August 28, 2015

Stop Hating On Christians

So, explain something to me, please.  Because I'm confused.

Why are people always so surprised when professing Christians - specifically those that live their lives in view of the public eye - turn out to be sinners? Why all the shock and/or disgust when they turn out to be as imperfect and flawed as the next person? (The Duggars, specifically Josh Duggar, and Sam from the Sam and Nia YouTube channel come to mind.  You could probably reference others.)

Why is there always such indignation expressed when a Christian is found to have made an error in judgement or to contain a serious character flaw?

Christians, including the Duggars and Sam and many others like them who have been crucified on the internet for their imperfections, never profess to be perfect.  In fact, the reality is just the opposite. The main reason one becomes a Christian is because he or she sees his or her inherent sinfulness and need for a savior. To call oneself a Christian is to say he or she is a fallen sinner - terribly flawed.

Perhaps the mainstream population sees Christians as professing to be sinless and, thus, better than others because when Christians see sin, they don't hesitate to call it sin? But here's the thing, Christians don't exclude themselves from this.  When sin is revealed - in anyone, including ourselves (I am a Christian) - we call it sin. We shine God's light on it, or if it is our own sin, we own up to it. This is not hypocrisy.  It is honesty.

Besides, is a person instantly disqualified from pointing out wrongs in the world and in others if he or she has committed a wrong? If so, we all better keep our mouths shut!

So again I ask, why get so upset or instigate and facilitate a witch hunt when a Christian is found to have fallen and sinned?  Every Christian I have seen accused of sin has owned up to that sin, and upon revelation of the sin, he or she has sought restitution for that sin.

Actually, this is what sets us apart.  We call sin what it is when we see it, in society and in ourselves (sometimes with the help of others), and we seek to right those wrongs. Because that's what Jesus asked us - everyone - to do.  To turn and follow Him. To chose this higher path. Perhaps this act of restoration is what is so irritating to some?

Because there are those that own up to their sins and admonish others to do so also (Christians), and then those that would rather go to their graves embracing their sins, referring to their darkness as light, while waiting in the wings to point out other offenders for their faults.

The hardest thing one can ever seek to do in this life is to follow Christ, and yet, it is the most rewarding path one could choose.

So don't be surprised when you see headlines - and I guarantee there will be more - about other Christians whose names were found on the Ashley Madison server or who turned out to have checkered pasts. First of all, it shouldn't be a surprise as these have never claimed perfection - although you may perceive it to be that way.  And furthermore, don't throw around the label of "hypocrite" when your sins cause God just as much sadness as the next person's.

When you point out others' hypocrisy, who then is the bigger hypocrite?

And don't go claiming that I just wrote a post in support of or to minimize anyone's sin. If you read this post and think that I would do that, go back and reread it because you totally missed my point.

Here's the thing, people. We can't expect Christians - especially those in the limelight - to never disappoint us.  They most certainly will - as we all, daily, disappoint Jesus even with our best intentions.  Please, don't set these poor souls on some high moral pedestal.  I guarantee they will fall from that height if you put them there.

And on that note, if you perceive a Christian to be be espousing some moral superiority, YOU have put them on that pedestal.  They have not put themselves in that position. If you believe otherwise, you don't understand our faith at all, so do us all a favor and don't spread that ignorance around as it helps to foster undue persecution.

I believe one my favorite poets, Maya Angelou, explains best what I'm trying to say in her poem entitled, "I Am A Christian." I'll leave you with it as today's forget-me-not.  Read it through, and remember her words the next time someone says to you, "I am a Christian."

And one last thing.  To borrow from Sam's and Nia's concluding remarks on their vlogs...

I love you! And don't forget to love each other!!!

Today's forget-me-not:

"I Am A Christian"
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin’.”
I’m whispering “I was lost,

Now I‘m found and forgiven.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
And need His strength to carry on.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not holier than thou,
I’m just a simple sinner
Who received God’s good grace, somehow!
– Maya Angelou

August 14, 2015

You Can Change

Last month, I had a conversation with someone on Facebook about Josh Duggar. Josh is the son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting."  It was reported back in May that Josh molested five girls (four of which were his sisters) when he was fourteen.

After news of Josh's past broke, the dialogue on Facebook centered primarily around the actions the parents took after Josh confessed to them what he had done. An article published by the LA Times reported that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar made Josh confess what he had done to the local authorities, sent him away to a center that mentored young men who had made "unwise choices," and forced the boy to pay for his own counseling while all those affected also participated in counseling. After all that was revealed, many argued that the parents should have had Josh punished to the fullest extent of the law, ensuring time in a juvenile dentition center, while still others defended the Duggars, saying they did everything they should have done given the details of the situation.

I am not writing this blog post today to compose an argument for either side of that debate.  Rather, I felt the need to write because of something that was said to me while I was discussing this topic online.

I got involved in a chat about Josh when my interest was piqued over the subject of whether or not Josh Duggar, now twenty-seven, could be a changed man.  An in-law of Josh's is quoted as saying, "Josh found forgiveness and cleansing in Jesus Christ."  In fact, it seems that everyone who knows Josh personally has testified to him being a totally different individual deserving of mercy and not condemnation. So when I asked someone online if they thought Josh could truly be a new person, the reply I was given greatly disturbed me:

"Honestly, and I know this is terrible, I believe in redemption for anyone but those who commit sex crimes because there's proof that they cannot be rehabilitated."

I was floored. I was saddened. How could she limit God's redemptive scope? How could she so confidently label someone as a "lost cause?"  

In a way, I do understand where this individual was coming from.  Popular belief is that crimes such as molestation have a high rate of recidivism, so there is where the caution lies. However, Josh's story made me think about someone in the bible that was also doubted to be a changed man - even by Jesus' disciples, themselves!  I'm talking about the apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul.  

The reservations surrounding Saul's conversion were, like Josh's, understandable.  The website Bible Path describes Saul's background:

"Saul did everything he could to try and stop the growth of Christianity.  In fact, when Stephen (the first recorded Christian martyr in the New Testament) was killed, Saul was there (watching the cloaks of those who were stoning Stephen.)
On the day Stephen was martyred, a great persecution broke out against the Christian Church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  At that time, Saul began to destroy the church.  Going from house to house, he dragged off Christian men and women and put them in prison.  Eventually, he obtained letters from the Jewish religious leaders to Jews in Damascus, and he went there to bring the Christians (known as followers of 'The Way' at that time) back to Jerusalem to be punished."

And yet, Bible Path also reports that after his conversion, "Saul's great abilities and earnest enthusiasm in spreading the gospel of Christ have made his name revered wherever the Christian religion is known.  It is his writings which make up much of the New Testament of the Bible."

How is it possible that someone could be so drastically changed?  I only have one word for you, folks: Jesus.

I believe Jesus can transform anyone! If you are willing, He can take you and change you to such an extent that you'll need a new name by which to identify yourself (much like Saul did).  

My God can redeem the vilest of sinners and turn them into the most treasured among saints!

So, do I believe that Josh Duggar could be a changed man? Yes. I believe it is possible. I believe all things are possible with God.  (Matthew 19:6)

Do you want to be released from sexual immorality? Jesus can do that in you!  
Do you want to overcome the alcoholism that seems to be ripping you apart? Our Lord can help!
Do you want to conquer homosexual desires in your life? God wants to show you how!

No matter what it is, I firmly believe Jesus can heal and restore and redeem everyone. He can because He's God - it would be illogical to think otherwise.

Besides, He can do this because He already did it, on the cross. All you have to do is accept it (see steps to peace with God). Accept His message.  Accept His word.  Accept Jesus.

Today's forget-me-not: You can find true freedom in Christ!

August 7, 2015

my unproductive productive summer

I've written another post for Beulah Girl! I just love writing for this blog - with this inspired team of female writers.

I'm also linking up with Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista!

Beloved Brews Linkup

My new post is a reflection on the one thing I neglected to do this productive summer but is the most important thing I could have done - spend time in God's word.  Here is a reflection from that post:

"A child of God found not spending time in His Word can be likened to a person driving a car in the pouring rain without the windshield wipers on. If you keep driving like that, you will crash!"

Please check it out, and let me know what you think!

Today's forget-me-not:

August 5, 2015

a letter to the daughter I never met face to face

Dearest Angel,

Here we are again.  The anniversary of the day of your passing.  When I let myself think back to the events of that day, I am saddened.  But I try not to dwell on that for too long.

I try to remember the days before I found out that I might lose you.  When I was so happy to be pregnant again.  When thoughts of your addition to our family danced happily around in my head. As I thought of names for you.  As we began to prepare your room.

It was such a beautiful time.

You were here. Within me. And then you weren't.

But that short time I had you coupled with your loss changed me for the better.  And I want you to know that I'm doing my best to help other mommies that have lost their angels. The work that I do for the baby loss community is because of you, my dear one.  Inspired by you.  In honor of you.

So happy fifth angelversary, my darling.  I know you are enjoying our Savior's presence.  Give Jesus a big hug for me.  I'll see you one day.

your mommy

Today's Forget-me-not, Oh Lord: Angel

July 31, 2015

Running With My Students

I have run thirty-one 5Ks, and on Saturday, July 18th, I ran number thirty-two.

Every 5K I run is a special experience and, typically, for a special cause, and this one was no exception.  I ran this 5K with a former student of mine (Jordan) who just graduated this past May, and this was her first 5K!

Jordan is one of those students (sister in Christ, now friend, and occasional babysitter ;-) who holds a special place in my heart. To begin with, she took every course I've ever taught (10th lit/comp, American lit/comp, and public speaking), and, more importantly, she was a tremendous encouragement to me as a teacher. Truly, there are many teachers she daily blessed with her kind words and inspiration.  

Let me give you an example.  The last thirty days of school, Jordan showed up each day in my classroom with a devotional she had written as a way to encourage her teachers as the school year came to a close.  What high school senior takes the time to do such a thing?! One with a kind heart and Jesus as her King!  As a way to continue to spread the love, she printed up copies of her devotions in a book that she sells for small fee.  Jordan is taking the proceeds from the sale of these devotions to sponsor a child in Guatemala (where she recently went on a mission trip).  Contact her if you are interested in buying a copy for a teacher you would like to encourage! Her daily devotions are great!

From her Facebook page:
    Okay. So I have written a devotional for teachers, called I'm Blessed. I will be putting in orders for the next couple of months and I wanted to put it out there for my fellow teachers/friends! I have really enjoyed writing this devotional. I started writing it about a month ago and I was giving a devotional-a-day to a few of my teachers, since I am about to graduate. They all loved it and told me I should publish it, so I am! They are only $8!  If you have any questions, or want to place an order, message me! Or email at Thank you so much!
I had a great time running with her!  Since it was her first 5K, I let Jordan set the pace and played the role of running buddy during this race, and I think she had a good race time for her first 5K as she finished in 48:06.

Jordan and I chose to run this 5K because it was in memory of a man who lost his life while bike riding - a man who helped coach the cross country team at the school I taught at and where Jordan just graduated from.  And it just so happened that he was the father of a former student of mine. That's why we had to run this particular race together above all others offered this month.

I didn't get to see my former student at the event, but if she looks at the names of those who ran that day to honor her father, I hope she sees my name and knows I was thinking of her.

My students - all of them, even the most difficult ones - have a special place in my heart.  I only ever wish them the very best once they leave my classroom.  And some, like Jordan, keep in contact with me, and some I never hear from again.  Some leave and experience great success (love hearing about those!), and some leave and experience tragedy or pass away all too soon (hate hearing about those!).

As I get ready to start a new school year, now at a different school, I am eager to connect to my new students.  I will pray for them, and we will run this race of life together for the next ten months. Part of my prayer for my students is that I can in some small way impact their lives for the better.  Sure, I want to make them better readers and better writers, but I also want to be a blessing to their lives. While they are my students and afterwards - if at all possible. Cause that's what we do. Us teachers. We invest in the lives of our nation's youth. Not just because it's our job but because it's who we are.

So let me end this post by saying, if you are a teacher, have a great new school year!  Let's go do what we do!

Today's forget-me-not: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  (Ephesians 2:10) 

July 24, 2015

4 Gifts I Gained After My Miscarriage

Today, I have the honor of sharing a post my friend Carol wrote about her miscarriage - which happened about this time last year. Her words really speak to the pain that is miscarriage.  But even more than that, her words reveal how miscarriage can transform you - in a positive way.  If you have recently suffered a loss and are making your way through those depths of despair, be encouraged by this post!  As Carol shows us, God can bring "beauty for ashes" and "a joyous blessing instead of mourning" (Isaiah 61:3 - NLT).

Today's forget-me-not: 

Miscarriage is an ugly word. I don't even like to say it.

It is too much like "mistake" or "miss" -- as in "missed the mark." The pain is a private, intense humiliation that very few can understand. There is grief for a child that you did not know, for a life that was but then wasn't. For a beginning you thought was taking place only to discover that by some cruel trick of nature, the exciting debut has ended without fanfare or explanation.

And you go on, although inside you feel blank -- lost in a too-large gray sweater that has no arm-holes.

And then there is the problem with numbers. When I sit in a doctor's office filling out paperwork and there is a question about pregnancies, I pencil in 4. Then there is a question of live children, and I pencil in 2. Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, hovers the number 3 as well -- because even though it was my fourth pregnancy, my number of live children would have increased to 3.

But there are only 2.

After my second miscarriage, there was a weariness in my bones following the hospital stay after the loss of that baby. A tiredness when I climbed into the SUV with the extra third row seat we bought to accommodate the baby. A heaviness in my arms -- falling like lead to my sides -- when I am startled by the baby's name "Addison" scrawled on a bulletin board outside my older daughter's classroom at curriculum night. A tiredness when I see pregnant women in Target, two children in tow, and I think that I might have been one of those moms  -- but I'm not.

Wrestling with grief in the days following my most recent loss, I asked God to help me see the beautiful out of the gruesomeness of the day I spent at the hospital, my insides emptying the life I had nourished for 11 1/2 weeks. I inquired very specifically, "Lord, how can this be anything but ugly?"

And I realized that out of the anguish of my pregnancy ending early and my child not forming properly in the way she should have, there were four gifts that came out of my miscarriage.

1. Patience to Slow Down

I am not a patient person. I don't like waiting for anything. Consequently, I have a tendency to power through my day at break-neck speed, so intent on getting to the next thing that I don’t enjoy any one thing in the process. However, after my pregnancy loss, time slowed down in a very beautiful way for me. I began to notice the small – the freckles on my daughter's forehead and the new word in my son's vocabulary.

After my release from the hospital, it was such an effort for me to even get anywhere -- a trip to the grocery store unexpectedly took on meaning. In some of those first trips out to the supermarket, I shuffled slowly down each aisle, savoring sale signs and new products on the shelves. The grocery store (once just one stop in my busy day) became my day. Because I spent so much time in bed in the weeks after I was released, I became grateful for any trip outside of my house that even a trip down a pasta aisle became an interesting adventure.

I didn't have to get exasperated when the new cashier took too long or someone cut in front of me in line. For the first time in a long while, I had all the time in the world. And it was OK to be interrupted and inconvenienced. I felt that the suffering I went through helped me to slow down the fast pace of my life and appreciate the ordinary moments I had once hastily rushed past.

2.  Compassion for Others

In addition to helping me put the brakes on in my busy life, my miscarriage helped me find empathy for others’ suffering in a way I couldn’t feel before I went through my own painful ordeal. As my strength failed me, and I had to struggle through weeks of recovery, I suddenly was ashamed to remember how I treated the woman I had known who had experienced her sixth miscarriage.

Rather than approach the awkward topic, I had simply circumvented it -- and circumvented her.

I regretfully remembered rolling my eyes when reading about a friend's bout with illness on Facebook -- as this friend always seemed to be venting about a pain or malady.

I unfortunately recalled feeling very annoyed by another woman I knew who had limited her diet to just a few items in an attempt to not trigger her digestive problems.

I had a total lack of compassion for these people because I had taken my own health for granted and couldn't feel their pain without first experiencing my own. I hadn't known what to say to the woman with the multiple miscarriages or the friend with the health issues or the woman with irritable bowel syndrome.

Miscarriage helped me to remember what it felt like to suffer. I was surprised to find myself rushing over to my neighbor's house to console her after her husband's stroke -- surprised to feel a surge of caring inside of me where before there had only been a selfish need to look out for myself.

3. Increased Spiritual Awareness

Not only did I have an increase in patience and compassion after my miscarriage, I had an increase in spiritual awareness. As I mentioned, my miscarriage took a toll on my body, and I quickly realized right after my hospital release that I couldn’t walk without feeling horribly dizzy or weak.

At a follow-up visit a week later, I felt so horrible that I could barely manage the trek from the parking lot to the office. My hemoglobin level was at a 7.1 (a normal woman’s range is between 12 and 17).

Yet even in that depleted physical state, I felt God nudge me to speak to three different women at the doctor’s office within the same follow-up visit. I knew that I had a spiritual gifting in the prophetic and occasionally got a Bible verse or a few lines from God to share with someone – but those words came few and far between – and were usually for friends or family members. For whatever reason, right after my miscarriage, I began to get words of help or encouragement specifically for people in regards to their emotional or physical health. People I didn’t even know.

I had never considered that God might want me to minister to others in these areas. But out of my suffering was birthed an increased awareness in the spiritual realm and a desire to write these God experiences down (which I do regularly on my blog).

4.  Dependence on Him:

One last gift that I felt came out of my miscarriage was a greater dependence on God. From the moment that I woke up and felt that something wasn't right in my body to the moment I arrived at the hospital, I knew that I had nowhere to turn but God. On the way to the hospital I prayed, and felt peace. In the hospital, I prayed and had peace. And when I arrived home and faced the darkness of grief, I prayed and found peace. I really had no alternative -- I was in a pit and knew that I couldn't get out of it myself. I needed God!

Particularly, in the weeks following the loss, I was angry that this might be the end to my child-bearing story. The pregnancy had been unplanned, and I struggled to know why it had happened at all. What was the purpose? Why did it end this way? Would I ever have more children?

I felt Him give me an answer, and it was a picture of His son dying on the cross: Jesus' mangled, disrespected, sword-pierced body. I realized that God allowed His own son's body to be abused and damaged for a purpose, and even out of that tragic event came the beauty of salvation for all mankind. Although ugly to the onlookers at the cross, that body became beautiful and whole again once Jesus did the Father's will and rose again.

If God would allow His own son to go through such treatment, I could live with the suffering I went through in my baby's death.

He helped me get past those intense painful feelings of betrayal and hurt in the first few weeks after the loss -- and even now, as I am reminded occasionally of my less than perfect circumstances.

God doesn't really see things the way that I see them. While all I saw at the hospital was the damage of my baby's not-yet-fully formed body, God saw something different: He saw who she was before she was even conceived. While I only saw a piece of her life, He saw the whole picture and still does.

I felt the imprint of her spirit on me that day in the hospital, and I wanted to see more. I asked Him if I could see a glimpse of who she was.

I didn't really expect to get an answer to my prayer, but for just a moment, I got a flash of a freckled-faced, laughing girl across the screen of my mind. I really felt for a second that I knew her.

Though I don’t wish that I had lost my baby or wish miscarriage on anyone else, as I look back, I am seeing the ways that God is bringing me good through a situation I once viewed as only bad.

I am learning how God is bringing “beauty for ashes” and “a joyous blessing instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:3 -- NLT).

   Carol is a fellow sister-in-Christ who leads a women's blog at Beulah Girl: a spiritual life/emotional health blog filled with stories and lessons God has taught her.  She has a heart for helping women find their identity in Christ. Check out her inspirational prose!

Other posts by Carol that might encourage you include "The Saddest Thing Ever" and "Muddy Footprints (and a Soul on Trial)."

July 18, 2015

A Running Challenge

Third time's the charm?

Not when it comes to me and the Collins Dixon 5K!

I've run this race twice before, and both times I've written about it, I was very positive with my prose. (See The Gift of Running and Finish Strong)  However, this time, the course handed me my proverbial bottom, so the tone of this post is going to be, well... honest.

The event, itself, is great!  It is run very well, and it is a fantastic tribute to Collins Dixon, a young man who lost a battle with brain cancer at the age of twelve.  The only suggestion I could make to improve it would be to start the 5K by 8am or sooner rather than 8:45am.  And you'll understand more about why I would make that suggestion if you keep reading.

The course for the race is good, but it does have an AWFUL hill around mile 2.5 when your heading back toward the finish line.

Up and up and up and up....

Now, you might be wondering why I wouldn't suggest changing the course to improve the 5K, and the answer is simple.  The aforementioned hill has been endearingly named Collins' Hill, and it is the perfect metaphor for what Collins experienced as he faced the daunting battle that is cancer.  So, having this hill in this race is fitting. It's appropriate. And although I imagine that part of the course does scare away a good number of people, my friend Jaimee and I have come back and run it - for the past three years now.

before the race
And this year, the heat, the humidity, and the hill, combined together, really did a number on us!

The heat was awful! This is the main reason why I wouldn't mind seeing the race start the 5K sooner rather than later.   With each passing minute, Georgia mornings heat up quickly in July.  And after the race began, I knew I was in for a "butt" whooping! The heat, combined with the humidity, sapped my energy reserves, and about half way through the course, I knew that when I got to Collins' hill, I would have to walk it.

In years past, I have walked some of the hill and ran parts of it.  However, this year, I walked the whole hill.  In fact, there were a few times it felt as if the hill was pressing down on me, and - I hate to confess this - there were times I had to stop walking!  But even worse than that, after getting to the top of the hill, I CONTINUED TO WALK!  I couldn't even push myself to run at that point - not until I saw the finish line in sight.  THEN, I finally talked my weary body into jogging forward.

Despite all that, I did feel as if I gave it my all that day.  The time of 42:50 sure doesn't translate into that, but I know in my heart that I pushed on to the best of my ability in that oppressive heat and humidity.

I don't know that I finished strong, but I finished!  And I left it all on the course.  And I know my friend Jaimee did as well!

We were both BEAT DOWN after this race (pictorial evidence above). But truly, to end on a more positive note, our fatigue was nothing when you consider what Collins had to endure.

So, Jaimee and I want to challenge you! If you live in the north Georgia area, consider running this 5K next year.  It will test your running ability like no other course around!  But, at the end of the day, you will have an immense sense of satisfaction for having done it and for having supported brain cancer research. And for helping Collins' parents honor the life that their brave son lived.

Today's forget-me-not: Finish strong!

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:24)

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