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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

Approaching the Portal

We are all moving toward the world beyond this one.

Everyone is moving toward the world beyond the one we know now.

Two weeks after my father died in February 2016, I started a Facebook page called “Approaching the Portal” to encourage a public discussion of end of life issues.  I had been thinking about it for a year before that moment, because in January of 2015 I learned that the cancer I had been fighting since 2002 had metastasized to my liver and lungs.  When I insistently pressed my doctor for the average survival time for someone with my diagnosis, he reluctantly told me it was one and a half to two years.

It is three years since I received that news and two years since I started the Facebook page to discuss it. Now I have finally come to the place where the progression of disease makes writing one of the few things I can do without pain.  I am driven at last by a very hard taskmaster to capture my continuous flow of thoughts on the page just because it is something productive thing I can do in my current state.

The cancer is (as far as my doctor can tell) pressing against my breast bone to make nearly all movement of my right arm away from my side painfully restricted.  The opioid and NSAID and herbals I take on a regular schedule dull the pain sufficiently for me to move about freely as long as I keep my right arm close to my body.   This is not a complaint.  After the three days of unrelenting pain that I experienced two weeks ago, I genuinely consider my present situation a blessing.  As much as I would like to be up and doing the 1001 things around our home that need to be done, I accept my situation with the peace that passes understanding, thankful that my mind is clear and that I am able to write.

By choosing an internet format, I welcome others to follow my journey, and I hope that those who do so will find a blessing here and there.  But I am not primarily writing for an audience.  I am writing because I want to think deeply about the things that matter most in the brief time we have in these bodies on this earth.  I want to closely examine what I believe and articulate it clearly.  Because writing has been my favorite tool for examining my heart and mind since I was in grade school, I choose to see my restrictions as an opportunity to freely engage in an activity I thoroughly enjoy.  If the thoughts I share publicly ignite friendly conversation for mutual discovery, then I will be doubly blessed.

I look forward to all that the Lord has in store for me as I walk joyously toward the open portal that awaits us all.

The Precious Death of Nabeel Qureshi

 

The end of Dr. Nabeel Qureshi’s life in this world pours light on Psalm 116:15 for me.

Each time death claims someone I love, or someone who is loved by someone I love, I find peace in the knowledge that the Lord God sees the death of His children as precious.

Precious!

Highly valued!

Of great importance!

In grief, I always think of the Lord welcoming His beloved one home as though He is receiving a treasure that will be placed in suitable surroundings at last.

When Nabeel died, for the first time, I had a clear image of the heavenly treasure the King received. I saw a perfectly cut diamond with light shining from a thousand facets.

I saw a gemstone crushed by mining,

cut with precision,

and polished to perfection.

I think it may be possible that Nabeel surrendered his life so completely that the Lord was able to finish all the work He planned for this one precious life in just a few short years.

I often think about judgment, not fearfully, but curiously.  I wonder about the timing, the process, the duration.  I think about the Lord bringing to light the deep things I’ve hidden from myself.  I think it will be a time of purifying, refining, and even detoxing.  I am certain it will be a removal of all things that are contrary to the character of Christ.  I regularly ask the Lord to show me stuff now so I don’t have to deal with it in the judgment.

Perhaps Nabeel is an exceedingly rare gem who passed through judgment completely while still in the body of flesh.  I often wonder if that’s what happened to Enoch who walked with God and was not, for God took him.  I wonder if Enoch had his own personal rapture because the Lord had nothing more to teach him in this world.

Of course Nabeel was not raptured. His body was destroyed from within by a relentless disease.  I empathized with the spiritual battle he fought as he prayed for the physical healing that did not come, because I fought the same battle for years after I found a lump on my breast in 2002.   I watched Nabeel’s vlogs with ambivalence when he spoke of those who were certain he would be healed.  I heard that same certainty repeatedly as cancer ravaged my body through chemo, radiation, chemo, radiation, surgery, surgery, radiation, radiation, surgery, surgery.  I can’t count of the number of times I received anointing, laying on of hands, and assurance of healing over the past fifteen years.  And still I live with a terminal illness.

I watched Nabeel’s vlogs with hope when I heard that he was investigating nutritional support. My healthcare providers are frequently surprised by my tolerance of and recovery after the damaging treatments that are normal protocol for cancer.  I think my ability to endure and bounce back is, at least in part, a result of my effort to eat food as God made it.  However, my hope for Nabeel was never in food.  It was always in the God who loves him beyond my imagination, the God who continued to use him mightily even as his body was wasting away.  I empathized with Nabeel because I know what it is like struggle through cancer with a hundred different people offering a hundred different solutions.  For me that may be hyperbole, for Nabeel, it is probably a gross underestimate. Still I know how loving and well-meaning people can add to a burden they only want to relieve.

I watched Nabeel’s vlogs with deep compassion because years ago I reached precisely the same conclusion he reached from searching the scripture: It is always God’s will to heal.  But even as I received sure knowledge that it is always God’s will to heal our mortal frames, I also received sure knowledge that healing these mortal frames is never His highest priority.  That’s the comment I left on Nabeel’s Facebook page even as I continued to pray that we would see a miracle.  I think I also shared what I learned of the relationship between faith and healing.  Too many Christians have an idea that faith means you must believe that you will be healed without doubt, and if doubt creeps in you cancel the promise for healing. That’s another thing I can’t count: the number of times I was told that expressing doubt about my healing is the reason I still have cancer.  (sad sigh)

I doubt that I will be healed, but I don’t doubt Jesus. He used cancer to deepen my understanding of faith, and whenever Jesus speaks to those he healed, I know to read “faith” as “faith in me”. Their faith in Jesus made them well.  My faith in Jesus gives me peace and joy even though breast cancer metastasized to my liver and lungs. Nabeel’s faith in Jesus empowered him to pour out his life in service to the end.  With the last of his strength Nabeel displayed to the world that his unshakable faith was in Jesus who is worthy of praise even if He does not heal in a particular instance.

Nabeel’s faith was unquestionably in Jesus and not in healing.

That perfect gem of faith in Jesus was buried in Nabeel’s heart long before he knew the name of the One in whom he believed. His faithful friend, David, mined that gem with truth for years before it became visible to others.  The rough-cut stone was crushed through heartbreak as Nabeel chose to love his Lord more than his family.  And even when the process of refining had only just begun, the value of the diamond was recognized by everyone who heard him speak of Jesus. In his final year, Nabeel opened his life to the world and allowed us all to watch as the Lord cut facet, after facet, after beautiful facet to reflect the love of the God who does not always heal, but who always suffers with us.

I don’t wonder why Nabeel died because I know the King has the right to claim His treasure whenever He judges the time is best to do so.  Nabeel Qureshi joins the ranks of men like Oswald Chambers, Peter Marshall, and Jim Elliot.  Their lives were all cut short, but they will continue to bless millions of people for generations to come in ways that God alone can understand.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of Nabeel Qureshi.