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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

prison cellThe 28th of October — three days from now — marks the tenth year of incarceration for my young friend Travis.  His life was forever changed when the jury pronounced him “guilty.”  He has no excuses.  Travis knows that he made terrible choices that led to life-threatening drug addiction.

He remembers that day in court when the verdict was read.  His mom reached for him, begging for one last hug but was denied by the U.S. Marshall who cuffed him and dragged him away.  Travis describes himself as a scared little boy in a man’s body unable to grasp the reality of what was happening, yet conscious of frightful images.  Where was he going?  With whom would he be imprisoned?  What would they do to him?  Would he be raped, stabbed or killed?

Travis writes, “I began to plot in my head how to end it all . . . life was not worth living anymore.  I thought of creative ways to use a bed sheet, or perhaps I could pick a fight and hopefully be killed in the process.”  But God was with Travis.  “The comfort I felt when I cried out to Him in one last ditch effort before I ended my life was so amazing.  God really did put His arms around me and lifted me up.”

It would be easy to languish in prison, to let the depression win and the hopelessness take root.  But there, in the most unlikely of places and under the Potter’s own hand, Travis has learned his true identity.  The world calls him a criminal.  A drug-abuser.  A law-breaker.  A bad boy.  A misfit.  But that is not how God identifies him.  God calls Travis His son in Jesus Christ.  A forgiven sinner.  A person of value.  A man with a future of hope.

Travis could remember October 28 as the end of his life.  Instead, he remembers it as the beginning of new life.   Before prison, Travis was captive to the lies.  In prison, he was set free in the Truth.  Before October 28, Travis had forgotten who he was.  On October 28, The Father reminded his child, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

It is in darkness that light shines brightest.  Travis admits to struggling with fear, doubt, sadness, anger, and depression.  But knowing who he is in Christ, Travis also knows he is being transformed.  As a son of God in Christ, Travis has purpose.

You are . . . his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light . . . once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9).

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writing a letterDear Friend,

It was my hope to write much sooner.  I hope this finds you growing in the confidence of our Father’s mercy and love.

Our paths crossed for a time on this earthly journey.  Choices you were making brought suffering to your family and those you care most about.  Those choices forever changed their lives… and yours.  Perhaps the sexual sin that held you captive for too long is part of the reason why I’ve been working on a project.  A very difficult project.  A book that I’d rather not write.  The actual writing began almost two years ago, but the experiences and lessons learned over a period of nearly thirty years laid the foundation.  For now, the working title is The Failure of Christian Sex Education: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity.  I have no idea when the last sentence will be written or, if published, who will want to read it.  But the book begged to be written.

Over fifty years ago, those who promoted the new concept of sex education in both public and parochial schools said it was necessary to decrease unwed pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.  To parents and congregations they said, “Stop teaching so many ‘nos.’  Let us teach your children to say ‘yes’ to the wonders of sex because, after all, children are sexual, too.”  They promised: “Getting everyone comfortable with their sexuality will benefit marriage.”

All that I see proves that too many of us believe the lie that “children are sexual from birth.”  Kinsey built that lie on skewed research and criminal behavior.  He called it science.  Those of the humanist faith were waiting for such “science” to reform the whole of society, one child at a time.  But children are not “sexual” (as Kinsey meant it) from birth.  And we are certainly more than sexual beings, we are spiritual beings.  We will live forever — either with or apart from God.  The Church has forgotten to be distinctively different from the world and, in doing so, failed to encourage children and adults to see themselves as God does.  As baptized persons, we are sons and daughters of God in Christ.  That makes us holy.  Holy means being set aside for noble purpose.  We are not common, but uncommon.  As such, we are useable not just by anyone but by God.  What a difference it makes to see ourselves this way.  Sadly, the world convinces too many of us to identify ourselves as sexual beings and that — from early on — has set the stage for promiscuity, abortion, living together, homosexuality, re-definition of marriage, pedophilia, and a great deal of sin, suffering, and separation from God.  The humanists may claim some victory now, but we know Who has the final Word, don’t we?  Souls are in danger… and for that reason we need to do battle with the sinful world and our own corrupted nature even as we fall at the foot of the Cross — every day — and thank God for his mercies in Christ.

My deepest sense tells me that you know what I mean.  We modern sinners are no different from our first parents.  Eve doubted and thought she could become god of her life.  Adam failed to remember God’s Word and use it to bring order out of the chaos.  Ever since, the enemy of our lives comes to us in our weakest moments, tempting us to doubt God’s strong Word.  We think ourselves wise, but we are foolish.  We think ourselves “good” and, most certainly, we are not.  So, at the end of every day, it is a great privilege and comfort to entrust ourselves to our Savior, poor miserable beings that we are.  In the morning, all things are new and, because of His forgiveness, we can begin all over again.  You know this.  You believed this.  But wrong choices taught you how much sin hurts.  It changes lives.  Covered sin saps our strength.  It shapes us more and more into a common vessel useable by our enemy.

However, there is hope.  There is always hope!  Hope came to us in the Son of God Himself.  Harold L. Senkbeil wrote a revealing book entitled Dying to Live (The Power of Forgiveness).  It explains what the Incarnation — the Word made flesh — means for us.  Simple water, bread, wine and words work in sinful lives to make people over into new creatures.  We can’t go back to Eden.  We live in a dying world.  But God is with us!  Like Moses and Elijah, we cannot look directly at God, but God comes to us in mystery.  Senkbeil calls Jesus (who is God) the “backside” of God.  He is the part of God we can see.  He came in flesh — to teach, to sacrifice, to die — but also to conquer Satan and eternal death.  For me, this is a new way of thinking about Christ.

Consider what this means.  God comes to us in the mystery of water (Baptism), bread and wine (Communion), and His Holy Word.  Wow!  God really has come to you and me… to all who are dying to live 🙂  I think you would like what Harold Senkbeil has to say about the power of forgiveness.  May you know that power in Christ.  May I know that power in Christ.  And may we persevere — with our families and loved ones — on this journey through a strange and unfriendly land to our eternal home.  Can you imagine?  There, at the banquet table, we will be able to rest our eyes on the magnificence of God.  He will no longer have to hide His fullness from us.  We will know His glory in every way.

Your life took a dramatic and traumatic turn.  Sin never improves us but, rather, beats us up.  You have known guilt, regret and great loss of relationships.  Your family, friends and loved ones have also suffered.  But each new day is new opportunity.  The past is what it is.  We are affected by every choice that we make.  Life becomes much more difficult and painful when we fail to use the Word to bring order out of the chaos of life.  But no matter those choices and circumstances — no matter our sins, or lack of health or popularity — our identity never changes when we cling to our baptism.  We are sons and daughters of God in Christ.  Think of what this means!  We really do have hope.  New hope every morning!

May you cling to your baptism even as I will strive to cling to mine.  I am amazed that God continues to carry me.  Forgive me.  Work through me.  It is for this reason that I have grown in a deeper appreciation of the Divine Service.  God doesn’t need my praise, but this empty vessel sure needs to be filled with His Word and Sacrament.  I need to be divinely served by Him in a service distinctively different from the world… and then, in response, I can praise Him in my work, relationships and service to others all week long.  I pray that you know his Divine Service in your life so that, no matter what the days ahead may bring, you will be able to say: I am not common.  I am uncommon in the hands of a mighty God.  I am poor.  I am miserable.  I am unworthy… but I am chosen as a son of God in Christ.

May you know the overwhelming mercy that only God Himself in the humility of Christ can bring to you.  The Cross changes everything for us.  We are no longer captive to sin, but set free to leave old ways behind.  Dear friend, let us both pray for a diminished pride so that we don’t get in the way of the Spirit’s work in us, through us…

… in spite of us.

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parents standing w childrenHere’s something that we all need to hear.  At the 2012 Sydney Writers Festival in Australia, four gay writers on a public panel were asked, “Why get married when you could be happy?”  There was a consensus that gays did not want to be married.  ABC Radio recorded the discussion which you can hear by going to Mercatornet and their Conjugality page.

Here is an excerpt from Masha Gessen, a Russian-American dual citizen and author.  She was married to a lesbian partner in Massachuetts and then divorced.  Now she has three children who have five different parents.  She would like to see the institution of marriage abolished.  Here is an excerpt from her remarks as a panelist:

It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist . . . Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.  The institution is going to change and it should change.  The institution of marriage should not exist.  I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life.  That’s not what I had in mind when I came out 30 years ago.  I have three kids who have five parents more or less.  I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally.  I don’t see why we should choose two of those parents and make them into a sanctioned couple.

To know what the gay (and determined to be at odds with their Creator) community wants, please listen to the first eight or ten minutes of the panel discussion.  We all — who care about children and civilization — need to know what those who seek to redefine marriage really want.

My appreciation to Michael Cook and Mercatornet

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prison cellIs it possible to change our thinking and behavior?  Leave bad habits behind?  Resist evil and despair?

Yes.

Evidence of change is all around me.  For some, change has come with maturity or wisdom gained from experience.  Some literally kicked and screamed all the way to a new place in their life where change took them by surprise.  Some are being changed through pain and suffering.  Others are changing, but only after falling into the darkness of bitter despair.

Travis is one of them.  Travis had fallen so deeply into the pit that he could never pull himself out.  I believe that Jesus literally reached down into that pit to lift Travis upward.  The circumstances in which Travis finds himself are grave.  He is serving 20 years in a federal penitentiary without parole.  Travis is in a place of shame but, face to face with his Savior, true freedom and dignity are being restored.

What follows is a letter from Travis:

Often, people ask, “Why did you throw everything away to pursue a life on drugs?  You threw away your relationships with good friends.  You threw away your good reputation.  You threw away the respect of your family.  You threw away everything that you ever worked hard for.  Why?”

I have never been able to come up with a rational answer to these questions.  Sin, I’ve figured out, is always irrational.  Sin doesn’t consider the consequences.  It just leads us to say, “I want more.”  In my case, becoming addicted to meth was that sin that gave Satan a strong foothold in my life.

I’ve come to see things a little more clearly today.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”  Satan wants to steal my joy.  He wants to steal my freedom.  He wants to kill and destroy everything that makes my life worth living: my relationships, my peace, my sanity.  He will use any means: deception, lying, and false promises to keep me from enjoy God’s plan for my life.

When I was enslaved to my sin of addiction it was evident that something was wrong with me.  Not everyone noticed, however, because I put on a good mask.  But, my life was full of filthiness.  My thoughts, speech, conduct, and even my house was filthy.  I would find a lewd or filthy element in any situation.

Satan was working to steal my morals, relationships, will, and dignity.  In the end, Satan wanted my life.

Once I started doing meth, I experienced dreams and visions.  While driving on a particular curve into town, I imagined taking my own life.  Perhaps, I thought, it would relieve the pain I was experiencing.

I didn’t like the person I had become.  A couple of girlfriends tried to help get me sober.  One helped me escape to her family’s cabin.  She would help me detox and get sober.  I would sleep, eat, and begin to act normal… only to return to my habit five days later when I got home.  Another girl begged me to get sober.  She wanted my family to help.  I said, “No!”  How could I face the people that had raised me so well?  The last thing I wanted to do was admit I was a failure.  I thought I could do it on my own.”

Travis is suffering the terrible consequences of his addiction and sinful ways.  He is separated from his family and shamed by incarceration.  Although his faith has grown, he is taunted by unbelievers.  He has explained to me that despair comes often to visit, yet the mercies of God really are new every morning.

Those mercies recently came through a fellow prisoner.  Travis was feeling especially low at Christmastime when, unexpectedly, he crossed paths with a man he had met early in his imprisonment.  Travis had befriended that man and encouraged him with words of hope.  The man apparently never forgot Travis and, in a moment of darkness, the man reappeared as a ray of light with reciprocal words of encouragement.  “You made a difference,” the man told him.  “You helped me get through a tough time.”  Travis was reminded that Jesus knows just what we need when we need it most.

Travis is painfully aware that Satan, in partnership with his own sinful nature, is a powerful force.  Alone, Travis cannot defeat the liar and thief.  But, another force is working in Travis’ life.  It is the force of love.  Forgiveness.  Hope and new life.  Satan wants to steal Travis’ soul, but Jesus Christ died for that soul.  He has already won for Travis the victory over sin and death.  Victory is hard to see through the veil of depression and discouragement; even so, I believe that the Holy Spirit has been at work in Travis adjusting his perspective and restoring the dignity of his personhood.

Perhaps prison is the Potter’s wheel where Travis is being carefully shaped as a vessel for noble service.  I really do believe that Travis sees himself a different man than when he stood haughtily before the federal judge.  As a different man, he will find himself at odds with the world.

In that world, Satan will continue to press on Travis.  Satan doesn’t want change.  He wants Travis captive to his sinful nature.  He wants him haughty.  Dependent on self, yet burdened by failure.  But, in Christ, Travis is no longer bound to old sins and failures.  In Christ, Satan holds no lasting power over Travis.

Travis told me,

Addiction never filled me up.  I was never satisfied.  The thief really does come to steal, kill and destroy, but read the rest of the passage!  Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Is change possible?  God says it is.

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  Put away falsehood, speak the truth with your neighbor . . . give no opportunity to the devil . . . Let all bitterness and wrath and anger . . . be put away from you . . .” (Ephesians 4:22-32).

Because change is possible, Travis can live as the beloved son of God in Christ that he is.   He can leave the filthiness and foolish talk and crude joking behind.  He was in darkness, but now he is in the light of the Lord.  He can try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Expose deception.  Be filled with the Spirit.  Give thanks. (Ephesians 5:1-21).

Yes, echoes Travis,

Thanks be to God!”

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little girl & thinkerThe following was written by my friend Stacey Harding and included with her family’s Christmas photo.  It is a one-word “sermon” for the Christian life.  Thank you, Stacey, for your faithfulness as a Biblical woman, wife, mother… and friend.

I wonder… what would happen if I forgave others freely as Christ has forgiven me?  (Matthew 18:21-35)

I wonder… what it might be like if I gave up my selfishness and took up a servant’s heart? (Philippians 2:3)

I wonder… what it would be like if I really listened to my daughters and my husband to hear their true needs? (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:12)

I wonder… what could happen if I made great efforts to communicate with love in my voice? (Psalm 35:28)

I wonder… what might be if I spoke in truth and with conviction? (Psalm 37:30; Job 27:4)

I wonder… what would the impact be if I chose to always unite and never divide? (John 17:20-23)

I wonder… what would happen if I imitated Christ instead of the world? (3 John 1:11)

Do you wonder what these verses say?

What are you thinking these days?  What wonders inside of you?  What are you seeking to find?  The only thing that can possibly satisfy the need (your wonder) is what created the need.  This is the meaning of redemption — it creates and satisfies.  There are no other answers, no other opinions, no drugs or drink, no amount of money or security or happiness that will fulfill your soul of wonder and lead you to salvation.  The world lies to you in all things and at all times.  But God calls you to seek Him.  His promises are true and remain for you and for me.  When you wonder, seek His Word.  You will find Him and with repentance gain His forgiveness, love, grace, peace and more!

The time is now!  Seek Him… the Wonderful… our Savior.

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African American grandmother, mom & daughterThe phone rang.  Almost out the door, I turned to answer.  It was Lauren, the daughter of my friend Jane.  “I’m so glad you’re home.  This call is completely out of the blue, but I wanted you to know that my mom told me.”  There was a pause, then, “She said you would understand.”

I did.  I knew immediately that Jane, after thirty-some years, had decided to confess her abortion to her only living child.

Did Jane have to confess this sin to Lauren?  No.  Did mother risk a changed relationship with her daughter?  Yes.  But, as Lauren talked with me, I sensed she was genuinely relieved to know the truth.  “Suddenly everything makes more sense,” Lauren said.  “Certain attitudes and behaviors of my mom now have new meaning to me.”

Lauren continued, “I often wondered why mom seemed, well, heavy with life”.

“Do you mean melancholy?” I asked.

“Yes,” Lauren replied.  “That’s it.  Melancholy.  And, you know, she doesn’t really want to discuss the tough things out there in the world.”

Lauren explained that birthdays “have often been difficult for my mom.”  There was something else.  “Mom apologized a lot,” Lauren said, “as if she didn’t think she was a good mom.  That made no sense to me because she is a good mom.”

Lauren continued. “She’s a good grandmother, too.  She gives an extraordinary amount of herself — her time and energy — to my children.”  Lauren was expressing what I knew to be true.  My friend provides daycare for her grandchildren during the week.  She returns home tired, but she tells me over and over again how privileged she feels to be a grandmother and how precious the time is with her grandchildren.  This is not unusual for most of us grandmothers.  Lauren agreed, but added that now she sees her mother’s relationship with her grandchildren “in a new light.”

It does not surprise me that it took so long for Jane to confide in Lauren.  It took many years for Jane to tell me her story in bits and pieces.  Only as she learned to trust me did Jane share details of the choices that made abortion thinkable.  But, telling her daughter was different.  Jane was afraid.  The harmony with her daughter mattered too much.  She did not want to lose it.

The phone call from Lauren to me was significant.  It was evidence of God’s work.  He had been strengthening the bond between this mother and child.

“We had our difficult days when I was in high school,” Lauren told me.  She assumed it was the usual stress between moms and daughters made more challenging by single motherhood.  “But, you know what?  I’ve always known the blessing of two parents who love me.”

Lauren supposed that her mother tended to be melancholy about life, in large part, because of the divorce.  But, with Lauren’s knowledge of the abortion came new understanding and opportunity to process certain memories and experiences.  It seemed that Lauren was responding to the surprise of her mother’s abortion in much the same way I had.  Neither of us turned away from Jane.  Instead, the Holy Spirit cultivated a greater love.

Listening to Lauren, I wondered.  With her carefully guarded secret now exposed, would Jane’s energy be better used?  In knowing her mother’s restlessness, doubt, and unfaithfulness in marriage before the decision of abortion, would Lauren better avoid temptations?

“My marriage is a struggle,” Lauren told me.  “I was nearly tempted away from my husband.”  But, her mother recognized the signs.

Oh, what a difference is made when one generation mentors another!  When a mother is not afraid to act her age or revisit the mistakes of her past, she becomes an invaluable teacher.  She can steer the younger woman away from foolishness and despair.   Jane identified her daughter’s marital frustration and impatience.  She knew the consequences of doubting God and determining for herself the way life ought to be.  She had searched for a more preferable love.  She allowed herself to be wooed by another man.  And, to “fix” the resulting “problem,” she scheduled an abortion.

Jane knows the generational effects of her abortion.  That decision influenced the way she sees her own mother.  Her daughter.  Her grandchildren.

I’m sure that, on occasion, Lauren will ponder her mother’s seemingly strange apologies, but she will also know wisdom gained through her mother’s experience.  There is every reason to believe that, from now on, both mother and daughter can bear witness to one another of the divine order and amazing grace of their heavenly Father.  In this, there is hope for generations to come.

Lauren was at ease during our phone conversation.  She had only one question.  “Did the abortion happen before or after me?”

“It was after you were born,” I told her.  “But, please believe me when I say that the decision had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with you.  Your mother loved you before you were born and she loves you now.  One of her greatest fears, I think, was that she could never be the kind of mother to you that her mother was to her.  The love, however, that your mom has always had for you is as real as the love God has for you both.”

Lauren had not shed a tear to this point, but now she gave way to emotion.  Between sobs, she whispered, “Thank you.  I needed to hear that.”

Can a daughter find comfort in her mother’s failures?  I believe so.  It was helpful for Lauren to realize that her mother had struggled with a marital frustration and impatience similar to her own.  It was instructive for Lauren to know that doubting God and putting ourselves in His place leads to danger.  It was protective of Lauren when her mother chose to remember the sins of her past.  When she did not resist using lessons learned the hard way, mother was equipped to lead daughter and grandchildren away from harm.

Lauren has been granted a new perspective… one that will serve her family well.  But, just as time was needed for Jane to trust me – little by little – with her story, time was also needed for mother to trust daughter.  Jane and I talk often about God’s faithfulness in her life.  I believe it is that faithfulness on the rocky road of life that nurtured trust between mother and daughter.

A long time ago, Jane gave me permission to share her story with women wherever I speak.  “I can’t tell my story,” Jane said to me.  “But you can.  So, please.  Tell young women not to do what I did.  And tell older women that Jesus loves them no matter what the sins of their past might be.  The forgiveness of Jesus is real.”

I have done what my friend asked.  And, in doing so, many women have approached me privately with confessions of their own.  Christian women in every family and congregation are carrying heavy burdens of disappointment and guilt.  They see the Cross.  They know what Jesus did for them.  They may even trust His forgiveness.  But, like Jane, they are unable or unwilling to forgive themselves.

It is my prayer that Lauren will help her mother forgive herself.  God is the God of relationships… and of the healing that comes through tenderheartedness.  He uses parents and children, friends and even strangers to bring us closer to Him.

Perhaps this Christmas will bear a gift never before found under my friend’s tree.  As Jane looks into the eyes of her daughter and grandchildren, may she find confidence in her confession of Christ.  Confidence that emboldens her to proclaim:

He who is mighty has done great things for me.  Holy is His name.  His mercy is for those who trust Him… from generation to generation.

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No one knows why, but a young woman is dead.   She was found in the garage of her parent’s home.  It appears that she hung herself.

Why?  Why would a young woman fear life itself?

What makes this especially personal is that I was on the phone with my son when it happened.  This young woman was his neighbor.  “The police have pulled up, Mom.  People are milling about outside the garage.  I’ll call you back.”  When he did, he explained what had just happened.  “Her mom and dad are standing outside.  Her dad is talking loud.  People are on cell phones.  The neighborhood is stunned.”

So, why?  Why was a young life cut short?  Not long ago, when our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren were out for a walk, this young woman approached them with interest.  She was friendly.  Talkative.  During the course of the conversation, she explained that she was a psychology major in college.  She asked if she could hold baby Kate.

Now the girl who held my granddaughter is dead.  Evidence suggests that it was by her own hand.  I never met this young woman.  I don’t know her parents.  But, the ache inside me is real.

What happened?  Her parents, family and friends may never know.  But, one thing is certain.

Human life, because of sin, is very fragile.  The enemy of life knows this.  He delights in this weakness.  He takes advantage of our frailty.

Satan despises the humans who are created “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5).  He is jealous of God’s beloved creations who have been given “dominion over the works of [His] hands;” with “all things under [our] feet” (v. 6).  Satan is a thief.  He comes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a).

But, Jesus says, “I came that [you] may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (v. 10b-11).  Jesus left heaven for our sake.  He lowered Himself so that He might battle Satan for every fragile life.  Jesus won eternal victory over Satan when He died on the Cross at Calvary.  His resurrection proves that victory.  He ascended back to heaven.  There He waits, until the Father tells the Son it is time to return to earth on the last day.  Then He will call every believer home.  To heaven.  To new life without the chains of sin.

For now, Satan is having his little day.  The destruction he leaves in his wake can take our breath away.  In our most vulnerable moments, he hisses, “Did God really say . . .?”  His best weapon is to deceive.  Once deceived, we doubt.  Then fear.  In fear, we are desperate to take control.  To do anything… anything that might stop the confusion or loneliness or suffering.

For this – and every other reason – our identity matters.  Knowing Whose we are matters.  Knowing that we are adopted sons and daughters of God because of what Jesus did for us matters.  Trusting our identity as God’s beloved creation serves us well in all circumstances.  No matter if we don’t feel loved or attractive or significant.  No matter if we are unhappy or in pain or seemingly spinning out of control and knocked off our foundation, we remain God’s treasures in Christ.

Trusting our identity in Christ, we become less vulnerable.  When Satan comes to deceive, Jesus stands close.  When Satan hisses in one ear, Jesus calls us to Him.  “Trust Me, My child.  Hear My word of hope.  When all forsake you, I never will.”

Our identity matters.  Trusting our identity in Christ makes a difference.  Even if something snaps… if a neuron misfires… our identity does not change.

One question remains.  It is for us.  The living.  Do we know our identity?  Do we see ourselves as treasures of great price?  In the battle for our very souls, do we look past the thief to focus hearts and minds on the Good Shepherd?  No matter the circumstances, do we cling to His promise?

Dear Father, comfort the parents of this young woman.  They suffer loss beyond my imagination.  In their loss, draw them to the Cross of their Savior.  Send Your Spirit to fill the emptiness.  To work Your will for good.  Amen. 

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Thanks, Alicia, for reminding me of The Word that stands… no matter what.

“Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, for round us falls the eventide. O let Your Word, that saving light, shine forth undimmed into the night.

In these last days of great distress grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness that we keep pure till life is spent, Your holy Word and Sacrament.

To hope grown dim, to hearts turned cold, speak tongues of fire and make us bold to shine Your Word of saving grace into each dark and loveless place.

May glorious truths that we have heard, the bright sword of Your mighty Word, spurn Satan that Your Church be strong, bold, unified in act and song.

Restrain, O Lord, the human pride that seeks to thrust Your truth aside or with some man-made thoughts or things would dim the words Your Spirit sings.

Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true; preserve our faith our whole life through – Your Word alone our heart’s defense, The Church’s glorious confidence.”

Lutheran Service Book, 585

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Am I really a “victim of circumstances?”  Is it helpful to blame others for what might be wrong in my life?  Is it helpful to excuse my failures and faults by viewing them as “inherited traits”?  Am I a slave to wrong behavior?

No.

I look to the Law for my warning.  The Law of God’s Word explains my sinful condition.  It warns me away from wrong choices and behavior.  Then, when I feel overwhelmed and discouraged by my wrong choices, I look to the Gospel.  I see that change is possible in Christ.  I discover that the Holy Spirit enables me to modify my own character, tendencies and habits so that I can pass on to my children and grandchildren something better.  I take hope in the fact that doing good things — the things that please God — is transmissible.

It is easy to excuse my poor behavior by claiming that I’ve inherited a “bad” trait.  But, this is to say: I am a slave.  I have no opportunity to acquire freedom.  This is just who I am.

This is what Satan and the world would have me believe.  But, I don’t buy it.

It is true that under the Law of God I am chained to hopelessness because of my rebellious and sinful condition.  But, under the Gospel, my chains are broken.  I am set free in Jesus Christ to live differently.  To resist evil and do good.   To learn from mistakes and not repeat them.  To perhaps fail again but then, in Christ, start new every morning.

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Every younger generation benefits from the wisdom of sages. Too bad so many of today’s could-be-sages are distracted by the fountain of youth.

There’s something very sad and, honestly, quite unattractive about mothers who try to compete with their daughters.  With fathers who would rather be “best buds” than dads to their sons.

Granted, the men and women of my generation have been long schooled to obsess on our bodies and, whatever the cost, maintain the appearance of youth.  But, what does this do to our minds?  What is the price paid by children?  Grandchildren?  Children in our neighborhoods?

Every younger generation deserves the wisdom and experience that is most naturally mentored by an older generation.  But, in this present culture, we parents and grandparents seem to resist acting our age.  Isn’t this rather selfish?  If we’re absentee from the role of mentor, to whom are we abdicating?

The older generation hasn’t evolved, says the world.  So, girls!  Boys!  Follow your heart!  Listen to your instincts!  Rubbish!   How typical of the world to offer deceptive counsel.  But, people who call themselves “Christian” should know better.  We should value the wisdom that comes with age.  Experience.  Spiritual maturity.

As I was preparing the keynote address for a women’s conference, I was drawn to passages from 1 Timothy 5.  There, the Apostle Paul is speaking to young Timothy like a father.  He is inspired by the Holy Spirit to offer instructions for the church.  Something the church is called to do is honor the widows, especially those who are truly left alone.   What got my attention was the distinction made between an “older” and “younger” widow.  Verse 9 notes that a widow is eligible for church assistance if she is not less than 60 years old.  The one who has been a faithful wife of one husband, has a reputation for good works, has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of saints, and has cared for the afflicted is considered to be a wise woman who won’t bring shame to the congregation.

But, what about a younger widow; a woman less than 60 years of age?  The household of God is to encourage her to marry and manage her household; if possible, to have children.  Why the clear distinction of age here?  Because, as real life has a way of proving out, younger women are more captive to their passions.  They are more tempted to romantic desires, idleness, and gossip or saying things they should not.  They are more easily deceived by worldly trends and led away from Jesus Christ.

What do you think of that?  Does this make sense to you?

God’s Word consistently through Old and New Testament reminds the older generation to mentor the younger.  The Creator of life entrusts children to parents; not to their peers.  He wants parents and grandparents to tell children and grandchildren about the wonders of God’s work.  This includes all the lessons learned over the course of time and in the midst of challenges.  So, when a man or woman refuses to accept their age, resists learning from past mistakes, and clings to the foolishness of youth, woe to the young ones in their charge.

As for me?  Well, I admit I don’t like the gravity of age.  My head, after all, still thinks creatively.  Enthusiastically.  Optimistically.  Laughter is good for my soul – and others.

But, given to me are priceless years.  Years of experience.  Years of lessons often learned the hard way.  Years of seeing God at work in my life.  Why would I want to keep that all to myself?  Where is the shame in acting my age?

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