Another Way to Look at Abortion

I’ve been thinking about America’s treasure trove of smart, gifted people…

The super smart: in the U.S., the National Association of Gifted Children estimates that about six percent of students — around 3 million — are academically gifted.

A subcategory of the super smart are the musically talented: research at Vanderbilt found that “professionally trained musicians more effectively use a creative technique called divergent thinking, and also use both the left and the right sides of their frontal cortex more heavily than the average person.”

There are many other subcategories of genius–the math whiz, the gifted poet, the skilled neurosurgeon, fashion designers, political standouts, engineers, economists and entrepreneurs. All of these are sprinkled throughout society for the good of society, the good of the economy, and, when it comes to the arts and entertainment and counseling and preaching, the good of our souls.

I’m wondering…how many Albert Einsteins, how many Abraham Lincolns, how many Beethovens and Robert Frosts and Louis Pasteurs and Billy Grahams—people whose genius would have blessed America and maybe set us on an entirely different path than the one we travel today—how many of these people never got to impart their God-given genius for the benefit of us all…because they were aborted?

Forgiveness Withheld

I have not posted here since April 7. Today is October 29. Let’s just say I’ve been busy…sold my house and moved, my son got married out of state, I’ve been to a conference, on a beach trip, and back packing on the Appalachian Trail.

So what compels me to blog at 4:00 a.m. after seven months of silence?

I’ve been lying awake thinking about forgiveness. Or, to be more precise, the impact of forgiveness withheld. Not forgiveness from God, but from a person. It’s a long story, but here are the basics. Two days after my last blog post, on an evening when I was exhausted physically and mentally, I failed to meet someone’s expectations, and failed to communicate with her well, and failed to collaborate well on our mutual endeavor. I was depleted to the point of just shutting down. I could not speak. My friend did not understand and she took it very personally.

I emailed an apology within an hour. In part, it read:

“I am sorry that I did not have the emotional energy to engage you in conversation. I still don’t…it’s 7:45 pm and I am thinking I should call you and say this, but I still just cannot speak right now. So I am writing this email instead. Please forgive me, and even though you don’t understand me right now, I hope you will give me grace. Undeserved, of course.

I cherish your friendship, (name), even though right now I can’t do any better than this note to demonstrate that.”

We met in person not long after this, but the rift grew worse. She said I was self-centered and that all she had seen in the note above was the word “I.” I pointed out that self-centeredness is one of the central problems of humanity and said, “I could say the same thing about you.” This absolutely devastated her and she decided on the spot to end our friendship.

That shocked me. I’ve been trying to repair the damage ever since. Two snail mailed letters, one hand written and tied with a ribbon, a brief email, and one birthday card later, still no resolution. No extension of forgiveness. For several weeks now, I’ve been reconciled to the situation, able to let it go knowing that I (the self-centered one) had reached out multiple times and that the ball was now squarely in her court.

But 2:00 a.m. today I started to be not so okay with it. I’m feeling the effects of forgiveness withheld. I am wondering if withholding forgiveness gives a person a sense of power. Control over the other person. I’m beginning to ponder the idea that maybe withholding forgiveness is the ultimate selfishness. I’m thinking too that from a spiritual perspective, it’s dangerous: “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:15). That’s really quite astonishing–Jesus is saying that though His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness that it won’t apply if we withhold forgiveness from those who sincerely ask us for it. And then there’s the Matthew 18 passage where Peter comes to Jesus and says, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus says, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

It’s almost 5 a.m. now and I am wondering about something else. I’m wondering if part of the reason Jesus wants us to forgive each other is because He knows how bad it feels when forgiveness is withheld.

Responding to Iran: Americans are not fooled by Khamenei’s lies. But what troubles us most is President Obama’s feckless policy towards Iran. He is presiding over the systemic collapse of American credibility around the globe.

What a post! Had to share it with you all.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

MEME-SecondHolocaust-small(New York City, New York) — An Iranian official this week attacked an op-ed I recently wrote with Senator Santorum for CNN.com as “ludicrous, counterproductive and unfortunate.”

You can read our original op-ed here, and the Iranian official’s op-ed here.

Here is Senator Santorum’s and my response:

The American people are not fooled by the lies of Ayatollah Khamenei and his regime. Americans understand that Iran’s illegal nuclear program poses a grave danger to U.S. national security, to Israel, to NATO, and to our Arab allies in the Middle East.  

As we stated in our column, a new poll shows that 80% of Americans fear a “Second Holocaust” if the world allows Iran to build nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Given that the Khamenei regime is one of the world’s worst state sponsors of terror, Americans are right to be so deeply concerned

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Warped Theological Explanations for Singleness

In 2006, when I was newly divorced, a friend forwarded to me an article, presumably a blog post, by someone named Paige Benton. I came across it today when I was going through my “flagged” emails. I re-read it, loved it just as much this time around, and am re-posting an excerpt from it here because I couldn’t have said it better myself. She wrote:

“Warped theology is at the heart of attempts to “explain” singleness:

* “As soon as you’re satisfied with God alone, he’ll bring someone
special into your life”–as though God’s blessings are ever earned by
our contentment.

* “You’re too picky”–as though God is frustrated by our fickle whims
and needs broader parameters in which to work.

* “As a single you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s
work”–as though God requires emotional martyrs to do his work, of
which marriage must be no part.

* “Before you can marry someone wonderful the Lord has to make you
someone wonderful”–as though God grants marriage as a second blessing
to the satisfactorily sanctified.

Accepting singleness, whether temporary or permanent, does not hinge
on speculation about answers God has not given to our list of whys,
but rather on celebration of the life he has given. I am not single
because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband,
nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am
single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his
best for me. It is a cosmic impossibility that anything could be
better for me right now than being single.”

Thank-you, amen, and a standing O!

Set a Miracle in Motion

(Our study group didn’t meet this week because of a special church event focused on missions, so this post isn’t part of the “single adults in the church” series. I hope you like it though!”)

Mark 6:41-44

“And taking the five loaves and two fish, He looked up to heaven and, praising God, gave thanks and broke the loaves and kept on giving them to the disciples to set before the people; and He [also] divided the two fish among [them] all. And they all ate and were satisfied.And they took up twelve [small hand] baskets full of broken pieces [from the loaves] and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were 5,000 men.”

A close look at this passage of Scripture reveals something extraordinary: the difference between active faith and passive faith.

Passive faith looks at the overwhelming need: feeding 5,000 men, plus their accompanying women and children. Then it looks at the impossibly dismal resources for accomplishing the task: five loaves and two fish—and it keeps on looking intently at the basket, waiting for its contents to miraculously multiply. Unwilling to move until it sees the resources.

Active faith looks at the overwhelming need: feeding 5,000 men, plus their accompanying women and children. Then it looks at the impossibly dismal resources for accomplishing the task: five loaves and two fish—and it starts breaking the bread and the fish and handing them out. A miracle occurs in the process. Somehow, as they gave these meager resources away, there was enough for everyone! And there were 12 baskets of leftovers!  The mystery of this miracle is embedded in the words, in the process.

The miracle wasn’t set in motion while they waited for the resources to show up; it was set in motion as they stepped out to meet needs, using what they had to work with.

Sometimes an unanswered prayer may mean God is waiting for you or me to act on what we already know, or to use whatever He has already given us. Which scenario gives Him more glory? Distributing the contents of a basket that is visibly full, fulfilling human expectations, or distributing the contents of a basket that miraculously fills as we step out to do what is humanly impossible?

Single Adults in the Church, Part 4: Forgiveness

This week our workbook led us into a discussion about bitterness and unforgiveness. Like every other topic we are covering, this one is not unique to unmarried people. It is, however, problematic for single people in ways that don’t apply to those who are married. Widows and widowers may struggle to forgive God for taking their spouse, or in an irrational kind of way, be angry with the spouse for dying and abandoning them, perhaps recasting them in the role of single parent, a responsibility they feel ill-prepared to embrace. Never-married people may wrestle with forgiving God or an ex-fiancée, holding either or both responsible for spoiling their dream of being married. Divorced people probably struggle to forgive more than other singles, because divorce is almost by definition is such a hurtful, messy, wounding ordeal.

I worked all the way through the workbook lesson, arriving at the end feeling thankful that after many years, I had finally forgiven the people who wounded and wronged me in the horrid experience of divorce. I truly was not harboring any conscious resentment or bitterness and I reflected on this happily as I wrote in the workbook spaces provided. Early on the day of the class, I reviewed the lesson a second time, and again came away feeling that I was “there.” I felt good. Peaceful.

Then, after putting the workbook into my backpack, as I began getting ready for work, it was as though God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “What about (this person)?” Oh. Right. That person. Well, okay, yes, I admit it: I have not fully forgiven her. And then a second person came to mind. Both people were part of a hurtful scenario that was now replaying in my memory. These were people I trusted. Helping professionals, actually, that I should have been able to trust. But they only deepened my wounds and made things worse. It had all happened years ago, but I was facing the fact that I not yet wiped the slate completely clean. I knew, and I do know, that if I am ever to be totally, truly free, I have to forgive them both. I have to let it all go.

The revelation of this surprised me. But I had to agree with God and humbly re-engage in the process of forgiveness. An important point in the lesson was now amplified for me: forgiveness is a process. We humans can’t forgive instantly as God does. The greater the offense, the more difficult it is for us to cast it “as far as the east is from the west,” the way God forgives us. Forgiving a big offense take time because simply remembering it causes our emotions to kick back in. We experience it all over again, ripping the scabs off the wounds, making us bristle at the injustice of it all. Hurtful words and unkind deeds scream out, demanding revenge. But God does not allow His children to behave that way. He wants us to let it go. We are under orders to hand over to Him our wish to pay back, and then to allow the balm of His Spirit and Christ’s own example to heal our hearts. He instructs us to forgive for our own good—because He doesn’t want our hearts to grow cold and fill up with the soul-killing pus of bitterness.

Bottom line, the mandate to forgive is our God-ordained rescue. It rescues us from becoming prisoners of our own resentment, locked out of the abundant life we are supposed to enjoy. True, the process of forgiving can be arduous; it may take us back to God again and again and again for help in laying it all down. That’s okay; it’s all good. Because walking the long road to forgiveness also changes us in the most beautiful, wonderful way—it makes us more like Jesus. When we accept His power to let it go, and do it, we are never more like Him than in that moment.

Before You Put a Ring on it…

Thanks to the abundant snow, our weekly group meeting was cancelled this past Wednesday. So I am saving the post on our topic of discussion for until after we meet (hopefully) this coming week. Meanwhile, I am re-posting something below written by someone I do not know. His name is J. Lee Grady. I think he has compiled a lot of wisdom into his blog post and I am passing it along to you all. His blog is called Fire in My Bones and if you want to see the original post you can find it on the charismamag.com web site. This is what he wrote:

Ten Men Christian Women Should Never Marry

My wife and I raised four daughters—without shotguns in the house!—and three of them have already married. We love our sons-in-law, and it’s obvious God handpicked each of them to match our daughters’ temperaments and personality.

I have always believed God is in the matchmaking business. If He can do it for my daughters, He can do it for you.

Today I have several single female friends who would very much like to find the right guy. Some tell me the pickings are slim at their church, so they have ventured into the world of online dating. Others have thrown up their hands in despair, wondering if there are any decent Christian guys left anywhere. They’ve begun to wonder if they should lower their standards in order to find a mate.

My advice stands: Don’t settle for less than God’s best. Too many Christian women today have ended up with an Ishmael because impatience pushed them into an unhappy marriage. Please take my fatherly advice: You are much better off single than with the wrong guy!

Speaking of “wrong guys,” here are the top 10 men you should avoid when looking for a husband:

1. The unbeliever. Please write 2 Corinthians 6:14 on a Post-it note and tack it on your computer at work. It says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (NASB). This is not an outdated religious rule. It is the Word of God for you today.

Don’t allow a man’s charm, looks or financial success (or his willingness to go to church with you) push you to compromise what you know is right. “Missionary dating” is never a wise strategy. If the guy is not a born-again Christian, scratch him off your list. He’s not right for you. I’ve yet to meet a Christian woman who didn’t regret marrying an unbeliever.

2. The liar. If you discover that the man you are dating has lied to you about his past or that he’s always covering his tracks to hide his secrets from you, run for the nearest exit. Marriage must be built on a foundation of trust. If he can’t be truthful, break up now before he bamboozles you with an even bigger deception.

3. The playboy. I wish I could say that if you meet a nice guy at church, you can assume he’s living in sexual purity. But that’s not the case today. I’ve heard horror stories about single guys who serve on the worship team on Sunday but act like Casanovas during the week. If you marry a guy who was sleeping around before your wedding, you can be sure he will be sleeping around after your wedding.

4. The deadbeat. There are many solid Christian men who experienced marital failure years ago. Since their divorce, they have experienced the Holy Spirit’s restoration, and now they want to remarry. Second marriages can be very happy. But if you find out that the man you are dating hasn’t been caring for his children from a previous marriage, you have just exposed a fatal flaw. Any man who will not pay for his past mistakes or support children from a previous marriage is not going to treat you responsibly.

5. The addict. Churchgoing men who have addictions to alcohol or drugs have learned to hide their problems—but you don’t want to wait until your honeymoon to find out that he’s a boozer. Never marry a man who refuses to get help for his addiction. Insist that he get professional help and walk away. And don’t get into a codependent relationship in which he claims he needs you to stay sober. You can’t fix him.

6. The bum. I have a female friend who realized after she married her boyfriend that he had no plans to find steady work. He had devised a great strategy: He stayed home all day and played video games while his professional wife worked and paid all the bills. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thess. 3:10). The same rule applies here: If a man is not willing to work, he doesn’t deserve to marry you.

7. The narcissist. I sincerely hope you can find a guy who is handsome. But be careful: If your boyfriend spends six hours a day at the gym and regularly posts closeups of his biceps on Facebook, you have a problem. Do not fall for a self-absorbed guy. He might be cute, but a man who is infatuated with his appearance and his own needs will never be able to love you sacrificially, like Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25). The man who is always looking at himself in the mirror will never notice you.

8. The abuser. Men with abusive tendencies can’t control their anger when it boils over. If the guy you are dating has a tendency to fly off the handle, either at you or others, don’t be tempted to rationalize his behavior. He has a problem, and if you marry him you will have to navigate his minefield every day to avoid triggering another outburst. Angry men hurt women—verbally and sometimes physically. Find a man who is gentle.

9. The man-child. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m suspicious of a guy who still lives with his parents at age 35. If his mother is still doing his cooking, cleaning and ironing at that age, you can be sure he’s stuck in an emotional time warp. You are asking for trouble if you think you can be a wife to a guy who hasn’t grown up. Back away and, as a friend, encourage him to find a mentor who can help him mature.

10. The control freak. Some Christian guys today believe marriage is about male superiority. They may quote Scripture and sound super-spiritual, but behind the façade of husbandly authority is deep insecurity and pride that can morph into spiritual abuse. First Peter 3:7 commands husbands to treat their wives as equals. If the man you are dating talks down to you, makes demeaning comments about women or seems to squelch your spiritual gifts, back away now. He is on a power trip. Women who marry religious control freaks often end up in a nightmare of depression.

If you are a woman of God, don’t sell your spiritual birthright by marrying a guy who doesn’t deserve you. Your smartest decision in life is to wait for a man who is sold out to Jesus.

 

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Single Adults in the Church, Part Three: Meeting God in the Abyss of Grief

Grief is not unique to single adults. Grief is a part of life for everyone. Even little children are not shielded from it for long. Most of us can recall burying (flushing?) a deceased pet goldfish or putting a cute little hamster into a shoebox coffin. Many people lose their grandparents when they are young, or grieve the moving away from friends when a parent takes a job in a new town. Little griefs are disappointing; big griefs are life-altering.

Only those who are single by choice are spared the “big grief” of journeying through life without a partner. For the never-married who long to be paired, an undercurrent of grief always shadows the hope that their soul mate is still “out there.” Widows and widowers not only grieve the death of their spouse, but also the death of dreams and daily life as they have known it. The grief of divorce is similar, except that it is the death of a marriage and not a person. Many divorced people say divorce is worse than death because there is no closure. That is, the spouse still lives on, and there is no socially sanctioned ceremony where friends and family circle around to help one say good-bye to the dead marriage. Even when a marriage has been horrid, and divorce brings relief, there is still grief for what could have been; indeed for what should have been.

And so, most single adults are acquainted with grief. In the small group of single women that is meeting weekly at my church, we talked about it in our most recent meeting.

We considered the odd phrasing of Matthew 5:4, which says, “ Blessed are they that mourn…(KJV).” What? How does the word blessed belong in the same sentence with the word mourn? My sense of it is that grief increases our capacity to receive blessing from God. Ironic, oh yes. A “big” grief, like divorce or the death of one’s mate, calls forth an intense emotional pain that doesn’t ever well up in a person who is not grieving, for there is no such abyss in their heart. Abyss is exactly the right word. Merriam Webster defines it as “a hole so deep or a space so great that it cannot be measured.” Abyss describes real, unspeakable grief. If you have truly grieved you know this place, this bottomless “hole so deep.”

The blessing, the great irony of grief, is that the abyss it creates—the “space so great that it cannot be measured”—is the very space God refills with His comfort. Thus, the deeper the grief, the deeper the space it carves out for God’s comfort. Those who have truly grieved ARE blessed because they can know God in a deeper, more experiential way that those who have never deeply grieved.

Meditate on the astonishing Amplified wording of Matthew 5:4.

 Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!

The grief comes first, clawing a deep cavern into the flesh of the soul. And then, for those who invite God into this dark space–crazy true–the balm of His magnificent comfort is poured out to fill the abyss dug by grief. And as the “big grief” that caused us to be single slowly soaks up its comfort from God, we are empowered to walk on through life, as long as God wills, as whole, healed, unmarried daughters and sons of God.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).”

Single Adults in the Church, Part Two: Rejection

There is probably not a person on earth who has not experienced rejection. And if we are honest, most of us would have to admit to also dishing out rejection to another person in some form, at some time. The experience of rejection goes with the territory of being a fallen human living in the midst of other equally fallen humans. Even Jesus experienced rejection when He walked this earth in human form. Isaiah 53:3 attests, “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care (NLT).”

Because Jesus experienced the pain of rejection, He totally understands how we feel when we are rejected by others. There’s a lot of comfort in this because many single Christians will tell you that they have experienced rejection, not only from society, but also from their families and within the Church, simply because they are single.

Some “categories” of singles are more likely to experience rejection than others. People who have been divorced may be the most suspect, held at arm’s length as people speculate, “What did she or he do to cause this?” It’s almost as if there is a worry that whatever “it” is, it may be contagious and liable to infect the marriages of others. Best to stand back a bit, just in case! People who have never married are also often similarly analyzed by the married folk (“What is so wrong with her that she was never chosen?” Or, “Maybe he is gay.”) Widows, the category of singleness specifically designated for ministry by the Church, are least likely to be rejected. It’s clear to all that they are single and their children are fatherless through no possible fault of their own. It’s easy to apply James 1:27 to them: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…”

The thing is, there is more stigma, and no less “distress,” no less emotional pain, and no less need for acceptance when one is single because of divorce or having never married. It seems to me that in our day, the appropriate application of James 1:27 would be to compassionately lavish upon all who are single, for any reason, the very same measure of acceptance, love, and care.

Single Adults in the Church: The Surprising Statistics

For the next 13 weeks or so I am going to narrow the focus of the Jazzywalk blog to the theme of single adults. Specifically single adults in the Church, with a targeted focus on single women. This is on the front burner for me because I am co-facilitating a small group study for single women at my church right now. Here’s why:

Most churches in 2014 are enthusiastically ministering to younger singles, that is, people who are in the stage of life when society expects people to be single—the high school, college, and early career years. Ministry to older single adults, however, is no longer in vogue in most churches. I’m talking about the lack of enthusiastic, targeted ministry to those who are divorced, widowed, or in their 40’s and beyond who have never married. So…a few of us are stirring the pot and calling attention to the need.  It is a pretty big need, too. So big, in fact, that I’m convinced that if we, the Church, don’t pay attention we are going to miss the huge, important turn in ministry focus that society’s GPS is crying out for us to take.

The statistics, both nationally and in my locale, are a bit surprising. According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Currently, 44.1% of all Americans over age 18 are single. That’s 103 million people.
  • Of the 103 million:
    • 53.6% are women and 46.4% are men
    • 62% have never been married
    • 24% are divorced
    • 14% are widowed
  • There are 87 single men for every 100 single women.

In Forsyth County, North Carolina, where I live:

  • Of the 337,198 county residents, 53% are women
  • Of the 53% who are female, 46% are married and 54% are single
  • The 54% breaks down like this:
    • 29% have never been married
    • 10% are widowed
    • 15% are divorced or separated

The national divorce rate is still hovering around 50%, and people are choosing to marry later in life. This means that there are more single adults in our midst—and in our pews—than ever before.

So here’s the takeaway I see for the Church, perhaps most succinctly stated in the workbook we are using for our small group study: “By the end of the twenty-first century, it is projected that singles will make up the majority of the adult population. The Census Bureau projects that every man and woman alive today can expect to live more years single than married.” (Facilitator’s Guide: The Single Christian, by Dr. Elizabeth Holland, Turning Point Ministries, 2005; p.5.)

Beyond that, consider one more statistic: after the age of 65, 59% of the population in my county is female. Because women tend to live longer than men, my guess is that this is true in most cities across the nation. Thus, as the Baby Boomer generation ages, ministry to older adults will become more and more a ministry to single women.

And so, Church, how should we respond?