9/11 Through My Daughter’s Eyes

Just like any other American over a certain age, I can remember exactly where I was when the “world stopped turning” on September 11th, 2001. I was a senior in high school, and just starting my day in first-period home economics class. Lessons were paused. Mouths hung open. Tears started falling. Here, tucked away in the safety of the Midwest, the impact of what had happened in New York City shook even our tiny town. I can still remember a narrow-sighted boy from my class asking in disgust, “Why are we even watching this? It’s not like it’s going to affect us.” His words cling with me. How wrong he was. Not only did it affect us, and the world, but it affects our children.

When stepping out to take my daughter to preschool this morning. I couldn’t help but think about what the weather was like here on that day eleven years ago. It was similar to today, sunny and slightly cool. A beautiful morning. When and how would I ever tell her what had happened? Would she understand? Just then, she looked up into the sky and squealed, “Mommy, look! Look what two those airplanes did!” My heart immediately jumped, considering what was on my mind. I stepped off the porch to see what she was pointing at. “Those planes made a cross, just like in church! Just like Jesus!”

“Yes, honey, you’re right,” I told her. As I buckled her into her car seat, I felt a little better. I was reminded that there is so much good in this world, and even on our darkest days, we can still find hope.

My young daughter saw a beautiful symbol in the sky on this anniversary of 9/11.

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Don’t Follow Christians

It is crazy how many Christians are open bigots, loud and proud. 

When I saw this Facebook post made by a college friend, it made my heart sink and my brain buzz. Not because it’s untrue, but because its truth reflects a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in seekers finding their way to Christ. Sometimes (many times) Christians are in the way.

But here’s the thing. Christ didn’t say “follow my followers.” He said, “Follow ME.” Again, he said, “No one comes to the Father except through ME.”

Don’t let her accessories fool you.

I know that’s hard to rationalize, especially when we apply this theory to other major decisions in our life (and choosing Christ as your savior is a major decision). Even when we apply it to trivial decisions, it’s difficult to imagine. After all, would you trust an overweight personal trainer, an outdated hairstylist or a chain-smoking doctor? Probably not. So why should you follow Christ, when so many of his followers are more like thorns than roses? If you think some Christians are hypocrites, liars and high-horse jockeys, you’re only partially right. Because we ALL are. We’re all filthy, rotten sinners, saved by God’s grace alone, and through no good deeds of our own.

There are two things I’d like to tell non-believers, and especially those who may be seeking Christ’s presence in their lives.

1. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are mean-spirited, unloving, judgmental, bigoted, greedy and just plain nasty human beings. And I’m personally sorry that I’m not often a shining example of Christ’s love to others. I’ll never forget the homeless gentleman standing in the Walmart parking lot on a 101 degree day. I had a cold Powerade in my car, and I didn’t give it to him. I have prayed to God to give me a second chance to redeem myself from that shameful afternoon.

A recently released song by the Christian band Casting Crowns perfectly describes this deplorable behavior within the church:

Jesus Friend of sinners we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus friend of sinners the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours

more lyrics

2. You’re welcome. For all of the heinous atrocities that are committed “in the name of christianity” (won’t even capitalize in that instance), there are countless more generous, wonderful and life-saving acts carried out on a daily basis. No, these good deeds don’t wash away the bad, but they should be recognized. How many hospitals, schools, homeless shelters, food pantries and community outreach programs exist thanks to the inspiration of Christ’s love? And most (if not all) of these facilities are for everyone, believers and non-believers alike.

__________

I’ve made the mistake of following strong, charismatic Christian leaders in the past, and I’ve been let down every time. You know why? They’re human. Humans fail. Don’t get me wrong, Christians need fellowship, and a solid leader (there are many amazing ones out there), but when when our hearts and minds stop at the pulpit, we lose sight of the one we should be following.

If you’re living with pain from deep wounds that prevents you from seeking a loving God, I don’t claim to know what you’re going through. But, I can tell you I’ve been through some ish, and it wasn’t pretty. I know what it’s like to have a grenade blow up in the middle of your safety bubble, and leave you picking up the pieces for years, if not a lifetime. And if you’re a cynic who wants to poke holes in any claim I have about Christ, I don’t have all of the answers. I have some, but in my honest opinion, we haven’t even scratched the surface of understanding God.

“What gnats are compared with humans, so is the whole creation compared with God.” – John Chrysostom

So please, don’t follow Christians. Follow Christ.

Love Bigger than a Lie: God’s True Nature Revealed

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You’re accepted. Completely, lovingly accepted.

To be honest, I don’t want to tell this story. I’d rather forget it ever happened, keep it hidden with the other skeletons in my closet of shame. But, there are some stories that just have to be told. I hope the beauty and deeper meaning in this message surpasses my ugly deed. I hope.

January 2010: A blizzard was descending upon Wichita, and I was anxious to leave my office to make the 45 minute drive home. I sat white-knuckled in the seat of my Honda, eyes carefully trained on the road ahead, careful to avoid and slick spots or crazy drivers (truth be told, I drive like a grandma, and inclement weather brings on a high level of paranoia). I made it to the opposite side of town, and onto the two-lane that heads out to my neck of the woods. The snow was coming down hard, and my windshield wipers were working overtime to keep it from building up on the glass.

All of a sudden, my stomach dropped out from under me, and my head began to spin. I thought I was going to be sick. No, I wasn’t having a stress-induced breakdown from the treacherous drive (although it wouldn’t have surprised me if I did). Rather, I had just been hit with the realization that I’d forgotten something. Something very important. My parents had asked me to run an errand for them on my way home from work, and I’d forgotten. Now, this wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but this was something they really needed, and I’d been so consumed with my work lately that I felt I was majorly slacking in the daughter department.

This was my one chance to redeem myself. My one shining moment to perform a good deed and begin repay them for all of the love and support they’d shown me over the years. And, I’d let them down. (Let it be known that this pressure I felt was all self-induced. My parents were not pressuring me or guilt-tripping me in any way.)

I panicked. Did I have time to go back? No, it was all the way on the other side of town, and to turn around in this kind of weather would be foolish. But that’s exactly what I did. I headed back into Wichita. I made it less than a mile before I came to my senses. “What the hell am I doing?,” I asked myself aloud in the car. The snow pelted the windows, and the lines on the road were getting harder and harder to see. I couldn’t do this.

Headed back the other direction, towards home, I had to make a phone call. One that I didn’t want to make. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to say. All I knew was that I didn’t want to let them down. Didn’t want them to be disappointed in me.

Never in a million years could I have guessed what would come out of my mouth when my mom answered the phone. A lie. A big, terrible, ugly lie. I think I even covered my mouth after the words escaped my lips, I was so shocked by what I’d done. “Mom, I got in a fender bender. I’m okay, but I wasn’t able to pick up your prints in time…” And on and on the story went. It was as if it had actually happened. To this day, I’m still in wonder at where I came up with that story line, everything from the location of the accident, to the color of the truck that “hit” me. (I’m waiting for karma to catch up with me, and I now avoid this intersection as I’m convinced it will actually happen to me.)

But my lies didn’t stop there. I even told my husband when I got home about what had “happened” to me. He was very sympathetic, and so glad I hadn’t been hurt. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to pull him into this deception, other than the fact that I was crying by the time I got home, and I had to have a plausible explanation other than, “I lied to the people who gave me life.”

Coming Clean

The rest of the night was a blur. I was so consumed with guilt that I couldn’t focus on anything else. At 2-something in the morning, I welcomed the opportunity to get up with my 7-month-old daughter. I wasn’t sleeping anyway, and her warm, snuggly body gave me some measure of comfort. As I rocked her back to sleep, I knew what I had to do. I had to come clean.

The tears started falling, and falling and falling. I hadn’t cried this hard in so long. But why was I so torn up? Was I afraid they wouldn’t forgive me? Wouldn’t love me anymore? No. Rather, I felt this wave of emotion because I knew they would forgive me. They would always love me, no matter what.

After putting the baby back down, I snuggled in with my husband. He was awakened by my sobs shaking the bed. “What’s wrong?,” he asked. “I lied to you,” I blubbered. “Lied to you, and to mom and dad. I’m horrible. I’m so, so sorry. Please forgive me.” And he did. (I was blown away at his ability to forgive me so quickly, and assure me that everything was going to be okay.)

Still unnerved by my actions, I got back out of bed, sat down at the computer, and typed out this email to my parents at 3:41 a.m. (condensed version):

This is so awful. I just can’t sleep. I am so, so sorry. I hope someday you can forgive me. I don’t think I’ve lied to you since I was a teenager, and I’m sure I haven’t confessed what I lied to you about then, so I’m sorry. I am so incredibly self-centered, and I have no excuse for being that way. You raised me better.

I should have done this in person, but I was afraid. I wanted to call, but it’s 3:41 in the morning, and that would only benefit me by making me feel better, and I didn’t want to wake you up.

I love you both so much. You’re so generous, kind and thoughtful. I don’t deserve parents like you. I’m so sorry.

I hit “Send” and tried to salvage what little sleep I could. The next day, I frantically checked my Inbox, waiting for a reply. Even though I knew their love for me was unconditional, I was still scared. I felt like a small child, awaiting punishment after majorly misbehaving.

At 2:31 p.m., I saw a message waiting to be opened. Nervously, I clicked on the email, and braced myself for my parents’ reaction. Here is what I read:

All is forgiven … And, I’m so proud of you for letting us know.

If you were not so anxious to do us a favor none of this would have happened. 

I hope you know you can come to us with any issue as you would a life long friend .. because of course … that is what we are.

Love you forever,

Dad

And just like that, he had forgiven me. Not only did he release me from the shame of my sin, but he awoke in me a renewal in my spirituality, although I wasn’t quite sure why just yet.

It wasn’t until several months later that the true depth and meaning of this incident hit me. Up until this point, I’d approached my relationship with God all wrong. No matter how much I strived for his affection, his approval, his blessing, I never felt good enough. Guilt and shame clung to my ankles like heavy, wet sand bags, making forward motion nearly impossible.

As I divulged my shameful deed to my Bible study group, I realized something. I was so upset by my actions because I knew my parents would forgive me, that they would always love me. Not because I was afraid that they wouldn’t forgive, wouldn’t love. And if my earthly father feels that affection for me, how much more must my heavenly father feel?

Finally, after all of these years, I got it. I saw God’s true nature:

I am not accepted because I obey. Rather, I obey because I am accepted. 

He knows we aren’t perfect, but He loves us anyway. He knows we’ll screw up again (and again and again), but He loves us anyway. He knows that we will never measure up, but He loves us anyway. I regret that it took the consequences of a lie to show me His true nature, but I’m eternally grateful that He used my shortcomings to bring me closer to Him. His love is bigger than a lie, bigger than any sin from your past. Your debt has already been paid. All you need to do is pour your heart out to Him, and hit “Send.”

 
read to be read at yeahwrite.me