Pro-Life — What Does This Mean?

I am a Christian and have been for ~70 years. More specifically I am a Christian who confesses the faith as a Lutheran. I am coming from the pro-life side. My focus today is how does being pro-life motivate us to minister to  and care for people on both sides of the issue. I have done so for the last 35 years. But the current status is such that neither side will probably like what I have to say.

Being pro-life today. As a Christian I am and have been pro-life as long as I can remember. But in the clamor of today with laws being passed about abortion, we have to ask: Are we truly pro-life in all circumstances relative to this issue? For many people involved in the abortion issue would identify themselves as pro-life but they are hurting, struggling, fearful to even talk.

They are in circumstances in their lives with little control, perhaps having had an abortion and now dealing guilt, fear of attack from the pro-life side. Or perhaps the woman/girl was forced to get an abortion. What about the woman who does not get an abortion but the family and church shun the baby/child?

So, if we are pro-life, are we helping, caring for these hurting women and children? Do we hide behind the “Law of the land” thinking it is a settled issue because “abortions are illegal”? Ministry and care as pro-life is so much than abiding by the law of the land or just banning abortion.

These thoughts are not meant to be the end of the discussion but the beginning for us who are pro-life.

If you are pro-life, open your ears and eyes to those who are hurting because of abortion. That is where we can be pro-life for them.

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A video shows my emotional life

…from decades ago.

Although more than two decades ago, I still have flashbacks to the breakdown. Over the years I have felt inadequate to describe what it felt like as I was going through it and the aftermath. While the breakdown was a specific point in time the events leading up to it and the aftermath of years encompassed so much but included only some elusive descriptions.

A couple days ago I came across a video of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and the resultant tsunami devastation. As I watched the scenes of the waters rising, and taking everything in its wake, it struck me how closely this scene described how I felt.

Buildings were pulled from their moorings, being driven by forces often unseen, then collapsing at some point. That powerful flow of water took people, property, and everything else in unexpected directions. There were no straight lines in the resultant destruction.

This photo illustrates my emotional sense during that time. Everything recognizable, but changing instantly. What I clung to previously was now being torn apart.

That was how I felt, observing people, places, events happening around me but unable to fully grasp the significance, the reasons, the seeming incidentals were passing me by in the torrent of rain. I couldn’t focus on one thing, yet I couldn’t comprehend the full scene either. I was being tossed by events, more as an observer than a participant.

I have realized over the years that I have memory gaps, especially in the 2-3 year period. But it seemed odd, because my memory had never failed that way.

And yet, this video captured my sense of emotional turmoil, previously unstated, even unknown during the most turbulent storms. Recognizing, but not recognizing. Seeing but not seeing. Experiencing yet unable to comprehend. In the midst of this terrible tsunami video, I began to sense my own description of what happened to me.

As I continue to reflect on this turbulent time, this video is almost comforting in a strange way. Finally something reflects my emotional devastation, helplessness, being pulled along. And throughout this time, there were some who endured my inability to communicate what I felt. For them I am grateful. They reached out with life lines and floated on some of the destroyed foundations, always encouraging and comforting even during the worst days.

This video almost gives me comfort in a strange way; it helped me identify how I felt for so long.

The Church, Satan, and Abuse

Sermon preached on Sep. 2, 2018

http://www.mediafire.com/file/bwg9jinbeejx7xq/Sermon_20180902_copy.m4a/file

Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your waist girded with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  having your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace,  and above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.  Pray for me, that the power to speak may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:10-20 MEV

 

Depression, Worship, and Liturgy

This past week I participated in a Twitter dialog with several people regarding: #abuse, #depression, #trauma, #mentalhealth. I so appreciated the other people who endured one or more of the situations, and who shared their insights, questions, concerns, and especially their care for one another.

I commented that I had to step away because the discussion was becoming a trigger for me regarding depression. Another commented that maybe a better word to use is reflection. As I thought about (reflected) that, I see a distinction between the two: trigger is not something I can control. It happens, there is a reaction. Reflection is something I can do to think about what happened.

Today as I was reflecting on that and the triggers, I also thought about how as a Christian, is there something long term that can help put all of the experiences (the trauma as well as the triggers afterward) into perspective? So I will try to explain what has been my life and at times my only consolation.

The Liturgical Life

For me, I have spent my entire 69 years (except one year) within a (Lutheran) liturgical church environment. Thus, while my parents didn’t worship, they made sure us boys were there or our grandparents took us. I had all three liturgies memorized before I started school (Divine service, Matins, and Vespers). When I dated my future wife, she belonged to a church within same church body. It has been part of our relationship for 51 years.

Some might see a problem commenting that it becomes “just routine,” no thinking or engagement necessary. For me, that has never been an issue. In fact, just the opposite. Regardless of the year, circumstances, challenges, devastation, the constancy of the liturgy was a welcome relief. The liturgy invites me to speak and sing with others; it became a way to be part of something that was not affected by my personal challenges. 

In the worst times, I would be there, not speaking or singing, but I was part of a group expressing and sharing (speaking and singing) the Christian faith in the fullness and breadth of life itself. To be in their presence was reassuring, comforting. Eventually I could join in again. Not because someone demanded it, but because the invitation throughout was a call to me to be part of the church, the broken, messy, church. And at that time I was really broken, messy.

The Christian and Lament

When I was recovering from my complete breakdown I had friends who encouraged me to go to a contemporary worship service, to “cheer me up.” They said that the liturgy and hymns were too “dry, stale, even depressing.” I attended a few months, but in reality, the “cheer me up music” lasted only a day or so. I went back to a liturgical service. And I was at home.

I realized that the hymnal provided the liturgical framework and the hymns that addressed all aspects of the Christian life. Yes, days of rejoicing (Easter!!), but it also encompassed days of repentance (Ash Wednesday) and days of mourning. 

Here is one example of a hymn that reached to the very depths of what I was experiencing.

“Lord Jesus, Think on Me”

by Synesius of Cyrene, c. 375-430
Translated by Allen W. Chatfield, 1808-1896

1. Lord Jesus, think on me And purge away my sin;
From earth-born passions set me free And make me pure within.

2. Lord Jesus, think on me With many a care opprest;
Let me Thy loving servant be And taste Thy promised rest.

3. Lord Jesus, think on me Amid the battle’s strife;
In all my pain and misery Be Thou my Health and Life.

4. Lord Jesus, think on me Nor let me go astray;
Through darkness and perplexity Point Thou the heavenly way.

5. Lord Jesus, think on me When floods the tempest high;
When on doth rush the enemy, O Savior, be Thou nigh!

6. Lord Jesus, think on me That, when the flood is past,
I may the eternal brightness see And share Thy joy at last.

7. Lord Jesus, think on me That I may sing above
To Father, Spirit, and to Thee The strains of praise and love.

Notice how the hymn writer from the early 5th century captured what I was enduring in the 21st century. This is not a musty, soon to be forgotten “happy song” but a deeply reverent, powerful, and encouraging hymn for the broken. 

Even the melody reinforces this. Here is a beautiful a cappella (shortened) version: 

https://youtu.be/NqQ1IPOIZwA

I have more to write about the relationship between depression, etc. and worship. This at least gives you a sense of how I appreciate the sometimes somber, sometimes, heavy sense of life and how worship expresses that for me.

Our prayers continue

When Winning Isn’t

Part 1

My father died in 1991. We had never been close. A family friend who had known my father from 1931 to 1991 said in 1993, “Your father was a hard man.” I knew that from a lifetime living with my father.

From my earliest recollections of my father, I never would describe our relationship in loving terms. I was in my early 20’s before he ever quietly said, “I love you.” Not much ever said after that. He was indeed a hard man. I respected him. But I have many memories of his volatile outbursts of anger. Thankfully, he never hit us boys. But fear was our common response to his anger.

Through the years of school, I did relatively well, consistently an honor student. My father never said a word of appreciation or congratulations. In sports I was far from a good athlete, but did well enough. Not a word from my father. That pattern continued through college, Naval service, commissioning, graduating from Naval Postgraduate School, and early selection to LCDR.

In 1961 I began learning to play guitar. My father had a 1934 Montgomery Ward guitar but never played it. That was my first guitar. Finger action was so bad that my fingers bled consistently for the first few months of playing. But I stuck it out. My father passively supported my attempt at playing.

Two brothers, my mother’s age, were superb guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin players. They began to invite me to sit in with them. I learned much about music and complementary styles blending with all instruments, and each session was a joy. My father and mother would drive me there every week. He seemed to enjoy, but he never said a word.

The lack of acknowledgement was discouraging, but I grew to expect nothing. By 1971 my wife and I began our moves as adults as I found work away from that part of the state. But each year we would drive home and get together with the two brothers, and often others joined us. It was always a highlight, and my parents were always there.

My father never said a word about whether he enjoyed it, but his expressions seemed to indicate he did.

Then 1983

In 1982 I entered seminary. My time was consumed with seminary studies, part time job, and raising two boys entering their teens, one of whom was beginning to cause major problems for us. Meaning, I had little time to keep up with my guitar playing, much to my dismay because I loved playing. I missed it.

In 1983 we went back home at the end of summer Hebrew. So we managed to contact the brothers and set a date to play. My parents also came. After an hour of playing, my lack of practice over the previous two years was evident, certainly to me and the brothers. But nothing was said, we were enjoying and reminiscing, and I was able to keep up with all of it. We still had fun.

That was when my father made his only comment ever on my playing. “Boy, you really are rusty, aren’t you?”

I was so stunned, I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything. For 33 years he had never said a positive word about anything I had done, especially my guitar playing. And now in one night he mentions my failure to play well in front of about 15 people, close friends. I swore that I would never let that happen again. For the next 8 years (until he died) I wasn’t going to risk another public humiliation. Hence I never played guitar in front of him. I wasn’t going to let him “win” this.

And I became the hard man.

So who won?

My father never mentioned my lack of playing again. Years after he died, my mother said he noticed that I never played. I began to tell my mother… and she stopped me, saying that she knew exactly when I stopped playing because she had heard my father as well. She cried that night (I didn’t know that).

So who won? Certainly not me. In the short run, I “won” because I never faced his public disapproval again. But my mother did not win because she loved my playing and missed it. And my father did not win, because he did like my playing but he could never say the words.

Part 2

From 1983 to 1989, our older son was getting into further trouble: drugs, stealing, etc. By spring 1988 we had asked him to leave the house (he had just turned 18). He was then arrested, and he spiraled out of control.
In 1989 my father and I began to have an uneasy but unspoken truce; we spoke politely, but nothing serious. My parents came to visit that summer. They had taken a day to travel to a larger city in that area to shop, etc. When they came home, my father was very different. They had seen and met our older son in that city.

In previous years, he had made comments about how disruptive teenagers could be. One time when I was about 11 years old, we had seen teenagers causing a few problems, but nothing out of hand. My father commented, “If you ever see kids acting that way, you can definitely blame the parents.” That assessment hung over my head when we adopted the boys in 1978. As it got worse, my memories of that comment intensified, causing me guilt and shame.

I had never seen my father shook up, raging anger, yes, but never this way. He spoke first: “I never realized how bad it has been for you these past years. I am so sorry.” And he had tears in his eyes, something I had never seen. He apologized, which I also had never experienced.

They visited two years later for our younger son’s high school graduation. They usually stayed two days because the altitude affected his breathing. But after two days he talked to my mother then asked me if they could stay another day or two because they enjoyed our time. We gladly agreed. And we did have a good time.

Three weeks later my father died. I am so thankful that our last time together was not clouded by all the distance, lack of words, lack of showing affection. When they left, he hugged me seriously and thanked me and said he loved me. How could I not also say the same thing? That’s all I wanted.

Who won then?

I think finally we all did: my father, my mother, me.
My only regret is that I didn’t play guitar for him and my mother. But we did mend a rift that had festered for 42 years. For that we all won.

I learned to say many things to my sons. No matter how bad our older son got, sometimes behind prison bars, I always, always told him I loved him. So also with our younger son when he deployed and was in combat, the last words he heard from me were “I love you.” So also my words to his wife and our grandchildren. There is no doubt that such will be the last words they hear me say: “I love you.”

And we all win!

I am sorry

Over the past five months I have offered prayers for those who had been sexually abused in the MSU/USAG/USOC scandals. My intent was to daily remember them before God.

Yet, I was just made aware that I had spelled the abuser’s last name incorrectly during that entire time. I have since corrected that error. I ask those who were affected for your forgiveness.

Prayer for Survivors —Part 9

As time passes, it is easy for many of us to think that the effects of abuse have disappeared. But we are reminded that each day these women face new challenges, grow beyond where they had been. But their pain is real, the consequences significant. This is a small reminder that not one is forgotten.

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Heavenly Father, You know the challenges and attacks that each of these people have faced. Reassure them of Your presence in Jesus Christ. Grant them strength, wisdom, and insight on how best to proceed, especially in the coming days. Refresh, restore, and renew them according to Your mercy in Jesus Christ. May they continue to be a voice for the broken, the forgotten, the voiceless. Protect their hearts when attacked, and sustain them with Your Word.

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Day 124 Whitney Burns #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we lift up Whitney today as she lives in light of but beyond the trauma of abuse. Bring healing, hope, & growth. In the dark days reassure her of Your love. Bless her family as well as they provide care & support. IJN Amen

Day 125 Isabell Hutchins #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we pray for Isabell in all her needs, challenges, hurts. Bring grace to her in all relationships, strengthen her when she is weakest, love her when she might feel unlovable. May she speak & respond w/grace influenced by Your Word. IJN. Amen

Day 126 Meaghan Ashcraft #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors God, You invite us to bring our prayers before You. Today we ask for Your special love, support, mercy on Meaghan. Whatever is of greatest concern bring help and healing to her. Reassure her of Your love. Bless her family. IJN Amen

Day 127 Natalie Woodland #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors LordGod, grant Your blessings for Natalie as she copes w/ & grows through the abuse. Give her wise counselors, strong friends, intentional caregivers to supply all that she needs. Reaffirm Your love for in Jesus. IJN Amen

Day 128 Jillian Swinehart #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, look w/favor on Jillian. You know her needs, hurts, desires. Grant her wisdom, strength, & mercy as she continues face the past, even more as she looks to the future. Heal her heart & grant her grace for all situations. IJN Amen

Day 129 Allison Chauvette #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, as Allison moves forward in life, grant her healing, strength, wisdom, & hope. Raise up people who can understand, care for, & speak into her life words of truth, courage, & love in Jesus. We pray for her family as well. IJN Amen

Day 130 Anna Dayton #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may Your mercy be evident to Anna. Strengthen her for each task & challenge. Be her Rock in all situations. Teach her even more about true love, true life, true friendship. Guide her steps, teach her Your ways in Jesus. IJN Amen

Our prayers continue
Psalm for the broken but not destroyed