Sister to Sister: Conversations about Malignancy

Here’s a snippet of the shocking conversation as I sat that Sunday morning on the second pew, as a visitor. The lady next to me, a member of that congregation,  a middle ager and with her husband, spoke very casually:

The lady: “Yes….My daughter lives in Little Rock with her husband.”

Me: “Well, How are they enjoying that area?”

The lady: “Well, I’m not sure. I think my daughter may not be well. She might have cancer.”

Me: “Well, is she going for treatment? Has she been diagnosed?”

The lady: You know I’m just not sure about her condition or what she is doing about it.  I’m not sure if she is going to see her physician or not. I don’t know what type of cancer she has or how large the tumor is.  I need to ask her again. We also have a son who may be sick, too. I just can’t remember what he said about his condition, either. Oh dear.  Honey, what is the name of that condition he has? Can you remember? (Looking over at her husband).

That was not exactly the conversation. But what would you think if it was?…That this mother was insane?… That she had been traumatized at some point, becoming cold and calloused about her own children?…That she was simply unfeeling and very different from the Christ we had all gathered to memorialize that Sunday? 

Here’s the real conversation:

The Lady: “Yes. Our daughter lives in Little Rock with her husband.” 

Me: “Well, where do they worship there?”

The Lady: “You know I am not sure. I can’t really recall what kind of church she said they are attending. I need to ask her again.

Me: (a little shocked). And you have more children?

The lady: Yes. Our son….He lives in Florida….Now he goes to some other church, too…I think he does. Oh, Honey, can you remember what kind of church he goes to?” …Oh…I’m trying to think…”

Just then the service began and I tried to pick my jaw up off the floor and frame my startled mind to worship the God of the Universe…the One who spoke the world into existence and yet knows how many hairs are on the head of this woman’s daughter….And He knows where that head is bowed on any given Sunday, if it is bowed at all. He knows if this woman’s son and daughter have a spiritual malignancy. He knows and offers the cure.  But until this woman becomes more keenly aware of the eternal urgency of the spiritual welfare of her children, she will never be helpful to them in battling the spiritual cancer.

I was a visitor. Granted, I do not know the ins and outs of the relationship this couple have with their children. I do not know how recently the conversion of this middle-aged couple occurred. I do not know if their children have had a chance to hear the pure good news. But I know that, if this woman is emotionally and mentally stable, and if she loves the Lord and His church, she will quickly grow into knowing about, caring for and sacrificing for sin’s cure for her children. She will be plugged in to the treatment plan and she will be offering them the resource that will save their spiritual lives. 

The difference between the cancer conversation and the one that really happened that morning? The first has to do with the speck in eternity that is our lives and the second has to do with the infinite remainder of eternity (and we really can’t even use the word “remainder” when we speak of infinite time. The remainder is still infinity.) The first has to do with a mortal body that houses the soul. The second is about the soul, itself—the essence of every human being. The souls of her children—who they are—is what this woman knew very little about. I pray that I may always know my children. 

The second conversation, the real one, is far and away–infinitely–more important.

 

  

Sister to Sister: Guest Writer–Pornography Hooks Girls, Too.

For about nine months, I’ve been in touch with this author every day; sometimes multiple times each day in our (our meaning her and me, but also and foremost, the ONE who gives us the victory) victorious effort to rid her very young life of pornography. She’s made lots of decisions and changes and has come up with great strategies to be all she can be, sans pornography, for our Lord. I know, from my own small circle, that there are others who could benefit from her advice. She’s smart about this. Here’s her message:

Sexual temptation is not just for men. I think all too often we are given the idea that only men struggle with sexual temptation, specifically that of pornography. We hear sermon after sermon about the dangers of pornography for men, and about how to counter and avoid it, and this is wonderful! But, what about the girls who struggle with this?
So many times I think when we talk about a girl’s purity we are thinking only in terms of her virginity. And, as important as that is, it also needs to be stressed that when a girl struggles with a a sexual temptation, a pornography addiction, or a masturbation addiction, she’s not the only one. Based on experience, and from things others have said to me personally, a lot of the time, when you tell someone about your struggle, their response may be “yeah, I struggled with that too”.  This has happened to me on more than one occasion. We shouldn’t be ashamed to tell other people and reach out for help. 
 
Luke 15:10 :

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

The shame was in the sin. There’s no shame in repentance. Sometimes I think the reason that girls hide their struggles with sexual temptations instead of reaching out is because they’ve never heard anything about a girl having this temptation. That misconception was my worst enemy in my struggle…. Who did I turn to that wouldn’t think I was perverted, or weird? Worst of all, would they make it public?… I thought things like… “What on earth is wrong with me? I shouldn’t like this!” and “How am I struggling with this? I’m a girl! This is a guy problem….” It took a long time for me to understand that there were a lot more girls than I thought who struggled with the same things.  And they were just as ashamed as I was. We shouldn’t let the shame of the sin keep us from reaching out for help. The people that I wanted to know–the ones I felt close to, but afraid to tell–weren’t disappointed in me. They were sad for me, but they were also proud because I was doing what I needed to do to get out of it. They treated me no differently than they had before.  The best thing that I could have possibly done would have been to tell someone the moment I saw those things and was interested, but I didn’t. I hid it, and hiding it fueled it. We should be reaching out to those struggling, and reaching when we personally struggle, and we should be praying for one another. 

James 5:16

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Why do we sometimes apply this verse only to the “easier” sins? Why, when we hear of the harder sins in someone’s life do we sometimes shrink back, thinking of them as perverted? All sin is sin in God’s eyes; none worse, none better… .I think we should apply this verse even more to the harder sins in our Christian family’s lives.

Some sins are harder than others to overcome, but none are impossible. Here are a few of the things that have helped me in my struggle…

1. Get an accountability partner.

I didn’t really know how to get away from pornography, how to take away all of the temptation. I’d tried several times to just promise myself I’d never do it again. I would stay clean for about a week and then I’d fall again. So I finally realized that by myself, with only my sister and myself knowing (and her thinking I was over it), I would never get over it. So I told someone else, thinking that having someone else know would make me not do it. And then came the questions… “When was the last time you did it? This year? This week? Since you’ve been here at PTP?” And, having affirmed the last of the three options I was asked to promise to contact that friend if I ever did it again. About a month later, I started to struggle with it again. I kept my promise, sent the ever dreaded email, and was asked to agree to her terms of accountability. I was lucky. I was offered accountability and wouldn’t have thought to ask for it. I didn’t even know what it was, really. I knew it was for those who struggled with things like pornography, but I had never needed to know about that…. After all, I wasn’t ever going to do those things, right? Make sure you ask someone you respect to help you and keep you accountable. This will be your biggest help, and that person will likely be your biggest cheerleader. 

2. Covenant Eyes (or a similar program to monitor and report).

“Why do I need Covenant Eyes? I’m not going to do anything bad on my laptop. Don’t you trust me?” This one really hits home for me. While I’d have never have had the nerve to say it, I can surely remember thinking it. I hated the idea of something on my laptop that recorded and recounted to my parents everything that I did on my computer. Not because I had, at that time, any intention or desire to look at sinful things on my laptop, but because I wanted privacy. Now, I absolutely love my Covenant Eyes. It is the easiest thing in the world to not click on that nasty ad when you know that your laptop is immediately going to notify your parents or accountability partner. 

3. Keep busy.

I’ve spent probably the past 3-4 months having this one pounded into my thick skull, but you know what? It works! When you’re busy working for God and for others around you, or even just a new project that keeps your interest, then you will be so much less focused on your own troubles and shortcomings (discouragement/depression feeds the sin) and you will feel so good about the things you can do for others. 

4. Work hard on your thoughts.

Anyone who has ever been exposed to pornography knows how hard it is to get just one image out of your head, much less images, videos, words, etc… that have been purposely put in your head for months and years. So make sure that you’re watching your mind.  It becomes much easier to avoid temptations when your mind isn’t constantly on those things you’ve seen. So read a book, do a craft, study, sing a song. Avoid getting caught in a cycle of pornographic thoughts.

5. Go through your your phone, and get rid of ALL the temptations.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t even really consider going through and getting rid of the apps…the ones I hadn’t necessarily used to view pornography, but that I knew could have… (Amazon, Etsy, blogging apps, really any shopping apps),  so this has been a recent one for me but an enormous relief. You get rid of so much guilt when you delete an app that, while very convenient to have nearby, is also a temptation for you. So sit down, go through your phone and get rid of anything (apps or internet) that could readily give access to pornography. This will be a huge relief and help. 

1 Corinthians 10:13

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

 

 

Sister to Sister: Prayers for Pago Pago

Monday 5:45 am.

I have finally found my seat on this little jet that will taxi us over to Houston on our first leg of a trip to Pago Pago, American Samoa. They told us to go to the restroom before boarding because the lavatory is inoperable. I mean they told us that just after I purchased and drank half of that large coffee. I was sure I needed that coffee, after having started my day at 3 am. Now, I’m pretty sure I paid five dollars for a cup of misery in the air. After three extra expedition fees, my passport did not arrive. Here’s hoping the copy of my birth certificate works when I try to exit the states in Honolulu. If not, I guess there are worse things than waiting there in Waikiki for my husband to come back from the mission trip in Samoa. 

But really, I am very prayerful that lots of good can be done by the One who is hearing my petitions through the clay vessels that we are. He is good. This church (the Nu’uuli church) has recently experienced a loss of valuable leadership along with facing all of the other obstacles that the devil loves to put in the paths of congregations. I’ve been asked to speak about the role of women in the family. I hope you will pray for Glenn and me, and Abraham and Ruth Soli, our translators and fellow teachers, as we try our best to help immunize this church against false teachings with the powerful spiritual booster that is the Word. We love the Soli family and their patriarch, who passed away last year, is sorely missed by God’s family in Pago Pago. We are so blessed to have a large constituency from this good family at West Huntsville.

By the time we get home from Pago Pago, it will be the tenth flight since last Friday for Glenn and me. We’ve learned to sleep sitting up, to hurry up and wait, to unpack and repack to beat the business pros and that sharing a toothbrush every now and then is the only practical thing to do.  Most of all, we’re extremely blessed to have learned that God’s people, wherever they are, are a welcoming, nurturing family. 

I hope you’ll pray for His blessings on our travel and His work in American Samoa. We’re so thankful for all of those who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to be sure there’s a group of God’s people on this island. They built the fire. We just get to fan the flames a little.

You keep fanning them, too…wherever you are!

Monday 10:45 am… And the post script to the above is…

We all got off the plane so they could fix that lavatory. Somebody had stuffed a large quantity of paper towels into that toilet. Regulations would not allow us to make the flight with an inoperable toilet after all, although the pilot really wanted to take to the skies. The toilet repair delay caused us to miss the Houston connection to Honolulu, which caused us to miss the only flight to Samoa for the next four-and-a-half days. Our mission was aborted, the gospel meeting postponed, all of the people in Pago Pago who had taken off work were displaced. And, now, five hours later, we are back home. All because of a large wad of paper towels in the wrong place. This mission trip, for now at least, literally went right down the drain …with that wad.

Still there’s the Romans 8:28 clause.I believe in that clause today.

“…all things”… (that’s all the ramifications around the wad in the toilet, too)…”work together for good to those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose.” Maybe the reschedule will work a greater weight to His glory than would the work of the present week. Whatever the reason, the result is a repurpose for this week. And there are so many purposes competing for the bonus time.

Sister to Sister: Can We Go to the Playground?

 

I smiled at  a recent conversation between my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson and his mother:

Ezra: “Can we go to the playground today?”

Ezra’s mom: “No…not today, baby.”

Ezra: “Can we go to the playground?” 

Ezra’s mom: “I said ‘Not today,’ Ezra.”

Ezra: “I’m going to give you oooone more chance, Mama. I said ‘Can we go to the playground?’”

Ezra’s mom: “Ezra, Mama and Daddy are the only ones who can say  ‘one more chance’”.

Ezra: “Oh…Well…Can we go to the playground?”

We do this sometimes with God. We wish for things and sometimes we even ask for things that we know are against His expressed will. He has already told us we cannot go to that playground, but we keep insisting that going there is what we desire, as if we are not listening to him at all. Sometimes we ask for material things, knowing all along that we already are much too obsessed with riches. We ask for promotions to other cities, not minding the fact that there are no faithful churches or Christian encouragers there. We ask for success on the corporate ladder without ever giving a thought to the stairway to heaven. This can also be described as the Balaam syndrome. (Read Numbers 22-24). 

Then we give God “another chance” sometimes. We act as if we are in control. We build our own little towers of Babel (Genesis 11) and begin to actually think we can make our own rules of philosophy and morality. We discount His absolute truth in favor of our relativism. We dismiss His power and talk about how we can save the planet. We even decide we can define things like life’s beginning point and marriage and even gender. We just kind of tell God that we’ll give Him another chance to get it right. 

James said it this way: 

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).

All of our misguided ambitions and repeated pleas for things outside His will make  us His enemies and, ultimately separate us from Him eternally.

James also gives us the direct route to true success. It’s friendship with God. It’s spelled out in verses six through ten of the same chapter:

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.


 

 

 

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Finally! The Exciting Conclusion)


Five Important Take-Aways

1. Forced to choose between culture and Christianity, I must choose Christianity every.single.time. Further, there’s evil woven into every culture and I must distance myself from that evil.

2. Fighting the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) has nothing to do with a battle about social injustices.   It has everything to do with standing for spiritual truth; for Jesus Christ. That was the essence of the statement when the persecuted apostle penned it. It is still its essence. 

3. Faithful Christians referencing “my people” will always be speaking of Christians, not people who have the same pigmentation. “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

4. I must reject the idea that, in the church, broad reparations can be made. A person can only repent and repair violations that he/she has personally has committed. It is Biblically impossible to repent of sins committed by someone else. If the “someone else” is dead, then preaching repentance of his sins is, at least, useless, and, at most, divisive. If we extrapolate past sins, placing them on the church today, we may be stimulating the very division we profess to reject. We should be willing to look around at the vast majority of our congregations and admit that the word “racist” is not applicable to most congregations today.

5. Finally, and most importantly, I must acknowledge and rejoice in the fact that we already have the true answer to problems involving race relations. It is the cross and the church that was purchased at Calvary. Faithful members of that body have always been colorblind.  We protect, love, and offer solace to one another (Eph. 5:21). You can surely find individuals among us who persist in wrong attitudes and actions on many subjects,  but I am convinced that the  New Testament church is the one body in which the challenge has been sufficiently met by our Savior. I must not project this cultural fight into God’s body.  The church described in the New Testament is not part of the problem.  It is the solution to the problem.

May He bless us as we love and encourage each other. 

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 16)

Approaching the end of what has become a lengthy series, I want to draw several conclusions to summarize: 

First, Racism is a very temporary problem. Our thinking on the subject should always be tempered by that fact that racism, or having our faith with respect of persons (James 2:9),  is sin and it will not exist in heaven. 

Secondly, we should never forget that Jesus wants unity that’s based on truth for His people. That was the subject of His dying prayer in John 17. But that unity cannot be a reality if white Christians devalue or are prejudiced against people of a different skin color. It cannot happen if Christians of color extrapolate misdeeds and mistreatment from American history and assign those misdeeds to their brothers and sisters today. 

My husband and I travel around the U.S. visiting many congregations each year. We do not see assemblies or fellowship times or relationships that are tainted by racism in our travels. We do see the opposite of racism regularly. We see Christians of all colors eating together, hugging one another, helping one another, serving side by side as elders and teachers together, and listening to pulpits that are sometimes filled by white brethren and other times filled by brown brethren. In our home congregation, we have regular singings with two other churches. Two of the churches involved are mostly white, with minorities of African Americans, Mexican, El Salvadorian and Samoan people. The third church is mostly African American. I think many folks at all three of these churches would tell you that our times together for these services are some of their favorite worship times. I believe our elders would love to merge with either of these churches if their leaderships were so inclined. I do not believe there is any correction that needs to be made by the elders in these churches with regard to racism. 

The unity for which our Lord prayed cannot be a reality today if reparations are required by any constituency in the body. This is true because Christians cannot repent of sins committed by others. Further, one Christian cannot apologize for the whole church, even if the entire body had been guilty of a sin. 

When I think of reparations, I think about Paul. He had done some awful things to Christians prior to Acts 9. Notice the reaction of Barnabas when Paul became a godly man. 

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:26-27).

Paul could not “undo” or materially pay for his past crimes against Christians. All he could do is what all of us can do: apply the Golden Rule to all people and go forth with the gospel to save as many men and women as possible. 

Thirdly, Galatians 3:26-27 does teach us to be colorblind. We set aside all ethnic and cultural differences, realizing that God has made us all of one blood. We see only souls.

If we allow any militant fight in defense of any culture or ethnicity to invade the church, it will be met with confusion and, ultimately division.