Abortion Always Has At Least Two Victims

Always2

The mother and child logo* shown here was inspired by Dr. David Reardon’s book, Making Abortion Rare.  It was created to represent the tragic fact that abortion always has two victims, because you cannot hurt the child without hurting the mother.  The two are one and can only be separated by doing violence to both.

Making Abortion Rare presents a plan to end abortion by shining the light of truth on its many physical and psychological dangers to women.  To do this we must reach out to the millions of living victims of abortion, who desperately need healing.

The logo is a symbol of a pro-woman/pro-life belief that the church must provide an environment where these wounded women can grieve and heal surrounded by love.  It is a call to serve them in the name of the Lord until they are able to speak out against the horrors of abortion with a testimony that cannot be denied or ignored. “Always 2” is a collective cry from all across America to stop the daily slaughter of innocents and the daily violation of their mothers.

Although the logo was created because of the tragedy of abortion, it has triumphant meanings as well.  Any image of mother and child must make us immediately think of Mary and the infant Jesus, so it is a reminder that the Almighty God chose to enter His creation through the doorway of a womb.

He became a human so as to grow into the Man who would die on a cross and rise from the dead to open for us the doorway to eternal life.  The miracle of the Incarnation teaches us to protect mothers, consider the womb a sanctuary, and celebrate every birth no matter the circumstances surrounding it.

“Always 2” means that “unto us a Child is born and unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulders and His name shall be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.’”

As we commit ourselves to the task of fighting abortion, we must remember that it is not a political but a spiritual struggle we are entering.  We have an invisible enemy destroying the closest bond in humanity by deceiving mothers into sacrificing their unborn children.  This is only a continuation of the destruction that he began in the Garden of Eden, and continued in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he deceived mankind into rebelling against our Creator.  Killing babies is only a step toward his ultimate goal of separating us from our heavenly Father forever.

For that reason, the logo also represents each believer cradled in the arms of our Creator. It is a reminder that He will never leave us or forsake us.  It is a reminder that apart from Him we can do nothing, but we can do all things through Jesus Christ who gives us strength.  It is a reminder that anyone who even thinks about joining the spiritual battle must make his relationship with the Lord the priority of his life.  “Always 2” means the child of God is safe in His arms.

Though we are never alone because He is with us, it is part of His design to knit us together with other believers.  From the perfect garden where He said that it is not good for man to be alone (though He Himself was there) to the time He walked this earth and sent His disciples out two by two, He has continuously taught us that two are better than one because they have good reward for their labor. If one falls down his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.  So the logo also represents the union of believers in the body of Christ.

It is vital for us each to have at least one comrade in arms to turn to when the battle rages, when the trials and testings come.  We need each other to pray with, to talk with, to mutually encourage and strengthen one another.  At times we will nurture, just like a mother, at times we will be nurtured, just like a child–all the while building a bond that is deeper than any ties of blood. “Always 2” reminds us that even when we are two individuals, we are truly one in the Spirit of Life and forever united in the family of God.

May the logo of the mother and child and the words “Always 2” become a familiar sign in the household of faith, like the memorial stones of ancient Israel, to remind us of the wonderful things the Lord has done.  He became like one of us to make us one with Him and one with each other.  He has given us life and power so that we might be His witnesses to a lost and dying world.

Who more clearly stands in need of that witness than the victims of abortion?  Not the children, for they are beyond our reach and already in God’s embrace.  But if we can offer the love and forgiveness of Christ to their mothers, their children’s tragic deaths may yet serve a redeeming purpose in helping to end the bloodshed in our nation.

This logo belongs to whosoever will use it to the glory of God.

*I originally wrote this as a tri-fold brochure for the church to use in the fight against abortion.  The text has been on Dr. Reardon’s website since 2001.

 

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Listening to All Women: Michelle’s Hurrah and Rachel’s Lament

800px-The_Massacre_of_the_Innocents_by_Rubens_(1638)_-_Alte_Pinakothek_-_Munich_-_Germany_2017

Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”

Michelle Wolf’s recent display of insensitivity concerning abortion has prompted me to share a poem that I wrote near the turn of the century after I read Dr. David Reardon’s book,  Making Abortion Rare: A Healing Strategy for A Divided Nation.

In the book, in his research, and in his entire ministry, Dr. Reardon focuses on the women in crisis who are daily exploited for profit by a massive abortion industry in our country and around the world.  It’s not that he doesn’t care about the unborn; he just understands that what is genuinely best for any pregnant woman will be best for her unborn child as well.  And that’s the message we need to bring into the public discussion of abortion.

I call Michelle Wolf’s attempt at comedy in defense of abortion insensitive because it is the kindest word I can find for it.  She has to be oblivious to the pain she could cause the millions of women who grieve the death of the millions of children sacrificed on the altar of abortion “rights.”  I can’t imagine that any woman would deliberately salute and celebrate a relentless instrument of human destruction, if she actually understands that it tortures and torments millions of her sisters.

Twenty years ago, Dr. Reardon made me think deeply about those sisters and their   heart-breaking stories of loss, regret, and grief.  I wrote Rachel’s Comfort for them, and I share the poem now to encourage more of them to boldly enter the discussion we must have.  I don’t want to persuade those who celebrate abortion to change their minds.  I do want to persuade them to listen to the grieving women who are living victims of abortion.

Justice Kennedy’s retirement has finally forced our nation to have this long overdue discussion about the reality of abortion that goes deeper than bumper stickers.  Dr. Reardon’s research showed me that the emotional and psychological pain that abortion caused women I know and love is common, and we must be allowed to openly acknowledge that emotional and psychological pain is “a highly probable side-effect.”  Since Roe v Wade made abortion on demand the law in our nation, millions of mothers have been convinced that destroying children in the womb is legalized violence against women for profit, and their voices must be heard.

Rachel’s Comfort is the story of the woman who believed she had no choice but to end the life of her child. It is the story of the woman whose choice to keep her child was stolen from her by circumstances, parents, an irresponsible father, or abortion advocacy.  It is a story of all the women who found out too late that abortion is bondage, not liberation.

 

Rachel’s Comfort*

In the heart of the Father a child was conceived:

God made man from dust and life to him breathed.

In beautiful Eden with creation’s work done

The Lord walked with Adam like Father with son.

With His image reflected in husband and wife,

God gave them His seeds to perpetuate life.

But a once perfect creature, now with pride-blinded eyes,

Watched loving companions he chose to despise.

A false promise of freedom tore them apart.

It was death to God’s children and grief to God’s heart.

 

In a moment of passion a child is conceived:

Sweet blessing rejected with parents deceived

By the same subtle creature who still whispers lies,

For those of God’s image he will always despise.

He reaps from the curse that was sown by his deed

When he started the great war against woman’s seed.

He continues to promise her freedom of choice,

While crushing each mother who follows his voice.

Now using a surgeon he tears them apart;

It’s death for her child, and it’s grief for her heart.

 

In the heart of a mother the child she conceived

Left her with an anguish that can’t be relieved.

For the guilt that she carries presses on her each day

As she longs for the baby her choice threw away.

Like Rachel in Ramah, she weeps in distress

While she clutches her two empty arms to her breast.

She must live with a secret too painful to share;

Her freedom was sold in a trap of despair

Where memory lingers as dark as the tomb

Of one precious life that was sucked from her womb.

 

In the womb of a virgin a Child was conceived

To bring Life Eternal for the world to receive.

God came to His own as the Lamb who was slain.

His cross was our price which He freely ordained.

The sin of the world crushed One pure, sinless heart,

As the cross bridged the gulf that kept us apart.

God suffered and died for His children that day

Blood poured from His side to wash sin away.

Then rising in power Christ set captives free,

With the right to choose life in God’s family.

 

In the heart of the Father a child was conceived,

With pardon and healing for the one who believed

In the Father of Life and the Son Whom He gave

To die on the cross so her soul could be saved.

In this world her baby cannot be restored,

But there’s comfort in knowing he is held by her Lord

Who recorded each teardrop when she wept alone

And gently, so gently kept calling her home

Until she surrendered to His voice of love.

Now she is God’s child: she’s been born from above.

 

*I have always imagined this poem set to simple music in a range that any woman could sing.  I pray it may become a song to bring healing to the living victims of abortion. 

 

 

 

The Timeline of Eternity

I LOVE TIMELINES!

A carefully constructed timeline can communicate a massive amount of information

T2-Mu-065-History-Of-Music-Timeline_ver_2

in an easily digestible format that will 

engage,

bible timeline

enlighten,

us history timeline

and entertain.

timeline of pens

A timeline can bring history to life for the person who might not be inclined to read about the same series of events if they were simply described on the printed page.

We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Purchase Line Church of the Brethren this year, and since 2012, I have been thinking about the timeline that will represent that century and a half for our congregation and for our neighbors and friends who may stop by during our open house in August.

The folks at PLCOB will help me create the timeline that has yet to be transformed from thought to reality.  Most of my willing helpers just have servant hearts; only one or two share my passion for history, but I am confident that in the end we will all enjoy following the story of our church in a pictorial and graphic display of fifteen decades.

We are using a relatively large scale for our timeline.  With three inches to represent each year, it will surround the sanctuary with symbols to mark births, marriages, and deaths.  Many beloved saints will have their entire lifespans charted out on our anniversary scroll.  For example, my father’s life which began in 1928 and ended in 2016 will extend through more than half of the history of Purchase Line Church of the Brethren.

The timeline will be a valuable part of our celebration, but it will also present a somewhat distorted impression of the duration of life.   Fortunately the Bible makes it possible for us to step back far enough to see the timeline of eternity.  Our perspective changes dramatically when we see the brevity of life illustrated for us again and again in vivid metaphors and striking similes.

We are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Life on earth is a shadowa breath, a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  We are told that our days pass swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, or a runner, or an eagle swooping on the prey.  All flesh is like the grass withers, and the flower that falls, and we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

I had already determined the length and chosen the location for our 150th timeline in January when I got another reminder of the approaching portal with the news about my elevated liver enzymes.  My favorite kind of history project took on a deeper spiritual dimension, as I thought of one more metaphor for life in this world: a stroke on the timeline of eternity.

Does a stroke on a timeline, a breath, a vapor, or a shadow hold any lasting meaning?  That’s the same question that the author of Ecclesiastes ponders.  It’s the same question asked by people from all belief systems, in all lands, through all ages.

It seems that in our current culture far too many people believe the answer to the question is “no.”  Missing the meaning of life has tragic consequences that can be seen in the legalization of abortion, the growing acceptance of euthanasia, and the rising rates of suicide.

If life were just the result of random particles colliding, then it would make perfect sense to simply opt out whenever circumstances become difficult or painful.  In fact, it would make little sense to endure any kind of hardship in what is ultimately only a decades-long march to the grave.

But our meaning doesn’t come from biological life: our meaning comes rather from the God who is LIFE!

My life is not just a breath: my life is a breath in God’s lungs,

a shadow of God’s Spirit,

a flower in God’s field,

a sigh of God’s voice.

And with that knowledge, I am content as my life draws to a close even when

many dreams haven’t come true,

many hopes remain unfulfilled,

and many plans never materialized.

I rest in the certainty that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, because I know that all the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.

My years are not just a stroke on the timeline of eternity: my years are a small but glorious portion of the masterpiece God is using this world to complete.

12 Rules for Life and Spiritual Formation

12 Rules for Life  I’ve been following Jordan Peterson with great interest since his videos on Bill C-16 went viral in the fall of 2016.  From the beginning I have been fascinated by the spiritual truth that permeates his interviews, talks, and lectures.  I often wonder what it would have been like to hear him in conversation with Dallas Willard.  And I continuously hope that someday I will hear someone share the wisdom and work of Dallas with Dr. Peterson.

In the meantime, I have two reasons to highly recommend 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos to everyone in the body of Christ who is seriously interested in spiritual formation.  The first reason is because the book lays out practical directions for transformation by human effort alone.  This makes it a perfect resource to highlight and contrast the difference between living in the flesh and living by the Spirit.  Dr. Peterson’s psychological insights will help his readers to understand the same principles that Dallas unfolds for his students.  This can be seen (apart from the book) in Peterson’s Self-Authoring Program which is an elaborate (and of course, secular) version of Dallas’s VIM (vision-intention-means) guide for transformation.

In 12 Rules Peterson touches on many themes that Dallas weaves throughout his teaching: the preeminence of truth, the nature of humanity, the necessity of purpose, the importance of personal responsibility, the power of discipline, the reality of evil.  Comparing 12 Rules to The Divine Conspiracy, Renovation of the Heart, or Life Without Lack will help the apprentice of Jesus see the difference between striving in the flesh to be a good person and learning to live in the Spirit.

The second reason I highly recommend the book to Christians is that I believe it is a prophetic rebuke to the Church as a whole.  Read it with Peterson’s massive international audience in mind.  Read it knowing that hundreds of thousands of people around the world are eager to learn how to be better people and are grateful for the hard truth that Peterson lays before them.  Read it to discover that a vast global field white for harvest has been largely overlooked by those who know the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Read it knowing that God is already using Jordan Peterson to change lives.

It would be rather naive to assume that everyone who responds to Peterson’s call to lift a heavy burden and look for meaning in life would automatically surrender to Christ. However, around the world Peterson has renewed interest in the Bible, he has magnified respect for Jesus Christ, and he has challenged the materialistic worldview that dominates academia.  He has given the church an opportunity to follow the example of Paul: 12 Rules for Life can serve us in the 21st Century West just as the altar to the unknown god served the apostle in ancient Athens.

Living Without Lack

life without lackOn January 5, 2018 I was at lunch with some friends when I got a call from my doctor’s office.  My liver enzymes had spiked ten-fold from the low-average level they had maintained throughout my sixteen year journey with cancer.  At that point I was already a full year beyond the average life expectancy for a person with breast cancer metastasized to the liver and lungs, and I was well aware that I had been living on borrowed time.

As I processed the news of dramatically elevated enzymes my first thought was “I made my burial arrangements last fall, so I’m good to go.”  (Previously, each time I learned of cancer progression I would think, “I really need to make my funeral arrangements.”)

My second thought: “I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death without fearing evil.”

My third thought: “I wish everyone I love could walk in peace as life in this world draws to a close.”

It wasn’t a conscious prayer, but the Lord still heard the cry of my heart and answered.

Just four days later, on January 9, I was offered an advance copy of Dallas Willard’s most recent book—Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of the 23rd Psalm.

Now, I know that five years ago I gave away to friends at least fifteen copies of The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard; I convinced about the same number of people to buy it for themselves; I recommended it to I-don’t-know-how-many others (including strangers in a check-out line); and I even led a small group study based on the book.  Alas, as far as I know, only one person entered fully into the delight and wonder I found in Dallas Willard’s teaching.  And yet, I am undaunted by the tepid/bewildered response to my enthusiasm in the past.  I am compelled by the Spirit to share another Dallas Willard treasure with anyone who just might listen.

Here is the review I posted on Amazon on February 27 when Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 became officially available for purchase. (You don’t have to rely on my opinion alone; there are now 103 reviews.)

Through the skillful editing of his daughter and his friend, Dallas Willard has given the church a book for all who long to follow Christ more than they long for anything else. 

The Divine Conspiracy is God’s master plan for his people throughout the entire course of human history.  Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 is a practical guide for any individual who wants to live in daily intimacy with Jesus.  Larry Burtoft and Becky Heatly have transformed spoken words from one of our generation’s best teachers into a book that captures both his voice and his wisdom.  Dallas marks a path through the twenty-third psalm that the youngest believer can follow.  At the same time he reveals endless horizons of peace and joy to delight the heart of the most mature saint. 

As I read through the first time, I imagined Jesus asking, “Dallas, do you love me more than these?” After Dallas answers simply, “Yes, Lord, I do,” Jesus repeats the charge that follows the question: “Feed my lambs.” And so Dallas shows us plainly that the Lord is our Shepherd who will supply all our needs in abundance. 

If you don’t see how a Life Without Lack is possible, Dallas will guide you step by step until you do. The process is relatively simple, but you must commit completely. You must surrender your life to the transforming work of the Spirit.  If you have already surrendered your life completely to the Spirit, Life Without Lack may bless you with a fuller understanding of God’s design in the transformation process, a greater appreciation for the necessity of personal effort, and a deeper trust in the One who made transformation possible. But perhaps the most important blessing could be that you will learn how to better nourish any little lambs in your care.

If you love Jesus, I think you will be pleased with this book. 

Whether you or not you purchase and read Life Without Lack, I am content because God, in his infinite grace and love, has assured me that everyone I love can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fearing evil. He sweetly reminded me yet again that he is my Shepherd and I shall not want.

Since my liver enzymes started climbing in January, I have had one MRI, two CT scans, and I-don’t-know-how-many blood tests. After a trip to Pittsburgh for a second opinion, I had a port placed on June 22, and started IV chemotherapy on June 25 with no end to treatment in sight.

Because of the cancer in my body, I am constantly aware of the reality that life in this world is drawing to a close.  Whether my remaining time is measured in minutes or decades, I look forward to learning with friends and family how to live fully in the blessings and abundance that the Lord pours out generously without finding fault.

I look forward to watching the Lord bring hope and healing to our divided nation as His children learn to live without lack.

 

Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness–A Philosopher’s Lament

Walking Through Twilight

How I landed on the Twitter page of Douglas Groothius on June 10 is a total mystery to me.  I had heard of him, and even considered buying Philosophy in Seven Sentences when it was first published, but I didn’t follow him until ten days ago.  Somehow, in a way now known only to God, I got to his page, and the first tweet I read said, “I spent 20 minutes with Becky trying to understand a thought she could not get out of her mind into her voice. I’ve ventured possibilities, but they were all futile. De-voicing a genius is cruel beyond words.”

I was gripped by a need to put that strange heart-cry in context.  I don’t know how long I spent wading backwards into an ocean of pain before I ordered Walking Through Twilight from Amazon.  I only know I had to hear Becky’s story,  driven by the force of weeping with those who weep.  I have experienced that same force repeatedly since childhood, but for the first time in my life, I think I am beginning to understand it in a meaningful way.

After a week of checking on Becky each morning through her husband’s now bookmarked Twitter feed, I finally picked up the thin book that had arrived via USPS on June 12.  I opened the window and peered into the deep, dark night of two souls entwined in suffering.   I can think of no greater anguish than what is described in Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness—A Philosopher’s Lament.

That is not a frivolous statement.

As I labored through 170 pages of lamentation, I thought about holocaust survivors, tortured martyrs, prolonged illnesses, and dying children.  I thought about individuals who through accident, disease, or malice have been subjected to the kind of assault on the body that turns death into an agent of mercy.  I thought about family and friends whose sudden losses immersed them in torrents of grief.  Still, nothing in either real life or in the imagination rises to level of agony that must come from watching the relentless deterioration of your soulmate, day after day, month after month, year after year.

Nothing can compare with the long and lingering death of your kindred spirit, delightful  companion, and wise counselor.

Nothing, that is, except the cross the Christ where the grief of the world was absorbed.

Douglas Groothius shares their story with his wife’s full approval.  So I thank them both for a magnificent lesson on the power of love, but not just their love for each other. Their story displays their love for the God who often seems to hide while they suffer far beyond what most mortals are called to endure.  The combination of Doug’s philosophical mind, his verbal precision, and his steadfast devotion (to both his wife and his God) allows us to walk the paths of pain with them. So I thank them both for sharpening my focus on what lasts forever.

Walking Through Twilight is a vessel of precious oils broken and spilled out to share the transforming fragrance of suffering.  Those who open the pages will catch the uplifting scent of marriage according to God’s design, the comforting aroma of the body of Christ supporting those in pain, and the pungent odor of sorrow that permeates every activity of daily living.  Perhaps far stronger than all others is the bitter smell of irony that rises from a life dedicated to a reasoned defense of Christianity that is now tested and tried.

A husband watches helplessly as the God of the faith he defends allows his wife’s brilliant mind to slowly dissolve in the devastation of primary progressive aphasia.  Breathe deep of Doug and Becky’s story and the perfume of eternal life will waft in from beyond the created realm.

I have been thinking about death from early childhood, perpetually imagining what lies beyond this veil of clay.  And in the course of those meandering ruminations, I often think about the people I will encounter somewhere in the light of eternity: the people I have loved, the people I have met through books or lectures, and the people who are still totally unknown to me.  I imagine the delight and the wonder that we will all find in sharing our stories of the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives.

At this moment, there isn’t a story I want to hear more than the one that only Rebecca Merrill Groothius will someday be able to tell us all.

 

 

Best thing since the printing press!

My renewed commitment to blogging is a good way to share treasures I have found while exploring cyberspace.  I can hardly believe it was only in March that a young friend directed me to one of the richest resources on the internet.  For the past three months,  I’ve been obsessively recommending The Bible Project to friends and family, and so it only reasonable that I extend that recommendation to all of you as well.

I have the same deep and abiding level of appreciation for Tim Mackie and Jon Collins that I have for Johannes Gutenberg.  And as a dyed-in-the wool bibliophile, that is not something I would say lightly.  I am not using hyperbole when I say that I believe that The Bible Project does more to make the Bible accessible to all people than anything since the printing press.  The brilliant combination of biblical knowledge and imaginative art has created a 21st century gateway into an ancient book for anyone and everyone who is even slightly interested in the Bible for any reason whatsoever.

I have heard Bible stories all of my life.  I remember turning the pages in My First Book About Jesus as I learned to recognize the printed words .  I have been seriously studying my Bible for over forty years, and yet brighter light shines on the familiar and beloved stories and poems whenever I watch the short, fast-paced videos created by Tim, Jon, and their dedicated team.

However, the most remarkable thing about The Bible Project is certainly not that I learn new things.  I constantly find teachers who can add to my understanding through books and lecture series.  The most remarkable thing about The Bible Project is that the videos bring an Ancient Middle Eastern text instantly to life even for a novice.   It seems almost supernatural to me that every video has something for the child and for the scholar and for everyone in between.

But don’t take my word for it! Follow the link to the website and check it out for yourself.  Judge for yourself whether or not they are accomplishing their mission “to show that the Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus.”