Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Afraid to Speak

I don't know if you have been watching Leah Remini's Scientology documentary on A&E, but I have since Season One last year.  This show has struck a chord with me for a variety of reasons.  I am not going to go down that list here (that's a whole other post in the making), but last week's episode (Season 2, Episode 6) featured Paul Haggis, a former celebrity member of the cult. As he was talking about his journey out of the cult and the backlash he received moving forward, he stated a few sentences that pierced my heart with a force that stopped me in my tracks.  I literally wept, because of the conviction I felt in that moment.  

Here is my best attempt to quote him from the episode:

"When you learn certain things, what really is just a responsibility you have to tell the truth, it’s not really a choice.  I felt that I had to speak out and whatever happened, happened, and I knew there would be a big fallout and there was."

Even though I am opinionated and consider myself a fairly open individual, I know I don't always speak up the way I should.  In certain circles or on various topics, I can honestly say, I am afraid to speak.  Not because I don't believe in my convictions but because I don't trust in the masses to hear my heart and be intent to share my truth as I intended. I let the fear of judgement keep me from the obligation to speak the truth.

Social media has taken the term "fake news" to a completely other level.  Its staggering the misinformation that gets propagated in our culture faster than a wild fire through a forest in drought.  Its rare for the average person to check their facts before spreading the truth of the hour.  That coupled with the eradication of relational care in a computer generation that has no thought for the feelings of the people on the other end of the screen is a scary reality. 

To see, for example. a teacher's personal information spread across the internet and their family's safety put in jeopardy as a result of a viral video that turned out to be an outright lie is nothing short of frightening. 

But regardless of the cost, I have a voice, and I am the only person with this exact voice.  

I can't be responsible for the way its received or passed on.  I am responsible to lovingly speak the truth I know.  Yes, it can get ugly, and wisdom should always be at the helm, but I cannot allow the crazy, that is our world today, to stop me from using my voice.  My voice is not just for me, its also for others who need to hear it. 

What about you?  Are you living in that boat?  

This conviction probably won't result in me sharing endless perspectives on social media because I think people get overloaded and its not finding the results its seeks to aim. I will however, share as I feel led and stop allowing fear to keep me silent regardless of how it may be received.  

I want to have the confidence I heard in Paul Haggis' voice as he spoke, knowing the resistance and downright hurtful hatred was coming yet, not letting someone else deter him from standing for truth.  He knew he had no choice but to share the truth about Scientology, because the truth trumped the negative fallout.  Even if you have never been in a cult like Scientology, there can be lies you see in our world that need to be corrected.  We have an obligation to share and to help people avoid the dangers they are headed toward, otherwise we are cowards. 

May we together continue to speak where our heart speaks and in return hear those who are listening. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Are You A Christian?

What would you say if I told you I was a doctor, but my only credit to this title was a one hour Nursing class in college that I deem the only qualification needed to practice medicine?

Anyone lining up to get a check up?

Probably not.

One class in my undergraduate studies does not a doctor make!

What is funny is that 70.5% of the American population considers themselves a Christian and yet only 11% of that group has read the Bible in its entirety, and only 9% having read it more than once.

True, you don't have to read the Bible to be a Christian.  Christianity is not earned, its willingly received.  That trips people up though because becoming a Christian isn't an item on a checklist but a new beginning.

Christianity is an understanding that we can't do life on our own.  The standard of perfection is not attainable for us humans and we need Jesus' gift of life because of his perfect life on earth and death on the cross and resurrection to be forgiven of all the wrongs we have done.

Christianity is surrender - surrender to Jesus and his ways.  This surrender is often counter to our culture but honestly, it's also counter to our human nature.  The Bible is, simply put, a letter.  Yes, its more than that - its history, its poetry, its prophecy but at its heart its a letter, a story given to his children (that's us).  Its God way of speaking to us.  Yes, it can be intimidating but its not impossible.  It starts with a step, followed by another step.  How can you know who God is, what God wants with us and from us if you don't read the Bible?

The beauty of Christianity and the Bible is balance, and when someone goes too far one direction they lose the beauty of it all.  The teeter totter holds truth on one side and grace on the other.  When you stand in the middle of the two, you have found the sweet spot.  Sustaining that takes daily connection with God.

Religion is common place, but the relational focus of Christianity is unparalleled.  We must enter into a relationship with our Savior and daily walk with him to find the road and stay on it.

Unfortunately, this is not happening and I can't imagine what that discord must look like to God.  We are all his children and we are fighting and killing each other.  We have abandoned the hallmark of who he is - love.  We have walked away from truth in search of popularity or happiness and yet we haven't found what we thought we would.  The label of Christian is doing more harm than good in some corners of this country, because like my doctor analogy, people are claiming a faith they have no knowledge of.

When I moved to Germany my junior year, the two years that followed weren't marked with the poor choices I made that led to two decisions of regret.  No, the big problem when I arrived was one sentence that broke me.  You see when I headed to Germany, I was walking away from some bad years that left hurt inside my soul.  Not dealing with the pain I'd experienced, left me open to bitterness and bad choices.

 I uttered to God, "I don't like what you have done with my life, and I am taking over."

I abandoned God.

That was what led me to a breaking point my Freshman year of college.  Sure my wrecked virginity and subsequent abortion contributed to that pain, but when I FINALLY cried out to God, do you know what I found? It wasn't condemnation or judgement.  I heard God say, "Carrie, I have been waiting.  Waiting for you to give all of that to me, so I could fill you with my best."  That day in the basement of my dorm hall, I wept and I gave God back what was always his - control of my life.  He is a gentleman so he never forced me to follow him, but he let me see what my control led to - a mess.

At almost 39, my life is not perfect.  I am still a mess, but God is directing my path and in him I am finding all the joy, comfort, direction I need.  No one has ever loved me like God, and when I trust him with my life and seek him daily in Bible reading and prayer, I find what I need for today!  He has my life in his hands, and I can trust He knows what He is doing!!!  That is a Christian.  Are you a Christian?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

4 Things I Know...That I Don't Really Know

Sunday morning before heading to church, I got a call.  The news on the other end shocked me.  A woman at church, who I had just seen, had a heart attack and died the night before.  She wasn't young, but I still didn't see it coming.  She was making plans for upcoming events, trips with her husband, we had even just discussed food for a Christmas Event later this year.  The news of her death seemed surreal.  I can tell you, her death isn't the first one to take me off-guard either. 

Having this reaction got me thinking.  You see I know: 

1. Life is Short -

I know there is no guarantee for the days we are given. That is a truth I know, that I know, that I know and yet when the reality of this truth hits me in the face, I am reminded, I actually live life as if it will keep going as it always does, without recognizing we never know what is really around the corner.

As I contemplated the vast chasm between a fact I knew in my head and acted out in my life,  I wondered, what other truths do I know that apparently, I don't really know? 

Here are some others that came to mind:  

2.  Life Isn't Fair -

I know good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.  I know just because I deserve something, it doesn't mean I will get it because life isn't fair and yet when I am faced with a situation that is definitely unfair, I am forced to reckon myself to a truth that I have suddenly forgotten. 

This reminder hits me once a week when I watch American Ninja Warrior with my son.  Here are competitors who train all year for this event, and yet, one slip of the foot on the first obstacle can take down even the most seasoned athlete.   

3.  I Have Absolutely No Control  -

Similar to the first two items, I often find myself in an anxious mess over hurdles in life because I have bought into the deceptive lie that by worrying, I can affect the outcome of anything in life. I have no control over a million things that can influence my life.

This truth seems to resonate pretty strongly through our country right now as people face evacuation from their homes in hurricanes and fires.  You drive away, after doing what you can to protect your home, without guarantee all will be well when you return.  One can't control a natural disaster or the obscene amount of traffic you encounter on your exit or reentry after the storm.  

Lack of control does not just touch us in disastrous circumstances; it also touches us in the every day world - rush hour traffic, repairman wait times, your toddler's behavior, a spouse walking out, your cable going out at the exact moment its supposed to tape your favorite show, losing a loved one to an accident or disease.  From momentous to the mundane, we have NO control over so many outside influences that affect our lives.  That can be a scary reality.  

4.  God is in Control -

Here's the great news I often (way too often) forget.  Not only is there a God in control, but he is a good God.  When life goes sideways and I experience one of the above, I can eventually find solace in this truth (you know, once I stop trying to be God in my own life).

Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God sees and knows things we cannot comprehend.  He sees the full picture and regardless of what is happening in the moment - he's got it.  There are moments when this reality hits me like a two-by-four, as I find myself comparing reality with what I would do if I were God.

I don't see all He does so my decision will always be based on limited information.   I may one day understand why he did what he did in a particular situation but I also may never know this side of heaven. 

Truthfully, this list could continue on indefinitely, because as human beings, I find putting beliefs into practice can be easier said than done.  I just hope as you read this list, you will examine your own belief gaps and seek the truth you need to narrow that gap - if even just a bit. 

Find encouragement today in whatever mess you find yourself in, because you are not alone.  The rest of us humans are floundering too, like fish out of water.  We don't have to have it all together or be the best, we just have to continue to seek God and live a life that takes the best out of each moment.  There are no guarantees and just because we fail to recognize truth, doesn't change it from being true.  Happy Wednesday! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Do You Have Hashtag Guilt?

If you are new to my blog or don't know much about me, you may not know when I was 18, the summer before I started college, I had an abortion.  It was a decision made out of fear, and I spent a lot time rebuilding my heart and life after that choice.  Since finding my own freedom after abortion, I spent years walking alongside others with similar stories to lead them to hope as they struggle with their own past mistake. Despite my ability to help others, I try not to be the "abortion girl" - mainly because I’m so much more than that and even though I have a lot to share about that experience, its not what defines me. 

Trust me when I say, when it comes to my past abortion, I have found freedom.  I have walked healing in this place in my life, have spoken in front of crowds countless times and have had conversations with many people and am completely able deal with the issue of abortion without being re-traumatized, but I am also a testimony to the fact that no amount of healing can undo what I did in a Pennsylvania abortion clinic in the summer of 1997. There are many facets to pain, like the layers of an onion, and as we trek on in life, we can discover ways in which our past connects to us today.

Abortion wasn’t a time machine that made me unpregnant, and our choices when we are young can have lasting ripples into adulthood.  This place of pain has allowed me to help a lot of other people navigate their hurt from a past abortion, and while 99.9% of the time, that choice doesn’t haunt me, there are still moments, usually years between, when I am impacted and experience grief. It is a place of remembrance in my heart and a loss that will always be.  

I love my six-year-old son.  He is the best!  After 5 years of trying to get pregnant, followed by a miscarriage, I was pretty excited when I had my baby in my arms.  I thought he’d be it until we were surprised with my now, two-year-old, baby girl.  I love that I have one of each because they are both my favorite.  I can say, you are my favorite son or favorite daughter on the planet without any competition.  I see a lot of hashtags out there on photos and posts and even use some of my own - hashtags like: #FavoriteChild,  #FavoriteDaughter, #FavoriteOldestSon,   (okay, you get the point), and maybe this is dumb, but sometimes I feel guilty for my posts labeled with #FavoriteSon.  I feel guilty because Caleb isn’t my only son.  He’s just my only living son.  

To be fair, I didn’t know if the baby I chose to abort at 18 was a boy or a girl, because I wasn’t far enough along to have that medically answered, but in my heart I’ve always known he was a boy, and his name was Tyler.  He’s been a real person in my heart since the day after my abortion.  Making that choice is my biggest regret.  As I enjoy my two beautiful kids and my two beautiful bonus daughters, I hate that he doesn’t share in our fun (and craziness).  I sometimes feel bad saying #FavoriteSon because I feel like I’m leaving someone out.  As a girl who had her rejected phase, I'm sensitive to leaving people out. 

The truth is, Caleb is my #FavoriteLivingSon or #FavoriteSonOnEarth.  I miss my Tyler and he’s my #FavoriteSoninHeaven  and I want him to know I love him even though I’m sure in heaven, he’s just fine.  The depths at which I love my kids just seems to illuminate the joy I denied myself by rejecting the gift of Tyler almost 20 years ago.  

I bet I’m not alone in my journey of mourning the life I took for granted as a teenager.  Maybe you never had an abortion, but you have a past decision or experience that marked you in a way that stays with you?  What are the ways your adolescent choices affect you, even now? 

We can't live in our past, we were never intended to do so, but to deny the reality that our choices will affect us for life, is a dangerous mistake.  We need to be intentional to let God into our past so that we can walk in freedom and be wise in the way we walk out each day.  I know I couldn't do life with my Savior Jesus Christ and if anyone is looking for some hope, he is definitely the answer!  I am praying for those who read as I know, life gets real, and know I am writing from a sincere heart and a place of understanding.  God bless you this week!