Category Archives: Home and Family

The Sexuality of Homosexuality

Homosexuality. It’s one of the most dividing issues in America today. Everyone has an opinion on it. Christians are especially known for their “bigoted” views on the subject. They believe against it, calling it an abomination, raging against the laws supporting it. “Because the Bible says…” is their favorite mantra.

What the Bible actually says – that’s a discussion for a different post, where we can fully explore the issue.

But whether it’s wrong or not, that says nothing about the state of the heart. What does the heart want – and is it wrong to want in the first place?

Feeling a certain way, having a desire for a certain thing – desire, a leaning toward one thing or another, is not in and of itself wrong. Many are quick to point out the verse that speaks of the thoughts of the heart – that if a man so much as looks at a woman in the wrong way, then it is adultery in his heart. Therefore, to have a liking for one of the same sex is so much worse, even if the person never acts on it.

But that’s just it – the action itself is the problem. Even the thoughts of the heart is an action. It is not in the sudden, quick look – the so-called “first look.” It is in the entertaining of that look, the lust that grows in the heart – that is where sin is found.

Homosexuality is defined as a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. Quite surprisingly, the word in and of itself is not a sin. A man is attracted to a woman walking down the street – this is well known. But there is very little talk about this kind of attraction, other than that a man must not continue to look. To be attracted to one of the same sex, however – that is an abomination, and there is something disgustingly wrong with that individual. They need to get right with Christ right away, and probably even then there will still be something a little “off.”

Is there a double standard here? Men are allowed the first look, because after all it’s natural. Men are sexually driven creatures, and they are compelled by what they see. As it turns out, so are women, but that’s yet another post in and of itself.

So men are naturally attracted to a pleasing woman. It’s accepted, because it’s natural for him to desire a woman.

What about when a man is distracted by another man, or a woman by another woman? “Abomination!” cry the righteous Christians, thumping their Bibles and pointing to Scriptures. No action was taken, barely a thought formed. But the mere distraction alone is enough to damn them, it would seem. No grace period for these disgusting souls.

Here’s the thing. Looking at one of the opposite sex, or one of the same sex – it’s the same thing. Both are sexual lusts, driven by sexual desires. That’s not to say that it would not be wrong to act on those desires – this is purely looking at the heart matter.

A person can’t help their natural inclination. Those that claim that a person is born homosexual – they are right. A person has certain desires, just as a man might have a domination fetish, or likes role play, or any other sexually-driven desire.

The Bible has much to speak on the topics of sex and immorality. But notice that it has less to say about the heart’s desires. Yes, there’s the problem of lust – but it’s not even about that. It’s the deeper issue of what a person desires in their heart. And sometimes, their heart honestly desires sin.

Sin is beautiful to look at. It wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t pleasant to the eyes. Paul says that there is a sin that so easily besets us. I think sometimes we claim that verse, but then toss it aside when it becomes convenient.

An action, even entertaining a thought process – that is sin. But to have the desire already there – that is merely a manifestation of Jeremiah’s warning that “the heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked…”

No man can trust the heart. The heart is full of wicked desires, sexual or otherwise. We have very little right to be blasting the homosexuals for their desires, when we ourselves are allowed “little” sins.

Sexuality became very twisted when sin entered into the world. What once was pure and holy became corrupt and vile. The union between a married man and woman stretched into that of any soul who happens to be “in love” or even just in the wrong moment at the wrong time. God created every person with a sexual desire, one meant to be given to their spouse. But as sin often likes to do, that desire becomes corrupted, and corruption can take many forms.

Who are we to say that one form of corruption is better than another?

 

Parents: what do your teen’s interests say about them?

Often, I hear adults talk about how they just can’t figure out the new gadgets these days, or keep up with all the social networks coming out. I’m telling you now, if your child has it figured out, then you had better learn quick. New phone? Learn all its tricks. New website? You better sign up.

Parents, pay close heed to what your children are doing. Become familiar with their interests, their passions. It is not only about getting to know them, but getting to know what draws them- for in doing so, you know them better than you would otherwise.

Don’t just censor their music, their reading. If they gravitate to a certain genre, or a certain style, look at it closely. Become familiar with the product, for in that you will find the message that your child cannot tell you himself.

The quickest way to lose your child is through what you do not know, do not understand. Many parents have heard the mantra of an angry teenager, “You just don’t understand!” Consider whether it may be true. Perhaps you remember what it’s like to be a teenager- but what is it like to be your teenager? To be the child that you have raised, suddenly finding themselves on the cusp of this brave new world, no longer a child, just becoming an adult in a new and sometimes frightening society?

If you do not understand the world that your child is drawn to, you will be sure to lose him. The more they discover, the further you are left behind, until one day, you find that they are gone from you- willingly or unwillingly.

The prime spot for predators is through social networking. He will befriend your daughter, provide a listening ear for your frustrated son. The social network that you do not understand becomes the channel by which your child is lost to you. The new gadget that your child knows in and out, but which you can only just turn on, is now an open door into a very dangerous realm.

As your child emerges into the independent teenage years, it is no longer enough to simply ban certain things from the house. If you have done well in the relationship you have built with your child, if nothing has happened to come between you, they will remain within the parameters willingly. But if they are not willing, then no amount of rules you have set will serve to chain them. A teenager will always find a way around the rules, that is a promise.

What are you doing to stop them? Punishment has become a vicious cycle of disobedience and arguments, and in the end nothing is achieved. Now, it will not be the rules that will keep your child to you- but your relationship to them, and in this is grounded your understanding of what draws them.

What is the music that they want to listen to? Forbid if you must, but listen to the songs on your own time, when they are not around. Look up the lyrics, find what the music speaks of. In music more than any other subject, you will find the answer for your child’s disturbances.

Many parents look at it with the mindset that the music influences the child, and while this may be truth in part, it also serves to obscure another even more important truth. The music may influence the person, but first the person must be drawn to that music- and to that, there is often something deeper at play, something in their psyche that calls to them. In the beat and the lyrics you may yet find the explanation for your child’s emotional turmoil, something which they themselves are not able to put into words.

Set restrictions – it’s what parents are there for. Boundaries serve as a means of protection. But at the same time, be aware of what draws your children. It just may be your means of saving them.

To the mother at the splash pad…

It was one of those moments that makes every parent’s heart stop. It made MY heart stop, and it wasn’t even my kid! You turned around, and saw a stranger leading your child by the hand. Leading him away from the street – the very busy main road to which he’d been headed.

You ran forward, scooped him up as the stranger explained that the boy had run off. Your hands trembled as you hugged that little boy close to your chest. I could just about see your heart racing, threatening to leap out of its bony cage.

The boy squirmed, wanting to go play. At two years old, he had no idea of the heart attack he’d just given his mother. With a sigh, you put him down and watched as he ran off, back to join his brothers in the splash pad frenzy.

Heart still pounding, you watched him disappear in the bodies and the spray. Then you looked up – and she was watching you. A woman standing off to the side, who’d seen the whole thing. Your whole demeanor changed, becoming tense and defensive in response to the woman’s judging.

It was apparent that you knew each other, were probably there together, as the two of you argued – briefly, but the encounter left you tense for quite some time after. Your tense eyes were trained on that little boy, who’d just discovered that it was a game to keep Mommy on her toes as he repeatedly ran out toward the road.

I said something small that day, something about how it happens to the best of us, that kids are quick and it’s hard to see everything. But what I really wanted to say is – don’t let someone else’s judgment make you a bad mother.

Oh, you’re not a bad mother. I could tell just by the way you acted with your children that day – all five of them. Keeping an eye on my one little girl is enough, but five?? No wonder that boy was able to slip out from under your watchful gaze, especially in that crowded splash pad.

But each time after that first round, you were tense, watchful – less because of the danger he was in (he wasn’t in any, really), and more because of one woman’s judgment. That little boy would dart out, heading toward the street, and each time you would run over, herding him back in the proper direction, giving a quick swat as incentive. And in between those times, you stood on the sidelines, watching him like a hawk, not daring to turn away for one second, lest you face a second round of scorn.

I wanted to tell you that you are a good mother. That you were doing your best to keep an eye on all your children, keep them safe from harm. And that two-year-old – anyone knows that kids are quick at that age. You blink, and they’re gone before you know it. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, it means you’re not omnipotent or omniscient. You can’t be everywhere at once, seeing everything at once.

Motherhood is about love and protecting your children from harm, but it also comes with a whole heaping spoonful of grace. Grace is what gets a mother through the ups and downs; sometimes, it’s what gets her through the day.

For whatever reason, motherhood also involves those who think that they know better, who believe that they could have done a better job or made better choices. You know the ones – the one tsking in the grocery store, the one shooting you a look across the playground, or even that one acquaintance giving advice and “just trying to help.” Then there’s the ones who get upset if you do things just a little bit differently, if you don’t do them the way they would have done them. Parenting is one of those journeys that everyone has an opinion on, and there opinion is always the best one.

All of this judgment and criticism can make you feel like a bad mother. And it’s hard to feel like a good one when a stranger catches what you know you should have caught on your own – something that, had they not caught it, could have ended up very differently, with you running to the hospital instead of letting the kids have fun at the park. But being a good mother isn’t about being perfect, never missing something, never making a mistake. It’s in loving your kids the best way you know how, however imperfectly that may be.

In the end, you are what’s best for them. And that doesn’t mean you’ll always be perfect, or that there will never be accidents, but it does mean that you are a good mother for them. Don’t let the judgments of others make you a bad mother.

Why is breastfeeding so controversial?

So – breastfeeding. I think most of those in my circle are in favor of doing it, but the debate reigns on where and when. This breastfeeding article gives some good points, and here’s a few of my own to add. (And here’s another one from the opposite side of the issue!)

First, a history lesson. The controversy on breastfeeding is a fairly new one. It begins a few generations ago, when companies first introduced infant formula. Initially, they claimed that it was “better than breast milk.” They convinced an entire generation of new mothers that their own milk wasn’t as healthy for their baby, and so they bottle-fed their babies. An entire generation of children grew up being very little exposed to breastfeeding. In removing a primary function of the breast, that left the other function to take over – sexualization.

This took place during another shift in society – that of becoming more sexualized, more open. Fewer clothes, seductive poses, declining marriage rates and rising numbers of unwed mothers, and so much more. Enter technology, and the problem explodes with posting seductive pictures, chatting online, and sexting. Conservatives and the church react to what they see as a growing trend, and breastfeeding inevitably gets swept up in the fray. Breasts are sexualized, and we already have a problem with women “not covering up” and thus by logical conclusion that extends to breastfeeding, as well.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember reading an older book, a fiction novel, probably written sometime in the 30’s-50’s. Not so long ago, but before the craze started. One scene in particular featured a woman feeding an infant (she was a wet nurse). A man in the scene studied her, with more awe than being turned on. Being moved by the miracle he saw, he even reached forward to touch her – and not only were they not married, they were not even a love interest, simply good friends. Not saying whether the scene was morally right, but the point is, things weren’t always this stiff about breastfeeding. There was a time in history where it was perfectly acceptable for a woman to feed her baby so naturally – and she didn’t hide away in another room to do it.

A note for those who say that breasts aren’t naturally designed to be sexual – take a peek at Song of Solomon, as well as a few passages in Proverbs and other areas. Even then, the breast was most definitely sexual and intended for the man’s delight and pleasure. “Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times” wasn’t written for the babe. There’s nothing wrong with breasts being sexual; it’s all about balance. Like most things in nature, they serve a dual purpose. It’s all about time and place.

So… what IS that time and place?

Our Trials – All for God’s Purpose

This is actually part two to a post I wrote quite some time ago, just never got around to finishing. In it, I challenge the common teaching that “if you believe, you will be healed.” But that’s not always the case – especially when a greater purpose is involved. Read on:

Does God heal all those who ask? Some think so, but that teaching is not found in Scripture. God does not promise healing to everyone who asks for it. Rather, He promises grace and peace. SOME may be healed, but only if it’s within God’s perfect plan. For some, He may have a different plan in mind, one that is yet perfect for that person.

Paul is an easy place to start. The Apostle Paul is known for many things. His faith, the Biblical books he penned, the trials in his faith. Some of the most famous phrases we use today can be traced back to his words – and we are going to look at one of them now.

He has not had an easy road. In other places, he makes mention of the many trials he has faced. Acts gives a play-by-play of the difficulties he encountered in sharing the Gospel, the persecutions he endured. Yet there is one that stands out above the others, one thing that he specifically asks for God to remove. Now, it doesn’t say what that thing is – it’s rather quiet on that, actually, probably with reason. It doesn’t matter. Plug in your own problem in your own life, and there you are. It’s whatever it needs to be.

So what does God tell him? “My grace is sufficient for thee.” One of those oft-repeated phrases. But like with most quotes, half of it is left behind. It’s nice to think that God’s grace is sufficient, and it is, but it’s also important to remember WHY. “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

When we are weak, whether physically or spiritually, that weakness is used to reveal God’s strength. We are weak, we suffer – but God will not automatically heal. Sometimes, yes, but then sometimes, He finds that our suffering is a better testimony of His grace.

God is always looking to bring us to a place of closer fellowship with Him. At the same time, He is always looking to use us to reach others, so they could have that same fellowship. Sometimes, that means healing, so that you and those around you can see the awesome power of the mighty God that we serve. God can do great things!

On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that will always be the case. Sometimes, His glory is instead shown through the grace He gives to those who are suffering. When someone is going through great trial, others look to see how they will handle it. Some are looking for God to bring immediate healing, while others question why it would even happen in the first place. Where is God in all of this?

That answer is played out in the grace and strength that person displays. Healing is an inspiration, sure, but to be so buffeted by trials and still stand strong – that is an even greater inspiration. It is stories like these that bring others to Christ, after seeing the peace that He can give even in the greatest of trials.

Job is a common example of suffering. The first two chapters illustrate a side of a story that we rarely see: a conversation in heaven between God and Satan. In this conversation, we see that God points out Job as an example of a faithful man. Satan challenges this statement and in an effort to prove his point, sets about wreaking all sorts of havoc in Job’s life. Satan’s efforts leave the man, once one of the wealthiest men in the region, penniless and childless. His health is also in decline as he was struck with extremely painful boils all over his body. To add insult to injury, Job’s wife chastises him for his continued faith in God, and his friends are insistent in pointing out the sin in his life as the cause of his troubles.

Now, this “health” doctrine would have you believe that all Job had to do was envision himself well, rebuke the illness, and pray to God, and he would be well. But that would have defeated God’s purpose, which was to show how faithful His servant could be, even when pressed. Giving Job an easy out by granting him health as soon as it was asked would have countered that aim. Job would not find healing or restoration until God’s purpose was achieved. Incidentally, in order to receive restoration, Job had to forgive his friends and pray for them; it was not a prayer for healing that saved him.

“But that’s in the Old Testament,” they say. “We’re in the New Testament age now.” As if everything that happened before is moot and doesn’t apply, never mind that God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”, but we’ll take it anyway, just for the sake of discussion.

So what New Testament examples can we come up with? We’ve already covered Paul, on several counts. Is there more?

What about other tribulations, other than health? Steven was stoned, John was exiled. All but one of the apostles were executed, usually in torturous manners. Peter was crucified. Oh, but these aren’t physical illnesses – does that make the trial any less great? Is one affliction different from another, so that God will heal 100% of one, but not of the other?

John chapter 9 tells the story of a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked who had sinned to cause this man’s affliction. Listen to Christ’s response here: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3) Christ was saying that this man was born blind specifically so that God could work His purpose. Yes, that purpose was healing, that is true. But it was not based on the man’s faith. No doubt, both his man and his parents petitioned the Lord for healing. Now, we don’t know about the faith of either of them, but we can at least say that it didn’t matter. Even if the man was the most faithful man in Israel, had the greatest faith of anyone, his petition still would have gone unanswered.

Why? Because it wasn’t the appointed time. That man was born blind specifically so that at the right moment, Jesus Christ could come along and heal him, thus showing the power and glory of God. Had he been healed before that point, that purpose would not have been achieved. This man’s healing was not based on his faith, but on the purpose of God.

Sometimes, healing comes as a result of faith. James tells us that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And the centurion’s servant was healed even as Jesus marveled that He had not seen so great a faith. It is true that prayer can bring healing. But it’s only a possibility, not a promise. It is all about God’s purpose.

To say otherwise is to make God into little more than a wishing wand – if you wish hard enough, it will come true. God is not here to be at our beck and call. He may heal us, but it’s not promised. It’s not a certainty. It’s not something He does just because we said it loud enough.

 

Post-partum depression – what it is, and why it’s OK

Step aside with me a minute, away from the chaos of life and the noise of raising your family. Ever have kids? Then you’re who I want to talk to.

Because this thing, it’s real. The monster inside that just wants to make you scream, the one that supplies those thoughts – yes, even the ones about harming or leaving your children… it doesn’t mean you’re an awful person, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you or that you’re a horrible person. It means your body just went through a hugely traumatic experience (because hey, let’s face it, birth ain’t no piece of cake, no matter how that baby came out), and now it’s trying to get back. The obvious ones – the tears, the bleeding, the soreness – that wears away after a while. Skin closes up, muscles limber up once again.

But it’s usually the deepest hurts that are harder to heal, and also harder to see. It doesn’t show up on a blood test, you won’t find it on an MRI. But it’s there, eating away at what should be the most joyful period of your life, tainting what should be the brightest spot – your own children.

Its root makes it even more impossible to detect and treat. At its root, it starts in the heart, how we feel about ourselves. We’re constantly measuring, calculating, seeing if we stand up to expectations – even if they are expectations that we place on ourselves. We forgo dreams in order to fulfill the needs of our family. A pretty face, a clean house, kids who are actively involved in sports and other activities – the pressures are endless. And always, there is the question – are we enough? Enough for our family, for our kids… for ourselves?

So we have our insecurities, our struggles and attempts to compare. And most of the time, it’s manageable. Makeup, cleaning frenzies, and attempts to make sure that dinner is on the table at a decent hour all contribute toward maintaining that self-image that all is well.

And then we add to that insecurity, with the most complex paradox imaginable, where for the next 18 years (and more, let’s face it), you’ll alternate between loving and wanting to strangle this new addition to our burdens, one so welcome and yet so dreaded. The pain of birth is only a portent of things to come as we navigate this field of struggles and insecurities, challenged by everything from a colicky baby and on to scraped knees and a child’s first heartbreak.

And the whole time we’re focusing on our duties, our bodies continue to rebel with inconsistent breastmilk supply, sleepless nights, headaches and those infamous raging hormones that wreak havoc on our emotions. Only problem is, it doesn’t always stop soon after birth, or even when the baby moves on to real food and full nights of sleep. Hormones are fickle, and once started, they are difficult to stop. And because certain hormones are triggered for emotional response, they make our emotions go haywire, resulting in depression, anxiety, self-judgment, and other mood swings. Our insecurities and our burdens become realized in the face of endorphins, oxytocins, oestrogen, and progesterone.

By the time all is said and done, it creates a “perfect storm” that rips through our emotions and shreds our hearts and minds to pieces. Things become what they aren’t, and we see shadows behind every ray of sunshine. I know one new mother who saw a devil in her newborn son’s dark eyes – her mind playing tricks with the natural pigments that cause everyone else to coo and smile. Words are twisted to an entirely new meaning, and every movement is scrutinized and found condemning.

What began in the heart is compounded through the physical processes of giving birth and the relentless push and go of motherhood. It’s easy to “cheer up and look on the bright side” until that one word brings it crashing down. It’s easy to “get some time to yourself” until you return from a refreshing afternoon getting your nails done, only to come home to the baby crying… AGAIN. It’s easy to ask for help until inevitably, the friends return home to their own lives and the hubby leaves for work. It’s easy to give yourself grace until someone in the grocery store scowls at your stubborn toddler who is throwing a fit, or tsks at the baby in her carseat sitting ever-so-unsafely in the cart.

Or when you wake up and it’s a great day and then all of a sudden you tip your cup of coffee and now your husband is trying to figure out why you’re dissolving into a puddle of tears over so small a matter. Or when you attempt to look nice, but all your nicer clothes are piled in the laundry that you haven’t had energy to do, and then you feel even worse in the sweatpants you threw on. And that saggy baby belly that just won’t go away, no matter how many months it’s been – and isn’t it shallow to dwell on looks anyway?

And so things spiral quickly down into a cycle of self-blame, shame, and reproach that you struggle to hide behind a smile and showing extra love to your family. But it’s exhausting, wearing you out, trying to keep up with everything, until finally it breaks and your kids are looking at you with that quivering lip because you’ve just shouted at them for some minor infraction, and now you’re blaming yourself for losing it and it’s only confirming the voices in your head and…

STOP. It doesn’t have to be this way. These aren’t the things that make you a horrible mom. It’s everything that makes you the mom your kids need – because even those insecurities are born of love, of a desperate need to be everything you can be for these littles that life has entrusted to you.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to feel unwanted, or to feel unworthy, or to feel like it doesn’t matter. It’s okay to have these crazy thoughts that you can’t even admit to yourself, because to do so would bring them into daylight and somehow make them real. It’s okay.

Sit with me and tell me about it. Realize that there is a world of people ready, waiting for you – people who have been through it, who know what it’s like. People who are trained to help, who will reach out a hand rather than sit and blame. People who will be your support, your shoulder to cry on, the push that you need to move up from where you are. Like this one, this story of a mom who went through the same thing, and finally, after FIVE years, she got the help she needed. And I love that it wasn’t just a push for medications, but an all-around treatment that fully addressed what she needed, through diet, supplements, therapeutic touch, and even getting close to her own baby through babywearing.

Find help, not judgment. And remember – it’s okay.

Seduction vs. Sexuality – No shame

There is a difference between seduction and sexuality.

Sexuality is natural, a physical response to stimulation. It’s a part of nature and exists in every corner of the biological world where two sexes are required to mate. It’s physical and entirely natural, and has nothing to do with morality, either good or bad. It’s as natural as any other bodily function, and exists in both men and women. And, like every other part of Creation, it is what God labeled as “good.” It wasn’t sexuality that was tainted by the fall. God still calls it “good,” for both male or female.

Seduction is the purposeful acting upon sexuality. It is in the carriage of a person, the way they handle themselves, the way they dress and walk and speak. Much like sexuality, seduction is also natural and is therefore “good.” But unlike sexuality, seduction begins in the heart and mind, it is a purposeful step toward a certain direction. It deals with morality and ethics, and can most definitely be sinful.

Many people confuse the two. Some feel their sexual responses and feel guilty, thinking that they are in sin or that there is something wrong. But sexuality alone is no more wrong than an inclination for food or drink. A natural desire for hunger can turn into gluttony, a desire to quench thirst can turn into an alcoholic. But we don’t feel guilty for those responses, because we know control, and we understand that these responses are part of the body’s natural physical function. So it is with sexuality – it’s a natural response in response to the world around us. What we DO with that response determines the morality of the situation – and that’s when it moves from sexuality to seduction.

But, just as with taking that purposeful step toward that feast spread on our table, seduction is not in itself wrong, either. In the proper context, it is a good thing. It is not wrong to act upon one’s sexuality. It is wrong, however, to do it outside of the proper context – just as much as we know that it would be wrong to wander to our neighbor’s house and take of the food lying on their table. We may be hungry, but it doesn’t excuse the wrong of taking another’s food.

Sexuality is a natural impulse, and a good one. It may even be in response to something we don’t want. But the impulse itself is not wrong, it’s natural. The entertaining of that impulse, the purposeful seduction – that is what transgresses the morality of the situation. But in the proper God-given context, both seduction and sexuality become a beautiful dance of harmony.

There is no shame in sexuality. There is also no shame in seduction – when in the proper context.

We came, we saw, we made memories…

Settling back into a routine after getting home from vacation. Got my coffee, got my work, and I’m ready to go!

Our trip was awesome. First true family vacation (we’ve taken trips before, but they were minor and went to visit family, not just going somewhere on our own). We got to see family and old friends, and made new ones. I was able to visit with some of my colleagues, and we had a wonderful time.

I was able to cross seven states and one national park off my bucket list. (I’ve been to the Grand Canyon before, but never seen Yellowstone.) I went to Braum’s, but not to Cracker Barrel. We visited Bricktown in Oklahoma City. I got to try some amazing food from some smaller, lesser known places. We crossed two time zones and had different clocks reading different numbers.

We bounced between friend’s homes and hotels, and logged a few thousand miles on our car. Two days before we left, we got an oil change, and we’re in need of one yet again. We came away with souvenirs, little pieces of the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and places in between. We traveled far south and then went far north in the United States, covering the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains in the middle. We didn’t see a tornado, but we saw a few lightening shows and drove through pounding rain. We drove through some of the most beautiful countryside, and endured through some of the most monotonous – Wyoming was way worse than Nevada or Kansas.

We shared ice cream and memories with friends, sat and talked while our kids ran circles around us. We caught up with some old friends and dropped in on family. We caught memories on camera and shared many more off-screen. We watched my sister-in-law graduate and then went out to celebrate.

We got tired behind the wheel and traded places so we could keep going through the night. We kept little girl entertained with a “bag of tricks” containing books, toys, and even some coloring. The movies I’d brought didn’t work on the laptop, but she did well without. We found places to stop and stretch our legs, let her run around. A cute little country store in Wyoming, the most awesome rest stop I’ve ever seen in Texas.

We jacked up on Monsters and highly caffeinated gas station coffee, and endured the last few hours to get home, arriving just as the rest of the world was waking up. All three of us took long naps that afternoon. We got brunch at IHOP because we’d done a little too good of a job in making sure there’d be nothing left to spoil while we were gone, and we had no food in the house.

By the time it was done, we needed a vacation from vacation. But for all that, it was the best time we’d ever had. We enjoyed every moment with friends and family, and even the moments spent on our own with just us. We filled up on gas more times than I can count, and cycled through CD’s ranging from Bible stories and Veggie Tales to Weird Al to Johnny Cash.

We made memories that we’ll hold on to for years, and already started planning our “next” trip. We came home refreshed and rejuvenated in our spirits, even as our bodies were running on the last dregs of caffeine and sugar. We had an awesome time!

Why Christians are failing at politics

There’s a lot of comparison between our country 200 years ago, and today. But you can’t draw a direct line between the two – it’s apples and oranges. People point to how church leaders were so active in government, fighting for morality and right, keeping God in the government.

But it was a different world then. Our government was drafted to reflect the people – to protect, but also to act upon, their will. “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” It’s convenient to apply it to those times, but easy to forget how it applies to the here and now.

In the here and now, the number of churchgoers is far fewer. People identify with Christianity a lot less. God is hardly on the minds of the people. That’s a spiritual problem – not a political one. However, it does have political ramifications, ones that Christians often don’t like.

And so Christians wade into the political arena, fighting tooth and nail at every turn. Gay marriage. Abortion. Pot and alcohol. Education. So many other issues that fall on the table, to be taken up by the banner of the Cross. And in the meantime, the people fall deeper away from church. And the Christians get a bad rap for always harping on these issues.

It’s not a matter of “forget the politics” and go live your life. Not that simple. By all means, we can’t simply give up on some of these issues. Christians are part of this country, too, and need a voice in government, especially in protecting against unfair application of certain laws.

So we have to fight and take a stand, even in the political arena. But in the midst of this digging so deep to make sure we don’t give ground, are we looking around to see what we’ve lost?

We’ve lost our people. Those who should have our backs, who should be with us at every turn. Churchgoers who do more to warm a pew than they do to fight for what’s right.

More than that, we’ve lost our ability to reach others. We’ve become so focused on holding our ground politically that we’ve all but neglected the spiritual front. So our young people are falling away, disinterested by a faith that doesn’t hold water in the deeper issues of life. We find ourselves less effective, facing a stigma of being about rules and standards and holding the fort, and less about reaching out and making a difference in this world.

It wasn’t that way 200 years ago. Sure, the leaders of that time were politically active. But they were also spiritually active, as well. And as consequence, they represented a group of people who largely sided with them, at least morally if not religiously. The people knew that the political leaders stood just as much for the spiritual as they did the political. The standards were successful because there was spirit behind them, and a prevailing sense of morality.

We don’t have that today – and that is why we are failing in the political arena. Politics are only a front for a much deeper issue.

“You just don’t understand…”

“You just don’t understand, you’ve never been through it.”

Other than angry insults and harsh actions, there is hardly a more effective way to burn a bridge than by uttering those few words. It puts a wall up, immediately creating an “us versus them” philosophy. It says that unless someone has been in your exact situation, they can’t possibly understand your plight.

In a sense, that is true. But not entirely. See, the entire beauty of human nature is the capacity for compassion. We are not robots, computers that can only understand input and past experiences. We are, as a whole, empathetic by nature. We hear a news story of some horrible tragedy, and immediately feel a stirring in our hearts. Never knowing the person, our hearts go out to him, to his dilemma. We filled moved by the problems of strangers, feeling compelled to give of ourselves to those who would have called strangers.

And yet, despite this, we hold the world at arm’s lengths. We keep our pain hidden, our secrets buried. The world may know of our trials, but not how it affects us. They see the outside, murmuring about how difficult it must be – but on the inside, that is where the hurts are kept.

And we continue to accuse others of a lack of understanding. And certainly, there’s plenty of that – but that’s fodder for another post, like this one about the loss of a child. But for this post, I want to focus on the ones who are actually in pain.

See, sometimes it isn’t so much that lack of understanding equals lack of caring, or that ignorance is due to never being exposed to the same hurts. Sometimes, it’s because you shut them out. Those words, four syllables, and you create a gulf between you and the person who’s trying to understand.

It’s true, they haven’t been through it. They haven’t felt their heart shred into pieces as their life was torn apart – whether it’s the loss of a child, or never having had one in the first place, or something else entirely. They haven’t felt that pain.

But – they have felt pain. They know what it’s like to have hopes crushed, dreams trashed and thrown aside, hurt by life or even loved ones. We all have our hurts, our trials in various degrees. And while we could sit in a circle and have a contest to see whose horse is bigger, when it comes down to it, there’s no comparing pain. Even between those who have gone through similar circumstances, there’s still no comparison. Just because one got through it a certain way doesn’t mean another will. Human nature is far too nuanced.

So they haven’t felt YOUR pain. But it’s pain just the same. And while some may be uncaring, throwing aside your own hurts like so much trash, throwing out careless advice or outright criticism – that’s not the case for all. Some truly do care, do want to understand.

But then you say those words. “You don’t understand – you’ve never been there.” And a wall goes up. You’ve just told them that what they say could never possibly matter, because they haven’t been where you are. That no matter how much they try to care, it won’t make a difference in your pain.

It’s true, they haven’t been there. But what’s not true is that personal experience limits the capacity to understand. Experience isn’t necessarily the gateway to empathy – how many others can name those who have gone through similar experiences, but turn out harsh or bitter? It’s not the experience that makes the person, but rather the heart. And some do have a heart to understand.

Instead, meet them halfway. They may not understand – but they are open-minded, with hearts ready and willing to share the load. You just have to be willing to give it up. Let them come over, see what it’s like to go through what you have to deal with.

And be prepared. There will likely be bloodshed. Careless words that drive deep into your heart, ripping open a new level of pain. But that’s okay – because that same person will be there to help you heal. Don’t brush it aside, either hiding it or blaming it on their ignorance. Be open, show them the effect of their words. Let them see the tears that you’ve buried, the cost of what was said. And as you begin to do so, you’ll start to see a change. They will come to know, to understand.

It won’t always be perfect. They are human, just as you are. There will be things they say that will still sting. But the point isn’t to take away the sting – that will remain regardless. The point is to share it, to keep the lines of communication open.

Your pain will remain either way. But if you at least let someone try to understand, gently noting when they’ve crossed the line or pushed too deep, then they can begin to see where you are coming from, to see behind your trial.

Putting up that wall drives them away, makes them nervous about even trying to understand. What if they inadvertently say something that’s taboo? Sometimes, the taboo is just as much on the attempt to understand as it is on even discussing these “deep” topics at all. This is the key to removing the taboo on “forbidden” topics.

I’ve never lost a child. But still, I was able to understand the pain of such a loss, enough to portray it from the perspective of a couple who did lose their little one. I came close to losing my own daughter, but even that was after the book had already been published.

I have a daughter of my own, one I was able to conceive without help. But even so, I can understand the gaping hole left in the hearts of those unable to have children.

And so many other of life’s trials…

It hurts. It really does. But there can be no meeting in the middle if both sides aren’t willing to give a little. So instead of counting hurts, excluding those who “don’t understand,” forming clubs around those who all have the same pain (not referring to support groups – those are absolutely needed!), refusing to connect with others simply because they haven’t been there – maybe we can meet underneath that old Georgia pine.

Come sit with me. I’ll pour you a cup of coffee and try not to stumble over my words.