The Coliseum Around the Corner

The Coliseum Around The Corner
 
Most of the time politics disinterests me because it’s just one talking head blaring over another one. I don’t even hope to change anyone’s mind. But I have to speak my own. I know this is too long and most won’t take time to read it. But children in cages. On American soil
 
Have you ever wondered how humans could gather at the Coliseum and watch Christians being eaten by animals for sport? The law of the land allowed it … and the Christians were not Romans … they wouldn’t say ‘Caesar is Lord‘ … so who cares what happened to them? When the elderly Polycarp was about to be taken to be set on fire for his lawbreaking allegiance to Christ, he showed hospitality to the soldiers, setting a table before them. They begged him to say ‘Caesar is Lord‘ so that the wouldn’t have to kill this old man they admired and who was so kind. He didn’t even have to mean it – just say the words! Polycarp wouldn’t have it.
 
Humanity has a way of writing laws that disadvantage the ‘other’…often to their death … and then turning around and saying “well, it’s the law… tsk tsk…go away to your death vermin”. Children in cages. Lawbreaking parents. Do they deserve it, Christian? Polycarp was a lawbreaker, tied to a pole and set afire. I know that some of these people may be criminals, some may be intent on harming America. But some are Christian … and some are seeking escape from terrorizing forces. And for many there was only one hope.
 

But children in cages? It’s complicated, I know, this business of immigration.

A view of inside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facility shows children at Rio Grande Valley Centralized Processing Center in Rio Grande City, Texas, U.S., June 17, 2018. Picture taken on June 17, 2018. Courtesy CBP/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. – RC174C9B4E40

But we ‘hired’ (elected) people we considered to be brilliant and worthy to fix it. And they COULD. But they won’t because someone else may get the credit, or some other party might get an advantage, or some lobbyist might not be happy. Children in cages. In America.

 
 
We’re not far from the Coliseum friends. If not in reality, in spirit. I don’t talk about politics much, I find it all sickening. The corruption from top to bottom. A friend said, “It’s not a swamp, it’s a hell” in DC. I think he’s right. Children in cages. Just keep repeating that to yourself. Imagine your grandkids in the cages. I know, they’re not lawbreakers. They were born in the right place.
Caesar still wants to be Lord. But Jesus is Lord for all eternity.
 
Take some time to read about martyr Polycarp.  Let it sink in.
Forget who you voted for. Put aside your platitudes – no matter which party you’re with. I don’t care if other administrations practiced this. I don’t care which party created the “law”. I don’t care if someone broke the law trying to get to America. I don’t care about these excuses for treating children this way. There are better ways to deal with this situation.
If you are a Citizen of Heaven, then you already have many of the answers which elude our political elite.  I’m not too surprised at how the world treats anyone. But when Christians give their seal of approval, I’m at a loss. I’m so sorry to read of the separation of children from their parents and can’t imagine anyone who loves Christ being in support of that. They’re not cattle. They are humans. 
But hey, the economy is good.
In spite of all of this, out here hope remains. It’s just that sometimes it seems dim. Thanks for reading. JED

Waiting for the Lord

In Mary Chisolm’s chapter of Surrendering to Hope: Guidance for the Broken, readers come face to face with a hurtful drama that unfolded throughout her life. And continues still.

“My father abandoned our family when I was eleven to marry a woman half his age. He was manipulative, narcissistic, and abusive. And he left destruction in his wake. It is no surprise that since my home was broken, I was broken too.”

Though Mary faced heartbreak early in life, she also found a relationship with God that gave her some reassurance from Psalm 27. Though that did not resolve the struggle within, it was a source of strength. In college, she met a young man who seemed to her to be “Mr. Right”. In every way she could imagine, he was the kind of man she wanted to marry to have the kind of family she never had as a child. However, problems developed early on.

“He was rarely where he said he would be when he said he would be. He never let me know when his plans changed, and he worked long hours. Whenever we argued about it, he twisted the facts so it seemed my fault. Even if it was his fault, it wasn’t his fault. … Then, with baby number three, a bomb exploded. Our third baby was full-term stillborn. I was completely devastated.”

The grief over this loss and the ongoing manipulative behavior of her husband sent Mary into a spiral of depression. She did the right thing by seeking out professional help. She found a Christian counselor that administered tests to both her and her husband.

“He expected her to figure out what was wrong with me. The testing diagnosed him with a narcissistic personality disorder. When she shared her findings with us, he stood over her, cursed at us both, and walked out.”

Even after a year of counseling things did not get any better but got worse. Mary was learning about codependency and ultimately as her husband’s narcissistic behavior intensified she felt unsafe. I imagine there are many people who are resonating with this story and would need to read Mary’s chapter in full to get the larger picture. Through the divorce and ongoing issues, her children grew up to refuse to have a relationship with her. The loss of her stillborn baby, her living children, and the marriage she longed to have did challenge her faith. But she kept waiting on the Lord.

Through the pain of her losses she now works in supporting women who experience stillbirth, miscarriage or early infant death.  She prays that her children will one day seek a relationship with her. And she waits on the Lord.

“I believe I will see the Lord’s goodness through the redemption of my children, in my work with families, and in ways yet unknown.”

Mary Chisolm’s story of endurance and faith through the pain of loss is just one of many stories in Surrendering to Hope. This book is now available in Kindle format as well as paperback. Each chapter demonstrates that though we can face some struggles that break our hearts, there is hope to be found in God alone.

If you know someone who is hurting, this would be a good book to share with them. Even if they have not experienced the exact situation as described in the chapters, they will find encouragement and hope in the way that faith found its way into the hearts of the broken.

Thanks for reading. John.

Hope Deferred

As I’ve blogged through the chapters of Surrendering to Hope: A Guide for the Broken, I’m reminded that there are many kinds of struggle and pain that Christians go through. As we enter chapter seven we have explored themes of the loss of an infant, murder, racism, same sex attraction and how each of these people of faith have found hope in Christ in spite of the pain they suffered. Chris and Leisa are no different … but their pain is different from any that has been expressed so far. 

“We married in our thirties. … If God gave us children, that would be wonderful. If not, we could accept it. Two years into married life, we were thrilled to learn we were expecting our first child. We built many hopes and dreams on that news…”

In spite of the enthusiasm the Kinnins experienced at the thought of having a child together, it was not to be. The miscarriage led to doctor visits, searches for reasons why, and ultimately there were no medical answers.  And there were no more pregnancies. Leisa shared, 

“We continued to pray and kept trying. We experienced the monthly roller coaster of emotions that so many couples live with for years and years. Nothing. No pregnancy. Only disappointment. So much of that time was characterized by silent, hidden sadness.”

This made it hard to rejoice when others experienced new life in their families. Both Chris and Leisa expressed concern for how to support one another during these trying circumstances. Though they considered IVF and attempted adoption (even when it was approved and seemed to be an answer to prayer, it fell through several times). 

I know there may be someone reading this who can identify with Chris and Leisa’s struggle with faith and the pain they felt. I hope you will get a copy of the book to read this chapter. As Chris and Leisa take turns sharing from their own experience one can see the sorrow and hurt they felt, as well as the faith and hope.

Among the many valuable things they shared, I thought this was so important:

“Many of the ways God led us through the desert of grief and loss can only be seen in hindsight. We were blind to God’s working at the time, and we still are today as God continues to use this for divine glory and our refinement. There were many days when we couldn’t even pray about it.”

One answer from God was the way he used them as mentors to young adults at their church. Because of their situation they had freedoms of time and opportunity to connect that busy parents of children wouldn’t likely have. “We began sharing our home and our lives with the future of our church.”  Listen to this testimony:

“In some ways, and by God’s grace, we parented those precious souls without the diapers or teenage curfew battles. We became their family and walked beside them as they began their adult lives.”

Leisa and Chris Kinnin

There is much more in the chapter to this incredible testimony. It doesn’t deny their lament and it doesn’t deny God’s provision.  Thank you, Chris and Leisa, for tenderly and courageously sharing this journey with the readers of this book. I know it will bless many who will walk in those same paths. 

In the next post we will explore the chapter written by a lady who lived through the terror of being married to a narcissistic personality disorder. Though it appeared to be hopeless, she did turn to God and found she could surrender to hope and find a way out.

It’s true. Out here, hope remains. Thanks for reading. John

Keeping Secrets

“I swore I’d never tell a soul. This was a secret I’d take to my grave, so I believed. Because I also believed that every aspect of my life would change if anyone knew. I kept it to myself, and I prayed.”

Sally Gary begins her chapter in Surrendering to Hope: Guidance for the Broken with the confession that she kept a secret for a long time. There were many reasons why she kept her secret. At first there was some confusion about why she felt the way she did. Also, she knew from conversations at home and at church that people who confessed to her secret were “worthy of total rejection from friends, abandonment by family, and eternal damnation” – which is a pretty good motive for keeping a secret. 

Over the years Sally continued her service to the church in attending worship services every time the doors were open. She taught classes and was involved in all of the activities of the church. She studied and memorized Scripture and prayed often.  All the while keeping her secret. She even prayed about her secret, hoping God would change her feelings.

“‘This was our little secret, God’.’ I will carry this one to my grave, because no one must ever learn that Sally Gary, the good little church of Christ girl, is attracted to girls.”

Sally’s struggle is not a new one, nor is it uncommon. I appreciate that Sally turned to God during all the years she kept her secret and sought out His guidance and help. But he didn’t take away her feelings. 

“And I never believed God didn’t love me because I was attracted to girls. I always believed God is a loving God. I had no idea how to resolve this crisis of my sexuality with my faith that said it was wrong for me to e attracted to my own gender, but I believed in a God who wouldn’t leave me alone to figure that out on my own. I had no idea how god would resolve this conflict of faith and sexuality in me.”

There is much more in Sally’s chapter in this book of ‘guidance for the broken’, so I encourage you to get a copy and check it out. Sally did go on to create Centerpeace, a nonprofit organization to help parents and church leaders be more open to conversations about sexuality and faith. 

“Twenty years ago, I never would’ve dreamed that I would soon found a ministry that would require me to share the deepest, darkest secret of my life on a daily basis around the globe.”

Sally and Rudy

I wish Sally well, as she is a recent victor in a cancer battle! You can find out more about Centerpeace by visiting their website. You can follow her on Twitter.   Bookmark and subscribe to her BLOG. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram. Of course you should buy her 2013 memoir, Loves God Likes Girls. At the end of this post is a video interview with Sally and Oklahoma Christian President John deSteigue.

As I continue giving you a peek into the amazing stories of brokenness and recovery found in the pages of Surrendering to Hope. In the next post Leisa and Chris open up their heartbreak of miscarriage and infertility and the path of faith they chose to walk.  Thank you for reading. If you have missed any in this series, here are some links:

Rex shares about the loss of his infant son.

Les shares about life after the murder of his wife and son.

James shares about the experience of racial prejudice.

Eric shares about the pain of childhood abuse and pornography addiction.

Those are sobering topics, but the tone of the book is positive because each struggler found faith to be the answer.

 

Sally Gary – Oklahoma Christian Q&A from Oklahoma Christian on Vimeo.

Desert Living

“God doesn’t waste our jaunts into the desert but goes with us. In fact, Desert 101 often affords the best learning environment in the world. In the desert, we learn to crucify our will and follow God’s. In the desert, we learn to grow.”

Eric Greer has spent time in the deserts of secrecy, shame, and the elusive search for affirmation. In his chapter in the book Surrendering to Hope: Guidance for the Broken, Eric doesn’t waste any time exposing the roots of sexual abuse, pornography, and secret behaviors that began in his childhood. He courageously maps out for his his journey to the desert and the struggles faced along the way.

As a Marine he was able to gain some of the self-confidence that had been stifled in his youth.  Even so, there were inward battles ahead. After a significant beating outside a bar, he decided to contact American Military Evangelizing the Nations (AMEN) for some help. Here he connected with Captain Tony Smith.

“I was certain he could smell the alcohol oozing from my pores and the cigarette smoke on my breath, and he knew every impure thought I had. yet he showed no sigh of judgment. He treated me with grace … I began to see God in the midst of my desert. Late that summer, I was baptized at a little church building near Fort Sill, Oklahoma.”

Eric’s life took a total change of direction. Attending Christian college to gain skills in preaching and family therapy seemed to set him on the right path. Recalled into military during the First Gulf War, he had a part in an incident that he writes about vividly in the chapter. 

Married and in ministry, the unresolved pain of his secret desert continued to influence him. He writes about a cycle in his life.

“The cycle was always the same for me: pain medicated by fantasy, followed by acting out, an act of contrition, and deeper shame – an ever-growing desert. Only now, I had dragged Traci into the desert with me.”

Through the help of a recovery program that emphasized listening to the painful thoughts and finding acceptance in the love of Jesus, family, friends, and mentors, Eric was able to emerge from the desert in which he had lived for so long. Because of his long experience with pain he is able to help others now as a church planter and therapist. 

I hope you will want to read all of Eric’s story, as I have only given a sketch of what he experienced. He likens his time in the desert to Moses in Midian, a vivid image indeed. I know that many reading these thoughts will identify with Eric’s testimony … I hope that many more will find hope in the way that his exit from the desert of shame and secrecy was through the healing power of Jesus Christ. 

Eric Greer is the Pastor of Restoration Community Church in Kingston, Massachusetts.  He is also the owner and therapist at Restoration Community Counseling. In addition he is an adjunct professor at Eastern Nazarene College. He is married to Traci since 1992 and they have two daughters. You can follow him on Twitter (@missional_greer), find him on Facebook, and look for him on Instagram (@devildog1969).

 

The purpose for these posts is to introduce you to the scope and flavor of Surrendering to Hope … but also to remind you that no matter what you’re going through Jesus Christ is the answer to finding your way out of it.  If you’ve been reading you will know that Rex, Les, JB, and Eric will all testify that following Jesus brings the answers your heart has always been searching for. In the next post I want to share a chapter with you that is written by someone who had a secret she thought she would take to the grave. But God had other plans.

No matter where you find yourself, Out Here Hope Remains. Thanks for reading. JED

Not All is Black and White

“As an African American male raised in Pulaski, Tennessee, some might think I encountered racism at every turn. Born in the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, the greatest domestic terrorist organization in the history of the United States, I am often asked how I survived.”

The first two chapters of Surrendering to Hope: Guidance for the Broken deal with grief and death, there are more issues in life that can break us. Reading Dr. James B. Angus Jr.’s chapter, Not All is Black and White, is a testimony to the oppressive power of racism – and the keys to survival in the face of it.

Reading this starkly personal story was, for me, a profound  statement of the things I do not know by experience. In many ways I’m certain I have closed my eyes to racism in my community and in my own beliefs over the years. I’m grateful to read this truth from a brother in Christ. More, the awareness this testimonial chapter raises can help tear down walls that have been built between people of all colors through the years. 

Dr. Angus relates recognizing a place where racism had a strong hold was in the church of his childhood. 

“On a cold January morning in 1988, at the age of nine, I was baptized into Christ at the Church of Christ that met on Taylor Street in Pulaski. This black congregation was located on the black side of town … I thought there must have been two churches in the Bible – that is, the black churches of Christ and the white churches of Christ. This definitely wasn’t biblical, but it was the way we lived.”

Not only in the church, but in everyday experiences James says, “I developed a black complex. Every day, I am reminded that I am a black male.” He saw it in the stereotypes assigned to blacks, “black jokes”, and the ways that some in the community overlooked the many significant identifiers of who he was as an individual outside of the fact that he was a black man.

In 2000 James had a taste of injustice as administered by unethical police officers. He details this arrest and the resulting  time of struggle with his own feelings about himself and God. Ultimately God led him to the campus of Lipscomb University.  Though he still encountered some racism, he also experienced acceptance. He writes, “I learned that not all white men are out to get me; some are there to love and encourage. Together we learned not all was black and white.”

Dr. Angus attributes faith in God for the positives in his life, and who helps him with the things that torment him even today. 

“God is able to handle me, and God is able to handle the racism in this country. God is both black and white. God is the god of diverse community.”

What a powerful testimony. I hope you’ll buy the book and read this incredible chapter. More, I hope that the message of this chapter will resonate throughout the churches and Christians everywhere.

I have yet to meet Dr. Angus, but I hope to one day. He is a Minister and  Adjunct Instructor at Lipscomb University and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He is married to Melody Jeanette Angus and on his Facebook page I see pictures of three beautiful children. You can see some video of James preaching HERE

As we make our way through Surrendering to Hope we will find many more diverse struggles that people like you and me are facing every day. The answer is to put our hope in God who can see us through, but that is easier to write than to do. In the next post we’ll meet someone who is engaged in war with the temptation of pornography.

Whether you’re facing death, loss, racism, or temptation … always remember … Out Here Hope Remains. Thanks for reading and sharing. JED