Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Give Me a Dose of Crazy!

Last night.
The back of an auditorium.
Quest Community Church.
Lexington, Kentucky.

I'm in awe.

In front of me is the most beautiful gift.

With a new friend named Tabitha, it's our job to assemble it.

First, a layer of pink cellophane.

Then, a tissue paper covered in black French Toile design.

Next, we put a gift in the center of the paper -- makeup, like eyeliner, lip pencil or lip gloss.

And finally, we bring the paper and cellophane around it and tie it with a sleek polka dotted ribbon. Attached is a card, advertising our church services.

Where are these gifts headed?

They're going to bars -- to party girls.

They're going to strip clubs -- to exotic dancers.

Before we start our wrapping, we receive a pep talk and a prayer from the organizer of this: Sandra.

Sandra's story tops that of the woman at the well. She, too, was an exotic dancer and also owned a pornography company.

Today, Sandra is a daughter of the Most High King.

She wants women to know that they are beloved by Him.

"We're going to take these to the bars this weekend," she tells me and Tabitha. "We want these girls to know, 'Yes, you can come to this church, and no one will judge you!' We want them to know that they're loved and beloved. What's really fun is that when they open these, the papers go all over the bar! You can see it covering the place!"

Then Sandra asks us to pray with her.

What stuns me? She doesn't pray for the girls. She prays for us -- for me and Tabitha. She thanks God for our willingness to help, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. She asks God to bless our conversation as we work together. She blesses the moments we will share together as we put these packages together and prepare them.

I am moved.

I am in awe.

Is it crazy to invite a stripper to your church?

Give me a dose of crazy!!!

I want it!

As I work alongside Tabitha, then when we are joined by a third helper named Tina, I get more and more excited about who will receive these gifts. My heart beats faster as I think about someone who may hold one and say to themselves, "Maybe I can try this church. Maybe they will accept me there. Maybe it's time for me to give it a shot. What do I have to lose?"

Better than that, what if they come and say, "Maybe I can give Jesus a try. Maybe He will accept me. Maybe it's time for me to give Him a shot. What do I have to lose?"

Are you crazy?

If not ... why not?

For more information about Beloved and Sandra's personal story, go to

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bolts out of the Blue

Funny thing, prayer.

Most people have this strong aversion to it. After all, it does feel a lot like talking to yourself, doesn’t it?

But do you ever just put aside your discomfort and dive in, open your heart, tell Him like it is, give Him your concerns, be honest about your feelings and tackle the subjects that are bothering you the most?

My biggest hurdle with prayer is allowing myself the luxury of time to do it. I tell myself too often, “I have work to do. He’ll understand. He knows I have to work hard!” I open my laptop and peruse emails, Facebook, Twitter, this blog and my other blog and their stats. I make lists of things I have to do during the day and get sucked into the dithering that goes along with social networking. Before I know it, I’m headlong into the day, without giving Him much of a by your leave.

This morning, though, He made it clear that He needed to chat.

I put Neil on the school bus around 6:55 a.m., and as usual, came inside and propped my feet up on the couch, telling myself, “I’ll get to praying after I look at these emails.”

And yet, I could hear His gentle nudge at my heart. “I have things to tell you,” He said. “Come meet with Me.”

Reluctantly, I set aside the computer and grabbed my Bible, threw on a pair of sandals and went to an outside porch swing. I kicked my feet up and rocked while I flipped through pages.

I was flooded with thoughts – all of the people who needed prayer, all of the situations that needed mending and forgiveness, all of the pressure facing me in my day, all of the worries about the health of family members and about the welfare of my child who is struggling to behave in 1st grade.

I laughed out loud. Well, I live in the woods, so there really was no one to hear me laugh except Him and a few squirrels and birds.

“What am I supposed to pray?” I said. “There are so many things to discuss with You! I could be here all day! I don’t have time for this!”

Then I sat silently for about three or four minutes while He calmed my heart. “I will tell you what to pray. Ask Me,” He said.

I took a deep breath.

“OK. Tell me what to pray.”

He did.

As if a radio signal was directly transmitting His wishes into my brain, one prayer after another popped into my mind. You know when you are really hearing from Him? It’s when you perceive that the thoughts you are having DID NOT ORIGINATE WITH YOU. There is separateness about them, a direct communication going on with your Creator.

It is unmistakeable.

First He told me to pray for a friend in India, who is Hindu and who I only know through the Instant Messages that he sends me.

Then, He told me that I needed to make things right with a woman at church – a person with whom I had a disagreement a couple of weeks ago. (See earlier blog entries for that background story!) I hadn’t yet asked her forgiveness. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was paramount to close the door on this and humbly find her.

And finally, He told me to pray for a particular couple that Brent and I love very much. They don’t know Jesus, and we want the relationship for them desperately.

I wrapped up my prayer and headed inside to work.

As I opened my computer, an Instant Message blinked on screen. It was my friend in India!

“Hi!” I answered his greeting. “I was just praying for you!”

This surprised him greatly. The whole idea that I was praying for him – and also that I felt God TOLD me to pray for him – touched him tenderly. We chatted for a few minutes about how God had wonderful things in store for him. I knew instantly that the reason I was asked to pray for this man was so that God could tell him … He was thinking of him!

After my friend signed off, I felt God prodding me. “Call the church and find out how to get in touch with the person with whom you had the fight.”

My hands shook as I dialed.

When the receptionist answered, I told her I was trying to solve a mystery. I had to find a stranger at the church with whom I’d had a disagreement. During the argument, this stranger had shared that she served on a particular church team.

“So my question,” I said, “is that I want to find her team leader to help me identify her. I want to tell this stranger I am sorry for the fight.”

“Well,” she said, “It might be me.”

“Well …” I said, “It might be. What do you look like?”

And guess what.

It was her.

I was able to tell her in that very moment that I was sorry, ask her forgiveness and explain why I had behaved so badly.

She forgave me.

I hung up the phone, shaking my head at how God prompted that entire exchange – and had her answer the phone to boot!

Before long, I saw an email in my box. Brent located a church that was geographically near the couple for whom we are praying. He was forwarding me correspondence with the pastor of that church. And what was even more amazing … this church was nearly identical to ours! The pastor gave Brent some advice about reaching this couple. I couldn’t believe that on the day I had been prompted to pray for them, Brent’s heart had also been moved – and that he found a pastor near them who could help us reach them!

Do I need to give you any more proof?

God doesn’t only hear our prayers. If we ask Him, He will move in our hearts to pray as He wants us to pray – and for the people that He desires to reach.

Are you intimidated by prayer?

Don’t be.

He’s your best friend, after all! He wants to help you. He wants to use you.

He wants to commune with you, like a bolt out of the blue.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Gypsy Child Lands in a Soft and Safe Place

Conclusion of this story series …

Quest Community Church.
Lexington, Kentucky.

I am 44.

I have found a church home. I have found a community of people who share the same goal – to become wholehearted followers of Christ.

This goal permeates the place where we worship: Everywhere you look, volunteers are serving – greeting people warmly, caring for children while parents are busy hearing the Word, serving coffee to newcomers, singing praises and leading the rest of us in glorious worship.

What does it mean to you to be in a community?

As I look back at the years of the Gypsy Child’s journey, I can tell you what it means to me.

It means being surrounded by people who can support you and pray for you when you work daily in a Christ-hostile environment. These people can be your lifeline to stay strong in the midst of temptation. They can warn you when they see your weaknesses and prop you up when you fail. They can wrap arms around you on Jesus’s behalf when you really want a hug from Him. They can hear your story, accept you regardless of what you’ve done and love you because He loves you.

If anyone is a poster child for reasons we need community, I am. All you have to do is look at where I’ve been and the choices I made when I didn’t have a community – when I was on the end of a branch hanging with my fingernails. I made it work for a while by myself, but eventually, it did all catch up with me. I needed community. We can only go through so much temptation and hardship alone before we fall.

That said, I don’t want to present the idea that I have this all figured out. I don’t – not by a long shot.

I still struggle with allowing people into my life. I did things alone for so long, that I can be prideful, thinking that I don’t need them.

Sometimes I tell myself, “I have been through so much that I can do more for other people than they can do for me. I can be there for others, but I shouldn’t expect others to shoulder my burdens. They wouldn’t understand. They haven’t experienced the pain I have, so I’ll just deal with it alone with God.”

I shrink from allowing myself to be completely vulnerable. Instead of focusing on my past good experiences – like the women at Fort Bragg who helped me when I was pregnant or the people from my Lutheran church in Georgia who rallied around me when I was sick – I focus on the bad. I think about church people who let me down when I was struggling so hard to fit in and belong as a single person. I allow these memories to cloud the truth that I DO need others.

Then, as I struggle with these opposing feelings, something amazing will happen. I’ll be contacted by someone in my new community. They’ll tell me how much I am loved. They’ll share with me their concerns about my spiritual welfare and warfare. They’ll provide wisdom and insight on a problem I am having.

They’ll pray for me.

They’ll be my friend.

They’ll stand in the sandals of Jesus on His behalf and say, “Hey, I’m here for you. You don’t have to do this alone. I’m willing to help out and be His emissary for you if only you’ll let me.”

This is the Christian Safehouse. Here we can share our difficulties. If you’re not in a church where you can get this kind of support, I want you to know … I’m here for you. I’ll talk to you anytime you want. If I don’t know an answer, I’ll find someone who will. And I’ll take all of your concerns to His throne and ask on your behalf for His intervention in your life.

Are you a part of a community? If you’re not, look at the Gypsy Child’s story as a warning. You don’t want to become me.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Allow yourself to be loved by others who love Him, too.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Gypsy Child Goes on a Quest to Belong

Part 5 of this story series.


The word encapsulates the next nine years of my search for a Christian community where I could belong.

After I disengaged from my harried lifestyle as an Associated Press reporter and also broke off my long-term relationship with my Jewish boyfriend, I moved to North Carolina. I was the business editor at a paper in a military town, Fayetteville – home to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg.

I sought long and hard for a church where I could fit in and was met with one disappointment after another.

Sometimes it was a matter of different viewpoints (“Wives, stay home and take care of your husbands. It’s a sin to work,” said one preacher).

Sometimes, the barrier was my profession – people were suspicious of someone in the news media and treated me coldly when they found out what I did for a living.

And sometimes, it was a pastor who was a little too friendly with me. That was the case at the church where I met Brent, who pointed out that the pastor there barely spoke to him, but regularly hugged me and made a beeline to talk to me at every turn. I was so accustomed to the behavior from other pastors that it hadn’t occurred to me until then that it was inappropriate.

After Brent and I married, we kept up our search for a church home. We finally landed at a Methodist church, but after our first week there, the pastor left. There had been a big fight in the congregation over music, and half of the church split. We kept going there, because those who were left were very sweet to us as Brent went away to Iraq. We grew to love those people at that church, and it was the beginning of us feeling the importance of community and love. We taught a Sunday School class for college students and enjoyed branching our influence into their lives, too.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my Bible study at Fort Bragg with other military wives, called Protestant Women of the Chapel. These women regularly prayed for me during my difficult pregnancy with Neil and then threw a lavish shower for me. Although many of them were poor, they brought the most beautiful gifts and covered me with love. It was another opportunity to sample the types of relationships Christians should have with each other.

But then Brent exited the military, and we moved to Augusta, Georgia. Our search for a church started up all over again. This time, we found a Lutheran church, and every Thursday night, we attended a Bible study called the Alpha Course. We discovered that we knew more than any of the other people attending and quickly became discussion leaders.

It was in Augusta that I experienced terrible physical suffering. While going through that trial, Brent and I participated in a Lenten experience called “Ten Brave Christians.” As I studied the Word and prayed for the others in our group, I thought there could not possibly be another church on the planet where I would feel as happy and joyful. They were supportive of me, and I sank deep into the love that surrounded us. This was the best it could get, I thought.

But Brent felt the need to help poor people. So we moved again for him to take a job raising money for The Salvation Army in Lexington, Kentucky. That meant our search for a church had to begin all over again.

It was arduous. It was frustrating. It was demoralizing.

As the weeks turned into months, I started resenting Brent for taking me away from Georgia and from our Lutheran church where I had finally made so many meaningful friendships. My anger built, and I lashed at him at every turn.

This went on for 18 months.

But it all changed for us in April 2008, when we walked through the doors of Quest Community Church.

Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of the tale of the Gypsy Child and how it relates to your relationship with the community of the Bride of Christ.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Gypsy Child Seeks Home in the Wrong Place

Part 4 of this story series …

My apartment.
New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

I am 33.

I am totally disengaged from any sliver or semblance of a Christian community.

Immersed in my career as an Associated Press reporter covering the Pennsylvania Capitol, I have transformed into the mirror image of my colleagues. I am abrasive, rude, hostile, angry, mean.

On top of that, I am in the midst of a two-year relationship with someone who has everything in common with me save one thing: He’s Jewish.

But the voice of the One who loves me stays with me, day in, day out. My first love whispers to me in the darkest of nights, telling me He wants me to return to Him, to turn my back on these things that have pulled me so far from Him – even on the man I am dating.

Finally, one afternoon, the pressure between the two worlds collides. I am hit hard with the realization that I will have to choose between Jesus and my boyfriend. I sit on the edge of my bed and begin to cry, and soon, I find myself in a maelstrom of sadness.

Head in hands as I weep, I sink to the floor and crawl on my hands and knees to a corner in the room. I ball myself up and shake.

Then I cry out to God.

“I want to be the person I was before. But I don’t know what to do.” I tell Him.

And in my mind’s eye, He delivers an image to me. It’s as if I have been physically transformed into this place that He shows me:

Instead of my bedroom, I am sitting in a prison cell. I am surrounded by four walls made of stones, with no windows. But on the other side of the room … is a door.

It is wide open.

“See?” He tells me. “You are not trapped. You are in this prison of your own free will. You can walk out of that door any time you want. Walk out. Stand up and walk out of the prison.”

I shake my head no. “It will kill me,” I reply. “I don’t have the strength to let go of my boyfriend.”

“You have to choose,” He responds. “You have to choose between Me and him.”

“Please help me,” I beg. “I can’t do it alone. I want to choose You, but I need help.”

And He sends help.

The next day I’m having dinner with my boyfriend, and the conversation suddenly turns to any future children we might have.

“This is what I think,” my boyfriend tells me. “If we were ever to get married, you would have to agree to this: Our children cannot hear the name of Jesus. I want them raised in a house where all options are open to them. You will not take them to church. You will not mention Jesus’s name. You will not teach them that He is the Son of God. They are to choose for themselves.”

In that moment, it is all clear. “See?” Jesus says to my heart. “I told you that you would have to choose between Me and him.”

I finally have the reason I need to break off the relationship. I finally lean into Jesus as I deal with the heartbreak of letting it go. I realize that at this age, I will probably never find someone to marry, but I know that the alternative is to let go of everything I believe.

I choose Jesus, even if it means spending the rest of my life completely alone.

But He provides me with all of the strength of His power in the light of this harsh reality. Not only that, He leads me to a kind Christian couple who take me into their home regularly and give me the spiritual nourishment I need to regain my relationship with Him.

For the first time in my life, I see the vital importance of allowing other people to serve as His hands and feet, to trust them with my problems so that they can pray for me, to tell them my sins so that they can lead me back to Him, to respond in kind and develop the friendships that He wants the people of His church to have with each other.

It is the beginning of my journey back to Community.

Stay tuned … this story isn’t over yet. Check back tomorrow to discover what this has to do with a Christian safehouse ….

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Gypsy Child Shuffles Between Two Worlds

Part 3 of this story series….

The York Dispatch Newsroom.
York, Pennsylvania.

I am 29.

For the past seven years, I have been caught between two worlds, trying to make one fit into the other and vice versa.

When I chose my career of journalism, I did so with two objectives in mind: One was to write stories that would positively impact communities and the world at large, to use my ethics and relationship with Jesus for the good. The second … was to infiltrate godless newsrooms and reach people who might never otherwise hear from or encounter a Christian.

It’s a noble cause, but with one fatal flaw: it puts me into an environment that isolates me further from Christian community and support.

Because I yearn to prove myself in the most competitive market, I choose to stay in the Northeast. And as anyone who lives in the Northeast knows … it’s not exactly a hotbed of evangelical Christians. In fact, churches there are stoic, stand-off-ish, traditional, clannish. Most of the congregants are either elderly or couples with two kids, two cars, a house in the burbs and a Golden Lab.

There isn’t a place at these churches for someone like me. I bounce from one to another, Sunday after Sunday. I find one problem with one after another: an air of snobbery, or a creepy-friendly-on-the-edge-flirtatious preacher. They hold me at arm’s length when they discover I’m a news reporter. The media is suspect, and anyone who is in the media certainly can’t be a Christian, too.

Plus, these churches all have one common denominator – none of them have young single Christians.

I can’t find a place to land, a safe haven, a place of belonging. I resign myself to the idea that I will have to go it alone, this mission to reach the faithless in the world of journalism.

In the beginning years of my career, I am an effective presence. I am often quizzed about my faith. Sometimes I am openly derided. Sometimes I receive what I perceive to be tougher edits or harsher story assignments from atheist editors. But always, there is a blessing – a person who suddenly agrees to give their life to Jesus … an open respect among my peers for my ethics … a change of heart from the crustiest of bosses.

And yet … I refuse to see, or accept, that I can’t do this journey alone. I am the quintessential Gypsy Child, and true to my roots, I am determined to see it through, just me and God. I tell myself that I don’t need a church, anyway. All I need to do is keep praying, keep hoping, keep believing, keep loving.

But make no mistake. I am living in hostile, enemy territory. I begin to absorb the profanity of my colleagues. I throw temper tantrums as they do over the smallest of things. I think nothing of telling off a boss who has changed the wording in a story. I threaten my sources with certain public exposure if they do not provide me with the information and quotes I need.

In my off hours, I travel to night clubs in Baltimore. I don’t drink, so I’m the designated driver for a van full of my associates. But I dance and flirt and play up my assets. I am living out the sorority lifestyle I didn’t have in college, and I refuse to apologize for it. I can handle it, I tell myself. I can keep my faith and still socialize in this manner.

How do I describe the toll this takes?

The only way I can is to compare this to an undercover cop. You’ve seen Donnie Brasco? Johnny Depp can only play his Mafia part so long before he starts becoming a Mafioso. He is separated from his blue wall of support. He is a lone ranger, alone, walking a tightrope without the net beneath him.

I’m not exactly undercover. I’ve been open about my faith. But the effect of living outside of Christian community does bring me down to the level of my surroundings.

It’s not before long that I sink lower and move the farthest away from the One who desperately loves me.

What does this have to do with a Christian safehouse? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story …

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Gypsy Child Finds Her First Home

Part 2 of this story series ...

May 1987.
Asbury College.
Wilmore, Kentucky.

I am 22.

For the past four years, I have finally sunk my roots deep into a community, surrounded by people who care about my spiritual development as well as my intellectual and career advancement.

Here at this small private school in the rolling green hills of central Kentucky, I have found a home. I even feel like this place is more of a home than my parents’ homes. While I have sublimely settled in among friends of my age, the same people I see year after year, my mom and dad have moved four times.

One joke among my college friends is to ask me the same question each September:

“Where are you from this year?”

And each year, I am from a different state. My freshman year, Upstate New York. My sophomore year, Peoria, Illinois. My junior year, Manchester, Connecticut. And now, my senior year, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I think to myself, “My parents may be moving around, but I have friends now. I can stay here for four whole years!” Every morning when I sit for my prayers, I thank God for these friends, for this place where I can finally belong and be known.

But today is graduation day. I stand on the lawn that stretches before the campus chapel and gaze at my classmates, all preparing to flee this nest. They are happy. They are surrounded by family. Some have jobs. Some will be returning here again in September. Some will be getting married.

And I … I will be going with my parents to a house I’ve never seen and to a city I’ve only visited once. I have no idea what is in store. I have no job prospects. I have no friends in Philadelphia. But I have nowhere else to go. I stand among my peers, trying to seem happy but choking back tears.

I don’t grieve the fact that I’m jobless. I grieve that it may be years before I see these people again. And who knows when I will feel this same sense of community? Maybe never.

I load myself into my small brown stickshift Dodge Colt and follow my parents’ car down the highway, away from the place I have loved more than any other. I cry the entire way. When we finally pull into the driveway in Philadelphia, my head is throbbing and my nose and eyes are swollen.

“Have you still been crying?” my father asks me, shaking his head.

I don’t answer. I just grab my small pile of things and head to a compact upstairs room with a twin bed. I face the wall and cry myself to sleep.

I do that for the next three weeks.

And my self-prediction is fulfilled. I enter a career and a lifestyle that further isolates me from those in the Christian community.

I continue the road of the Gypsy Girl. It doesn’t take long for me to build walls in my heart, to isolate myself from others and to become a self-subsisting creature, one that exists completely alone. And I become very good – very good – at believing and acting like I need no one else in my life.

Why is this tale of the Gypsy Girl important in a Christian safehouse? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gypsy Child – The Search for Community

Part 1 of this story series ….

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I am 11.

In my short life, I have lived in five cities in three states: Zanesville, Ohio; Lorain, Ohio; Bronx, NY; Suffern, NY (an upstate NY community near the City); and now Pittsburgh, PA.

I am about to go to my sixth city: Akron, Ohio.

My parents are Salvation Army officers, which is another way of saying they are pastors. The Salvation Army is a church as well as a charity. It moves its officers every two to three years around large geographical areas. This gypsy way of life is the only thing I know, and ironically the pattern will repeat itself in my adulthood.

I take moving in stride, as an adventure. It is the way my mother paints the experience, and I embrace it. A new city, a new church, a new school – a new chance to start over and forget things that have happened in the current location. There is always a new start.

But still … it eats at me, deep down in the places that no one can see … I wish I could stay on the same street with the same friends from school.

I wish I didn’t always feel like an outsider, someone who knows that friendships are temporary and will soon vanish with the next arrival of the moving van.

I wish that I didn’t hold people at arm’s length because of this. Even at age 11, I recognize this about myself.

I wish I were part of a community.

Summer 1982.
Syracuse, New York.

I am 17.

After five years in Akron, which is like a lifetime for Salvation Army families, we move to Syracuse. For the past year, though, I have made a concerted effort to keep to myself at my high school. I don’t want any friends. I know I am leaving in two years for college. I am tired of getting close to people and then letting go, knowing I will never see them again. So I eat lunch alone. I go to my classes and get straight As and then head home immediately after school. I make excuses if boys ask me out.

I refuse to be part of this community.

There is one exception to my refusal, though.

I have made friends with three other teen-agers at my local Salvation Army, where we attend church every week. They are also children of Salvation Army officers. They understand what it’s like to move around. We get together once a week, because the Salvation Army has a program called “Bible Bowl,” a contest for teens similar to Jeopardy. We memorize the book of Matthew and win all kinds of competitions. We relate well to each other. I don’t mind making friends with these kids – in the Salvation Army world, goodbye is never forever. When you move, chances are you will run into each other down the line in some other town or state. Parents’ careers cross paths frequently.

This is the one area of my life that brings me comfort, that gives me a sense of belonging. I don’t need anything else, I tell myself.

And then I have the dream that changes everything:

In this dream, my Bible Bowl friends and I are in a van, driving somewhere through pea soup fog. It’s night. They have suitcases. I don’t. I have no idea where we are going.

Then suddenly, the van stops. My friends get out with their suitcases. I start to follow them.

“Stop,” they tell me. “You can’t come with us. We have to go with our parents. You have to stay here.”

I wake with a wet face from the tears that I cried during sleep.

“At least it wasn’t real. At least they’ll be here for this last year of high school,” I tell myself.

But at breakfast, my mother shares the news.

“The list of moves came out this morning,” she says. “Your friends will be leaving. Their parents are moving to other states.”

I drop my fork. “That can’t be true! They’re high school seniors and juniors! The Army wouldn’t move their parents when they’re so near graduating!”

My mother shakes her head. “They’re doing it. They’ll be gone in a month.”

I spend the rest of the day lashing myself for allowing myself to get close to them. If only I had kept to myself … I wouldn’t be feeling so hurt right now.

Even so, I long for community.

I long for a place to be known.

What does this have to do with a Christian safehouse? Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of this tale …

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Ride Home to Mercy

Saturday night.
Route 68.
Somewhere between Lexington and Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

I am driving our family home from Quest Community Church.

Neil is normally sound asleep for these trips home, but tonight he sits ramrod in his car seat, his hands folded in his lap. He feels the tension of his mother. He is alert. His eyes are wide and bear into the back of my headrest like poker irons. I am affected by his innocence, his sensitivity to my inward suffering.

Brent sits in the passenger seat, his forehead cradled in his palm. He, too, is stoic, silent.

I sniffle.

“The thing I don’t get,” I say, breaking the silence, “is how to distinguish between justified anger and anger that is sin.”

“I don’t know.”

“I mean, I tried so hard to not let my anger cause me to sin tonight. And I still screwed up. And it was at church!”

“I wish I had answers for you. I don’t.”

“But you know that story in Matthew about when Jesus went off on the Pharisees? He was really angry at them. He called them names, even – ‘a brood of vipers’ and ‘whitewashed tombs.’ And yet He was without sin,” I sigh. “I just don’t get it. When are you allowed to correct someone, and when are you supposed to keep your mouth shut and keep a lid on your anger?”

“I don’t know.”

“I wish I knew, because it would really solve a lot of problems for me.”

We were talking about an angry outburst I’d had with a person at church after the service. I had been indignant and had told her so. I left in a fury after giving her an earful.

And then, Sunday morning, after I woke still feeling the weight of the incident, I blogged about it. Then I blogged some more about it last night.

But earlier today, I removed the blog entries. Some told me that I was pressured by my church pastors to do so. Others said it was inappropriate for me to have posted them to begin with.

Yes, I did have a thoughtful conversation with one of my pastors, Justin McCarty. But I did not remove the entries out of duress or guilt.

I removed them to make things right.

As Justin and I sorted through the events of that night, some things became very clear.

All of us, together, who are believers, are the bride of Christ. When we are at odds with each other, we give a foothold to the Enemy to tear us apart. This muddies the message to the world and further serves the Enemy’s purpose of ripping into Jesus Himself.

I can discuss the issues that triggered the heated exchange – but I should do so in private with the person who was at the center of it. It doesn’t really matter who is right and who is wrong. What matters is that we give each other the benefit of the doubt before we present the scenario to the rest of the world, especially if non-believers are looking on.

Who says so, you ask?

Jesus did.

It’s right there, in Matthew 18: 15-17.

"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.”

See, I didn’t realize that. My purpose in publishing the blogs, as I explained to Justin, was to lay out the sin in my own heart, to discuss with you the anger that torments me and pushes me to become the beast I detest. But in doing so, I dragged in details about the person at whom the anger was aimed. I made our debate a debacle for the world to point at and say, “See those Christians? They can’t get along. They don’t know truth. They don’t know God.”

“Now,” I said to Justin, “I see this as a real problem. I can’t do this. When I’m angry, I’m not rational. At the time this was happening, I thought to myself, ‘Confront her in love and try to teach her gently.’ And then I told myself, ‘No way, Heidi! There is no way you can do it. You will completely lose it. You should just extricate yourself cleanly and quickly.’ But then she stopped me to talk. And I just let loose and gave her a piece of my mind!”

“I see,” Justin said, “but there was something else you could have done. If this is a real problem for you, in the future, just say to the person, ‘I am very emotional right now, and the words I would have for you are not constructive. I would really love to talk to you about this later after I cool down. Can I have your name and phone number? I promise, I will call you, and we will discuss this.'”



And, frankly, DUH.

Why hadn’t I thought of that before? All of these years I have struggled with arguments, anger, strife – and all of these years, I could have said to each and every person, “Can we talk about it later? I would love to talk to you about this after I calm down a little.”

Justin asked me to do something else. He asked me to seek out this young woman and tell her I had not realized that I should have discussed this with her first, before blogging about it.

I can do that.

I will do that.

To be truthful, we both were in the wrong. My reaction to her was wrong and sinful. My reaction to her was unkind. My reaction to her was unloving. It’ll be up to her to decide whether to forgive me for it, and it’ll be up to her to decide if she wants to ask for forgiveness, too.


Can we go back in time, to the moment that Brent and I were driving home in the car? There’s just one more thing I want to say on this …

Saturday night.
Route 68.
Somewhere between Lexington and Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

Neil was finally snoring softly in the back seat as I rounded the sides of looming Kentucky Palisades.

“I just realized something,” I said to Brent, who was still silent and mulling my dilemma.


“Well, First Corinthians 13! It says something about this!”

“Really? What does it say?”

“It says, ‘Love is not easily offended.’ Or, something like that … ‘Love is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.’”

Brent gasped. “’Love is not easily offended,’” he repeated softly. “’Love is not easily offended.’ What if God was easily offended with us?”

“Yes. What if God was easily offended with us? I guess I have a lot of praying to do.”

“I guess you do.”

And I drove the rest of the way home, my ride home to mercy.

Tune in Tonight ...

I've taken down the last two entries because of what I have learned today via Matthew 18 and the kind guidance of one of my pastors.

I will be blogging later tonight about how we as Christians can be unified, even in the face of disagreement, and how we can be reconciled to each other as Jesus commands in that beautiful passage of the Gospel.

Thanks for checking in, and please stop by later this evening to read about how God has helped me come to some amazing truths about love, forgiveness and grace.