Do I Have To?

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I have experience.

Lots of it.  Some of it has come with kicking and screaming, but I have experience, nonetheless.  “What experience?” you may ask.

Well, it is …..

stick-to-it-ativeness. 

Yeah.  It’s not as beautiful as it sounds.  Trust me.  Everyone has one of two tendencies.  That is to fight or flee.  And, actually, I am by nature a flee-er.  Many times the option of “flight” seems pretty alright to me.  So, honestly, I don’t come by this naturally.

But, I am married to….you guessed it!  A fighter.

No, not a fighter, as in, he can’t get along with people and stirs up conflict.  He is the kind that won’t run from a battle.  He knows what is needed and will fight to see it happen.  He’s not a quitter.  His philosophy is, “I may not be smarter or more talented than others, but I can certainly outlast anybody!”  Um, clearly, this has made for some great fun over the years.

I like comfort.  I don’t like to go through the stretching and retching part of life.  I like for everyone to like me.  I want no hardships and certainly no sacrificing.  I want dreams and projects to flow smoothly.  I really don’t want conflict, hate it in fact.  I certainly don’t want to be judged or misjudged.  I like for the tasks I set my hand to to flow without hiccups or roadblocks of any sort.  I want everyone to agree with me and my opinions. And, I certainly do NOT need or want rejection.

It hurts. The hard stuff hurts.

Life tends to bring along those moments when we must choose.

There isn’t any way around it.  Someone or something intrudes into your dream or boundaries.  Something important is at stake.  The life or death of it depends on whether you stay and fight or run and flee.  Maybe it’s your family, a child, a dream, or a way of life. Maybe it’s your calling or vocation.  Perhaps it is fighting injustice or standing up for what or who is right.  Whatever it is, you will have to choose.

Either way, everything hangs in the balance.

I’ll give you 3 examples from my life.  Perhaps you can relate.

First of all, my husband and I started a new church back in 1994.  We were young.  We were inexperienced and truthfully didn’t have a clue as to what we had joined up for.  We were still trying to figure out who we were at the tender age of 24.  We had seen great success stories and figured we could pull off something just like those.  It took 7 years to reach the goal of 100 people.  It took even longer to acquire our own facility.  We worked hard.  It certainly wasn’t for a lack of hard work and sacrifice.  We barely survived on the meager salary.

About the third or fourth year in, I was done.  We had faced apparent failure on many levels.  I wanted to quit so badly!  My husband?  Oh, yes, I know he did.  But, we didn’t leave that congregation until 2008.  He would pacify me by telling me to just give him until May.  If things didn’t turn around by May, we would think about going somewhere else.  Well, he knew that once winter was over in Iowa, things always look better at some level, come May.  I figured him out, finally, about the third year of being told that.  I’m slow.

Second story.  In 2008, our family moved to Virginia to our second congregation.  This seemed as if our dreams were answered in one fell swoop.  Not long after moving here,  it seemed as if we had stepped into a nightmare.  This was a very different hard than our Iowa challenge.  We faced intense obstacles, setbacks, reversals, personal attacks, rejection, strife, and twisted plots.  The personal and professional price has been high. This church was in deep crisis and they weren’t in the mood to be helped.  So many times I could have been packing boxes on a moment’s notice.  All my husband needed to do was give me the word.  I was more than done!

Final story.  The first three years in Virginia seemed like they were from hell.  We took a huge financial hit when the real estate bubble burst and we needed to sell our house and move to Virginia.  Then, my son came to us and told us he had been sexually abused for three years by an authority figure.  Then, my other child was diagnosed with a serious medical condition after months of intense, unexplained pain and slow debilitation. Then, my father passed away after battling Alzheimers for 13 years.  This all happened within the first three years after moving to Virginia.  There were moments during those very difficult years I began to question the presence of God in my life.  I wasn’t so sure He could be trusted.

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Here’s the deal.

At any given point in my life, I desperately wanted to throw in the towel.  The pain felt greater than the reward.  And, yes, there have been some serious sacrifices made that only God will be able to make right.  But, we didn’t quit.  There were no magic formulas or bribes to hold us steady. The only promise we had to go on was God would see us through.  It might be painful, it might look ugly, but we would make it if we just didn’t quit.  “Those who quit remember the ordeal.  Those who endure remember the adventure.”  That has become a life value of sorts.

There are many giftings we don’t possess.  There are quite a few things we do well; there have been many mistakes along the way, too.  But one thing which doesn’t require talent or gifting is something we do have—“outlast-attude”.  We can outlast just about anything.

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You have to dig deep.  You have to stare your giant in the face and stare it down.  It’s not easy.  But, find the grit and the depth of character to outlast anything life throws your way.  Needless to say, I’m thankful my Honey had enough hutzpah for the both of us!

Your whole life and legacy depend on it.  Everyone who follows after you, depend on it.  It’s not just about you anyway.  It never has been.

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What Say You?

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I sit back and read and watch the exchange of powerful ideas.  The ideas of freedom of speech and the protection of human rights.  Debate argued from differing opinions.  Good.  That’s what America is about.  So, here is my freedom of thought and speech.  I will add mine to the count.

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This morning as I was relaxing in bed and enjoying this holiday weekend, I scrolled through social media.  Always an interesting way to start the day.  I came upon a video commentary about gay rights vs. Christian rights VS. gay rights vs. Muslim rights.  There is an incredible amount of hypocrisy going on.  Christian bakery owners aren’t allowed the same right to refuse service as Muslim bakery owners.

It isn’t real freedom for liberals to say a Christian cannot believe or practice certain things, if those practices disagree with their beliefs. 

Liberals and extreme leftist groups are some of the most intolerant folks I see today.  Christians don’t tend to be a vindictive group on the whole.  But, I see the LGBT rights’ groups working to massacre anyone who doesn’t agree whole heartedly with their views.  (Let’s be clear, I’m not saying all LGBT people are intolerant.  Just as I would not say all Christians are not vindictive.  I am saying the LGBT political groups, on the whole, are very militant and extreme.)  I’m not for hypocrisy from any camp, but the left is quick to point out hypocrisy among the Christian community.  However, nobody seems to really acknowledge that hypocrisy from the extreme left groups.  But, it becomes quite clear.  If you are a vocal, national voice and dare to express your opposing opinion of the LGBT rights, you will pay the price.  Or maybe you are just a Christian business owner who wants to stand up for your religious belief.   You may pay the price.  And that price is exacted in many different ways.

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Christian rights are under attack.  I am starting to believe Christian rights are losing their protected status.  And, it’s likely to get worse.  I just never thought I would see it coming from this angle.  I guess I didn’t really expect to face it in my lifetime.  It seems as if the downward spiral has sped up.  I sit and watch human rights and freedoms violated every day.  It seems as if the clock of this world is winding down.  There is this sense of change on the horizon; I have no idea when or what exactly or whether it will be sudden or a slow meltdown.  I make no claims at being a prophet.  There is just an unsettled sense in my spirit.

I am also concerned about our lack of concern as a nation towards Christian persecution in other nations.  Or, how about the American Assemblies of God minister that is imprisoned in Iran now for 3 years, simply for returning to his country of origin to visit family?  He is being tortured for his faith.  American diplomats have seemingly been very unsuccessful in securing his freedom.  I wouldn’t even begin to claim to know what all has been done to negotiate his freedom, but there seems to be no real urgency.  When foreign countries are more sympathetic to his plight than his own, I am disturbed.

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I read an article which stated Muslims are being granted easier access into our country while Christians from Middle Eastern countries are faced with a much more difficult time of gaining entry.  Many of those are trying to escape the extinction of their families and are desiring freedom.  If our borders are going to be porous, why shouldn’t these threatened peoples be allowed in?  I don’t know about you, but I feel as if we could be witnessing on a smaller scale an evil akin to Hitler and his followers.

Some say the turning away is for political reasons; some wonder if it is numbness, denial or a lack of knowing what to do.  I don’t have that answer.  I just know a horrendous atrocity is occurring before our eyes.  Radical Muslims are evil.  And we are their enemy.  At this point, it doesn’t matter whether you think the wars we were involved in are what caused this, it’s here.  It seems evil against Christians is increasing.  Times are a changing.

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America is changing.  And, I don’t think it is for the better on the whole.  Yes, protecting basic rights for the marginalized is a good thing.  As Christians, human rights protection should be of the utmost importance.  Human life is precious.  No one should be treated inhumanely.  We must defend those without protection.  No, we can’t possibly rescue or protect everyone.  But, we risk callousness and the selling of our souls if we don’t stop, take notice and do what we can.  What is that?  Frankly, I’m not sure, but we at the very least have to take notice and ask God what He sees.  Ask God what He needs us to do.

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Perhaps, prayer is where we start first.

So, as I was scrolling through social media, I stumbled upon something positive.  After digesting the disturbing fare of national and international news, I came upon this sounding alarm.  Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s daughter, senses a change coming as well.  And she is urgently calling for Christians to pray.  The prayer initiative started earlier this month, but continues until the end of May.  Check out her website http://www.annegrahamlotz.org.  She is calling on Christians to pray for our country.  I would encourage you to stop over and see in what way you could participate.  It certainly would be the most powerful first step we could take.

We Are Not Worthy

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I am troubled.  

I am deeply saddened and troubled by the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and other vulnerable places around the world.  Churches are ransacked and burned to the ground while Christians are murdered for their faith.  We all have heard about the martyrdom occurring for the whole world to see.

Christians are being rounded up and carried away.  The Islamic Extremists are taking women and children and selling them into sexual slavery…..to use them for their sick purposes.  Little girls ages 1-4…..I can’t even imagine the horror they are experiencing at the hands of ruthless evil.  Christian men have been paraded through the streets in cages and then beheaded.  They bravely kneel before the world with Jesus being uttered with their last breath.

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This is the world we live in.  We see these images splashed across our screens and the stories told on the radio.  Hatred is growing and evil is moving from city to city.  It has a plan.

It is as if evil has been unleashed and all of Hell is being poured out.  It makes me wonder.

How has this happened?

How have we gotten here?

Had you ever imagined such sights in our advanced world?

I know there are all sorts of geo-political and historical reasons for this unrest.  I also know it is a battle between good and evil.  The stakes are high…..the costs are even higher.

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Regardless of your political or theological persuasion, evil is evil.  We see it in the every day morality battles America is engaged in.  There is truth.  There is right and wrong.  There is evil.  And there is good.  Yet, it seems so incredibly difficult to call it for what it is.  Some seem paralyzed to utter the words while Christians and Jews are being openly and brutally persecuted right in front of our eyes.

We are not worthy of them.

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These persecuted Christians are willing to give their very lives with the name of Jesus on their lips as they take their last breath.  Many have grown mute in America and can’t seem to find our collective voice.  We are more concerned about political correctness, all the while watching the advance of evil.  I fear we will pay the price and mourn our inaction.

These extremists are not peacefully practicing a religion.  This is not a freedom to be protected.  They are on a mission to destroy anyone and everything that would differ or speak out against them.

So, I have a question for you, my friends.  I know these brothers and sisters in Christ ask the same question.

Where are we in this great fight and why can we not stand with them in this dark hour?

Here is my concern.  If we can’t stand with them now, how are we going to have strength to endure if this evil spreads to our soil?  If we can’t stand up as a country and speak honestly about who these evil people are and what they are doing, how are American Christians going to be protected?  How will we deal with persecution?

I know there are those who would say, “It will never come to America.  We are too great.”  How can we be so sure?  Look at the rise of these extremists in such a relatively short time.  I have no credentials on the subject and probably sound ridiculous to some.  But, did you ever imagine such a holocaust could ever happen again? In our lifetime? I hoped we had learned from the mistakes of our past.

Complacency.

We should pray for our fellow Christian brothers and sisters around the world experiencing persecution.  I am moved by the reports I see.  My emotions and thoughts run wild.

 What can I really do? How would I handle being persecuted?

We live in America and we have never really had to defend our right to be a Christian.  Not really.

 We’ve given up key fights over the years and so now we experience social push back.  But that is our own fault.  That’s not really persecution.

Not really.

We are not worthy of them. These martyrs for the faith.

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I pray God would give peace and strength to them.  I pray God would hear their prayers and meet their needs.  Preserve them and draw them close to Him.  Jesus, protect the women and children who are being sold into sexual slavery for heinous and perverted purposes.  Comfort these your children as they witness heinous evil so vile and grieve as their loved ones are carried away.  I pray for the families that are split and divided perhaps never to be together again…..speak peace to the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.  I pray you would carry them and stay close to them as many will be called upon to give their very lives.  I know you find them faithful.

This is not my usual topic for blogging.  But, I couldn’t get away from it today.  I pray about my posts each week and I just couldn’t walk away from this.  I would ask you to join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

They are being called upon to give their lives for their faith.

He has found them worthy….we are not worthy of them.