Archive for Anne’s Posts

I imagine most, if not all, of you have had some contact with serious drugs, but have you seen them cause death? That’s where the shock hits home. Yes, it is that fast. No, he almost surely didn’t know the last hit was too much for him. Always, it’s a surprise ending. Never does anyone get to say goodbye.

I started writing this blog a while ago. It began in the shock over Glee actor Cory Monteith’s death. When his autopsy came out, there was the awful truth: heroin and alcohol did this. I remember how my eyes filled up for the unfinished life.

Unfortunately he’s only been one of many. The needle – and its ugly companions – has done its damage over and over again. It has not only made headlines, it has come much closer in my life. Two of my young friends nearly lost “life as we know it” to bath salts. And a dear friend of mine has lost her great-great nephew to some kind of drug overdose, or bad batch, or – no one really knows why, only that he is gone. His family struggles now with a grief beyond words or reason.

That is why I am dedicating this blog to that young man, Eric Oliver, who lost his life before he had a chance to enjoy being an adult. Because as tragic as the Cory Monteiths and the Amy Winehouses are, the person we all want to save is you, the one we love and care about, the one we live with, or work with, or see all the time in our daily lives.

My son came very close to dying from drugs in 2010. It was a terrifying time. And just think – I got off easy. My son lived, and he’s clean now. Eric’s family and loved ones are never going to have the consolation of saying that.

At the time my son told me, “The only person who can stop me from doing drugs is me.” If you’ve ever seen an intervention you know how badly the family wants to make a difference. But it’s true: only the user can stop the chaos. Amy Winehouse singing, “No, no, no,” is a chilling omen of how it would all end because she rejected help.

The Bible doesn’t say specifically, “Thou shalt not do heroin.” So why not take a few drugs? You’ve doubtless been told some sound reasons from society at large: you can get in trouble with the law; you can dim your thinking and derail your education. Those reasons may seem remote. After all, not everyone gets caught by law enforcement. Not everyone loses their way or has addictions take over his or her entire life.

Honesty – Not to Mom and Dad, to Yourself

For starters, when you take drugs, or overeat, or bury yourself in video games, you’re not being honest about what’s bugging you. In the reports about Cory Monteith’s death, drug counselors have said over and over that one month in rehab was not enough to reach down and confront the pain he covered with drugs. How very sad.

God is big on honesty. Jesus even said that He is the Truth (John 14:6). He also said that if we held onto his teaching,

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:32

We need to leave behind drugs and other addictions because the hiding has to end – and drugs hide the truth about ourselves.

We’ve All Got Something Else to Do

Then, think about this:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. – Romans 12:2

This gives us two things to do. First, we’re to leave the “pattern” of the way the world (adults as well as teens) deals with life, fears, and worries when they chill out with drugs. And of course, we need to leave a lot of other bad patterns, too – hate, arrogance, anger, and revenge, for instance.

But people who only focus on thinking, “I can’t do this, or that, anymore,” don’t really succeed because their minds are still on that Thing I Shouldn’t Do. God didn’t want to leave us there. We’ve got something positive to do to lead us away from the old pattern: renew our minds thinking about the life God has for us. The way God thinks about the world turns our view upside down, and as we catch on, it’s going to transform us. We can trust God with our past and present hurts in a way we never knew existed before. We can be honest with God and with ourselves. And we can be healed.

I don’t need to tell you that people on drugs aren’t transforming themselves. That dulled and warped thinking and the increasingly sad and scary behavior isn’t a transformation that anybody wants. And it’s like quicksand. When someone finally realizes they’re in it, they’ve already been pulled way down.

The apostle Peter says to be self-controlled and alert (or, in older translations, be sober and vigilant). You can’t have that self-control and alertness when you’re on a mind and mood altering drug. It’s standing in the way of you being honest with yourself and becoming healed and transformed.

And Somewhere Else to Go

You might be saying, but sometimes I just want to run away. We all feel like that sometimes. Peter points to the One you can run to instead, and why:

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. – I Peter 4:7

Jesus is ready for you to come. Click on the song: Arms of Love

You’ve got a place to go so much deeper than any drug. It’s not only a place of hiding; it’s a place to get help.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. – Psalm 32:7

Don’t hide in drugs. Hide in Him.

My daughter has been monitoring tweets about actor Cory Monteith’s death this weekend. I think it’s been quite some time that a person who was on TV weekly and loved by many teens and young adults has passed away. For them I think this is going to be very hard and significant. They need our prayers. I want to blog about it more to the teens I know later this week.

But in her watching tweets, my daughter found that the Westboro Baptist Church is spewing its vile attitude again, being “Glee-ful” at Cory’s death, and threatening to picket. They don’t represent me at all, and when they are described as Baptists and as a church that really bothers me. I’ve been wanting to say something for a while about them, especially for people who aren’t part of the orthodox Christian community.

This is what I hope you know:

Baptists Are Not All the Same

First, “Baptist” is not a term that always stands for a well organized denomination. There are several good Baptist denominations or confederations between churches that provide checks and balances if needed to the individual churches and pastors. But “Baptist” basically means only that one believes that when a person becomes a Christian he or she should be baptized by immersion in water. It says nothing, really, about how the church lives out its faith.

If you and I wanted to go out right now, buy a building, and start a Roman Catholic parish to run any way we pleased, we couldn’t. We would need to come in line with the denomination and agree to their viewpoint. But if you and I wanted to buy a building and hang a sign that said, “Baptist Church – Come Sunday at 10”, there’s nothing to stop us.

The Westboro Baptist Church is run by one man independently. The condemning things the church says and the picketing and hatred they promote are the teachings of this man. He is in a miniscule minority. Very, very few Baptists would join him on the picket line, and many, many of us would be glad to serve in the lines of “human shields” who protect mourners from what Westboro’s doing. They do not speak for the American Baptists and Conservative Baptists I have known, and I’m sure they don’t impress the Southern Baptists, either. Overwhelmingly they speak only for themselves.

The Matter of Being a “church”

Usually churches are made up of believers from a community. The members share a faith in the essentials of Christianity, but from there, they can be from different cultures, races, and economic classes. The Westboro church is made up almost completely of the relatives of the pastor. That’s an unusual and insular situation, lacking diversity and giving the pastor the powerful dual relationship of religious leader and family patriarch with almost everyone. There’s a proverb in the Bible, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) In other words, my differences of opinion with yours are like two swords sharpening against each other and becoming greater tools to sharpen both our understandings of God and the Bible. The extreme and unquestioned opinions, and the lack of outside community participation, should give anyone pause. A church was never meant to be a closed group.

As It Should Be

people hugging photo: People Hugging group_hug.jpg“>

Although the terms “Baptist” and “church” grate me when used with Westboro, the last thing I hope you know is more important by far:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34 and 35

Below is a beautiful song based on this verse by Christie Knockles:

They Will Know Us By Our Love

This command of Jesus is buttressed by so many parables and incidents in His ministry: the Good Samaritan, the adulterous woman, the injunction not to judge lest you be judged. Accusing people of sins and humiliating them is not the way to go. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their sins far better than we can. We were sent to love as Christ loved us.

The Westboro people may believe that Jesus died for their sins and is their Lord and Savior, and it’s not mine to take that away from them if they say they believe it. But my understanding is far different than theirs. I believe Jesus died not only to take my sins, but so I would have His life and love in me, and because of that, in my life and the lives of other believers this kind of hateful venom would end. Let me say it again:

My Savior hung naked on a cross so that this kind of hatred would stop. It’s that important.

Jul
06

Love’s Labour’s Last

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Today I had to fulfill the duty that falls to all musicians from time to time. I played the memorial service of a woman I considered my spiritual mother. Both repelled by the finality of my job, and compelled by the desire to give her my very best music one last time, I prepared myself this morning.

The alarm went off at 7 a.m. I reluctantly rolled out of bed and pulled myself toward my first task: transposing a couple of hymns I did not care to tackle on the clarinet in the key of A flat. I tried them out, although I really wasn’t sure I was even going to look at the music. I taped my “security blanket” to my music stand, as this was going to be an outdoor service.

As each item was readied to go, it was placed next to my purse. But my mind was so foggy. When was the last time it was so hard to gather my thoughts, and gather my things? I couldn’t remember.

Next stop was some iced coffee as it has been sweltering, humid heat in New England the last few days. There are some pills I am supposed to take in the morning. Later in the day I found I had never actually taken them.

Then I ironed my best dress, blue flowers on a white background because we were going to celebrate Faye’s life, not mourn her death. Certainly Faye was celebrating in heaven, but I was missing her terribly. In my clouded thoughts I was turning over what I might share about her at the service. But I can’t share the most important things: how much she loved me, what a great confidante she was, the things she shared with me about her life, what a stalwart supporter she was in the dark times of my life, how much fun we had over the years, but what a rock she was for me. Some things just can’t be expressed. It’s too complicated and too private.

Then we leave, and as my daughter and I start the drive, my mind sets Faye aside and goes into a business mode. People often ask if I will break down when I’m playing. The answer has always been no. I can’t. In those moments I cannot be the bereaved daughter, the saddened cousin, the grieving friend. I am a musician and I have a job to do. Ironically, at the time when I want to put the most love into my playing, I am at my most businesslike.

And this day was an exceptionally tall order on this day. Faye had chosen two songs that were lively expressions of the victory we have in Christ: When the Roll is Called Up Yonder and When We All Get to Heaven. I didn’t feel like playing these at all, even though I knew she was experiencing these wonderful things. There had been a couple of sad attempts at home. Finally, under pressure of live performance, I came up with peppy renditions.

When it was all over and folks were leaving, I played my own selection softly, What a Day That Will Be. It’s a slower Gospel feel, and for me it expressed both what she is experiencing and what I am waiting for here.

I would love to hear about your experiences playing or singing for a loved one’s memorial service. Was it difficult, or did it make your goodbyes easier? No matter what, the last personal song definitely makes a difference.

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Jun
28

Sweet Sustenance

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Got Honey?

Last time I said how hard it was to have my friend Kristin move out of state. There’s another story to that which is actually funny. It includes what Fly Lady calls a “God-incidence” – one of those coincidences you know the Lord has His purpose in. This time I think God was laughing a little.

On the Friday night before the graduation/going away party, I told this recollection to my daughter: Not long after I graduated from college I was not making much money, and my mother asked me if there was any food I’d especially like to have. I said, “I’d like some honey.” I prefer honey in my tea but as you likely know already, it is expensive. My mother snapped, “That’s not a necessity,” probably because she preferred sugar in her tea. “Well, you asked me what I wished I had,” I countered, but I was still feeling rebuked and as if my feelings had been negated. She did, in fact, include a jar of honey in the groceries she bought me, but by then the sweet treat came with a stinging taste.

We went to the party at Kristin’s, and she gave me the food items she could not take with her on the move. It seems that sometimes Kristin forgets and buys things that she already has. In the bounty she sent home with me were three jars, all half full, of honey. It was as if Jesus was winking at me and saying, “Oh, you want honey? I can supply you with honey and you can forget the sting of the past. I can take care of all your needs.”
honey in jars Pictures, Images and Photos

Honey, Oil, and a lot of Spaghetti

Later I was struck at the particular items I ended up with in abundant duplicates. There was the honey, famously promised to the Israelites:

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – “ – Exodus 3:7 & 8

Milk and honey become the symbols of the affluence that will follow the rescue from their time of need.

Then there was olive oil. A lot of olive oil. I am not going to want for olive oil for quite some time to come. And oil was the blessing Elisha gave to a widow in 2 Kings 4:1 – 7. She had a creditor she could not pay, and he wanted to enslave her two sons as his payment. Elisha sent her to her neighbors to ask for empty jars, and she filled them all from the little bit of oil she had left in her house.

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” 2 Kings 4:6 & 7

The miracle of the oil became the means for the widow to pay her debts. What a comforting account of God’s provision.

Finally, there was a lot of spaghetti, nearly nine pounds of it. Evidently I was the beneficiary of some recent sale. I found that the prophet Elijah, too, had multiplied both oil and flour (from which pasta is made) to save another widow and her son from a drought. Elijah asked her for bread, but she told him she had none, just a little oil and a handful of flour for a last meal, after which she expected she and her son would die of starvation. But the Lord had another plan for her.

“Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ She went away and did as Elijah told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:13 – 16

It must have taken great faith to make that first bread for Elijah, when just before that she had seen it was the end of the bread and oil. But they did not run out until the drought ended! God gave the right provision at the right time. Jesus asked,

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? . . . how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.” – Matthew 7: 9 & 10b

Kristin gave me her groceries, but God gave me His promise. I’m trusting in Him to provide and protect me in the tough times.

Jun
25

Broken for Hope

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June has brought some emotional experiences with some special high school graduations and the departure of one of my dearest friends, Kristin. Kristin and I have been friends for some 18 years, but her family is heading south to Texas. We’ve been getting together over afternoon coffees and catching up on each others’ lives for a long time. Now we are headed to cyberspace in order to keep our friendship on track. Quite a difference from the in person meetings at Dunkin’ Donuts that always ended with a hug and a promise to get together again soon.

The last of the going away parties was combined with the high school graduation party for Kristin’s oldest daughter. There were some people there who I hadn’t seen in years. One was a close friend who had moved to the Midwest. She hadn’t seen me since 2006, when I had gotten divorced, and then only briefly. I told her the truth about how things had been these last six years, and it hasn’t been pretty. She didn’t know how I had fared. My son, who had gone through severe drug addiction and rehab, she remembered only as a young boy. There were so many stories to tell from these hard years.

When I got home that night, I felt the sorrow of all that had gone before and had not gone well. And I felt the burden of those things that still await God’s timing and God’s answers. The words of the song, “Revelation” by Third Day, really hit home:

My life has led me down the road that’s so uncertain
Now I am left alone and I am broken

Roads that never lead me home


“I am broken” resounded within me. All the experiences that had hurt and not yet healed had left me a broken person. Now I believe that I am someone God can heal and use; we all are. But the enormity of all that had gone before hit me so hard that night. Perhaps I had gone from patching up this disaster and that calamity without realizing the whole effect: I had become a broken person in desperate need of God’s help and rest an healing. I needed to understand where I really was before I could arise and act upon His answers.

This time I know that you are holding all the answers
I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances
On roads that never seem
To be the ones that bring me home

So I’m wondering, has this ever happened to you? Have the hurts piled up without your really knowing it? Have you realized the depth of the wound? Before I could bring everything to the Lord, I had to know what “everything” is. I think we all do.

The song verse above talks about losing hope in the plans we make that don’t have God’s blessing. Proverbs 13:12a tells us that a hope deferred makes the heart sick. But false hope is not God’s hope.

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him….” – Romans 4:18

Abraham had been promised a son, but not only a son. This is what had been said to him in Genesis 15:5

“[The Lord] took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Now this would have been quite a promise under any circumstances, but Abraham had before him a very broken situation to assess:

“Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” – Romans 4:19

In other words, neither Abraham nor Sarah were young enough to have children any more. Not one child, let alone as many as the stars in the night sky. But he did not weaken in his faith:

“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” – Romans 4:20 & 21

Abraham’s promise was from God, and he knew God had the power to fix his broken situation. Do we believe God has that power for our own broken situations, or do we worry that we are going to live on, broken forever in this life? I know I could certainly remember His power more and practice remembering it more often than my past or present “breaks”.

This is how the song ends, too. “Revelation” is the singer’s prayer – not to dwell upon the past, not for the strength to do what I think needs to be done, not for me to find my own way, but to ask for the revelation of Jesus’ way.

Give me a revelation
Show me what to do
‘Cause I’ve been trying to find my way
I haven’t got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
Or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I’ve got nothing without you
I’ve got nothing without you

Apr
05

What is Truth?

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Good Friday Prayer Request

My sister and I have long had a tradition of each choosing a special person to pray for on Good Friday. There is no question who my person is this year, and the need is so urgent I want to invite everyone to join me. Janice Wray, a beautiful 20 year old Christian woman, was in a terrible car accident on Palm Sunday. She has broken her neck and twisted her spinal cord. She cannot feel her hands or her legs, and doctors do not expect her to walk again. Please pray for her and her family – healing, strength, comfort, however you are led. There is no limit to how our God can work in this situation.

The Gnawing Question

The narrative of the Passion always draws me in, no matter how many times I’ve heard it. So many parts of it go right to the heart of the matter: who is Jesus, and why did He come to us? This exchange from John 18: 37 and 38 is one that hits me hardest.

Jesus answered, “…for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked.

Pilate had a lot of “truth” to balance that day. He had to keep the Roman agenda in mind, but the Jewish leaders had their own idea of truth, and they wanted to entangle him in their plots. Then there is the extraordinary man before him, who began telling Pilate that He was the truth.

Pilate did not see that Jesus was the truth above all the others. With some misgivings he continued trying to balance the false with the true until it led to Jesus’ death sentence. But the disciples, or at least Philip, didn’t comprehend it fully, either. Jesus had just hours before told his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) He is telling them that He Himself is everything they need – an astounding thought. But Philip answers, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” He doesn’t see that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. Jesus explains to him, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9b)

Even today I don’t think we always have such an easy time knowing what is truth when we go to live it out. Yes, Jesus is the truth. He tells us the truth of our spiritual condition. He gives us His blood, that becomes our salvation. What about truth in our day to day situations?

Two 21st Century Questions

Last summer someone urged me to walk away from my mortgage. Instead I chose not to believe her claims that the house was worthless and I would never be able to afford it. I fought to keep my house. Was that my stubborn pride, or was I fighting for what I believed God wanted me to have? What is truth?

When my son was on drugs several persons urged me to toss him out of the house. They were sure this would straighten him out and help me regain a peaceful home. I never could do it. Had I done it, he would never have gotten my help to keep him alive when he overdosed. When he came back from rehab, some still felt he should not live with me. My son and I have fought and negotiated and learned from each other over these months. We are closer than we ever would have been because I did not kick him out. What is truth? Was my method just the truth of a sentimental mother or was it a reflection of God’s truth for our situation? It is easy to say now that it seems to have worked out well. I took a lot of opposition for the decisions I made and the stands I took. And remember, those with contrary advice felt they were reflecting godly wisdom, too.

You know many examples from your own life. Things come up, and then what is truth? And is my truth a reflection of His truth?

Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life

This has made me think about the hymn, “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life,” written by George Herbert, who lived from 1593 to 1633. The music, while sounding characteristic of Herbert’s era, was actually the work of 20th century composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Jesus’ declaration, “I am the way and the truth and the life” ceased being only doctrine to Herbert and became his own truth. He embraced Jesus, calling Him “my way, my truth, my life”. But there’s more. Herbert shows in his verse that he expects the way, the truth, and the life to speak into his life, teaching him and changing how he lives it.

Come, my way, my truth, my life:
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife;
Such a life as conquers death.

Just think: a way that is so easy and light that we breathe peacefully in it; a truth that comes in and settles conflict without and our hearts within; a life that we live knowing “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

I hope in your Easter you find Jesus to be your way, your truth and your life as never before.

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Sep
21

Kindness Instead of Quarrels

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A couple of weeks ago, Michelle was asking me when I’d weigh in about the pastor who wanted to burn Qurans. Although we’re not talking about the pastor in particular anymore, I’ve found a place where I think the Bible weighs in on the controversy – and as always, right down to our hearts, too.

I am reading my way through 2 Timothy, a book I’d have to say I don’t know too much about other than the “famous” verses that pop out. It surprised me to find some thoughts about kindness and gentleness that sound all too a propos for these days.

I have a fondness for those fruits of the Spirit that seem to get lumped together and not discussed – goodness, kindness, gentleness. This started years ago when I was asked to speak on all three for 10 minutes in a presentation on the fruits. Someone put them all together, thinking they were basically the same thing. They are not! I tried to show that in my allotted ten minutes. Then it started me on the lookout to find these qualities in the Bible for the last 25 years.

These are instructions for anyone who wants to be “the Lord’s servant.”

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:23-26

There are two ways to get into a quarrel: you are drawn into one when another person becomes combative, or you pick a quarrel, saying inflammatory things that you know will lead to quarreling. If we’re told to be careful not to get pulled in to a quarrel, we certainly shouldn’t be starting one.

Now, putting “Quran Burning” in huge letters outside a church is an extreme example. (An aside: many bemoaned the attention the media gave the story. I don’t know exactly how they found the pastor, but think about it: he wanted to be found. He was picking this quarrel and hoping to amplify it.) But at home, on the smaller scale, how many times have you heard someone say the “clever” snide remark that is going to humiliate and raise ire? The one that comes to my mind is the “joke” about Adam and Steve, by which some people feel they’ve handily put down their opposition. But then there are the people who say, “Those people who believe in eternal security, they….” or, “those people who speak in tongues, they….” I’ve worshiped with both of “them” over the years. It’s a disgrace to talk about other believers like that. Because

Instead, {the Lord’s servant} must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. – 2 Timothy 2:24b

To be kind to another, we have to be respectful of him as a human being, even if we cannot respect his viewpoint. To be able to teach, we have to know Scripture, not hearsay or smart remarks. To not resent the other person’s religion and what hurtful things that religion may have done, we have to put away our pride. We are not better than the other person or his ideas. We have found Someone better than both of us. Someone who ended quarrels. Someone who was not only kind, but even gentle and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29). Someone whose very name is above any other name – most certainly our names (Philippians 2:9). The very thought of my name compared to His makes me wither. We are supposed to introduce others to that Someone – Jesus – holy and true, not someone combative and prejudiced.

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct – 2 Timothy 2:25a

If you confront a person on any subject, you need to know what your objective is. Are you bringing up your points to bring harmony, or a greater understanding? If your objective is to show the other person “what’s what”, or to make sure they know you are right and they are wrong, then pride is leading the way, not reconciliation.

Here, the gentle instruction is going to lead to evangelism, the opportunity to share who Jesus really is with the person. Posturing and put downs are never going to do it. I doubt that anyone has ever said, “Now that you’ve shredded all my beliefs and made me look like a fool, I want to accept your Jesus.” You realize that’s ridiculous once I’ve said it; do we always realize it when we’re talking to someone?

That they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:26

Paul says the unbeliever is trapped. They have been taken captive, and often have been taught to take more people captive into the same false religion or cult. There’s been an outcry about human trafficking in part because we can see, and hopefully stop, the horrible kidnappers and abusers. Even when people are being belligerent about an ungodly viewpoint, Paul is saying that beneath it all, they are trapped by the real enemy that we do not see. If we could see their captivity, would we argue with them? Wouldn’t we rather work with them gently and try to get them out of there?

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. – Philippians 4:5

Lord, it’s a human failing to want to fight and put down others. Please help us all to be kinder and gentler the next time there is a conflict of opinion and remember it’s an opportunity to show Jesus’ kindness, gentleness and love. Amen.

Aug
31

Patience for his Perfect Work

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August 12, 2010

The night my son was born was one of the greatest moments of my life. When he was put in my arms I could immediately sense that somehow this child was special. I know every parent thinks that, but there was just something about him. He was the first boy to be born in my family in 41 years; that boy, my brother, had died in 1965, so now there was only my 81 year old father and this new little life. My father had had strokes and couldn’t speak well, but there was no disguising how pleased he was. My son showed so much promise, especially in art, where he actually started out as a prodigy. I tried to give him extra exposure to art, and opportunities to explore music and sports as well. We saw a bright future ahead.

This morning one of the worst moments of my life took place as I watched my beloved 19 year old son plead nolo contendere to the felony of dealing marijuana. I listened as he addressed the judge clearly and politely; I listened as she explained the rights that were being taken away. It stung me as she told him that the most basic right of a citizen, the right to vote, would be refused him for five years.

He got the best sentence possible under the circumstances. He was being sent to drug rehab for six months to a year instead of being exposed to the harsh and dangerous environment in our state prison. It was the outcome we had all been praying for. But my son has already started detox and rehab two weeks ago. It’s been tough for him, and he has missed home terribly. He had hoped against hope that he would only be there for three months, at most six. When the sentencing finally came, he began to close up like a turtle resolutely drawing into his shell. My son wouldn’t talk to us and wouldn’t look at us. It brought my ex-husband to tears. I felt like crying, too, but I knew I had also won a years-long battle to get my boy the help he needed, painful though it was. My son was addicted to much more dangerous drugs than the marijuana. I had finally done the only thing I could do to get him help and hopefully make it end.

I finally had my cry at the end of the day while I thought of the beautiful baby I had 19 years ago and the young man who had to stand guilty before the court this morning. How it hurt to see him punished and to know he desperately needs the correction and discipline the rehab house will give him. I wondered if God “weeps”, or the spiritual equivalent, when we disobey and must receive harsh consequences. Do my actions hurt the heart of God the way my son’s actions hurt mine? It makes me think a lot differently about my own disobedience.

I was thinking tonight about a verse I must have learned decades ago because the way I recalled it was in the King James Version, which I haven’t used in a long time. This is the New King James Version of the verse:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1:2 -4

Patience has its perfect work to do. Patience (or perseverance in the NIV) was the quality I need to call upon in the months ahead. Even though my son doesn’t trust in Jesus, he is going to have to learn patience, too. He needs patience with the situation he’s in and the rehab where he must stay. He needs patience with himself to face the feelings that led him to use street drugs and prescription drugs to feel better. And many of us are hoping and praying that someday he will have patience because he recognizes that it is the Lord who is bringing healing to his life.

Tomorrow is a new day to pray for my son. Tomorrow is also a new day for me to count my trials “all joy” and be patient while God works patience in me.

Postscript: It is now the end of August and Jon is beginning to enjoy the feeling of being drug free. He is starting to gain perspective and it’s wonderful to see the “real” Jon unmasked by the drugs. It’s a real encouragement to see him start down the right road.

Aug
27

Anointing with the Oil of Joy

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My last blog was about my son Jon’s near death experience with heroin and other drugs. I’d been studying rejoicing, one of the fruits of the Spirit. Rejoice in all things, Paul said. Now that “all things” weren’t so hot, I challenged myself.

The first reason to rejoice: my son lived. He awoke at the hospital and was able to talk to us. Later, while he slept, I watched his breathing the way parents watch a newborn’s little breaths while he sleeps. It seemed no less a miracle to me now as it had then. Looking into his groggy blue eyes, I was so thankful I was even seeing them again.

I rejoiced in what Jon had to say when he awoke. I’m really sorry, he said. I know I need help. I want to get clean. I want to go to rehab. Of course his bravado returned in a couple of days, but in all these years of drug use he had never, ever acknowledged that he was at rock bottom and needed help. Unmasked in the seriousness of the situation, he admitted that he’d lost control of his drug use.

Another blessing in disguise: Jon had pneumonia and had to stay in the hospital for a few days. There he was able to see how many people cared about him as friends visited. He was not so alone in the world as he had imagined.

Something unusual happened when we found Jon in his bedroom at home. He had been saving a two-liter soda bottle filled with water. His friend, Jesse, had brought it over the last time he visited us and had forgotten it there. After Jesse died Jon kept the water bottle on the floor like a relic, and it was by his feet when we found him unconscious. I knew that was “holy water” as far as Jon was concerned, but one of his friends grabbed the bottle and threw the water on his face to try and revive him. When I told Jon what happened to the water, he said, “So he saved me. Jesse saved me.”

At the most I would entertain the idea that the hand of Jesus was guiding Jesse’s when he left that bottle there almost two years ago. But after that Jon didn’t ridicule God again. If I mentioned God, he never again told me that there was no God and my beliefs were on par with the Tooth Fairy. He saw in that forgotten water bottle a spiritual intervention to save his life, and he gave up his insistence that the world consisted only of what we can touch and see. It’s a start. I rejoice.

I wasn’t prepared to be tested and tempted to display my worst attitudes.
After nine hours of standing watch over my son, I left the hospital. Getting away will be a relief from the tension, right? Oh, no. The assault came immediately.

I sat down to eat at a restaurant with family members. All I wanted was a respite and a bowl of soup. They had an agenda. (Do not eat with people with agendas. It spoils the digestion.)

I tried three times to change the subject, but one family member was completely undeterred. She was going to ask every question about Jon’s situation then and there. She caught me when I was tired, scared, and hungry. It was not a good conversation.

As we left the restaurant, she berated me for not “making connections” and not “giving trust”. She said that as I’d called her early in the morning about Jon’s condition, she was entitled to details. I said nothing, but I left the parking lot furious. Couldn’t she see I’d had enough? Why didn’t she care about the condition I was in? What made her think I owed her anything? Couldn’t she let me eat in peace?

I knew I needed to forgive them, but the restless waves that often form our family relationships rose to a tsunami. This has really crossed the line, I fumed. There was no consideration for me. She didn’t want to know about Jon, she wanted information for her own gratification. They think if they’d been Jon’s mother they’d be doing a better job. They’d know the answers. They’d get him in rehab. They think I failed.

I was upset, too, that anger and unforgiveness were getting the better of me. I kept thinking of the lines of an old gospel song: “Joy, joy, joy/ Joy in the Holy Ghost/ Don’t let anybody rob your joy/ there’s joy in the Holy Ghost”. In the hospital I had tried so hard to rejoice in this disaster. Now this situation had robbed my precious joy and replaced it with a rock-hard heart, and I hadn’t stopped it. I’d even reveled in it. Weren’t their bad behaviors rooted in attitudes I had suspected all along? Didn’t they deserve my contempt?

My mind came back to Philippians 2:5 – 7:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
But made Himself nothing……

Equality with God is a big deal for Jesus to let slip from His grasp. It’s one of the many humbling things He did for us. I have what I think of as my own big deals. I mean, they’re big deals to me, but God’s not so impressed. What if that passage said:

Anne should not consider being respected as something to be grasped; or
Anne should not consider always being right as something to be grasped; or
Anne should not consider always having her way as something to be grasped.

I have a feeling there could be a hundred more of those uncomfortable little phrases informing me I have to let my grasp go.

In Psalm 45, the bridegroom is praised in this way:

You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
By anointing you with the oil of joy.
Psalm 45:7

I pray that I would hate the wickedness that would have my heart,
And I would lift my hands to praise God,
And He would anoint them with the oil of joy
So my grasp would slip from the things that would rob me.

Aug
23

Joy in the Trial

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One thing I’m noticing about rejoicing: we are told to rejoice in the most unlikely circumstances. The apostle Paul is full of joy while he’s under house arrest, while out on the streets of Rome, mixed in with true evangelists, men with false motives are also preaching the gospel. The book of James launches right in: “Count it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2) As I’m looking at Paul’s example and James’ lesson, I just knew the moment was coming for me to test this out.

Boy, did it ever.

Last Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. I found myself in my son Jon’s room. Two of his friends and I had found him unconscious in a chair. The air was thick with pot. Jon was covered in vomit, ashen, and not breathing. Not breathing.

“Call 911,” I ordered one of his friends while I picked up Jon’s lolling head and supported his neck. I pulled him upright and found it caused him to gasp for air past the vomit in his airway. I kept doing it. “Keep breathing, Jon,” I told him, but he wasn’t breathing except for those gasps I forced his lungs to take. As I looked at my hand behind his neck I had a flashback to supporting his newborn head in the first moments I had ever held him. Nineteen years later, was I doing this for the last time?

Of course, we didn’t arrive at this wretched scene from out of the blue. At the beginning, Jon was a longed for and cherished baby, the first boy in 41 years on my side of the family. We loved and nurtured him intellectually, spiritually and physically. But even as a baby Jon was stubborn. Every limit had to be tested, every barrier needed a battering ram.

Around the seventh grade the first strands began to unravel. There were sliding grades, problems at school, and the beginnings of drug abuse. Yes, there were serious problems in our home, but Jon was going out and heaping problem upon problem. We tried to get him help, but Jon was like a tornado headed out on his own path, churning up more trouble than we could keep up with.

Where did we go wrong? Did we go wrong? We certainly got plenty of advice. Advice, however, is cheap. Solutions were nonexistent.

There had been two other episodes with drugs and two other polices visits to our home. Each time we hoped it would be the clarion call that would wake up Jon. Then, when he was 17, one of his closest friends died in an accident. Jon became fatalistic and started taking unreasonable risks. Worst of all, he refused to believe in God.

Where was the little boy who loved Bibleman and Captain Bible, who sat on my lap for hours while I read Little Pilgrim’s Progress and The Chronicles of Narnia? We were forced to watch Jon’s faith sink into fatalism just as we helplessly saw the drug abuser’s mindset overtake him.

Tonight was by far the worst. As we waited for the police to come, one of his friends, a Christian boy he’d known all his life, prayed over him frantically. Once the policeman was standing by me, I remember saying, “Thank God”. Isn’t that what we always think? That the police and rescue will come, and they will fix it?

The police found the needle, and the tracks on his arm, and another dose of heroin in his room. Later we would find out that on this night, he’d used a concoction of Xanax, pot, vodka, and three shots of heroin. When he got to the ambulance, his respiration rate was 6. People on their deathbeds have rates of 6.

No one was offering any assurances that they caught him in time. They put him in the ambulance; the doors swung shut. The ambulance didn’t leave for a while. Not good. I looked at those closed doors and wondered if I would ever see Jon again. Jon’s 16 year old sister and I stood on the lawn and bawled, not caring who in the neighborhood would hear us in the middle of the night.

Count it all joy. Somehow.

More to follow about Jon later this week.

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