To Love or Not to Love

Yesterday was 9/11, a day that only needs numbers for us to be reminded of the unspeakable evil associated with it. Today, someone very dear to me is walking through a situation none of us should ever have to walk through, due only to the choices of others.

And I ask why. Why is my world full of hurting people? My husband’s title is “Pastor of Freedom Ministry” at our church; his job is to help set captives free, which assumes some level of captivity to begin with. There’s a never-ending stream of people that come through too, looking for solutions to their pain. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who hadn’t been wounded in some way or another, whether they wanted to admit it or not.

The question, whether asked aloud or not, is always the same: “How could God let this happen?” In other words, if God really is a loving, kind Father, like we Christians say He is, then how could this horrible thing have happened? How could thousands of innocent people have been killed in a terrorist attack? How could an innocent child have been so horribly abused at the hands of a parent? What about rape? Murder?

Evil is real. Horrible things happen on our planet–and God doesn’t stop them from happening. How, then, can He really be the benevolent deity we’ve always heard?

What if the fact that these things happen is proof of His love? Read more »

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Scooby Doo and other childhood disasters

My children are not allowed to watch Scooby Doo. Depending on your perspective, that either makes me mom of the year or crazy. They’re allowed to watch Disney flicks, all the Lord of the Rings movies, and a few others we keep just between us.

But not Scooby Doo. Read more »

Writing, Regurgitation, and Frogs

I’m on a “writing retreat” at the moment, all by myself. I’m staying in a guest house on a gorgeous ranch in North Texas (yes, such things really do exist), enjoying the hospitality of a new friend.

And I’m supposed to be writing.

When I planned this time away, I had visions of coming home with five or six gloriously crafted chapters, all making profound statements on a cutting-edge topic, one that could seriously shake up some of my circles. I envisioned needing to write an official book proposal by the end of the week, courting agents and publishers with my earth-shattering revelation. I pictured the thousands upon thousands of words I would write, officially becoming–a writer.  Read more »

God(ly) Parents

My daughter Anna asked me a great question the other day. “Mom,” she said. “Are Uncle Robb and Aunt Jill like my God-parents?”

It dawned on me that yes, they are, and have been since my children were born. This couple, and others like them, have been spiritual parents to my children, filling gaps, supporting us, providing safe places for them when they needed it. And yes, I’m sure they have needed it from time to time! Read more »

Falling Out of Trees

Blogs are a dangerous thing. One person, one computer, and a never-ending stratosphere of possible opinions.

Opinions are a dangerous thing. You can become so enamored of them that you fling them on everyone around you, like so much Christmas tinsel. And at the end, when you’re done, you’re left with them. Such as it is.

I’m all for having opinions. I have lots of them. Just ask me. Or ask my husband. He’s fairly well-versed in my touch-points, and is gracious enough to let me have them. He’s amazing, that man. (That’s objective truth, not an opinion.)

Sometimes opinions cross a line, and become convictions. Wonderful things, those. Convictions are the things that lead people like Martin Luther King Jr. to march on Washington and change history. They are things that cause people to rise up to oppose injustice, rallying men like William Wallace to fight to the death for the freedom of his people. Women like Christine Caine and others become consumed with their convictions to free those enslaved in the sex trade (a conviction I share, though sadly, not to her level at this point).

Would that we all had deep convictions like those, causing us to rise up in the face of adversity, going beyond our human frailty to accomplish something outside ourselves, something bigger than we are.

The danger lies in confusing the two, turning our opinions into convictions. And then the real problem occurs-we feel that others need to share what we now believe to be convictions. We draw lines in the sand, daring others to disagree with us, and when they inevitably do (we humans have a deep-seated need to be right. Wonder where that started.), we vilify them, calling them ‘out of their ignorance’. Sometimes we even call them names.

The root word of conviction is the word convicted. Held prisoner. Chained to. Enslaved by. In Christian circles, we use the term ‘convicted by the Holy Spirit’ to describe where some of these things come from. I myself have a few of these: that Jesus is the true Son of God. That He came, in human form, to die for my sin. That He loves me, unconditionally. That His love is for the whole world, bar none. That real New York pizza is proof that He loves me.

Ok, maybe not that last one. Maybe.

Seriously, though, I think I would be willing to sacrifice everything I have–to die for my real convictions. At least I think I would. I’ve never had those convictions challenged in that way, so all I know is what I’ve got. I’m as convicted by those things as is possible at this point in my life. I am held prisoner by a love that gave all for me, voluntarily chained to the One who created me and knows me down to the number of hairs on my head.

These, I believe, are convictions I’m willing to go to the mattresses for.

Honestly, there’s not much else beyond that. I’m convicted that I will remain faithfully married to my husband for the rest of my life. I’m convicted that my kids are mine for a reason, and I’m the best they’ve got (that one keeps me up at night sometimes).

But I have a wealth of opinions. Ask me about everything from politics to the current situation facing my favorite football team and I’ll happily talk your ear off. I have opinions on where to shop, where to eat, how local traffic should work, what constitutes a too-high heel (on a shoe) and what is inappropriate on TV. I’ve been known to be a bit vocal about these things (don’t shake your head at me; if you know me, you know it’s true). I love a good debate, and won’t shy away from entering the fray.

Recently, though, I’ve been convicted in a different way. I’ve been convicted by grace and honor. I’ve become enslaved by the idea that, at the end of my life, Jesus isn’t going to ask me how many times I was right, or how many people I persuaded to agree with me. He is, however, going to ask me if I loved my neighbor. If I gave out to others the grace that was given me when I first believed, and every day thereafter. Did I honor those in my sphere of influence, treating them as if they were valuable? Or was I so concerned with being right that I alienated others?

In the Garden, there were two trees. One brought death. The other, Life. Since Eve made her unfortunate choice (moms everywhere are still regretting that one), mankind has become expert at leaping from one branch to another of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We defend ugly, hateful speech as ‘it’s the right thing to do’. I mean, after all, we know the plan top to bottom, backward and forward, right? We have the lock on what is right, and what is wrong. 

Don’t get all bent out of shape. Are there boundaries we shouldn’t cross? Absolutely. Murder, in all its forms (another conviction of mine, but that’s a blog for another time). And yes, there are moral boundaries. But the reason those boundaries were put in place was not so that we could browbeat others into submission; they were put there to help us avoid death. When we respond to others out of that place of rightness, we risk sacrificing ourselves on the altar of pride and self-righteousness, both of which only lead one direction.

How about, instead of throwing down the gauntlet and questioning others’ sanity, or salvation, or intelligence, we honored them, extending grace in situations where we might disagree? What if we were more concerned with relationship than rightness?

What if we switched trees? You in?

New York State of Mind

I’m a New Yorker. I haven’t lived within the state borders since 1987, and I’m married to a native Texan. But I’m a New Yorker.

New York has a distinct smell all its own: fuel, asphalt, pollution, roasted peanuts. Millions of people all living in a small space. Walk around the city for a while, you’ll lose count of all the languages you hear. Drivers honk first, look later. Stepping into the street is taking your life into your hands; taxis appear literally out of nowhere, and yes, they will run you down.

Jaywalking is an art form, as is getting on and off the subway with all your limbs intact. ‘Personal space’ takes on a whole new meaning on the subway too–there might not be any. Things cost a fortune. A fortune. Except for pizza. Not pizza. Read more »

The View From Here

I turned 40 on Tuesday.

40. That’s 10 more than 30. 20 more than 20. Halfway to 80. Forty. Four-oh.

When I was 20, I knew everything. By the time I hit 30, I realized I knew nothing. Now that I’ve hit 40, I’m aware of what I don’t know, but I’m also aware of some things I’ve picked up along the way. Here they are, in no particular order. Read more »

The Siren Song of Sports

I like sports.

Yes, that was out loud. Me. I. Like. Sports.

Loud, fast, violent sports. Football. Basketball. Even hockey, if it’s live (my poor old brain can’t follow the puck around the TV screen; nope, not even with the little yellow tracer thingy). From mid-August through early February, I don’t schedule things on Sunday afternoons, Monday nights if I can help it, and recently Thursdays have become a bit sketchy. Football’s on. Read more »

Sheroes

Heroes. Superheroes. Sheroes.

I’ve recently been pondering two major themes in my life: mountains and biblical womanhood, not necessarily in that order. Since I live in Texas and the closest real mountains are a day’s drive away, I’m choosing to focus a little more on women.

A friend (the inimitable Zach Neese) posted a word on Facebook that caught my attention. He used the word ‘sheroes.’ As in, heroes that are girls. Women. Sheroes.

So I started pondering all the sheroes in my life that have rocked my world in one way or another, and you know, I’m pretty overwhelmed by the list. And not a one of ’em wears a cape. At least, I don’t think they do. They might. They’d be justified if they wanted to. Wear a cape, that is. Read more »

Climb Every Mountain

I have a new fascination.

Mountains.

Yes, mountains. Climbing them, reading about them, pictures of them, you name it – I’m in. I recently read Jon Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air, chronicling his 1996 ascent of Mt. Everest; it sparked something in me I didn’t know was there.

I want to climb stuff.

Read more »