Saturday, June 28, 2014

What Sufferers Need Most (aka All Of Us) #Messy

Sufferers don't need fixing, they need loving.

When you are suffering, you don't need people to "come alongside you" with thinly veiled attempts to fix you.

You need a hug.

You need love that says, "I'm not going anywhere." You need a loyal friend who will listen or just sit with you in silence.

Love looks more like, "I'm here and I'm not going anywhere", rather than, "I'll help you as soon as I see you are trying."

Love looks more like, "Bleed all over me", rather than, "Stop your crying and move on."

What compels this sort of love? What could possibly motivate us to love like this?

Only the love of Christ. Jesus, very God, suffered, bled and died. For us. In the midst of our own sin and suffering He did it. Not because we were pretty and fresh and clean. But because we were ugly, rank and dirty. His love for us in the midst of our wretchedness melts our hearts. We can look at our neighbor with compassion and love because we realize we're just like them. We suffer too. We bleed too. Our hearts melt when we see their pain because we know it well. Sufferers make the best comforters. They know how to hold on tight, how to cling when there's little left.

Maybe that's what makes Jesus such a good comforter. Having suffered the ultimate affliction, He is best able to weep with those who weep.

Sufferer... can fall... will be O.K.

Fall into the broad and loving hands of a fellow sufferer - the One who is supremely equipped to catch you, hold you and restore you.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Falling Out Of Favor #Messy

I don't need to ask you the question. I know the answer. It is a universal problem. We all, at one time or another, have fallen out of favor. Whether it has been with a person, an organization or a group of people, we have all faced the horror of losing a relationship. Instead of asking "Have you?" I'd rather ask "Who?"

Who left you standing by the wayside? Was it your mother or father, husband or wife? A friend or a business partner? Was it a fiancé? Your church or an employer? A group of kids at school? Who turned on you? Have you been set aside by those who deemed it necessary? Who left you in the dust wondering what just happened?

I have been cast out. I have been on the receiving end of those who believed it was the only option. I have been on the wrong side of the right/wrong equation. It hurts. It is excruciating. It is undeniably one of the most painful things a person faces. It is undiluted rejection to the core. I have cried with friends who faced the same type of pain. Rejection is a most cruel weapon.


Our instinctive response is to figure out how we can get better and move on. We seek answers and "healing". We want to sanitize the area, remove the evidence and get rid of the scars. The world, and sadly even the church, pushes us to get it together and stop being so sensitive. I don't see that exhortation in the gospel. What I do see is the Savior of the world wounded. I see our Redeemer slain even by those who previously professed allegiance.

Who is this one who spoke with authority and power?
Strozzi's Incrédulo Tomás


The One who fell out of favor all over the place.

He went from "Hosanna in the highest!" to "Crucify him!"

From "This is my beloved" to "My God my God, why have you forsaken me?"
From teaching inside the temple to crucifixion outside the camp.
From healing others to being bloodied himself.
From a laurel wreath to a crown of thorns.
From throngs of followers to jeering mockers.

Pierced and impaled, his resurrection body bore the scars. Up from the dead He rose with wounds and all. He walked this earth healed and restored but not without the pain of where he had been. This is the same Gospel that speaks to our pain. When Jesus ascended to the Father's right hand he ascended in his flesh with those same scars. He presses His nail-pierced hands together and prays for you and for me right now.

Jesus, Outcast of outcasts. Lord of all, yet risen with scars, with memories, with pain, knowing sorrow and rejection.

What burdens are lifted when we realize Jesus bore it all, including rejection and the humiliation of falling out of favor and being cast out. And yet, he bore it perfectly on our behalf. All of our pain, all of our tears, and all of our cries are not wasted. They are molded into a perfect redemption only Jesus can form. His nail-pierced hand cups our tear-stained cheek and gently catches each one. You and I, we don't have to get this thing right. We don't have to move on, hurry up and get it together.

The world says "I know you and it doesn't look pretty." Jesus says "I know you and you are perfect."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Marveling At #Messy

Marvel: to feel perplexity at 

I have spent weeks now marveling at the messiness of life.

I'm considering it like my house. In our main living area where we spend most of our time, it's relatively neat and orderly. My husband and I are empty-nesters so our home tends to be fairly free of clutter. However, there is one room that has escaped our organizational abilities. Our son's old bedroom. It has become the room where all homeless items end up. Christmas decorations I have yet to put away, books I have no shelf-space for, clothes that were bursting out of drawers and closets, exercise equipment, hats, chafing dishes and place-mats. All jumbled together, piled on top of one another. Literally, there is one narrow path of floor space leading to the closet. It makes me nervous. I'm afraid if I go in I might not make it out alive, or at least not with all my bones in their original positions!

Frankly, I don't want to go in. Unless I have to. So I don't.

What We Would Rather Not Face

It's kind of what my life looks like now. In one respect, it seems a lot less cluttered. Neat and organized. Even a bit sterile now that some difficulties and challenges are behind me. Still, in another respect it's not so neat. Like our "chaotic" bedroom, there is an area of my life that is jumbled and seemingly beyond rescue. Isn't that how life is? We have to move on and live our lives. We need to find ways to manage the day to day "living" of this life. It could be your job, your family, yours kids, taking care of your home or aging parents. Whatever it is that keeps you going. Maybe not out of desire but out of need. So you busy yourself with what needs attending to. And, you actually enjoy a lot of those things. However, there is this part of your life right now that's hard. An addicted child, a dying mom, an unfair boss, a difficult diagnosis or a pending bankruptcy. Or it's your own sin that's made you numb. Do you depend on a few drinks to deal with a bad marriage? Does your porn addiction keep you up all night? Have you tried to say no to your rage and anger towards your spouse? These are the rooms we don't want to step foot in. They're too overwhelming. So we pretend.

We want to believe they are not as messy as they really are. They are seemingly beyond hope so we avoid them at all costs. Don't talk about them. Don't seek help. Why? Because, if you step inside you might get hurt. You may come out broken. It's too risky. Just walk by quietly and maybe, just maybe they will go away.

If you read my first #Messy post, you know that I have committed myself to writing in the midst of a mess. I'm not waiting for the clean polished testimony of what God did. Instead, I'm trying to write in the middle of it all. What does it feel like, look like, sound like, smell like? When life smacks you and you have to live, what do you do? How does the gospel really help? What does it have to say to people who are beat up and bruised? Bedraggled as Brennan Manning would say.

Some would say don't talk it about. It's not the godly thing to do. Just show your victory in Jesus and your strong faith that allows you to pray harder and stay on your knees longer. But, what if that is not what's happening? What if I'm not praying or reading my Bible more. What if, not at all? What if I stopped going to church? What if my life has changed and I don't want anything to do with much of what my life was about before? What if all that? huh? Would God still love me? Does God still love me? Am I even a Christian? What do you think? Would you tell your friends to stay away? Would you say "Surely no good thing can come from that?" All these questions...strewn about among the other misplaced items...

But God...

Like the sultry seventies singer Carol King, I find myself saying;

I'd like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of
So tell me now and I won't ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Like her I ask, "Will you still love me tomorrow?" And the answer keeps coming back.

The gospel assures me over and over, "I will still love you tomorrow...and the tomorrow after that...and all the tomorrows after that." Even in the midst of my mess God won't let me forget that I am still His. That even though I let go, He never does. We are tethered together permanently and thankfully there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

How Does Law And Gospel Work? Luther Explains

How does one now acquire this love? The human heart is so false that it cannot love unless it first sees the benefit of loving. When, in the Old Testament, God struck blows among the people as if among dogs, and he dealt severely and fearfully with them, they naturally had no love for him. Then God thought: I must show my love to you and be so affectionate that you cannot help but love me. Then he took his Son and sent him into our filth, sin and misery, pouring out his mercy so freely and fully that we had to boast of all his treasures as if they were our own. He thus became a loving Father, and he declared his mercy and caused it to go forth into all the world that whosoever believes this and lays hold of it with his heart shall have a gracious and merciful God, who never becomes angry nor deals blows, but who, instead, is kind and affectionate. Now, where a heart believes and experiences this, and gets glimpses of so much, then it must place all its confidence and affection in God, and deal with its neighbour as God has dealt with itself. As a result the Word of God goes forth out of the heart, and his commandments will be kept with pleasure. Thus, first, there is no other God; secondly, man calls upon the name of the Lord; and thirdly, he lets God reign--God can do as he will, and he possesses his soul in quiet and observes the Sabbath.

Law and Gospel by Sandra Bowden
In this way, the commandments of the First Table are fufilled. Henceforth, he is kindly and humbly disposed toward all persons, he honours his father and mother and serves his neighbour as his highest pleasure and with all the love of his heart. His thought is ever this: I will do to my neighbour, as God has done to me. Thus love alone is the fulfilment of the Law, as Paul says to the Romans (13, 10).

Now, no man can bring this love into the heart. Therefore, God struck in among the people with the Law that man might experience and feel that no human being could love the divine, righteous, just and holy Law. In view of this he gave us his Son, thus graciously poured out his greatest treasures, and sunk and drowned all our sins and filth in the great ocean of his love, so that this great love and blessing must draw man to love, and cheerfully be ready to fulfil the divine commandments with willing heart. In no other way can the heart love or have any love; it must be assured that it was first loved. Now, man cannot do this; therefore, Christ comes and takes the heart captive and says: Learn to know me. Then the heart replies: Aye, who art thou? I am Christ, who placed myself in your misery to drown your sins in my righteousness. This knowledge softens your heart, so that you must turn to him. Thus love is awakened when one learns who Christ is.

Taken from:
Sermon for the Day of Pentecost; John 14:23-31 (2nd sermon)
A Sermon by Martin Luther; taken from his Church Postil.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Search And Rescue Mission For The #Messy

I have come to cherish the gospel simply because it is the only place where I find a willingness to forgive me for being me. I know I'm not clinging to God, He is holding on to me. I am aware of that truth and now, more than ever, I need that truth to be true. I gaze in vivid technicolor at the reality of who I am - the one who never holds on, and the reality of who God is - the One who never let's go. 

the reality of who I am - the one who never holds on 
the reality of who God is - the One who never let's go

It's the best news ever.

The gospel assures me that I don't have to wring my hands. The gospel proclaims that in all my messed-upness, God still descends, straight into the middle of the pile. The gospel continues pursuing rebellious and riotous people. The gospel answers people like me who have more questions than they do zipped-up-tight theology. The gospel reassures me that there is nothing I can do to forfeit God's love for me. EVER. The gospel says;

 "There is nothing you can do to mess this thing up."

God did not descend in the person of Jesus so that I could get my pious and religious ducks in a row. He came to find me in the midst of my out-of-line methods and motives. He came to save me from my relentless pursuit of trying to work it all out for Him. About the only thing I have worked out is the mess I make of everything.

Coming to a place of being weary and worn out from religion, it is good news for me to remember why Christ came;

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10

Monday, June 16, 2014

Leaving And Cleaving


They are in the air.

Several of my friends are getting married in the near future and as a result I've been rolling these verses around in my head. In a recent conversation about this passage, a woman expressed her concerns about her son and his wife leaving and cleaving "properly." She also voiced concern over her own fear of hindering her son's leaving and cleaving. I love her sensitivity and her desire to see the newlywed's marriage start off on the right course. There are plenty of clingy moms and over-involved dads, not to mention sons and daughters who never really separate from their parents even after marriage. It is a wonder we get it right at all. Which begs the question, do we? Do we really get this whole business of leaving and cleaving right?

Stuck Together

I will never forget leaving my family after our wedding day, literally. We were married on a Sunday and left for our honeymoon Monday morning, and we weren't coming back. We were moving to another country and my wedding day was the last day I would see my family for a very long time. Not only that, my husband and I were moving to a remote island with limited forms of communication. In my situation we had no choice - we left! It made the leaving easier. However, that is not a typical scenario. What happens when you live in the same city, on the same block or in the same house? The challenges set in...

When the Bible speaks of cleaving, it's describing a union that is stuck together, like glue. Cemented as a permanent bond, so when the storms blow and the gale rushes in you won't be blown apart. The truth is for those of us who are married, we will rarely get this right. Who among us has not run to mother or father when our marriage gets bumpy? Who of us has not sought wisdom and council from a parent during a stormy season of marriage? It's not bad to do that, however, it can sometimes serve as a wedge that drives partners further apart. Sharing intimate details of marital struggles with a parent can often cause the parent to choose sides as they rush to defend their child.

Sweet Comfort

What beautiful sweet comfort we find alongside this directive. While we are trying to figure out the leaving and the cleaving of marriage, Jesus has perfected it. 

Jesus left not only his earthly father and mother. He left his Father in heaven. Why? That he might cleave unto his wife. He left his Father to unite himself with his bride. He could have chosen to cling to his safe and secure heavenly home but instead chose the sacrificial path to you and to me. And not just for a time. He chose to leave so that he could cleave to, stick to, be cemented to us in perfect union forever. From an earthly perspective, death interrupts leaving ad cleaving. There comes a point when even the best efforts to cleave are shattered by the death of one or both partners. But Christ, having united his bride to himself forever and into eternity, assures us that we will never be separated from our bridegroom.

Jesus, the Man who chose to leave father and mother, who chose to cleave to his bride, has as a result made us one flesh united with him forever. His perfection is now ours. Our shame is now his. An undeserved union...

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, 
and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24

Friday, June 13, 2014

What I Told A Bride-To-Be

Recently, a friend invited me to join her and a couple of her close friends to have dinner with her future daughter-in-law. It was a delightful, easy evening. My heart's desire was that, above all, this young woman would not feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the years of experience sitting around the table with her. Upon meeting her, I knew she would be fine. She is a gracious, strong, beautiful woman. As the conversation turned to thoughts on marriage, I simply blurted out;

 "Throw away all your books on marriage."

While some would respond with "Preach!" others would ask "How could you tell her not to read books about marriage?!?" I understand both. Let me explain.

Visit Amazon and you will find 14,041 books on marriage and 5,503 on Christian marriage. That's a whole lot of advice. While there may be some good advice in the mix, most of it is bad. It's the "how to, how not to, do more, do less, start doing, stop doing" of how to make your marriage work. It's dizzying. It's exhausting. And it doesn't work.

Ask anyone who has been married for any length of time and they will tell you that lists of "to do's" won't change your spouse. "10 Ways to Start Your Marriage Off On the Right Track" sounds wonderful, but one month into it you realize you're off track already - derailed at #3.

A few days after the dinner, I got a call from my friend. She told me the only advice her future daughter-in-law remembered from that evening was, "Throw away all your books on marriage."

To clarify, I am not saying don't read anything. Read some. Read books that point you to Jesus. Read books that remind you of the gospel. Read books that clearly state the good news - that you are a sinner rescued by a great Savior. Read books that help you to see that pointing the finger at your spouse is just like pointing the finger at yourself. You are both wrong, all the time. Neither of you get it right. You won't respect your husband like the Bible says you should. He won't love you like Christ loved the church. In the midst of your falterings and failings, God loves both of you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you. Let that fuel the fire and direct your paths.

Throw away your lists. Read a couple good books, (I've listed a few below) but do not rely on them to set your marriage on the right track. Rely on the Person of Jesus Christ to set you both free to love unconditionally, to fail admittedly and to rest continually in this amazing good news!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Does God Sideline Messy People?

This question came up in a recent conversation. We were discussing the idea that God sidelined people in the Bible and He continues setting people aside today. The question is,

Does God move people out for a time so they can "get better?" 

Take Moses, for example. He grew up to be a great leader among his adoptive Egyptian family. When he observed the distress of his own people, the Hebrews, he defended their plight by killing one of their Egyptian oppressors. Moses immediately fled the scene.

Moses Flees to Midian

Replica of Michelangelo's Moses at Victoria and Albert Museum
"One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by well."
Exodus 2:11-15

It would be easy to think that God was done with Moses, at least for the time being. He needed time to cool off, learn his lesson and repent before God could consider using him again. We are quick to join in with that kind of thinking and we shout, "Off to the desert with you, Moses!"

Not only is that not what I see as I read scripture, it is not what I believe about God

"Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
Exodus 2:16-22

Contrary to God being done with Moses and sending him on a slow boat to China, he sends him on a rescue mission! Without flinching, Moses descends on the haughty rude band of broods who threatened the women at the well. Defender of the weak and oppressed, Moses continues doing what he does best. He steps in and saves. God then prepared the way for Moses to marry and have a family. Moses served his father-in-law by caring for his flocks. "And Moses was content..." Rather than setting Moses aside because of the mess he was in, God continued using him. God used the uniqueness of his personality to care for this family in the way only Moses could. No doubt, Moses had plenty of time to reflect on all that happened in Egypt. However, he was not idly sitting by while God marched on without him.

A Right View of Scripture

We tend to get passages like this wrong when we view the Bible with a wrong lens. The Bible is the story of God redeeming and using messed up people. That is all of us. Messed up people is all God has to work with. The Bible is not the story of God cleaning us up bit by bit to the point of readiness for His Kingdom. If we view it that way we can't help but see this story as an example of someone who really messed up, repented long and hard enough and was let back into God's Kingdom to get going again.

 A Right View of God

If our theology tells us that God is done with us and our messes, we are all in a heap of trouble. Thankfully, God is not done with us and never will be. From the beginning He had a plan to rescue lost and sinful people. By sending Jesus to die and take upon himself the whole mess, not just part, He made a statement. We are so loved and so valued that God sent His Son on our behalf. Not after we got cleaned up, but in the midst of our muck. This is the ongoing story of redemption. God doesn't wait for Mr. and Mrs. Clean. He moves in and rolls up his sleeves. God is pleased to meet us right where we are and use us right where He puts us. He is not the one with the timeout chair. We are. We "discern" when others need to sit on the sidelines, judging them as "less than." Less than whole. Less than capable. Less than the standard required. Less than solid. Less than "godly." (There are certainly times in our lives when stepping away from ministry or specific roles is beneficial. That is a far different situation than assuming God has set people aside from usefulness in His Kingdom.)

Do you know what happened to David after he had Bathsheba's husband killed? Nathan called him out. His son died. But God...gave him a son! Solomon. Then he gave him victory over the Ammonites! If David had committed adultery in our day we would have rushed him off to counseling in some far away treatment facility and sanitized the area to rid ourselves of any association with that creep. We would assume that God is sidelining him for a time until he is "better." We wrongly conclude that God is done with him. We have forgotten who God is - the One who uses messed up people right where they are. This is the good news of the gospel. God does not wait for us to get better.

If you are feeling set aside or sidelined, know that that is what the world does. It is not what God does. Regardless of your situation or circumstance, God is using you. You may not feel like it, but it's true. You don't have to manufacture a testimony, write about a trial or speak about hard times. Just live. Live in light of God's favor on you, God's love for you and God's delight in you.

Friday, June 6, 2014

#Don'tBeAfraid of #YesAllWomen

You may have seen the recent commotion on twitter regarding the #yesallwomen hashtag (read about how #yesallwomen got started). As I was preparing to write some thoughts about it, I asked myself the question, "Why does this matter to me?" This is what I came up with.

Why Do I Care?

First, it did not take long for my heart to break. If you have read some of them, your heart was probably heavy too. So much pain. For some women this is the first time they have broken their silence. They have found a safe place to speak about it.

Second, I am not a stranger to the stories. Domestic violence was a frequent occurrence in my home when I was growing up. In my young adult years I personally faced the horror of physical violence and sexual assault. In addition, I know several women who are currently in counseling. They are struggling with issues stemming from past abuse. And, I have counseled with countless women who suffered from domestic violence, incest and rape.

An abused woman's life is changed forever. And not just theirs, but those around them including family, friends, spouse, children, employers and co-workers. We are foolish to believe only victims of abuse suffer. Everyone is impacted as a result. Read more on the impact of domestic and sexual violence: Domestic Violence: The Secret Killer That Costs $8.3 Billion Annually and The Costs and Consequences of Sexual Violence.

What Can We Do?

1. Listen
Listen with your heart - resist the temptation to judge. Resist the temptation to call someone out for being too sensitive, overly dramatic or having a victim mentality. Be slow to defend yourself. This is not about you. There is trash talk from those who would hijack this movement for their own personal gain - I say eat the meat and spit out the bones. Listen to the real heart-cries from women who know pain and fear all too well. As for the rest, spit it out.

2. Engage
Engage others around you. Ask questions of your friends, sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives, co-workers, neighbors. Can they relate? If so, how? What can we learn? What can we do? In the last two days I've met with two close friends and asked the question, "Have you suffered abuse?" One woman replied "No, but my mother has." The other woman has a long history of rape and abuse. It's not an easy question to ask, it's a sensitive subject. However, it can be an opportunity for a woman to have a voice and to feel safe enough to discuss the trauma.

3. Say
Say "I'm sorry." Not for anything you have done. Just a sincere "I'm sorry" for the pain another person feels.

4. Don't 
Don't ignore the numbers. In the last fifteen minutes while I was writing, 761 new #yesallwomen tweets were posted. This is not a fad. It represents hundreds of thousands of women.

6. What
What can you do? Speak, write, pray, organize, counsel, discuss. If you write or blog, consider how you can lend your voice. Include these women in your prayers. Seek to understand how to help a friend or family member who is struggling with issues of abuse. Discuss it among friends, co-workers and neighbors. How can your neighborhood or workplace address safety concerns? How can you provide help for victims? How can you create a safe place for women to talk about their fears? What are some ways you can help the process? Below are several articles asking questions and lending their voices.

You Have Our Attention #YesAllWomen. Please Teach Us How to Be Better.
Beyond #YesAllWomen: Caring for Victims of Misogynistic Abuse
YesAllWomen, Misogyny, Caring for the Abused

One more thought here - where are the Christian voices? Huffington Post featured an article on their religion channel. Some of the posts listed above are from Christians. How does the church respond to #YesAllWomen? by Melinda Cousins asks a valid question and notes that "For Christians, it is easy to think these things happen to women “out there,” but not to the women in your church." Some are blogging about it, but other than that, the Christian community has been largely silent. I am speaking primarily about Christian leaders, churches and ministries. There are actually Christian voices out there discouraging support of the movement. Sadly, they are using the Bible to silence women.

7. Be
Be fearless. If you have a story to tell, tell it. I know, it is easier said than done. We need to hear you. Even though the world has told you to shut up, don't. Speak up. We're listening. Author and journalist Tara Moss speaks out in this moving, brave and encouraging interview.

8. Know
Know that just because you support #yesallwomen it does not necessarily mean you have been a victim. Empathizing with victims and demonstrating compassion and support for our sisters is a voice crying out, "Yes, we believe you, we support you and we are so sorry."

9. Understand
Understand that not all men are offenders nor have all women been victims. Neither of these are reasons to minimize or marginalize the truth that overwhelming numbers of women have been abused.
Understand that #yesallwomen is not an offensive aimed at men, it is a reality lived by women. Avoid the temptation to dismiss the pain by making it about something else. Read Violence Against Women Is A Men’s Issue.

10. Admit
Admit that if you are a man, it is hard for you to understand the fear associated with so many of these stories. You don't have to fully understand in order to be sincerely compassionate.

A Gospel Approach

It is surprising that oftentimes the world is more reactive and responsive than the church - to all sorts of issues. I understand and agree that the church has one message - preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, so I am not advocating "issue" messages from the pulpit. However, there is more the church can do.

Author Brennan Manning writes; “How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.” As Manning rightly observes, bumper stickers demonstrate a position but they cannot extend love.

The gospel gives us answers in the midst of so many questions. Author and priest Justin Holcomb and his wife Lindsey have written two excellent books. Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault  "helps to explain how the grace of God can heal the broken and restore the disgraced." Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence "addresses the abysmal issue of domestic violence with the powerful and transforming biblical message of grace and redemption." Author Elyse Fitzpatrick wrote the foreword urging Christians to; "Read this book. Give it to your pastors and staff and encourage them to send a strong message to the men and women in their congregation: Abuse and violence needs to be reported and will be taken seriously by the church. Women will not be blamed, shamed ostracized, or excommunicated for reporting; they will be protected."

Visit Justin Holcomb's blog to find additional resources on sexual assault and domestic violence.

If you are a victim of abuse and need immediate help with how to leave a threatening environment or how to stay safe once you've left, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE(7233). Here is additional help for getting and staying safe.
Finally, if you have a story to tell, feel free to tell it here. I'm listening. There is nothing worse than feeling like you don't have a voice. The truth is you do have a voice. You matter. Not because I say so, but because God said so. 

The worth of a human soul can be estimated only by the light reflected from the cross of Calvary. 
- Ellen White