Monday, June 1, 2009

Seeking Him Together - U-Turns Permitted

and quite often encouraged, dare I even say recommended... no let's go one step further and really lay it out there, commanded.

"I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols. Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!'" Ezekiel 14:5-6

That’s right commanded, the Lord calls us to repent from our sins and I can think of no better word picture for the process than making a U-Turn off a road you’ve found yourself on.

I think back to about a year ago when we were celebrating the end of school last year. It was a big year for Jake with it being the end of junior high, and a bittersweet year as it was also the end of the school as a whole. There was a bit of a corporate attitude among teachers, students and parents to have the year end in a bit of a blaze of glory, and there was a lot of parties and celebrating going on the last couple weeks of school. There was one particular day when all the junior high kids (a whopping 20 kids total - there were only 8 in Jake’s graduating class, hence the demise of the school) were all headed over to one of the girl’s houses for a swim party.

She lives up in the higher hill area of the city of Orange. There are lots of narrow winding roads, and the higher you traveled, the more they wound around and the more narrow they become. The directions were a little confusing, and I was in an area I wasn’t really familiar with, and I ended up getting on a road that I didn’t belong. The boys I was carpooling over to the event were laughing and joking in the back seat as I found myself getting more lost and confused. In case you don’t know, 14-year-old boys don’t make very good navigators or co-pilots. I went against my better judgment and continued on even though I really didn’t think I was where I was supposed to be.

Along the way I passed lots of wider places in the road, places I could have made a U-Turn more easily, but the further I went along, the harder they were to spot. Finally when there was no doubt in my mind I was not where I needed to be I found myself quite literally between a rock and a hard place. At the top of the road was a massive wall of dirt on one side, and a sharp cliff off to the other. In front of me I found nothing but a sign that said “Dead End.” The irony wasn’t lost on the boys either as they realized we were lost. The road had been very winding to this place, and I couldn’t just back out of the position I had put us all in, I had to figure out how to turn the car around.

Obviously I did get the car turned out of the space I found myself in but it was not a simple or easy U-Turn by any stretch of the imagination. I quite literally had to inch forward and back just a foot at a time until I finally got that car turned all the way around. It was frightening. Want to see 4 junior high boys squeal like little girls? Drive them up along side the edge of a cliff.

I cannot help but wonder why we don’t have that same sense of panic and urgency when we find ourselves on the path of sinful choices. Just like this ride up the hills in Orange, the sooner we turn back both the better and the easier of the process. Not only that but the security comes from not having strayed so far from where we belong, and yet so often it is in our nature to take the road headed straight for the Dead End.

I’ve been thinking the last few days about the sin in my own life. This weekend my pastor spoke about God using His people in their weaknesses. He talked about “shortcomings” and how God can use us despite them or even through them. It has also given me pause to consider the difference between a shortcoming and a sin, because for me personally, the two are very tightly intertwined.

I was thinking this morning about this really great pair of old shoes that I have. I really like them, they’re comfortable, and in their “clog” style they hit the best of both worlds, they cover my toes and give my feet the sense of a little freedom. The problem with these shoes is they are breaking down. Both of then have this huge crack right at the ball of the foot, but if you don’t look at them from the bottom, it’s hard to notice. The other problem with these shoes is they don’t smell very good. If you get close enough you might even stay they stink. But my nose and my toes are far enough apart that doesn’t really cause an issue for me when I have them on.

So my shortcoming you ask? I am what one might describe as short tempered…. hot-tempered…. take your pick. I have really been thinking long and hard on this one… is it a shortcoming or a sin? And I really do feel safe in calling it at it’s core a shortcoming, a character flaw. The problem is that the sin rushes in so quickly behind it that you never get the opportunity to separate the two.

The first verse I ever memorized as a believer is Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth but only that which is able to build up and encourage.” Yeah, I’m still working that out. I do have the verse committed to memory but 17 years later I am still missing the mark in my life (missing the mark = sin).

The core of my temper has a couple of redeeming qualities, a lot of it comes out of a clear sense of “right and wrong” which is a good thing. It is also birthed out of a passionate personality, which when properly directed is actually a blessing (well, sometimes) but when it’s not properly channeled, it’s a mess.

So here comes the shoe metaphor. I am so used to my shortcoming and not doing a better job at surrendering it to the Lord (which would qualify as sin itself) that I learn to “live with” the sin despite it’s foundational cracks and serious stench. That is trouble in the making.

Repentance means turning off the road as soon as you realize you are not where you belong. It means having the wisdom to turn back at the first signal something is awry. It means not continuing on the path till peril alone leads you back to where you belong. It also means you have to choose not to keep wearing the sin because it is comfortable or familiar. There needs to be more concern about the strength of the shoe than the facades of appearances.

On to this weeks questions being hosted by Miss Amber at His Girl.

What is repentance and why is it so crucial in the process of both personal and corporate revival? Revival by definition is bringing back to life. It's taking something that is dying or dead, and renewing strength and vitality. You've heard the old saying, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." The same principle applies here, you have to make a turn and do something different in order to expect a new result. For revival to come there has to be a change in the behavior that has led to the loss of vitality, passion, inspiration... whatever has been, dulled, numbed or grown cold, can only experience revival by a sudden turn and change - like a shock to an erratic heartbeat.

When God brings conviction of sin to the hear of one of His children, what does it tell us about Him? The call to repentance is a huge glaring shout out of “I love you” from the Lord. He’s crying out to you saying “please, don’t separate yourself from Me, don’t send yourself on a way that leads to destruction. I love you and want better for you, I want the best for you, and the best is to follow Me.”

When is the best time to respond to God’s conviction and His call to repentance? Why? Clearly the answer to this question is quite simply, the sooner the better. Very much like my ride up in the hills, the sooner we choose to turn back, the easier it will be and the less dangerous the consequences will be. Think of the road of sin, it is wide and inviting at its start, calling out to you even, but the further you travel down it the more narrow and binding it becomes, it’s less about you controlling the road, and all about you being at the road’s mercy. As soon as you see God’s first warning sign along side the road, the moment He first quickens your heart, that is the moment to turn back.

Domestic Terrorist

That's the new hot button term being directed towards pro-lifers. Sigh. I have explained here why I am pro-life and further supported it here. And if that doesn't make it clear enough, you can read up on portions of my testimony here. (Remember blog format goes newest to oldest, so go to the bottom/end and work your way back.)

First let me say publicly that brutal slaying of Dr. Tiller over the weekend is completely appalling and by no means a "pro-life" movement in any way, shape or form. Taking this man's life was wrong, and I am sincerely sorry for his family and loved ones, and for the people inside the church who witnessed something so heinous.

But going back to the title of this post, I feel compelled to express my concerns. The National Organization of Women (NOW) is taking this tragedy as opportunity to once again incite people against those of us who believe abortion is wrong. "Pro-lifers are domestic terrorists." People want the Department of Homeland Security to take issue with us and put us on "the list" of terrorist threats, all because we believe killing an unborn baby is wrong.

Now I will grant you that the new determining factor added in to the discussion is militancy. It is only the "militant pro-lifers" who are currently being considered a threat. Causes me to stop and wonder, how exactly do you define "militant." defines militant as follows: 1. vigorously active and aggressive, esp. in support of a cause: militant reformers. 2. engaged in warfare; fighting.

Hmmm.... sort of a vague definition there isn't it? It is certainly one that leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Without a doubt, if this man killed Dr. Tiller because he is an abortion doctor, he would undoubtedly be qualified as militant. Of course to my knowledge, it has yet to be released what this man's personal motivations were. Maybe it wasn't about his practice as a whole at all. Maybe it was because of something personal, perhaps it had to do with a personal aftermath in this man's family based on a single abortion performed, perhaps even one this man actively supported in the process. It is possible, although highly unlikely that we'll ever know if that is in fact the case.

OK, either way though, murder would in all likelihood be considered militant. Of course to my knowledge murder is already considered a capital crime and open to the greatest consequences within a state, is there some reason it needs to be made an act of terrorism? A federal offense? Or could there be some deeper agenda there? I just have to ask.

Ok, militant... I'm making a safe bet that if someone wanted to petition outside of an abortion clinic that would probably be considered militant. The days of actually being able to get between a person and a clinic door are long gone. The Operation Rescue days of sit-ins have passed, the laws have changed, people already face jail time to participate in such activity, and I don't hear much about it going on these days, the penalties have gotten to be severe enough people seem to be willing to play by the rules. But if we need to make even the possibility of it an act of terrorism...

How about those folks who like to stand on street corners and hold up signs of aborted babies? Personally I have a huge issue with that tactic, it actually kind of ticks me off, because here I am someone who believes abortion is wrong, am willing to say so and speak it out. I'm on your side and supporting your cause and you in return are going to go and put those horrible images into the minds of my innocent children riding in my car with me down the street. I don't appreciate it at all. However for those of you who take no issue with abortion, or dare I even say support it, I would challenge you to take a hard healthy look at what you support.

Now I have never chosen to participate in either of the above activities, but I have known wonderful godly people who have. I don't judge them, their choices are between them and the Lord, and I can absolutely understand the passion that drives a person to take such a hard stand. I even know a few who have spent a night or two in jail because of it. I wonder if their names have now landed on some "domestic terrorist" list... I hope the other soccer moms don't find out.

How about the prayer vigils? I have been to a couple of those back in my earliest days. Once I stood outside the home of the doctor who performed my abortion and prayed for him holding a candle. We weren't loud, we didn't carry sings, and I had actually been there for a while before I realized my personal connection. I stood quietly and prayed. I'm not actually sure he ever even knew we were there. Was that an act of terrorism?

I sat on a corner on a Sunday afternoon once too for about 2 hours. I had a sign in front of me that said "abortion takes a life" in plain blue script on a white background. I never said a word, I just sat there and prayed. When women drove by and spit at me, I just sat and prayed. When another woman screamed at me at the top her lungs and swore and cursed at me, I just sat there and said nothing. Was I acting as a terrorist then? Perhaps my silent stance could be considered... dare I say it? Militant?

How about now? Here on my blog, sharing my thoughts, opinions and experiences with you, my stance on abortion, does this make me militant?

If I tell you that abortion stops a beating heart, am I a terrorist?

If I tell you that abortion kills unborn babies and emotionally wounds the women that have them, am I a terrorist?

Oh Diana, don't assume your personal experience to be the common one... did you know that I used to run an internet ministry for women who had abortions? And in a single week, with very limited effort I found over 100 women who were suffering emotionally, spiritually and psychologically from past abortions. Coincidence?

Let me say again I am wholeheartedly appalled at what transpired over this past weekend, absolutely sickened by it, but I also believe I should have every right, and even hold it an obligation to speak out against the murder of Dr. Tiller as well as the murder of innocent unborn children.

Life is inherently valuable and precious. It is created with purpose and is full of potential. In a crisis pregnancy, it is the crisis that should be put to an end and not the pregnancy.

I can only wonder if somewhere now my name is being jotted down on a list.