Some Words on the Josh Duggar Scandal(s)

These words have been ruminating in my mind since Thursday, so in order to get some good sleep tonight I need to write them down.

First of all, months ago when the news broke that Josh Duggar molested younger siblings among others, there seemed to be an almost giddy delight in our media, as if to say, “We knew it, we knew you were flawed, we got you!” I can only imagine the maniacal laughter when once again his name was disgraced among the fallen in the Ashley Madison hack. No longer could his fans claim anything but his guilt. Those who hoped that he’d been rehabilitated from his 13 year old self, hung their heads in error. But here’s the deal, as much as we use screens to separate us from the fact that celebrities are PEOPLE who live and breathe and think and emote, they are still just that-PEOPLE! Let us keep in mind that while Josh Duggar was caught red-handed in this mess, he is married to a woman who is likely devastated, 1 month postpartum, and a real person. He has parents, and siblings, and they are hurting and shocked and heartbroken. He victimized (years ago) 5 young girls…who will live with that knowledge forever. There are human hearts at stake here. Yeah, Josh Duggar is a hypocrite, but there are hurting people involved in this, that we should be respectful of.

In America, we love scandal and we have made sport of watching people fall from grace. And it’s sick. I’m tired of it. It’s not kind. In the media’s joy over celebrity breakups and sex changes and pornography addictions and “are they pregnants,” we forget, these people are REAL. We have lost our compassion. We have lost our empathy. It’s not edifying. It’s not how we would teach our children to behave on the play ground. Reality tv is a cesspool for this type of behavior. And whether you think reality tv stars are asking for it or not (in that they choose to expose their lives on camera nationally), it is YOUR choice to watch it and pay them their millions.

It is up to us to say enough is enough. We won’t endorse this anymore.

Secondly, in no way do I condone Josh Duggar. In fact, I am appalled and disgusted by his actions and even his apology, which let’s not forget, happened after/not before he was caught. Even with Jesus living in my heart, I have a hard time extending grace to him as I think of his precious wife, with a NEW BABY AT HOME. I cannot fathom. I CANNOT FATHOM. However, we must remember, that sometimes offended people offend. Hurt people hurt. We will never know (nor is it ANY of our business) if Josh Duggar himself, is a victim, but lest we cast stones, remember we don’t always know every part of the story (even though the part we do know is awful)*.

Finally, to the church. We have fought with fervor (and unabashed judgment) legislation we feel contrary to Scripture (something Jesus never did, by the way). But we have ignored those in our midst. We have not fostered a culture of vulnerability and accountability and brokenness. Even more shocking to me, we have remained relatively quiet on the subject of pornography. Is it because we don’t see what is actually happening? Or more likely, because many in our flock are themselves, quietly addicted to this crime without a victim? I tell you-it has a victim. She is someone’s daughter, he is someone’s son.  Pornography is made at the expense of someone’s soul. The addict has a wife or husband, and their marriages are often devastated by it. Pornography objectifies people. IT MAKES HUMAN BEINGS INTO OBJECTS. It is not ok. Church. Where are your picket signs for this? Are your knees calloused for the men and women trapped in the pornography industry, and for the people in your midst addicted to it? Are your arms open to help a brother or sister heal without judgment? Where are your lobbyists and your blogs and your new political parties fighting this-the underbelly of our culture?

We can all judge Josh Duggar and whoever else’s name is on that MASSIVE dump. But let us take a lesson from Josh himself, and remove the plank from our own eye before judging the world**. We are all one step away from a moral breakdown ourselves. By the grace of God we go on.

*Whether or not he is a victim himself, does not EXCUSE his actions. WE are all accountable for what we choose to do with our pasts. However, I believe compassion looks at the entire narrative of one’s life.

**More specifically, what I mean here is that J.D. espoused family values at the same time being unfaithful to his wife. This is what Jesus means by looking at the speck in our neighbor’s eye, while ignoring the plank in our own eye. If we would all focus on ourselves, and our own mess, perhaps this world would be a better place.

To Our Beloved Bunny

My grandmother is in hospice care…and while she is still with us, though I’m certain she is certain of my love for her…I won’t wait to write it down. I need to do it now.

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I can’t stop thinking of my last hospital stay, exactly one month ago, for the birth our of twins. With that stay, came the promise of finality: of pregnancy and of delivering babies. The end was in site: the end of tests and dr’s visits and apprehension. And that hospital stay culminated in life. For months, I was so giddy when I thought about coming home with life. Leaving with LIFE, 2 lives. The thought of it made me cry.

In so many ways, her stay in the hospital now is the same, final and culminating in LIFE. The end of this life on Earth, means life in Heaven for her. And at 35, I can barely wrap my mind around the idea of being excited about that. But for her…for my Bunny, our Grace, it means seeing her mom and dad, and brothers and sisters, and her beloved, our Pop. It means holding my sister’s baby boy, Silas, before any of us do. It means greeting our cousin Amy again with a kiss and tears. It means seeing the face of God. And sitting here thinking about THAT, about seeing Jesus…that makes me giddy for her, even in my heartbreak over my impending separation from her.

So how do I honor this woman, who for my entire life has meant the world to me; who has prayed unceasingly for all of us, remaining lucid for her 94 years, sharing griefs and triumphs, stealing giggles on porch swings over slightly inappropriate stories, fingers still gliding effortlessly across piano keys? For this woman who is a picture of godliness and purpose, I will honor her with my words…and I think that’s how she’d want me to honor her.

Bunny and me

Two things about my grandmother have shaped me and helped me to become who I am.

The first is music. 

When I was five, I remember telling Bunny a story using the keys of her piano to differentiate my characters. Then she taught me about the symphony, sitting on the floor listening to Peter and the Wolf…hearing story through music for the first time. And years later, it was Bunny who encouraged my first piano lessons. And finally in high school, when I was still practicing piano at my dad’s church, Bunny bought me my own piano, perhaps the most amazing gift I’ve ever been given. The gift of song. And because of her blood that courses through me and her influence, I feel God’s glory no more acutely than when I am wrapped up in the beauty of making music.

The second is faith.

When I was little my mother taught us how to study God’s word. I will always look back and praise God for a mom who was disciplined in her teaching of us. Without her, I would have no idea that the Bible is indeed living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. But it was Bunny, who also helped shaped the love of Bible study into my mom. I love legacies. I love tracing my faith back to faithful men and women. I am so grateful.

I loved watching my mom and dad wake up every morning and pray together…I saw that in my grandparents, too. I hope our children will remember our prayer times, too.

Bunny and Georgie

It’s impossible to wrap up my grandmother in a silly blog post, just as it’s impossible to catch the memory of a dream the night before with our words. It all falls short. To list all of my memories seems trite. But they are a part of me. She is a part of me.

Not everyone gets the pleasure of having a family that they are wild about. I do. And at the helm is Bunny.

Bunny, you mean the world to me. I love you more than words could ever say. Your purpose in my life…has been inexplicable.

Pop at Christmas

I was sitting on the floor just now, big and pregnant with twins, barely able to reach the top of the wrapping paper roll I was cutting, and using way to much tape, surrounded by a mess…and I thought of my Pop. It was sometime in my childhood, I was probably 10 or 11. Pop and I were upstairs in our home in Memphis wrapping presents. Ever the economist, he commented that I was wasting tape, and grabbed the little box of instant flavored coffee I was wrapping for my dad (listen, little kids have limited budgets…but I still wonder what Dad thought of that gift), and wrapped up the whole thing using one piece of tape. ONE PIECE…y’all. So, as I sit wrapping presents every Christmas Eve, using too much tape, and wondering how on Earth he did that, I smile…and miss him.  Love the ones you’re with. Make memories, even weird ones. Be present. beach pop Merry Christmas Eve.

Jesus in Ferguson, Jesus in our Hearts

I’m trying to articulate my thoughts as slowly and respectfully as possible.

I’m trying to wrap my head around the grief and brokenness and separateness that still plagues our country.

I’m trying to understand.

Someone said yesterday that they were sick of Christians’ response to Ferguson. I assume they mean the white Christian response to Ferguson. They said they wished people would act more like Jesus. And so I wondered, what would Jesus do…today…right now. Well. I’m a white Christian girl, and I believe that Jesus is alive. And I believe He is responding.

But I don’t think he is responding the way we think he is. Some of us think he is with the white folk and some of us think he is with the black folks.

Friends, He is not on one side or the other. Yet, he is not a pacifist, bolding proclaiming truth and calling out sin and still, he is not fighting in the streets. And in case you didn’t know…he didn’t have time to mess with the government.  He is not involved in the protests. He is not part of the media (I think this part must disgust him the most). This is not the way of Jesus. Jesus looks above these human attempts at reform and into our hearts. Into people’s HEARTS. Into people’s LIVES.

You see, Jesus walks among us.  If we let him, he is quietly listening and chastening our hearts to a Father, a Father who sees no color, no race, no ethnicity, no sex. A Father who created us in His image and to glorify Him.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Have you read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman? The time when he talked with an outcast from a people group so marginalized that Jews would walk around their cities, and she was a woman who’d had 5 husbands, and was living with a new man to whom she was NOT married? In his love for her, he told her there was a better way.

Have you read the story about when Jesus asked those about to stone a prostitute about their own hearts? Were they clean? Had they not sinned? Had they not offended? And they all walked away…because none of them were without blemish. Not one. But neither was she. And he tells her, “GO and leave your life of sin.” 

We are all the Pharisees and we are all the prostitute.

Remember when Jesus told us plainly to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us?

Jesus’ ways are different.They are better. But so often, we try to put him into a political boat. We make him white or black, when he is GOD.

Jesus loves the marginalized. He loves the hurting. But he wants more for us. He wants us all to live blameless lives. He wants more than our finger pointing on social media, and our stereotyping, and our close minds and hearts. He wants more than our protests and our cop car burning and our looting. He wants more for BOTH SIDES. We are all in the wrong.

We are all the same to him. There are no sides. And he loves us equally. And I am certain he is grieving for us. And we can’t seem to pull it together…because we aren’t doing the one thing HE DID. Which is TALK and LISTEN and LOVE.

You and I were not there that hot summer night in Missouri. It is one man’s word against another man’s word and let me remind us, we will never know what really happened. And the toll was far greater than one man’s life in the street.  The toll isn’t decided yet…it is still growing.

Before you point fingers in either direction…before you continue in hatred…and misunderstanding…

This Thanksgiving, hold hands across the table with someone different. Someone hurting. Someone who is ok. Look into their eyes. Know their story. Talk and listen. That is the face of Jesus.

Tap Tap Tap

This kid Derrick sat behind me during an assembly in the 4th grade. From the beginning of time, our Elementary school had long lines of desks, arranged in pairs, which we’d sit in for lunch and also programs. Derrick wanted my attention, so he just started tapping me. Over and over and over. I wasn’t one to chit chat during undesignated times, so I ignored him. But he just kept tapping and tapping and tapping. So I started giving him nasty looks, and whispered “stop its.” But he never stopped tapping. I don’t remember what he wanted or how the assembly wrapped up or what they said. But I just remember that constant tap, tap, tap from Derrick.

But Derrick hasn’t been the only tap tap tap  in my life…

And often the tap tap taps come from the Holy Spirit…

Tap…there’s something you need to change….

Tap…listen…

Tap…there is more to life…there is a better way…

For a month or so, with heightened pregnancy hormones/craziness raging through my blood, the tap tap tap has been grace.

And when it’s time to learn something, the opportunities seem to be everywhere.

I’m mulling through the book of Romans right, now. And, I’ll be honest with you…it’s hard. Hard to get through, sometimes hard to understand, sometimes just straight boring. Now, I know a lot of guys who like this book in the Bible, but for me…it’s rough. BUT, necessary.

A few weeks ago in the second chapter, Paul says this:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearanceand patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

I stopped in my tracks. Passing judgment. Who am I to pass judgment? And isn’t it true that in my own passing of judgment, maybe, just MAYBE, I am doing the same thing that I am judging? YES!

The human condition is not complicated. We are all guilty of all the things that make us mad, that cause us to judge, that hurt our feelings…

This week I got upset about the following things:

  • not being treated the way I wanted to be treated
  • being yelled at (granted by a 4 year old)
  • being given unsolicited advice
  • being judged

Yet, which one of those things have I not done, myself, and this very week? Who am I to judge? Who am I NOT TO DISH OUT LOADS AND LOADS OF GRACE?

This morning, I read of a woman dying a grace-filled death from cancer, a woman who is fighting to the end and calling her battle beautiful. And I wept. I wept at my own ridiculous immaturity. I wept that I get upset about such small things. I wept because I sweat the small stuff. I worry about things that are insignificant. And I don’t love frivolously those who’s paths I cross. I wept because I cannot seem to learn the lessons that God is tap tap tapping on my back.

Tap…forgive…

Tap…forbear…

Tap…pray…

Tap…assume the best of people…

Tap…look at the whole picture…

Tap…there is a better way to live…a freer way…

Tap…let me show you the light…

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And I thanked God for the deep words of Paul in Romans, who reminds me…as I WAGE WAR with ruthless abandon against the carnal and immature and fleshly…

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

 

 

 

When You Choose Grace…

I got my feelings hurt.

It was something small and unintentional by the offending party. However, past grievances mixed with a new one created a nasty battle in my heart.  The offender went about their day unmoved and unaware while I festered…

Then I saw something at my church. From across the room, a man had his arms around his father in an embrace. I don’t know the whole story, but judging by the part of the story that I do know, the father does not deserve to be embraced by his son. And the scene moved me. The son ended the embrace with a man pat, and moved away. And immediately, I thought one word, “grace.”

If this man can have grace for a father who doesn’t deserve it, what is my problem? Why am I wasting my time in resentment and frustration toward someone who doesn’t even know they’ve hurt me?

Here’s the deal with grace…it’s not deserved. It’s often unmerited. It doesn’t make sense. And it requires some work…and by some work, I mean a lot of work. And by a lot of work, I mean prayer. A boat load of it.

This morning, I begged God,

Make me a grace-filled person. Fill me with compassion for those who hurt, who don’t know they are hurting. Give me peace to forbear the little things.  Don’t allow bitterness, even below the surface to envelop my heart and fill it with weeds. Let me see people the way you do, not as creatures who should tip toe around me and my fragile feelings. Oh God, fill me with grace.

Here’s the thing…

When we choose the path contrary to grace, the first casualty is US. Bitterness eats away at our hearts like a cancer.  And in a flash, we are different, haggard by pain we refused to let go of or deal with, and eventually passing that hurt along to those we love. It’s a nasty cycle, and one that is not easy to be free of.

So I asked myself, and I ask you…are you an extender or an expecter?

Are we extending love and grace to those who don’t quite treat us the way we want to be treated (as if there is one universal way to be treated)?

or…

Do we expect the world to cater to our every demand, feeling, or whim?

Are we extending forgiveness to those who hurt us with an ever present knowledge that we are being forgiven ourselves, for untold grievances toward others?

or…

Do we expect that we are the only ones who get hurt? 

Are we extending understanding as we realize that everyone we know and meet is on their own journey, different from our’s, with unique strengths and weaknesses?

Or 

Do we expect everyone to be at the same place we are? In other words, do we expect perfection from others?

Feelings are a tough thing. On the one hand, feelings are legitimate. On the other hand, we can be destroyed by our feelings.

Yes, what we feel is real and cannot be undone, HOWEVER, it’s what I choose to do with my feelings that makes the difference.

Grace is realizing, that we don’t always see the whole picture…

DSC_0179And realizing that the person who hurt us, maybe didn’t know our whole story…

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But grace takes the time…to look at the person behind the offense, to see a friend, a spouse, a child, a parent, and see the whole story. Grace puts pieces back together in forgiveness…because.

It’s worth it.

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It just is.

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Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 

Ephesians 4:31-32

To the Twins, 13 Years Later

There are days sketched on my parents’ and grandparents’ minds forever. Pearl Harbor, crowded around the family radio, hearing the unimaginable. The day JFK was shot, my mom’s lunch lady was crying as she went through the line. The day that Martin Luther King was shot and there were curfews and chaos and sadness in their city.

In my mind…it’s this day. 22 years old and fresh to Texas, the second week in grad school, I was walking down the curved marble stairs after my 8 o’clock class. At the bottom, stood a mixture of students and professors, huddled in disbelief, eyes glued to the TV in the foyer. And the Trade Towers were on fire. And the world has never ever been the same; our innocence was lost in a moment.

That next summer, the youth group I was interning for took a trip to New York. There we were, over 100 of us, fumbling with subway cards, walking miles and miles in matching tee shirts (not exactly the way I wanted to experience NYC for the first time), and searching for bathrooms that weren’t to be found. I was feeling embarrassed. Ugh, why are we here? We look like tourists! Until we arrived at Ground Zero. Suddenly, there was reverence. Even among the 7th grade boys.

There’s something about standing on ground where people have fought for life and lost, that sends chills through your bones.

In the summer of 2002, there was a huge makeshift memorial at Ground Zero. A wall, with words from loved ones and total strangers scribbled all over it, US flags, balloons, pictures. There was too much to look at. I read a few messages and then took in the scene in its entirety.

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But then something caught my eye that has stayed with me clearly for 13 years: a snap shot of 2 babies in matching high chairs, with the words, “look how big we are now, daddy” written on the picture. And there I stood, and cried for those twins who didn’t have a daddy and their mama who didn’t have a husband anymore. And now, 13 years later, I think of them. They are much bigger now. Maybe they started 7th or 8th grade last week. Maybe they’ve moved to the Midwest, maybe they are still in Manhattan. Maybe they have an adopted dad, who loves them as if they were his all along. I don’t know. But every year I think of them and pray for them. While my false sense of American invincibility was forever rattled about this time on September 11, 2001, they were losing their dad. And now that I have twins growing strong within me, I think of their mother, who lost her best friend, her help, and likely her joy. And I remember. I can’t remember everyone who lost their lives that day. But I can remember the twins and their mama and one daddy who walked into work on a normal September day and never came home.