An Open Letter to Toni Braxton on God’s Love After Abortion

Dear Toni,

Toni Braxton Signs Copies Of Her Book 'Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir'Thank you for being honest and candid in your book Unbreak My Heart.

I especially applaud you for sharing your fear that God punished you for an abortion by afflicting you with lupus and your son with autism. I hope my words may bring you some release from any lingering anxiety related to these fears.

Fear of God’s punishment after abortion is a common problem among women who choose it. We know in our hearts, as you said, we have participated in the taking of a life. Also, you are correct in saying that while you are a mom of two, you know in your heart there is a third child in your family. These are huge steps in your healing journey. I applaud you for breaking your silence to speak the secret, acknowledging your need to repair your relationship with God, and accepting the reality of the existence and intrinsic worth of your missing child.

So many women continue to justify the decision. When you appeared on The View I noticed Whoopi trying to appease your conscience with the excuse, “You weren’t ready [to parent]!” She continues to justify her own abortion past with that line of thinking. But it’s a trap which cannot satisfy the wounded conscience since it denies the worth of the child and places us above God as the One who gives and takes when it comes to life.

The fact that there is spiritual abuse in your past makes your experience that much more poignant. I too was very ignorant of the truth of God’s love toward us when I chose abortion. And financial and social pressures drove the decision in my case too. What I have learned and teach others in the aftermath is that our guilt often stands in as a way to avoid experiencing the grief we feel as mothers of lost children. The grief is so difficult to see because our culture continues to deny the worth of the unborn child. And we may even feel we don’t have a right to grieve what we ourselves destroyed. In our confusion we may come to believe that to grieve (and thus be relieved of the sorrow) might also mean to lose the one connection we feel to our missing child.

These complications all land in the envelope called guilt. And any new grief seems only to serve to compound the issue. Surely it was a moment of grief to hear your child diagnosed with autism—just as any chronic health condition is initially troubling news for any parent.

I hope you can begin to see the pain we experience as parents as grief rather than guilt. Doing so allows us to turn toward God for comfort rather than hide from Him in shame.

As to the guilt, Toni, if you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins then I hope you can accept that your sorrow is ending soon! The punishment that brings us peace with God is upon Christ—not you nor your beautiful autistic son. By the suffering Christ endured we are healed. It is already accomplished. Just believe and you will find your peace.

I am very proud of you for not sugar-coating the truth that stands at the center of so much heartache in your life. I hope that you continue to grow in grace as you experience the truth of God’s love. He’s promised never to leave you nor forsake you. He’s welcomed into His eternal presence the children you and I rejected in this life and He’s always in prayer for us and our living children for our good.

The afflictions we and our children suffer are not God’s punishment but rather a taste of what Christ willingly took on for our sake to make us right forever with the Father of us all. As we share in that suffering we look forward to sharing in His glory. May it be so in your life and in your heart today.

Feeling hammered by life? You may be right where God wants you to be

You and I are God’s handiwork.

God has given his Word on that in Ephesians 2:10.  When we accept the gift of faith in Jesus Christ as God’s grace toward us, he goes to work to change us. But what does it really mean and how does it work?

This short drama from The Skit Guys brings to life the concept of God working on us as we work out our salvation. If you are worn out from self-improvement that still falls short, self-effort that frustrates, self-help that doesn’t, here is a gift for your weary soul today.

It can be confusing and painful to submit to God’s chisel. But ultimately God’s correction comforts us. He chastens those he loves (Hebrews 12:6). He knows best what we need to be our best. The technical term is sanctification–God making us more like Jesus.

The skit has been around for a few years now, but I just saw it last week at church. It made a deep impression on my heart that has stayed with me through the week. My favorite exhchange is this one:

But God, I’ve let you down.

You don’t let me down. I hold you up.

How about you? Anything make a mark?

Leave a quick comment about what line resonates the most with you today.

[NOTE:  Please be kind. Although I’m linking to the youtube version, I took the step of purchasing before posting. The file is high-quality for playback in churches so I couldn’t upload it.  The workmen are worth their wage for this beautiful depiction portrayal of God’s truth.

God’s Chisel Remastered Video « The Skit Guys.

Gimme Shelter shows cowardice at the heart of abortion

Prolife Movie Review: Gimme Shelter

Forget what you know about teen pregnancy.

You are likely not prepared for the true-story raw reality faced by Agnes “Apple” Bailey in Gimme Shelter opening in theaters this weekend.

When we meet her, Apple (played by Vanessa Hudgens) is willing herself into the courage to make a phone call, reaching out to the father she has never met. She has a plan to flee her abusive mother, June (Rosaria Dawson) so strung out on meth that she begs, threatens, curses, hits, and professes love in an unbroken string of desperate profane venom when she sees Apple in the cab ready to go. Apple makes it out alive. But when the cabbie asks to see her money to pay for the interstate ride to New Jersey, she tries to steal the car and gets literally kicked to the curb on the highway.

We don’t know her well, but her surly demeanor makes us wonder if Apple doesn’t just deserve the trouble she’s trapped in.

Things only get worse when she’s arrested for prowling outside Dad’s mansion. Tom (Brendan Frasier) brings her inside, and while she’s wolfing food asks, “How old are you now, Angie–14? 15?”

“I’m 16,” she spits, “And my name is Apple, don’t you remember? Apple, not Angie!!”

Somehow the bright interior of this lavish home suddenly appears much more menacing than the dingy squalor Apple just escaped. And right on cue Tom and his wife Joanna (Stephanie Szostak) respond with civilized contempt, offering money and referrals to a social worker before coercing Apple to abort the pregnancy that is a revelation even to her. (“I only did it once.”)

Apple decides to run from the abortion Joanna has arranged. Now forced to sleep in cars and on the street, she lands in the hospital where Chaplain Frank (James Earl Jones) befriends her and arranges a placement in a shelter for pregnant teens. Apple is infuriated, seeing her history of foster care and shelters as proof of her lack of value to anyone.

But she clings to a pair of ultrasound images of her unborn child. And for the sake of the child, she agrees to go.

Kathy (Ann Dowd) welcomes Apple to the shelter home with a mix of bulletproof faith and maternal warmth. It’s disarming–not just to us but to those who oppose her steely and measured determination to protect her girls.

I’ve seldom seen a portrait of courage so achingly portrayed as the heart of young Apple Bailey. As the adults around her call in the parents, she must stand them all down in order to stand. She also faces down a rebellious roommate at the shelter and an attempt on her life. By meeting others who are learning to cope in the same circumstance, Apple learns to trust–and when not to.

At the end I was grateful for such an unsympathetic introduction to this character. For the Apples of this world don’t need our pity. Teen pregnancy is not an insurmountable social ill requiring case workers and big budgets either. Not even when the teen is a homeless desperate runaway dragging trunks of baggage just trying to survive.

All they need is love.

I’ve often wondered what I would have done if a place like Kathy’s had been offered to me when I was young and pregnant on the run. I wasn’t fleeing abuse, just chasing hard after a good life without the burden of unwed motherhood. Unlike Apple, I had the advantage of loving parents and enough education to secure not just a job but a career. But I had a poverty of spirit and moral backbone that would have made me bold to face down my fears and give life to my child. The beauty of Apple’s choice betrays the cowardice from which I suffered and which I believe is at the heart of every choice for abortion. Forgive me if you are suffering from the effects of a coerced abortion–the cowardice is often not that of the mother. Having been victimized and brutalized by so many for so long, Apple rejected the choice of her own well-being over the life of her child. If, instead your strength failed, as mine did, just know that God can change the coward’s heart and make us brave today. And if you coerced another, look to Tom’s redemption as your hope. It’s never too late to do the right thing now.

Gimme Shelter is a soaring triumph of the human heart–a blessing of a film and one I can’t wait to watch again.

A reluctant activist confronts abortion “rights” extremism

The 41st annual March for Life is taking place in Washington DC today.

I’m a reluctant activist. I’m not sure that marches are the best way to win hearts and minds. Yet, for various reasons I have taken my stand in the public square, joining forces with those who oppose abortion.

I attended the 2013 event in DC and made my stand with Heartbeat International on behalf of the pregnancy help movement which is daily offering women love and support in a time of need. That’s me in the pink hoodie.

Heartbeat International 2013 March for Life banner

Heartbeat International 2013 March for Life banner

A year earlier, I marched in Georgia in 2012 as a memorial for my child lost to abortion.

Both events were eye-opening. Other than our banner depicted above, at both of these events, everywhere I looked I saw only signs picturing the children.

I wondered What about the women? Would a young woman making choices about her relationships and her future see this as a friendly crowd in tune with her needs?

There were those expressing postabortion regret, but overall it seemed these events were all about the babies. The March has taken action to amend that this year. The March for Life Education and Defense Fund website states their purpose:

We march for moms and babies. Abortion not only snuffs out a life filled with potential, it harms a mother emotionally, psychologically and physically.  We embrace every woman and child with hope for happier tomorrows.

Yes! Activism on behalf of the unborn must equally voice concern for the women. But will abortion proponents correct their lopsided message?

President Obama today issued a statement in support of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade:

Today, as we reflect on the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, we recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health. We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom. And we resolve to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children. Because this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.

Do you see who’s missing in Obama’s utopian statement?

What about the “child health” of the child before birth? Why are they not somehow included in “all our children”?

I’ve been called extreme for my position against abortion. But how extreme is it to deny that pregnancy means the existence of a child? Or to deny any and every unwanted child his or her right to exist? And to deny any and every father a voice in the life or death of his child? Women cannot flourish in a vaccuum where our so-called rights are secured at the expense of children and men. It works against the natural order. And it’s unjust.

I learned this the hard way. Legal abortion makes women both victims and victimizers. And nobody should have that right.

Here I take my stand.

3 winning ways to pray–and the 1 prayer that cannot fail

Beyond our Miss America prayers

Photo by Brittney Borowski @ Lightstock

Photo by Brittney Borowski @ Lightstock

When my husband Bruce and I answered God’s call to jail and prison ministry, we seldom knew the charges or convictions of the incarcerated men and women we prayed with and for. Our motto was Listen, Listen, Love, Love.

So we were a bit shocked by a spontaneous confession one memorable night inside a county jail. We began our Bible study by asking what had drawn the women to attend the meeting. Mostly standard answers. But then one woman said, “I’m here because I’m a Christian. On the outside, I led a check-cashing ring. We would all go out to different stores at the same time and then later we’d split up the proceeds. I always prayed we wouldn’t get caught.”

Talk about a teachable moment. Without missing a beat, Bruce asked, “So, how’s that working out for you?”

A great discussion followed about prayer. While not an exhaustive list, here are three important things to consider as you offer your prayers:

1. Pray with confidence

Start with praise and thanksgiving for God’s attributes and graces toward us. This sets the stage for a confident hope that we are rightly approaching our holy God because of all that the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ has already accomplished for us (Hebrews 4:16).

Many of us have felt frustrated by a feeling that our prayers were “bouncing off the ceiling.” We’d prefer a bit of chastening or a loud resounding No to a painful and prolonged silence. But we can always pray with the confidence that God answers prayers (John 15:16) offered in the right spirit and with the right approach. And you don’t have to be involved in illegal activity to understand that even when he says, “No,” he always knows best. Sometimes if we are bent on self-destruction God in his goodness may grant us a wrong desire by “giving us over to it.” (Romans 1:24) This doesn’t imply endorsement on God’s part. God allows us free will to choose wrongly, while he also allows the suffering of the natural consequences of sin to teach us that his way is best.

2. Pray with humility

When I was a new believer I joined a prayer circle where a woman asked for prayer for her hair. She suffered alopecia. At the time I thought prayer was reserved For Emergencies Only so I scoffed in my heart. As soon as the thought appeared, though, the Holy Spirit called to mind Jesus’ words in Luke 12,

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

I humbled myself. I prayed. Although the woman’s alopecia did not resolve, that faithful group of women prayed earnestly for my needs and I was hired to work in a television news room without a minute of experience as a reporter. God purely provided that job as a result of faithful prayer. I don’t want you to think I am special, or that you are not if your prayer has yet to be answered. But often, God will grant our requests in order to build up the weak faith of one in need. That’s a lesson I will never forget. God cares about everything which concerns us and consumes our attention. Don’t let pride prevent you asking the Lord for the help you need. As one friend says, “I’m quick to ask–there’s no shame in my game.” We all need God’s help and the help of praying friends.

3. Pray with the Spirit

I know and believe God cares about our illness and other passing circumstances, but I also want to go deeper. I want to move beyond the Daily Desperate litany of needs to experience what it is to pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18) and in power (2 Cor 10:4-5).

Our template is the Lord’s prayer. Jesus says to mention our personal daily concerns after we have acknowledged the supreme reign and worth of our heavenly Father and faith in the goodness of his plans for us and for our world now and in the age to come. It can seem daunting to muster the sincere compassion needed to pray for the world first and our needs after giving glory to God for his holy rule and reign. Although I have a few differences with the theology of the film Bruce Almighty, this scene portrays the truth that God understands and helps us in our struggle to pray unselfishly.

You can’t fake concern that isn’t in your heart. But somehow the more we pray the deepest needs, the more God comforts us in ways that take our prayers above and beyond the Miss America prayers we’ve all uttered out of a wrong sense of obligation.

So, let’s keep praying.

The more you allow God to quiet your heart, the more you will become aware of the Holy Spirit praying with you and for you (Romans 8:26-27), and so is our great high priest, Jesus Christ the Lord (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24)

Finally, there is one prayer that is guaranteed to be answered Yes by our heavenly Father.

Thy will be done.

Jesus taught us this prayer, and modeled it in his most pivotal prayer moment of prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. To pray asking God for his will to be done in whatever concerns us is to pray with a Spirit-led heart fully confident and humble before God.

May it be so in your prayer life today.

3 hilarious prayer mistakes we all make

Resolved: to grow my roots deeper in prayer in 2014

Whenever I try to learn something significant my mind rebels. It almost becomes comical.

Maybe you’ve experienced this dynamic. I also resolved this year to eat healthy and suddenly junk food jumps out in the break room, drops in at a friend’s house, lands next to me while the healthy food takes the back seat home from the grocery store. Same with my prayers since I resolved to pray in a deeper way. I start on my knees but soon turn to ponder the treetops from the bedroom window, then my eye travels to the decor of the room, and the dust on the dresser. And then . . . chores!

But I’m determined. And so, even though my prayer life seems to have gone downhill a bit due to the renewed focus, I press on. As I do, I sense God’s pattern of first tearing down before he can build up. Phase One of building my prayer life is deconstructing some losing strategies in prayer:

1. Don’t be insincere

My prayer life often stalls because I haven’t acted on God’s direction. Ken Davis learned asking God to “send a sign” about something he already knew to be God’s will is a waste of time or worse. Testing God by asking for a sign may result in a test you never thought you’d be asked to endure. Testing prayer may deliver at your feet the very thing you dread the most. But what about Gideon? He set out a fleece not once, but three times. I see Gideon offering clarifying prayers once God had initiated a specific calling. That’s a good and wise way to pray–especially when God’s direction seems especially counterintuitive or dangerous.

2. Don’t perform

There is no right or wrong formula for prayer, but many of us freeze at the prospect of praying aloud with others. When we simply speak our desire to connect with God, listen, and obey, praying becomes an exercise of grace. Ben Stiller’s character started well when he got pressed to say a blessing before the meal in Meet the Parents. He went off the rails the more he pressured himself for embellishment and eloquence that so clearly eluded him all along. If you get nervous having your prayers overheard, remember prayer is always for an audience of One.

3. Don’t overpray

Jesus said, “Don’t heap up empty phrases.” I know he was talking about rote prayers uttered just for the sake of tradition. But haven’t we as his followers developed some new-but-just-as-empty phrases of our own?! Leave it to Tim Hawkins to skewer us in love on this one. Understand: No request is too small; praying trifles is preferred over indulging a worried heart (see Phil. 4: 4 – 7). I just need to remember to offer my supplications with praise and thanksgiving, not filler words and fluff. (Whooops–I just slipped in a just. Doh! Just did it again).

As God tears down the old, he reminds me again that self-effort in spiritual matters will always leave me frustrated. But Romans 8:20 tells me when God frustrates us, he wants something to die off in order to make way for a new and better hope in our hearts–a hope based in truth and for his glory. God works with us to improve the way we pray. He is willing to teach us to pray.

He cares about our prayers–quality and quantity. He takes our feeble effort and multiplies it for his glory.

So even if, like me, you’re feeling a bit defeated in your prayer life, let’s keep going. The biggest mistake we can make would be not to pray at all.

Next time: 3 winning ways to pray

If you are pro-woman you should be pro-life

This is beautiful!

marchforlife2

The National March for Life in Washington DC unveiled their new logo this week in advance of the upcoming events marking the 41st anniversary of the legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court of the US. On the March for Life website Director Jeanne Monahan says this about the new look:

You’ll notice the new logo encompasses a mother and child. We march for moms and babies. Abortion not only snuffs out a life filled with potential, it harms a mother emotionally, psychologically and physically. We embrace every woman and child with hope for happier tomorrows.

Yes! Exactly the right note we need to strike again and again if we want to win the hearts of the young women most deeply vulnerable to abortion marketing and targeting.

I am not politically motivated in my work to help women recover from the detrimental spiritual impact of abortion. But as a citizen

Crisis pregnancy at the heart of Stallone v DeNiro dramedy

Prolife Movie Review: Grudge Match

What could make a bravehearted fighter so opposed to facing an opponent that he walks away from the fight that could settle a tied record between the two once and for all?

Prolife Movie Review Grudge Match by Kim Ketola

DeNiro v Stallone in Grudge Match

That question is at the heart of Grudge Match starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro as the aging fighters drawn together for that final match. When we meet them Stallone’s Henry “Razor” Sharp  is working at a foundry and DeNiro’s Billy “The Kid” McDonnen is a nightclub owner headlining his own stage as a comedian. Razor is approached  by Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart) to lend Razor’s character to a video game co-starring The Kid. He adamantly refuses until he realizes he can raise cash for his aging trainer (Alan Arkin) and his health care needs. The video game taping devolves into mayhem which goes viral online, and suddenly the Match is on.

Ministries and organizations helping after abortion

I am so grateful to be able to partner with and recommend the following organizations for remembering those hurt by abortion and offering true and lasting hope:

Heart! by Andrea Silva via Wikimedia Commons

Heart! by Andrea Silva via Wikimedia Commons

Please know that you can always call our toll-free number for confidential help and we will return your contact within 12 hours. Call us at 800-811-3003. You can also leave a private message via the comment reply form. Simply let us know in your note that you don’t want your comments published.

Above all, don’t give up hope! You are not alone. There is help and hope for lasting healing and peace with God.

The next best thing to a trip to Israel

Cradle My Heart Radio welcomes Bible scholar Wayne Stiles January 5th at 9 pm ET

Ah, Israel. The cradle of our faith. The place where Jesus walked.

The Pool at Bethsaida photo by Larry Kutzler

The Pool at Bethsaida photo by Larry Kutzler

One of the things I so love about our Lord is that Jesus was a master storyteller. We feel we can actually see the characters he so vividly renders in his teaching parables about widows and farmers and a prodigal and his family. But these imaginings can sometimes impede our knowledge that there were also real people who met Jesus and walked away forever changed. This distinction is so important–the ministry of Jesus is not just about his instructive teaching. We have a historical record to inspire and direct us still today. The pool pictured above is where Jesus miraculously instructed a lame man to pick up his mat and walk according to John 5:2-17

Knowing what Jesus accomplished there encourages my faith and makes me more confident to claim that even today, he still heals.

When I had the joy and privilege to travel to Israel