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What We Can Learn From Martin Luther’s Reformation for Today’s Vaccine Debate

You may think I’m a bit crazy for asking what we can learn from Luther when it comes to today’s vaccine debate. Afterall, the first vaccine was not created until 1796, and Luther was born in 1483. Luther’s Reformation and the Anti-vax movement are by no means a perfect comparison; yet, you may be surprised and motivated by a few similarities including loss of reputation, hidden information, censorship, fear tactics, and even murder. 

Ruined Reputation

Luther studied as a monk, and he was fearful because he was taught by the Roman Catholic Church that God demanded good works to pay off sin. Luther was terrified by his sin and unsure how he could ever repay it. He was sent to Wittenburg to study and preach. There, he read the New Testament for the first time, discovering “But now apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been made known… This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22) However, Pope Leo X granted indulgences to whomever paid for them, which funded the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica. As Luther watched the Roman Catholic Church collect money from indulgences – pieces of paper that supposedly bought peoples’ freedom from purgatory – he knew that this conflicted with the Bible. In 1517, Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenburg’s Castle Church. Luther was surprised to learn that the Roman Catholic Church was not appalled by abuse of the indulgence preachers. In fact, they strongly supported it. Only one year later, Luther was asked by Cardinal Thomas Cajetan in Augsburg to recant his 95 Theses along with all his writings. Luther refused to recant. 

Grace

Luther was an educated man, a monk, and a preacher who spoke against a leading authority. He accused the Roman Catholic Church of corruption, which caused him to be excommunicated. What happens when educated people have spoken out against leading medical authorities in recent history? Clair Cameron Patterson discovered unnatural high levels of lead in the environment and in human blood. He raised concerns of these lead levels and also warned against public health agencies working with lead industries, which would result in bias.  Experts in toxicology called him a zealot and a rabble-rouser. His findings were excluded from the 1971 National Research Council. (1) Dr. John Rosen once fought against politicians and the CDC to protect children from lead poisoning by further reducing lead exposure. (2) The media accused him of practicing political science rather than medical science. There is a history of educated people questioning leading authorities and receiving ridicule in return, only to later be known as revealing the truth. Today, doctors who question vaccines are called quacks. They are taken to court, like Dr. Jayne Donegan. (3, 4) They are censored and monitored, like nephrologist Dr. Susan Humphries, who noticed her kidney patients declining after flu shots. (5) Perhaps history is repeating itself. 

Hidden Information

Luther believed the common man, woman, and child should have access to God’s Word. Rome disagreed. Pope Gregory VII prohibited the Bible to be translated into the language of the common people. Simple and uneducated people were not to read the Bible, and doing so was an act that was punishable by death (6). 

Two years after Luther posted his 95 Theses, he declared at a debate in Leipzig, “‘A simple layman armed with the Scriptures’ was superior to both pope and councils without them” (7).

While Luther was in hiding to save his life, he began translating the New Testament into German, doing so in such a way as to make the language fluid and understandable, even for those without a formal education. “He listened, as he says, to the speech of the mother at home, the children in the street, the men and women in the market, the butcher and various tradesmen in their shops” (8). Cochlaeus, a man who supported Rome, complained when Luther’s New Testament had so many copies printed and spread throughout Germany, saying, “Even tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons who had accepted this new Lutheran gospel, and could read a little German, studied it with the greatest avidity as the fountain of all truth. Some committed it to memory and carried it about in their bosom. In a few months such people deemed themselves so learned that they were not ashamed to dispute about faith and the gospel not only with Catholic laymen, but even with priests and monks and doctors of divinity” (8).

Something similar is happening today. Parents, who have no training in medicine, are thinking and reading for themselves. When the CDC’s website says, “Vaccines are safe and effective,” we say, “Show me.” When the CDC and vaccine manufacturers show us studies that they themselves performed, from which they themselves financially benefit, while they have a history of falsifying information (Vioxx for example), we parents look to other studies. When we find conflicting information, we trust the unbiased studies. When we find studies that show vaccines may cause more harm than good, we proceed with caution. Meanwhile, we have the media mocking us for our questions, and we have countless people telling us, “Shut up and trust the medical authority. You are too stupid to make an informed decision for yourself. You are too uneducated to educate yourself.” But like the commoners of Luther’s day, we will read these studies, memorize them, and not be afraid to dispute doctors.

Anyone can learn if they have the will to learn. Abraham Lincoln, who accomplished the abolition of slavery in America, was self-educated. He said he doubted he spent more than one year in formal schooling. Yet this man led America through one of its most perilous times and gave speeches that are still quoted in awe today, because he was an avid reader, determined to educate himself despite living in a log cabin in Kentucky on the frontier. (9)

Parents and others who question vaccines – keep reading. Never stop. Anyone who tells you to refrain from educating yourself should be a red flag indicating someone who has a corrupt agenda. 

Censorship

Our government and the CDC do not like that we are reading information that they have not published. So once again, they act similarly to Rome. On June 15, 1520, a papal bull called Exsurge Domine was issued against Luther, threatening him with excommunication and demanding the burning of his books. These books included Luther’s writings that were in agreement with the Roman Catholic Church, that had no error, simply because of their association with Luther. (10) Luther’s works were to be sought out and publicly burned. (11)

Modern-day book burning is different than in Luther’s time. Today, it’s called censorship. Facebook has made it harder to find groups that share unbiased vaccine research. These groups no longer show up in the search bar, unless you have the exact name. When you ask to join, a notice appears asking, “Looking for vaccine information?” It then gives you an option to go to the CDC’s website or continue your search. Posts containing information on vaccines are taken down on social media, even something as simple as a link to VAERS – a government database where parents and doctors may report possible vaccine reactions. Social media has decided that the average person should not know about VAERS. Pinterest has taken down links with information about vaccine ingredients, even when those ingredients were listed by a doctor testifying under oath. This is modern-day book burning. This is the silencing of freedom of speech. 

Censorship1                         Censorship2

Fear Tactics

The Roman Catholic Church further fought to defend their lies by using fear as a weapon. They preached that people would go to purgatory (which is never mentioned in the Bible) for hundreds and thousands of years unless they worked off their sins and purchased indulgences. John Tetzel, an indulgence preacher, was famous for his tactics. He is reported to have said, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” He preached about children and elderly burning in the fires of purgatory, just waiting for a living relative to purchase their freedom. (12)

No one wants to watch a loved one suffer, especially a child. And the fear of disease is a real fear today. I remember being a teenager, and having my doctor tell me I would die unless I got the HPV vaccine. I remember being pregnant, sitting in my OB’s office, wondering if I should get a Tdap shot even though I had a contraindicated health condition and a previous reaction to the shot. My OB told me to decide between my health and my baby’s, because my baby would get pertussis without that shot. We’re told not to leave the house before our babies receive their first set of shots against eight diseases at two months old, and that our babies are frail and vulnerable until they receive about 30 doses of vaccines by the time they turn one year. (That is counting each vaccine in combination shots plus each dose it is given.) The fear is intense. 

The Roman Catholic Church sought to interrupt people’s worship of a loving and forgiving God for their financial gain. Our American government today is forcing Christians to go against conscience by taking away our religious freedom and forcing vaccination. In California, New York, West Virginia, and Mississippi, both philosophical and religious exemptions have been removed. Other states, such as Maine, are set to follow in the next few years. California now limits even medical exemptions, allowing doctors to only write five exemptions per year, no matter how large their practice is, or else they will be investigated. New York and California now force children who have clear contraindications, such as anaphylactic reactions and seizures, to continue with vaccination, even though the vaccine package inserts themselves instruct doctors not to do this. Our government has overruled. Vera Sharav lists these new legislations and discusses the dangers of government making medical decisions and removing freedom. She points out that the US Senate has legally recognized vaccines as “unavoidably unsafe” and she states “a child’s only defense is parents who are willing to go to battle” (13). Vera Sharav is a Holocaust survivor, who knows better than most what happens when medical freedom is stolen. 

How does mandatory vaccination infringe on religious freedom? “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Jesus paid for me with His life. He lives in my heart. How can I defile His temple by purposefully injecting ingredients I know to be harmful? How can I knowingly allow carcinogens and human DNA that mutates my own DNA to be injected repeatedly into my body or the bodies of my children? (14, 15, 16)

Murder

Let’s talk further about that human DNA. The reason there is human DNA in certain vaccines is because the vaccines were cultured in cells taken from humans. These humans were unborn babies, killed in voluntary abortions. Many of today’s Christians believe this was a necessary evil, that the benefit outweighs the crime, that it was only a few infants who died. Many Christians think this started and ended in the 1960s. When we dig deeper into the research, we find that it took many aborted babies to find the proper specimen for the vaccine cultures. Many factors had to be just right, and it took harvesting, dissecting, and testing of several infants to find the right combination of factors. In the creation of the rubella vaccine (part of the MMR vaccine), over 80 babies were aborted. Some were killed before birth, but others, up to half, were born alive and dissected alive without anesthetic. In addition, these abortions had to be set up in advance so that the tissue could be harvested before cells died. Mothers had to give their consent that the baby would be donated to science before the abortion was performed, since it is against guidelines to ask the mother after the abortion, when she may be emotional, and her consent would be considered invalid. (17)

The abortion industry’s connections to the vaccine industry did not end in the 1960s, when the MRC-5 and WI-38 cell lines were made. The lifespan of these cell lines is coming to an end. New cell lines are being made. One is called PER C6, taken from a baby aborted for social reasons at 18 weeks gestation in 1985. (17) Another, called WALVAX-2, was taken from a baby girl at 3 months gestation in 2015. She was selected among nine other aborted babies. She was aborted via the water bag method to ensure a live abortion and live and intact organs for cell harvest. (18) If we keep financially supporting vaccines that use abortions, vaccine manufacturers will continue to harvest babies – oftentimes while they are still alive. The Roman Catholic Church burned Luther’s followers at the stake to protect their financial gain. Vaccine manufacturers have no problem harvesting live human infants for their financial gain. 

I refuse to defile my body, which is God’s temple, with the DNA of infants, whose blood cries out for justice. Their bodies were donated to science without their consent. My body will not be donated to science without my consent, and neither will the bodies of my children. I will have no part in this atrocity apart from fighting against it. I will not financially support vaccine companies who condone such horrific crimes. I will not compromise. I cannot and will not allow the American government to force me to act against my conscience.

And so I close with the words Martin Luther spoke at the Diet of Worms in 1521, before he was excommunicated. “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning … then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen” (7).

Here I Stand

Further Reading:

 

Sources:

  1. Tilton, George R. “Clair Cameron Patterson.” National Academies Press: OpenBook, The National Academies of Sciences, https://www.nap.edu/read/6201/chapter/16#281

  2. Supreme Court of the State of New York. “Affidavit of John F. Rosen.”  7 October 1999. https://www.nmic.org/nyccelp/Documents/Rosen %20Affidavit.PDF

  3. Rodgers, Anna. “The Doctor Who Beat The British General Medical Council By Proving That Vaccines Aren’t Necessary To Achieve Health.” Collective Evolution, Cutting Edge Conscious Media, 15 Mar. 2019, https://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/03/15/the-doctor-who-beat-the-british-general-medical-council-by-proving-that-vaccines-arent-necessary-to-achieve-health/

  4. Donegan, Jayne. Childhood Vaccinatable Diseases and Their Vaccines: A Review. http://www.jayne-donegan.co.uk/articles

  5. Humphries, Suzanne, and Roman Bystrianyk. “Author’s Introduction.” Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines and the Forgotten History, 2015. http://drsuzanne.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/author-intro-Suzanne-Humphries.pdf

  6.  Cloud, David. “Rome’s Persecution of the Bible.” Way of Life Literature Inc., 10 July 2008, https://www.wayoflife.org/database/persecutionofbible.html

  7.  “Martin Luther: Passionate Reformer.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christianity Today, 28 Feb. 2017, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/theologians/martin-luther.html

  8.  Schaff, Philip. “Luther’s Translation of the Bible.” History of the Christian Church. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910). http://bible-researcher.com/luther02.html

  9.  “Abraham Lincoln: The Self-Educated Man.” America 101 ®, 30 Oct. 2018, https://america101.com/abraham-lincoln-the-self-educated-man/

  10.  “Bull ‘Exsurge Domine’ Proclaimed in Rome.” Reformation 500, 12 July 2016, https://reformation500.csl.edu/timeline/bull-exsurge-domine-proclaimed-in-rome/

  11. “Exsurge Domine.” Papal Encyclicals, 27 Apr. 2017, https://www.papalencyclicals.net/leo10/l10exdom.htm

  12. Cavanaugh, Ray. “Peddling Purgatory Relief: Johann Tetzel.” National Catholic Reporter, The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 31 Oct. 2017, https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/peddling-purgatory-relief-johann-tetzel

  13.  “Beware of Medicine Marching in Lockstep with Government: Personal Reflections.” Alliance for Human Research Protection, https://ahrp.org/beware-of-medicine-marching-in-lockstep-with-government-personal-reflections/?fbclid=IwAR1Hzv7lJzAm4IiR0O_dEUrJdsgliLMDHmd3GOEY61UCC9lfofIHaqyQ814

  14. “What Did We Find in the MMRV (Priorix Tetra) Vaccine?” Associazione Corvelva, Corvelva, 21 Apr. 2019, https://www.corvelva.it/en/speciale-corvelva/vaccinegate-en/what-did-we-find-in-the-mmrv-priorix-tetra-vaccine.html

  15.  Adams, Mike. “Medical Horror: Genetic Sequencing of Common Vaccine Finds Entire Male Human Genome From Aborted Human Baby… ‘A Complete Individual Genome’ with Abnormal, Modified Genes… 560 Genes Linked to Cancer.” Natural News: Defending Health, Life, and Liberty, Natural News Network, 4 Oct. 2019, https://www.naturalnews.com/2019-10-04-medical-horror-genetic-sequencing-vaccines-mrc-5-cancer-genes-modified.html?fbclid=IwAR0_9jFRfANBBffc7s_9BCTipzBy7RyAPrepV3ThVxMqts8XnLCsus5KTOY

  16. Deisher, Theresa. “Open Letter from Dr. Theresa Deisher to Legislators Regarding Fetal Cell DNA in Vaccines.” Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, 8 May 2019, https://www.soundchoice.org/open-letter-to-legislators/

  17. Vinnedge, Debra. “Vaccines & Abortions.” Children of God for Life, COG For Life, Sept. 2003, https://cogforlife.org/vaccines-abortions/

  18.  “New Aborted Fetal Cell Line Emerges for Vaccine Production.” LifeSiteNews, LifeSite, 9 Sept. 2015, https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/new-aborted-fetal-cell-line-emerges-for-vaccine-production

What the Bible Says about Speaking in Tongues (foreign languages)

Speaking in tongues means speaking in a language you have never learned. I once visited a Pentecostal church where I witnessed a man speaking in tongues. It was the first time I had witnessed it. Afterwards, someone else summarized what the man said. But at the end of the service, something like the following was said, “If you have never spoken in tongues, you are without the Holy Spirit. Come to the altar after the service to receive the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues.” It really bothered me that I came to the church service as a Christian – as someone who believed Jesus to be the Son of God, who died on the cross and rose again – and then I was told I was still going to hell because I’ve never spoken in tongues. Every other evidence of Jesus’ work in my life was not enough, according to them. This is not a biblical teaching.

Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit that fulfills a purpose. In the account recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 2, it is not said that speaking in tongues is a required sign of faith. It did, however, allow for all people who had gathered to celebrate Pentecost, no matter their language, to hear the new of the Jesus’ defeat of sin, death, and hell. It also served a purpose to the Jews. Throughout biblical history, the Jews had failed to heed the instructions of the prophets to call the nations to repentance. The gift of speaking in tongues demonstrated to the Jews that Jesus’ victory was not limited to the Jews, the Hebrew-speaking people, the circumcised. Jesus’ victory was extended also to the Gentiles, those who spoke foreign languages, those who were uncircumcised.

Speaking in tongues allowed the early Christians to share the mighty works of God intelligibly with foreigners.

Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Gifts God gives are never earned, but given freely. We don’t have to ask (or plead) in a certain way. We don’t have to have just enough earnestness or contrition. The Holy Spirit knows what gifts to freely give us in order to enable us to spread the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection, forgiveness, and eternal life. Speaking in tongues is only one of many possible gifts of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 tells us that although believers follow the same God, there are varieties of gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we don’t each possess all the gifts. One person may have the gift of wisdom, another person the gift of knowledge, another person given the gift of faith, another person given the gift of healing, another given the gift of miracles, another given the gift of prophecy, another given the gift to distinguish between spirits, another given the ability to speak in various tongues, and another given the gift of interpretation of tongues. But note verse seven which says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  Also note verse 11: “The Holy Spirit distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” So all believers have the Holy Spirit, all are given one or more of these gifts, but we are not all given all of these gifts. 

Image result for gifts of the holy spirit

We should be content with whatever gift or gifts the Holy Spirit gives us. (Who are we to complain to God about what gift He freely gives us?!) But 1 Corinthians 14 tells us that we should pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, but especially the gift of prophecy. Verse three says, “For the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in tongues builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I [Paul] want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” (emphasis mine). The next several verses go on to explain how speaking in tongues is pointless unless the words are understood by an interpreter. Verse 13 says, “Therefore, whoever speaks in tongues should pray for the power to interpret.”

Perhaps the clearest verse showing that speaking in tongues is not a necessary sign of faith is 1 Corinthians 14:22 which reads, “Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers.” Believers do not need proof of faith among fellow believers.

While gifts of the Holy Spirit vary among believers, fruits of the Spirit are a result of faith of all believers. (Think of it this way: branches produce fruit because of the vine, and all the branches produce the same fruit. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches, and because of Jesus, we all produce the same fruit.) What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.All believers are able to produce all these fruits (although we are still sinners, so we’re not able to perfectly produce them all the time).

Image result for gifts of the holy spirit

Above all, there is one fruit of the Spirit that is greater than the others and greater than all gifts of the Holy Spirit as well. Love. 1 Corinthians 13 says,

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

So if you are made to doubt that you have the Holy Spirit because you have not manifested a visible sign (like speaking in tongues), remember that God gives His believers a variety of gifts. But all believers produce fruit as a result of faith- the greatest of which is love. So the love that you have for God and neighbor, which springs from what God has done for you in Jesus, is a greater sign of faith. Even simply confessing Jesus as Lord is a sign of God’s Spirit in you, because “no one can say that Jesus is Lord, except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

(Special thanks to my pastor – who happens to be married to me – for pointing me to these Bible verses and editing this post.)

The Story of Isaiah’s Birth

Pregnancy is a miraculous thing. Birth is just as miraculous. It amazes me how God designed women’s bodies to be able to carry a baby for nine months and then deliver that baby.

*Note: This entry will have content that may make some readers squeamish. I believe birth is natural and beautiful and that our American culture loses something by keeping birth so private, so this entry is very open about my experience.*

My estimated due date for my second baby was August 23rd. (You can read about the birth of my first baby by clicking here.)

Sunday, August 5th
Being a Sunday, it was a busy morning for this pastor’s wife. My husband rushed off to church to prepare for the service, and I waddled around the house getting myself and my 2 year old daughter ready. Just before leaving, I ran to the bathroom one more time and discovered I was losing the mucus plug. I was really hoping for a few more weeks to give Isaiah time to grow and mature a bit more. I calmed myself by reminding myself that although Esther came 7 days early, it took almost a week for me to go into labor after this first sign of readiness.

I got to church and didn’t say anything to my husband because I didn’t want to distract him. At the end of the service, during the announcements, he reminded the congregation that when the baby is born, he would take off two weeks and have another pastor fill in for him. Frank added, “Hopefully sometime this month.” I couldn’t help laughing out loud and saying, “Oh, he’ll be born this month.” The congregation laughed.

The rest of that day and the next, I felt pretty frantic about getting things ready. I had a gut feeling Isaiah would be here soon. My guess was by the end of the week, and I was really hoping to make it to Wednesday, when I would see my OB for my 37-week appointment, have my birth plan filed at the hospital, and pre-register at the hospital. Frank was totally relaxed and in no rush at all, pretty confident we had one or even two more weeks.

Monday, August 6th
I spent the day packing, organizing, and running to the grocery store to stock up. I was super excited that my essential oils (EOs) I had picked out for labor came in the mail that day. I spent my evening making blends for anxiety and pain relief and for stalled labor (since my labor stalled with Esther and lasted 31 hours) and diluting the EOs to 1% for topical application.

My toddler helped me pack and organize, and I got her to bed pretty late, around 9:30. I collapsed into bed at 10pm with a Colleen Coble book, excited to get into a suspenseful story and relax a bit. I suddenly felt very sick. My stomach HURT. Oh no, I can’t come down with something now! I thought. And then the pain and queasiness left, and I thought, Huh, that was weird. About eight minutes later, it happened again, and I knew. I thought, Oh my gosh, this is IT. I am in labor! And it HURTS. And WHY does it have to start at night, just like it did with Esther?! The pain was all in my belly, and very intense.

(Comparison: I started labor with Esther at 9pm, but it was a very mild feeling… tight muscles in my lower back and feeling a bit queasy. The contractions came around 15 minutes apart. I actually wasn’t even sure it was real labor until several hours later! This time, the contractions were intense, and they weren’t longer than 10 minutes apart ever.)

After a half hour of very consistent, strong contractions, I made my way downstairs to tell Frank, who was playing video games with his brother. I told him, “Hey…. so I think we’re going to have a baby tonight…” Frank was shocked and excited and told his brother. I went upstairs to wait for Frank while he finished his game.

Frank found me sitting on the kitchen floor, leaning on a chair. “What are you doing?” he asked.
I didn’t answer.
“We have to get ready!” he prodded.
I finally inhaled and relaxed and said, “I was having a contraction! I can’t walk or talk through them!”

(Comparison: It took about 20 hours of labor with Esther for me to reach the point where I couldn’t walk/talk through a contraction.)

Frank totally flipped out. He started flying around the house, grabbing essentials and ignoring my list of things to do and pack before we left.

I called the hospital to make sure they would admit me even though my contractions were on average 6 minutes apart. We lived an hour away from the hospital, though, so they told me to get there right away.

I called our friend, Rachel, who said she would try to go with us whenever I went into labor to watch Esther. My daughter had been so interested and involved in the pregnancy and so empathetic during my hyperemesis gravidarum that we decided to try for a family birth. We needed an extra person, though, just in case Esther got scared or we had a medical emergency.

Rachel was unable to come with us, so we called our backup plan. However, we got no answer, so I left a message. It was already midnight at this point. Frank grabbed Esther out of bed and buckled her in her car seat. And off we went to the hospital!

Frank was driving over the curving, hilly, rural roads. We finally got to the expressway, and he was flying. I wasn’t paying attention because my contractions were coming, long and strong, sometimes only 3 minutes apart. My attention was captured, however, when Frank nearly hit an armadillo (whose tough armor can do some real damage to a car), and I realized just how fast he was driving. I told him to slow down and get us there alive, that I didn’t think the baby was coming within the hour – and maybe not even until morning.

We arrived at the small-town hospital, and it was a bizarre experience. It was very dark, and the parking lot was almost empty. Frank pulled up to the ER entrance, but no one was within sight, even beyond the glass doors. He left Esther and me in the car and went for help. He came back out with only a wheelchair. He said the ER reception was empty! So I got into the wheelchair, and I held Esther in my lap as Frank rolled me in. I sat by the reception desk while Frank was trying to decide how to get someone’s attention. Finally, a lady in an office saw me through a window and came out. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“I’m in labor,” I panted. “I called Labor and Delivery. They’re expecting me. I might throw up.”
“I’ll be right back,” she said and left me there with nothing to vomit in. So I had Frank hand me her trash can. Thankfully, I held my dinner in.

The maternity ward was a welcome sight. Nurses were at the ready, smiling and excited for me. Their section of the hospital was busy and active, unlike the rest of the hospital which seemed like something from the apocalypse.

They got me to my room, and I got changed into my comfy labor gown that I had brought. They checked me, and I was at 4 centimeters dilation. (Writing this, I just now realize they never once mentioned effacement or what station the baby was in.) I laid down in bed and tried to rest between contractions. I was exhausted from my day of errands and packing, and from my experience with my firstborn, I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest much after the birth. Surprisingly, I was able to fall asleep between contractions, even though I woke every 3-5 minutes for the next contraction. Unlike my 3-minute-long contractions with Esther, these were closer to a minute and a half.

I asked when I could get into the birthing tub. I had planned to labor in the water because it is such an effective pain management technique. I was dismayed to learn that the one OB who did not allow water labor/birth was the one on call. I just wanted to get in the water and relax. They told me the next OB would come in at 7am. It was now midnight. It’s okay, I told myself. I’m only at 4cm, so I’m sure I can make it until 7am and get in the water in time for transition when I will really need pain relief.

I was really annoyed, however, that the nurses insisted on continuous external fetal monitoring. I did not like having the Doppler strapped to my belly. It was itchy, and if I moved, it lost track of Isaiah’s heartbeat, and an alarm went off. I was also not comfortable with the safety, because there is radiation with Doppler and ultrasounds. I didn’t mind intermittent external fetal monitoring (like I had with Esther), but I had specifically stated on my birth plan that I did not want continuous. I repeated my request, but the nurse said, “Without it, we’d have no way of knowing if the baby is in trouble.” I was annoyed and slightly angry, but I was also too tired to advocate for myself. Frank was busy caring for Esther and was too unfamiliar with my birth plan to help, and we had no doula this time. (I definitely plan on having a doula next time. They are worth the money.)

Comparison: I spent hours upon hours walking the halls when in labor with my first, trying to speed labor on. This time, I just wanted to rest in bed. I had absolutely no desire to walk.

My two year old was fantastic. I called her my mini midwife. She was wearing the pink scrubs I bought for her for just this occasion. She took turns resting on the couch and being by my side, despite it being the middle of the night. She held my hand during contractions and said, “Breathe, Mama, breathe!” (However, her little voice made it sound more like, “Breed, Mama, breed!” I wanted to say, “Never again!”)

Contractions got even more intense, and I had Frank apply some essential oils I had blended for my lower back (30mL of carrier oil, 2 drops Rose otto, 2 drops Neroli, and 2 drops Frankincense). This blend helped with the pain, but it had to be applied every 30 minutes or so. I had it heavily diluted because I’m pretty cautious with EOs, especially when kids and babies are around.

Hours passed. I had the nurse check dilation again around 5:30am. I was only at 6cm. I was in so much pain, and I was so exhausted from sleeping only 2 or 3 minutes at a time all night. I thought I might be okay if I was in the water, but I still had an hour and a half until the OB who allowed this would come on duty, and the transition phase was approaching. I couldn’t wait that long. I was trying to decide what to do when I threw up the dinner that had been weighing on my stomach all night. I felt better, but I was just done. I said I wanted the epidural. Frank must have been surprised, because he asked if I was sure. I was sure, but I was so angry because I felt that it could have been avoided if I had just been able to relax and move in the water instead of lying in bed all night.

The anesthesiologist came in. I remember thinking she had amazing eye makeup. She came in with a smile and seemed so peaceful. Just her presence helped me relax. She didn’t make me sit up; she said I could roll to my side and stay lying down. This was wonderful.

I explained to her that I was concerned about the epidural being too strong. I told her how the epidural with my first baby lasted for several hours, and even after it was turned off, I had zero feeling and could not move my legs or control my muscles when I pushed. She understood and said it sounded like I was very sensitive to it, so she only gave me a partial dose. The relief was immediate, and by 6am, I was drifting off to sleep. (I also warned her that I had been applying essential oils (EOs) to my lower back, so we made sure to wash those off before she inserted the epidural.)

Tuesday, August 7th

I woke up to the sun at 9am. The epidural had worn off. The nurse checked dilation and said I was just barely under 10cm. I told her I really, REALLY wanted to push. She said my OB learned I was in labor, and he had come in to deliver my baby. I was so excited that he did this for me! He was always so calm and laid back at all of my appointments.

Comparison: I never felt the desire to push with my first. I watched the monitor to know when I was having a contraction and did my best to push even though I was completely numb.

Right then, our friend Rachel arrived! She was just in time to take care of Esther in case she got scared while Isaiah made his entrance.

Since I was about to push and my water had not yet ruptured, I decided to ask for the nurse to break it. While it would have been super amazing to have an en caul baby (baby born in the amniotic sac), I wanted my baby to benefit from the bacterial flora for the sake of his microbiome. En caul babies and c-section babies miss out on this, and water birth babies do to some extent. (I did not want the nurse to break my water until just before pushing because an intact amniotic sac can act as a pillow during contractions, making it more comfortable for both mom and baby.)

While I was waiting for my OB, the new anesthesiologist on duty came in. He said he was going to give me another partial dose in the epidural. I told him I didn’t want it, that I wanted to feel when to push. He said this would just barely take the edge off and administered the dose. I was annoyed at how pushy he was, and I once again wished I had a doula to advocate for me. I was really upset when my contractions seemed to stop, and I lost all instinct to push.

I was determined not to have pitocin, which made me feel pretty crummy for quite some time when I had it for my firstborn. I told my OB and nurse not to think I was crazy, and I asked Frank to get the EO I had blended to speed up labor (10mL carrier oil, 2 drops clary sage). I had read this should be applied to the ankles every 15 minutes to get labor going. We applied it, and within two minutes, I NEEDED to push RIGHT THEN. I strongly believe that clary sage saved me from pitocin.

I absolutely wanted to avoid lying on my back while pushing. Since I still had a bit of the epidural in my system, I didn’t trust myself to squat like I had originally wanted, so I decided to lie down on my side instead.

The first few contractions, I didn’t push hard because the burning sensation was so intense. (I was suddenly thankful for that pushy anesthesiologist, because I felt everything, but the tiny bit of epidural left in my system took just the edge off.) But then I just wanted this baby OUT. (In fact, I literally screamed at my baby, “GET OUT!” which brought laughter from Rachel.) I determined to literally push through the pain. After three or four strong pushes, maybe a total of 15 minutes, Isaiah was out and on my chest, wailing his lungs out. We waited until the cord stopped pulsing, and then my OB gave me the scissors, and I cut the cord myself. I didn’t suffer any tearing this time!

Comparison: I pushed enough times with Esther that I lost count, but it was for about 45 minutes. When Esther came out, she gave a sweet little cry, but she immediately stopped when she snuggled into my chest, and I brushed her face with my finger and spoke to her. Isaiah was just plain mad! With Esther, I suffered a second-degree tear that required three stitches.

Isaiah had to be taken away from my chest to be suctioned when he started turning blue. Part of me was concerned, but the other part was so flooded with endorphins, I just felt amazing. He was screaming, so I knew he was breathing. After thumping his back firmly and suctioning, he was immediately returned to me, where he finally stopped crying. I massaged the white vernix into his skin. I remember he smelled so good. We smiled at his nose, which was pushed to one side due to his previous cramped housing. (It straightened out in a few days.)

About an hour after his birth, he was weighed and measured. Despite being 16 days early, he weighed 8lbs, 12oz and 21 inches long.

I was up and moving around right away. I felt amazing! All the hip pain, back pain, and sciatica from the 2nd and 3rd trimesters was completely gone. All the nausea of hyperemesis gravidarum was gone. Since I hadn’t torn and had no pitocin or painkillers in my system, I was flooded with happy hormones. I felt better 1 hour postpartum than I had felt my entire pregnancy. I remember my OB laughing with me as I cried and exclaimed, “I feel so good!” I never took any painkillers, not even ibuprofen.

Comparison: With my first, I was shocked at how much pain I was in. I could only sit on an inflatable donut pillow, and I sat on ice for a week and was on painkillers. I waddled around slowly. I also was swollen everywhere due to the pitocin and felt very foggy.

There is a part of me that is glad it is all over, especially as I enjoy my sweet son. Pregnancy is very difficult on my body. But I still find birth so interesting and absolutely miraculous, and there are still things I wish I could experience… a water labor, no epidural, a quick labor. Maybe there will be another baby in our future, and maybe there won’t. I’m leaving that up to God. He’s done a great job deciding if and when we would have our first two children.

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Second Pregnancy

Many people ask me if my pregnancies have been similar or different, especially since I had a baby girl, and now I am pregnant with a boy. Even the cashier at the grocery store wants to know! My pregnancy symptoms are all very, very similar. I am carrying exactly the same (all one big basketball belly). I struggled with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) into the second trimester. I had no crazy cravings with either. My health is better with my second, but I credit my healthier lifestyle and being treated for HG. (I went undiagnosed my first pregnancy.)

What is different is the circumstances. For my first pregnancy, so much waiting had been involved. The time never seemed right. Our first year of marriage, we couldn’t afford to live on our own, so we took on a roommate in our tiny, two-bedroom apartment, and I finished my last semester of college and a semester of student teaching. After that, we moved to the next state so my husband could go to seminary (grad school) to become a pastor. Seminary was expensive. My husband worked full-time while in school, and I worked 50 hours a week. We felt it would be irresponsible for us to raise a child when our finances were so shaky.

But four years into our marriage, and four years of taking care of other people’s children, and I desperately wanted my own. What would my baby look like? What would she act like? I wanted to stay home with her and love on her and teach her about Jesus. I was tired of waiting. My husband and I agreed to try to conceive (TTC).

Nothing. Nothing happened. The charting and the planning and the healthier diet did nothing. I began wondering if something was wrong with me. Taking a pregnancy test every month, waiting for the time frame to be up, and never seeing that precious second line was shattering, especially since I knew I couldn’t do anything about it for weeks. I started wondering if I would ever be a mother.

What made it more difficult was living in a culture where everyone wants to know when you’re having kids. “Are you pregnant yet?” came from people who meant well, but had no idea we were TTC and getting negative tests month after month.

Six months into TTC, I finally got that positive pregnancy test. Nine months later, my fears of never holding my own child came to an end. You can read about my discovery of pregnancy here and my daughter’s birth here. (Six months really isn’t that long, compared to so many who have waited years to conceive. My heart goes out to those who wait.)

Our circumstances were so different this time. We now live in a community that is pretty private about family planning. We’ve never once been asked when we plan to expand our family. There has been no pressure.

My daughter and I are very close. I was 31 weeks pregnant when we moved from my husband’s internship in one state back to seminary in another state, and she was 9 months old when we moved for his Call (job placement as pastor) a few states away, where we knew no one. I went through so many changes, and my daughter was one of my constants. She and I are always together, and I absolutely love all the time I have with her.  I stay at home with her (daycare is crazy expensive), and she’s rarely ever babysat due to having 10 food allergies.

Thinking about adding another child makes me afraid the bond I have with my daughter would change. Could I still devote time to her when I have a newborn? Will she feel forgotten? Replaced?

But I also think about how I grew up with a sister, two years younger than me. I was so thankful to have a sister, especially when we went to playgrounds, or when we went to a distant relative’s house where we didn’t know anyone well. She was younger than me, but she made me feel secure. I always had someone to be with in new situations. We fought terribly in our teenage years, but now, she is one of my closest friends, and I couldn’t imagine not having her. I want my daughter to know that special bond between siblings.

I felt torn on when was the best time. I wanted to breastfeed for two years, so I had no interest in getting pregnant before then. My daughter was weaned in September 2017. We went to our home state for Thanksgiving to celebrate with family, and my sister had friends at her house, who had a newborn. I held him and remembered the newborn snuggles. He was crying, but then he fell asleep in my arms. “I could do this again,” I thought.

My husband’s been ready to have another kid for quite awhile now. We got home from Thanksgiving, and I thought of holding a newborn, and I let my guard down once. ONCE.

About two weeks later, knowing I could be pregnant, but not really feeling much different, I decided to take a test. I told my husband I should probably take one soon. We both thought it would be so improbable to be pregnant, my husband was actually laughing about it. “It’d be crazy, wouldn’t it?” I asked him.

He went to teach a religion class at 7am. My daughter and I rolled out of bed, and I made my way to the bathroom, took the pregnancy test, and then went to my daughter’s room to change her diaper. I totally forgot about the test as I walked back into the bathroom to wash my hands. But there it was, on the counter, with TWO lines.

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I shrieked and started crying. I was so happy and so shocked. My two year old came running into the bathroom. “What’s wrong Momma?”
“Nothing is wrong. Mom is just so, so happy. There’s a baby in there! There’s a baby in there!”

I had never planned to tell my daughter about pregnancy so early into it, but I was in such shock, I couldn’t help it. My two year old latched on to this fact with total excitement.

An hour later, my husband was walking home. My daughter and I sat by the Christmas tree, and I told him he had an early Christmas present. My daughter jumped up and rubbed my belly and said, “Daddy, there’s a baby! In here!” It took a second for this to register, but he was so shocked and so happy too. It was so exciting Skyping with our family that day to tell them. A few weeks later, we announced it to our church congregation, and everyone was so excited for us. Christmas Day, HG struck hard.

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What has been most amazing is my two year old’s understanding that there is a living, human baby in my belly. She took care of me when all I could do was throw up throughout the end of December, January, and February. She loved hearing the baby’s heartbeat. She loved talking to the doctors when I was in the hospital, getting IV fluids. She’s gone to every midwife appointment. She treasures the ultrasound pictures just as much as her daddy and I do. She asks to watch ultrasound videos and birth videos. Someone at church gave her a book called, “What’s in Your Tummy, Mommy?” and she loves to look at the monthly drawings of the baby in the mommy’s tummy, and she keeps track of how big our baby is. It’s a big deal when we move on to the next month. Whenever someone comes over, she runs and gets that book, first thing, and shows them how big her brother is. Whenever we’re out, and we’re talking with someone, she always rubs my belly and “introduces” her baby brother to them. She tells them, “He is growing big, big, BIG!” Sharing every moment of this pregnancy with her has been among the most beautiful experiences of my life. She loves her baby brother so much already, and she is already such an amazing big sister. My husband and I are so blessed by both our children.

I can’t wait to see what our family will be like when this little one joins us face-to-face. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for us all, because I know His plans are good.

As I write this, I feel this baby kicking around inside me. Just 11 more weeks until the estimated due date. (Note: while I wrote this 11 weeks before Aug 23, I didn’t have a chance to edit and publish it until the last week of August!)

14 weeks:
Baby Lucas

20 Weeks:
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Today, I Turned Thirty

Last year on my birthday, I felt upset at turning 29. I don’t like when things are over forever. I loved my 20s. I mentioned this on my Facebook last year, and I had so many comments from people telling me they enjoyed their 30s even more. As a result, today, I am celebrating the start of something new and the good things to come.

I’m also reflecting on the last three decades. I’ve changed so much. I’ve learned so much. The lessons were hard, but the knowledge is priceless.

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Birth – 10 years old
I don’t have a lot of memories from the first half of my first decade, but I have to admit that what I do remember is a lot of anxiety. Although I wasn’t diagnosed with general anxiety and clinical depression until I was 15, I realize now that I struggled with it early on. I remember being three and knowing my fourth birthday was coming. It scared me that I couldn’t stop it from happening. I remember my first day of kindergarten and feeling like throwing up. I remember struggling so much in school – feeling overwhelmed, self-conscious, and tired. I remember the first day of first grade, wondering how I would get through a full day of school instead of a half day. I remember one day being sent to choir after school instead of going home, and I totally lost it. I didn’t have the energy other kids did. I was constantly comparing myself to my classmates and wondering, “Who am I?”

Yet, I had a very secure childhood. I lived in a home with a mom and dad. I had a sister, two years younger. My dad worked long days, but my mom stayed home with us. We had a German Shepherd – Huskie mix named Samson, who always made me feel safe. I went to a good school with Christian teachers who cared about their students deeply. We went to church every Sunday, and I loved it.

11 – 20 years old
This was a rough, rough time for me. I experienced extreme bullying from a few classmates, including death threats and rape threats. A classmate sexually assaulted me in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. The summer between 7th and 8th grade, we had a home explosion while an air conditioner was being installed. I was in my room when it happened. I started having flash backs every night. Sometimes, flashbacks were triggered by something as simple as the smell of candle smoke. The nightmares were relentless.

When I was 15, I found out my very dear friend was being abused by her father, and her sister was being sexually abused. I had witnessed a few things when I slept over at their house. I think part of me felt that if I tried to feel her pain as deeply as she did, I could carry some of it.

All of these things added up, and I became suicidal. I started self harming.

Despite all these terrible circumstances, I had so many things helping me. My parents never gave up on me. My sister and I were not close during this time (we’re best friends now), but one day, I found a note she had put in my room, and I realized how much she loved me. My high school was a Christian school, and my teachers were very involved in helping me emotionally and spiritually in addition to giving me a college-prep education. My parents continued taking me to church every Sunday – even when I complained. My youth group and youth group leader provided a safe place for me. My faith in God grew, and He renewed my strength every time I was convinced I couldn’t go on.

My parents also started sending me to a Christian counselor. From her, I learned I shouldn’t talk down to myself or punish myself. I learned about how self harm is a chemical addiction, and she helped me overcome it. She taught me coping skills for panic attacks and flashbacks. My parents worked so incredibly hard to be able to send me to a Christian school and to a counselor, and I’ll forever be grateful.

A few months after I turned 18, I started college. This is when I truly began to not just heal, but grow. I attended one of the Concordia Universities. My faith strengthened. I started having an interest in so many topics. I became very academically competitive, and I thrived in classrooms where I had professors who took me deeper and deeper into information.

Relationships became a huge part of my life in college. I began dating a guy at this university. We had gone to high school together. He accepted my scars and shared my faith in Jesus. In addition, I had found a group of friends who accepted me. We did Bible studies together, went horseback riding and ice skating. We lifted each other up. We were always visiting each other’s dorms and having movie nights. I had had friends before college, but not an entire group of friends, and never friends who were so constantly present. These friends and this boyfriend really showed me that I had value.

21-30 years old
The guy I had been dating proposed to me, and we were married two days after I turned 22. There is no one else I would rather share my life with. We’ve been through so much, away from our families, and we’ve done it together, with God.

I had learned how to deal with anxiety and depression. I had learned who I was to friends. This was the decade where I learned who I was, just me.

My husband and I moved to a city three hours away from our families after we graduated college. My husband began seminary (grad school) to become an LCMS pastor, and he also worked. I accepted a job at a daycare for a year. In the mornings, I was in the infant room for babies ages 6 weeks to 6 months. I had never even changed a diaper before. I learned how to do this in addition to mixing formula, warming breastmilk, giving breathing treatments, doing physical therapy for a baby after surgery for clubbed feet, taking temperatures, and simply being unafraid to hold a baby. In the afternoons, I lead kids ages 5 to 12 in an after-school program. It was here I learned that I’m pretty terrible with classroom management when I have a large room of kids, but I loved one-on-one and small group settings. I also learned I definitely prefer teaching teenagers. (My degree is in secondary education.)

One family at the daycare hired me as a babysitter for their 3 month old daughter. Then they hired me to be a nanny and personal assistant for their business. I got their daughter ready in the mornings for daycare. I cleaned, did groceries, laundry, and cooking for the mother, who was very ill. Then I went to their business and organized receipts, did filing, bought supplies for their accounts in over 15 states, and shipped it. Sometimes I worked overnight. Sometimes I worked weekends. Sometimes I worked 50 hours a week. I became close friends with the mom, and my heart broke when it was time to move on shortly after the daughter turned three. They were – and are – family to me. But I learned from this job that I can learn pretty much anything. My degree in secondary education, English, history, and LCMS doctrine didn’t really apply in this setting, yet I still was useful.

But what working in a daycare and as a nanny taught me most was that I wanted to be a mom.

My husband was assigned a one-year vicarage (internship) placement about 8 hours away from our apartment by the seminary. We packed up and moved. Several months into vicarage, I discovered I was pregnant. I was debilitated by hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) but so excited to have a child.

I was 28 when my daughter was born, and I was thrust into the world of food allergies. I had to learn about nutrition. I had to learn how to cook everything from scratch. My daughter was eventually diagnosed with 10 food allergies. Upon cleaning up our diets from processed foods, I noticed a huge improvement in my health. I became extremely interested in natural health and started questioning a lot of mainstream medicine. I became disgusted with what the FDA allows in American food. Even though I was a stay-at-home-mom, my English degree became extremely useful as I researched medical journals, case studies, databases, always hungry to learn more. I found a new interest that took me by surprise.

When my daughter was 9 months old, my husband, having graduated seminary, received his Call (placement) as a first-time pastor. We were being sent about 10 hours away from our families to a state we had never even set foot in before, to a town with less than 500 people. I was terrified, but I wasn’t alone. I had my two favorite people with me (husband and daughter), and God was with us.

Our new home is amazing. Our church members have basically adopted us as family. I love our house. I love our town. I love our church. I even love the climate here. As much as I miss my family back home, I can’t imagine ever leaving here.

Turning 30
I’m loving life right now. Looking over the years, I realize that things have gotten better and better. I also realize that when things were hopeless, God was always with me. No matter what I face, God will be with me.

And I have so much to look forward to. In two days, my husband and I celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary, and our marriage is better than ever.

Our daughter will be three in September, and I love spending every moment with her. She is a blessing in so many ways, and every day, I can’t believe God blessed us with her. She is so special.

Our second child, a boy this time, is due at the end of August. I cannot wait to see his face and to help our daughter hold him. (He’s kicking my ribs as I type this.)

Lots of amazing things are in store for my family back home, and I’m so excited for them all.

I loved my 20s, but I’m thinking my 30s are going to be even more amazing, and I’m ready to enjoy every day of this coming decade.

Sexual Assault – My Story

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Some of my friends have opened up to share their stories in hopes of helping others. Transparency works. This is my story.

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Trigger Warning: While not overly graphic, there is content that some readers may find upsetting. 

I was sexually assaulted at my school and church for about three years during 7th, 8th, and 9th grade by a classmate one grade lower than me.

We both didn’t fit in at school, so we became friends. I was bullied by other kids at school, so I clung to any friendship I could get. But as time went on, the things he started saying to me got more personal and more sexual. It was at that time that instant messaging became a thing. Unfortunately, cyber bullying was not yet on anyone’s radar.

We both had screen names on AIM, and that was where a lot of his sexual statements started. They were minor – so minor, that I wasn’t even sure if he crossed a line. It escalated over time, slowly – so slowly, that I didn’t notice during it that things were getting worse. They were occasional, insignificant comments that made me uncomfortable. Nothing more.

I didn’t know the term “sexual harassment” when I was 13. I didn’t know a 12 year old boy could be capable of sexual harassment. To this day, I don’t know if he was a lonely boy with a troubled home life who was just experimenting with sexuality or if he knew what he was doing was wrong, if he was purposely manipulating me. As an adult, I look back over the AIM conversations, and I see grooming, whether or not this boy was aware that was what he was doing.

By the time 8th grade came, the sexual harassment changed from solely verbal to also physical. Things like snapping my bra. Again, it was so minor that I didn’t feel it was worth reporting to my parents or teachers. I wish I had. I know they would have taken action. I know what came next would have been prevented.

My entire 8th grade year was a daily experience of sexual harassment, especially at recess and then online at home. His comments changed from general comments to comments specifically about my body.  Sometimes, it was compliments. Sometimes, it was more than that. He followed me around school – even following me into the bathroom when he knew no one else was there. He started buying me gifts, many of which were sexual. Whenever I told him to back off, he always acted hurt, and I was the one who ended up apologizing.

High school finally came. Despite being at different schools, the harassment continued. Whenever I tried to end the friendship, I felt guilty. So our online conversations continued. I knew this boy’s faith in God was nonexistent, and I wanted to encourage him to come to church and youth group. Unfortunately, it was at my church youth group where the sexual assault began.

We were always in public. I was never alone with him. But the assault still happened. Whenever no one was looking, whenever we blended into a crowd, he would grope me – sometimes over my shirt, sometimes putting his hand down my pants, over my underwear. I specifically remember this happening at a bowling alley and at Cedar Point. I remember pushing him away, but then I only received stares from strangers who only witnessed my hands pushing him, who missed seeing where his hands had been. They only saw a young boy on the ground with an angry, goth, teenage girl standing over him.

Our online conversations got more embarrassing. He started asking me for sex. He started detailing what he would do. When I refused, when I said I was waiting for marriage, he said he’d stop talking to me and move on to my younger sister. Terrified for her, I continued communication with him.

He knew my Christian faith was important to me. He knew I strongly believed in Jesus and Satan, in angels and demons. He said he enjoyed communicating with demons. He said he would send one to my room every night to watch me in all I did – undressing, sleeping, etc. He said he would then have his demon report everything back to him. As I lay in my room each night, I was terrified. I hid under my covers and prayed.

One day, he was talking to me online about his depression and loneliness. Once again, my heart hurt for him. But he then brought up sex again. When I told him no, he said he’d kill himself. The conversation ended. He stopped replying. AIM told me his computer had gone idle, so I knew he wasn’t there. I waited. About a half hour or an hour later, a friend of his contacted me and said that he had attempted suicide. I was frantic. I thought that because I had refused sex, he was now dead – and worse, dead before he had faith in God. The friend told me details, and it all sounded so real. Then the friend told me he was still alive, but barely. I was relieved. I knew that no matter how embarrassing it would be to me, I needed to get help for him. I told the friend I was about to call the police to give them the address and send help. Suddenly, they were both online, talking to me, telling me it was all a joke, begging me not to call the police. He called me, and I heard him, alive and well.

I was done. I changed my screen names. I blocked him. He stopped coming to youth group. He never went after my sister. He graduated 8th grade and moved on to a high school different than mine, out of my life, but not out of my memories.

MeToo

Even without him in my life, I suffered. I contemplated and planned suicide. I hated myself. I started self harming and developed an addiction to it throughout my sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school. I got better once I had counseling and once I opened up to people. I gained a support system that helped me enter recovery. (For more on my story of recovery from self harm, click here.)

I have a document saved that chronicles all this. It contains our online conversations, has dates – everything. I thought of sharing it to demonstrate how the harassment increased so slowly, how I didn’t notice until it was too late. The document shows that once it was clear to me, 100%, that this was wrong, that his intentions were not innocent, I was too ashamed and embarrassed to ask for help. I felt like it was my fault that someone could look at me in such a dirty way. I thought there must be something about me, something wrong with me, that caused him to see me in this way. I felt that if I asked for help, those aspects about me would be revealed, and I didn’t want my parents to see me that way. I know so many girls are going through the same manipulation and false guilt right now.

It has been almost 15 years since the assault ended. It has been almost 10 years since I finally shared my story with my college boyfriend (now my husband). It has been almost eight years since I opened up to my parents and told them everything – right before my wedding. I’ve had three years of counseling concerning this topic. Today, as I sit and read the document containing everything, I still feel ashamed. I still feel dirty. I still cannot bring myself to share what he said. I find that his words were actually so much worse than the physical assaults. That’s what still hurts today. I want to share the details to help others, to demonstrate exactly how I was manipulated, how I was drawn in, how I got trapped. But I’m not there yet in the healing process. Maybe one day.

Concerning this boy… I have not had contact with him since my freshman year in high school. I do not want any contact with him. I do forgive him, even if that is something I have to do over and over again when the hurt and anger come back to the surface. I pray that he asks Jesus for forgiveness. I pray he comes to know the God I know.

Please know that if anyone says anything sexual to you that makes you feel even a little uncomfortable, you have every right to tell them to stop – not ask, but tell. If they do not stop, it is sexual harassment, and you need to ask for help, no matter how minor the harassment seems.

If anyone touches you inappropriately or forced you to do any sexual act, that is sexual assault.  This needs to be reported immediately! Don’t wait!

Report this to a parent, a teacher, your boss, a superior, a pastor, a counselor – someone. And if that someone does not give you help, then ask someone else and keep doing so until you are given help. A great resource is RAINN.

Help

Sexual predators groom their victims. They start with minor things and slowly build up so that the boundary line between right and wrong is so blurry, the victim doesn’t even know when it is crossed. Black and white become gray. Then the victim-blaming begins. Once the harassment has gone on long enough, the victim does not feel he/she can ask for help, because the situation feels like it is his/her fault. It continues to escalate, until the emotional wounds are so deep that the scars will never fade.

If you have been a target for sexual harassment or assault – it is not your fault. No matter how minor or how severe, no matter how embarrassing, report it. That person needs consequences. You can save others from being that person’s future victims.

Get counseling. Your wounds may turn into scars that you carry for the rest of your life, but you can heal. You deserve to heal. Let others help you heal, and then use your scars to tell your story. My scars – both the emotional and physical scars – show where I have been, not where I am now. My scars show that there is healing. My scars show that there is hope. My scars show I am no longer a victim, but a survivor.

God made you. He designed you with love. You deserve to be treated with care and respect, even when you don’t feel like you do.

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PARENTS:

  • Talk to your kids about cyber bullying. Teach them how to take screen shots before conversations get deleted. These can be used as legal evidence.
  • If your son or daughter is in 7th grade or older, and you haven’t talked about grooming, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, do so as soon as possible. You can start these conversations younger than 7th grade, but I would not wait longer than that.
  • Sexual harassment and assault can come from strangers or familiar people. It can come from someone older, the same age, or younger. It can come from males; it can come from females. It can happen to females, but it can also happen to males. It can even happen in the best schools with the best teachers. It can happen in Christian churches. Know this and tell your children this.
  • Tell your kids to report anything that may even have the possibility of bullying, harassment, or assault to an adult they trust – even if that isn’t you.
  • Monitor your children’s activities and social lives – their text messages, their online accounts – everything. Yes, this limits their privacy, and they might be angry. I promise that their anger at you will be so much less than the turmoil they’ll feel without your protection. They won’t need counseling because you knew their SnapChat or Twitter or Facebook or Instagram passwords. They will need counseling for sexual harassment.
  • Know whom your kids are with at all times.
  • For those of you with young kids, teach them that no means no. My daughter is only two, but I want her to know that even her no means no. If she doesn’t want a hug, then one is not forced upon her. If she doesn’t want a kiss, then that is okay. If she is feeling shy, I tell her it is okay to be shy. Of course I am the parent, and when I say something like, “It’s time to go to bed,” and she says “No,” I overrule her. But when it comes to physical contact with myself, my husband, relatives, friends, church members, etc. if she said no to a hug or kiss, then no means no. I don’t want to desensitize her to the fact that forced contact is never okay.

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It’s a scary world we live in. It’s a dark world. Be the light. Share your story! My cousin inspired me to share my story by sharing her own story and ghostwriting a story for a friend of hers. Sharing yours may just help someone avoid what you’ve been through. Write your story in a blog or on social media. Tell it in a support group. Tell me your story in a comment below. Your words have value!

Voice

Easter Sunday: Reflections of a Pastor’s Wife

The Sunday after Jesus’ death changed everything. It changed the people who experienced it, and it changes the people who believe it now.

That morning, the tomb was guarded by soldiers. An earthquake shook the land, and an angel appeared, who rolled away the stone, which had been sealed. The guards fled in fear. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. That evening, He appeared to the disciples. Jesus remained among them, preaching, until 40 days after His resurrection, when He ascended into heaven.

Easter

Easter is clearly an important day for Christians. It’s the day Jesus defeated sin, death, and Satan. It’s the day that gives us certain hope that all our wrongdoing is forgiven, that we have been saved from eternal death in hell, and that Satan has no control over us. Easter is the reason for our faith.

Easter is a beautiful celebration in church. In most churches, paraments cover the altar and pulpit. (Paraments are decorative cloths.) Throughout the 40 days of Lent, the paraments are a dark purple. Services are a bit more quiet, and we refrain from saying the word “alleluia.” On Good Friday, the paraments are black. The service on Good Friday feels very much like a funeral. Most churches practice the tradition of walking out in silence after the service ends. It’s a very somber experience.

Then we return to church on Easter Sunday, and the paraments are white. The church is filled with white lilies. The pastor shouts, “He is risen!” and the congregation answers back, “He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” It feels so good to say that word again. All the songs are joyful, full of praise.

Easter is a taste of what is to come. Easter gives us a glimpse of heaven.

Easter gives me hope.

I look around our world, and my heart just breaks. I log onto Facebook and see posts full of hatred and gossip. I think of the women and children in my life and know many of them have been abused and molested. I see addiction gripping people I love. Family members of mine have been held at knife-point and gunpoint. One friend from college lost her 10 month old baby to a severe heart defect. Another friend from college just had her 2 year old go through a heart transplant. I see posts at least once a week, on average, of women asking for prayers as they suffer a miscarriage. I have lost family and friends to suicide. And these are just the people who are part of my life. I look at the news, and I only see more tragedy.

This world is a dark, painful, broken world.

I am weary. I often feel so very alone in my beliefs. People hate that I base my beliefs on the Bible, that I believe even the parts of the Bible most people would rather ignore.  People hate that I believe hell exists. People hate that I believe Jesus is the only One who can save us from hell.

I am worn. I’m tired of losing friends. I’m not perfect. Sometimes I present my beliefs in an unloving way. Sometimes, I come on too strongly. However, sometimes I state my beliefs in the kindest way possible, and still have people react in anger. I don’t want my beliefs to hurt people. So I stop speaking what I believe. I listen to the beliefs of others, but I am terrified to share my own. And then I feel guilty, because really, my strongest desire is to tell people that Jesus loves them.

It won’t always be like this. There is pain in this world, sometimes unbearable pain, but I know that this is temporary. I know that grief ends. I know we will be resurrected, and we will be reunited with the ones we have lost (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).  Jesus promised us that He is preparing a place for us (John 14:2).

Switchfoot is my favorite band. They express the longing I feel for heaven – for home – better than I can. A few lines from their song “Restless” remind me that our hurts will be healed. We will be reunited with our loved ones, and we will be united with our Savior in a way that was never possible in a sinful world.

Until the sea of glass we meet
Our lives completed and complete
Where tide and tear and pain subside
And laughter drinks them dry
I’ll be waiting
Anticipating
With every heartbeat
All of my blood bleeds
Running inside me
Looking for You

These lines from “Where I Belong” resonate with my feelings of being an outcast as a Christian. I try to live in harmony, but I fail. I often feel like a foreigner, but one day I’ll be home with my Savior, where I belong.

But I’m not sentimental
This skin and bones is a rental
And no one makes it out alive
Until I die I’ll sing these songs
On the shores of Babylon
Still lookin’ for a home
In a world where I belong
And on that final day I die
I want to hold my head up high
And tell You that I tried
To live it like a song
And when I reach the other side
I want to look You in the eye
And know that I’ve arrived
In a world where I belong

Maybe you feel like me. Maybe you feel like you don’t fit in, like you’re not quite whole. Maybe you are so weighed down by the tragedies in your life. Maybe you are grieving.

Dear reader, please consider Jesus. He loves you so much. He sees every tear that falls from your face (Psalm 56:8). Jesus promises to be with you always (Matthew 28:20). Jesus gives us hope for heaven – not a speculative hope, but a certain hope. You are so loved. What are you waiting for?

Good Friday: Reflections of a Pastor’s Wife

Good Friday is a very emotional day for me. It’s a day I learned the truth about myself. It’s a day that gives me purpose. However, it’s a day that makes many people uncomfortable. What happened on that first Good Friday, and how does it apply to us now?

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Maundy Thursday ended with Jesus’ arrest. He was declared guilty of blasphemy by the high priest. The Jews brought Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, the only person who had the authority to have Jesus executed. Pilate attempted to appease the crowd without condemning a man whom Pilate believed to be innocent, but the crowd shouted, “Crucify Him!” Fearing a riot, Pilate gave the crowd their wish: Jesus would be crucified by Roman soldiers.

Flogging was usually done before a crucifixion. The Gospels do not go into detail about the flogging. We can use first century historians, such as Josephus, to form hypotheses concerning what method was used and to what severity. According to the book, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel by RCH Lenski, pages 1244-1245, Roman soldiers stripped the prisoner, tied the prisoner’s hands so that the back would be stretched out, and then began whipping. The Romans struck the back, buttocks, and thighs. They used a whip with several leather strips, leaving several stripes per hit. Tied to the ends of the leather strips were pieces of lead and bone, which caused deeper bruising and tearing of the skin.  Secular sources say that after a Roman scourging, the prisoner’s bones, veins, arteries, and even organs were exposed.

After the flogging, the soldiers took Jesus and presented Him before the entire battalion. They wrapped Jesus in a robe and placed a crown of thorns on His head. They mocked Him, spit on Him, struck Him on the head, pushing the thorns deeper. Then they stripped Him of the robe. Tearing the robe away from His shredded flesh only reopened the wounds from flogging.

Jesus was led outside of Jerusalem. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, and He was raised up. Crucifixion caused suffering in many ways… heart failure, pulmonary embolism, hypovolemic shock, and asphyxiation. (This article by National Geographic explains these physical conditions during crucifixion in more detail.)

It’s easy to focus on the the physical aspect of Jesus’ suffering. However, Jesus was experiencing something even worse than crucifixion. He carried the guilt of all people. I think of how I feel when I experience guilt… nausea, sleeplessness, a sensation that almost feels like a physical weight on my chest and shoulders. It’s a terrible burden just to experience guilt over one wrongdoing. Jesus carried the guilt of that one wrongdoing of mine, in addition to all the other things I have done wrong, in addition to all the wrongdoing all people have done – past, present, and future.

It gets worse even still. God cannot tolerate sin. He cannot look at it. God responds to sin with wrath. Jesus took on the sin of the world. He therefore took on the wrath of God. This is why Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus took our sin, and therefore took our place and paid our ransom. Jesus did this willingly and lovingly. He had no bitterness. He even prayed for the soldiers who mocked Him while he hung from the cross, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

I think the spiritual battle involved on the cross is what makes people want to turn away. I think American culture encourages us to do what makes us feel good. It doesn’t feel good to be told that we deserve every bit of suffering that Jesus endured – abandoned and betrayed by friends, beaten, flogged, and crucified. It doesn’t feel good to be told that we’re sinful. It doesn’t feel good to be told we need to change our ways. And we certainly don’t want to think about hell. It feels much better to form our own philosophies and encourage others to do the same, as long as those philosophies don’t tell other people what to do or believe.

When Pilate was first questioning Jesus, looking for a way to avoid condemnation, Jesus told him, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” Pilate responded by asking, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Our culture likes to ask, “What’s your truth?” I see it all over Facebook. If you Google “What’s your truth,” you will find several websites that guide you in finding and living your truth. An article by MindBodyGreen says, “Being true to yourself means your main source of validation is from within.” The more you rely on outside validation, “the more you lower your sense of self. Your value is innately within you. When you are being true to yourself, the externals don’t define you. You realize you are more than what you have. You believe you are whole.”

One article by the Huffington Post says, “When you decide that you are worthy of more, is a form of truth. When you choose to surround yourself with people who are uplifting and inspirational, is a form of truth. The qualities of respect, worth and inspiration are the truths that you begin to embody in the world. Armed with your personal truths you move with more ease in the world. Your life will expand and prosper because of these truths. To identify, to name, to define your personal truths is perhaps the single most important thing you’ll ever do in this life.”

Our culture teaches us that we create our own value. We’re strong. We don’t need anyone.

What happens when we can’t ignore our guilt? What happens when we’re not strong? What happens when validation from within ourselves is nonexistent?

As a teenager, I reached that point. I knew my heart – the hateful and judgmental thoughts, the complete disrespect I had for my parents. When I looked inside myself, I saw guilt. Yes, I saw some good, but even the good in me could not overcome the guilt. I believed I needed punishment. I started self-harming. It didn’t help. I began considering and planning suicide.

That year, the movie The Passion of the Christ came out. It was beyond gory. It was intense. It was exactly what I needed. Jesus did all of that for me. Willingly. Lovingly. I don’t owe God anything because my debt has been paid.

On the radio, I often hear the song You Love Me Anyway by Sidewalk Prophets. There is one part of the song that brings me to tears every time I hear it.

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway
See now I am the man who called out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth-shaking ground
Yes, then I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
Then alone in the night, I still call out to You
So ashamed of my life
But You love me anyway

What is the truth? It’s more than a belief; it’s accepting a fact.

What is the fact, the truth, about who I really am?

I am a person who is not perfect.
I am a person who has hurt other people with my words and actions.
I am a person who cannot save herself from sin.
I am a person for whom Jesus died.
I am a person who is forgiven.
I am a person who does not fear death and the devil because of Jesus.

My value does not come from within myself – not even in the least bit. My value comes solely from Jesus. The MindBodyGreen article said that the more I rely on external validation, the more I lower my sense of self, but that is a lie. The opposite is true: the more I rely on Jesus, the higher my sense of self. I am cherished. I was loved by God from the moment of my conception. God has a plan and a purpose for my life. He is so powerful that He can take a terrible, hopeless situation, and bring good out of it – bring good out of me.

Readers, I beg you. Love yourself. Love others. But first and foremost, love God. Love God by confessing what you’ve done wrong. Love God by asking Him to help you do better. Love God by obeying His commands – even if it means changing your lifestyle. Love God by thanking Him. Love God by acknowledging Him. I promise you, it will change your world.

 

Maundy Thursday: Reflections of a Pastor’s Wife

No, it’s not Monday Thursday. It’s Maundy (mawn-dee) Thursday. It’s not really an important day, right? We’re all so busy with our jobs, our families, our lives. We’re getting ready for hosting company on Easter, just days away. Or maybe we’re getting ready to travel and go on vacation for spring break. What makes Maundy Thursday important?

Let’s start by taking a look at the word maundy and its connection to the Bible.

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The word “maundy”  has its origins from Middle English, Old French, and Latin. It means “mandate” or “commandment.”

What was the mandate to be followed on this day? Passover.

The first Passover happened around 1446 BC, according to page 95 of the Lutheran Study Bible, although some scholars have questioned this date. The first Passover is described in the book of Exodus, chapter 12. To summarize, the Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for 430 years. God called Moses to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. When Pharaoh refused, God caused plagues to fall upon Egypt. The tenth plague was the Plague of the Firstborn. Every firstborn would die. God instructed His people to eat unleavened bread (flat, no yeast) for seven days. Then they were to sacrifice a lamb and spread the blood across the doorposts of their homes. The Lord passed over the homes with the lamb’s blood. This was the final plague, and Pharaoh released the Israelites.

The Israelites were commanded by God to celebrate Passover each year, teaching their children how God brought them out of slavery. It had been about 1,476 years since the first Passover in Egypt when Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples for the last time. (You can read more on dates at Got Questions.)

Jesus and His disciples celebrated that particular Passover in an upper room. A note in the Lutheran Study Bible on John 13:5 explains, “Even if a guest had bathed just before attending a banquet, his feet would still be dirty from the dusty roads.” It was the custom to have a servant wash the feet of all who entered – a job that was saved for the lowest of servants. The upper room had no servants; the only people in the room were Jesus and His 12 disciples. So who took the place of a lowly servant? Jesus did. He washed the feet of each of His disciples. At first Peter protested that he should be washing Jesus’ feet, not the other way around. John 13:8 tells us Jesus’ response: : “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”  Notice that Jesus did not say, “If I do not wash your feet…” Jesus said, “If I do not wash you….” Jesus was more than a servant washing feet, an outward cleansing; He was a sacrifice washing away sin, an inward cleansing. His disciples did not yet understand this. They did not know what was to come… but Jesus knew.

What I find truly amazing about this humble act of service is that not only did Jesus know a terrible, painful death was awaiting Him, but that Judas Iscariot (one of the 12 disciples) would betray Jesus by turning Him over to the authorities. At the time of this meal, Judas had already given into Satan’s temptation to betray Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins. Jesus knew all of this, but did He skip washing the feet of Judas? No.

Can you imagine knowing a specific person did wrong against you, even purposefully put your life in danger, and yet you decide to serve them? Perhaps someone pulled a gun on you. Perhaps someone raped you. Maybe a spouse cheated on you. I can’t say I would choose to serve that person. I think the majority of people – myself included – would choose revenge, or at the very least, justice. I believe this act of service performed by Jesus for Judas shows us that no matter what guilt we carry, He can forgive. We can confess anything to Him, and He will still love us.

It was time to eat the Passover meal, as was commanded all those years ago in Egypt. Luke 22:7-13 describes the Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with His disciples. As they ate, Jesus said that one of the 12 would betray Him. Judas asks, “Is it I?” Jesus indirectly answers, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:21-25) I often wonder what Judas was thinking at this point. He had already made his decision, and he knew Jesus knew, and he still had time to change his mind. And yet, he carried out his betrayal.

During the meal, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” He then took the cup and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20) Jesus knew His body would be broken. He knew His blood would be spilled. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb saved the Israelites from the slavery of the Egyptians, the blood of the Lamb of God would save all who don’t reject Him from the slavery to sin. A covenant – a promise – that God made to the Israelites to save them, sealed in the blood of a sacrifice, was now replaced with a new covenant – that God offers to everyone – sealed in the blood of The Sacrifice.

Again, I find it interesting that although Jesus knew Judas’ heart, Jesus still offered the bread and wine – His body and blood – to Judas. Jesus still offered Judas forgiveness.

After the meal, they sang a hymn and then went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus told the disciples that soon, they would all fall away and leave Him. Peter was upset about this, and he insisted that he would never leave Jesus, even if everyone else did, even if it meant he had to die for Jesus. But Jesus told him that he would deny Jesus not once, but three times.

Luke 22:39-46 tells what happened as they continued on and came to the Garden of Gethsemane (geth-sem-ah-nee). Jesus asked His disciples to keep watch and to pray. Jesus moved off by Himself to pray earnestly to God the Father. The amount of stress and fear that Jesus faced was immense. He knew exactly what was coming – not just a painful death but the punishment for the sins of the world. We know that Jesus was truly in anguish because He experienced hematohidrosis – when the blood vessels surrounding sweat glands rupture, blood mixes with sweat. Jesus sweat blood. I cannot imagine the fear, dread, sorrow, and isolation Jesus felt.

Jesus did ask that the Father would remove this cup from Him. (Isaiah 51:17 calls it the cup of God’s wrath.) Jesus’ request that God remove this unbearable task was not His only request. Jesus added, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) I’ve prayed for some pretty important things – life and death situations. I usually pray for trivial things – the things I want or the things I think I need. A lot of the time, I don’t want to pray for God’s will. What if God’s will conflicts with my own? I am turning 30 in a few months, and it was only within the past year that I have really focused on praying for God’s will. The song “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott was a song I listened to as I prayed for my friend whose infant passed away due several heart defects. It’s a song I listened to less than a month ago, as another friend’s 2 year old received a heart transplant. It’s my prayer for my own 2 year old daughter and my unborn child – that God’s will be done, not mine. It’s taken me 30 years to finally start trusting God’s will more than my own. Yet, here is Jesus, facing things so much worse than I have faced, and He asks for God’s will to be done.

When Jesus had finished praying, He returned to His disciples, who were not praying; they were sleeping! As Jesus was speaking to them, a crowd came, and Judas Iscariot lead them. Judas walked up to Jesus and kissed Him. (A kiss was a normal greeting in that culture.) Jesus’ response blows me away. Jesus said to Judas, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Friend. Even in the moment of betrayal, Jesus calls him “friend.” Judas had given into Satan’s temptation, but Jesus was about to battle Satan on the cross. Is this Jesus’ last reassurance that Judas could reject Satan, repent, and be forgiven?

The soldiers seized Jesus, and Peter struck a soldier with a sword, cutting off his ear (John 18:10). Jesus tells him to put the sword away, and He healed the soldier’s ear (Luke 22:51). Jesus was then taken to Caiaphas, who was the high priest. The Council discussed reasons why Jesus should be put to death. The members of the Council did not agree with Jesus’ teachings; they focused on the Law, not forgiveness. They were not humble, but haughty. However, they could find no fault with Jesus. Finally, the high priest said to Jesus, “Tell us if You are the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “You have said so.” At this, the priest tore his robes and declared blasphemy. Then they spit on Jesus, struck Him, and mocked Him. (Matthew 26:63-64)

Peter had followed Jesus from the Garden at Gethsemane to courtyard where Jesus was. A servant girl saw him and said that she saw him with Jesus. Peter denied having a connection with Jesus. Three times this happened, and on the third denial, a rooster crowed. Peter “wept bitterly.” He had protested Jesus washing his feet, saying he should serve Jesus. He had boasted that he would die for Jesus, and yet, when he was up against all that pressure, he denied even knowing Jesus. (Matthew 26:69-75)

That Thursday ended with Jesus betrayed, arrested, beaten, and alone.

And the worst was yet to come.

Maundy Thursday isn’t just a regular Thursday for Christians. It’s a day that reminds me to look at the people who have hurt me – even the people who have hurt me in tremendously terrible ways – and forgive them. It’s a day that teaches me that no matter what ugly mistake I have made, I can always confess it to Jesus and receive forgiveness and love – and that same gift is extended to the people who have hurt me. Maundy Thursday is a day that shows me how to pray not for the things I want or the things I think are necessities, but to pray for God’s will to be done, whatever His will is, whether I understand it or not.

What is Maundy Thursday to you?

Palm Sunday: Reflections of a Pastor’s Wife

What comes to mind on Palm Sunday? I think of the little crosses made from dried palm branches that my church handed out every year. I think of other church traditions, where green palm branches are handed out, especially to children. Some churches have the children walk around, waving the branches, and shouting “Hosanna!” Palm Sunday seems like a great celebration, yet out of place. It feels like it should come after Easter, not before. However, the fact that Palm Sunday comes before Easter Sunday is very important. Let’s go back to that first Palm Sunday.

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The account of Palm Sunday – the Triumphal Entry – can be found in the four Gospels:
Matthew 21
Mark 11
Luke 19:28-48
John 12:12-19

Jesus and His disciples were traveling to the city of Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, as was required of the Israelites each year.  As Jesus and His disciples drew near to Jerusalem, Jesus asked two of them to go to the village ahead of them, where they would find a donkey and her colt. These were brought back to Jesus. The disciples put their cloaks on the colt, and Jesus road it into Jerusalem. This fulfilled the prophesy found in Zechariah 9:9 which says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you, righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

This is a prophesy with which the Jews were familiar. The people had heard of Jesus and His miracles – healing the sick, the blind, the lame, casting out demons, and even raising the dead. They knew He was powerful. Knowing that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, a crowd had gathered. The people laid their cloaks on the ground before the donkey, and they waved palm branches. They shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

Hosanna means “save.” The Israelites praised Jesus and believed He had come to save them. They believed He had come to establish His kingdom. However, they believed Jesus had come to establish an earthly kingdom.

At that point in history, the Jews were ruled by the Romans. They had to pay taxes to Rome. They were not a sovereign nation, and the Jews believed a messiah would come to make them a sovereign nation once again.

The Jews were allowed to govern under their own traditions and values for the most part. They had the Sanhedrin, which was the high court, run by their own people. But even within the Sanhedrin, there was political turmoil.

The Sadducees made up a great portion of the high court. They had largely departed from the truth of God’s Word. They only accepted the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Jesus quoted Scripture (the Torah plus Joshua through Malachi). The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection or afterlife. Jesus taught of resurrection and heaven. Jesus’ teachings conflicted with the teachings of this influential group. In addition, the Sadducees were wealthy and unliked by the common people who struggled to pay temple taxes (in addition to Roman taxes). Jesus’ growing popularity alarmed the Sadducees, and they looked for fault, plotting to condemn Jesus to death.

Also part of the high court were the Pharisees.  They were mostly middle-class and were well-liked by the people. The Pharisees accepted all the Scriptures, and they believed in an afterlife. They believed that their keeping of the Law made them right with God. Therefore, they looked down on sinners, people boldly living a sinful lifestyle – tax collectors (who often took more than needed) and prostitutes for example. Jesus reached out to sinners, and forgave those who believed in Him. At the same time, Jesus told the Pharisees their good works would not save them. This outraged the Pharisees. Although the Pharisees were often in conflict with the Sadducees, they had one thing in common: they wanted to get rid of Jesus.

On this Sunday, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people praised Him. Within that same week, other people would turn against Jesus. (The crowd on Palm Sunday was probably not the same crowd that would condemn Jesus in a few days.) What really amazes me, though, is that Jesus came into the city knowing that the shout would change from, “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!” What did He do with that knowledge? He rode on into Jerusalem – on toward the cross to do exactly what the people were asking Him to do – save them. He would not save them from Rome; He would save them from sin, Satan, and eternal death in hell. And He wasn’t saving only the Jews, but all people who call on His Name. His love is a sacrificial love, a selfless love.

I sometimes act like a Sadducee. I sometimes act like a Pharisee. I often act like the Israelites, praising God one day and then silencing my faith the next. I’m a hypocrite. Just as Jesus knew He would be betrayed and condemned to death, Jesus knows my sinful actions. Even worse, He knows my sinful thoughts. Just as Jesus did not turn away, but continued onward to save His people, Jesus continues to love me. Every day, He forgives me, guides me, and comforts me. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.”

There is a song by Josh Wilson with a line that says, “Savior, please. Keep saving me.”

And that is my prayer, this Palm Sunday and every day…. Jesus, keep saving me.

Is it your prayer, too?