Why Christians Need to Stop Silly Fights

“What are the benefits of public school,” a person asked on Twitter.

I answered, “You learn how to get along with people who are different from you.”

Instantly without any notice I was ambushed on Twitter by home schoolers who thought I said ‘home-schooling is Satanic.’ I said nothing about home-schooling. I answered a question about public school.

Unfortunately I innocently stepped into the middle of a conversation launched by a blogger pitching his pro-home school post. The Christian blogger had an agenda and he used me to launch his crusade against public school. I quickly bowed out of this accidental argument and called out the blogger’s agenda.

The home-school versus public school is one of those silly fights Christians tend to get into in the name of God. My friend Lee Grady posted an article about how Christians misuse the Bible. One way we pervert the Bible is when we attack each other with scriptures. We think we’re defending God’s honor and the truth when we’re justifying our position at our friend’s expense.

The home-school versus public school is one of the many silly wars we fight. I’ve seen these battles as well:

  • Moms with children who work outside of the home versus moms with children who stay at home
  • Purposefully single versus marrieds
  • Purposefully childless couples versus marrieds with children

And the list goes on and on. I was in a church where the pastor’s wife wanted to debate me about my decision to work outside of the home. My mom just died and I had a baby. I was not in the mood for an open debate about my decision to work.

I respectfully told the pastor’s wife that the decision to work was between me and God and my husband. We believed the job was a financial blessing and my children were being taken care of. “I think you’ve crossed some boundaries here,” I said.

A week later she called crying and repenting for her mistake. I was thankful she responded but my guard was up in that relationship. That was the beginning of the end for me for that church.

While I’m a firm believer in seeking wisdom and counsel from respected, trusted leaders, I believe these issues, among many, are between you and God:

  • Taking birth control
  • Have kids or not have kids
  • Get married or stay single
  • How you date
  • Where you live
  • What you do for a living
  • How you spend your money
  • How you decide to educate your child

Some people can’t afford to send their child to a private Christian school or lose income from a working adult. Instead of judging them for their decision to send their child to a public school, why not pay their way to a private Christian school? Paying for their tuition is a more constructive way of addressing your conviction about private Christian education instead of berating the parent for subjecting their child to the ‘liberal agenda.’

Christians who fight silly wars are at-risk for breaking this scriptural guideline for relationships:

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.[a] If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.  God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

Who are you to judge your neighbor because….

  • They send their child to a public school
  • They home-school
  • He/she doesn’t want to get married
  • He/she doesn’t want to have children
  • He/she wants to have a big family
  • She has children and doesn’t want to work
  • She has children and wants to work
  • He/she drives an expensive sports car or an older vehicle
  • He/she is a different race, gender or economic class

Who are you to judge?

Instead of judging, let’s love by praying and caring for one another. Let’s fight for another, stand with another and respect each other’s decision. Help an overwhelmed parent. Bring a meal. Take care of their kids. Celebrate life!

Tell me about a silly war you may have accidentally stepped into.

 

How I Found Freedom in Prison

In November 2001, I received a verdict that felt like a prison sentence. I discovered that the baby I was carrying had a disability. The geneticist that gave me the diagnosis recommended that I terminate the pregnancy.

I didn’t want to have an abortion yet I was overwhelmed by the fear of the unknown that grew inside of me. The decision to give birth to a child with a disability thrust me into messy, chaotic moments of uncertainty that chained me to an unfolding diagnosis that I had no control over. The commitment to be a mom to this child set prison walls for my life. In my head, I knew this was the right thing to do but in my heart I was convinced that I had no idea what I was doing. I mentally checked into a prison.

A prison is place where no one wants to go. A prisoner has no control over their life. Every minute they are told what to do, what to wear and where to go. A prisoner is a warden of the state who no longer belongs to themselves. They belong to someone else.

I stepped into a life that I didn’t want that made me go places I didn’t want to go and meet people I never wanted to meet.

One woman who learned of my predicament said if she could pick a child with a disability to take care of, she would pick the disability that marked my daughter. Taking care of children with disabilities was her job; not a 24 hours, 7-days a week responsibility that consumes you. While she encouraged me for a moment, her words faded in the years of constant change. I belonged to the demands of a daughter with special needs that meant lots of meetings with doctors, specialists, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists and counselors.

My husband, Jerome and I are members of a church that encouraged us as much as they knew how to. When she was a baby up to 3-years-old, she was in the Infant Toddler Ministry and blended in with the rest of the children. At 4-years-old, she was in the service until after worship. The decibel level of the worship band was painfully loud for D’Andra. That period of worship, which is what I loved the most about this church, was spent walking her back and forth in the foyer until she went into the children’s ministry.

D’Andra’s first Easter service with her big brothers, Alex (left) and Chris (right).

When a child is six-years-old, they are in the whole service. D’Andra’s aversion to the decibel level that caused her to cover her hears and cry didn’t end. I spent the next 3 years in the foyer with her. I wondered if I should even go to church since I spent most the time during the service in the foyer.

Jerome was insistent that I go even though he knew that D’Andra wanted me to be in the foyer with her. At that time, I also had to step out of being a ‘prayer warrior’ and other volunteer activities to take care of her. I struggled with feelings of being worthless, useless, forgotten and overlooked. I was so busy taking care of D’Andra that I couldn’t live up to other people’s expectations. My pool of friends shrank and I felt isolated and alone in a fight that I didn’t want to be in. I knew I had no control so I leaned into the isolation and loneliness and quit running from it or resenting being in that cave. Leaning into the isolation and loneliness while praying and depending on Him alone set me free from the drive to be recognized or approved by people.

I found freedom from the need for attention when I had to leave church early many times to care for D’Andra. I found freedom from the facade of ‘having everything together’ when my struggle with her was apparent to everyone. One time she slipped away and the ushers put the church on lock down during the service. A massive manhunt for this little girl who wouldn’t stay in one place took place while my friends sang songs to God inside the church.

An usher found her hiding behind a glass pulpit in the Media Room. She giggled when she was found. I wanted to scream but her laughs and hug around my neck melted me. I found freedom to be vulnerable, to scream, to be outraged, to cry and to break walls down when I either wanted to kill myself or flee. I found freedom to reach out for help from trusted friends.

D’Andra did not like sitting still for very long when we were in church.

I found freedom to fail with endless mornings where she refused to get on the bus. There were morning meltdowns as she screamed at me. I lived in this war zone for years until she turned 13. Today, she gets on the bus without any problems. But there were many mornings of scrambling to get her into the car to drive her to school. Promising her a donut on the way so I could get her in the car for school. Yes, I failed as mom because I had to use sugary high calorie donuts to bribe her to go to school. I learned to find peace in God when failure screamed at me.

A donut would get D’Andra in the car so I could drive her to school.

While I struggled with my prison cell of circumstances, I was encouraged by the Bible stories of these prisoners, Joseph and Paul. My prison is a far cry from the prisons that Joseph or Paul were in the Bible. They were both unjustly accused and yet God brought freedom to their prison. Joseph went from the prison to the palace. Paul had an angelic visitation that set him free to convert his captor. Freedom was inside of them because no Pharoah, no emperor or religious leader can take what only belongs to you and God – your spirit and soul.

While you’re in prison, you can let your spirit live freely with love, joy, care and peace. Paul was shackled in a hole when he sang a song of deliverance. With shackles and chains and the stench of human waste, Paul found a song in his soul to the One who was unshackled, unchained and unstained by the stench of the world.

Paul and Joseph had a choice to be bitter, resentful or hateful towards their captors. Or they could look to the One who can never be imprisoned or chained. You can blame God for your prison or depend on Him to live in it. God’s own son was unjustly imprisoned, tortured and horrifically executed by his own choice, for a crime he didn’t commit.

God understands the unjust shackles of a fallen world. His own son was born under the threat of genocide and grew up in world with military occupation from a foreign ruler. Children are born into a world that can either imprison them in circumstances beyond their control such as poverty or slavery. Our circumstances become our prison cell where we can choose slavery to our captors or freedom in captivity.

What I thought of as my prison is where I found liberty. Liberty to love, to care and to lay my life down for someone who will never be able to pay me back. I’m not a hero and I still struggle with the demands. Just this week, I had 2 appointments related to D’Andra’s care and she was sick. Being at the appointments and taking care of a sick girl took hours away from my job. I had no choice but to take care of her.

I found freedom as I submitted to God’s will in the moments that I wanted to jump in the car and runaway. I chose not to run when I felt like I couldn’t be a mom to a child with a disability. I chose to call a friend when I wanted to end my life or seek out professional help.

I chose Him in each moment and I still choose Him. I choose Him in the loneliness and isolation. I choose Him in the failure. I don’t runaway from loneliness, isolation and failure. I lean into the discomfort with Him. I lean into the loneliness, isolation and failure by leaning on a community of faith.

If you feel like you’ve lived in prison – a marriage that you don’t want to be, raising kids that aren’t your children, or working in a job that you hate but you have to because you need to feed your family – God knows your struggle. He can set you free inside so no prison, no person or situation can chain your spirit. Tap into His freedom that He offers you now. That’s the only freedom that I know.

How God Remembers When People Forget You

I went from sitting on the front row in church to sitting in the foyer with a fussy child in a matter of years. I went from getting calls daily from ministry leaders to being a nobody. Stepping out of the inner circle of ministry and being on the prayer team to the foyer was hard for me.

I felt like God forgot me. People forgot me. And I was a nobody.

I wanted to leave and cried out to God. During prayer, He asked me, “Did you come here to sit on the front row and to work for the pastors or did you come here because I called you?”

I answered, “I came here because You called me.”

“I haven’t changed my mind,” He answered.

During that time one of the pastors reached out to me. She said that taking care of a special needs child was just as important of a ministry as being on staff. “Right now your ministry is your family,” she said.

With her words, I began to see holding DÁndra in the foyer as a ministry unto God. When I drove my kids to school, I was doing it as unto Him. When I read to DÁndra, I did it as unto Him.

No one ever gets called out in a conference and receives a prophetic word declaring, “Thus says the Lord I’ve called you to take care of your children!” Who prays for that ministry? Taking care of children is sheer hard work.

I felt lonely and isolated walking back and forth in the foyer with DÁndra because she couldn’t handle the loudness of the worship music. My husband, Jerome would relieve me but I had no help with her. God and my family had to be enough because that was all I had.

DÁndra’s sensitivity to noise began lessen as she got older. She is 11 and loves worshipping through the service. When she turned 10, a major Christian magazine asked me to write a cover story. I jumped at the opportunity because feature writing is my first love.

DÁndra loves jamming on the guitar.

When I interviewed the person, he asked me if I would be interested in helping out with marketing for an organization that he was involved in. I had already started a marketing communications business for a more flexible schedule and I said I would be very interested.

After the article was published, the media company asked if I would be interested in managing content for their women’s magazine. The enewsletter is read by over 40,000 women every week. At the same time, the gentleman that I interviewed asked me to consider helping out with marketing for a ministry organization.

I was amazed that God brought these opportunities to me. He remembered me when I was sitting in the foyer praying. He remembered me when I was driving my kids back and forth to school. He remembered me when I felt like everyone else forgot me.

Last Sunday a lady shared with me how she felt underused and forgotten. I shared with her a little bit of my story because I could totally relate to that. I had gone from managing TV and radio show productions and public relations campaigns to sitting in the foyer with a fussy child.

I encouraged her to look to God who always remembers. Instead of being resentful of being overlooked, pray. Pray and do it all as unto Him. Turn the mundane into an act of worship and devotion to God.

He has a long record of remembering people that others forgot. Joseph was forgotten and considered dead by his brothers. The woman with the issue of blood was considered an outcast by her town. And don’t forget the tax collector that everyone hated.

God remembered Joseph by fulfilling a childhood dream that he was clueless as to how it would be fulfilled. I’m sure if Joseph saw betrayal by his brothers, being sold into slavery, false accusation and unjust imprisonment as part of the process of fulfilling the dream, he would have prayed that God would pick someone else.

God remembered the woman with the issue of blood considered a pariah by her family and friends. This woman probably didn’t foresee a disease that kept her from her family and from worship in her future. Yet God put her in His future.

And the tax collector who everyone hated. Yet Jesus defied conventions by announcing to everyone that he was having dinner at his house. The tax collector instantly repents by pledging to return everything that he had taken unjustly.

Joseph, the diseased woman and the tax collector were forgotten, written off by their family and friends. Yet God had not written them off. And He has not written you off. He will never write you off. People may forget you and write you off as beyond being useful or being able to contribute anything worthwhile. But God will never write you off. He will never forget you.

He always remembers and He remembers you. Talk to Him, cry out to Him. Remember Him and He will remember you.

When God Doesn’t Heal Your Child

Today I read a testimony that hurt me. I hated the fact that it stung me when I read it because I should celebrate with this couple that they received their answer to prayer. The testimony hurt me because I’m still waiting for God to heal my daughter.

DÁndra taught herself to use Photo booth on my Mac.

DÁndra taught herself to use Photo booth on my Mac.

When DÁndra was a baby, a lady told me that she would be healed of Down syndrome at 3-years-old. She turned 11 last May and she still has Down syndrome. I read a testimony today of a couple who received a diagnosis that their baby had Down syndrome.

Their church prayed and their baby was born healthy. Hallelujah! I should be doing a praise dance but I gulped when I read it and cried all day. I’m in a church that has seen lots of healings and sometimes it has been hard hearing the testimonies.

I fight the urge to leave the community of faith when I feel like her birth has marked me or made me a burden. I’m a target for every person who has a word about why she has Down syndrome. One well-meaning lady told me that my daughter had Down syndrome because I had a great great grandfather who practiced incest. “Ask the Lord if there’s incest and break it over your family,” she told me in the church bathroom. I wanted to vomit because I was not about to investigate my family line for sexual perversion.

I mean the church ideally should be the safest place for people who are weak, frail or disabled, right? My church has bent over backwards to help with DÁndra and she pretty much blends in with the people. I’m thankful for the church staff that has been very committed to her well-being. But there are still individuals that will take it upon themselves to give you a ‘word’ when you have a child with a disability.

I’ve cried out to God to remove every trace of bitterness in my soul because I haven’t got to stand in front of the congregation to tell them that she has been healed. Instead, I celebrate what God has done in her now:

  • She loves to go to church. She would go to church everyday if she could.
  •  She loves to worship.
  • She is a fiery prayer person.
  • She is prone to being independent which is a typical tween.
  • She is far more sensitive and caring about people then most people that I know.
  •  She is extremely outspoken and verbally coherent. You can understand what she is saying and she has something to say.
  • She’s funny, a jokester and makes me laugh.
  • She has taught me patience and compassion that I didn’t know I had.
  • She has opened up a whole new world I didn’t notice of people with disabilities. I’m extremely sensitive to how people with disabilities are treated and perceived.
  • She has made an advocate for people who can’t speak up for themselves.

My dream is to see the church become the safest place for people with disabilities. I dream of individuals with disabilities being able to step into the house of God and for one moment in His presence, feel normal, loved and significant. Every moment of life they are told without words that they are inconvenient and stupid by society that prizes beauty and strength. I would love to see a church where they can forget that they are disabled and blend in with the community of faith because we are all disabled by sin, fear, poverty, etc.

A place where Christ can step into their life without hindrances. If they get up from their wheel chair and leave their crutches  – hallelujah! If they don’t, we are still a part of their life and we will fight for them. But there’s no pressure of perfection, performance or get healed or something is wrong with you. Thankfully I have never ever felt that at my church.

My church isn’t perfect but it is a cocoon of acceptance and love for DÁndra. She doesn’t even know she has Down syndrome because she has blended in with the congregation. When we’re praying for healing, I’ve asked her if she wants to go down and receive prayer. “No mom, I pray for them.” she says.

When God doesn’t heal your child, know that healing is flowing. It may not be in the bright, shiny package you want it to be so you can show it off. It may be in the moments that she wants to pray for someone else to receive healing or she says, “Mommy, is their church tonight?” “No honey, we don’t have church tonight.” She looks disappointed and asks, “Is their church tomorrow?”

Receive the healing God wants to bring in your heart. I pray for God’s healing to flow in you. May you know His healing touch of love, acceptance, grace and strength to take care of your child. And may His healing flow through you.