If only you could see yourself as I do

Her Mummy clicked on the bedroom light and burst crying through the doorway. The little girl sat up groggily in bed, rubbing her eyes against the brightness, squinting.

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Photographs of Sunsets Through Broken Glass by Bing Wright

Dragged out of sleep, she stared bewildered. She had gone to bed early the night before after vomiting all afternoon. It wasn’t – as all assumed – the odd banana flavoured chocolate she’d eaten at the six-year old birthday party she had attended. It was something in the air of their home yesterday afternoon. Her Daddy had gotten really upset at the lunch table about the lid being left off the toothpaste. Why was he so angry over toothpaste? And the invisible crows had come back, pecking at her, flying in currents of the adults’ wake that she could feel but couldn’t see to navigate.

It made her confused. Her head ached and the paracetamol tablet her mummy gave her sat dizzily in her tummy. She had run out of the ‘Pass the Parcel’ game at the party, vomiting into the bowl of the downstairs toilet. She had felt miserable and alone but hadn’t told the mother of the birthday girl because she didn’t want to go home yet. She dreaded stepping back into those unseen currents that bit and buffeted her invisibly; she worried they would again flare into rapids of angry, bitter words between her parents that made her head hurt and clogged up the words in her own throat. Staying quiet might mean the currents would stay quiet too.

“He’s leaving us,” her mother sobbed. The child stared up from her bed. Her mother added: “Daddy has met another woman and he’s leaving us for her.”

—–

The child sat in front of the TV eating her supper from a small table in front of her. The lounge room door was shoved open suddenly and her mother appeared, in nightdress and dressing gown, Daddy just behind. Her mother’s clothes fluttered behind her as she half ran, half stumbled across the room. She thrust a buff A6 envelope onto the little girl’s lap, where it caught between the underside of the table and her knees. “This is for you, don’t read it yet,” her mother said, sounding angry.

Her Daddy left the room, saying he was calling an ambulance. Her mother chased after him, sobbing hysterically. Small egg-shaped, yellow tablets scattered on the floor. The child stood to follow them out, the envelope falling onto the carpet. She waited in the lounge doorway, staring up the hall. Her Daddy was on the phone, trying to call, but her Mummy kept slapping her hand over the cradle so it disconnected. He ran out the front door saying something about the public telephone box. The child didn’t want him to leave her alone with this strange version of her mother,  collapsed at an odd angle up the stairs. Nor did she want to get any closer. So she stood at a distance, watching her through the slats of the wooden bannisters, feeling a little scared but mostly removed.

The ambulance man with dark hair wore a dark navy jumper with patches at the elbows. Proper patches, not ones to cover holes. He helped stretcher her mother into the ambulance. “She bit my hand,” said her Daddy, over and over. “I tried to get my fingers in her mouth to get the tablets out, and she bit my hand.”

——-

“He didn’t even bring me clothes to the hospital,” her mother  told her bitterly. “The nurses thought it was awful of him. I had to come home in a hospital blanket over my nightdress.”

——–

“Wake-up, get up, you have to get up,” her mother cried, snapping on the bedroom light. The child woke up quickly, a pit of dread in her stomach, clamping her muscles against the panic drops of urine that wanted to escape as she sat up. “You have to call him, come on, get up. I’ve got her phone number. Call her. Tell her he has to come home.”

But I can’t, thought the little girl. I’m too scared to call her. You’ve told me how awful she is. How nasty. She is dark-haired and so much bigger than me, you’ve told me. You told me she works opposite my school and is watching me. You told me she might steal me. I’m too scared to call her. 

But then the little girl remembers the small, egg-shaped yellow tablets. The ones she had quietly picked up from the floor. The ones with the tiny black writing that matched the title on the paper sheet she had found in her mother’s bedside drawer. She was a very good reader for her age. Everyone told her.

If she didn’t make the phone calls, then her Mummy might take more of those yellow tablets. And if she didn’t wake up this time, if they didn’t pump her stomach the way her Mummy had told her they’d done in the hospital, then she’d have to live with her Daddy and the big, dark-haired lady who was waiting to steal her.

She sat on the stairs and dialled the number her Mummy told her. But Mummy hadn’t given her a chance to do her morning bathroom pee. It was wet and uncomfortable, her nightdress sticking to her bottom. Her mother stood at the top of the stairs, making sure she called, listening to her cry and sob and ask for her Daddy to come home. The next morning was the same. And the next. And the next…

——————

When she was 11-years old, her mum went out to an evening meeting. The man who had moved in, who would eventually marry her mother, jovial, tall, always smiling and clapping his hands, told her to climb into bed for a bedtime cuddle. “I’ll keep my hands clasped under my chin,” he whispered. “No need to worry. No need to tell anyone.” He kept his hands clasped but the 11-year old never quite relaxed around him again. If there was nothing to worry about, why did it have to be kept a secret?

——————

Before she was fourteen, she had defended herself with a knife against the same man who now liked to use his fists in places it didn’t show.  He wasn’t so jovial now. She had watched a tea-tray thrown from the top of a three-storey house because his cup was not placed on it – and it wasn’t a leap of her imagination to suppose he would push her mother out too. His son, who lived with them, watched with empty eyes. She watched where he put his hands too.

—————–

That girl today is 44-years old. She has written about domestic violence, but never about the personal damage of divorce, emotional blackmail and abuse. Never. It was locked away.

She is me. And, finally, she is happy to own her story.

I can only thank God, Jesus and Holy Spirit for the work they have activated in the past two weeks. For a SAP, with whom I became irrationally angry for prompting me to read Psalm 139.

Why was I angry? Anger is a secondary emotion. The real response was fear. Psalm 139 was calling me to look at something beautiful about myself and all I wanted was to run away as fast as I could.

Because, oh my God, hadn’t I already done this? Hadn’t I built something of myself? All that history, it had built me.  It gave me the guts and resilience to move on and through. In a fiery, fiesty, flicking-the-bird, sort of way, I had overcome. With so many benefits, not least knowing myself intensely as a result. I know:

  • I can over-read and internally over-react to emotional cues. Not externally. Externally I am poker-face solid
  • Silent tension in a house is my absolute undoing because of what it heralded 
  • I hate confrontation – when your childhood is soaked with echoes of suicide and violence, keeping quiet is a great thing
  • I will go a long way to avoid asking anyone to meet my needs. I’ll meet them all myself, thanks, way safer.
  • I don’t do vulnerable easily. Emotional independence is, literally, in my make-up. S*&t happens when you  are emotionally dependent
  • Deep down struggling with being deserving of love, no matter how many achievements I could list, how much value I could attach to my life because if your mum attempts suicide the childish synapse locks onto her not loving you enough to want to live and be your mother; and then your dad has left…and then the next husband liked to use his fists…

So I know why I have certain behaviours.  I acknowledge them and have checks and strategies to manage them all healthily. I had therapied myself to self-awareness – which brought forgiveness and insight. You may read the above and judge my Mum. How could she do that to a child? Why didn’t she leave her second husband? But take a step in her shoes. Imagine how lost, how raw, how broken her internal life must have been. So I can forgive her all of it because of how she had been taught to love and be in relationship. My lesson has been not to repeat hers.

So why was Psalm 139 so gut-wrenchingly confronting?

Because of what God wanted me desperately to see. He didn’t want me to look at who I had created in response to life’s circumstances. But at who He had created. Who was incredibly different.

Yet I couldn’t see her because it meant I had to look closely at the experiences that forged the current me; to look back past them to who He created.  And I really didn’t want to. It made me sob and hiccup and be vulnerable. To get back to what He created meant I had to walk back through the car-crash.

“No,” I raged. “I’m not looking. Not there. Not when I have to walk back through that. Leave me alone. I’ve done more than ok despite it all. Let me be. I’m going back to my cave.” I may even have pouted that I was ‘magnificent enough’ to the Lord.

The irony? The SAP had done a sermon series on Jonah as irrational prophet just a few weeks before. As I raged, pouted and refused to do what God asked, I couldn’t help but think of Jonah, stinking of fish guts and sulking under his plant.

My surrender took less than 20 hours, with low to no eye-rolling. A record. “Whatever I need to learn, whatever I need to let go, over to You. And if am wading back through that, be ready for my fingernail imprints in Your palm because I’ll be gripping real tight.”

“Like your fingernails bother me,” replied God: “Did you look at Jesus’ hands lately?”

It took less than five minutes for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to answer my prayer and do Their business.

Directly with Psalm 139, verse 6, to how intimately God loves and knows me, that is ‘too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.’

“Look,” He kept whispered to me. “Look at how fearfully and wonderfully I made you. Before. Before you had to create yourself on top. Because until you see that, you can’t do what I want you to do next. My works are wonderful. You know that full well. And you are one of my works. Look.”

So I sat in my car, in a Sydney suburban side street, had a purging, fast, howl for the teen and for the child, and came out the other side . That the Holy Spirit is so often referred to as fire does not surprise me. Bushfire regeneration before growth. Cauterising and cleansing. G, J & the HS did in less than 30 minutes what many hours of talking with professionals had not delivered. Integrated peace.

God sees me as He sees His son. Holy without blemish. My job now is to live out who I already am.

———

Footnote/Disclaimer: I am not waving my hands in the air, yelling “Praise the Lord, I am healed, cancel all your therapy appointments and give your life to Jesus.” No.

Keep the therapy. Keep the meds if you take them. Keep loving and being kind to yourself. For me, I have simply found it much easier to love and be kind to myself with God and Jesus as the lens and accepting the gift of grace. For me.

For you, there may be psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, medications and help lines. Abuse – whatever its type – leaves a scar. You may have been abused at the hands of the church, for which I am deeply sorry and wish more people who say they are Christians behave like it more often.

All I know from my experience is this: you can’t ever heal by yourself. Tucking the last little remnants away deep inside, whilst congratulating yourself on how well you are doing, rarely works. Those remnants have a pesky way of jabbing to the surface when you least expect it.

Resources

Psalm 139 

www.lifeline.org.au or call 13 11 44. 

https://www.anglicare.org.au/

http://www.salvationarmy.org.au  or call 13 SALVOS

 

 

 

 

Holy fixer-uperer

Sometimes I take a skim back through the first bogs I wrote about this journey to God through his son Jesus. It is a reminder of not how far I have come, but of how far they have brought me. Radical renovation. The fixer-uperer. I suspect God and Jesus look at all of us and spot potential.

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By Matthew Christopher, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I came to a heart understanding of G&J long before my head caught up. It is my heart that keeps me in step, or reminds me when I’m out of sync. Whenever my God signal goes on the fritz it’s usually because I’ve been over-thinking.

Which makes it kind of hilarious that have I wound up in one of the most brain-dominant, intellectual denominations. I’ve written enough publicly now to receive some intellectual critiques. Suggestions how I could have better presented doctrine. While I graciously take it aboard, and enjoy the perspectives, I’m happy to say I don’t write in order to defend my head understanding of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

I write to celebrate them. The way they touch my heart and make me cry over the gifts they send me, even when I’ve been spending too much time in my head.

2016 started up with a bang for our household. Challenges and sadness. Lies and egos. Death and more death. A time when the heart stutters and my head sought to butt its way through the obstacles, because if I plough through fast enough that hurt may just be outrun.

I have learnt a few lessons in the past 18 months or so. Rather than ploughing through, I now plough down with a Psalm or two. As I dragged myself out of my head and back into my heart a week ago, spitting plum stones and tears at a scripture passage, all I could say was, “I really need some encouragement right now.”

I know, this is hardly the ACTS approach to prayer (Adoration, Confession, give Thanks,  Supplication). But ACTS is head structure and I needed to take heart. Given my dialogues with G&J are typically like an ongoing conversation, it may feel to them that I have a ACTSTCASASTACTSAAASTT morse code kind of prayer stuttering and beeping away…or even SACT when I’m slanging…

The amazing thing about staying in my heart with God and Jesus is how quickly they respond. It’s almost like when I withdraw into my head they shake their own – not in a negative way, but in a ‘Really? Are you going to try that again? Ok, dear heart, we’ll be here when you’re ready’ and they wait kindly and patiently for me to sort it out.

Within ten minutes of my prayer, I took a call in my office sharing encouragement over some changes taking place on quite a broad level at the Christian charity I am involved with; the next day there was an engagement spike in a campaign we had been testing; and then small yellow post it notes of God’s love started appearing all around, day in, day out. Even just hours ago, battling with an emotional dragon, there popped a perfect article into my inbox. Today? Of all days? Really?

I can’t dismiss them as coincidence because they are too specific, too personal and too bespoke tailored to what my heart seeks when they happen. The lesson – as always – is staying out of my head and simply having faith in what I know in my heart.

God and Jesus don’t want our heads. They want all of us. But especially our hearts. Spitting plum stones and slanging Psalms. Shaking metaphorical fists and then being moved to weep because the amount of love they pour out is simply too overwhelming to pack into this broken human vessel.

Their radical renovation skills work best when I stop rationalising in my head and start allowing in my heart. When I throw everything wide and offer them holy squatters rights. Allow the HS building squad to move in and do the fixer-uppering.

Urgent, evangelise. With Salt (& Tequila).

“It’s liver cancer.”

“How long?”

“Six months without treatment. 18 months with.”

As she dashed tears from her eyes, I swept this valiant 42-year-old woman into a hug. “I’m so sorry,” I told her, adding some slightly bluer language under my breath for good measure.

Yet like a neon question mark flashing at the back of my brain, there was only this: ‘What does she believe? And how do I ask without sounding like an awful end of days prepper?’

Through business circles, I had known her for years. Not closely, not until the start of 2015 when we ‘just clicked’ as members of the same networking group. We discovered a similar outlook on life. Offered complementary business services. Wicked senses of humour. Some shared emotional baggage that we unpacked over wine as only new friends on discovery can, laughing at each other with a gentleness that said, yes; I understand that screwed up bit of you too.

She was the coolest of cool friends, yet without ego or notion of how beautiful or cool she really was.

“I’m not telling many people about my diagnosis because I want my business to go on as normal,” she told me. “But I’ve seen what you post on Facebook and I see you have faith. I feel ok about it. I’ve enjoyed my life. There’s nothing else I really want to do. I’ve always tried to treat others how I would like to be treated myself. But I don’t believe anything comes next.”

Really God and Jesus? Really?

After six plus years of knowing her around the business traps, we properly connect in the year she is given a terminal cancer diagnosis; her without any belief or faith about what comes after death, and me a scant 18 months after becoming a Christian?

There are no Godincidences.

But, really? Pressure much?

For anyone who doesn’t understand why some Christians behave like shiny-suited TV evangelists, it’s because Jesus said some serious stuff in the Bible about what happens when we die.

“The only way to the Father is through me,” he told his disciples. “The promise of eternal life, the resurrection, the free gift of grace comes only if you are willing to lay down your life and follow me.” (I’m paraphrasing).

If not? Well, it’s not pretty. Too many Christians like to gloss over it, playing safe in the more new-agey pools of God being nothing but love.

Who can blame them? Hellfire Bible-thumping religion has done G&J a huge disservice. In reaction, the pendulum has swung the other way in today’s world of free choice, self-service and freedom.

Standing up and saying, “Well, actually, I do believe that God calls us to account when we die,” is not welcome. Too often the fire ‘n’ brimstone hangover of being called to account overshadows the good news of that Jesus fella.

The good news that through the grace of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, I can stand in front of God as a child in front of her loving Father, and receive forgiveness and an eternal gift of life.

But here’s the kicker: you’ve got to get to know and accept Jesus first.

As I sat in front of my friend, reeling from the news of her cancer diagnosis, listening to her dismiss her Roman Catholic schooling (heavy on the guilt and wrong doing) and what she’d heard from her brother-in-law pastor (I know, I know, the irony), the true punch in my solar plexus was this:

‘She can’t die without sorting out where she stands with God and Jesus. But, on the face of it, she’s lived a good life. She has an amazing moral code and value system. How do I explain that none of that matters? That compared to Jesus on the cross, because of our very distance from God, we are all broken and needing saving? No matter the amount of our virtue and strength of moral fibre.’

I cried a lot that night. And prayed. I visualised the Holy Spirit (HS) firing through that liver of hers so often it was more lighthouse than vital organ in my prayers. I had one of those slanging, bargaining type conversations with God: “Quick zap of the HS and all will be well. I’ve got my prayer warriors on it too. I know You can hear us. She knows we are all praying. C’mon, what better way to prove You exist than a miracle cure?”

I don’t believe slapping people round the head with G&J gets them closer to understanding. Yet the urgency was horrible. Even more as her treatment failed. It got to the point that if another well-meaning Christian had asked, “Has she said the Jesus prayer yet?” I may well have reached over and ripped out their throat in a very unchristian manner. When one of them asked, quite seriously, “Do you think you’ve done enough?” my tongue bled from my biting it. To ask me, tripping around in my flawed way, if I’d done enough, dismissed God’s sovereignty and my friend’s heart. Whilst it was ultimately down to God and her, not me, it still made me feel like hell. I couldn’t make her become a Christian.

So what could I do? I prayed (as did others) and kept on being the sort of Christian I am: irreverent, flawed, and prone to explaining G&J in my own quirky way. It is less theological college, checklist ‘shiny’ and more sweary, eye-rolling ‘I know, I can’t quite believe I’m a Christian either,” reality.

When Jesus told his early followers to be like salt – let their faith stand out, be a well-flavoured advertisement for Christianity – I’m sure he didn’t expect me to pair it with tequila slammers. By my being the least expected ‘type’ of Christian person (ie: not religious), I pray daily that Jesus can be seen in his true light. Which is all I wished for my friend.

So when she asked what I believed, I said God doesn’t promise me a pain-free this life, but he promises me an eternal next one. Told her, no, her cancer wasn’t punishment for wanting to die during her own brush with depression years before.

I said, simply, how we live in a broken world. That we are all more flawed than we  images-1.jpgcould ever believe, yet more loved by Jesus and God than we could ever dare imagine. And that heaven was way, way better. How I dearly wanted to see her when I got there, so could she please get with the resurrection program that Jesus offers. Plus, when my time is up here on earth, could she start lining up the margaritas for my arrival.

Sadly, the doctors were wrong. My friend died just four months after her diagnosis. We didn’t do any shiny ‘I give my life to Jesus’ prayers. But in those four months she humbled me by reading all my blogs and asking questions. She came along to church – which was a touch and go first visit  – but she came back to sing carols with a passion and hold my hand as she did so. She even whispered that I ought not be frustrated by her experience back at church, “because you made sure you explained it afterwards. I get it.” I don’t think she understood just how much she taught me about God and Jesus as I tried to show them to her. Is still teaching me.

In the final week of her life, as she drifted in and out of consciousness I asked how she and God were doing. “He’s really helping me,” she whispered. I went back most days to sit next to the bed and, when the opportunities arose, read her Psalms and gospel verses. “Beautiful,” she whispered over Psalm 121, my voice breaking at verse 8.

Being a Christian is tough. Being a Christian in the hospital room of someone who is dying, surrounded by her friends and family, who may or may not share your faith, is tougher. They needed their own time with her; who was I – more of an outsider with what may have appeared to be a lesser friendship/business connection – to keep turning up at her bedside?

Back to salt: how could I not? On the first night she was admitted, she had whispered to me: “I don’t want to die.” So even if she – and her other friends and family – did not share my faith and hope in Jesus, perhaps they could find some solace in mine. Sometimes it felt like I was sharing him across eggshells. Like sending John 14:27 to her husband – who at the time may have felt least able to let his heart be untroubled – and carefully adding: “Sometimes it’s like tasting nails…but sometimes there is comfort.”

The last afternoon, her barely conscious, a shadow of the woman admitted eight days before, I said one final prayer to this lover of all things bright and beautiful. “You know, I think Jesus is standing right in front of you now, holding out the most amazing technicolour coat. All you have to do is reach forward, take it, and let him wrap you in it.” Her hand under mine gave the faintest of flexes. She died early the next morning. New Year’s Day.

But the tribe of shiny Christians asking about her ‘doing’ the Jesus prayer scared me. I spent the hours after her death proclaiming God’s sovereignty on one hand, and then whispering how I’d love to know He’d got her on the other. “Just a sign,” I implored. “Just so I know. Please.”

What happened next is how I describe God’s personal love for us all. He didn’t have to offer me comfort. He is sovereign and my exhibiting control freakery over the outcome of His conversations with my dying friend totally disses His sovereign bit. Who am I to be asking, “how did You and she go?”

Yet that day, on the drive south of Sydney to grieve on a less-populated beach with waves and my surfboard, every car I passed seemed to have either a fish sticker on the back or a crucifix swinging from its rear-view mirror. I coughed and hiccupped and saline snot-monstered my hope: “Is that the sign? Or am I imagining things? I’m so sorry God. You know how I need it up emblazoned on a billboard so I don’t miss it.”

At the last minute, I changed my mind over the beach I was going to. As I pulled into the car park, the beachside meeting room boasted this red sign:

Beachposter

Praise God for His graciousness. I imagined Him asking, “Now, dear heart, is that literally a big enough sign for you?” I sighed, cried some more, smiled and recalled, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

I have faith He has her. Which means, along with no more pain, sorrow or hurt, I have confidence she’s going to have a margarita waiting in heaven with my name on it.

Not because of anything I’ve done, not because of works, not because I deserve a lemon, salty, triple-sec, tequila cocktail for facilitating an introduction between God and my friend. But because of His love and Jesus’ grace I get to see her again.

Amen.

The Prodigal Hangover

One of my most favourite lines in the Bible is Luke 15:20: ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’ images

Jesus’ Parable of The Prodigal Son is designed to illustrate the generosity of God towards us. Most theological explanations focus on the forgiveness God offers to those who truly repent. Yet what resonates with me most in the parable is how the son ‘was still a long way off’ and yet the father does not hesitate to run (run! so unseemly in those days) and sweep him up.

All before the son utters a word of apology over how foolishly, awfully, terribly he has behaved towards his father.

There is the brilliance of grace. Yet I’ve often wondered what happened the next day, after the party with the fatted calf and barrels of wine.

Given in the parable that the father Jesus refers to is God, I’d say He was still in a fine mood at the post-party breakfast table. His joyous delight would be on display. All back-slapping ‘my son is home’ bonhomie. No tit-for-tat point scoring going on. Simple unadorned joy. The father doesn’t care what the son had been up to in the years that passed. He wants to get on with their relationship afresh.

Son number one is probably still pissed off. Grumbling into his bacon and eggs about his wastrel younger brother. “So typical of him,” he fumes. “I stay at home, hold the fort, comfort dad when he left without a backward glance. I saw what he got up to and with whom (he needs to be more careful with his Facebook security settings). I can’t believe dad just let him waltz back in here. I didn’t get that sort of party when I turned 21 – and he gets it all laid on just because he bothered to come home!”

But son number two is the one that interests me the most in that family. Prodigal. How did he wake up the next day? With a hangover, I’m fairly certain. In the parable he is everyman – or woman – who has received God’s grace and forgiveness, no questions asked. It’s a brand new day. I dare say he awoke feeling thankful. Relieved. Perhaps overwhelmed by the depth of unconditional love displayed by his father the day before:

“I can’t believe how he just ran up and hugged me. He pulled me close and cried. Me too. Then he threw a party. Unbelievable. After all I’d said and done, he just let it go. I thought he might turn me away – and I could understand it if he had. I begged for a job to try and pay off the debt, but he didn’t want to hear a word of it. He said to me: “What’s done is done. I love you. I’m so glad you’re home.””

the-best-moments-from-the-hangover-movies-1070292-TwoByOneA week later would Prodigal have felt the same? Perhaps some doubts and worries have crept in: “It’s been a week. We’re getting on so well. But what about next time? I’m such a mess. It’s taking all my strength to not go into town and get a couple of hours with a hooker. Or burn some cash through the pokies. I’m jonesing to snort a line. Or download some hardcore porn. Big bro is just waiting for me to f*&k it up, I know it.”

You don’t need to have experienced Prodigal’s loose-living to recognise what he battled with. Shame. Of stuffing it up again. Not living up to the gift of grace. Falling off the wagon. Fearful of not being enough.

Yet it’s not about works. We don’t have to do enough to earn God’s love and grace. But I wonder, just quietly, how many – like Prodigal – doubt we can be enough.

That’s because we measure in human terms. Our very means of self-judgement is flawed by it having come from flawed humanity. We know shame because we have been taught it as an emotional response to something. Most likely by another flawed human being, who cannot – by the very nature of being human – love unconditionally and forgive like God can.

I hope in the weeks and months that followed, Prodigal realised he could never be enough. Never. For every hooker he lusted after, God wouldn’t have been surprised by him lusting after 100 more. For every time he put $50 through the pokies, God could easily expect $5000. For every line of coke on the mirror, God was poised to observe him chop another 50.

Not because God is there, cheering us on and urging us to sin more. No. If sin is our distance from God, there’s no-way He wants us to move further away. Yet God knows how flawed we are. We gloss over our faults, whilst He sees them all in the harsh brightness of a hungover morning… and still loves us. The worst we expect from ourselves can never compare to the worst God knows we are capable of.

The SAP kindly shared a new theological term with me in regards to this: prevenient grace. The more we surrender, acknowledge all our faults and step out in our willingness to grow in relationship with God, prevenient grace makes our struggles easier. Prevenient grace means that while Prodigal would have lusted, gambled and snorted at an Olympic-level standard, he is prevented from doing his worst. Blessed with prevenient grace (sort of like divine willpower, a handbrake on the worst of his excesses), the struggles and shame fall away. He may have aimed for Olympic-level debauchery, may even have craved to lose himself in its numbing haze, but by prevenient grace he can’t even stumble to the starting blocks.

Following his return, each time Prodigal hit overwhelm and sobbed out his shame, I hope he realised God was nodding in agreement. “You don’t know the half of it, Prodigal. But you know what, I love you anyway. On a scale that your human heart can barely imagine. But keep drawing closer. My grace will hold you. You’ve a new race to run.”

C’mon, is being saved from sin and getting glorious eternal life so bad?

A few short months after my Liptoning, a UHT Christian (someone who has been a Christian for a long, longer life than I) warned me that the honeymoon period would wear off.

If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you’ll know how taken aback I was by all the joy that kept bubbling up as I cautiously got to know God and Jesus. The feeling of anticipation I would awake with daily in my stomach. It was like a split personality disorder. My before Christ (BC) secular self would lie there wondering, “ooh, what’s planned today that I’m so excited about?” Then my AC side would go, “Yay, I get to spend more time getting to know G&J.” images At which point my BC split personality would roll her eyes at such happy clappiness and attempt to batten all this joyful oddness down. Which was like shoving Disney’s Genie back in the lamp. No way G&J were getting crammed back into a small lamp. Let your light shine and all that…

So I was surprised to be warned that this feeling of delight would fade. Was that the reason why I wasn’t meeting more Christians with the same joy bubbling over? Did it wear off? Would this astounding ‘zing’ feeling disappear overnight and leave me acting like Marvin from The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy?

Just lately I have been noticing a dourness on the edge of my faith. The technicolour was greying. Was this the macular degeneration of joy I’d been warned about? I tried to pinpoint why and realised I had spent an unusual amount of time with some seriously serious Christians. On missions. Saving souls. Which is indeed serious stuff. But each ‘Thank God’, each faithful gratitude expressed for a miracle, didn’t rumble with the joy. It rumbled with important seriousness. And so I, almost unconsciously, packed away my joy in order to be more grave and ‘Godly’.

I ended the honeymoon. Not God. He was still waiting for me to come back to the beach, drink Pina Coladas and walk in the rain. Return to the crazy teenage ‘somersaulting stomach’ love that marked the start of all this, no matter how embarrassing I found it at the time.  I missed it. Missed Him.

A few months back I read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love.  As Chan puts it: ‘The God of the universe — the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and e-minor — loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.’

Chan writes the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts — it’s falling in love with God. ‘Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.’

It’s true. I fell head over heels, I wanted to hang out with the object of my affection all the time. I was Madonna ‘True Blue’ giggly and ‘Crazy For You’ all at the same time. And while plenty of people talk about the honeymoon part of a marriage ending as you grow as a couple, I really don’t think God and Jesus want us to grow with them into joyless matrimony.

Look at what He did. Everlasting, eternal love. Radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love.

And there it is. I think the joy gets lost because too often Christians get caught up in the self-sacrificial nature of what God did for us in Jesus. I mean, that’s a serious gift, right? So, mistakenly, we confuse sacrifice that is the willing, loving, giving of our hearts to God with the sacrifice that is serious, enduring loss. But Jesus died so we may have life. It’s not loss, it’s gain.

It’s a gift to be taken seriously, yes, but no need to be all serious about it. I don’t think God measures the level of our love for Him by how seriously we behave in regards to what He gifted us. Whenever a Christian nods seriously and says, “You know, Jesus died for you,” I think the response ought to be a grinning “I know! How amazing and astounding is that? AND he resurrected. Fantastic!” Stop getting stuck and serious around the death bit, and focus on the three days after.

God’s crazy love can make us all amazing and astounding too, remember, because He gifted a bit of Him into us when He did it. You simply have to accept the amount of love poured out on you, the gift of heaven promised you, and, oh my God, please enjoy it. Smile with it, shine with it, dance in the rain with it and drink Pina Coladas.

It’s a great thing, falling in love every day.

Footnote: a big thank you to Tim MacBride over at Coffee With The King who has just started a great series about Luke 7 34-50 on precisely this. There are no Godincidences that his blog appeared in my feed just as I was pondering faith, joy and honeymoons.

Jesus forgives once every 25 years?

Over 20 years ago I walked into an anonymous-looking building in Sydney. A few people jostled outside with placards. I held tight to the hand of the girlfriend I had come with and kept my head turned away from the right to life slogans. images-1

The receptionist took names quietly, handed over sheets of instructions as to what to expect next. It was silent as a tomb, the air fecund with unspoken pathways. As I sat with the consequence of unprotected sex with a married man, it struck me that no one had offered anything other than this option.

In this clinic, patients were beckoned forward discreetly. By avoiding names, by depersonalising, we could ignore what would happen beyond those frosted doors. We could all pretend that life was fine, that life would go on.

Except it wouldn’t. One life would not go on, and the lives of those entwined would never forget. No matter how much future destructive behaviour blocked out the pain, no matter how much alcohol was consumed, how many daring raids on the married man’s marital bed took place while his wife was away, all in the vain hope that seductiveness, power, danger and sexual prowess would transplant vows and gold rings. Seeking reasons: if he left her, it would somehow be ‘better’. The scraping across a womb, across a soul, would be validated.

As the nurse beckoned, I looked at my friend. I hadn’t the wisdom, age or words. So I stood up, gave her a hug, took a deep breath – and let her step forward, alone, into cold sterility.

Today, in my journey with God and Jesus, I wonder could I have offered her something different? Yet if you don’t grow up in a faith-based household, the choice to keep an unplanned pregnancy rarely crops up. If you’re a female of a certain age, in a certain demographic, with a career path ahead of you, then the outcome of unprotected sex is most often a clinic appointment. I’m not saying it is the only choice, but it is certainly the choice our society pushes as ‘easiest’.

No judgement. I am from that demographic. There but for the grace of latex, pill, IUD and low count swimmers. Before any right to lifers start sending me hate mail, I’d like to explain now how my perspective has changed. Yet God and Jesus had nothing to do with it.

I am married with school-age children. I have grown two babies within me, spending the first 12 weeks of pregnancy silently hoping that fertilised eggs would bed successfully into my womb. Throwing up all day and every day from week three to week 33, seeing heartbeats on an ultrasound and feeling the first fluttering of butterfly wings from the inside. Tracing the outline of my son’s foot shoved out against the drum-tightness of my stomach, and experiencing the brutiful awfulness of long labours. I loved the simplicity of life when, floating on an oxytocin hormone haze, all I needed think about was the next breastfeed, the next nap and cuddling bone-less, milk-drunk newborn babies.

After all of that, a long time before I ever got to know G&J, I made the emotional connection that life began way sooner than all the clinical language of unplanned pregnancies tried to have me think in my teens.

If, thanks to the vagaries of a peri-menopausal cycle and Big T’s sperm of steel I found myself pregnant today, I would be horrified. Yet, even before I started slanging at G&J with a “what on earth are You thinking?” style-prayer, my own emotional connection with two babies born wouldn’t allow me to do much else than welcome a third.

But I write this in a secure relationship, economically-comfortable, with all my education qualifications achieved and framed. Take me back to 16 years old and my then 21-year old boyfriend – whom I saw as troubled and Heathcliff-esque, whilst my parents saw only police record and danger – and I know I would have been marched to the clinic. No dialogue entered into. Which now makes me ponder. Why do I ‘know’ that? Because of the media message we hear continually: that an unexpected pregnancy is ‘the end’. My chances of further study would have been ‘ruined’. Which is nonsense. An unexpected pregnancy is scary, frightening, overwhelming and confronting. But it does not mean ruin or the end. Yet the extreme language used explains why abortion is so often viewed as the ‘only’ solution.

Every situation is different. I have stories from faithful Christians who were told their unborn baby would die in the womb, whose Doctor said an abortion would be ‘kinder’, yet continued with the pregnancy. They wrapped their daughter – born without heartbeat or breath at 30 weeks – in a handmade quilt, gave her a funeral with dignity, and now hold onto their memories.

Today they talk about their daughter with others and visit her gravestone. She had the briefest of lives but they were able to love her, hold her and talk to her. Her mother says they would never have been able to talk about her if they had taken the doctor’s advice. Yet in the early days of diagnosis, it was tempting. Worse, the thought of uttering the word ‘abortion’ to her pastor filled her with dread.

Which makes me weep. At a time when the need for spiritual, pastoral care was at its highest, she felt shame for even considering the notion and unable to share the burden with someone of her faith. But isn’t that the point? We need to be able to hold up our darkest choices to God and Jesus – and their proxies – and ask for help and forgiveness. Not judgement and condemnation.

Yes, there are pastors, churches and organisations who can help. The problem is, their availability is forgotten in the use of extreme language: Unplanned pregnancy? Your life is over! Plus certain church messaging about abortion – such as the upcoming Roman Catholic Jubilee Year – drowns Jesus and compassion in religiosity.

For the coming Roman Catholic Jubilee year, starting in December, Pope Francis is ‘making it easier for doctors and women to seek forgiveness for abortion’. A jubilee year is one of the Catholic Church’s most important events and normally takes place every 25 years. But why is it just a jubilee year that makes it easier to seek forgiveness? Why not every second of every day of every year?

Imagine Jesus up on the cross, dying for us and saying:

“Yes, I’m covering for you all. I’m dying so you can have a relationship with God. It is finish-

“…No, actually. Hold off on that spear in my side for a moment…

“It’s sort of finished. For you people over there. But not for you women who had an abortion. No. The good news isn’t for you. Yes, the decision may press on your heart and weigh you down that you can barely breathe, but you missed the forgiveness train and it won’t be coming to the station again for 25 years.”

Every situation is different. In regards to abortion, Roman Catholicism teaches differently to the church I am part of. Yet Jesus does not differ.

Remember the woman caught in adultery in John 8?

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Based on this passage, it is perverse that the Roman Catholic religion ends up throwing the first stone at women, and doctors, who have procured or carried out abortion.

I can clearly see Jesus offering a woman who has had an abortion acceptance, love, forgiveness and hope as soon as she seeks it. Not once every 25 years.

If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and wish to talk to someone about your choices with compassion and without judgement, contact http://www.diamondpregnancy.com/ or call them on (02) 8003 4990.

One year old & 10,000 readers. Dear God, how did that happen?

oneweekinaugust.com is celebrating over 10,000 readers. Had you asked me 18 months ago if I could imagine myself writing this sort of blog, with a Bible app on my phone, an aural affection for the Pandora ‘Songs of Worship’ channel, that I would have been Lipton’d and be working with a global charity broadcasting the gospel to a few billion people in the hardest-to-reach parts of the world? I’d have checked if the person you knew was the same one whose mind and body I inhabit.tumblr_l2ez3gGb1O1qzoozmo1_500

Scarily reminiscent of Matthew 16:25: For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…

As my recent run in with the horned mother trucker tested, this blog is not an ego-feeder of readership numbers, shares and likes. It isn’t. Honestly. And yet..

When Jesus told them the Great Commission, his first century disciples didn’t have the benefit of digital media, social sharing and blogging immediacy. When the resurrected Jesus called his followers to baptise all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, there was no internet. No bible colleges and theology degrees. Simply Jesus’ disciples, blessed with the holy spirit, getting out there on foot and letting as many as possible know.

Today it’s all shifted. Ministering and disciple-making is seen as the domain of those who have studied up – with the correct certificate hanging on the wall, and the right stole and cassock hanging in the wardrobe. Which I wasn’t aware of when I started this blog. Too new, too fresh and too oblivious to ‘right’ procedure. Back then, surprised by G, J and the SAP (smart alec pastor), I simply wrote what I observed during my slightly madcap Christian journey. It kicked-off partly as a way to process, partly as a means to ‘come out’ to my atheist friends. But it has grown…into I’m not sure what.

A kind reader sent me am encouraging note after my mother trucker blog: I think anyone who sticks their head up in the trenches like you do, will get shot at by the Evil One.. no surprises. The surprise is the WAY he does it..the bullets he uses, tailored to impact just you. It’s happened to any of us who use our gifts to further the Kingdom.

Me, upon reading that comment, in no particular order:

  • I’m not sticking my head up, I’m hiding behind a keyboard here aren’t I?
  • Further the Kingdom? Dear Lord, I hope you’ve got some seriously good roadsigns up for people. I do head off-piste…sorry..

Yet, I can’t ignore the numbers. It must make enough pithy sense for people to be engaged. So, completely accidentally, this has become a ‘baptism by blogging’. Digitally dunking as many readers as possible into a river of words, thoughts and my take on modern-day discipleship.

Discipleship – Then and Now

Refer to disciples, and thoughts turn to those early followers of Christ. Praying, worshipping, loving, giving, and evangelising men and women who refused to keep the truth of the gospel to themselves. Yet, God still desires disciples today—ordinary people to give up themselves so God can use them to do extraordinary things. …whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…

Trouble is, that’s all a bit radical to many in the modern day church. But for the early believers, that was normal. It was what you did once you had hung around with a grace-filled, other-focused man who taught a radical new way to live, performed miracles, was persecuted,  crucified and CAME BACK TO LIFE.

Read those four words in capitals again. Imagine it in the modern day. Wouldn’t that sort of encounter shake you up? Rock your world? Make you want to get out there and yell, “OMG, you should meet this bloke!”

To those early believers, it was normal Christianity. And these men and women—empowered and motivated by the Holy Spirit—turned their world upside down for the sake of Christ. In short, they were true disciples. They followed. They believed.

I’m a fairly dodgy disciple. I fail daily at being Christ-like and other focused. I imagine him peeking out at me from behind his fingers, shaking his head, looking to his left and saying, “Dad, she really didn’t just say that, did she..? Oh..yes, yes she did… Hang on, I’ve got it.” And he leans forward and whispers grace in my ear.

It is those odd whispers that form these blogs. I have to write to pick over the raw gems that God shoves at me. Mostly, it’s an almost physical compulsion to have another go at explaining what too much church and too much religion has lost in translation. My way of gently unpacking the joy that I never expected, the awe that keeps me thankful, and the fun and humour I have in a relationship with G&J.

I don’t think I’ll ever be the “OMG, you should meet this bloke!” yelling type. Instead, I prefer to think of these blog posts as a modern take on 18th century calling cards. A basis of forging an introduction.

Bless you for reading and sharing.

Sorry doesn’t have to be the hardest word

I had the the biggest shock of my married life some years back when my beautiful husband Big T shared the ‘noise’ in his head: what he had to do next, what had happened before, what may happen in the next minute, what may not. It was like he lived a constant risk-assessment dialogue, a hamster scurrying round and round on its wheel.imgres-1

So then I started asking friends and colleagues about their inner noise. It became apparent there were a lot of mental hamsters on an exhausting road to nowhere. I reported back, dismayed, to Big T. Intrigued, he looked at me and asked, “Don’t you?”

“Well, no, not really,” I pondered, surprised. “My head’s a fairly placid place. Sure, I know I’ve things to do, but I don’t fret too much over what happened yesterday and what could happen tomorrow.”

This has been my inner-world for as long as I can remember. Which strikes many who know me as odd, because my brain tends to zip through life at warp speed. However, just because my brain processes fast, it doesn’t mean my mind goes along for the ride. I figure I can fly with the wind, rather than be buffeted by it.

At a midnight Christmas Eve youth service, after a poignant poetry/drama about an incredibly busy career woman who finally found ‘quiet space’ in the understanding of Jesus and grace, the SAP asked me if it resonated. He, quite clearly, thought that was me. Yet all the way through the drama segment I had been baffled by the inability of the character to accept stillness and silence, of how her mind was always scurrying ahead to the next meeting, the next ‘place to be’.

God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (G,J & HS) didn’t need to swoop in and fix my busy mind. That wasn’t required. Rather, they improved the landscape. The natural stillness of my mind has now been filled with an awe, joy and wonder that is far easier and more fulfilling than the non-attached striving I mistakenly thought was the path to its ongoing quietness. When I ran from the hound of heaven, it wasn’t because my mind was too busy on its hamster wheel. I ran because I didn’t know any better. If I knew of all the love, care and gifts I would receive, would I have stopped sprinting sooner? Hmm, not sure. Allowing love in is often far harder than shutting it out…

Yet, I also understand how grace can calm a racing heart and apply balm to a busy mind. That by Jesus’ gift of the cross, we may all understand a grace that tells the hamster to quieten down, get off the wheel, and stop running hard on the spot.

After my recent horned Mother Trucker struggles, it would have been easy to stay in a ‘how could I almost do that?’ woe is me, breast-beating state of mind. But, thankfully, I’m not wired that way and, really, what’s the point? I apologised to the SAP (who dismissed it with such ‘all good, no dramas’ aplomb it makes me wonder if he’s been devil-ditched a few times, poor bastard) and it’d only continue to make a mockery of grace if I rolled around in sackcloth and ashes. Plus, you know, I’m in PR. Sackcloth and ashes are soooo not me, daaalink. It’s all Prada and Louboutin over here.

You know Elton John’s lyric, “Sorry seems to to be the hardest word”?  My Mum was a little bit tethered to that. She took pride in never apologising. I know others who are the same. Instead of apologies, they close down all dialogue by saying, “I’m not going to argue with you about this,” and therefore protect their position. It was me too, once. I’d grown up with a role-model who taught me apology meant weakness. I had to learn forgiveness because it wasn’t anything I’d ever been taught.

Imagine instead if sorry was the easiest word to say, and forgiveness was the easiest gift to bestow. What would that look like?

It looks like God and Jesus, that’s what.

Suffer the little children

My almost 11 year old son lies in his bunk tonight. He is burrowed as only a sleeping boy can do, wombat-like beneath hillocks of doona and pillow. Lean and sturdy, I see little of the toddler he once was.

Until I see Aylan, face down in the surf, echoing the repose most parents recognise: bottom up, face-planted, soles of shoes patterning outwards. images

There I see the echo of my boy, now grown through the gateways of life and memory-making that Aylan will never gain. His soles will not make patterns running in the sand. His starfish fingers will never again grasp his Father’s, as my 11 year old will do this coming Fathers’s Day.

I pray Aylan grasps Our Father’s hand. That this suffering child will be suffered by the One who somehow sees redemption in a world that has so skewed its priorities.

I am ashamed. Over backyard bbqs we smile at escalating house prices, quietly smug at locked up equity while we lock up others for fear of sharing boundless plains that are not as spare as we like to sing.

I am ashamed. Our churches squabble over marriage acts and how to speak on same sex unions while Rome burns, Greek islands sink and small boys swallow sea water. It clogs their lungs: burning, gasping, splashing,  their tiny star fish hands seeking purchase and sneakered feet frantically kicking.

Did he cry for his mama, do you think? As the waves broke over his head, as he sobbed and cried with fear, did she hear him and, frantically, did she try to hold him up? Did she use all of her last mama’s strength to push him, float him, hold him? To tell him not to be afraid, that she loved him, that he wasn’t alone? Did she try to sing him one last lullaby as the waves pulled them down?

I am ashamed. That I will, one day soon, have to explain to my son why we let small children drown, why we fail to love our neighbours as ourselves.

And on that final day, when I stand before Him, what answer will I give? That it seemed too hard and far away for me to make a difference? And then, if by His grace I walk on in, what then? I picture a small boy in a red t-shirt, his siblings and mother coming over and offering their forgiveness – and it is just too large and bitter a lump to swallow in my tear-clogged throat.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 18:10 NIV

Dear Lord, let’s just ban marriage

Hi God, it’s me, Phil.

And I’m sorry but I have to tell You, I’m a little over the marriage equality ‘debate’ that’s raging in Sydney right now. My itchy BC (before Christ) skin, as You well know from my previous wranglings with same sex attraction and Christianity, is rolling her eyes. We have social orphans committing suicide in Russia, poverty in Africa, child-sex trafficking, forced prostitution, Aborginal health, detention centres, women being murdered by their partners or husbands….need I go on? I feel we’ve got our perspective and priorities seriously skewed._gay marriage cartoon

There’s money being spent on adverts that don’t get aired, media events that people don’t turn up to, and metres of vertical trolls on social media.

Screw marriage rights, God, screw ’em. Tell you what, why don’t we do a Brangalina type announcement and say that no-one gets married until we sort out poverty, illiteracy, access to education, domestic violence, world peace etc. etc.

That’s right: no-one. Then we’ll see just how committed everyone REALLY is to marriage equality. What do you reckon?

I know, I know, it’ll upset the unwed Christians because they won’t be getting any, if they are honouring You, due to Your no sex without marriage request (well, maybe a little stronger than a request, but I’m in PR). Anyway. Think of the focus it would achieve. Nothing like enforced celibacy to gird one’s loins for mission and change.

But I really think it’s the best way to sort it out. Kind of like toddlers arguing over a toy car in the sandpit. Take it away. End of argument.

The irony here is the greatest gift You blessed me with: the ability to see both sides. So You set Yourself up royally for my wrestling. I don’t want to be a bad and unfaithful servant, honest, but I’m still figuring out how to be truth-filled and grace-filled and hold the space for Jesus to walk into it on this one.

I admit, I want You to make it easy for me. I want it so marriage equality doesn’t keep making Christians appear like a bunch of intolerant bigots.

Christians, for the most part, are trying to stick to Your word. Which is pretty damn unpopular in 2015. Fastest way to lose friends is wear a cross around your neck these days and point to the Bible as truth. And that breaks my heart because some of the most caring, compassionate people I know are Christians getting a bad rap for sticking to their belief in Your word.

So, Lord, I want to pray for those scripture-focused Christians who say, “I’d rather get to heaven and have God ask me, “Why couldn’t you just keep up with the times on same sex marriage?” instead of, “Well, could you not read My word?””

They are putting God above self and aren’t winning any popularity contests. But to say they are hating bigots is not only wrong and unfair, it’s a dangerous slippery slope regarding freedom of belief.

I also want to pray for the less scripturally-focused Christians (the popularist pastors). And anyone they’ve sent off-piste. That’d be a real kick in the proverbials come the pearly gates. My challenge, personally, is wanting those popularist pastors to be right. For me, they are weepingly, painfully seductive. I want their biblical gymnastics to make sense. I want this to be easy.

But (much like Bogart and Bacall) of all the churches in all of Sydney I could have called that day, You delivered a scriptural pastor at the end of the phone. You could have delivered a hall pass. (Sigh).

A dear SSA friend asked me about the scriptural take the other day.  After I cautiously explained it with as much care and respect as possible, he thanked me. “I have never had the opportunity to explore both sides before,” he said. “I’m not Christian, so I’d never ask to take part in a Christian marriage ceremony. But at least I understand it better now.”

Because both sides deserve a fair hearing. Which isn’t happening in Australia, as Paul Barrie from MediaWatch recently demonstrated.  What happened? Why is holding a different viewpoint now taken as an excuse to vilify? Some of the most dangerous atrocities in the world have stemmed from intolerance and vilification of different viewpoints. So I pray that stops. Soon.

So God, I’ll keep wrestling. Sorry. But I’ll also try my damnedest to hold the space for Jesus’ grace and Your love to walk though.

Amen.