Running On Empty?

glass

(FreeImages.com/MargaritRalev)

I started this year with a theme/verse that God had given to me: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The theme was freedom from self.

Let me tell you, when you know you are called to a place of dying more to self so that you might live more in Christ, the battle is not going to be easy!  This entire year so far has been full of many wonderful God-moments, but it has also held some huge attacks against my identity.

I have written numerous blog posts about identity because this topic is so incredibly important and is very dear to my heart.

You might be asking, “What does identity have to do with feeling like I am not just running on empty but I am dried up, cracked, and brittle?”

Talk about busy!!!  We are down to 5-6 weeks left in the school year.  The end is in sight, but there is so much to accomplish at the end.  Summer sounds like a “breather,” but for those of you who have some or all of your kids in school, it’s a different kind of busy.

In the 21st century, “busy” is such a common description that if you ask someone how they are doing, 95-percent of the time, they will answer, “Busy!”

I understand that we can’t ignore busyness all together and live.   I have five kids.  I home-school two of them, two are in private school, and I have a 3-year-old who desperately needs to be potty-trained.  I have a side business.  I try to stay connected with people.  I am a soccer-mom, basketball-mom, and swim-mom, during the typical seasons.  I run to allergy shot appointments every 3 weeks, orthodontist appointments for three people regularly,  and at least 22 other medical appointments in a year that are just for regular maintenance (optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, dermatologist, and ophthalmologist).  I run to fix retainers and glasses that seem to constantly be getting bent or stretched.

So, if busyness comes with the territory of living, how can I avoid the never-ending feelings of emptiness that result so often?

Is the issue the busyness, or is it something else?  Is busyness the root cause of my emptiness or merely a symptom of the root cause?

To start to answer these questions, let me share a little of my recent experiences with you.

I knew I needed a spiritual “re-alignment” recently.  When I started to feel those old feelings of insecurity rearing their ugly heads, I knew I was it was time to come in for a “tune-up.” 

Feeling hyper-sensitivity, feeling really “low,” feeling jealous, feeling insecure, feeling a desperate need for validation and affirmation?  Those are dead-giveaways that there is a core problem that can’t be fixed with more pats on the heads, a platform, a position, a vacation, a new outfit, a horizon, a new vocation, or a new decoration.  In fact, those very things will continue to feed the feelings of emptiness and discontent.  They will satisfy fleetingly, but there is a never-ending need for more…

The other day, I took the kids to a nature center/park.  My 5-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the shiny appearance of Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) that they had for sale.  I decided to purchase the large rock because I knew it would make a great object lesson and also would be a good reminder to me.

Pyrite has the appearance of something of value, but the reality is that it doesn’t hold the core qualities that distinguish it from the similar appearance of real gold.  See the following article on differences: https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/mining/pyrite-the-real-story-behind-fools-gold/ and http://www.minerals.net/mineral/gold.aspx.

It is interesting that Pyrite is brittle and can’t bend like real gold.  The mineral structure of Pyrite is mostly sulfuric.  The appearances of gold and Pyrite is similar, and they can be found in similar rock-beds, but the structure is different and thus is their use.

Pyrite reminded me of how we often search for the value of something, based on its appearance.  Does it look like success?  Does it look like prosperity?  Does it look like affirmation?  Does it look like security?  Does it look like beauty?  Does it look like fame?  Does it look like comfort?

What if the value of something isn’t in its appearance but in its core?  What if it’s the structure of the thing itself that determines whether it will hold up or whether it will crumble under pressure?

During part of my “re-alignment” time, God was showing me that I had been following after fulfillment based on the appearance of things: their appeal.  What He reminded me is that the most important things — the real blessings are not out there.  Rather, they are always right in front of us. 

God doesn’t dangle His blessings on a string and then keep pulling them back further the closer we get to them.  Rather, His blessings are often the gems hidden in the foundation of our every day lives.  God places His most priceless treasures in the framework of our daily lives — within the gritty, dull, hard surfaces of our lives.  It’s mixed in the hard grind of our daily and in the muddy, messy of authentic ministry.

Why do we rush after the appeal of appearances? 

What drives the empty to pursue the empty?

A friend recently gave me the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  I want to share a few powerful quotes from her book:

Indeed, the world entices your flesh but never embraces your soul.

We run at breakneck pace to try and achieve what God simply wants us to slow down enough to receive.

Imagine a little girl running with a cup in her hand, sloshing out all it contains.  She thinks what will refill her is just ahead.  Just a little farther.  She presses on with sheer determination and clenched teeth and an empty cup clutched tight.

She keeps running toward an agenda He never set and one that will never satisfy.  She sees Him and holds out her cup.  But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him, because she didn’t stop long enough to be filled up.  Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty: where your hands are full, but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell.

He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling — all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace.

Why do we run to agendas, people, things, and appearances?  What is the draw?

The answer is you look for fulfillment out there when you are empty inside.

Remember, the verse I mentioned at the beginning?  …the one about Him increasing and me decreasing?

You know what truth came to me as I was getting my “tune-up”?  It was that I had been trying to find my worth again in myself. 

You see, it’s not about the agendas, people, things, fortune, fame, and appearances out there.  What we are really seeking is to find something out there to satisfy me, to validate me, to fill me, to secure me, and to give me a sense of worth.

That’s why it is so dangerous to pursue those things from a place of emptiness.  You are not after those things necessarily because of the thing or people themselves.  You are after what you hope to get from those things or relationships.

Look at relationships.  Know what happens when we try to pull from people our sense of worth?  This is what happens: rejection, shame, pride, insecurity, judgement, selfishness, comparisons, jealousy, labels…

As Christians, the deception is even more subtle sometimes.  We look to ministries and service for our fulfillment.  It is so hard to see through to the truth of our motives because we can cover them in so many “right-sounding” words.

I believe this: I believe that God’s invitation isn’t to serve Him.  I believe the invitation is to be loved by Him and for Him to love through us.  The focus really isn’t on serving; it’s on being loved by God and letting His love flow through us to others in tangible ways.  Otherwise, we’ll attach “strings” to people so that we can attempt to pull from them what we lack and which only God can fill.  This kind of “love” isn’t really love but selfish manipulation of people to ultimately feed my sense of worth.

This profound truth recently “struck” me: Authentic love produces authentic righteousness.  If we try to live righteous lives to find worth, to attempt to prove our worth before God, we will only produce self-righteousness, which isn’t righteous at all.  When we are still trying to figure out our own worth, we will bury ourselves under layers of ministry, “righteous” labels, and appearances, but the core motivation is once again an attempt to persuade ourselves, others, and God (we think) that we are worthy of His love.

The truth is this:

“God’s love isn’t based on me.  It’s simply placed on me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

And this…  Authentic love that comes from a place of being filled by Him will always flow out.  It’s like a stream.  There’s a continual reservoir of being filled and pouring out but never running dry because the source of the water is from deeper and higher up.  By pouring from a place of abundance, there’s not a need to be concerned with running dry.

The place of abundance — the abundant life — is God Himself!!!

Living loved isn’t deciding to be loved…  it’s settling in my soul, “I was created by God because He loved me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

You don’t have to win God’s love.  It was poured out on a cross for you.  It ran down in rivers of blood from a crown of thorns and spikes driven into His hands and feet.  It gushed out from His side, where a spear was thrust to determine His death was real.  It revealed itself in a myriad of colors, shapes, sounds, and fragrances at Creation.  It reveals itself in an eternity that is planned just for you to experience the fullness of life, love, joy, and peace like you have never known before.  Even now, it shows itself in the daily grind where He offers His Presence to be the “Gem” that is found in the midst of the hard and muddy of life.

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A Simple Life Is A Contented Life

daisy in hand

(FreeImages.com/Ne¾a Èerin)

It was August.  I was rushing everywhere.  Life had me on a merry-go-round — that is, the life I had chosen…  In one of my reflective moments, God’s still, small voice spoke to my heart, “A simple life is a contented life.”  It struck me.

A simple life is a contented life.

Most of us are rushing around, striving, struggling, doing, trying to prove… what?  We are trying to prove that we aren’t our parents, that we are significant, that we are intelligent, that we are worthy, that we are pretty, that we are one of the best mommies out there, that we are the “all-American” family…

If we are honest, that’s what this is all about, most of the time.  The problem is we are rarely really honest with ourselves nor do we take the time to ask those pointed questions.  God will, if we will listen.  The problem is we are too busy rushing to listen.

And God…  He keeps speaking into our chaos and calling us to Himself.  We don’t need to be more.  We don’t need to prove. 

We don’t need silly craziness that stresses us and makes us less able to be the spouse and parent we need to be.  In addition to all that stress that makes us less gracious and patient, we then add shame because we should be able to do everything on our agenda and be super-mommy, super-nanny, super-chef, super-cleaner…

Right after God showed me that simple but profound truth, a simple life is a contented life, I was talking with a mom of quite a few kids.  She was expressing that she was feeling that maybe she should do more outside of the home with her kids.  I looked at that mom, and I saw a contented woman.  She was peaceful, restful, and happy.  Her kids were content and happy.  I then told her what God had shown to me: “A simple life is a contented life.” 

Those other voices, telling her to be more and to do more were trying to steal her joy and her peace.  They were trying to tell her that being a good mother is equated to running like crazy.

This summer, I ran like crazy, I confess.  I remember though saying, “I feel like I am doing more things for my kids than with my kids.”  That’s the trap with this never-ending crazy cycle of busyness.  What do your kids really want?  For what are they going to remember you?  For how you ran or for how you spent time with them?

The same is true with our possessions.  More doesn’t equate to happiness.  You can’t buy happiness.  You just become a greater prisoner to the things you own.  There are more things to replace, to repair, more debts to pay off, more financial strain which leads to relationship strain, more fears, and suddenly, a simpler life sounds more appealing.

Remember, a simple life is a contented life.

Perhaps, we need to make changes to the life we choose to live.

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This. Is. It!

Ray Of Light

(FreeImages.com/CarterPerrier)

I love it when God removes the “blinders” and reveals truth to me!  The interesting thing is that often it’s truth I have known in my head but somehow didn’t really understand and/or believe it, meaning live it.

Remember, what you believe is what you live.

It’s interesting how “old truth” suddenly becomes “new truth” when you finally really “see” it!

That’s how it was for me when I realized anew the truth of the following insights God was revealing to me — truths I had “known” before but not really knew.

For example, I blogged previously how God showed me that faith isn’t something God quantifies; it’s something we simply need to have, and that it’s the Object of our faith — God Himself — that is the Source of our faith.  We can’t produce authentic, powerful faith through our own ability to muster up faith.  We have faith as a result of knowing our God — Who He is.

Secondly, I have come to treasure prayer and to view it as the amazing privilege it is — the opportunity to partner with God in His work in another person’s life and the incredible privilege it is to communicate with God.

I used to think prayer was me, naming off a bunch of requests to God and hoping He would choose to answer some of them the way I wanted or thought they should be answered.

I grew to understand that prayer involved some worship of God.  I remember trying to “tack on” a few worshipful-sounding words in order to meet a higher level of spirituality, or so I hoped.  Sounds really shallow, doesn’t it?!!  To be honest though, my prayer life was often exactly that — shallow.

My prayer life was shallow though because my understanding and therefore relationship with God was more shallow. 

It’s hard to pray to One that you don’t know that intimately, don’t really grasp that His love is unconditional and not affected by performance, and don’t really trust. 

The power of prayer is the One to Whom we are praying.

The problem is we so often don’t really understand God, or our thoughts about Him are based upon misconceptions, twisted truths, and harmful misrepresentations.

I recently read the following quote in the book, Wonder Struck:

The wonder of prayer is rediscovered in Who we are speaking to.

— Margeret Feinberg

Reminds me what God showed me about faith.  Once again, it’s the recipient of our prayers and His interaction with me because of Who He is that makes prayer so vital and so incredible!  It’s not the words, in themselves, that make prayer so powerful.

Prayer is so incredible because it is the opportunity to speak to God or as the following quote says:

“Prayer is the opportunity to bend the ear of God.” — Margaret Feinberg

It’s a big deal because of Who God is!  He isn’t some conniving, selfish, evil, uncaring God.  He is a God who longs to hear our voices, especially when they are lifted in awareness of Him.

Have you ever sat with someone and experienced their inattention or complacency?  It’s not exactly pleasant or satisfying.

A lot of prayer life consists of mumbled phrases thrown out to appease a false view of a vindictive God.

A prayer life is transformed though when we begin to see the amazing and incredible gift it is — an opportunity to commune with an ever-present, ever-loving, ever-powerful God!!!  It is an opportunity to be heard by God but also to hear from God.

This brings me to a third truth.  I read the following quote recently and loved it:

“Hope is confident expectation.”  (Not sure in which devotional I read it.)

Do you see that?!!!  Hope is confident expectation in Who?  The power of hope is in Who the expectation is!  Hope isn’t lasting or “powerful” because it’s something we just randomly possess or stir up in ourselves.  Hope is a powerful emotion that comes from a powerful Source. 

It’s the Source of the hope — what we are expecting or looking to — that determines the resilience and strength of our hope.

As I was pondering the above truths, I was thinking how all kinds of other emotions I can think of owe their power and passion to their source.  If it’s a good source, it can be a good emotion.  If it’s a negative source — a reaction, fear, or bitterness — it can be an emotion that wreaks great destruction.

I couldn’t help but ponder that the authentic reality of truth, love, peace, joy, grace, wisdom, life, hope, faith, and prayer all owe their power to the object or source of their existence: God Himself.

It really is that simple!

This is why I have experienced the pure, authentic fullness of these characteristics only in the Presence of God Himself.

You can pursue peace, purpose, and joy outside of God, but I can personally tell you, it won’t last, and it is only a shallow representation of the authentic reality of knowing the Divine Source!

The secret therefore to the full life is knowing the God of life.  The secret to the above three characteristics is knowing God — truly knowing God.  In order to do that, it may mean laying aside all the false ideas and harmful representations of God so you can finally meet the reality of God Himself.

Additional Notes: 

As I was contemplating these truths further while washing my dishes, it “struck me.”  We often think that people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in God because they are lacking faith or because they are rebellious.  What shattered that pre-conceived idea for me is that just as I need to understand God is my Source of the abundant life so it is with the “unbeliever.”  Perhaps, the person who doesn’t believe in God isn’t about his/her lack of faith at all but more about his/her lack of understanding or false understanding of God.

In other words, how can you believe in One that you think is angry, harsh, uncaring, vindictive, and selfish?  It’s easier to pretend He doesn’t exist than that He does but could be those things.

It is a wrong view of God that is the biggest hindrance to a person’s ability to trust in God.  How can you trust in One you don’t believe loves you unconditionally, perfectly, and eternally?

Rather than telling people they need to have faith, maybe we need to be telling them and showing them more what our God is truly like — not a man-made version of a god but God Himself.  That may mean, we first need to get to know Him more intimately ourselves.

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A Full Life

Sailing

(FreeImages.com/StanleyLeung)

SKI

(FreeImages.com/SheldonPickering)

I sense this restlessness, this hunger for something more…  I am seeing this among Christians too…  This hunger for something more — a recognition that something is lacking in their spiritual walk, and they aren’t quite sure what it is.  They know a lot about God, are doing all the right things, but so many times, it feels as if they are going through the motions.  They go to church.  They come home.  Life goes on…  Predictable to an extent, somewhat “safe,” fairly comfortable, but there is this sense of “shallowness.”

Then they meet someone — someone that has a “fire” in them.  There’s this undeniable passion and fervency in this person or people.  Their eyes and countenance have a glow, and when they talk about the Lord, their entire countenance “lights up.”  Suddenly, they sense that they are lacking a fervency and love for the Lord.  They feel like they have to force a feeling of love.  They know in their heads they should love God. “Afterall, Jesus died on the cross for their sins.”  Yet, the feelings of true adoration and heart-felt love seem missing.  They may attempt to “stir” up in themselves this feeling of love, but it feels forced because it is.

How do we as Christians/people experience the fullness of life?  What does “fullness” of life look like?  What does it mean to really “live” life?

When I was reading through the names of God, the name Jehovah stood out to me.  It is taken from the Hebrew word chavah, which means life.  This name of God literally means the All-existing One.  In other words, He is the Source, Essence, and Continuation of life.

As Genesis 1 tells us, God created life.  Life came from Him.  Every atom, every molecule, every means of energy and matter came from God.  Because God “breathes” life into the very structure of life, He is also its very means of continuation.

It also makes sense that because God created life and sustains life, He also defines life for us.  Within Him is the very essence of life itself.

I have lived life for 30+ years, and I have experienced what we normally define as living life: eating, breathing, working, enjoying some pleasures, doing, learning, growing, developing, procreating, and becoming a mother, etc..

I have also experienced the difference of what it means to truly live life.  Within true life is a sense of absolute wholeness, completeness, fullness.  Until you experience it, it cannot be totally understood.  This kind of fullness of life does not require any thing, any circumstance, or any emotion to sustain it.

I have experienced this kind of life when I am in close fellowship with the Lord.  This fellowship is not produced by more programs, more preaching, more acts of service, more doing, more knowledge.  It is a result of simply being in the Presence of God.  Sure, attending church services and spending time in God’s Word are some of the very things that can bring us into direct fellowship with the Lord, and they are “needful.”

BUT…!  Nothing can substitute for actual time spent, listening, worshiping, and abiding in His Presence.  Words that come to mind are: observe, absorb, reflect, and ponder.

The problem is so much of the time, as Christians, we think that knowing about God or doing for God is the same as knowing God, and it isn’t!  You can know a lot about God, without really knowing God personally and intimately.

Don’t tell us what you know about God.  Tell us Who He is to you?  What does it mean that God is loving and loves you?  How does that change who you are?

This morning as I was reflecting on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I wrote the following notes:

We try to keep everything “safe” and predictable and then wonder why life sometimes seems so “shallow.”  Why?  Because faith requires taking risks.  It involves personal involvement, which means vulnerability, humility, and sacrifice.

If we want to experience the fullness of the life God has for us, we have to be willing to be “all in” for Him — that means surrendering ourselves, laying down our fears, our pride, our goals, and letting God use us in ways that will challenge us, grow us, and cause us to “risk” (take a risk).  What we risk is far surpassed by what we gain: His fullness — the fullness of the All Existing-One!

In a devotional I am reading, Wonder Struck, it says the following:

Sometimes we have to take risks, …to be wonder-struck by the love of God.

If we are honest, one of the main reasons why we hesitate to surrender or give ourselves fully to the will and “life purpose” God has for us is because of fear.  Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of death, and fear of suffering will cause us to erect barriers around our hearts, souls, and very lives.  We think we are protecting ourselves by not fully investing ourselves or being willing to be “raw” and vulnerable, but the reality is we are hurting ourselves by not.  Our “barriers” keep people at a distance, and then we wonder why we don’t have close friends or no one wants to include us.  We will miss out on the blessings God intends for us.  We will miss out on experiencing the full life God has planned for us.

If you want to experience the fullness of life — the life God has planned for you — you need to be “all in.”  You need to trust God fully with your life, and that may mean facing some lies you have believed about God.  You need to be willing to be transparent, vulnerable, “sacrificial,” and humble.

I recently heard it said, “Humility is trusting in God.”  I wrote a past blog about the connection between pride and fear, and I must fully agree with the quote I just mentioned.  Humility requires letting go of our own desire to control the people and circumstances around us, to keep everything predictable.  It requires surrendering our wills, our lives, our futures to God.  How do we do this?

We do this by knowing Who God is.  When I finally experienced God’s love personally for me, I was able to surrender myself to God.

God has been working on my heart to surrender more to Him.  He is calling me into a deeper walk with Him.  He has stirred up a “hunger” to know Him more personally, to be more aware of His Presence, and yes, to be “wonder struck” with the reality of Who God is.  I want every second of my day to be lived in the fullest measure of life — this incredible abundant, overflowing awareness of God and His goodness!  I have never known life to be sweeter than it is when lived within this full “awakening” or awareness of God!

Yes, Lord!  I want You!

An Act Of Worship

this would be a sweet background!

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Sometimes, it’s easier to “do” church, to “do” worship then it is to really worship. 

Ever been there? 

I have been there before, thinking I was so “righteous” in my worship because I could state certain “Church-ese” phrases so eloquently.  I have thought in the past that I was worshiping God because my manner was so “holy”.  I have thought I was worshiping God because I was in a place that appeared to be worshipful.

The truth is worship is never about the outward.  It’s not about the look or feel of a place.  It’s not about the people in the place.  It’s not about the appearance of the other worshipers — their sobriety or their demonstrative expressions of worship.  Worship isn’t limited to a specific emotion.  Worship isn’t limited to a place or a group of people.

Worship is about a Person.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s about God the Father who sacrificed His very Son to give us a tangible example of what love really is.

I Googled the definition of worship off Thesaurus.com.  The following list includes other words that describe worship:

According to these other words, worship expresses a heart attitude (awe, love, veneration, adulation, adoration, glory, praise, etc…).

Worship describes a heart attitude that then expresses itself in adoration, praise, service, love, prayer, devotion, etc…

Exodus 20:3

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

God is to be the object of our worship.  Ultimately, He has the right to ask this of us as He is the One to Whom we owe our very lives, life, and eternity. 

Atheists refuse to recognize that there is a Sovereign Power that holds this universe together.  Yet, there is a “Force” keeping atoms from flying apart.  There is a Force that started matter/life in the beginning.

Even our very breaths pay homage to our Creator.  Here’s a quote from Jason Gray’s blog http://www.rabbitroom.com/2011/08/is-the-name-of-god-the-sound-of-our-breathing:

“…God’s name, YHWH, is comprised of aspirated consonants that, spoken, are the sound of breathing.”

So every time we breathe, our bodies literally say God’s name!  Is this just “happenstance,” or is it not significant to know that the God who created us would put His very name within each breath we take to remind us that our lives are truly and literally dependent upon His life within us?

Worship occurs every time we place ourselves in full surrender to God and hand over the reigns of control to Him.

So often we want everything on our terms — even our so-called “worship”.  We want to think God is limited to specific places, people, positions, practices, phrases, etc… The reality is God is worshiped among any and all who are surrendered to Him.

Every time, personal ambitions are put aside and we are surrendered to God’s working in and through our lives, God is worshiped.

Today, maybe you are feeling overwhelmed by the drudgery of your current affairs.  Perhaps, life feels bitterly cruel to you today because of current trials you are experiencing.  Perhaps, you are lonely or alone.  Perhaps, you are living in a home with an unsaved spouse or unsaved parents and siblings.  Perhaps, you are the only individual at your work who is saved or appears to be saved.

This is for you, my friend.  No matter where you are, with whom you are, how you are feeling today, you have something to offer to God.  You have yourself!

The gift God asks and wants more than anything else is You!  Yes, You! 

God doesn’t ask you to wait to come to Him or to wait to be used by Him until you are “all-beautified” or “perfected”.   God wants us to come as we are to Him.  God asks us to give ourselves to Him — just as we are. 

Dear friends, He will take the rubbish.  He will take the wounds.  He will take the sickness.  He will take the hurts.  He will take the past.  He will take us just as we are, and He will transform and redeem what we give to Him.

Yes, dear friends, this is grace!  Jesus just wants you.  It means though that you have to surrender to Him, offer yourself to Him, and stop trying to fix what you can’t fix.

It’s all about the holy act of surrender — that is the essence of worship.

Surrender to God, and allow yourself to be a gift of worship to Him, revealing the matchless grace and power of Jesus!

The glory is and always has been His all along.

He is the reason we live and breathe and hope!

Job 33:4

“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Lessons From Gardening

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Flowers are truly one of my favorites!  I love the variety of colors, textures, shapes, fragrances, and sizes in which they come.

My style of learning is visual so it’s no wonder that I love flowers.  I never tire of looking at the flowers in my garden.  In fact, I have been known to walk outside several times a day just to gaze upon the beauty of the flowers around my house.

When we moved to our current house of six months, the only greenery we could call our own was the grass in our back-yard, and just four shrubs in the front of our house.

This is our fourth house, and every time we have moved to a house, I have always enjoyed cleaning out old over-grown gardens of vines and weeds and then transforming them into something beautiful by adding flowers.

This house would be no exception.  Once I had the funds available, I set to work, adding a variety of beautiful and fragrant blooms to my gardens.  I mostly invested in perennials so I could enjoy their beauty for years to come, reserving my porch pots for a few cheaper annuals.

Then, my dear mother-in-law, who loves flowers as much as me brought quite a few potted flowers from her gardens.  Before she had departed that weekend, I had already added all the plants to my flower-beds, in spite of high heat indexes.

Not only do I love gazing at my flowers, but I enjoy taking care of them.  I water them regularly and am careful to prune, weed, and do all the many things plant-lovers do.

One recent day as I was snapping off the heads of the dead petunias, I couldn’t help but think of the many lessons we can learn from gardening.

I’ll try to keep it short and sweet this time, but here they are:

1. Some flowers require old growth to be removed so that energy isn’t wasted and new growth can occur.

How about us?  God wants to remove the old sin patterns and old wounds from our lives and pasts so that our energy isn’t wasted on what was but now shouldn’t be so that new life and growth can occur in our lives.  Sometimes, the process is painful and can seem unnecessary or tiresome.  Yet, all growth requires investment and change.

2. When seeking to help others to grow are we careful how we “remove” or point out old growth so that we don’t damage new, tender blooms in the process?

As I was snapping off the dead blooms from my Petunias, I managed to snap off one or two fresh blooms in the process.  I couldn’t help but think how sometimes we do this to fellow believers and to our own children.  We are so eager to point out the areas in which they need to grow, but sometimes in our eagerness or zealousness, we forget that gentleness is necessary in order to not bruise or harm the tender buds that are unfurling.

3. Consistent watering is required for most flowers to maintain a healthy life.

How about us?  Are we consistent in spending time in the Word of God, in prayer, and in fellowship with Him?  We need the consistency of His Holy Spirit, His presence, and His Word to give us direction, health in our spiritual lives, and to keep us refreshed spiritually.

4. Light is a necessary requirement for plants to live.

Light provides growth.  It protects against dangers to plants, such as molds.  It gives guidance to the little plants below the surface so they know in which direction to grow.  It encourages blooms to unfurl, and blooms instinctively know to open in the direction of the sun.  Light also reveals and gives definition.  I believe the best analogy to light is that of God’s Word and His Presence as revealed in His Word.

  • God’s Word protects against dangers.
  • God’s Word gives guidance and shows us how we are to grow.
  • God’s Word reveals truth.
  • God’s Word defines what our new natures and its attributes should look like as His children.
  • God’s Word encourages spiritual growth in our lives.
  • God’s Word encourages us to grow in the “direction” of our Heavenly Father, as revealed in His Word.

5. Weeding is another necessary but arduous task in the life of a gardener and for the protection of the plants.  Otherwise, flowers can be “choked out.”

Weeding is definitely my least favorite task when it comes to caring for my plants.  It is probably just as equally challenging to allow the “weeds” in my own life and in the lives of my children to be dealt with.  We all want to enjoy the blooms, but the weeding…?  It’s work, plain and simple work.  There isn’t an obvious, immediate reward for it, but it’s necessary for the plant’s survival.

  • When weeds are left to grow, unchecked, they very soon can block out the light of the sun from the plant.
  • Weeds can also distract others from the seeing the beauty of the flowers.
  • Weeds can also soak up the soil’s nutrients and water that is meant for the flower.

“Weeding” out the “weeds” in our own lives is necessary for the abundant life we were meant to live to continue.

6.  Weeds often look a lot like flowers.

Not necessary a deep statement, but oh, is it true.  How many times do we see weeds growing closely to a flower that has a similar leaf structure?  For those not as expert in their knowledge of the varieties of flowers and of their individual characteristics, it can be easy to be fooled.  Before long, the weeds have taken over the garden.  The lessons to be learned are:

  • The weeds or lies often closely resemble the truth or real flower — that’s why they are easily accepted.
  • Study to understand the characteristics of flowers so you can distinguish the difference between the real flower and the weed.  (Know what the truth is, what real spiritual fruit looks like so you can recognize the false counterpart.)

7.  Weed frequently because young weeds and a few weeds are easier to pull than an overgrowth.

Don’t overlook the little compromises in your life.  Those little sins can soon produce an entire harvest of shame and destruction in your own life and in the lives of others.  As the Bible says, “… the little foxes spoil the grapes.”

 

The Bully In The Closet

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There’s a lot of interest right now in the topic of “bullying.”  In fact, I recently wrote an article on “Christian Bullying” that got a lot of attention.

Sometimes though, it is so easy to focus on the wrongs among the people “out there” rather than the wrongs within ourselves.

This time, the magnifying glass may need to come a little closer to home.

As I wrote the article on “Christian Bullying,” I found myself re-evaluating my own personal actions and attitudes within my home.  I didn’t want to write about a topic about which I myself might be guilty.

There will be times when we will all struggle with the more “common” sins.  A question to be asked is: “Is this sinful attitude present in my heart?” 

If the answer is yes, I need to confess this before the Lord and to truly repent, which means to change the way in which I was going.

The root attitudes behind bullying are pride and fear.  Both of these sinful heart attitudes are very common and at the root of most sins.  Perhaps even all sins. 

Pride and fear work together.  They stem from the same lie.

Since both pride and fear are very common sinful attitudes, it’s a VERY good chance that those same sinful attitudes are prevalent in our own hearts and influence our own actions from time-to-time.

As I allowed God’s Holy Spirit to reveal my own attitudes to me, I began to see more clearly that “bullying” can be a lot closer to home than I might want to admit. 

I began to hear God’s “quiet voice” (Holy Spirit) speaking to my heart to reveal that I need to be cleaning out my own “closets”, “pantries”, and “sock drawers.” 

It’s easy for us to be so busy pointing out the flaws in our husbands, kids, relatives, and other Christians that we avoid looking at our own personal wrong attitudes and wrong actions.

Why do we shy away from that which is uncomfortable?  Fear? 

Why do we fear God’s “scalpel” that seeks to remove all the “dead growth” in our lives, all the “infectious wounds” from past hurts and lies?  Again, is it because we fear our wrong version of God?  Do we think that by admitting our sin(s), we will be forever condemned?

God knows of our sins.  He is All-Knowing!

Isn’t that the definition of “God” — that He is the most Powerful and All-Knowing Being?  If He knows about our sins already, how does our attempts to hide them help our case at all? 

Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in the Garden of Eden.  When they sinned for the first time, they discovered that the “knowing”, Satan (in the snake) promised, was a crushing awareness and personal acquaintance with their own sin.  They “knew” what sin is and the debilitating guilt and fear that accompanies it. 

Adam and Eve had sought life outside of God and found death instead.

God had given them every tree in the Garden of Eden to eat, including the Tree of Life, EXCEPT for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Just like the rest of humanity is often guilty of, Adam and Eve chose to eat the one thing they were told not to eat.  They chose to find “life” outside of God. 

Adam and Eve had disconnected themselves from their true Source of Life and had instead looked to the Knowledge of Good and Evil as its source. 

So much of “religion” stems from that same tree“Religion” is often about trying to find our “spiritual life” from a knowledge of good and evil.  That knowledge will either lead us to personally feeling condemned and living in fear, or it will lead to a proud and/or judgmental attitude — that we are better than those around us or that we are our own source of defining what is good and not good.  The roots are the same.

When Adam and Eve sinned, everything changed!  Their world changed.  Death entered.  Their fellowship with God was hurt.

Then Jesus came.

God’s plan was to send a Savior to fix the problems that started when sin first entered.  

The Savior would connect man back into the True Source of Life (an intimate relationship with God Himself) and would work to separate man from his false “roots” of security (Knowledge of Good & Evil).

The Savior would neither leave the sinner condemned nor condone the “weeds” of sin but would work to replace fear with peace and faith, to replace pride with delighting in God’s character and who we are in Him.

Neither pride nor fear can be present when we are walking in an intimate relationship and understanding of God and Who He is and Who we are in Him.

There is no room for condemning others when we truly understand Who God is.  There is no room for fear when we personally know God.

Fear and pride come when we are disconnected from God — when we seek to find “life” outside of God.

We hang onto these “rags” when God wants to give us the richness of His grace!

Those bullies in our closet, those rags in our drawers, those dirt piles in our corners … let’s open the doors and the drawers and turn on the lights.  It’s time we stopped trying to hide and cover our shame and allow God to purify and heal us from the inside out! 

God’s plan was never to leave us hidden in the dark or to leave us condemned by our own guilt.  His plan was always to reconnect us to our True Source of Life! 

As we are “connected” to Life, we can become a true “channel” to the world around us for God’s love and light to flow. 

“How I praise Thee, precious Saviour,
That Thy love laid hold of me;
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
That I might Thy channel be.

“Channels only, blessèd Master,
But with all Thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

“Just a channel full of blessing,
To the thirsty hearts around;
To tell out Thy full salvation
All Thy loving message sound.

“Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
A clean vessel in Thy hand;
With no power but as Thou givest
Graciously with each command.”

By Mary Maxwell

Valentine’s Day — The Holiday That Evokes Some Of Our Strongest Emotions

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Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching.  Some of us may be madly scrambling to buy last-minute cards, chocolates, roses, and/or other gifts.

For some, it may mean scrambling to try to find someone special so that once again it’s not a lonely holiday filled with meaningless and painful trivia.

For others, it may be a day full of painful reminders that a loved one is no longer present in the home.

For others, it might be a mockery of dreams once held through dewy-eyed innocence that have been crushed.

Valentine’s Day can be painful.  Not because the day itself has any power to inflict pain but because of what the day represents to so many: a day to remember that we are loved passionately and are important to someone else.  When the presence of love is not seen, the day becomes one more reminder of our loss.

Love gives our days meaning.  Without it, the world loses its sparkle and colors wash out in a dreary blend of grays.  Without love, days become a meaningless cycle of obscurity, repetition, and mindless boredom.

Without love, we will seek to find fulfillment and meaning in some other means of satisfaction or purpose: stardom, fortune, titles.  None of these things are bad in and of themselves.  The problem is when we give up on love: being loved and giving love.  That’s when, we find ourselves in an endless struggle to achieve, to exert, to live, to be. 

The key here is struggle.  A struggle because we are not at peace within ourselves.  Why are we not at peace?  Because we are missing the key ingredient to truly living: LOVE.

Without love, we can go through the motions of living, but we are a mere shell of what we could and can be.

Love is the color, the passion, the expression, the emotion, the music that flavors our world.  It is what heightens our senses and can leave them crashing to the depths.

Some of us are too afraid to allow love into our hearts because poor imitations of it have come before and left us “bleeding” inside.  The “crashes” seem much more real then the “heights” of love ever were.

Perhaps, the greatest problem with “love” is that it isn’t LOVE at all.

There are such poor imitations and abuses of the word “love.”  Its meaning has become trivial, selfish, abusive in its interpretation.  The truth is that what is often called “love” isn’t LOVE at all.

Love isn’t about two people finding pleasure together.  Love isn’t about an attempt of finding something that gives me a sense of worth or fulfillment.  Love isn’t a self-centered effort.  It’s not about trying to establish a sense of worth in order to be its beneficiary.  Nor is it an attempt to establish someone else’ worth before bestowing it upon their worthy selves.

Love isn’t about finding someone or something to gratify my lack of self-worth.

Love isn’t a fickle emotion.

Love is more than sentiment.  Love is more than gifts.  Love is more than a relationship.

Love can be demonstrated through the proper expression of its proper sentiment.  Love can be indicated through heart-felt gifts.  True love is not just the fact that two or more people have some type of relationship.

True love is what defines the relationship.  True love is the relationship.

True love isn’t earned.  It is given. 

True Love is found in its very Nature.  In its purest forms, displayed among living creatures, it is an imitation of the Embodiment of Love Itself.  When we understand LOVE, we are accurately able to exhibit its nature in our interactions with others. 

We cannot scrupulously display the nature of something that we ourselves don’t understand.  We cannot understand something competently that we ourselves don’t perceive.

We understand there is something called “love” and that is why we write books about it, why we try to define it, why we try to demonstrate it, why we yearn for it.  We wouldn’t know about it if there wasn’t a “form” of it that exists. 

The knowledge of something comes from the fact of either its presence or of its notable absence.

For example, life speaks of action.  There is some action taking place within an organism that defines it as “living.”  The absence of life describes death. Death is defined by its opposition to life.

We experience passions that indicate the presence of love and life, even if they’re parodies of the authentic.

Authentic love exists.

Love is the positive action.  It is the emotion that brings joy and peace.

Love is the gift that is not based on any calculations of worthiness.

Love is the meaning of life. 

This is why when its absence is felt, the results are so serious.  Notice, I said “felt”.  We may feel that love is absent.  It may be absent from the people around us, definitely from the things around us.

An unborn baby does not see its mother.  The womb of the mother is what cocoons the unborn baby — nourishes it, protects it, until the baby is ready to embrace life in a fuller measure.  Because the unborn baby does not see its mother does not negate the fact that the mother does exist and is in fact giving it life.

We are much like an unborn baby in this world.  We receive life every day: the air we breathe, the ability to breathe.  Yet we often do not fully comprehend what Love really is.  It surrounds us and gives us life.  It sustains it.  Yet, we don’t recognize that which has given us life because we are looking to the “channels” by which it “flows” as being its origin.  

Love is the Greater Force behind life itself.  Love is the origin of life.

The very fact we live is proof that we are loved!  The moment we die does not mean we are not loved any more.  We are given opportunity to then experience love in its purest, undiluted form.  The Creator of life is the origin of Love.  The action and emotion of LOVE is the expression of the Being of LOVE: God.  God as Love Himself generously pours His love out upon us.  He wants us to recognize His love that surrounds us daily.  His love is what gives us life, meaning.  He invites us to experience that perfect, unadulterated embodiment of Love for eternity. 

The unborn baby exists because of life inside the womb but then experiences a greater measure of it outside the womb.  So, this present life is where we experience love and life; but the greater perspicacity of it is found completely in Eternity, offered to us by the very Being of Love and Life.

For this Valentine’s Day to mean more than whether or not someone gave us a special gift, wrote us a special card, or made us feel worthy, we must let go of the imitations and recognize the authenticity of Love that gives us life today!

In releasing ones hold on the imitation, one finds the authentic is transcendent.

Before You Turn In Your Letter Of Resignation As A Mom

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A couple of weeks ago, I hit that point.  I called my sister and half-laughing/half-crying told her that I was turning in my letter of resignation as a mom, not giving two weeks’ notice, but that she needed to find my replacement immediately.  With a laugh, she replied that she was sorry but that there was no replacement for me.  (Exactly what I was afraid of.)

It was the accumulation of many days with fighting and fussy kids, long hours taking care of four kids while my husband worked equally long hours away at his job, struggling with pregnancy hormones and discomforts, and I was feeling very burnt out.  The worst part was the feeling of desperation — that I couldn’t get a break even when I needed a few hours to just reflect and rejuvenate.  Plus, my husband was too tired by the end of his LONG hours at work to have anything left to give or help.  Burn out!

During those particularly trying weeks, a few things made a big difference for me.  First, I talked with those who could empathize, pray, and give godly and wise counsel.  I talked with two sisters, who listened, sympathized, and gave some great encouraging words of advice.  Even in my husband’s exhausted state, he still managed to pray for me and to give me some much-needed hugs.  Sometimes, it’s simple things that make a huge difference.

As I expressed to my one sister, I know that as a mom, I still have to carry on/persevere.  I wasn’t asking for an escape from it all.  What I wanted was to hear that someone cared and would be lifting me before God’s throne of grace — grace that I so desperately need(ed).

I also listened to advice that was given to me by my one sister and a friend.  They suggested working out a schedule for my kids on days they are home during the summer.  I planned a schedule, informed the kids about the schedule, and began to enact it.  The schedule was a help.  It helped give the kids direction, gave me opportunity to plan into our days both fun things, beneficial activities, rest, relaxation, and time for the kids to learn responsibility while helping with chores.  It’s amazing how much help children can be!  Chores also give kids a sense of purpose, well-being, worth, and responsibility.

I also made it a priority to begin my day with prayer, devotions, and good books.  One book I read during that time was by Nick Vujicic, called Life Without Limbs.   The Lord used many quotes from that book to encourage, exhort, and motivate me.

I thought I would share a few of many of his quotes that really impacted me and helped me to take my eyes off my own circumstances and feelings.  You just might need them as much as me…

You and I are perfectly suited to be who we were meant to be!  …Adjustments are necessary along the way because life isn’t always rosy, but it is always worth living.  I’m here to tell you that not matter what your circumstances may be, as long as you are breathing, you have a contribution to make … You can’t always control what happens to you.  There are some occurrences in life that are not your fault or within your power to stop.  The choice you have is either to give up or to keep on striving for a better life … ”

“Our human powers of reasoning can be a blessing and a curse … Often, though, that which you dread turns out to be far less a problem that you imagined.  There is nothing wrong with looking ahead and planning for the future, but know that your worst fears could just as easily prove to be your best surprise.”

“For the longest time I thought that if my body were more ‘normal,’ my life would be a breeze.  What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have to be normal — I just had to be me, my Father’s child, carrying out God’s plan.  At first I was not wiling to confront what was really wrong with me wasn’t my body, it was the limits I put on myself and my limited vision of the possibilities for my life.  If you aren’t where you want to be or you haven’t achieved all you hope to achieve, the reason most likely resides not around you but within you.  Take responsibility and then take action.  First though, you must believe … in  your value.”

Life isn’t about having, it’s about being … Recognizing your purpose means everything.  I assure you that you too have something to contribute.  You may not see it now, but you would not be on this planet if that were not true.  I know for certain that God does not make mistakes, but He does make miracles.  I am one.  You are too.

“I was never crippled until I lost hope.  Believe me, the loss of hope is far worse that the loss of limbs.”

You should never live according to what you lack.  Instead, live as though you can do anything you dream of doing.  Even when you supper a setback or tragedy, there is often an unexpected, totally improbable, and absolutely impossible benefit to be realized.  It may not happen right away.  You may at times wonder what good could possibly come of it.  But trust that it all happens for the good — even tragedies can turn into triumphs.”

Nick quoted from Reggie Dabbs who said, “You can never change your past, but you can change your future.”

“When you judge yourself harshly or put intense pressure on yourself, you become judgmental of others.  Loving and accepting yourself as God loves you opens the door to a much greater sense of peace and fulfillment.”

“You are beautiful because God created you for His purpose.  Your challenge is to find that purpose, fuel it with hope, drive it on faith, and put your you-niqueness to the highest possible use.”

“…you view the world through your own unique perspectives and attitudes based on your beliefs of what is good or bad, wrong or right, fair or unfair.  Your decisions and actions are based on those attitudes, so if what you’ve been doing isn’t working, you have the power to adjust your attitude and change your life [by God’s grace].”

“Adopting an attitude of action creates positive momentum.”

“When you are confronted with hard times, tragedies, or challenges, instead of looking inward, look to those around you.  Instead of feeling wounded and seeking pity, find someone with greater wounds and help them heal.”

“An attitude of forgiveness set me free … when you hold on to old hurts, you only give power and control to those who hurt you, but when you forgive them, you cut the ties to them.  They can no longer yank you on your chain … So don’t worry about what your forgiveness does for the antagonizers and hurtful people in your past.  Just enjoy what forgiving them does for you.  Once you’ve adopted an attitude of forgiveness, you’ll lighten your load so that you can chase your dreams without being weighed down by baggage from the past.”

“The best of us fail. and the rest of us fail too.  Those who never rise from defeat often see failure as final … Those who succeed bounce back from their bonehead mistakes because they view their setbacks as temporary and as learning experiences.”

“…defeat is a great teacher.  Every winner has played the loser.  Every champion has been the runner-up.”

“…failure can also build humility into your character.”

“Too often we don’t listen to understand.  Instead, we listen just enough so we can respond.  To really connect, you have to take into account the feeling behind the words, not just the words themselves.”

When you believe in abundance, you believe there are enough of God’s blessings — enough fulfillment, enough opportunity, enough happiness, and enough love — out there for everyone … If you tend to think of the world as a place of scarce resources and limited opportunities, then you’ll see fellow travelers as threats who’ll take what is out there and leave nothing for you … With an abundance mentality, you believe there are rewards enough for everyone, so competition is more about striving to do your best and encouraging others to do the same.”

“Sometimes you’ll even find that the boulder that fell and blocked your path left an opening that takes you to a higher place.  But you have to have the courage and the determination to make the ascent.”

Nick quotes from Albert Einstein as having said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

Nick Vujicic also quotes from Helen Keller as having said, “…there is not such thing as a secure life.  It does not exist in nature… Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  He goes on to say, “Risk, then, is not just part of life.  It is life.  The place between your comfort zone and your dream is where life takes place.  It’s the high-anxiety zone, but it’s also where you discover who you are.”

“The awesome power of God is reflected in the fact that if we want to do something for others, our availability is every bit as important as our capability.  God works through us when we reach out for others.  Once you make yourself available for good works, guess whose capabilities you can rely on?  God’s!”

Nick Vujicic’s quotes really inspired me to persevere, to have renewed hope and faith, to see the “big picture,” to be encouraged that we all have enough grace given to us to fulfill the tasks we have been called to do — including parenting, and to get my eyes off my own personal struggles and challenges and onto those around me.

Another recent event really helped me to feel refreshed.  My husband and I made it a priority to take time to celebrate our anniversary with some couple-time.  My one sister graciously watched our four kids so that we had a weekend sans-kids.  We also are very frugal on most objects so we do keep some spending money to do something special on our anniversary.  Thus, we were able to do some fun and relaxing activities that really helped us both to feel refreshed and motivated to persevere.

Each couple and parent has to figure out for themselves what works to help refresh and motivate.  The important thing is to not give up and lose perspective.  Life will have its challenges.  The challenges ebb and flow.  The key is how resilient are we in dealing with them and what steps do we take to help us tackle them and ride the next wave into shore.

May we each cling to the grace we have been given, and may we burn on…

How Pro-Life Am I Really?

(The picture was taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

What does it mean to be “pro-life”?  How pro-life am I really?

Being pro-life to me means that I view all life as valuableI believe human life as holding the most value of all living organisms.  I believe this because God established man’s dominion over all creatures in the Garden of Eden and because God said that man was made in the image of God.  No other creature has been given that honor.

Since we have dominion over the rest of creation, what does that mean?  Strength and power do not mean abuse.  They mean authority and responsibility.  We are accountable to God to deal responsibly with the rest of life, to not abuse that which He has placed under our care.  We are caretakers.  We use responsibly — not abuse negligently.  God created the rest of Creation for our enjoyment.  Therefore, we need to cultivate, preserve, protect, use where needed, and enjoy.  We are to be wise stewards.

What do I view life as?  What does it mean to have life? 

Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines life as this:

“: livelihood 8 : a vital or living being; specifically : person <many lives were lost in the disaster>
9 : an animating and shaping force or principle 10 : spirit, animation <saw no life in her dancing> 11
: the form or pattern of something existing in reality <painted from : the period of existence (as of a subatomic particle) — compare half-life 14: a property (as resilience or elasticity) of an inanimate substance or object resembling the animate quality of a living being 15: living beings (as of a particular kind or environment) <forest life>”Life therefore is when something/an organism came into being — began to function with life.  Life begins at the beginning of that thing or organism.  The beginning is the beginning.

What does that mean then when it comes to protecting life in this form?  Does it hold as much value?  Do we judge a form of life by its functionality?  Is its worth based on how functional the organism is to us?  If that is the case, the worth of an object is vulnerable to interpretation.  Could we also become vulnerable to interpretation?  What if our functionality diminishes?  What if we lose some function of our physical abilities or even mental abilities?  Has our value decreased because our function has decreased?  Do we determine the worth of an organism, or does the Creator of that organism (God)?  If so, it is our job then to be responsible caretakers, handling the most delicate and vulnerable with the most care.

What if I am inconvenienced in this process? Don’t I have a choice to continue a pregnancy or to terminate a pregnancy since this organism resides in my own body? Don’t I have a right over my own body?

Science/biology can be debated back and forth on this matter.  It’s been done too frequently to count.  Everyone wants to debate that if a fetus is dependent on you for sustenance, you can rid yourself of it at any time.  Thus, the debate continues over what substitutes independent living.  The argument is held that if the organism is not independent from you, you have the right to eliminate or preserve the (living) organism as you choose.

First of all, we are not debating a dead thingThe debate is over a living organism.  Establishing that basic concept raises a different point.

If this is a living organism, we must then establish if it is a separate organism from its host (the mother).  Medical science establishes this fact.  The fetus has a different heart rate, different blood type, and different gender often from its host (mother).  It is obvious this is a separate identity.  Just taking the fetus’ DNA would reveal a separate DNA from its host (mother). Here’s a quote I recently saw on this matter:

“That baby’s DNA is human from the time of conception, and is separate from his/her mother’s. Yes, it proves that it is human from the very beginning. People will try and say anything to make legalized murder ok, and call it choice. EDIT- and for those who say that just because it has separate DNA from the mother does not prove it is life, and since it cannot survive on his/her own it is not life, here is another scenario that shows these statements are false. Let us say that a baby is born 2 months prematurely, and has to be in a incubator and hooked up to machines for a couple of months. That baby cannot survive on his/her own then. But try asking this question to the mother and father of this child. “Since your baby cannot survive yet on its own, it has not life”. That mother and father would not agree with you. Also even if a child is born on time, can that baby truly survive on its own. If the mother abandons that baby , the baby will die. Do they just say it is was the choice of the mother to abandon the child- NO THEY ARE CHARGED with murder.”

“To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … it is plain experimental evidence.” The “Father of Modern Genetics” Dr. Jerome Lejeune, Univ. of Descarte, Paris

“By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman, Department of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic

Here’s an excellent link to a website written by physicians on this topic: http://www.prolifephysicians.org/lifebegins.htm.  Here’s a direct quote from their website:

“According to this elementary definition of life, life begins at fertilization, when a sperm unites with an oocyte.  From this moment, the being is highly organized, has the ability to acquire materials and energy, has the ability to respond to his or her environment, has the ability to adapt, and has the ability to reproduce (the cells divide, then divide again, etc., and barring pathology and pending reproductive maturity has the potential to reproduce other members of the species).  Non-living things do not do these things.  Even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant, a distinct, unique life has begun his or her existence inside her.”

Therefore the question arises, does the host (mother) have a right to eliminate this separate life because it is the host?  In order to respond to this question, we have to return to my earlier statements:

“Strength and power do not mean abuse.  They mean authority and responsibility.  We are accountable to God to deal responsibly with the rest of life, to not abuse that which He has placed under our care.  We are caretakers.  We use responsibly — not abuse negligently.  God created the rest of Creation for our enjoyment.  Therefore, we need to cultivate, preserve, protect, use where needed, and enjoy.  We are to be wise stewards.”

Because I may have the legal right to do something, does it make it morally right?

Using the same arguments that we raised earlier:

Don’t I have a choice to continue a pregnancy or to terminate a pregnancy since this organism resides in my own body?  Don’t I have a right over my own body?

First of all, this goes beyond your own body.  This is a living organism with a separate identity, as I briefly discussed.

Why do you think you have the right to terminate this organism?  Because it is part of your body?  It isn’t part of your body, it RELIES on your body to provide its necessary nourishment until it can function independently.  That takes us back to the point of life’s worth.  Is it based on its functionality or the level to which it can live independently?  If it isn’t, then we have to admit that a human life, even in its most beginning stages, holds value because of its very nature.  It is a living organism — not just any organism but a living human organism.  It is the start of a separate human life!

As such, it should be protected under the same laws and guidelines that protect any other human life.

If we protect human life based on its functionality or ability to live independently, we fall into a “slippery slope” that can lead to the elimination of other “less” productive humans: the elderly, paraplegics, mentally-impaired, blind, and the list goes on…  Perhaps, our children will use the same reasoning we used on them when it comes to determining our worth when our functionality has diminished and when it becomes physically, financially, or emotionally expedient for them to do so.

So, if I believe all the above: that all forms of life hold value and should be respected and protected, I consider myself pro-life, right?  Yes, you are!  The question remains, “How pro-life are you?”

Are you pro-life when it is convenient for you?  Are you pro-life when you can control it?  Let me make myself clearer — where I am going with this…

What happens when my husband and I have decided we are done having children?  We like the number we have; we feel quite content with the number we have been given.  We want a specific spacing between the children we have.  What happens then when we have a “surprise” or “oops” baby?  How do I respond to the unexpected life — to the “inconvenient” life?  Do I still see it as having worth?  Do I still see it as life — a separate human life with great value?  Do I treat it with respect and with care?  I may have a good cry and be surprised, and that is okay, but what is the end conclusion/the result?  What is my official response to the unexpected/”inconvenient” lives that have been entrusted into my care?  How pro-life am I really?