Sunday, October 18, 2015

Saint Augustine - We Are The Half-Dead, Wounded But Consoled

The Good Samaritan (1849)
Eugène Delacroix
There are people, ungrateful towards grace, who attribute much to our poor and wounded nature. It is true that man when he was created was given great strength of will, but by sinning he lost it. He fell into death. The robbers left him on the road half-dead. 

A passing Samaritan lifted him onto his beast of burden. He is still undergoing treatment. 

You will remember, beloved, the man half-dead who was wounded by robbers on the road, how he is consoled, receiving oil and wine for his wounds. His sins, it is true, were already forgiven; and yet his sickness is cured in the inn. The inn, if you can recognize it, is the Church. 

While in the inn, let us submit to treatment; let us not boast of health while we are still weak. 

Say to your soul, say this: you are still in this life, the flesh is still weak; even after complete forgiveness [in baptism] you were prescribed prayer as a remedy; you still have to say, until your sickness is cured, 'Forgive us our tresspasses.' 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Pray for Long Island, Bahamas

There is nothing quite like the threat of a natural disaster to bring people together. I have vivid memories of Hurricane Wilma and the destruction left in it's wake. We walked away with a roof over our heads, damaged, but still there. It's hard for me to fathom the devastation my family and friends are dealing with in Long Island. 175 mph winds. What?!? 

I remember going outside after Wilma passed - fearful of what I would see. Among the debris, I saw neighbors. Neighbors helping neighbors. Neighbors sharing food. Neighbors talking and laughing and lifting. I pray that for the people of Long Island. In times of disaster, people come together. I am sure that's what's happening right now in Long Island. 

As I sit here helpless today, not knowing what to do, I thought - I can do something. It's not much, but it is something. 

Friends, some of you might be able to help, some can pray, others can share. We can't all do everything, but we can do something.

I know more pictures and more news will pour in today and tomorrow and in the days and weeks to come. I'm hoping for the best, but I've seen the preliminary pictures and video, and it's not good.

I'm grateful for the gentle breeze and low humidity that Joaquin brought to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but that's about it. In Long Island, family and friends are in the midst of trying to put their lives back together. 

For that, they need the gospel. For that, they need the overflowing love of the Rescuer, Jesus. For that they need the help, hearts, and hands of his people.

Here are some specific ways to help if you can:

$20      Water – 5 gallons
$25      1 pair of shoes
$50      Clothing (dress, or pants and shirt)
$75      One school uniform with shoes
$100    Basic kitchen supplies
$110    Gasoline/diesel – 20 gallons
$125    Food – One week’s worth for two people
$150    One roof tarp
$200    Chainsaw
$250    Small generator
$500    School room supplies (to get one classroom up and running)
$750    Basic medical supplies for small clinic
$1000  Roof repair
$2000  Roof replacement

Hop over to gGoFundMe to give a gift. Anything helps. Prayers are appreciated.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Deconstructing My Religion - A Look At What's Left When It All Falls Apart

What do you do when a puzzle crumbles? Of course, you pick up the pieces and try to reassemble it. But, what happens when you discover that you're missing some sections? Where did they go?

I'm looking for pieces. Trying to put back together what fell apart.

I'm not sure what I'll find. 

Maybe the journey is the answer...

We were the typical suburban "Easter/Christmas" church family, and we looked the part. All dressed up with shiny shoes and navy blazers, we were the picture of normalcy and godliness. Only problem was we weren't...normal or godly. Oh, that's not to say we were any worse than other families visiting church on Easter morning. I now know that none of us measure up. 

Normal is merely a word in a dictionary that has no real bearing on how people function in a fallen world. 

Fast forward thirty years. I've written about how God saved me while I was minding my own business in the pew of our local Methodist church. I was quickly immersed into Christian culture, Bible studies, and homeschooling. I studied how to become a Proverbs 31 woman and felt responsible for all things godly in our home - including making sure my husband came to know God (the truth was, our marriage was falling apart). Several years later we moved to another church and it was there where I learned that grace alone through faith alone, saves. The Bible became the means by which I was set free as opposed to merely being an instruction manual on how to live a Christian life. However, the left-overs of my religious rule-keeping had left its mark on me and on my marriage. A few crash and burns came knocking at my door. The most recent explosion was not necessarily the worst one, however, it was one that affected my entire family, and we are still experiencing the aftershocks. I'm not even sure I can properly articulate it.

Having left behind a fundamentalist approach to my faith, I welcomed the good news of the gospel. Jesus came to set me free. He forgave all my sin. As a result, my striving to be anything other than forgiven was now over. Liberty was all in all. I sat under the teaching of law/gospel theology, and it was soothing to my soul. I needed those years to strip away the lies that had whispered to me, "Do this and God will love you."

A little over a year ago, it all changed, again. I say again, because I'd been down that road before. The road where all the sign posts that once read, "This is the way, walk in it", were now blurry and difficult to make out.

Once upon a time you had it all beautifully sorted out. Then you didn't. 
- Sarah Bessey

My pastor told me my theology was wrong. I was fired from my church. I lost my bearings and started questioning everything. All that I left behind from fundamentalism and all I knew about the freedom of the gospel - neither one had the power to steady my wobbliness. Everything familiar was stripped away. My church, pastor, community, and friends. My entire faith world was shattered into a million pieces. Where do you turn? How do you go on? What is true? What was real? Was it all just a joke? It's been over a year since we've been to church. I have not spoken with a pastor since that time. I reached out to a couple of pastors I knew from social media, but it's social media. Local care is what I really needed. Where do you go? Who can you trust? My husband and I listened to church on-line for a while but we eventually walked away from all things "churchy." The beach has become a sanctuary of sorts for us.

It's good to contemplate life sitting at the edge of vastness.

It's comforting to see that the sun rose once again.

It's reassuring to know that Someone is in control of the story.

Now what? Well, I'm adjusting to ongoing places of change. Change in priorities. Change in routines. Change in income. Change in my family. Change with friends. 

There's another thing I'm getting comfortable with too. 

Calling a thing what it is. 

The reality of getting older. The betrayal of friends. The difficulty of relationships. The awareness of doubts and questions. The harshness of life.

In all of this rearranging, I feel like it's time for some deconstructing. Here, definitions are helpful.


reduce (something) to its constituent parts in order to reinterpret it.

How do I reduce my religion to its constituent parts? How do I go about reinterpreting it? It all sounds very technical. So, I think I'll start at the beginning. What is religion? In other words, what components make up this thing called religion?

 re·li·gion \ri-ˈli-jən\

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used   to worship a god or a group of gods
: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

According to the definition provided via Merriam Webster, religion is made up of a couple of things:
  1. Religion is belief. 
  2. Region is a system (of belief that enables worship including activities and/or ceremonies I take part in.)
The first part is easy for me. I believe in the God of the Bible, three in one. I still believe that I believe. 

The second part seems pretty simple too. Because I am not currently involved in any organized ceremony or activity that enables worship, my religion is, at its basic form, belief. That's why it's such a relief to me when I read about the crowds who came to Jesus and asked, "What must we do to be doing the works of God?" Jesus replied, "Believe in him whom he has sent."

Jesus boiled down his expectation of what it means to be a Christian to one word - believe.

Whatever else people try to get me to believe, I'm realizing more and more that it's not about my ability to rightly divide the word of God. It's not about my diagnosing and appropriately applying law or gospel. It's not about getting theology wrong or being let in or kept out of any one's Christian club. It's not about labels or arguments or popularity or platform.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying this deconstruction process. I thought it would be more complicated to get at. Truth is, it's not all that complicated. Churches, denominations, Bible versions and Bible studies, books, ministries, missions, and all things Christian, boil down to one word. Jesus said, believe.


Check out a few resources I've found helpful along the way:
Jon Hollingsworth - Author of Runaway Radical
searching for sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

Coming up next, What about faith? 

Monday, August 3, 2015

When Friendships Die

Where do friendships go when they die?

Who picks up the shattered shards of brokenness?

What is the point of loving and losing a friend?

Because really, it all seems a waste. A barren land of pain, regret, and betrayal.

I've walked this rugged path - more than once. What was lush and green is now dry and deserted.

The theme song from Friends plays in my mind...

I'll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I'll be there for you
(Like I've been there before)
I'll be there for you
('Cause you're there for me too)

The song goes on to say,

So no one told you life was gonna be this way.

Maybe they did try to tell me and I wasn't listening. I didn't see it coming. I never expected the pain and agony of broken relationships. Oh, there were the childhood breakups. The squabbles over boys or toys, or some random something that caused a petty fight signaling the loss of what was probably a superficial friendship anyway.

Then, there was the other friendship.

The one built on like-mindedness, shared convictions, unspoken words, and best friend secrets...

...the one where belly laughs about nothing and tears over everything planted deep roots. 

Their broad branches of love provided shelter in the midst of life's storms. Their canopy of care stretched out to lend relieving shade.

And then... happened.

Out of nowhere a violence occurred. Damaged roots and broken branches. Debris everywhere.

I have experienced one too many broken relationships.

No one told me it would be like this.

I don't remember anyone sitting me down to explain that someday my best friend would walk out of my life...just like that. Or, that I would walk out of my best friend's life...just like that.

There doesn't seem to be a good explanation for any of it. There doesn't seem to be one reason I can point to.

Some say, "People are in your life for a season and that season may just be over." Yeah, not so comforting is it? I never found it that helpful either. Because I need to grieve. I want to mourn. There is emptiness and void left, and I'm trying to fill it back up so it won't hurt so much but I'm having trouble. I'm desperate to make the pain go away.

But it doesn't go away. It may dissipate, but the dull ache is there...always.

And the question lingers...


I would be lying if I said I've stopped asking why. I still do. I long to know the reason for the heartache and misery.

But more and more I know that my own capacity to love is stained. It falters and fails. And, I know that's true of other people. It's not that we don't want to be faithful friends and true companions. But life creeps in and relationships get strained. We listen to lies all day long - from the world and the enemy, both trying to rip apart any shred of goodness. I don't understand much. I still shake my fist for answers. But all it does is leave me in a heap without answers, until all I can do is confess. Confess the Truth.

A friend loves at all times (Prov 17:17).

I used to read this familiar Proverb and think, I have friends like that...and I'm a friend like that. But now I see the brilliance captured in those simple words. There is one, a friend, who loves at all times. It's not you and it's not me. 

There is only One who could ever love at all times. He's a friend, friend of sinners.

The love-capable savior who came for love-incapable people like me. 

This is the friendship that can never change. It is borne out of death.

The friend our hearts long for died for us, and in so doing, gives us a friendship that will never die.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


I grew up in Kansas. Which means tornadoes. I hate tornadoes.

One stormy night, my dad rushed into my bedroom and swooped me out of my bed. Our family made a mad dash to the neighbor's house - the only home in our community with a basement. Hunkered down in the dank dark basement, we waited. All the while the whipping howling wind ripped through our small town. The minutes seemed like hours and the hours like days. We waited for the darkness to pass, for the light to come.

That's how I feel sometimes. Waiting for it to be over. I go down. I stoop low. I cover my head and I tremble.

My heart pounds...

...waiting for it to end. Waiting for the sun to come out.

I am that petrified little girl cowering in the basement.

"Is it over", I squeak? "Can I come out now", I whisper?

The problem with being in the basement is that you can't see what's going on outside. There is no way to tell if the darkness has passed. Is it safe to come out? Ever so cautiously someone climbs the stairs to peer outside. Do you do that? I do. In the midst of a difficult time I'm hesitant to go outside. I want to be sure it's completely over before I venture out again. It's not safe out there I tell myself. I'll wait inside until I'm sure it's over.

When life smacks you in the face and you have to hunker down and wait, everything goes dark. Vision is hindered and fear creeps in. When will it end? When will it be safe?

But the thing about life is that the storm never really ends.

Spend some time on this earth and you begin to realize it's not about getting over the storms. It's about weathering them. 

I tend to hide, I'm not so good at weathering.

Back in the basement we notice the sirens have stopped. It's over. But, the crackling transistor radio warns caution even in the midst of the aftermath. It's a mess out careful.

It never really goes away - the threats, the suffering, the fear, and imminent danger. You don't know what's around the corner, what's developing on the radar. Have you lost a loved one? Has your marriage fallen apart? Did you lose your job, your health, your savings?

I've come to know suffering and difficulty more than I care to. And the more I know about it the less I can explain it. More questions than answers.

My husband encourages me... God.

I say it a lot these days - it's not so much that I'm trusting God as it is God's loving me. He hangs on in the middle of life's storms - he knows my palms are sweaty and my hand is slipping.

In the midst I think I hear a sound.

It's hard to make out...

...but it sounds like refuge.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Help For When I Am Weak

We're all just walking each other home.” 
― Ram Dass

One of my favorite distractions while I'm running is people-watching. I love to see others out walking their dog, taking a stroll, or cycling. It's a human connection I guess.

I see them almost every evening. The sweetest elderly couple, side by side. They walk, and they talk...

...and they encourage.

Her with those neon shoes and him with his white v-neck tee. They don't stop, regardless of how they might be feeling. I am sure at their age there are more bones creaking and muscles aching, but they keep on going...

...and encouraging.
I notice their smiles first. When I get close enough they do things like fist pumps and thumbs up and cheer. All the while, they're smiling. Although they're probably in their eighties and weaker and more fragile than ever, they encourage me. I'm usually wearing headphones so it's hard to make out what they say each time, but I imagine them shouting "Good job! You're looking good! Go, go, go!" I always get a second wind after that, and wonder if their walk is just an opportunity to encourage others.

I have a friend. She's from Kansas too. 

She's a great teacher and it's no wonder her kids scored the highest this year. 

She is an incessant encourager. It doesn't matter what it is, she always has encouraging words for me. We were at the beach the other day and I felt like a swimsuit model. She said I looked "amaaazing." Of course, in my mind I am. 

She also encouraged my writing. She helped me gain some focus with exciting and energizing ideas. She challenged me to set a goal by offering tons of complimentary reassurances. She even volunteered to cheer me on (read: hold me accountable). She is officially my Chief Kickstarter...

I'm so grateful for all this fist pumping, and not just because I believe it's something we all need, but because I've felt weak this past year.

My bff and my running encouragers have both steadied me a bit...

...bolstered my wobbly legs.

I think God is like that. I imagine him at the finish line, towel around his neck, pumping his fists at me. With my ear buds on I make believe he's cheering and shouting, "Well done Lori, you are good and you've been faithful. I knew it all along!"

Come to think of it, it's not make believe at all...

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 
- Matt. 25:21

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Silencing Others Is Anti-Gospel


Since publishing this post I have had a change of heart. I still stand by what I've written - whole-heatedly - and now more than ever because I have heard from so many of you who are experiencing what I've written about. What has changed is a reference I made regarding what another blogger wrote. Although I did not link to or name that person, they knew who the comment referred to and they were deeply hurt. For that I am truly sorry. It was not my intent to hurt anyone which is why I've removed the reference. I believe my post stands fine without it.

That fellow blogger and I have had good conversation since the post was published. Hurt was expressed and I'm glad because it gave me an opportunity to apologize, and ask for forgiveness. I was saddened by the hurt I caused. I appreciated the discussion we had in which we continued to disagree but pursued love in the midst. We may not have done it perfectly, but we pursued it. And that is enough.

I also apologize to those of you reading this. I am truly sorry if I hurt you with my reference. Please forgive me.

I have said before and I continue to beat this drum - disagreement and love are not mutually exclusive. As Christians especially, love can stand smack dab in the middle of disagreement. I wish I was better at it. I want to love more, shout less.

Thanks for reading.

I see a disturbing trend surfacing in light of the announcement regarding Tullian Tchividjian's adulterous relationship. Simply put, those who are of the grace and law/gospel camp are urging forgiveness and grace in the face of his sin. I hope everyone would agree it is an appropriate response. However, there are two points that seem to be at odds for the law/gospel believer.

No Condemnation

The first point argues that theologically, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Actually, it's not their argument, it's what the Bible says. And I agree. Paul declared that amazing truth in Romans 8 and it has served to set people free from that time until this day, and no doubt, will serve as the key to unlock prison doors until that day.

Does Forgiveness of Sin = Silence?

The second point, and this is where it gets sticky, says that on the basis of grace, only forgiveness and grace can be a valid response. This means that anyone who articulates anything other than a message of forgiveness is condemned to be self-righteous, anti-law/gospel, legalistic, unsupportive, judgmental, and unloving. The result? People get silenced. People get shouted down. The very gospel of freedom that's proclaimed is the very gospel used to intimidate and instill fear in those who have something else to say. I've personally experienced defensiveness and silencing as a result of simply urging caution in the absence of having all the facts. The misleading truth espoused is that forgiveness and grace cannot coexist with honesty and reflection. I say honesty because the truth is the truth. If you sin, you are a sinner (all of us). If you are dependent on alcohol, you are an alcoholic. If you committed adultery, you are an adulterer. Anyone who makes a truth-telling statement is not anti-anything necessarily, they are just telling the truth.

If the gospel we proclaim is used to silence people, it's not the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

It's a man-built religious prison used to incarcerate those who disagree with you.


If the gospel represents anything, it represents truth-telling. The gospel reminds us of our sin before God and man (the truth), and refreshes us with the good news of the forgiveness of sin as a result of a crucified Savior (also truth).

The gospel is the relief-giving antidote to the pressures of this life found in the very One who is Truth himself.

The list of those silenced by the church is long...very long. It may have happened to you - it's happened to me, and it goes like this. In order to dictate the world around me, I must silence anyone who is messing up whatever it is I'm clinging to that keeps my life going. Pride, power, control, reputation and even fear drive our need to silence others.

Image result for silencing people
{google images}
I believe this is very dangerous territory. When Christians call for silence from other Christians, or anyone for that matter, isn't that a form of bullying itself?

No one wants to be silenced. As far as I know, we still have freedom of speech. But for the Christian, it goes even farther than freedom of speech. Are we free? Yes. Free from the penalty and the guilt of sin. But free for what? The Bible says we are now free to love. But if our love extends only to those we agree with it's not love, it's favoritism. Love extended to all in the midst of disagreement is love.

Our Need To Silence Other Voices

I think that what troubles me most about this trend is the absolute need to silence. It reveals one telling truth.

We try to silence what we fear most.

And, what we fear most is anyone or anything that puts what we love at risk. It reveals idols. The need to silence is driven by the fear that what we idolize will be ripped from our lives.

Good News

So, here's some good news in the midst of all this talk of bullying. There has ever only been one person who is not a bully.

Friend of bullies, Lover of silencers, Voice of the silenced and oppressed, Jesus comes in the midst of our completely whacked-out intentions, messed up theologies, and all our defensive and offensive maneuverings to say, I love you. 

He calls to each of us to stand down, put down, and lay down all of our efforts to fight for what's "right" and to justify ourselves before mere men. We can end the defense of not just our own righteousness, but the righteousness of others too. It's not ours to keep, defend, or give, anyway.

We can rest knowing that we get to be the focus of the only One who truly protects, perfectly justifies, and sacrificially defends us all.