Being Thankful…Especially Now

Being Thankful…Especially Now

In the U.S., we have one week until Thanksgiving. I won’t be posting on the day itself as I normally would on a Thursday, so I wanted to share some thoughts on it now. Something to help us all get our minds contemplating the purpose as we move into Thanksgiving week.

It’s been a difficult year. Global pandemics, economic shutdowns, murder hornets, wildfires, hurricane after hurricane…the list goes on. And for my family, we have that diagnosis too. It’s been a year of trials and challenges. A year of uncertainty. A year where a lot has gone wrong for a lot of people.

We know that we’re told to be thankful in all things, to rejoice in our trials…but how do we do that? Really do that?

Many years ago I was editing a book called Guard Your Heart by Audrey Jose for WhiteFire, and she had a line in there that has really stuck with me. She says, “Don’t just pray that God will solve problems or take away difficulties. Pray that God will reveal Himself IN the difficulties.” Ask Him to show you His perspective. As this thought has burrowed deep into my heart over the years, it’s linked itself with the idea of gratitude and thanksgiving.

How can we be grateful for the trials?
Because God is there, and He shows Himself strong in our weakness.

How can we be thankful in every circumstance?
Because we’re filled with His Spirit, and the dark times are when He can shine through.

Thanksgiving is not about abundance–it’s about recognizing a faithful God who brings us through each fire, each plague, each drought, each storm so that we can serve Him one more day or month or year…or else gather us home. Thanksgiving is not about a turkey or a big family meal or a football game–it’s about pausing to reflect on the One who has given every morsel that we taste, who calls us His own.

This year has asked a lot of us, has taken a lot, has given things we didn’t necessarily want. But it’s also been a time to reconnect, to slow down, to examine. It’s been a time to refocus on what really matters.

We’re certainly not the first generation to have gone through a trying year. We’re not to first to wonder at what could possibly come next. We’re not the first to just want things to get better, for this trial to be over already. This is a part of humanity’s story that’s told over and again, in one form or another.

Let’s be remembered as being one of the faithful generations that remembered to praise Him through it. To praise Him because of it. Because through our difficulties, He proves Himself faithful. Through our pain, He shows His love. Through our hardship, His arm becomes all the more familiar as it encircles us.

What are you thankful for this year that is different from years past, directly related to a unique hardship of 2020? How can you praise Him through the trials, not just despite them?

 

The Day That Changed Everything…and Nothing

The Day That Changed Everything…and Nothing

If we lived a hundred years ago, my son would be dead.

That’s something that has haunted me this last month. I can’t tell you how many times, as I write historical fiction, that I wish I lived in a different time, or could at least experience it. But I can’t wish that anymore, if ever I really did. I’m so, so grateful that we’re in this time. This era. Because as little as 100 years ago, the day that ended with Rowyn taking a helicopter ride to Pittsburgh and an overnight stay for us all in PICU would have ended with him in a coma that led straight to death. (Okay, maybe not that very day, but it would have come soon.)

 

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. A fact I was honestly not aware of before the disease made itself known in my family. I’m not going to share our story as a bid to raise money for any causes or to stir your sympathy. I’m going to tell a bit of our story because while you may not have this, you have something. Something you’re dealing with or have dealt with or will deal with. We all have something. We can all relate to that bone-jarring fear. That desperate plea to God. That realization that everything has changed.

It’s taken me more than a month to really process it all and stop having nightmares every single time I close my eyes. Part of the healing process for me was to write it all down. So I want to share a bit, just in case some of my thoughts can help someone else.

 

For me, the journey really started on Thursday, September 24. Rowyn wasn’t feeling great. He’d been tired all week, but that wasn’t unusual for this time of year. He has seasonal allergies, and the ragweed had been out in full force. He always had a week like this in the fall, so I thought nothing of it until I went to book club that night. The kids had gone camping with my parents the weekend before, and Mom said, “Rowyn was drinking a lot, and going to the bathroom a lot. You know that’s a symptom of diabetes, right?”

I didn’t. I knew zero about diabetes–it had never come up. My mom, however, had worked in the medical field for years, so it’s no surprise that she knew a bit more about it. I wasn’t convinced she was right, of course–surely drinking and eating a lot were also symptoms of being a 12-year-old boy. Right? But I looked it up. I read the symptoms. I saw that he had them. But they also could have just been symptoms of the flu or a sinus infection, so I said, “Okay, we give it a day.” Well, that evening he threw up, and then a few more times on Friday. Our family protocol is to give any vomiting illness 24 hours, because with the kids, they were usually fine after that. If he started to improve, I knew we’d have nothing to worry about. If he didn’t improve, I’d talk to the doctor.

He didn’t improve. By Friday evening he was so listless that I was starting to get worried. He hadn’t eaten all day, though he was drinking plenty. He asked for some Jell-o, so I made some, gave him some Gatorade…and then I slept beside him on our sectional couch that night. Praying he would get better through the night. But his breathing was getting so heavy and ragged. He was so weak. When he got up to vomit or use the bathroom in the middle of the night, he could barely walk. At one point, I trailed him to the bathroom because he was just so unsteady, and stood outside the door. After the flush, I kept waiting for him to come back out, but instead there was just thumping. Alarmed, I called out, “Rowyn?”

I heard his hand at the knob, so I turned it. He was sitting on the floor, too tired to stand up. And he looked up at me with the expression that still haunts me. Eyes wide in a sunken face. So pale. He looked so thin, skeletal. And he just gazed at me with utter horror, like Why can’t I get up, Mama?

 

I reached down and helped him to his feet. He’s 12, nearly my height, but has always been skinny. I had to help him back to the couch, and he felt … so … light.

 

Mama was terrified.

 

We go to church on Saturdays, but that morning, the moment my husband woke up, I said, “We’re going to the doctor.” I called the pediatrician the minute they opened and got him an appointment for a couple hours later. At one point when he came out of the bathroom, he asked me to carry him to the couch. That was when we considered going straight to the ER, but I know oftentimes the ER takes forever; and by the time we could have gotten there, it would have been his appointment time anyway. So we just went to the doctor’s office. My husband still went to church to run all the equipment. My daughter stayed home. In the back of my mind, I was honestly wondering if it was COVID. But the doctor’s office didn’t seem to think so–they still saw us, and it only took them a few minutes to confirm my mother’s suspicions. He was in Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), with a blood sugar of 600 (normal is 100), and it was serious. From the doctor’s office we drove straight to the emergency room, where they were quick to get him on an IV and insulin.

 

I had no idea what DKA was. In short, it’s this: his pancreas had stopped working, stopped producing the insulin needed to break down carbohydrates and turn them into fuel. With the absence of insulin to do this job, the body begins to break down fats for energy instead of carbs, which releases an acid called ketones. So toxins were filling his body, and in an effort to get rid of them, his system was pushing them into his urine and also trying to expel the toxins through his breathing–hence the heavy respiration.

 

Our area has no pediatric unit, so we were told from the start that the ER here was just a stopping point–we’d be transferred to Pittsburgh Children’s, and they were going to request a helicopter.

 

Did I mention Mama was terrified? This would be the point when Papa was pretty terrified too, as I texted him. This was also the point where I said something along the lines of “Get here now.” For me, it was because I could not make these decisions alone. For him, he heard, “Get here now or you might not see him again.” I didn’t realize at the time how he read my short message. When he admitted it a week later, I was at once sorry I panicked him and not at all sorry that it resulted in him rushing to the ER. Because while Rowyn wasn’t on the brink of death thanks to medical science, it was serious. Critical. And without those IVs, without that insulin, he would have been soon on the brink of death. He would have eventually slipped into a coma, and from the coma, he would have died.

 

Meanwhile, our daughter Xoë was at home, waiting for news. The house phone wasn’t working right, apparently. I tried to call her, but she couldn’t get it to answer. I called my mother-in-law, who lives just up the driveway, but it took her a while to come tell Xoë (15) what was going on. Xoë had been watching the church service online and, after missing my call, went back to the computer just in time to see my dad (our pastor) halt the sermon to pray for Rowyn. Cue sister’s terror. Thankfully, my MIL soon arrived to give her a full update. Xoë ended up staying the next few days with my parents, joining us via computer for education and even coming up to Pittsburgh once with my parents and sister and niece, even though, with COVID restrictions, they weren’t allowed beyond the hospital lobby. I’m getting ahead of myself, I know, but I just wanted to inject a bit here about my amazing girl, and our amazing family who was so THERE. Who rallied around us and took care of everything while our world stopped. After we were all settled at home again, we sat on the couch one evening and Xoë told me how scared she’d been. She’s since learned how to do all the things the rest of us have, so she can help out. So proud of her! But back to the story. And a bit about what this disease is.

 

Diabetes as a disease has been known about for thousands of years, its symptoms recognized well before anyone understood the underlying cause. Because both urine and breath take on a sweet smell, physicians could mark it easily. “Diabetes” in fact means “passing-through”–it was the disease in which one literally urinated oneself to death. A disease that could hit at any time, and when it hit in children they could linger in these diabetic comas for a while…but it was ultimately a death sentence until the 1920s, when some brilliant scientists realized the role of insulin and first administered some to a young man in DKA and brought him back to the land of the living. (The team won a Nobel for their discovery. Well deserved!)

 

I have been praising God daily for the work of those scientists, and the ones still working now to cure this disease for good.

 

David and I weren’t allowed to go in the helicopter with Ro when they transferred him (though my parents and Xoë watched the helicopter fly overhead and waved to him), so we drove to Pittsburgh and made our way to the PICU, which would be our home for the next 30 hours; we were in the hospital from Saturday to Wednesday. Rowyn doesn’t even remember that first day. The doctor visit, the ER, the helicopter ride … it’s all a blank for him, and I’m glad. I’m glad he doesn’t have the images I do. I’m glad he doesn’t remember us huddled on that little futon, crying. Sobbing silently to God. Seeing, every single time I closed my eyes, that look on Rowyn’s face when he was scooting across the bathroom floor.

 

When we got to the hospital, he greeted us with, “I want to go home.” Of course. The day is a blank in his memory, but at the time he knew he was in the hospital. And he knew, as the next few days progressed, that his life would never be the same.

 

But he was alive. Thank you, God. He was alive.

 

Over the next couple days, we learned so much. We learned what this disease is, and how Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are different. If you don’t know, here’s a quick explanation: the pancreas produces insulin, which is required for turning carbs and sugars into energy. Sometimes, when we don’t eat right or get enough exercise or have other medical conditions, our pancreas grows weak and doesn’t produce enough insulin. This is Type 2 Diabetes, which can often be treated with diet and exercise to keep the pancreas from giving out altogether.

 

But sometimes, you have an autoimmune reaction to the insulin in your body, when your disease-fighting cells mistakenly identify insulin as a virus or bacteria and attack it and destroy it–like an allergy, but it’s having this reaction to something within your own body instead of a usually-harmless outside thing like peanut butter or dairy. This is Type 1 Diabetes. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. You can’t prevent it. It’s a genetic condition inherited from both parents and, like any other recessive trait, it can pop up at any time, even when you don’t know of any history of it in your family. When you have these markers and this genetic coding you will get Type 1 Diabetes. It’s just a matter of when. It usually strikes before you hit age 40, most often under 21, which is why it was once called Juvenile Diabetes. They used to talk about it hitting suddenly, and it still appears pretty suddenly, but scientists now understand that it’s always there. It just needs a trigger to show up visibly. For Rowyn, that trigger was probably puberty. It could also be growth spurts or stressful situations or any number of other things. Regardless, there is currently no way to undo this autoimmune response, though scientists have some really promising research underway to rewrite that faulty genetic code.

 

In the hospital, I kept looking over at Rowyn–he was getting better and better, looking more like himself, less like a skeleton. But I had no idea how he was really processing all of this. He seemed to just be soaking it all in, and we of course told him to let us know as he had questions. But he really only spoke, at the time, about the immediate things: what he wanted for the next meal, what he wanted to wear, what time the teachers would be coming in, whether he had time for a nap, because he was still really exhausted from it all. With a month’s distance between us now, though, I can tell you that he was processing it calmly and filing it all away. He frequently reminds me of something they taught us in the hospital that I have to look up again.

 

And he firmly believes they’ll solve this thing and come up with a cure in his lifetime. We’re trying to both nurture that hope and keep him realistic. They could find the answer–they could find it tomorrow or next week. Or in a decade. Or in five decades. I really think the cure will come within his lifetime, and that’s what I’m praying for. As my husband said, “I’ll take any miracle God wants to give us–but I hope it comes in the form of a medical cure. Because then all these kids will be cured.” I so want that. For every parent, for every child, for every adult who lives with this.

 

If you’re like I was and know nothing about how this works, here’s a snapshot of our day.

 

Rowyn gets up, and we do a finger poke to check his blood sugar (there are monitors you can wear, but we don’t have one yet–you have to first prove you can manage it without tech). We use that number, along with the amount of carbs in his food, to calculate how much insulin he’ll need with breakfast. For carb counting, we read every label. If he’s eating a simple serving size of whatever food it is, it’s easy. If I’m making a recipe or doing something like adding PB and syrup to a pancake, there’s some measuring and math involved. The digital scale lives on my table now, and I invested in a set of measuring scoops to help me figure out how much of everything he’s eating.

 

Though you’ll hear different ways different families handle this, our team has us dosing for everything before he eats. Which means he has to decide before a meal what he’s going to have. We add it all up, dose for it, and that’s it. No more grazing. No more “I’m still hungry, give me a second piece.” With Type 2, people often limit carbs to reduce the amount of insulin needed, and there are certainly times with Type 1 that that comes up too…but at this point in Rowyn’s life, he needs carbs. They are what helps him grow. They are the body’s fuel. So he can have them–in fact, the dietician has him eating a ton of them–we just have to dose for them. In terms of diet, it’s all about balancing carbs with protein and veggies and fats. Very little is totally off-limits–no “drinking sugar” in the form of juices and sodas, except to combat low blood sugar, and things like syrups and jellies and Jell-o are now sugar-free. But otherwise, he eats normal food. He can have 3 sweet treats a week, they just have to be with a meal, so that the “better” carbs can be broken down along with the pure sugar and help keep him from having a sugar crash. And we’re learning what, even with insulin, makes his blood sugars skyrocket (like pizza. The ratio is off thanks to the cheese, so even dosing for the carbs means high numbers for hours afterward).

 

We set the insulin pen for that amount, put on a needle, and give him an injection. He eats. At his age, his dietician wanted him to have 75 carbs with every meal and 30 with every snack.

 

Mid-morning, it’s snack time–we repeat the process. At this point, his blood sugar still seems to be pretty high, so it’s another pretty big dose.

 

But by lunch, he’s back into normal range. Occasionally he isn’t hungry in the mid-morning so we might skip that snack…but then we need an early lunch, or he starts to get shaky. This is an indicator of a low blood sugar. We do another finger poke, and sure enough, his blood sugar might have dipped down below 70, which needs to be treated. Treatment is something with fast-acting sugar, like a small juice box or a few PB crackers. If this happens at meal time, he then just eats as usual. If it happens at a random time, we have to follow it up in 15 minutes with another finger poke to make sure his sugars are back into normal range.

 

Repeat this process for dinner, and for snacks. (Well, not the low. That happens to us a couple times a week at this point, not multiple times a day.) On a normal day, he has anywhere from 4-7 injections of insulin and has performed 7-10 finger pokes to check his blood sugar. He can usually feel it when he’s going low, and he just told me yesterday that he can also tell when he’s too high (though he couldn’t describe the feeling to me). We need to check his sugar levels again 2 hours after his final snack of the night, and again in the middle of the night to make sure he’s not dipping low. (Again, there are devices to monitor, and also to pump insulin directly without the injections, but it’s still too early for us to get those.) Dipping too low could result in seizures, unconsciousness, and in extreme cases, coma. Going too high could result in ketones and DKA if not treated.

 

Cue the mama terror again. I think at this point I’ve had more nightmares about diabetes than about anything else in all my life combined. I pray, every night, “Keep him safe until morning.” I get up every morning praying, “Lord, wake him up.” If he’s sleeping later than usual, I sometimes sneak back down the hall just to listen for normal shifting/breathing noises. Because diabetes is changeable and tricky, and at this point his pancreas still tries once in a while to produce some insulin–which means he can plummet low without warning. He could be in a perfectly healthy blood sugar range one hour and then drop down super low in the time between checks. Eventually we’ll have that device to alert us to these lows. But for now, we rely on finger pokes and prayer.

 

Rowyn is really being a champ about it all. But it still breaks my heart to watch him try to find a place on his arms or legs that won’t hurt when he gives himself his injection. He’ll touch the tip of the needle to this spot or that, and he’ll feel the little sting, and he’ll say in total exasperation, “This isn’t going to work!” But of course, then he picks a spot and he grits his teeth and he presses that tiny little needle carefully into his skin. He understands how necessary that insulin is, and I’m so thankful for that. I’m thankful that this hit when he’s old enough to get it, to remember what he went through, and to do what has to be done. I’m so proud of him.

 

And now we’re getting to the point where every day is not totally consumed by thoughts of this. We’re getting to the point where we need to keep moving toward our other goals. We’re to the point where we know that while everything has changed, nothing has changed. Rowyn’s still Rowyn. We’re still us. Our dreams are still our dreams.

 

Our calling is still our calling.

 

Because God knew. Before this hit, when He instilled those big dreams in us, when He set our feet on this path, He knew. He knew this would be part of our lives, and He called us anyway.

 

He called you. To whatever path He’s put your feet on. Despite that diagnosis or the divorce or the pain or the limitation, despite the hardships and the hurting and the weakness. He knew. And He called. He called us in our weaknesses, knowing He could shine strong through them. He called us knowing each earthly loss can be a victory in Heaven. He called us knowing that the more we have to rely on Him to get through each day, the more we can do for His glory.

 

What is your thing? Your challenge? Your setback? Your despair? For us it’s diabetes. It is our challenge–but it is not our end. It’s not Rowyn’s end, not today. It’s just one of the things that will shape us into who He needs us to be to do the work He calls us to do.

 

Last night we had a campfire with my mother-in-law. Rowyn has long been pretty quiet around anyone else, and at our campfires he normally was just eager to get back inside. Last night, he and Nonna were chasing each other around, and he was looking at the stars and pulling up my Sky Map app to see what they were. He was laughing and telling jokes and teasing me. He was also in shorts and a tee, so he did go inside before the rest of us. And my MIL looked over at us and said, “He’s more himself than he’s been in so long. It’s so good to see.”

 

It is. It’s so good to see Rowyn just being Rowyn, his mood not dictated by his blood sugar–which it had probably been for months before he was diagnosed. It’s so good to see him growing and thriving and dreaming dreams and setting goals. Sure, he rolls his eyes at me when I constantly ask, “You good?” every time he seems a little tired or off. He is, after all, still a 12-year-old boy.

 

And he has a bright future ahead of him. Yes, this is a disease that he will live with every day until they find a cure. But that’s okay. Because doing the hard things makes us stronger. Makes us better.

 

We’re clay in the hands of the Potter. Make us and shape us, Lord. Into whatever and whoever You need us to be.

Hope and the Image of God

Hope and the Image of God

I’ve recently begun listening to a really great (specialized) podcast called “Juicebox,” from a dad of a Type 1 Diabetic. Many years ago he started a blog called “Arden’s Day,” back in the day when there weren’t any others, and he is now one of the best-known voices about T1D. I found it so interesting that what started for him as an advocacy blog–an effort to motivate people to donate to the hunt for the cure–evolved into something very different: a way to bring hope to the families dealing with this disease.

As I listened to him, I didn’t get the sense that he was a man of faith…but I definitely came away knowing that he’s a man who loves his family and will do anything for them. He’s a man who counts as one of his worst memories the day he had to tell his three-year-old daughter that she wasn’t going to wake up cured on her fourth birthday just because that’s what she wished for when she blew out her candles. He’s a dad who has since made it his mission to keep hope alive in his little girl, despite the drudgery of day-to-day reality.

As I listened, I started to think about that deep-ingrained desire we have to hope. As Christians, we know our ultimate hope lives in Christ. And we tend to say things like “We can hope because of Him” or “How does anyone get through without faith?”

Here’s the thing though: people do. And as I was pondering it, I began to wonder if that’s because, just maybe, HOPE is another of the things humanity has that is modeled after God himself. If it’s part of “His image.”

Think about it. Think about the other things we know we have because we were made in His image. We are creative, as He is creative. We are intelligent as He is intelligent. We are capable of selfless love, as He first loved us. These aren’t things we necessarily see reflected elsewhere in the animal kingdom, at least not with consistency. No other animals compose symphonies or create art just for the pure enjoyment of it. No other creatures just sit around pondering things and then share those ideas with others in hopes that it could change culture or the world. And though plenty of animals will sacrificially protect their own young or can be trained to do so for humans, how often do you see one animal willing to go without food for an entirely different species? This selfless love is another human trait created in His image.

And then there’s hope. What other creatures hope for things they’ve never received? Never seen? Aren’t even sure are possible? But we do. All of us, not just Christians. Why?

We are beings who look always beyond the seen, the obvious, to the thing just out of reach. We, by nature, stretch ourselves toward the unattained, refusing to believe it’s unattainable. We hope. All of us. Because that’s the way God crafted humanity. As creatures who always cling to the belief that things could change, get better, that we could find that thing that we want or need. Even we have no evidence it could happen. Even when we don’t know how it would. Even when we’ve never seen anything like what we hope for.

The oppressed still hope for freedom and equality.
The blind still hope for sight.
The sick still hope for a cure.
The poor still hope for enough, and for more than enough.
The hungry still hope for a feast.
The dying still hope for life.

Whether we’re believers or not, we know that challenges and trials can make us stronger and better. Where faith can make a difference is that we know why and how. We know that our God is a God of hope–that if He did, in fact, instill this in us as part of His image, then it means it’s in the very fabric of creation, of God Himself. We know that hope has a substance–and it’s what we call faith.

We all have something that threatens that hope. We have “that thing.” Maybe it’s the diagnosis. Or the divorce. Or the failure. Maybe it’s the debt. Or the disability. Or the poverty. Whatever it is for you, it’s a real thing that really threatens your hope. It wears you down day after day. It hurts. It debilitates. It steals. It crushes. The weight of it, day after week after month after year, grinds us down and down and makes the hope seen thinner and thinner.

But maybe it’ll help to realize that hope isn’t some fleeting, ethereal thing. It too is real. It’s rooted in the very nature of God. It saw physical form in Christ. And it’s there, always, at the very heart of our faith, promising us that we can #BeBetter and do better and have better and know better and live better…

Because, first, we are made in His image.
And second, because we rest in Him.

Who Are Our Allies?

Who Are Our Allies?

It’s election season here in the US when I’m writing this post. If you’ve followed me for very long, you’ll have noticed that I never voice an opinion on politics per se. I have zero political agenda and, frankly, next to zero interest in politics, LOL. But I do have an interest in the Church and the body of believers. And as talk increases about elections and duties and moral obligations and who Christians “should” vote for, I want to chime in. Not with a political stance. But with a spiritual one. And I’ll begin with a statement some will probably find outrageous:

God is not on the side of any political party. Ever. God is not on the side of any political candidate. Ever.

And here’s where I get that.

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Joshua 5:13-15, NIV

This was Joshua–the very man appointed by God to lead Israel after Moses died. But do you notice the response of the angel here? He was not on either side. The angelic warrior is on GOD’s side. And that, my friends, is our role too.

God is on no politician’s side–but a politician could be on God’s. Any of us can be–and SHOULD BE–on God’s. But we have to get the order straight. HIS will, HIS purpose, HIS righteousness comes first. Ours is secondary.

How often, though, do we get it backwards? How often do we make our own decisions–emotional, logical, or otherwise–and then pray afterward, “God, bless this!”? How often do we assume that our reading, our interpretation, our understanding of events is right and then search for Scripture to back us up…even though there are believers on the other side of the topic too? How often do we even make claims that if someone takes another stance than ours, they can’t possibly even be a Christian?

How often do we let our political leanings divide the body of believers? How often, when we pray for “unity,” do we really mean, “Lord, may everyone agree with me!”?

I hear so many prayers that we will be “a united nation under God again.” But friends, we never were. We were always a collection of states with different governments who sought different goals. We were a collection of people who wanted very different things and believed very different things. We were a nation made of many different religions, denominations, and convictions. My personal opinion is that we need to stop worrying about being a nation under God and start worrying about whether we’re a Church under God. We need to stop assuming we’re right and then praying God will make others see it, and start asking Him to show us HIS side; where HE is working; what HE desires, and how we can meet Him there…even if it means giving up an opinion.

Even if it means admitting that sometimes our political action and opinions may be hacking away at the body of Christ.

Because Christ didn’t come to create another nation here on earth–He came to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. He didn’t come to promote “Christendom.” He came to change individual lives. He didn’t come to do any earthly empire work. He came to give hope to the marginalized.

Christianity can certainly have a positive influence on a nation and politics. But politics will ALWAYS have a negative impact on Christianity. Why? Because it requires compromise. Because it’s built on promises that lose their efficacy once they’re fulfilled. Because those politicians and representatives are not elected to serve the Church–they’re elected to serve a diverse constituency and serve a government.

So in whom are we putting our trust? Our faith? Where do we spend our time and attention? Are we spending more time worrying over the country than the Church? If so, then that means we are citizens of our nation first and the Kingdom of God second. And that means we have it backwards. That means we decide on OUR side and then ask God to join us here.

A politician may be the Church’s ally…for a time. A season. When goals happen to coincide. But a politician is by definition someone serving the polis–the city, the state, the government. NOT just the Church. The Church is not a government in the earthly sense. And it shouldn’t be.

I firmly believe there have been and are godly men and women called to serve in the political arena to help achieve a particular goal. But I also firmly believe that the majority of politicians are merely pandering. I believe a politician can be an ally; but I know for a fact that whether they are or not is not the important thing. The important thing is this:

Are WE being God’s ally here on earth?
Are we on His side? Or just assuming He’s on ours because of X, Y, or Z?

My hope does not rest in a political party or any elected official. My hope does not rest in America being a Christian nation. My hope rests in God moving among the hearts of the faithful. My hope rests in the Lord calling people all the louder in times of persecution. My hope rests in the Church taking care of its own, not waiting for any government service to do it for us.

My hope rests in being FIRST a citizen of heaven…and only secondarily a citizen of the land where I live. And that shift in perspective has changed my every view of the world around me. Because all of a sudden it doesn’t matter if other people agree with me–it matters only that I seek daily to make sure I am in agreement with Him.

Ultimately, the Church has only one Ally. And He is the greatest Ally anyone could ever want. Because He doesn’t stand on our side before men: He stands at our side before God and pleads our case. He has won for us the ultimate battle–not in a voting both, but on the cross. We can’t vote for Jesus. But we can live for Him, day by day, word by word, step by step.

Let’s stop arguing about politics, friends. And let’s start loving our neighbors, no matter their party, as He would.

The Sins of a Nation

The Sins of a Nation

I’m honored to be part of a new blog series about racial reconciliation, hosted by Alexis Goring, focused on how we as Christians can be the change we want to see in our world. In preparation for this, I’ve been reading a few books to help me better understand the history of the racial tensions in the western world, America in particular—beyond just the obvious. One of the books I’m reading is Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison. It’s a great read in general, and one section in particular has really resonated with me. Especially, I think, because it’s something I hadn’t always understood.

Corporate sin. Corporate grief over it. Corporate repentance.

What do I mean by that?

Well, we all know that our country’s history isn’t exactly stellar when it comes to things like how we treat minorities. I distinctly remember learning about not only slavery but relations with the Native Americans in the first few hundred years of our history and feeling this deep shame. I was probably twelve or so when this hit me. Not because I’d studied it in school, but because I was reading fiction set on the prairie—Christian fiction that showed me so clearly how real people were, no matter their culture or appearance. I was just a kid, but I remember thinking, “Things like this make me ashamed to be white. How could people have treated others so?”

Was it me who committed those atrocities and sins? No. But I firmly believe it’s important that we as individuals grieve, lament, and repent of such things. First because it will keep us from committing the same atrocities and sins—judging people as less than us because of their culture or appearance. Second because it helps us empathize with others who suffered them. Third, because I am still benefiting by the atrocities “my people” committed. And finally because until a group as a whole repents of something a group as a whole did, healing can’t happen.

We see the example for this all through the Bible. Who cried out for mercy on behalf of Israel? Prophets. Are they the ones guilty of the sins for which they’re repenting? Of forsaking God? Of worshipping idols? Of selling out their beliefs for physical things? NO. Of course not. So why was it the prophets taking responsibility for this sin they’d spent their lives warning people against? I’d never taken the time to really consider this.

That it is the RIGHTEOUS who cry out to God on behalf of their nation.

It is the RIGHTEOUS who lament the falling away before the Lord.

It is the RIGHTEOUS who willingly speak for the sinners, who claim that WE have sinned, that WE have angered God, that WE have done wrong, and that WE need forgiveness. Not THEY. WE.

Why we? Because a nation is not just a collection of individuals. A nation is a group that has a shared identity. That rises and falls together.

I find it infinitely curious that American Christians are so quick to identify as a nation in one respect, when it comes to claiming blessings and supremacy…but we largely ignore a corporate claiming of sin. When we’re talking about that part—about our nation’s failings, about the great divide that exists, about the violence and rage running through our core—it’s usually THEY.

THEY who have fallen away. THEY who turn to violence. THEY who cling to hate.

Here’s the thing, my friends. We cannot expect THEM—the unbelievers—to turn to God and repent until WE, the Christ followers, cry out to God on behalf of our nation. Repent on behalf of our nation. Humble OURSELVES on behalf of our nation.

Then—only then—will God heal our land.

I hear so many believers crying out for a change in circumstances. Begging God to put an end to the violence, the racial struggle, to “help them see reason.” What I don’t see nearly enough of is believers seeking a genuine healing. Willing to take responsibility. Willing to change any part of their own lives to help this change happen.

We may march on Washington and pray. But do we ever look at the people historically oppressed and apologize? We may ask God to change things. But do we offer a sacrifice of our own things to help it happen? We may recognize the sin all around us. But do we claim it as our own and fall before Him, begging for atonement?

This nation has a lot to repent of. A lot to atone for. And until we recognize that infection still eating away at our core, we have no hope of true healing. But until we seek HEALING, rather than just relief of symptoms, those symptoms will not—CANNOT—go away. They may quiet for a while, but the infection will erupt again. It’s the nature of the thing.

It rubs us the wrong way to think that we might have to pay for what someone else did. But we found our entire faith on just that, don’t we? That Christ could, should have, and did pay for our sins. He took on the guilt. The responsibility. The punishment.

We are called to be like Christ.

Lord my God, we have sinned. We have fallen away from You. We seek our own instead of our neighbors’, and certainly instead of Yours. We profit from situations founded on sin. We cling to our gods of money and security instead of Your hand. Forgive us, Father. Forgive us. Show us how to love as You love. To reach out as Jesus did. Teach us how to cleanse our own hearts, our families, our communities, and our nations of the foul stench of hatred and greed. Show us how to truly be like Christ. How to #BeBetter. In His precious name, Amen.

Big, God-Inspired Dreams

Big, God-Inspired Dreams

I’m a dreamer.

I’ve always been one. I’ve dreamed of everything from being a princess with a magical winged unicorn to being a teacher who inspires kids to love learning. I’ve dreamed of discovering new species of dinosaurs and of striking it rich with a diamond mine hidden on my property.

I’ve dreamed of writing books for a living. Of getting married and starting a family.

I dream of making a difference in the world.

If you were to listen in on the conversations my husband I have during the course of a normal week, you’d realize we’re still both big dreamers. We dream of growing our publishing company, of starting a film company, of traveling the world telling stories. We dream of being the hands and feet of Christ, of inspiring others to dig deeper, to #BeBetter, of joining together to change our culture. We never want for dreams.

We’ve both been reading Dream Big by Bob Goff the last couple weeks and have been loving it–because Mr. Goff puts words and actionable steps to what we’ve always been trying to do, and to inspire others to do. To know who you are, to know where you are, and to know where you’re supposed to be going.

This requires self-awareness…and it also requires vision. It requires never being content with where you are NOW, but instead always looking toward where you’re going. Because we’re never called to a stagnant life, right? We’re called to go. We’re called to walk worthy of our calling. We’re called to act.

But how do we know what we’re supposed to do? Where we’re supposed to go?

Well, you can read Dream Big to get a more thorough explanation, LOL, but as I was pondering how we know which dreams are worth pursuing…which dreams are inspired by the Lord…I remembered a line from Hannah Currie’s Heart of a Princess. Toward the end of this amazing book, the heroine has this epiphany:

It wouldn’t be a God-dream if you could do it alone.

I wrote that down on a sticky note when I read it, because it’s something I know is true, but something I sometimes forget.

God rarely ever calls us to a totally solitary path. The dreams He instills in us are meant to be shared with others. To be built with others. To be sought and lost and cried over and rebuilt with others. Because ultimately, He isn’t out to build a person here and a person there–He’s out to build a Church, a Kingdom.

We all have dreams small and large, silly and serious, material and eternal. How do we choose which ones to pursue? The question I’m going to be asking as I look at each of mine is, “How can this help others? How can this build community?”

The fun thing is that as I view things through this lens, I’m starting to get ideas for how to take the humdrum and turn it into something that can impact other people. Have you always dreamed of owning a hot rod? Maybe you could use it to give rides to underprivileged or ill children (or adults!). Do you love to collect books? Maybe you could start a Little Library in your neighborhood and fill it with titles that could touch hearts. Do you love to bake? Maybe (when the world isn’t pandemic crazy) you could make it a point to take something to a neighbor once a week.

What’s a dream you’ve always had that you’ve been waiting for “the right time” to chase? Or given up on? What’s a dream you’re chasing now?

How can you make it lasting and impactful? How can it help others to #BeBetter?