Life As We Know It…

We celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on January 20th, and just 48 hours later, the World Trade Center lit up in pink to celebrate… a law that allows full term babies to be aborted.

This issue is personal for me because from 1984- 1993, the United States experienced the highest number of abortions. It was during those years, that me and my three sisters were born. It was also during those years that Hope Women’s Centers began. The place I now work. The place my Dad helped start 30+ years ago.

I cannot help but look at the number of abortions during those years and feel a deep sadness. Those babies were not just a “blob of tissue.” They were my generation.

They should have been my colleagues.

My friends.

My teammates.

My partners in ministry.

On average, from 1984-1993, every year 1.3 million children were aborted.

Before I continue, I want to say, I know this is a very personal and tender issue for some. I am deeply sorry if you happen to be post abortive. I know that is a deep wound, and maybe you didn’t have all the facts you needed to make an informed decision. You are not alone. I am hurting with you, and If you need someone to talk with, please click this Hope Restored Program.

Francis Schaeffer once said, “Every abortion clinic should have a sign in front of it saying, “Open by the permission of the church.”

You may be wondering why I’m using this quote. It’s because 54% of women who get an abortion identify as “Christian.” One in every four women in the church have an abortion. The number is equally as high for men. Roland Warren, the CEO of CareNet, who Hope Women’s Centers is affiliated with said, “We have women at church on Sunday and in the abortion clinic on Monday.”

This issue is not at our doorstep. It is an issue that had taken residence in our pews.

The Dalai Lama said this:

We are killing off the future.

We live in a society where life is no longer precious. We pass laws to take the life of not only a child, but also those who are disabled by assisted suicide. And Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, 1.3 million individuals attempted to take their own life. 50,000 individuals succeeded in that attempt.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to STEAL, KILL and DESTROY”

Let me tell you, he is SERIOUS about all three. But, the last part of that verse says this?

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.”

That is our desire at Hope Women’s Centers (and should be of the church) We want women and men who find themselves in despair to know that LIFE IS PRECIOUS. Their life is precious and SO is the child inside.

Our God is the author of life. His name is Creator. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. That is who He is!

My challenge to every single one of us is that if you haven’t joined the fight for life that you would do that. Maybe it’s through volunteering or giving. Maybe it’s through praying for pregnancy centers and churches all across the world to fight for life. Maybe it’s to help someone who is struggling with mental illness. Or, maybe it’s to find healing from your own wounds, so that eventually you can help someone else with their wounds. There are a ton of ways to be involved.

My prayer for 2019, is that we would make God’s name remembered in Broward County by fighting for life. Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” We either serve the God who created life, or we choose the god of this age whose sole purpose is to, steal, kill and destroy. I pray we are a people who fight for the life of the unborn, the weak, and the outcast. I pray that we are a people who are known for their love. We have a hurting and broken community and world that needs the support of the church. Let it be said of us that we love, sacrifice and promote life wherever we are.

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A year or so ago, I was struck by the fact that there was a woman I knew very well whose life was wrecked by abortion. I wrote this to help me see those who also might be dealing with their own heaviness for their abortion. I wrote this with all the love in my heart. I would be honored to help anyone carry their burden. It’s too heavy to carry alone ❤️.

She is

She is your boss, your neighbor, your friend.

She wonders why and how she could put a life to an end.

She was not in a good spot financially when she decided.

Suddenly, she realized the lies she believed she’d been blind-sided.

She’s held this secret for far too long.

Silence is her cover and also her drinking song.

She cannot speak of the event that caused her excruciating pain…

The day that her baby was slain.

She walks around feeling not even half a human being.

She robbed a life from laughter, love, hearing and seeing.

The trauma of that day is seared into her soul.

Her heart once plenteous and abundant is now not even half full.

This wound is one similar to those in combat.

In theory, one solider returns unscathed and the other forever lost, but here is a fact:

That unscathed soldier is never the same. From death he may have been saved.

But it led him to consider his own encounter with the grave.

She is broken – a mother without a child.

She is depleted and the joy she experiences is so very mild.

She is hiding in plain sight.

Finding God in the Dark

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at a woman’s fellowship. This was the talk I shared. Given that, this reads a bit differently than a blog, but I hope it encourages you.

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Before I begin my message, I would like to tell you my testimony. I think it’s important to understand people’s stories.

I was born into a Christian home. My mom was a missionary to Turkey for nearly three years until her first husband was martyred there when she was 8 months pregnant with my older brother. She came back to the States and a year later married my Dad who was a pastor of a local church. My Dad pastored that local church for over 30 years. Together, they worked with International college students for over 25 years.

So I grew up in a home that was very mission oriented and local church focused. Which I am grateful. I prayed that prayer of salvation with my Dad when I was six, but as I got into my teen years, I became very depressed and had suicidal thoughts. I knew enough to know that drugs, drinking, and guys were not the answer but I didn’t know what I was missing. I contemplated how to take my own life, but I didn’t ever want to hurt my parents. I felt stuck.

At that time, my Dad was taking our youth group to a youth event. I basically walked in the first night and said, “God, if you want me than you’ve got to do something.” The conference lasted three days and on the third day, during the last speaker, something became so clear to me. I was missing a personal relationship with Jesus. I was doing all the things my family was doing, but I didn’t have my own time with Jesus. So, I decided that day to get to know Jesus for myself.

My perspective and outlook did a 180. I was learning new things every day and would find so many treasures in my personal time with Jesus. About six months after I made my faith my own I lost a mentor of mine in a car accident. She had been someone who I considered an outlet. Being a pastor’s kid, it’s hard to know who to talk to in the church. This woman was outside of that circle because she lived in another state. I knew that day, I had a decision to make. Walk away from God or walk towards Him. I decided to walk towards him.

Over the years, I’ve had to make that decision over and over and over again.

I’d love to say that, losing my friend was the only loss I’ve had, but I would be lying if I did.

In the summer of 2017, my Dad was in a terrible car accident. He suffered severe head trauma. The doctor called my mom and siblings into a small room and said, “The Bill you knew this morning, is not the Bill that’s here today. On a scale from 1 to 5 … 5 being the worst, your dad, husband, grandpa is at a level 4.” It was only seven days after that, that my Dad passed away.

I’ve titled this message… “Finding God in the dark.”

I came across a verse after I losing my Dad that has stuck with me. It’s an aspect of God that I’ve wrestled with. The verse is in Psalms 88. Before I get to that particular verse, I’d like to share the whole Psalm.

Psalm 88 (A song of lament)

1 Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.

2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.

3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.

4I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.

5I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.

6You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.

7Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.

8You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape;

9 My eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.

10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?

11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction?

12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.

16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.

17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.

18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.

The verse that stuck out to me was verse 6:

You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.

When I first read that verse, I went back and re-read it. Surely, the “You” cannot mean God, right?! But, I went back, read the context, read commentary. And, yes, it is talking about God putting us in a pit.

Have you ever felt as though the darkness is all encompassing? Like you’re surrounded by darkness? Maybe it’s because you are in a pit.

There are certain aspects of God that are too much for us to understand. I once heard a godly woman say, “If I knew everything about God He wouldn’t be God.”

There were others who had their pit moment — like Jeremiah…

Lamentations 3:1-20 says this:

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.

2 He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;

3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.

5 He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.

6 He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.

7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains.

8 Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.

9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked.

10 Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding,

11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help.

12 He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.

13 He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.

14 I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long.

15 He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink.

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.

17 I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is.

18 So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

Did you notice verse 2?

He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;

The reality of life is that there are times that God either places us in a dark pit, or makes us walk in darkness.

Walking through the dark is never fun. It’s hard. Figuring out how to continue on, especially after a loss seems near impossible. So, how do we find God in the dark?! Is it even possible?

Luke 23:44-46 says this:

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Verse 44 says, DARKNESS came over the whole land. This DARKNESS CAME DURING Jesus’ Crucifixion. I’ve read some historians who’ve reported that there was actually an eclipse that happened at the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion.

BEFORE I comment on these verses in Luke, I’d like to share a story.

As I was preparing this talk, I came across an article in Readers Digest about a man named Joe Serna who had served 17 as a Green Beret in the Army.

He shared one of his traumatic experiences:

There was one incident that caused the majority of his nightmares. As part of a convoy, he and three other Special Forces soldiers were inside a 19-ton RG-31 mine-resistant truck, driving through Kandahar, Afghanistan, to recover a fallen brother who had died after stepping on a mine. Just after midnight, as they were driving along a pitch-black dirt road that was flanked by a canal, the narrow road gave way. The massive armored vehicle fell sideways, slipped down the bank, and toppled into the canal.

“The truck started filling with water, and I couldn’t release my seat belt,” remembers Serna. Helpless, he felt the water rising over his feet, then up to his knees, then his chest. His heart pounding, he heard his team members screaming for help as the water swallowed them up. This is it, he thought as he struggled to free himself. I’m going to die.

But then one of his brothers came to the rescue. “When the water had reached my chin, I felt a hand come down and unfasten my seat belt and release my body armor,” Serna says. “Sergeant James Treber picked me up and moved me to a pocket of air.”

The truck’s hydraulic system had been knocked out, so the doors wouldn’t budge. The soldiers were trapped. Because there was not enough space for both of them in the small air pocket, Treber dived into the water to find a larger one. Suddenly some fuel cans broke and contaminated Serna’s air pocket with gasoline. He passed out.

“I thought I’d died,” says Serna. “Someone pulled me out of the truck. When I came to, I saw three bodies lying on the ground. Everyone else in the truck, including Sergeant Treber, had died.” To this day, being stuck in a confined space can trigger flashbacks for Serna.

Serna turned to alcohol to cope with his post traumatic stress. He ended up in a treatment program, which required him to be tested for alcohol several times throughout the year. During his time in the treatment center, he got to know a judge who helped with the program.

A few months into the program, Joe tested positive for alcohol. He lied to the judge but then felt guilty about it. He went back to court and told the judge the truth. The judge sentenced him to one night in jail. The trouble was, tight spaces would trigger Joe’s PTSD. The judge remembered Joe’s story of the convey and the canal the minute he saw Joe’s Face after sentencing him to one night in prison.

The judge pulled some strings and had Joe sent to another jail where he would at least be alone but the cell space was still the same size.

Joe arrived at his cell and within minutes, he felt as though the walls were closing in. He was about to freak out when he heard the jail cell unlock. It was the judge with two trays of jail food.

“Here” the judge said.

Joe was baffled. He asked the judge what he was doing. The judge responded. Staying with you.

Joe didn’t know how to respond. True to his word, the judge stayed the night. The judge was a former veteran himself. He knew where Joe was coming from. That night they both swapped stories of their deployments, and Joe slept like a baby that night.

At the end of the article, the Judge tells a story that he once read about a veteran who was suffering from PTSD:

“The veteran was in a deep hole. First his family threw down a rope, but he wouldn’t come out. Then his therapist threw down a rope, but again he didn’t come out.

Then his minister, with the same result. Finally, a second veteran came by, and he, too, threw down a rope. But this time, he climbed into the hole with the first vet. ‘What are you doing down here with me?’ the vet with PTSD asked. The second vet answered, ‘I’m here to climb out with you.’

Now I’d like to comment on the crucifixion of Jesus in Luke. Because of the crucifixion of Jesus, because He came to earth as a man and yet fully God, He experienced darkness. He experiences being in the grave for three days. If anyone knows darkness it would be Jesus.

And when we first heard the story of Jesus we might have been tempted to think, why would He come the way He did? Why would He suffer the way He did? Why would he die the way He did?

And I realized it’s so that when we find ourselves being placed in a pit. When we find ourselves surrounded by darkness and people are throwing their ropes at us calling for us. Jesus gets into the pit with us and says, I’m here to climb out with you.

Hebrews 6:19- 20 says this:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

As I read this, I was reminded that you can’t see the anchor in the midst of the storm. You FEEL every wave of the storm you’re in. You SEE the dark clouds, but you CANNOT SEE the anchor. But the anchor is STILL THERE. It’s the anchor that holds us steady, even when we feel like we are going to get swept away. Jesus is our anchor. He stays with us through our storm and in our dark season. He will never let us go.

So, Finding God in the dark is not really about finding Him. It’s more about remembering He’s there.

Remember were we left Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:20? His soul was downcast within him?

Let’s read more of that chapter starting in verse 21:

21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions NEVER FAIL.

23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.

29 Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope.

30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For NO ONE is cast off by the Lord forever.

32 Though HE BRINGS GRIEF, he WILL SHOW COMPASSION, so great is his unfailing love.

33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.

34 To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land,

35 to deny people their rights before the Most High,

36 to deprive them of justice — would not the Lord see such things?

37 Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?

38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

39 Why should the living complain when punished for their sins?

40 Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.

SKIP DOWN TO VERSE 55:

55 I called on your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit.

56 You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.”

57 You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”

58 You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.

So, my encouragement to you and myself, is that, if you’re in a pit season, a season of darkness, depression or grief, that you would remember that God is right there with you— even if you cannot feel or see Him. He’s waiting with you. He will help you when you’re ready.

And when you’re out… You’ll know how to help someone else out of their pit like Jesus helped you out of yours.

“There is no line…”

Disclaimer: I wrote this a few months ago. I wrote it to help me process my own feelings. For whatever it’s worth, I hope it helps someone else❤️.

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I have been watching a show called, “Burn Notice.” It’s about an ex-spy, named Michael Weston. Half of the time you can’t tell who he’s being used and manipulated by. People have threatened his family, friends, and very existence of who he is. He’s stuck in this trap of trying to be free. Every time he gets close, the target changes, or the carrot he’s been chasing get replaced, or jerked just out of reach.

As the series continues, the closer the fight gets. If you plan on watching it, you may not want to continue reading this….

Michael and his friends have been through everything together. They become more than friends. They become each other’s family. They all get into risky and questionable situations, but there is always an underlying trust. Even if the team doesn’t understand what’s going on, they trust the one calling the shots.

One sentence in this series won’t stop playing in my head… Michael is gaining ground on the person trying to take his life away, but it requires him to sacrifice some of his newer friends. His girlfriend (Fiona) decides that if she doesn’t take herself out of the equation, Michael won’t be able to make the right call. Since, Fiona has become the leveraging tool used by his newest adversary. He rushes to find her. When he does, she says, “I’m surrendering. I’m taking myself out. You’re losing yourself.” The reality of the situation starts to sink in for Michael. He is about to ruin other people’s lives to save Fiona. She speaks again and says, “Where do you draw the line, Michael?” And this is the part that keeps playing in my head… he says,

“There is no line when it comes to you.”

As I thought on what Michael said, I realized something. God is never going to stop coming after me. To you this may seem like a “no brainer” as my Dad used to say. But, after experiencing abuse from individuals claiming to be serving God coupled by the loss of my Dad… I’ve felt like Michael. I’ve felt lost.

In the midst of the fighting, Michael had lost sight of who he was. I know that Michael said, “There is no line when it comes to Fiona.” But it was Fiona who proved it.

Later on, when Michael is about to essentially “sell his soul to the devil” because he’s gotten so confused. He wants freedom so bad and there have been so many people after him. In the process, he’s lost so much that up he’s gotten to the point where up is down and down is up.

Fiona know he’s fallen prey due to everything he’s been through and he’s in the “enemy’s camp” . Walking in there could mean sudden death for her — That doesn’t stop her. She walks right into the enemy’s territory and right into Michael’s confusion — not knowing how he will respond to her.

In the aftermath of grief, there’s a lot of confusion and you feel lost. The normality of having your loved one is no longer there. Your mind keeps wanting to see them back at “their place”. Like at the end of the dinner table, at his work desk, or the rocking chair where he used to watching football. But, I’m slowly beginning to realize that I have to relearn the life I live. I have to relearn how to continue with a hole in my family and in my heart, and honor him and God in the process. I have to relearn who I am. The fact is, I’ve been changed. The Christi before losing her Dad is not the same Christi after losing her Dad. The same is true for each one of my family members. But, there’s still a piece of me that is there, and that’s the piece that I’ve got to find.

And, instead of Fiona rushing in, I can picture Jesus rushing in . When everyone else is running for cover. He crosses the line into my lostness. I can picture him saying, “Christi, look at me.” And just like Michael did, it takes a while because maybe you didn’t understand all that “the plan” called life entailed…

But at some point I’ve got to ask for the strength look up and find His eyes again. Somehow, I’ve got to walk towards the voice that’s rushed in to pull me out. It starts with a look up. He will help me relearn who I am and how to move forward, but not forget.

*Pictures taken from: https://www.pinterest.com/chompie97/burn-notice/?amp_client_id=CLIENT_ID(_)&mweb_unauth_id={{default.session}}