The True Third Party

There is so much digital chatter about a divide between two groups in this country that I call home. While I do see clear delineations on certain issues, there is more to the story. There is more to us, my fellow humans and I, than some cookie-cutter distinction between two groups for an entire set of issues. While I cannot speak for others, I can point out that I know a lot of wonderful people who adhere to some of the following, as do I:

I want health care to be affordable and accessible to all, regardless of preexisting conditions. I ALSO want a health care system that can respond to local needs instead of being controlled by the Federal Government, and one that does not bankrupt our economy.

I want my local law enforcement agencies to be sufficiently, or even abundantly trained, resourced, and staffed. I ALSO want every single person in my community who holds a badge and/or a position of authority to be held to the highest standards possible, with every abuse of power receiving just consequences.

I want tax-funded education to truly and relentlessly supply the opportunity for every child to discover, cultivate, and use their gifts. I ALSO want families to have freedom to make educational decisions for their children, since they know them better than the government does, without jeopardizing the overall health of the educational system.

I want every person’s voice to be heard, every person’s value to be seen, and every person’s contribution to be recognized. I want us to seek out and challenge every area where some humans are not being treated with respect and with care. I ALSO want the security of knowing that my community would never justify injury to my family or to my property in the name of righteous reprisal.

I want hard-working single moms and single dads to never have to choose between paying the light bill or buying food for their kids. I ALSO want careful, data-driven economic moves rather than knee-jerk, feel-good party lines that might actually stifle business instead of creating more jobs and higher wages.

I want a robust, effective immigration system that protects my children from those who do not believe in voting rights or term limits or education for girls or freedom of religion. I ALSO have friends who are undocumented immigrants who I would choose every day, any day, to work with and to trust before I would choose some individuals who can trace their family tree back to the Mayflower.

I want the freedom to take my children to Sunday School to learn about Jesus, and the freedom to professionally object to job tasks that are contrary to my beliefs. I ALSO want my fellow humans who do not share my beliefs to feel safe when they gather in their places of worship, or when they walk down the street, or when they ask for a day off for a religious holiday.

I could go on, but for now, I will rest in the hope that others understand my perspective or at least trust my desire for balance. Can we find a balance between justice and mercy, law and grace, security and charity, and progress and preservation?

I think the true Third Party in the United States is comprised of all of us who seek balance, integrity, and justice. It is all of us who, without a moment’s hesitation, would form a human chain to rescue a child in danger of being swept away by storm waters. We would not stop to label each other first. We do not have to compromise deeply-held beliefs in order to find common ground from which to show love and care for other humans.

The storm waters are here. Our children’s future is being framed. We need human chains.

Writing Her Story

It happened all the time. The woman came to court because a piece of paper said she had to, but it was the last place she wanted to be. He had threatened her, or took the phone when she tried to call 911, or trapped her in a room, or hit her. She did not want to recount one of the worst nights of her life to a room full of strangers, and told the Assistant District Attorney as much. She didn’t say those exact words, but simply stated, “I don’t want to testify.”

As a Court Advocate, convincing her to testify was not part of my job. Offering information, however, was. In the courtroom setting, this was the best information I could offer:

It is called the Power and Control Wheel. It is so named to immediately press the point that partner abuse is about just that, attempting to maintain power and control.

Here’s the second part to that line, “It happened all the time:” The woman would take a moment to study the Power and Control Wheel I handed to her, printed on a piece of paper. Then, there would be some slight variation of the reaction, “This is my relationship, printed on paper in black and white. This is my life.”

So many women were amazed to discover that the very set of behaviors they thought no one would believe if they described were all layed out on one piece of paper written by someone they did not know.

That type of discovery is powerful. It whispers to the woman that she is not the only one who has faced this. It offers hope that someone will believe her. It initiates a consideration that maybe it’s not all her fault, as her partner insists. It puts into words her hurt since she has become too tired to try to find those words. It warns of escalation.

And so it is with education: I was able to offer a tool that allowed women to make their own discovery. “Someone wrote my story,” they would say. And often, the next spoken thought would be, “But I don’t want it to be my story any longer.”

I don’t know if courage is found or if courage is born, but whichever way that goes, I am quite sure I saw it happen many times. Maybe not in the courtroom on that particular day, but I witnessed the courage of many women who decided to start writing their own stories again.

Maybe you know someone who is living this strange story where the person who is supposed to love her the most hurts her the most. Maybe your words to her have not seemed to be effective. Only when it is safe to do so, share the Power and Control Wheel with her. It may facilitate a discovery that your words could not prompt.

Maybe you see your story written in black and white in that Power and Control Wheel. Let it whisper what so many women who have been through this would shout: “Someone will believe you. This is not healthy. This is dangerous.”

Maybe it’s time to start writing your own story again.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

800.799.SAFE (7233)

31 for 41: Be There

Dear Donovan,

Basketball has been a huge part of our lives.  Your grandma was a great basketball player, the gift apparently skipped a generation, and then you picked up the game.  From rec games to travel ball, from middle school to high school, I have absolutely loved watching you play the game.  We have watched our UNC Tarheels win two NCAA championships together, and I treasure those memories with you.  I also treasure hearing the movie Space Jam played on repeat.

This last letter will not be a long one, so that you remember its message with clarity.  NBA Hall of Famer “Pistol Pete” Maravich is still considered by many to be one of the greatest offensive players ever of the game that we love so much.  He rose to the level of the game that so many little boys dream of achieving.  While at that level, however, he found many of its rewards to be empty, and then gave his life to Christ.  Instead of being rememberd for his points per game average, he once said that he most wanted to be rememberd for being a good Christian.

Pete Maravich was invited to be on the radio talk show of Christian psychologist Dr. James Dobson.  Before the appearance, Dr. Dobson invited Mr. Maravich to join a Tuesday three-on-three basketball game at a church gym.  After the game, Dr. Dobson asked the basketball great how he felt.  Pistol Pete said, “I feel just great,” and then dropped to the floor.  Pete Maravich died in that gym at age 40 from complications of a rare heart defect he did not know he had.

When Dr. Dobson went home that night, he went home to a 17-year-old son.  He told his son Ryan, “What happened to Pete Maravich today was not an isolated tragedy.  This is the human condition. Sooner or later, somebody is going to tell you that I am gone. I want you to … be there on that grand resurrection morning. I will be looking all over Heaven for you.  Be there, because that’s the one thing that matters, that you stay true to Christ and that you are found worthy to spend eternity with me and your mom and your other friends on that day.”

The only way we are found worthy is to be found in Christ.  When the time comes to die, trophies, accolades, expensive cars, and big houses mean nothing.  Pete Maravich once told a huge crowd at a Billy Graham Crusade, just before he was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, “I wouldn’t trade my position in Christ for a thousand NBA Championships, for a thousand Hall-of-Fame rings, or for a hundred billion dollars.  There’s nothing like the joy of Jesus Christ in your life.”

Watch that recorded video of Pete Maravich, and consider the words of a man who held in his hands the awards that many young men’s dreams are made of.  None of those awards could purchase entrance into Heaven.  Mr. Maravich had no way of knowing he would die so young, but he was prepared for death because he had accepted the free offer of forgiveness and cleansing that makes us acceptable into a perfect Heaven.

So I say to you, my son, “Be there.”  I want you to have a great career, a nice home, a beautiful family of your own… but above all, I want you to have Christ so that whenever death invades your physical body, your soul will be eternally with the Lamb who gave Himself for us.  I want you to be there in heaven.  Make sure you are there.  Just be there.

I love you forever and I want you to be with Jesus and me forever,

Your mama

D basketball at beach 2020 with sun spot

D semi final 6th rec

 

31 for 41: Buy the Truth

Dear Donovan,

A long time ago in a far away land, King Crocodile called for a meeting of the animal ambassadors.  Representatives from each species in the land came to hear the king’s announcement.

“Ambassadors,” King Crocodile began, “we are receiving a new species of animal into our land.  To keep the order of the kingdom, we need to rightly define these newcomers.  We must know the truth about who they are so that we can respond accordingly to keep balance in the land.  I say to you that whoever rightly searches for the truth shall receive a great reward for your children.  To gain this reward, you must love the truth and bring it to me.”

The animal ambassadors looked on with great curiosity as several members of this new animal family were introduced.  King Crocodile commissioned these new animals to live among the other animals so that they may determine the proper classification for the kindgom’s newest members.

After spending some time with these newest members, Father Wedge-tailed Eagle, Father Magpie, and Mother Kookaburra held a private meeting.

“This animal lays eggs and is warm-blooded, just like us,” said Father Magpie.  “We should declare to King Crocodile that this newcomer is a bird.”

Father Eagle turned to Mother Kookaburra.  “Do you agree?”

“I agree that Father Magpie’s facts are correct,” replied the Kookaburra leader.  “But, this animal nurses its young with milk.  No other members of our Bird Family in the kingdom have this trait.”

Father Magpie quickly interjected, “But we cannot tell that to the king.  If we want this reward, we must convince the king that we are correct.  Telling the king that particular fact about how this animal nurses its young will only weaken our argument.”

Father Eagle sighed.  A decision needed to be made.

Meanwhile, Mother Taipan and Father Bearded Dragon were trying to prepare their own declaration to the king.

“We have a strong case,” the Mother snake proposed, “to claim that this newcomer is a reptile like us.  It has to be since it has venom glands.”

Father Bearded Dragon said, “Your observation of the venom glands is true, but surely the King will see that this animal has fur instead of scales like us.”

Mother Taipan replied, “Yes, others can see that if they choose to look, but if we say it out loud, it will contradict our version of the truth that we want the king to accept.”

The reptile leaders looked at each other.  A decision needed to be made.

The next morning, the animal ambassadors gathered once again with King Crocodile.  Both the birds and the reptiles made their case to the king that this animal rightly belonged to their part of the order.

After hearing both arguments, King Crocodile asked, “This decision is important, for it affects the balance of our Kingdom.  Is there any more information you wish to offer before I classify our newcomer?”

Eagle, Magpie, Kookaburra, Taipan, and Bearded Dragon all considered the king’s question.  Yes, there were facts to support their respective claims, but each animal leader also knew they had not offered full information to the king.  Still, they dared not speak up for fear of losing the chance to receive the reward.

A sad look crossed wise King Crocodile’s face before he began to speak again.  “Ambassadors, I tell you now that this newcomer species is neither a bird nor a reptile.  It’s name is Platypus, and it is a mammal.”

The animal ambassadors dropped their shoulders.  The reward was lost.

As if he could read their minds, King Crocodile added, “I was prepared to give the reward to all of your children.  I know that the task before you was complex, but if you were listening carefully, I commanded you to love the truth and bring it to me.”

The king continued, “Each of you presented me with facts that supported your claim, but none of you were willing to offer all of the facts that you possessed.  You did not love the whole truth.  You loved only the truths that served you.”

The animal ambassadors all returned to their homes.  While pondering the king’s words, Father Eagle watched as his daughter played with Father Bearded Dragon’s son.  The children understood that there had been a competition of sorts, and that neither of their parents had won.

Seeing her father’s sad countenance, the young eagle approached and asked, “Why are you upset, Daddy?  The king knew the truth anyway, and kept the order, right?  It was just a competition.”

“Yes, my daughter,” Father Eagle gently responded, “but I see now that if your reptile friend’s Father and I could have discovered the truth together… if we had been open, honest, and cooperative instead of hiding in our corners trying to outdo each other, you and your friend could have received the reward of an undefiled search for truth.”

Donovan, I want your generation to receive the rewards of an undefiled search for truth.  I hope for it, but if it is not to be, then you personally may still have rewards for yourself if you love truth and seek for it purely.

The Bible commands, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Poverbs 23:23).  Because of my love for you, I wish to second that command with these thoughts:

The truth can be found.  

You must take the time to find it so you can buy it.

But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.  Deuteronomy 4:29

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  Matthew 7:7

Buy the truth, and buy all of it.  

Do not buy counterfeit versions or incomplete sets.  Do not cling to portions of it while ignoring or refusing to hear other parts.  It may be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and unpopular.  Still, be careful with your purchases by deciding to buy only the truth.

Buy the truth now.  

The search for truth should not be a venture that you begin in the future.  It should be today.  It should be every day.  If you are not using the compass of truth to direct your path even now, how can you hope to arrive at a good end?

Buy the truth, whatever the cost.

It does cost you, and it may cost you greatly.  You may lose the praise of men.  You may lose friends.  You may lose power, position, or money.  You may lose the chance to possess power, position, or money that you could have gained otherwise.  Still, buy the truth at any price.

God will not have you pay with currency that goes against His word, but it may certainly be with currency that contradicts your own comforts and wishes.  Whatever the cost, it is still far less than the ultimate cost of ignorance.  Whatever the cost, God in His faithfulness will ensure that the value of your purchase is greater than the price you paid.    

Sell it not.

Once you possess the truth, do not sell it… not for a job, not for a woman, not for popularity, not out of laziness.  To exchange truth for a lie will only lead to ruin.  Also, be warned that people on both sides of an argument may ask you to sell important and verified facts so that their position appears more coherent and complete.  Do not sell the truth.

Keep the truth encased in love.  

“Yes, if truth is not undergirded by love, it makes the possessor of that truth obnoxious and the truth repulsive.”  Ravi Zacharias

The truth will change you.

Obedience to God’s truth requires changes, adjustments, and corrections in yourself all along the journey to become more like His Son.

Here are C.H. Spurgeon’s words about this proverbial command:

“Even so, the text seems to tell us that truth is the one pearl beneath the skies that is worth having; and whatever else we buy not, we must buy the truth; and whatever else we may have to sell, yet we must never sell the truth, but hold it fast as a treasure that will last us when gold has cankered and silver has rusted and the moth has eaten up all goodly garments, and when all the riches of men have gone like a puff of smoke, or melted in the heat of the judgment day like the dew in the beams of the morning sun. Buy the truth. Here is the treasure. Cost it what it may, buy you it. Here is the piece of merchandise which you must buy but must not sell. You may give all for it, but you may take nothing in exchange for it since there is nothing that can be likened unto it.”

When you were little, you loved pretending to be a pirate.  With your eye patch and swords, you would set out on journeys to find treasure.  As you now make your final transition from that little boy to manhood, I hope that you will continue to be a treasure hunter.  God’s truth is the treasure.  Find it, buy it, and guard it.  It is the map that leads to joy, security, and rewards that cannot be stolen, both in this world and the next.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  John 8:31-32

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  John 14:6

I love you forever,

Your truth-seeking mama

D pirate in boat

D pirate on couch

D rex hat on beach on Thanksgiving

31 for 41: What You Will Be

Dear Donovan,

There was once a wise man who visited a school as a guest speaker.  During this man’s presentation, a high school student kept talking, making jokes, and generally being disrespectful.  After the presentation, the school administrator apologized for the unruly student’s behavior, and offered to bring the teenage boy to the speaker so that he may apologize.

“No, there is no need to do that,” said the wise man.  “He is not what he will be.”

The wise man was willing to look past the young boy’s antics and see his potential.  I think this is one of the greatest ways that we can love our children… to always view them through the lens of what they can be if given the sufficient time and conditions for growth.

This view is part of how I view the value of a human life.  I believe that each life is a creation of God, and therefore has intrinsic value.  I also believe that each life is valuable because of what it can be in the future.

Donovan, I need you to know that this view is my basis for believing that an unborn life is indeed a life, and should be protected.  I try to maintain consistency in my logic.  If my guiding principle, out of love, is to preserve life, then that principle should apply to an unborn baby, both for what it is and for what it will be.

I want you to know that my thoughts on the issue of forced abortion are not uninformed, careless, or thoughtless.  I began researching abortion as a teenager.  Throughout my life, I have listened openly and carefully to both pro-choice and pro-life arguments.  I have searched through and read medical findings.  I have dear friends who have had abortions, and I would never want to hurt them with my words.  My heart breaks when I think of all the women, who right now as I write, feel like they are in an impossible situation and are considering abortion.

When I was in college, I began to entertain more of the thinking of “I know abortion is not right for me, but what right do I have to tell another woman she cannot have one?”  You see, I DID NOT want to be one of those hateful, self-righteous, hypocritical people that some picture when they think of pro-life people.  Whatever I decided, I wanted it to be based in love and God’s word.

And while I am sharing this honest question I had, let me say that it is ALWAYS okay to ask honest questions.  In so many ways, we as adults have failed you and your peers in that you may be afraid to ask questions because you know that as soon as you ask them, you will be shamed, criticized, or attacked.  If you ever needed evidence of how an honest, truth-seeking, unassuming question can be met with hot-blooded verbal assaults and immediate assumptions about your character, it is being provided for you and your peers today, all over social media, by adults.

To move forward, let me tell you about the next part of my journey in wrestling with this issue of abortion.  During the summer before my senior year of college, I shadowed and assisted a surgeon in the Dominican Republic.  One day, I walked into an empty room, searching for something the surgeon needed, an everyday activity in an area where medical resources were severely lacking.

I stopped when I saw it.  It was a tiny baby.  It had ten fingers and ten toes.  It was beautiful and perfect.  It was no longer alive.  I do not know how or why its life had ended.  What I do know is that God spoke to me in that moment, as I looked at that tiny baby against the contrast of a white bed sheet.

It was clear to me:  That was a life.  Instantly, my response was, “God forgive me for ever thinking it is okay to purposefully end a life like this one.”

Do I have all of the anwers about what to do when a mom’s life is in danger?  No, I do not.  Do I have my own conviction about forced abortions that have absolutely nothing to do with the preservation of life?  Yes, I certainly do.

I will not travel too far down this path in this written letter, but I will tell you this, my son:  You need to do your own research.  There are extremists on both sides of this argument who will try to hand you half-truths laced with guilt and fear while sitting atop their high horses.  Since you will not be responsible for their actions, but for your own, it is important that you not exchange your own investigation for their cheap, self-serving sales packages.

One of my personal investigations in the past was about the possiblity of a link between abortion and breast cancer.  We have long known that carrying a child to full term reduces a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer.  As early as the 18th century, there were studies about how nuns had much higher mortality rates from breast cancer than their contemporaries.  Breast cancer was even once referred to as “Nun’s Disease.”

Along the way, more and more research prompted from this knowledge indicated that spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) before 32 weeks are associated with a higher rate of breast cancer.  Documentary filmmaker Punam Kumar Gill Hush discovered this body of knowledge while doing her own research for her film Hush.  It was important information to her, as she had lost a son shortly before reaching 32 weeks in her pregnancy.  If her risk of breast cancer was increased, she wanted to know!

I appreciate Punam Kumar Gill’s honest question so much.  As a self-labeled pro-choice feminist, she asked the question that I will paraphrase:  “If we have so much evidence that miscarriage before 32 weeks increases a woman’s chance of breast cancer, is it not also possible that a forced abortion before 32 weeks increases a woman’s chance of breast cancer?”  (end paraphrase)  I had seen evidence of this link in my research in the past, but my most recent searches of the websites of organizations like the American Cancer Society and the National Institute of Health are either silent on this matter, or claim that there is no link.

Here is Punam Kumar Gill’s own response to her extremely professional and thorough search:

“What I found most sickening, though, is that the media and health organizatons have spent their energies closing the case and vilifying those who advocate in favor of instead of investigating any and all reasons why breast cancer rates among young women have increased, and women are dying.  If women have the right to abortion, they should also have the right to know.”

And there it is, Donovan.  There are many who immediately accuse me of wanting to control women, or at least of being complicit in a system that does seek to control women, if I say I am pro-life.  I ask you, “Which is a more controlling behavior, limiting the amount of information a woman has before she makes a decision that can affect her reproductive, physical, and mental health for the rest of her life, OR working to ensure that she has FULL, unbiased information before she makes such a monumental decision?”

In the words of Punam Kumar Gill, again:

“It is true, the long term risks associated with abortion are generally promoted by those who want abortion gone.  But this does not make the information untrue.  Those who completely deny any long term risks have artfully shut down the conversation because they fear if they concede the procedure has adverse effects, abortion will be banned.”

Because I DO care about women, I think they deserve the full truth.  As you make your own decision on this matter, I hope you will watch documentaries such as Hush.  It brings up some very legitimate questions in my mind:

-We know that the National Health Institute delayed its support of an enormous data set about the link between cancer and tobacco use, related to connections between its funding and senators of southern states where tobacco production was an important part of the economy.  Do these same conflicts of interests around funding, research methods and findings, and release of information to the public exist today around the issue of abortion?  Is solid, reproducible data that could help save lives being passively hidden or even intentionally silenced because of money and politics?

-Why does the United States have one of the highest pre-term birth rates in entire world?

-When warnings about pre-term labor and low birth weight were placed on cigarette packages, the data set to link those health outcomes to tobacco use was far less than the data set we have now about the link between induced abortion and risk of later pre-term births.  So why aren’t we alerting women about this link?

-Is there a link between China’s decades of government-sponsored population control and sex selective abortion and the alarming rate of increase of breast cancer in that country?

-Why are some people who say they care about women trying so hard to silence women who have had abortions?  Could it be because “Women who have had abortions tend to be the loudest voices in terms of trying to educate the public about the potential harms.” (Dr. Priscilla K. Coleman)?

Let me give you an example of the damage that might have already been done because of some people’s efforts to hide data that casts abortion in a negative light.  When a woman experiences a pre-term birth, it puts her in a category of being at risk for a subsequent pre-term birth.  With all of our medical advances, there are treatments available to reduce the chance of a second pre-term birth.  If the medical community refuses to admit a link between abortion and a higher risk of pre-term birth in a later pregnancy, then women are not screened for this risk factor.

Of course, we cannot assume an outcome for all situations.  But we can ask ourselves if many women could have avoided a pre-term birth experience by knowing of their risk after abortion and then seeking medical interventions as a result of possessing that knowledge.  To be fair, we can also ask ourselves how to help women feel more comfortable telling a doctor about their past abortion so that we can better support their current pregnancy.

I want babies to live.  I want teenage girls to live.  I want women to live.  I cannot understand why it is acceptable to suppress reproducible data that warns of risk factors to women for obtaining an abortion.

You can be a man who loves women by using your male voice to declare that women should have full information.  Many women do not even know that the estrogen-progestin hormonal contraceptive they put into their bodies each day is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen.  You do not have to make the giant, unreasonable leap to “women should not have access to birth control pills” to still speak up for women and say that they should be informed of this fact!

Asking honest questions and doing your own research does not make you a conspiracy theorist, a heartless chauvinist, or a sheep.  It makes you a wise man who can be neither bought nor hoodwinked.

You will encounter many women who have had abortions, but you will probably rarely know that about them.  For this reason, when you interact with others on this subject, always be gentle.  So many women and men have deep wounds from experiences of losing a child or multiple children from abortion and/or miscarriage.  They need love, not judgment.

It is possible to love each individual, regardless of their choices, while maintaining your belief that the preservation of life is the moral choice.  You can show a consistency in your belief system by seeking to understand the factors that frequently bring women to a position of despair over a pregnancy, and by working to address those factors.  Too many people give lip service to a woman’s right to choose, but take little interest in supporting women so that they have a reduced risk of reaching the point of considering an abortion.

I hope that you and the twins will see in me a consistency of beliefs.  When I say that I do not want women to choose abortion, you should also hear me vocally denounce sexual assault, partner violence, lack of access to medical care, and other factors that negatively affect women and often lead them to a point of seeking an abortion.  You should see me trying to be the best teacher I can be to help young women maximize their potential.  You should hear me sounding an alarm that we need more resources and help for women on both the preventative side, before an abortion might occur, and also on the supportive side, after a woman has had an abortion.  There must be both a declaration of truth and a demonstration of grace.

I very well could have been aborted, but your grandma chose to have me at age sixteen.  I could have avoided the situation of being a single mother by aborting you.  When both you and I were a mass of cells in the womb, we were no less a creation of God than a one-year-old child or an 800-year-old Redwood Tree.   We had more value than the tree, though, because we were created in the spiritual image of God.  That gave us value even before our fingers were fully formed.  We also had value, though, because of what we could become… humans who seek to use their gifts to glorify their Creator and love their neighbors.

This has not been a fun letter to write.  Right now, I want to cry over all of the hurt and loss and lost potential surrounding this issue.  While people argue over this issue from their comfortable positions, there are women and girls who are hurting.  I want those women and girls to know that they and their unborn babies are valuable and loved, and can have beautiful lives.  I want them all to get the support they deserve, simply because they exist.  I believe in the potential of a human, at each stage of his or her life.  I try to always choose life, in whatever form that takes.  I hope you will do the same.  

Finally, you have to know that I always wanted you and I always will.  Life with you has been, and will continue to be, a beautiful journey of seeing all that you become.

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.  G. K. Chesterton

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  Psalm 139:13-14

Love is kind. (from 1 Corinthians 13:4)

 

I love you forever,

Your mama

31 for 41: The Book and Belteshazzar

Dear Donovan,

I know I am not supposed to worry, but I do.  When I think of what the future may be for our country, I worry about my three sons possibly having to live without the same freedoms we enjoy now.  If I dwell on that possibility, it is hard to hold back tears.

When this type of despair rises within me, I try to remember the prescription for worry.  With thanksgiving, I am to give my requests to God.  On the particular issue of worrying about my sons’ future, I find comfort in asking God to keep my boys in His care like He did for Belteshazzar.

Let me tell you about Belteshazzar.  When he was a teenager, his home was overtaken and its government overthrown.  He was taken captive and brought into a land with a very wicked government and society.  Belteshazzar was strong, athletic, intelligent, and good-looking.  That made him a prime candidate for the king’s program of re-education and power consolidation.

Belteshazzar refused to be corrupted.  He kept his faith in God, even though bad things had happened and his own home lay in ruins.  He rejected the gluttony and idolatry of the day, and God made him notably healthier and wiser for it.  Over the course of his lifetime, he demonstrated a quiet discipline and a faithful prayer life.  He kept his integrity, even when others were jealous of him and plotted against him.  Belteshazzar refused to conform to societal norms that violated his faith, even when there was government enforcement behind those norms.  He chose to obey God rather than men.

Now, as you can imagine, being such an oddball meant that things were not always easy for Belteshazzar.  There is a price for purity.  What is so comforting to me about his story, however, is that Belteshazzar’s life was always protected.  In a sense, he was untouchable.  That is what God can do for His child.

Not only that, God so worked in the details of Belteshazzar’s life that he was promoted to the highest government position in the land, second only to the king himself.  A wicked king gave his most trusted and powerful position to a man who refused to accept the king’s religion and social program.  That is what God can do for his child.

Belteshazzar was a writer.  He obeyed God by writing down things that made no sense at the time.  He was probably mocked by the people of his day for his predictions, but we now know that some of the events he predicted have already been fulfilled with incredible accuracy.  In fact, the preciseness of Belteshazzar’s predictions, including a prophecy of the coming Messiah, prove that he was a true follower of God.  The book that Belteshazzar wrote has been used in the lives of so many people to help them trust the validity of an even greater collection of books, the Bible.

From the time that Belteshazzar lived, even until now as I write to you about him, he is collecting eternal rewards for being obedient to God when nothing in the world made sense.  He could have doubted God’s care for Him, or even God’s dominion over the affairs of men, given the outward circumstances.  Instead, Belteshazzar chose prayer and purity, and found God’s presence and protection to be all-sufficient.

As you seek to be a good man, is Belteshazzar a good one to emulate?  How about this for an endorsement: Belteshazzar was once visited by the angel Gabriel, who tasked him to deliver a message from God.  Gabriel, a being who attended the very throne of Almighty God, reassured Belteshazzar, “Thou are greatly beloved.”  Be a man who seeks to be beloved of God, regardless of the price on Earth.

Jesus spoke of Belteshazzar, validating both the man and the prophecies he was instructed to write (Matthew 24:15).  Jesus called him by his Hebrew name, though… Daniel.  The meaning of this Hebrew name is “God is my Judge.”  I love that!  It reminds me that regardless of the political and social circumstances around us, my sons need not fear the personal judgment of humans nor the legal judgment of governments.  Since God is the True Judge, you are safe as long as you stay close to Him.  He sees all, and He will make all things right.

Daniel was given a new name when he reached the land of his captors, a name meant to honor a false god of that land.  His captors wanted to erase his God and make him forget the faith of his family.  Daniel refused to let that happen.  He was greatly blessed and divinely protected, even from the lions, because of his faithfulness to God.  Be a Daniel.  Be faithful to God and to His Book, and the True Judge will keep you in His loving care, come what may.

My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me. Daniel 6:22a

I love your forever,

Your mama

31 for 41: Come and Go

Dear Donovan,

A man once told a story of traveling with a business partner.  He was a believer in Christ, but his friend was not.  Riding in a taxi from their hotel to an event, they passed by an abortion clinic where a protest was taking place outside of the facility.  There were signs with bible verses, but the people holding the signs were not acting Christlike.  When the taxi driver was finally able to pass through the commotion, his business partner turned to the Christian and said, “If it were not for you, I would hate those people.”

That statement often sounds in my ears.  Much damage has been done by people who called the name of Christ, but who did not understand or accept the nature of His kingdom.  When people point out the immorality of and harm done by hypocrites, I would say that Jesus completely agrees, and had very strong words for hypocrites.  Read one of the harshest chapters in the entire Bible, Matthew 23!

Those who seek to discredit Christianity often highlight injustices committed in its name:  Crusades, Inquisitions, European and American witch hunts, support of slavery, and violence against Jews and Muslims.  In response, I would exhort you, as I have done in other letters, to study history!  In each of those historical occurrences, the motives behind the unChristian methods were about acquisition of resources, consolidation of monarchical, social and/or economic power, and/or the unholy love of money.

Those who twisted the Scriptures for their own purposes were not following the orders of the Christ they claimed.  When Jesus said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), He was not referring to social world peace on Earth at that point in history, nor of a physical sword for violence against others. His peace is offered for the eternal soul, and the weapon He spoke of was a spiritual sword, as His message ultimately divides all humans into two groups.  When He spoke of a literal sword, it was to tell Peter to put his away so that the will of the Father could be done (Matthew 26:52).  That will was not to conquer lands or nations, but to conquer the hearts of people.

Let me paraphrase some remarks by Ravi Zacharias on this issue:  Jesus never sought political power.  He never sought to use the sword to silence the enemy.  His method was to conqer through love.  That method is slower than the way both religion or anti-religious groups would do it.  When an atheist kills, it is in keeping with his worldview.  When a Christian is hurtful or violent, he is in violation of Christ’s teaching.  Never judge a belief by its abuse. (end paraphrase)

To follow Mr. Zacharias’ advice, let us judge Christianity in history by those who truly lived it.

I look at the life of David Brainerd, a man who lived in the wilderness, survived on moldly bread, and sacrificed his health to take the story of Jesus to Native Americans.  He did not try to conquer their lands, but instead worked to secure their lands.  He did not try to sell them alcohol, but instead tried to help families battling excessive drinking.

I look at the life of Betsey Stockton.  She was born a slave, but once granted freedom, chose to live out her convictions, traveling with missionaries to Hawaii.  There, she championed the cause of the education of the local children, learning their language so that she could teach them English, Latin, Algebra, and History.

I look at the life of William Wilberforce, who used his social position, his talents, and his money to fight for an end to the British slave trade.  He lobbied other governments to end the slave trade, and called for an end to the institution of slavery altogether.  He imported his Christian values into his work to reform hospitals, asylums, prisons, and refugee care.  He was opposed and threatened, and he suffered illness, but he kept going.  

I look at the life of Amy Carmichael, who risked her life to help little girls escape a life of prostitution in Hindu temples.  In spite of living with severe pain, she cared for hundreds of unwanted children.  She respected their culture through actions such as dressing in Indian clothing herself and giving Indian names to rescued children who needed a name.

I look at the life of Elisabeth Elliot, who obeyed God when she took her three-year-old daughter to live among the same Auca people who had killed her husband.  Her husband had died trying to make peaceful contact with some Auca men, in the hopes of later being able to tell them about Jesus.  Before that contact, he and the other men who died with him had already determined they would not fight back if attacked.

When James Calvert and a group of missionaries set their course for the Fiji Islands in 1838, knowing that some of the people there practiced cannibalism, the ship captain tried to turn them back, saying to Mr. Calvert, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.”  Mr. Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”

True soldiers of the Kingdom of Christ are individuals who have died to self and have accepted the Savior’s call to go tell others about His offer of love and forgiveness.  They are not after money or power or recognition.  Like Jesus’ first disciples, they are fishers of men, women, and children.  True Christians want nothing from others, but only want the greatest gift for them.  

Do true Christians use the name of Christ for engorgement of their own wealth?  Oh no.  We are debtors to all, responsible for living righteously so that we may earn the right to share the good news with others. (Romans 1:14)

Do true Christians interpret Bible verses to achieve oppressive political, social, or emotional power over others?  Of course not.  We are to proclaim the power of Christ’s resurrection, and be prepared to share in suffering so that others may experience His power.  (Philippians 3:10)

Do true Christians take advantage of the human search for love, acceptance, and forgiveness in order to gain prestige and popularity?  No.  Like John the Baptist, we say “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Are true Christians trying to earn their way to heaven by works on Earth?  Nope.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

In the front of my Bible, I have a phrase written that I heard a preacher once say was a summary of the entire book:  “Come, and then go.”  The Bible invites us to come to the Son of God, who is pictured in each of its 66 books.  This theme stays congruent although the books were written by many different authors, on three continents, over a time period of about 2,000 years.  Each author’s inspired words point to Christ in some way.

To all who come to Christ, the command that follows is to go tell others about Him.  For some, “to go” means to serve on a local or foreign mission field.  For others, it means to finance and support that work.  For all of us, it means to live in such a way that others will want to come.  For all of us, it is about eternity, and not about temporary gains on this Earth.

As you go out into the world, you will meet people who truly have been hurt by those who abused the name of Christ.  Be sensitive to those injuries.  Strive to be a man of whom others can say, “He’s the real deal.”

Think of Kenneth Cates, and how his life story is one of modern-day miracles and the increase of the true Kingdom of Christ along the Amazon River.  Never have I met a man so humble, so disinterested in wealth or accolades.  And perhaps never have I been in the presence of one so powerful.  He never had need of government financing, an army, a college degree, or a bestselling book in order to accomplish all that was done.  His life demonstrated that when you are fulfilling Christ’s commission to go, you have His power.

Be a man who lives out the command to go and tell others that Jesus loves them.  Tell them that there is nothing to earn and nothing to pay.  Just invite them to come.

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.  Revelation 22:17

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.  Matthew 28:19-20

I love you forever,

Your mama

31 for 41: Choosing a Bride

Dear Donovan,

When you were little, I always tried to make Christmas morning extra special for you.  It’s the reason I would pay close attention when you watched toy commercials or talked about the play things that you liked.  It’s the reason I braved Walmart at midnight on Black Friday, and the reason I once stood in line outside of GameStop at 5:00 am to get a special blue Nintendo DS package.

I planned, I saved money, I didn’t purchase things I would have liked for myself… all because you are my son and I wanted to give you good gifts.  I possessed the desire to give you what you want.  Since I am your mother, and lived with you and studied you, I also possessed the ability to select things that you wanted.  I also chose many things for you that you never asked for or even knew existed, but since I knew you so well, I knew you would love them… and you did.

I want you to now consider that, even though I tried my best, my efforts to give you good gifts can never match God’s gift-giving skills.  Talk about having the desire and the ability to give you good things… the One who created you knows exactly what will provide you with joy and fulfillment, and He has all power to make it happen.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”  (Matthew 7:11)

Some people forget this truth when it comes to selecting a husband or wife, or struggle to trust it.  It certainly is such an important decision, one of the most important decisions you will make in your life.  For that very reason, many struggle to trust God instead of their own thinking.  For that very reason, though, a wise man will allow the One who designed him, and who knows the hearts of all women, to make the best match.  

Many have found out, in the worst ways, that their own thinking on this matter was flawed.  As your mother who wants you to have the wonderful gift of a wonderful wife, I do not want you to make the mistake of choosing the wrong one.  I would like to offer seven questions to ask yourself about any woman whom you consider to be a potential partner for life:

1. Is she a true believer in Christ?    Be ye not unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14a)

2. How deep is her beauty?  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.  Proverbs 31:30

3.  How far does her love reach?  Does she possess the qualities of a Proverbs 31 woman, who works hard and gives unselfishly because she loves her family and loves her neighbors?

4.  Is she content and controlled, or is she contentious?  It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.  Proverbs 21:19

5.  Does she seek to love you in the ways that you want to be loved?  Two people can both work hard to show love to each other, but both can still feel unloved if their partner is not willing to try to speak their love language.  (Love) “seeketh not her own” from 1 Corinthians 13:5

6.  Are you prepared to love her, for the rest of your life, as Christ loves his Church?  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. Ephesians 5:25

7.  What do multiple healthy, balanced, trusted adults, who love you deeply and unselfishly, think of her?  Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.  Proverbs 11:14

There is another summary question, and it is this:  “Is she the one God has chosen for you?”  The One who created you understands you better than anyone else.  Trust His care and timing for this crucial matter.  It will affect your happiness, your future children’s happiness and development, your finances, your career goals, your circle of friends, and your own spiritual state.

The Song of Solomon proves that marriage is intended to be beautiful, intimate, and fulfilling.  Just like I delighted to see your joy on Christmas morning, my desire is to see you happy and fulfilled in a healthy, loving marriage.  I am speaking from experience when I say that God can give you above and beyond what you thought you wanted or needed, if you trust His giving.  There is no perfect woman, but there is the perfect woman for you if you let God choose her.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Psalm 37:4

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.  Proverbs 18:22

I love you forever,

Your mama