachel weeping with all the grieving Mamas.  

As I read through the Old Testament, I saw some other things I believed might have caused Rachel to weep as well. As Israel moved into the Promised Land, some made unholy alliances with people who were steeped in pagan worship. Pagan religions were fear-based religions centered around idols representing angry gods. To appease angry gods people sacrificed virgin daughters who were taken to temples to be sexually abused and trafficked by temple priests. Some parents even offered babies to be burned before stone idols. It was common enough that God forbid the practice in His Law and required the death penalty for those who did such things in Israel. I believe as young daughters were taken and left with priests and when babies were placed on altars that Rachel could be heard weeping. 

Its easy for us to judge those who sacrificed babies in pagan worship, but we are just as guilty of sacrificing children. Some sacrifice children by letting godless schools and daycare centers raise them and indoctrinate them with perverted confusing ideologies. Some sacrifice them by spending time on technology, leaving children feeling invisible, unheard, and unloved. Some sacrifice them when we vote for legislatures to go easy on those trafficking our sons and daughters. Some sacrifice their children when they protect families' or churches' reputations by covering horrific abuse going on. Some sacrifice 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 covers up the atrocities of abortion by blocking stories that talk about it in a truthful way. They cover it by calling abortion by different names. They call it "women's health care," but it has nothing to do with a woman's health. They have labeled it as "a woman's right to choose," while refusing to acknowledge that there are plenty of choices to be made before a child is conceived. They cover it up by calling a baby "a clump of cells." We may not be offering our children to gods of stone, but we are offering them to gods of ease, unbridled pleasure, selfishness, addiction, pride, and convenience. I believe Rachel can be heard weeping for children who need to be loved and protected. And when Cain killed Abel, God told Cain Abel's blood was crying out from the ground...if we could see the blood of all the aborted babies crying out, we would be swimming in it.  

I have heard the reasons women give for being proabortion. Some say it is needed because a pregnancy interrupts the education and careers of women. But I know women who have been moms and judges, and nurses, and teachers, and business owners, and architects, and Bible study leaders, and authors, and artists, and dancers, and musicians, and a host of other things. Some have stated that it is needed for rape victims, yet the abortion industry doesn't often report sexual abuse of minors that resulted in a pregnancy. And the number of abortions performed everyday and the number of women marching and saying they are proud of their abortions shows that abortion is no longer a somber decision, but a matter of 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 a preferred sex. Those are both very hard and serious marital and spiritual issues that can never be resolved through abortion.   

When Judge Barret was nominated for supreme court, women came out in droves wearing handmaiden costumes in protest of Barret's nomination and lifestyle. This showed how intolerant some are. My mom told me that as early as I could talk I wanted baby dolls and when asked me how many kids I wanted, I always wanted six. As an adult I still wanted six kids. When I got pregnant with my third, fourth, and fifth babies, some were happy for us but others made us the brunt of jokes and rude questions and comments. We chose to stop after our fifth baby, because I wasn't sure my body could carry another child and because I had suffered trauma at the hands of a brutal doctor during birth of my fifth child. It was a hard decision and one that I grieved deeply. Some don't understand that some women desire and enjoy children and want large families. 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 proabortion people are not prochoice when the choice a woman or a couple makes is different than theirs.    

I pray 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 been brutally terminated. 

One year our church put up crosses on its lawn to represent lives lost every day to abortion. I know some people believe it is shaming, but I don't know any better way of making people aware of the number of babies that lose their lives and the number of women who are often left grieving with no help and support in the aftermath.  


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. They say that babies don't feel, but the NICU nurses gave us very careful instructions on how to touch her with out causing her pain. Those nerves in the thin skin of a premie are fully alive and near the surface. . 

Children of church-going people have been sacrificed as well. It occurs when abuse is covered up to protect the abusers' and the churches' reputations. It occurs when church going women and teens get abortions to cover shame they feel over unplanned pregnancies. Sadly, terminating a life will never solve a sin or shame issue. In fact it increases the guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, and regret, causing grief over a lifetime. I am so thankful that churches in our area provide safe groups in which women can confess to one another the choice they made to obtain an abortion. They can come out of hiding and grieve openly the babies they terminated, and they can experience God's lavish grace in the context of real relationships. I am sure every year in those groups Rachel can be heard weeping 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 even born. Issacs's parents were told. 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 so she could play the music while pregnant. The birth mom complied and played those songs daily. When Sarah sang those songs 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 that magically become babies after birth. They are humans fashioned by the living God. 

I long for the day that Jesus reigns in perfect love and righteousness and all living beings consider life as sacred. I also long for the day that He will he wipe away every tear every "Rachel" has wept. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Even if the Worst Comes

The last year has been a tough year for me emotionally, as it has been for you. The hardest thing for me has been the comments in social media and the news that is written to evoke fear in the hearts of those reading them. I even hear similar remarks when I speak to people in person. It even occurs in Christian circles when someone says something like, "If we don't repent we are going to be in big trouble and God is not going to bless us during this election." As events unfolded January 6th, the comments in the media took on an even more hyperbolic and fatalistic tone which increased my anxiety. On Sunday I listened to a sermon/chat given by Ben Stewart and Louis Giglio of Passion City Church and passion and hope began to replace the gnawing anxiety that had been rising over this last year. As I process the fatalistic comments in light of Louis and Ben's chat the words "even if the worst comes" keep ruminating through my head. 

If things continue to radically change and our voices are silenced and policies that God-fearing people have been calling for get reversed, I want to live in a way that honors my God. As I think about the people whose stories were told in the Scriptures, I realize I want to be like the brave and faithful ones. 

If the worst comes, I want to be a Nehemiah. When he heard the people who had survived Israel's exile were struggling and shame-filled because the wall of Jerusalem had been breached and its gates had been destroyed, he wept and mourned and fasted, continually praying before his God. His prayer was powerful as it acknowledged God's greatness and faithfulness of God and it confessed the sins of His people. It was powerful as he beseeched His God to be attentive to the words of those who feared His name and to give them successes and mercy in the sight of their enemies for His name sake.  

If the worst comes, I want to be a Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and later cast into prison because of a false accusation. He probably felt like the worst had come into his life. Yet, he remained faithful to his God and lived a life marked with such integrity and diplomacy that those who enslaved him raised him to a high position, enabling him to prepare Egypt for a great famine. This  brought him face to face with those who had sold him out and allowed God to weave forgiveness in his heart as well as a deep abiding trust in His plans. This hard that he had faced put him in the place to provide for Israel during the famine, ultimately saving the blood line of Christ. If the worst comes, I want to be a Joseph to save lives--the lives of the unborn, the abused, the the marginalized, and those in need. I want to live in such a way that integrity marks my life and makes God's light shine through me so those in power take notice and begin to want those things as well. 

If the worst comes, I want to be an Esther. She was a young Jewish woman who lived during the time that the Medes and Persians took over Israel and through some crazy circumstances she become a queen. Her uncle notified her that Haman was planning to destroy all the Jews in the land, which meant even her life was at risk. Esther didn't react out of the fear she must have felt. She acted wisely, instructing her uncle to gather all the Jews in the region to fast and pray for her for three days and nights. Then she courageously went to the king uninvited. During a feast she had requested in that meeting, she exposed Haman's plot to kill her people. Because of her courage in the face of danger and uncertainty, Haman ended up being hung from the gallows that he had prepared for Ester's uncle and the lives of her people were preserved. I want to live in such a way that the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ would be deemed valuable and precious enough to be preserved. 

If the worst comes, I want to be a Daniel. He was a young man when Babylon besieged Jerusalem. He was taken into captivity because he was good looking, wise, educated, and competent to stand in the Babylonian palace. They were given Babylonian names and forced into what we would call a reeducation camp. But Daniel resolved to not defile himself with Babylonian foods and took a stand for him and his friends and God filled them with more strength and wisdom than the Babylonians. Daniel later shared the Lord with the king when he interpreted the kings dreams. Because he earned favor with the king, his friends became rulers over provinces and Daniel remained in the palace. Daniel and his friends refused to bow down to the king's stature. Three were rescued from a fiery furnace and Daniel from a lion's den. The thing for which I admire Daniel the most is his faithfulness. He received visions from God and became a prayer warrior like no other. His prayers like Nehemiah's proclaimed the truth of who God is and the truth of their nation's sins and rebellion. He also acknowledged their failure to not listen to the prophets. He then implored the Lord to turn His anger away from Jerusalem and to show them His mercy. I want to be a Daniel who was known as someone who spent enormous amounts of time on their knees. 

If the worst comes, I want to be a Steven who in the face of great persecution continued to share the gospel. In the face of martyrdom he was face to face with people who were so enraged and hate-filled  that they gnashed their teeth at him. He turned his eyes towards heaven and saw the glory of God and was filled with the Holy Spirit and said, "Behold, I see the heaven opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." And as the stones began to pelt him, he said, :Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them." I want to be a Stephen who can pray for my enemies in life and in the face of death. 

If the worst comes, I want to be a Paul. He was a faithful servant who suffered much for the cause of Christ. Even though he was shipwrecked, beaten, and put in prison, he remained faithful and penned some of the most powerful epistles we have. He loved well, prayed continually, evangelized, discipled, and courageously confronted abusers who infiltrated the church. I want to be a Paul who was a shepherd and teach others how to live out their faith in a world that isn't paradise. I want to do as he instructed in Colossians. I want to be found laboring with other believers near and far, faithfully lifting them before the Lord. I want to guard my heart and mind that I might not be deceived by the enemy. I want to quench immorality, impurity, evil desire, and covetousness, malice, slander, and obscene talk. I want to speak truth from a compassionate heart, a kind spirit bathed in humility, meekness, and patience. While I want to be a warrior for the Lord, I also want to be known as someone who forgives and prays for her enemies. 

In closing, when I was in college, my dormitory was overrun by male students demanding the right to be in the women's dorms. (I know that tells my age!) The national guard was called in and tear gas was shot at students and into dorm rooms and there were guns everywhere. I was terrified. So, as much as I am puzzled, frustrated, and even angry about some of the things going on in Washington, I understand our lawmakers were traumatized and many are reacting out of that trauma. Let's agree to peacefully disagree about all sorts of things, but lets agree to pray faithfully for our lawmakers every single day so God's wisdom will fill them and our democratic republic can continue to be a beacon of hope for the world. 

Introduction

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!