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(The following is a published letter-to-the-editor of the Iowa Falls Times Citizen, 1-27-21)

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation,” said Benjamin Franklin, “must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

Franklin also said, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.”

With freedom of speech comes the freedom to disagree. This is foundational to a thriving republic.

A bright light shines for all when one person can speak thoughts and ideas in the public square (through a letter-to-the-editor or social media) and another person can exercise the right to kindly disagree.

It is good to have freedom of thought and speech in religion, but also science and history.

Two scientific thoughts may oppose one another; nevertheless, it is good to allow both thoughts to be heard and debated. For example, when discussing Covid-19 masking, lockdowns, and treatment, American citizens should be able to hear the scientific conclusions of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), but also the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and America’s Frontline Doctors.

Two perspectives of history may oppose one another; nevertheless, it is good to allow both to be heard and debated. American history is replete with mistakes, contradictions, and wrongs because we are people affected by our sinful nature. I am appalled by certain events in American history. But because they really happened, I believe we ought to know about them, learn from them, and be free to agree or disagree with them.

If you are a fan of The Waltons you might remember the episode when John Boy took a stand against the neighborhood “book burning” of Mein Kampf. He did not support Hitler’s way of thinking, but he did support freedom of thought and speech. Perhaps Jon Boy believed, like I do, that by knowing history we can learn how not to repeat atrocities of the past.

The American way—guaranteed by The Constitution and Bill of Rights—is freedom of thought, reasonable expression, and neighborly debate. People have fled the “thought police” of communist countries to become U.S. citizens who enjoy freedom of speech.

It is my prayer that we will desire free speech, welcome debate between those who agree or disagree, and preserve such liberty for our children and grandchildren.

Linda Bartlett

Why do we cry “foul” when girls’ sports are invaded by boys “transitioned” as girls?

Who cried “foul” when boys’ sports were invaded by girls? Wrestling. Football. And female reporters in male locker rooms.

Feminists called it “equality.” And “equal,” they said, means “being the same.” Interchangeable. But this is not true. Male and female are equal, but they are not the same. Every cell in a boy is male. Every cell in a girl is female. Never mind the science, cried feminists. This is about rights! Women must compete on an equal playing field with men in the workplace, the Navy Seals, and reproductively.

Now we cry “foul” when girls’ sports are invaded by boys who want to believe they are girls. Sports may be almighty important, but this tragedy is not about sports.

The tragedy is that more has been done to feminize boys and masculinize girls than to help them understand and value what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl. The tragedy is children in—or barely out of—puberty injected with hormones or put under the knife. This happens, reports the American College of Pediatricians, even though “… as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.”

The tragedy is irreversibly changing a person’s body to match their feelings rather than helping them change their feelings to match their biological body. The body is not irrelevant. Sex is not “assigned” at birth. When a baby is born, the doctor does not wonder, “Hmm, what sex shall we put on the birth certificate?”

The tragedy is not girls being elbowed out of winning competitions. The tragedy is a world where children have the right to decide not just whether they are boy or girl, but who they are physically attracted to, emotionally attracted to, or if they are “free-floating.”

Even after hormones or surgery a boy’s body will always be male. A girl’s body will always be female. Cardiologist Paula Johnson explains, “Every cell has a sex–and what that means is that men and women are different down to the cellular and molecular level. It means that we’re different across all of our organs, from our brains to our hearts, our lungs, our joints.” Nancy Pearcey continues, “In other words, no matter what your gender philosophy, when you are ill and the doctors put you on the operating table, they still need to know your original biological sex in order to give you the best possible health care.” (Love Thy Body by Nancy R. Pearcey)

My concern, as a Christian, is for children whose greatest need is to be reconciled with their Creator. God created male and female not to be the same but with distinctively different bodies and purpose. The physical body is not insignificant. Jesus had a physical male body on earth. He was bodily resurrected. He bodily ascended to heaven. And so it will be for those who believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. Just as we are here on earth, we will be body, mind, and soul in heaven.

To help resist the foul-play of transgenderism, boys and girls need parents and other adults to help them know 1) what it means to be male and female, and 2) how to embrace their biological sex.

Adults can begin by reading Love Thy Body by Nancy R. Pearcey; Gender, Lies and Suicide by Walt Heyer; Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier; God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew T. Walker; and When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement by Ryan T. Anderson. Or, visit the website of the American College of Pediatricians and read the articles by Michelle Cretella, M.D. 

Linda Bartlett, 1-31-21

Your 18th Year

My oldest grandson turned 18 this month. This is a sobering rite of passage (especially in an election year). Such a birthday deserves a special letter from grandma. In writing that letter, I shared some personal thoughts just between grandma and grandson, but also similarities between his 18th year and mine. Here is the historical portion of my letter:

Dear Grandson,

At 18, I was excited about the life that stretched out ahead of me. I remember riding in the car with a friend of mine. When the radio blasted out the song “I’m 18 and I Like It,” he cranked up the volume and sang along. Me? Not so much. I sensed this was a transitional time for me. I was looking beyond 18… to adulthood.

In chorus, we sang “The Age of Aquarius.” When the “moon is in the Seventh House,” did we really think we would experience:

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation…

A lot of troublesome ideologies and theories were floating around during my eighteenth year. Evolution was taught, but my biology and science teachers didn’t chastise me for believing in creation. One of my classmates was living with her boyfriend. None of my friends’ parents were divorced. Most everyone went to church. However, in looking back, I recognize that secular humanism in the form of sex education, “social justice,” and “liberation theology” were making their way into church bodies.

I turned 18 the November after Woodstock (August 1969). I remember thinking: What an odd thing to do. Sleep in the rain on a muddy field while smoking weed and getting high. All over the country there was a sense of “being different than our parents.” In 1967, the song explained:

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re going to meet some gentle people there.
… All across the nation,
Such a strange vibration,
People in motion,
There’s a whole generation
With a new explanation.

When a few high school and mostly college-age people went to San Francisco with “flowers in [their] hair” they lived as “hippies” in “tent city” communes. Drug use was common. “Make love, not war” was graffitied everywhere.  Some may have thought they were creating a utopia. To me, it seemed lonely, dangerous, and hopeless. The full court press against institutions of family, church, and government had been set in motion. Too many in my age group seemed to want to “do whatever feels right to me.” By January of 1973, “free love” led to Roe vs. Wade. I admit to not knowing much about abortion during my 18th year. Ten percent of my graduating class was pregnant. All five girls gave birth to their babies and all married. Later, I would learn of at least two area college girls who went to New York for abortions prior to 1973.

In my 18th year, Black Lives Matter.inc did not exist, but the Weather Underground did. Originally called the Weatherman, this militant group of young, white Americans formed under the leadership of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn in 1969 on the University of Michigan campus. The organization grew out of the anti-Vietnam movement and evolved from the Third World Marxists, a faction within Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They represented the “New Left” that was active on college campuses during my junior and senior years. The confessed ideology of this group was a mix of Communism and Black Power. Their cause was to advance Communism through violent revolution and use of street fighting. They called on people my age to create a “rearguard” action against the U.S. government that would weaken and collapse the country.

Christianity stood in the way of Communism. This is true because Christians have hope. It is difficult to beat down someone who has hope and can find meaning even in suffering. It is difficult to divide people who see one another as members of one human race. For this reason–between my 18th year and yours, my grandson–Communists with their anti-God ideology worked tirelessly to infiltrate churches and compromise Christians by way of sexual and gender identity, same-sex “marriage,” transgenderism, social justice, and critical race theory. In part, I wrote The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity because I was beginning to see how many of the Communist goals for the U.S. had already been accomplished.

Communism sobered me up in my 18th year. But I only saw the consequences of its aggression in countries far away. Constantly in the news during my senior year was the war to prevent South Vietnam from being completely taken over by Communist North Vietnam. At that time, we weren’t told what to think 24/7 by “talking heads” on TV. Instead, we received “news” from on-location reporters who photographed and reported what they saw rather than offer their opinion for debate.

The Kent State riots started on May 1 just before my graduation in 1970 when a mix of bikers, students, and out-of-town young people assaulted police with beer bottles and engaged in criminal behavior. On May 2, the campus ROTC building was set on fire by arsonists. Protesters surrounded the building, cut a fire hose, and assaulted fire fighters with rocks and other objects. City officials and downtown businesses were threatened. I remember it well. A National Guardsman and four students were killed. It was a bit frightening yet seemed far away. Today the riots in Seattle, Portland, L.A., Minneapolis, Kenosha, Washington D.C., and NYC don’t seem very far away at all.

Many of the songs during my 18th year reflected the restless culture. There was “Woodstock,” “War,” and “I Want to Take You Higher.” Strangely, during our senior year your Grandpa and I went to a Sly and the Family Stone concert at Iowa State University. Neither of us liked the band but, hey! It was a great excuse for high school seniors to mix with university students.  Truth be told, the concert was a bust. Sly and the Family Stone did not show up because they were stoned!

In the fall of my 18th year, I was a student at our local community college. There was only a hint of rebellion and unrest. Mostly just talk. Curiosity. And stories told of soldiers going to and returning from a sadly politicized war. I sat next to a student in chemistry lecture who had just returned from Vietnam. He was very quiet. Very private. (Good looking, too!) I tried talking to him. But he responded with few words. I can only guess what images were etched in his mind. Later, it was important for me to stand at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. Seeing the names of soldiers who gave their lives left an impression on me. I could never understand why Hollywood types like Jane Fonda could aid and abet the enemy and, therefore, betray the American boys, husbands, and fathers who sacrificed to press against Communism.

In my advanced writing class, I took on a big project. I wrote a lengthy story about the terrors of war from the perspective of a wounded warrior who was left a quadriplegic. It was a strange story for a girl to write. But I was a strange girl. I started reading books about the Holocaust and Nazi War Crimes in 8th or 9th grade. I believe that such reading prepared me for the pro-life work that I would one day be involved with. Perhaps I wanted to be more familiar with the past so that I could better recognize “good” and “evil” in the present. Like you, my grandson, I was trying to pay attention to what was going on in the world. I wanted to enjoy life, friends, and activities. I wanted to be involved in meaningful ways. I wanted to make a difference. But I did not want to compromise my faith. I won’t lie. There were a lot of temptations. Today I have to believe that the Lord of my life kept me from some dangerous choices and close calls.

A part of my 18-year-old person wanted to be in the city where “things were happening.” I assumed I would be moving on from the community college to a university. Eventually, I envisioned living in Minneapolis where I would be an interior designer. Well, that was one possibility. But I was also starting to be interested in theology. What a mix! An interior designing theologian. Ha!

Upon reflection, my grandson, I see so many similarities between my 18th year and yours. At 18, one is poised on the brink of adventure. There is excitement. But there is also some anxiety. We do better with both when we know who we are.

God gave you His name and His Spirit at your Baptism. Through water and Word, you became a son and heir of God because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. You are a character in God’s Story. No matter what is happening in the culture around you, remembering who you are to God will help you know how to think, speak, and act.

How do I know that? Because between my 18th year and now, God has been merciful and patient with me. He has taught me much about who I am and why I am here. There have been good days and bad. Successes and failures. Through it all, I didn’t hold on to Him nearly as tightly as He held on to me. I wonder. Do you think it might be that He had me experience the roller-coaster of 18-plus years so that I could be a better grandma to you?

We Are Regarded by God

Martin Luther writes:

Mary confesses that the foremost work God did for her was that He regarded her, which is indeed the greatest of His works, on which all the rest depend and from which they all derive. For where it comes to pass that God turns His face toward one to regard him, there is nothing but grace and salvation, and all gifts and works must follow.

[We pray] that God would lift up His countenance upon us, that He would not hide His countenance from us, that He would make His face shine upon us, and the like. And that Mary herself regards this as the chief thing, she indicates by saying:

Behold, since He has regarded me, all generations will call me blessed.

Note that she does not say men will speak all manner of good of her, praise her virtues, exalt her virginity or her humility, or sing of what she has done. But for this one thing alone, that God regarded her, men will call her blessed.*

There is comfort in the Word of God:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord life up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

 

* Quoted in Treasury of Daily Prayer,
624-626

 

The Land of Covid

John Bunyan described Christian as a pilgrim progressing on an earthly journey. Christian travels over hills of difficulty and through dark valleys. He meets Despair and Doubting, but also Faithful and Hopeful. At one point on the journey,

Hopeful began to get very sleepy. Christian, shaking his friend’s arm, exclaimed, “Remember, the shepherds warned us about the Enchanted Ground. We must stay alert!”

“What would have happened to me if I’d been by myself?” Hopeful wondered. “I’m thankful you are here with me!”

Christian said, “To keep us from falling asleep, let’s talk….”*

Today, we might say that Christian is traveling through the Land of Covid. It is unfamiliar to him and like no place he has ever been. The River of Fear flows along the trail. Some travelers have already slipped into the River. Others have set camp near the River.

A voice calls to Christian. “Come camp with us. There is no need for talk here. Close your eyes for a while. We will keep you safe.” The invitation is tempting, but Christian is bold to ask, “What does this mean?

Stepping away from the camp, Christian scouts the area. His reason and all his senses are alert. He looks right, then left, then ahead. There, Christian sees other travelers walking away from the River. Moving closer, Christian hears them talking and telling stories of where they have been and what they have seen.

Christian looks back toward the camp where he was invited to close his eyes and feel safe. Then he looks to the talkers moving on the trail. Christian is deceived neither by the campers nor the talkers. He knows the Savior of his life and trusts the guidance of Wisdom.

In Wisdom, Christian walks.

To keep from falling asleep, Christian talks. In humility, he asks questions. With discretion, he listens. The way does not become easier.

But in Wisdom, Christian walks.

 

L. Bartlett, 5-7-20

*From Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s Classic Story Adapted for Children,
Great Commission Publications.

Road Trip

 

A road trip might not seem wise right now. But one was necessary if my husband and I were to return to the fields of Iowa from the desert and mountains of Arizona. We socially-distanced at motels, picked up food for our room, and sanitized before and after fueling the car.

One morning we knew we could go no further until an unscheduled stop was made. We pulled off the interstate and into the small town where a dear, widowed friend lives. I called her. “Rubie, if you stand at your front door, we’ll come visit you!” And that we did. No, it wasn’t the same as giving her a hug, or sitting next to her on the sofa, but for a few minutes we were able to let her know that she matters to us. We sat curbside in our car and she stood on her porch. We exchanged news, shared a laugh or two, and told her we love her without placing her at risk. Pulling away, I’m quite sure I saw her wipe away a tear.

It is all quite surreal. Gazing out the car window at the beauty of Utah and Colorado, we could see that nothing had changed. It is still possible to love our neighbor. It is still possible because God first loved us. He loves us through His Son, our Savior and Lord Jesus. He loves us by holding His world together and sustaining it. He sends rain and then the sun. He sprouts leaves from bare and seemingly dead trees.

The Lord has not turned His face from us. He is asking us to turn our face toward Him.

 

A pregnant woman is not autonomous.

Her pregnancy is not “a cancer.”

And the placenta knows it!

When serving as president of National Lutherans For Life, I had long discussions with my Ob/Gyn friend, Karen Rehder, M.D. I’ve never forgotten what Karen told me: “Birth is a miracle. Were it not for the placenta, the mother would reject the baby as something foreign to her body just like a transplant patient rejects a liver or kidney.”

Two separate entities—baby and mother—are attached by umbilical cord and placenta. The placenta tells us that a pregnant woman is not autonomous.

The placenta “is the only organ made in cooperation by two people,” explains Dr. Kristin Collier. It is “the organ through which the baby and mother interface.” Dr. Collier is Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and practices general Internal Medicine. She also serves as Director of the U of Michigan’s Medical School program on Health, Spirituality, and Religion.

The placenta, “made from the growing baby’s tissue and the mother’s tissue together . . . is known as a ‘feto-maternal’ organ . . . [that] helps provide nutrition, produces hormones, and protects the baby against infection.” This “purposely transient organ” acts like “a lung, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, and the endocrine and immune system.”

The placenta is so important that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. has a research arm called the Human Placenta Project. A “healthy placenta is not only crucial for healthy development of the prenatal child, but also affects the health of the child and mother for years to come.”

There is “a unique transfer of cellular materials that happens across the placenta. In science, microchimerism refers to the presence of a small population of genetically distinct and separately derived cells within an individual. In pregnancy, small amounts of cells travel across the placenta. Some of these cells are the prenatal child’s cells that travel from the baby into her mother, and some cells also pass from the mother into her child. The cells from the prenatal child into her mother are pluripotent, which means they haven’t yet differentiated into the type of cell specific for one organ or tissue in particular. These cells find their way into mother’s tissue and start acting like the tissue in which they find themselves. This process is known as feto-maternal microchimerism.”

Scientifically, we can say that mother is helped by her unborn baby. “For example, these [fetal] cells have been found in Caesarean sections incisions helping to make collagen to help mom heal after a surgical delivery. These cells have been found in the maternal breast and have been hypothesized to help reduce mom’s risk of breast cancer in her later years.”

The “gift of these cells from the baby, entering into mom’s body and helping her heal and protecting her from cancer, is amazing to think of and really challenges our ideas of people as autonomous beings.” Just as amazing is the fact that “these cells that enter the mother are allowed to survive and are not attacked by the mother’s immune system, even though they are somewhat ‘foreign.’ This again speaks to a cooperation, at the cellular level, between mother and child.”

This science sheds new light on the abortion debate. “Every dehumanizing ideology succumbs to the same temptation—to see the undesirable other as a non-person. In the abortion debate, as in similar debates around marginalized vulnerable populations, language is used when describing the undesirable other that is dehumanizing. In the abortion debate, the prenatal child is referred to as a ‘clump of cells’ or even a ‘parasite.’” We must “resist appeals to individual autonomy that detach us from our duty to aid others, and resist language, practices, and social structures that detach us from the full reality and dignity of . . . marginalized [persons]. A radical view of autonomy that leads to the end of another human life is one that is anti-life and oppresses the rights of another in the name of ‘freedom.’”

Dr. Collier admits that she is not a theologian, but she encourages us to think of biology “in a relational sense that mirrors the nature of God. The scriptures speak of a God who is in relationship with his people. We then would only expect that God, being the author of biology, would create our bodily nature in a way that was also relational—even down to the level of the cell.” Dr. Collier draws our attention to the “cells from the incarnate word of God, Jesus Christ, in his mother, the Virgin Mary [who] not only carried the Son of God in her body when he was in her womb, but . . . likely carried his cells in her body throughout her life . . .”

It is a loss to the human family when we pervert the language of conception and pregnancy. May we instead share God’s hope for mother and child revealed through the miracle of the placenta. A baby in the womb is not “a cancer”—and the placenta knows it!

 

by Linda Bartlett 2-16-20
(Source: “Together, baby; forever, baby,”
an interview by Carolyn Moynihan with Dr. Kristin Collier
in MercatorNet.com, 2-5-20)

Sacrificial Blood

“Abortion is the sacrifice I made for myself.” That is the way that some women describe the most difficult decision of their life.

But God does not ask for such sacrifice. He does not ask for the blood of an unborn son or daughter. He asks that we turn our eyes to the cross where the sacrificial blood of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ has covered every fear, doubt, and repentant sin.

January 22 of 2020 marked 47 years of legalized abortion in the United States. The reasons for abortion are most often fear-based. “I fear for my future.” “I fear losing my boyfriend.” “I fear the disappointment of my parents.” “I fear inconvenience.” “I fear the unknown.”

Since 1973, Americans have offered the blood sacrifice of 61,628,584 unborn children. That is 2,362 abortions daily and 98 abortions per hour every hour in the U.S. Our nation cannot sacrifice the lives of sons, daughters, cousins, grandchildren, and neighbors and be better for it. There is no hope in the blood shed by abortion.

But there is hope in the saving blood of Jesus Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7). Forgiveness for abortion—and any other sin—is costly. But it is a cost that Jesus was willing to pay. Why? Because nothing else would save us.

King David’s bones were wasting away under the weight of his sin. The blood of another human being was on his hands and for as long as he refused to confess his guilt he suffered. Day and night, God’s hand was heavy upon him. His “strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” But then David acknowledged his sin. He said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’” and he was forgiven. (Psalm 32:3-5).

“Yes!” says the woman who’s had an abortion “I believe that even a murderer like David can be forgiven. But how can God possibly forgive me, a mother who has killed her own child?”

To believe that abortion is “the unforgiveable sin” is to believe the lie of Satan. It is to sit in the darkness of doubt and despair, held captive by “the thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

The blood of abortion may stain the hands of a mother, father, or grandparent, but the blood of Jesus makes us white like snow. (Isaiah 1:18) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

God has compassion on “a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). Jesus sets the sorry heart free! Jesus says, “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

Linda Bartlett
Titus 2 for Life

I’m Not a Hater

There are dozens of different genders. (If I disagree, I’m a hater.) Women must allow men to use their locker rooms, bathrooms, and showers. (If I disagree, I’m a bigot.) Marriage can be between two men or two women. (If I disagree, I’m a hater.) It’s ok for a child to have two mommies or two daddies. (If I disagree, I’m a bigot.) Abortion should be legal up to the moment of birth. (If I disagree, I hate women.)

BUT… I don’t hate women. A great deal of my life has been spent listening to women who’ve had abortions explain their grief, regret, and hope that younger women will not choose to do what they did. With concern for mother and child (and in spite of my own inadequacies), I try to defend both.

I am not a hater or a bigot. I respect my fellow human beings. Even when someone chooses to live differently from me, I do not turn my back on them. Their personhood–body and soul–matters to me. If they want me as their friend, I will strive to be an honest and persevering friend on good days and bad. As a Christian, I simply believe that God the Creator of male, female, and marriage gets to define male, female, and marriage. I trust that He knows better than me how His creation and design benefits every generation for the good of society.

In this period of time described in Romans 1, I realize that some will call me a hater, a bigot, small-minded, deplorable, judgmental, and even dangerous. But, in the end, it matters most what Jesus Christ has done for me and, therefore, why I need to draw closer to Him rather than to the world. God help me.

L. Bartlett

Peace at the end of my day does not come in being a wife. It does not come in being a mom.

It comes in being a daughter.

There is peace in knowing that I have an inheritance that is imperishable and kept for me by my Father in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). There is nothing I do to earn that inheritance. It is a gift. I must wait to receive its full richness, but even now the Lord reveals a bit of that gift in His forgiveness and mercies that are poured out every morning.

My identity as the Father’s daughter affects my character. Remembering who I am affects my words, behaviors, and self-restraint. If God has mercy on me, shouldn’t I also have mercy on others? Every day is really an opportunity to act more like His forgiven daughter.

Every day, however, comes with temptations. One of them is to confuse my identity with being a “wife” or a “mother” or a “grandmother.” Those are vocations. Vocations are awesome callings and privileges, but they are for this life only. My identity is for this life and the next. I won’t be a wife and mother and grandmother forever because Jesus says there is no marriage in heaven. Individual family units will no longer exist and, instead, there will be one visible family of God. My place in His family will be then as it is now… only perfect in body and soul. No longer will I disappoint my Father, nor will I frustrate my brothers in Christ.

A vocation is what God calls me to do on this earth and in ways that honor Him. I can be a better child to my parents, wife to my husband, mother to my children, sister, aunt, and friend when I act like His forgiven daughter.

A vocation is a way for me to love God by serving my neighbor. I sin in my vocations, but that doesn’t change my identity. I can feel like a failure in my vocation, but that doesn’t change my identity.

No one can alter my identity. Nothing will cause the Father to stop calling me His daughter. My sinful choices and selfish behavior do not make me less God’s child, but they can change my attitude toward Him. Being unrepentant of my sins dangerously leads me to becoming my own little god. To prevent that, God the Father stirs my conscience and uses emotions of shame and guilt to rescue me from myself.

It is in humbling moments of rescue that the eyes of God’s children are turned to the Cross of Christ. His sacrificial outpouring of mercy is a love the world can’t understand. It is the kind of love that my neighbors need.

My children are my neighbors. The father of my children and grandfather of my grandchildren is my neighbor. In a world bent by sin—in a world that tells me to think of myself first, the neighbors I love most can be the most challenging and painful to love.

At the end of the day, there is peace. There is peace because my identity does something else. It helps me endure and live through the circumstances and consequences of a sinful, messed up life.

The circumstances of life—age, abilities, health, successes or failures—are always changing. Vocations change. But the identity given to me by God never changes. It cannot change. I will always be God’s daughter.

And that’s the reason why Satan hates me. It’s why he prowls around stirring things up. He does to me what he did to Eve. He deceived her into forgetting who she was. And then he tempted her to doubt God, fear vulnerability and desire control. Satan wants me to stop acting like I am God’s child so that I can’t show children and grandchildren how to act like His child.

The battle isn’t me against my neighbor. It’s me against the devil and this world. It’s me against my own fearful and selfish nature. In this spiritual war against evil, it’s me united with my closest neighbor—my husband—for the sake of generations.

When Satan targets me, he is really attacking my Lord. When he targets my marriage and children, he is attacking what the Lord has made. When he targets my home, he is attacking the place where my Lord has promised to dwell. Satan attacks the Lord by targeting His children.

Satan wants me to forget my identity so that my words, attitudes and behaviors cause division between me, my neighbor, and God.

The whole “love your neighbor” thing takes on a deeper meaning for the Christian when we remember that Jesus lives in us. So, what I do to my neighbor, I do to Him. Saul hurt his neighbors. He stoned Stephen. When he was blinded on the road, Jesus asked, “Saul, why do you persecute Me?”

Oh. My. Goodness. How many times have I wounded the Lord who gave His life for me? The number should burden me to such despair that I no longer want to live. But wait! God doesn’t measure or judge me by my failures and sins. When He looks at His daughter, He sees Christ in me and as my Father opens His arms to me.

God doesn’t love me because I’m loveable. He doesn’t love me because I make Him happy. He loves me because I am incomplete and lost without Him. He chooses to be merciful and forgiving even when I’ve betrayed Him. He pursues me with His Spirit.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16). Jesus suffered on this earth. I can expect suffering in my vocations and relationships, too. But at the end of the day there is peace in crying, “Abba Father.” And…

He answers, saying, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27a).

   Linda Bartlett
10-30-19