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Friday, August 28, 2015

Guest Post by Rebecca Jones~Noisy Quiet Times

Jones family
My sister, brother and I

This article by Rebecca Jones was first published in Presbyterian Church in America’s Messenger, May 1991. I remember reading it but I was only 19 years old then. Now, with 5 kids of my own, I can actually relate. This brought tears to my eyes as I realized my own struggle is no different than my mother's.

As a child, I always loved the Lord. One vivid childhood memory stands out. With the rest of my tearful family, I am at the bottom of the stairs of our home in Pennsylvania. A hurricane rages outside. Floods are pouring into our basement. Yet we are only aware that the doctor is upstairs examining my little seven-month-old sister—will she live or die? Each of us prayed fervently that evening. I begged my Father in heaven to spare my baby sister. The following morning a surgeon performed exploratory surgery and discovered intussusception —in time! My sister Anne is now the mother of five. From the moment her life was saved, I knew God was there and that he loved my family. By the time I was eleven I had established very regular habits of “devotions.” I don’t think I missed a day until I was married at twenty.
Earlier habits were disturbed. I was no longer alone in the evening and I had to get up and out early to my teaching job in a school for delinquent girls. This kind of stress was entirely different from writing term papers! The next year I taught seventh and eighth grade in an inner-city school in Trenton, New Jersey. With no experience, no text books and expecting a baby, I left each morning feeling sick. I cried whenever I wasn’t in front of my students.

Disappearing Quiet Times
The battle had begun. My “quiet time” began to disappear, squeezed out by grading papers, fixing meals, teaching, and by sheer exhaustion. Little did I realize that the rhythm I developed that year would one day seem easy.
Since then my life has been a whirlwind. We left for France via England, where our second child was born. When we arrived she was only three weeks old. I faced learning a new language, getting settled in, the birth of a third child, the discovery that our second little girl was deaf (with all the emotional and physical energy involved in her education). Still later, more children, a home to build and later yet a second. Of course, there is always housework, laundry, meals, always a baby or a toddler, guests, parties to give, Sunday School to teach, Cued Speech classes to present—I’m sure you can imagine the rest.

Where Did it Go?
What happened to my quiet time? In 1985, we were in the States for a six-month furlough. I was alone again with six children to raise, since my husband was traveling. I felt particularly guilty about not having my personal time with the Lord. Late one night I was reading a Christian book on the disciplines of the Christian woman. When I got to the part that suggested setting my alarm clock at 3:00 am to have my quiet time, I slammed the book closed and threw it at the wall. That book has probably been a blessing to many, but I never dared finish it. For me, right then, it just made me mad. My alarm was already set. Not for 3:00am, but for a reasonable 6:00am, so I could wake before the baby’s feeding at 6:30am. Since my various duties had already kept me up well past midnight, I would be getting plenty of piety points by getting up at 6!

But God?
The next morning at 5:45, the baby began to cry. So did I! Why did the Lord seem to be deliberately frustrating my attempts to be with him? Why was he avoiding me? Surely, he could have kept the baby asleep for forty-five more minutes. Like a kind of spiritual neon sign lighting up in my soul, Isaiah 40:31 flashed into my mind. To my knowledge, I hadn’t read that passage in the days before, but the Lord whispered it to me now:

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, the will walk and not be faint.”
Am I one whose hope is in the Lord? My soul shouts out a resounding “Yes!” Does the fact that I haven’t opened the Bible in week mean I don’t love him anymore or that he has abandoned me? My soul shouts out a resounding, “No!” A few weeks ago, I got up early to spend time in the Word before breakfast. I couldn’t concentrate. Two of my girls were already dressed and in the kitchen, getting their own breakfast in time to get off early to school. Without thinking, I went out to pour their tea, give them a kiss and listen to last minute lessons before their math test. Did I do the right thing?

New Understanding
Some of us may be surprised to find out how many hours we have actually spent with our Lord Jesus when we meet him face to face. He may ask me, “Don’t you remember giving me breakfast before I went to school and showing me you cared about my math test?”He may ask you, “Don’t you remember giving me that lovely warm bath when I left my jacket on the bus and was so cold coming home?” “Don’t you remember staying up late listening to my pain and comforting me when I felt so rejected by my so-called friends?” “Don’t you remember entertaining me among those fifty guests who stayed till 2:30 am and washing up those dirty dishes after us?”

We will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?” The king will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
No, I haven’t stopped trying to have my quiet “quiet times.” Maybe someday when my seven children are a little older and my schedule slows down I will be able to have them on a regular basis again, as I long to do. In the meantime, I’ve learned that my noisy “quiet times” are every bit as precious and honorable in God’s sight. I’ve also learned that right now, it’s one of the precious ways he chooses to commune with me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Is the church ready for a post-abortion world?
Baby at 5 months in the womb

My neighbor, a foreigner to Germany, my friend and prayer partner came to me one day, hesitantly excited about her new pregnancy. She had another child, a 5 year old boy, and a husband who was a friendly neighbor but not a Christian. She was hesitant because she did not know how he would react to her news. Eventually she told him and his response was, “you need to get an abortion, or else I will leave you and take our son with me.” My friend came to me very distressed. She knew abortion was wrong. We spent a long time talking, praying and asking God to give her the strength to withstand his blackmail. A few weeks went by. She knocked on my door. She told me she had not had the courage and that the fear of man had overcome her. There was no more baby. We held each other and cried for such a long time. I reminded her of the forgiveness found in Jesus. Ever since, she has drifted. I have moved away to another part of town and have very little contact with her. Being there for her in that moment was important, but it would have cost me a lot more if she had had the baby. What would it have cost to be a good friend to her had her husband followed through with his threats? Giving her a place to stay? Being a regular babysitter? Helping meet her physical needs? Helping her find a job? Would my church have stepped in to really support her in her decision?

The videos that have exposed Planned Parenthood’s horrendous practices have caused much uproar in the media and in my own heart. This got me thinking about the possibility of organizations like this being shut down and of abortion being seen for what it really is. But imagining a world without abortion also brings up a lot of questions for pro-life people and for the church. We, the church of the Lord Jesus, cannot claim to be pro-life, unless we are willing to back those words up with concrete actions of support. Living in a world without abortion is what every pro-life advocate wants, but are we prepared for it to cost us our all? Are we prepared to be consistent and authentic in our lifestyle both as individuals and as churches?

1. No legal abortion means a lot more children up for adoption
Some women genuinely fall in love with their babies once convinced not to abort and end up keeping them. However, if abortion is not an option, there will be a lot more babies up for adoption. The numbers will be in the tens of thousands yearly. Interestingly, one of the marks of early Christianity that  confused the Pagan mind, was that Christians would often rescue exposed babies, adopting them into their families and raising them as their own.
Are pro-life families today able and willing to step out of their comfort zones and adopt these unwanted children, providing for them a healthy and safe environment, free of abuse and full of love and grace? Most Christian families I know are not currently seeking to adopt, even though there is already a crying need. Would this attitude change drastically? 

2. No legal abortion means more people in jail
Really? Yes, if abortion were to be considered a criminal offense, as most radical pro-lifers would like, there would have to be consequences for breaking the law and we would expect our jails to be overflowing with doctors and grieving mothers who most likely leave other children behind. Is this something we want and are prepared for? Who will be visiting these people in jail, caring for their families and telling them all about the love and forgiveness of Jesus? Who will follow through with them so that they can have a hope and a future once they serve their sentence? Would we be consistent enough to track down the father who might have been the one to force his wife or girlfriend into an abortion? Just because the abortion is performed on the woman’s body does not mean she is the most guilty party.

3. No legal abortion means the industry will be driven underground
We all realize that making abortion illegal will drive the abortion industry underground. Women will not stop having abortions even if they are made more difficult to obtain. Doctors will offer black market services. The selling of baby parts will continue for the highest bidder and unwanted children will be more likely to end up as sex slaves, as is currently the case in Asia. Will pro-lifers be willing to start life-saving and rescue organizations like International Justice Mission whose sole goal it is to fight hidden injustice and rescue people in slavery?

4. No legal abortion will mean long-term service to single mothers or broken families in crisis
If a single woman can be convinced to keep her baby and care for her child herself, who will step in to be her advocate, helping her make ends meet, giving her the childcare she needs, being an emotional support to her? If a family is in crisis, who will intervene with marriage and family counseling, budget planning or other practical aid? We cannot expect the State to do this for all the thousands of broken and hurting families across the country. Abortion seems like an easy solution and currently hides a lot of societal problems, such as teenage pregnancy, pre- or extramarital sex, relational crises, abusive husbands, selfish wives and the list goes on and on. Is the church prepared to counsel people in broken relationships and circumstances without pushing them away with judgment?

5. No legal abortion will mean a lot more care for disabled children
Many children are currently aborted because of suspected defects such as Down’s syndrome or other genetic diseases. We will see a rise in severely disabled children if abortion is outlawed. Will the church get involved to help these families grieve the loss of their children or care for their special needs children? Will they live out the message that all life is worthy of life and all people are made in God’s image however disabled they might be?

6. No legal abortion will reveal the hypocrisy in the church
One in five women who have abortions claim to be “born again” (see page 9 of Will people who claim to be pro-life stop using the services they condemn? Will they teach about what abortion really is? Will we live out our belief in God’s sovereignty and make decisions out of faith instead of fear? Will churches educate on marriage and family planning, looking more carefully into the contraceptives their members use or recommend,  as some of them are clearly abortifacient? Will we view our children as precious gifts entrusted to us, and model what it looks like to raise them in love?

7. Will the church be prepared to be truly counter-cultural?
Will the church be humble enough to teach its members that we are all like aborted babies, dead in our sins, helpless to help ourselves and reliant on outside help to save us from our wretched state? The apostle Paul referred to himself as an aborted child: “Last of all, as to one untimely born (in Greek aborted or still-born), he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain (1Co 15:8-10 ESV).” Weakness, helplessness, untimeliness and “unwantedness” can be redeemed by God. Yes, even the tragedy of death and abortion can be redeemed by God.

No abortion will mean more sacrifice for the church, not less. My friend’s story is not unique. Would I have had the courage to stand at her side and help her through her choice for life? I don’t know and so I include myself in my own critique. As we cry in outrage over Planned Parenthood’s horrible abuses, are we, at the same time, prepared to be the kind of people who will sacrifice all in service to and love for the life of the image bearers that God placed on this earth? If not, our cries are just a noisy gong. Does this mean we should not work to end the evils of abortion? Absolutely not, but we need to be aware that it won’t be easy. We ourselves will feel like we are the untimely born, not fitting in to this world and its values. We will find that evil is like a spider’s web, a net woven so intricately that each strand of wickedness is connected to another. Pulling one strand only reveals another. It can be depressing but we must continue to fight all strands of injustice. Our hope is that, one day, God will set all things right. In the meanwhile, we are called to be wise as serpents, gentle as doves and in all things, show the love of Jesus who sacrificed himself for wicked people. He was cast off, left exposed, naked, outside the city gates. He experienced a fate similar to infanticide and yet cried “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” He can identify with the victims of abortion but it cost him his all to love the perpetrators. Can we too, like Jesus, commit to dealing with people in love instead of in hate? For in the end, the only power stronger than death is love.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Is Rachel Dolezal a new Caitlyn Jenner?

Rachel Dolezal is all the buzz today…She is a civil rights activist and a professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University, as well as a chair of the office of the police ombudsman commission in the city of Spokane and president of its chapter of the African American civil rights organization NAACP. She has regularly spoken out on local media about racial justice (The Guardian).

Rachel Dolezal
Her parents are claiming that she has been misrepresenting herself as black for some time now. You see, Rachel was born Caucasian, the race assigned to her at birth, but because she feels more comfortable in the black community and wants to champion its cause, she has changed herself, even her appearance, in order to become black. Her self-definition as black has caused an outrage because she lied about her identity. 

But let’s not miss the irony of our confused times. Dolezal is the product of the same culture as Caitlyn Jenner. Unlike the acclaim Jenner received for having the courage to be true to himself and become a woman, Dolezal is being shamed for living a lie. Why is Jenner brave and Dolezal a coward? We should not fail to see the absolute parallelism of these two biographies. If something as genetically defined as gender can be bent and manipulated to one’s one preference, why not race? If gender is no longer a binary objective truth based on biological facts, why is race still so protected as an identity category? Or is race now the next big obstacle to overcome? 

Even if we were to fault Dolezal for lying, would we fault a transgender woman for identifying herself as a woman if she moved to another state, checking the “female” box on forms or using the women’s restrooms, or would we expect her to reveal her old gender in every conversation? Would she be lying for talking about herself as a woman even though every chromosome in her body screams she’s a man? Are we saying that transgenderism is OK but transracialism (if there is such a word) is not? Who gets to define what is and is not acceptable?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for any of these things, just trying to point out the obvious ridiculousness of it all. This is the fuzziness that the blurring of all categories creates. We have become a world in which we are free to make ourselves into whatever image we desire. Even if hair color, plastic surgery and new clothes gives us the feeling of truly being what we want to create, the truth remains, that we cannot really change ourselves because we did not make ourselves in the first place!

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil (Jeremiah 13:23).