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Fear not

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

“I’m not sending the kids up, since you are asleep.”

This is what my husband had declared to me as he got the kids off to school. Part of the morning routine he has handled for several years.

This morning I was not getting up and getting ready to head to my own school. An on-line threat kept area schools closed. I was home for the day.

Now, letting me sleep in was a kind gesture. But I was up. I wasn’t going back to sleep, and as I lay there I had this thought for the very first time: “No. I have to get up and hug them, and tell them I love them. What if they don’t come home?”

For the first time, I feared that. That I would be at home. My kids would be at school. And I would not be able to reach them, keep them safe, or even get them home. And, my kids are Caucasian. Not even the intended “target.”

Fear.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Terror. Fear. Being scared. Anxious. These things come from the enemy. Constant worry and panic is an attack from the devil to keep our eyes away from the one who can conquer evil. It’s Satan’s tactic to keep us crippled so we can’t act. So we can’t move our hands and feet to show up where love needs to be seen. To show it. To give it.

You know what else comes from Satan? Let’s be honest: Hate. The kind that thinks it’s OK to instill fear in a group of people, simply because they don’t look, think, see things the same way we do.

Let’s call it what it is: Evil. Sin.

Nothing of this kind of act is born of love.

I can sit here in fear. Fear for my children. Fear for those that aren’t mine that I love and care for deeply.

Or I can do something to make sure that fear and terror, caused by the enemy does not take residence in my heart.

I choose to love and teach my kids to love all the same. If it makes us a target. So be it.

I choose to teach my children that hate language of any kind is not accepted. Not in our house. Not at school. Not in their community.

I choose to teach my kids to stand up and speak out against those who use unkindness and hate speech to intimidate and create fear in others. To call out the bully. The mean people. Let them know it’s not OK. It’s not just the “way they are.” Because we are called to be better.

I choose to teach my kids to love the outcast. To eat with the lonely. To love the unloveable. To break bread with everyone, even those that are far different. Because that’s how we learn from each other. That’s how we grow. That’s how we ensure that people are not feared.

I may be just one little white woman. I may not be able to change an entire world with my love. Or my kindness.

But I can be a living example for my white children. So they know hatred and bigotry of any kind is not accepted. That we will not fear the message of love that comes from Christ. That we will love, honor, respect, and walk with people from all walks of life.

Even if we don’t look like them.

Even if we don’t talk like them.

Even if we don’t believe like them.

We will not fear love.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2019 in Like Jesus Does, Loving Others

 

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Father, forgive them…even the bullies

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

I have spent a number of weeks both at home and in my “day job,” trying to teach compassion and kindness. Encouraging children to not point out differences as if they are an abomination. But learning to love and accept the differences we all have.

Many times I have failed. Thinking the bigger bully. The one with the loudest voice wins. At times I have been deeply discouraged. Feeling as if my effort to teach kindness and love is falling on deaf ears.

I have not been immune to bullies myself. Yes even adults are bullied. Even kindness warriors are treated unkindly. And in our home we have experienced what happens when a friendship goes sour, and a young girl becomes a target.

So despite the hatred, we seek to infuse our world with kindness. A love for all. To demonstrate and model these in the hopes that it will create a more kind, and less cruel world.

Love and kindness are both the way of Jesus.

But, so is prayer for those who are anything but kind.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27

But Jesus took the call to prayer even further. He didn’t just pray for those who were outcasts, or deemed unacceptable by society; he lived among them. And he was criticized and questioned each time he stood up or dwelled among the least of these.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law saw him eating with the sinners, they asked the disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” Mark 2:15-17

And it is what we should do. Call the sinners. Spend time healing the sick. Many times we focus on the victims, as we should. But what if we did something different…and prayed for that bully? Or the person we don’t like? The person who is mean and rude to us day after day?

Jesus was clear when he called us to minister to the “least of these” in Matthew 25:40. He was clear that we are to feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Welcome the stranger. Stand up for the oppressed. Visit the prisoner. Love the unloveable.

Even the most unloveable bully.

This kind of love may make you an outcast. It may scare some folks who don’t embrace different. Praying for the bully is radically different. But we are called to be all these things. Because we are called to be like Jesus, and call the sinners.

So, next time you find yourself lamenting about the harsh words of another person. The actions of a bully. Or the cruel and hateful world. Speak the following in prayer instead:

Lord, I pray that you give them a new heart and put a new spirit in them. Lord remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Remember to pray for the least of these. Encourage the least of these. Build up that bully. Sit amongst those who are not like you. Who may make you cringe, or hurt you. Because you may be the only one who is praying for them. The only one who is praying for their heart to be changed.

And because it’s what Jesus would have done: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” 

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2019 in Like Jesus Does, Loving Others

 

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A BFF like no other

The subject of friendships has been the topic of much discussion in the many roles I have in this crazy thing called life. Friendships, especially those you have when growing up, can be hard to navigate. Tough to figure out who is true, and who is not really that good for you. Who is going to be there through it all, or who is going to drop you when life becomes too much to handle.

We also define our relationships with our friends based on our similarities, not realizing that our likes are often fleeting, and thus can’t sustain a relationship for very long. When a difference or conflict occurs because we don’t agree, if our friendships are based on being the same, it is hard to move past these differences.

Since I have grown out of the girl drama, and now firmly believe that everything I truly need to know is right in God’s Word. The same is true for friendship.

The friendship formed between Ruth and Naomi was one example, but the friendship of David and Jonathan is another great example of the amazing, unexplainable, unbreakable bonds of friendship that can endure through immense hardship and trials. Showing how a friend can also be a powerful mentor or role model.

First, David and Jonathan were unlikely friends. 

“So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as King.” 1 Samuel 15:23

The “you” mentioned here is Saul, the king. However, the decision he made to go rogue in battle and disobey God meant his family lost the honor of inheriting the title. His son, Jonathan, as a result lost the chance to become a king.

Then…enter David. Twelve years old. To become the newly anointed. The next in line to become king. Jonathan, once in line. Now losing his place to a kid!

Even still, there is a bond between the two, and a love for “self.”

By the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David-an immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number one advocate and friend. 1 Samuel 18:1-3

Consider that Jonathan is much older than David. David was a young boy at this point, chosen to soothe Saul’s anger with music. He has defeated the giant, and claimed victory for the Israelites. He has also now become a threat to the king.

This little kid.

At some point he was going to need an advocate. A friend. God knew this.

So he sent Jonathan. Who could have been jealous, too. I mean he was standing in front of the kid who was going to be seated one day where he should be. But he set his own desires aside to love David. As much as he loved himself. Making a vow to love him and take care of him.

Jonathan was a mentor and encourager.

Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:16.

David is hiding. His enemy Saul wants him dead, and Jonathan goes looking for him? Of course he did. To encourage him. To remind him that he was chosen by God. To steer him in the right direction. To help him not falter in his walk, and to never give up. That’s what a loyal friend and role model does. Encourages. Lifts us up. Steers us to the right path. Reminds us who to look to for strength when we feel like giving up, and they drop everything to come find us when we need encouraging, too.

There is honesty and truth between the two, even when it is hard and hurtful. 

Saul called his son Jonathan together with his servants and ordered them to kill David. But because Jonathan treasured David he went and warned him. 1 Samuel 19:1-2

Jonathan knew that what Saul was plotting was wrong. Because he had committed to advocate for David, he was also committed to stand up against Saul’s jealous rage even if it meant he lost the favor of his father. Jonathan proved that honesty, truth, and loyalty are not only hard, but can be deeper than ties to family. They also require loyalty to ones values and often tremendous sacrifice.

Promises are kept, even to the end.

“God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever.” 1 Samuel 20:42

Even after Jonathan’s death, David remains loyal and committed to the friend he loved as a brother, taking in Jonathan’s child, and returning Saul’s land to him in his late father’s honor.

And Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, just like one of the royal family. 2 Samuel 9:12

So, what is so special about David and Jonathan? I think it goes back to what we all desire in the bonds of friendship. They were true. To each other and the promises they made. It was not a relationship born of jealousy, deceit, or betrayal; but one where the desires and needs of the other were placed above one’s own. And neither dropped the other when hardships and life became too much to handle.

At some point we will need an advocate. A friend. And God knows this. And when the time comes, I pray he sends you a friendship and a bond like David and Jonathan’s. Someone who will love you as they love themselves.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2019 in What About Your Friends

 

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Would you go where they go?

“How do they do it? How do they find each other? It’s like they can sniff out each other’s chaos?”

These are sometimes the conversations I have about the relationships amongst growing kids. How they decide to form attachments to those who are either good or bad for them. How we, as adults, do the same.

“Well, the same way adults do, right? We are all looking for someone who knows and will still accept our brand of crazy.”

That person who will see past our faults. That person we can trust. Who won’t gossip about us once we leave the room. Who will share in our struggles, and not share them with others. Be there when we are down. Pick us up when we need it.

Who when times are tough. We can’t see anyway out of the darkness. Have been acting a little crazy, distant, needy, whatever…won’t get sick of us, and leave.

Don’t we all want that?

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life bitter for me; the Lord has caused me to suffer, and sent tragedy upon me.” Ruth 1:20, 21 (NLT, paraphrase).

Naomi, a name given that meant “pleasant,” had suffered a life that during this time had been anything but. She had left Bethlehem. Moved to Moab with her husband. Had two sons, and then lost all three. Naomi had in turn become bitter (which is the meaning of the name “Mara”). Angry at God for seemingly allowing her grief. She fully expected to spend the rest of her life alone and abandoned in the same way she felt God had left her.

She did not expect anyone to remain loyal during her suffering. To endure her grief and pain alongside her.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us (Ruth 1:16-17).

To vow to stay with her until the end.

Ruth was no longer obligated to do so. No longer married to Naomi’s son. Technically no longer part of Naomi’s family.

But to Ruth, she was making a commitment that had nothing to do with blood or technicalities. Ruth saw Naomi. In pain. Grieving. And made a commitment to endure life with her. Through the ups and downs.

Through the suffering.

She made a sacrifice to love Naomi as her own family.

She didn’t weigh what was in it for her first. She didn’t do it in order to get anything out of it. Both women returned to Bethlehem with nothing. She simply saw another suffering soul; a woman in need of a friend. Someone needing to be accepted with all her “crazy.” She decided to love her and stand by her until the end.

Isn’t that what we all want?

The person we tell to leave, but just won’t. They stay and ride out our junk with us. Even if they have their own junk. Even if they don’t have to. Even if they have somewhere to be. Any time you call. Every time you fall.

We all want someone who will stay when we get a little sideways, and yes, a little “crazy.”

Do you have that person? Are you that person for someone?

Maybe today you can be just a little softer in the midst of someone’s struggle. Stay a while in someone’s “crazy” moment. Sit in someone’s chaos, instead of growing bitter. Help someone navigate their return home, so they don’t have to alone.

Even if you have somewhere to be. Even if you have your own junk. Even if you don’t have to.

Just go wherever they go for a while.

 

 
 

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“Real” Love….getcha some.

I’m going to show my age here. Urban Cowboy. It’s a movie. John Travolta. Not so Grease and Saturday Night Fever cool.

Common boy meets girl, fall in love, fall out of love, do whatever you can do to make each other jealous until you realize…well darn, he really was the one type of movie.

Classic.

I remember the movie. Yes. But, I remember one of the songs even more. Probably because when I think of this song it brings to mind a late friend. Singing it over and over in the middle of my living room, doing the same exact thing: “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places/Lookin’ for love in too many faces.”

Sound familiar?

Looking for acceptance from the number of likes on your Insta post.

Looking for approval from the “in” crowd. The “cool” kids.

Changing who you are, or ditching your own goals because someone else has told you they were lame. All because he or she “loves” you.

Looking for love from the first person who looks extra long at you, or gives you a sideways glance, even if they may be oh-so-wrong for you. Even if you know this already. You need love.

Looking for attention from those who will laugh at any little thing you do, even if it’s not some nice stuff. Maybe some downright cruel stuff.

You will change your style to find love.

You will do whatever you can to lose weight for love.

You will give up on a dream for love.

You will forget who you are.

All for what you believe to be love.

Love like that. The kind that demands you be someone you are not. The kind that is all based on that “Ooooohhhh. Aaaaahhhhh. I need that” feeling. It’s fleeting. It goes away once that “need” goes away. And then you move on to something else.

There is, however, a love that never leaves.

God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!” Jeremiah 31:3, MSG

It’s the love that comes from our Creator.

How would I know?

Because I knew the fleeting kind of love. I knew the kind that caused me to sell myself short because someone “loved” me. Because it was “cool.” Because I “needed” something.

But when I realized that all I ever needed to be was wholly and gloriously me in the eyes of God. That I could be accepted in all my broken pieces, and he would love me anyway, and create in me something new and amazing-I didn’t need the approval of the world anymore.

Love found me. It loves me when I am unloveable. It pushes me towards a dream that is all my own. It knows my personality. My style. What I bring to the table. To the room. The space I am in, and uses that, because He put that in me. He loves those gritty, fiesty, inner fighter parts of me.

The world will look at those parts and see something different, and there was a time that used to break me down. But I’m not looking for love from those faces.

I’m looking for it from One place. The One.

Because I’ve never known anything else quite like it.

Want that kinda love? The “real” kind. Unconditional. Everlasting. You can getcha some, too. It’s pretty amazing.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2019 in Craving More of God, Loving Oneself

 

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Can I get a side of grace with that Autism, please?

It was an especially hard Sunday. In my desperation I spent all day trying to find the words to express what I had on my mind. What I wanted to say. The loss, disappointment, guilt, and even anger I felt.

Nothing I found measured up. Nothing spoke to my unique situation.

See, I am a former children’s pastor. In addition, I am a counselor for kids with special needs and mental health diagnosis. I’m expected to have all the answers. To guide kids in making the right choices. To be strong. But with all these things, I am also a weary and imperfect parent. I have a son with special needs. And because of this, I end up feeling utterly alone.

Because for all the work done to make more people aware of how a kid like Hunter can present in social situations, there is still a long way to go. The fact remains that many still expect him (and many children like him) to look and act only one way. They then dismiss his overwhelming needs, and our struggles if he doesn’t.

Tell us all the things we or he need. Can I tell you for a minute what we need?

He will not forget the work you did or the love you showed for him in the help you gave and are still giving to other Christians. Hebrews 6:10

Please. If you don’t know what to do. Just say it. Ask us how you can help. Don’t simply stand by and remain silent. It only compounds our loneliness. Makes us continue to believe that no one gets it.

And once you have learned how to help us help him, teach your kids how to do the same. There is nothing more inspirational and rewarding to a kid with special needs than to have his or her peers get it, to come alongside them so they don’t feel so alone in their turmoil. I don’t expect your child to understand what autism is, or to totally be in tune with his feelings. What I do expect is for them to offer a hand. A pat on the back. A gentle word. Anything but more uncomfortable stares.

We need you to realize that while all those heartwarming stories of successes and milestones. Those happy You Tube worthy, going viral moments are wonderful; they were also made possible by many heart-wrenching ones. We need you to listen to these as much as you celebrate the successes. However, when we get the courage to share those heart-wrenching moments, we usually hear your silence.

What we really need. What we really want. Desire in the midst of the chaos. Crave beyond the stares, and covet in our quick snappiness or inability to cope is simply this: grace.

I don’t need your judgment. I don’t need you to make a comment about how I need to smile more. Or let someone know how I forgot to greet you this morning when I came into church. Did you know I listened to a 10 year old scream all morning getting dressed because he didn’t want to come? Then his underwear was too tight. His shirt was too something, and he then screamed all the way to church.

Yes. I knew I could get 5 minutes of peace in my office before the service started, so I ran there.

And, yes. I know I sit alone in the first service. Because my son is not with me. He won’t take all of my attention. I can listen to the Word unobstructed. Until the next service starts, and he is moaning about the length. The noise. A back rub. His sister. And I can’t hear anything the preacher is saying. I just need my moment now. Please.

And please understand, that…yes. He looks fine right now. In front of you. Talking to you. He is not so socially unaware that he does not understand what it is like to be embarrassed. He actually fears embarrassment like he fears the dentist. Immensely. So, he has the ability to hold all his emotions in until he gets alone with mommy or daddy and explodes. Because we are safe. We can handle it. Or so he thinks. And even if we can’t, he knows we won’t judge him. We won’t leave him. We will always love him. He just isn’t that safe around everyone else. So when he leaves this church screaming with me, it’s not because I’m an inept parent. I am a safe one.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Who recognizes as well those who have overlooked the ten-year old screaming the words “fart” or “butt” in the middle of the church service. Who simply help him mask his discomfort with his overloaded senses. Because that is what it is. And for whatever reason these totally inappropriate words at the time provide some kind of comfort. Thank you. Thank you for making it seem completely normal. And thank you for reminding him it is completely not OK to say them during the church potluck.

Thank you for being a safe enough person to him that he is completely comfortable enough with you. That he will gladly let you pick him up, even though he is 10. So he can be distracted long enough for Mommy to have a ten minute conversation after church. Because you know he was ready to leave at 12. Because church was supposed to be over at 12, and we are still here at 12:05. Thank you.

Thank you for continuing to invite us to lunch. Even though we decline every single time. Because our kid will more than likely only want a hamburger. Only from McDonald’s. And, you know. It’s 12. Church is over. And, well we must go home. But thank you for continuing to invite us. Thank you.

And most of all thank you to the those who can recognize this mom’s face. The one without the smile. The one who ran to her office as soon as she got to church. For just five minutes. Who may look harried. Who may have forgotten to say good morning. All to ensure a kid felt safe on the way to church. Thanks for stopping and asking this safe momma, “Rough morning, huh?’ Thank you.

And this safe mom is teaching this boy that grace handles getting screamed at with stoicism, “It’s OK, sweet child’s,” head massagers, and back rubs.

Accepts his apologies over and over and over; even if he will be doing it all over again next Sunday. Or when he is hungry again. Or mad because the WiFi is out. Or lonely because his sister has a play date and he feels left out. He knows this house offers grace. Safety. Security. Acceptance of his differences.

And I pray this safe mom is teaching others how to do the same.

Because you may have messed up. You may not know how to handle it. You may have thought he was just a bratty kid, and we were inept parents. Tried to help, and failed. It’s OK. We tried and failed, too. We do often. Still. But we have something to offer: Grace.

Because it’s what we all need. Autism or not. Just a side of a little bit more grace.

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Autism and Faith

 

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The Inn after Christmas

These are the leftovers of Christmas that remain underneath our tree.

The last of the gifts that need to be unboxed and placed in their appropriate places throughout the house. We chose to unwrap our gifts and then place them here instead of leaving our tree bare after Christmas morning. Weird, maybe. Lazy…whatever you wish to call it.

However, even though we prefer to purchase a live tree each year, we decided this year to leave it up a little longer. I happen to enjoy the twinkling lights. We were both home the full two weeks for winter break. And while living or artificial, each year we seem to want to put our decorations up earlier, and keep them up later and later.

Then there is also the twelve days of Christmas that played into this. The wise men did not visit Jesus on Christmas night. They actually paid their visit to the Messiah several nights later. Bearing gifts that were much more glorious than any sitting underneath our tree right now.

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down to worship him. They opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:9-11, NLT

Whether you celebrate the Twelfth Night today or tomorrow (because yes, even that is debated). If you don’t even give it a thought. Whether you think it’s superstition to take anything “old” into a “new” year, and take your decorations down as soon as Christmas Day is done; or whatever Christmas decor lore you subscribe to, let’s remember this:

The true gift was never placed under a tree. He was swaddled with love and care, and placed in a feeding trough in a lowly manger. He is a gift that is ours for the taking daily, as long as we receive him in our hearts. His spirit isn’t relegated to a season, and his love and spirit of giving, kindness and compassion that lives in those who call him Savior should be present far beyond Christmas Day. Far beyond the day the decor is packed away. The carols are sung, or the gift boxes are placed in the attic. It is lived out daily. Given to others daily.

If you are a follower of Jesus, let’s look at others the way I look at my Christmas tree. With wonder. With delight. As if it’s the most magical thing you have ever seen, and you certainly don’t want it taken down.

Could we spend a little more time in awe of people this way? Even those who are hard to love? In awe of him this way?

Even after all the decorations and twinkling lights are gone?

Will there still be room for Jesus? For love, peace, joy, and compassion in our inns?

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2019 in Loving Others

 

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