Tag Archives: family

It Takes a Team…

TeamYou expect me to say nice things about SaveOne. It is after all, the non-profit I started 16 years ago. But did you know there is a whole TEAM of people behind me, beside me, and around me who love this organization almost as much as I do? They are creative, funny, smart, committed, loyal, and trusted, dear friends to me. Some of them have been with me all 16 years! I want you to listen in on what one of them has to say, because they inspire me and remind me why we do what we do. Becky states so eloquently…

“I have always been against abortion, but other than speaking out about it I did little to stop it. One day I realized I needed to do something…anything to make a difference. I knew my friend Sheila had this ministry called SaveOne, but I didn’t really know much about it. So, I decided to look into it and see if God wanted me to get involved. As I read the book, God did something pretty amazing. He showed me areas of my life where I was needing forgiveness and grace to move in and change me. I wept through much of the book. I was moved. I have never had an abortion, yet God used this book to change me. I had to get involved. I wanted other people to realize just how amazing God’s grace truly is.”

For years I have had people tell me if you have not had an abortion you cannot possibly help someone who has. Nothing could be further from the truth. The author here, Becky Gould, becky-gouldhas been a tremendous catalyst for countless individuals to experience healing after abortion. Read on…

“SaveOne is not about an agenda or a ‘do these things and you will cope’ type of help. SaveOne is a heartfelt, loving, grace-filled study that will truly dig deep and shine God’s love into a person’s life. It is so loving, yet so truthful. I found I simply could not argue with the logic and truth it shared. The first class I held I was blown away at how different my student was in the few short weeks of our class. God had touched her just like He touched me. I was hooked!”

I tell people all the time, the seat they sit in as a SaveOne chapter leader is addictive. You are literally sitting on the front row of God’s miracles. It’s easy to get hooked just like Becky did when God allows you to be a part, up close and personal, to a life transformed.

“But there is one more truly wonderful thing about SaveOne. We don’t only care about women. We care about men too. God’s healing and forgiveness are available to everyone. Men have been pushed to the side on the abortion issue. They have had to suffer in silence and isolation in a way we just cannot fathom. SaveOne empowers men to be who God created them to be. It has helped to heal many families as men found forgiveness and/or healing and began to walk in the knowledge they gained.”

How cool is it when the people around you buy into your vision? When I first started talking about including men in abortion recovery some people thought I was crazy. Now, helping men, women, and the entire family is not just what we do, it’s who we are. Families finding restoration through Jesus Christ is an every day occurrence at SaveOne. I love Becky speaking out about how unfairly men are being treated in this situation. The more Beckys, and healed fathers we empower to talk about this issue the bigger the army, the louder the voice!

“This study is powerful and I am so thankful I get to share it with others. I got involved because I want to make a difference. I want to help men and women find their voice and understand their testimony. We need to hear the stories of those hurt by this industry so we can keep others from making the same mistake. Through SaveOne and the power of God’s word we are able to help people find freedom and forgiveness, and help save babies.”

And that is exactly what Becky has accomplished through her years at SaveOne. She has saved many babies by helping those who know the truth of abortion get to the healing only Jesus Christ can bring. Those men and women in turn tell others the truth behind abortion instead of sitting in shameful silence. It’s a beautiful process and I couldn’t be happier that Becky is a valued and needed member of the SaveOne team. Thank you Becky for taking time to talk about the value of SaveOne in your life!

Thank you

Becky Gould is a regional chapter coordinator with SaveOne. She cares for every chapter we have across the great state of Tennessee. Her loving and passionate way about her lets the chapter leaders who are under her care know they are not alone, but rather greatly supported, cared for, and prayed over.

Becky would love to answer any questions you have about her job, so please comment below and she will be sure to get in touch with you.

 

Top 3 Causes of Burnout…or at least they were my top 3

I have been amazed how much the subject of burnout has resonated with so many pastors, their wives, and people in general. I’m very happy my transparency made others stop and reassess where they were. I have people who have scheduled vacations, sabbaticals, and are releasing some things from their lives. But this is my last post on burnout. I got REALLY transparent in this one. I may revisit this subject again at a later date, but I feel it’s time to move on…Enjoy!

17135984132_f694fe1ab0_zThe Christian/Church world is really no different in many ways than the world outside the church. I know we all want to believe it’s different, but it’s really not. We are just providing a central location for people who are screwed up to come and try to get themselves figured out. The difference that makes the church world really cool in my opinion is you get to do this “figuring” with others who are on the same road, going in the same direction.

I just came off a 3-week sabbatical where I removed myself from everything and everybody. Many people much smarter than myself told me 3 weeks was not long enough and I believed them. So I made the most of every moment being very intentional in my thoughts and actions. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with no phone, no social media, no work, and no appointments. I was living in this temporary utopia and I was determined to make the most of it. I realized I needed this adult “time out” to process some things that have happened over the last 8 years since we planted a church.

Before we started the church Jack and I had experienced great success at the church before us, at the same time as building a very prosperous, successful business. I was building SaveOne and every year had been better than the last. I went into this church plant thinking it would be more of the same. Success, growth, new friends, great people, locking arms, and marching forward into this new area of success! Everything golden, everything lovely. Before we planted we talked to some dear friends of ours who had started a church about a year before us. We asked them to tell us what we didn’t know. I will never forget my friend saying these words to me, “You’ll make more enemies than you ever dreamed.”

Fast forward 8 years later and I was in a place of believing we had more people who hated us than loved us. I could have never dreamed of the amount of people we would tick off, sometimes just by our very presence. I could lay out for you story after story of the lies, the betrayal, the rejection, the anger, from people that we considered friends and would stickUntitled design by us through thick or thin. I became very disillusioned through this process to the point of fantasizing about moving to a foreign country, going off the grid, or moving to a remote cabin in Montana, growing all our own food and learning how to sew. You know it’s bad if I was thinking about domesticating.

So here I was, 8 years later. I felt finished. Depleted. Done. I had tried everything I knew to do to fix myself and nothing was working. I had watched my husband over the last year head up the construction of our new church building. It was so stressful on him I literally laid awake at night sometimes, worrying if he was going to die. Being a part of this process did not help me and where I was headed. We were both a mess and needed a break, so I had the idea of a sabbatical. The church was completely understanding and even recognized we looked tired. 🙂

Off we went into the land of burner phones and empty calendars. Even now as I write this I’m sitting in a cabin in the woods (not in Montana) soaking in the sun squeezing every last minute out of my time. And I’m seeing more clearly as to the cause of my distress. Here are the top 3 reasons my life led to burnout.

1. Stuffing. As a pastor’s wife it’s kind of an unwritten rule that we don’t step in and get in the middle of church conflicts unless they involve us. It’s hard though to sit by quietly and be the good little wife when someone is railing on the hubs unjustly. I believed I needed to be quiet, and in most cases I still should! But one thing I failed to do is deal with those unresolved feelings of anger, resentment, and betrayal I felt from these people. Many times we have made friends with people in our church. We have loved on them, visited them in the hospital, helped them out financially, loved their children, and did everything I know a church should do/could do and then the people left and talked badly about my husband, me, or my church family. I stuffed those emotions thinking I was being the good wife. Instead of pulling out how I felt and dealing with the pain before the Lord, I allowed these people into my mind and my heart to fester and become an unresolved wound. The way I have always handled conflict is, we talk and we get it worked out and we love each other again. But when the conflict isn’t with me, but rather with the church that I love, or my husband, who I love even more, I’m unable to do that. I have to find another way to deal with this pain and it is through releasing it to God. The people who leave us are not our enemies even though they may act like it. They may treat us and think of us as an enemy,  but they only become my enemy if I decide they are. The real enemy is the power behind their actions; a very real devil who wants to upset us and keep us in turmoil and distracted from the ministry He has called us to complete. Years of stuffing this type of pain led to many, many layers of hurt that finally toppled into an ugly mess. Now at the same time, not everyone who leaves does so in a negative way. There’s a way to leave a church and remain friends, confidantes, brothers and sisters, and there’s a ways to leave a church that doesn’t cause hurt, division, gossip, and betrayal. When someone you love walks out of your life, do not stuff those feelings down any longer. Pull them out, grieve the loss, forgive them, and move on to the people who God has put before you.

2. Guarding. In my mind I knew I needed to love people. But loving people, letting them into my life, getting into their lives, and working through the muck and mire together was what led to the pain I was feeling. Several of these people left me and I felt myself backing away, guarding my heart, guarding my actions, guarding my words, feeling suspicious of every move, and it led to me being guarded with God. If God called us to start this church, then why was so much pain involved in the process? The process was what I could not back away from. I had to stay engaged and love people regardless of how they love me back. Men and women have been brought into our lives for a season. If someone is standing in front of me who needs my help, I need to give it. I cannot expect their loyalty, their friendship, their commitment or anything else in return. I need to give of myself and allow God to do the rest. If God has brought them before me for this time then He trusts me to help them. He believes there is something I can give that will better their life. So instead of backing away to avoid pain and thinking only of myself, I have to dive into the process and embrace the friendship, and everything that comes along with it. Guarding myself leads to isolation and that is all the devil needs to strike; an isolated heart and mind.

3. People-pleasing. Don’t pass by this paragraph thinking this does not pertain to you. It does. Or it will. I have a tendency to remember the negative. You know that moment when I can have 999 people I just spoke to tell me what a great job I did and 1 say something negative and I go home and obsess about the negative. It’s the same with the church. People say some of the most unbelievable things to pastor’s wives and pastor’s. I mean stuff you just can’t even possibly imagine. I don’t know why the public thinks the wife is the dumping ground. The place to come and complain about the pastor, a problem they perceive with the church, critique her clothes, her weight, her money, her car, her children’s actions, well you get the gist. Remembering these hurtful words led to me altering my behavior, my clothes, my actions to please different people who had said different things. I never saw that as people-pleasing, I started out thinking I was helping the church and being a good pastor’s wife. But in the process somehow I lost myself. I ended up being this person I didn’t like very much because I was just bland, gray, non-adventurous, saintly Sheila. I allowed others to set the rules and I bent over backwards to follow everyone else’s rules for me. I’m recognizing this and I’m trying to work out of it. I’m still discovering the areas in which I have allowed others expectations to rule.

These three areas are what I have pinpointed as my demise a few months ago. I don’t like sounding so negative like being a pastor’s wife is all this and nothing else. The positive moments equal no other. Like when someone has been through a harrowing circumstance and they call for help because they trust you more than anyone else. That is a privilege that still to this day brings tears to my eyes. That moment never grows old. There are people who left a good, secure, church (the right way) and came with us to the unknown to plant a new church, and are still with us today. These people are our lifeline. They hold up our arms, they pray for us, they are trusted friends. I could write a novel on the moments over the last 8 years that I will treasure forever. What I know for sure is there will always be people I have to keep my mouth quiet about…there will always be people the Holy Spirit warns me to guard myself around…and there will be times I need to get over myself and please other people. This is life, and it’s not all bad.

Recognizing these things in my life, and their out of control state, has helped me pinpoint my turnaround spot. While on this 3-week adventure I read 2 books, “Leadership Pain” by Sam Chand and “When Words Hurt” by Warren Bullock. I would recommend both books, but Sam Chand says, “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain”. Those are incredible words of wisdom. Time after time there have been examples all through God’s Word of people who went through an incredibly hard, painful time that led to an incredible victory. Well, I know Victory is coming! I can’t say I am completely out of burnout. I don’t feel 100% myself again, but I know I’m going to get there. I’m working diligently about being in the moment. That’s just a freebie. One of the things I recognized is that I was constantly thinking about what I needed to do next, where I needed to go next, how much time I had at this stop, determining ahead of time how much time I would give a problem, etc. Right now this moment is pretty cool and I want to bask in it. It’s freezing on this porch where I’m writing, but the cold mixed with the bright sunshine feels too good on my skin to give it up. My dog is sitting at my feet, I smell the fire in the fireplace waiting for me, and as far as I can see in front of me are mountains yet to be hiked.

Sabbatical…YES PLEASE!

1“Almost everything works again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.” Words by Anne Lamott

If you have kept up with my blog at all, you know my husband and I took a sabbatical this year. First. One. Ever. It was wonderful, and I’m here right now to show you why you need to take one too. Sabbaticals are not just for pastors. They’re not just for people who are stressed out. A sabbatical is for YOU reading these words and let me tell you why…

Have you ever completed a “cleanse”? There are liver cleanses, colon cleanses, etc. We know we need these cleanses when stuff starts getting backed up. Don’t make me go into detail, but you know what I mean. It can get really gross, yucky, stinky, and clogged inside. It makes us feel bad and affects other parts of our bodies. Having a dirty inside can cause everything from bad breath, to acne, to hair falling out. One of the greatest cleanses you can ever do for yourself is go on an extended fast. It releases everything inside you. WATCH OUT! It’s the ultimate cleanse! 3

Often times we go on these cleanses, or fasts because of pain. We want the pain to go away, so we take necessary steps to rid us of pain. It’s the same with a sabbatical. When a person is in leadership, whether they are leading a church of thousands, or a corporation of hundreds, or a family of 2, there is pain involved. This pain may be mental, spiritual, or emotional. Sometimes we allow this pain to pile up and we become clogged. If you’re like me you start self-medicating. This “medication” can be watching TV, spending way too much time on social media, eating comfort foods, avoiding people, or (insert your 2“medication” of choice here). Escape becomes the means in which we try to deal with this pain.

If you can relate to anything I’m saying you may just be ripe for a sabbatical. You may be thinking everything will fall apart, I have too much to do, and all the other excuses we come up with. But God needs you to be the best you can possibly be. He needs you to cleanse/detox occasionally, and we do that by shutting ourselves off from the world.

Turn off the TV.

Get rid of the junk food.

Put your phone on airplane mode.

Take yourself to the corner in time out.

What God has called you to do is way too important to complete halfway, less than excellent. When you don’t have much time, (I know a month long sabbatical is unreasonable for some) then you must be intentional. Spend every day with progress. Grab hold of God and don’t let go until He blesses you, each and every day. Feed yourself good food or fast. Don’t lie to yourself and say you will not pay attention to your phone. Back away from your phone and all social media. Airplane mode is your friend. Get a little burner phone and only give that number to a couple of people. Let your mind rest, let your soul rest, let your emotions rest, let your heart rest. You will be amazed what is released when you stop putting junk in.

You may not be able to rid yourself of all pain during a sabbatical, but you will be able to see it from a different perspective. I read a book titled, “Leadership Pain” by Sam Chand while I was away and it showed me how pain will always be in my life as long as I’m dealing with people. I have to make friends with the pain. Pain is necessary for growth. When God allows me to experience pain He is breaking me out of a plateau, readying me for victory, stretching me to live more, love more, experience more. When I try to avoid this pain, self-medicate this pain, or end the pain then I end growth. God can only take me as far and as high as the pain I can endure.

Let’s look at a sabbatical as a cleanse, or a detox. You’re cleansing your emotions, your spirit, and your mind by removing all the junk and only putting good stuff in for an extended period of time. I promise you won’t regret the results.4

 

Please let me know if you decide to go on sabbatical and I will be praying for you during the time you are away. I cannot encourage people enough to do this for themselves, their families, and the ones they lead. The world will continue to spin without you. At the same time the world will spin better if you are the best you, fully rested and ready for your task at hand.

Your Child’s Crisis, 3 Ways to NEVER Respond

I had a very wise man say to me one time,

“When your child comes to you in crisis, they will always remember the first words you speak.”

I have never forgotten those words. My husband and I have both been very cognizant of the moment when our boys have had to tell us bad news, or a mistake they made. We want to always err on the side of love when it comes to our kids. When we don’t know what to say we just speak love until we find an answer together. Words are very important. They can speak life into a situation or they can speak death.

My friend who spoke those words to me was explaining the moment his unmarried daughter came to him with the news of her pregnancy. He knew whatever words spoken first would be what she always remembered. He could have completely broken down the relationship with harsh words, or he could become her hero, all in those first few seconds. He easily became her hero, and she turned to him throughout her pregnancy. He loved her during that difficult time in her life, assuring her life was going to work out just fine. Because of that love and acceptance he may have easily saved his own grandchild’s life.

Becoming the hero is not always the goal in some households. Take my friend for instance who got pregnant at 22, was unmarried, and making some pretty bad choices for her life in those days. When she told her father of the pregnancy he said three things to her that she will never forget…we can learn many things from this father’s response.

1. “You are an embarrassment to me.”
Now I don’t know about you, but even on my best day I would not want anyone saying these hurtful words to me, much less a parent! At the moment she needed to feel loved and accepted by the one person who was supposed to be her hero; he turned against her for the mistake she had made. I’m not glossing over her actions, but there she was, trying to make a good decision finally after years of poor choices, and it wasn’t recognized. She may have very well been an embarrassment to him, but how much of a difference could he have made in her life with a positive remark instead of further degrading her?

2. “I don’t want you at my church because I’m so embarrassed.”
If you are like me, your mouth is hanging open. I can’t believe a parent would say these words either. My friend wasn’t breaking down the doors of any church in those days, but at this point she sure wasn’t going to now. To hear her tell the story, she felt so dirty and it backed up the lie in her head that even God didn’t want her. At a point in her life when the doors of the church, and back to God, could have been flung open for her return to Him, they were sealed tighter than ever by these painful words. Don’t ever send the message that your child has to “straighten up” before he or she is welcome in God’s house.

3. “You are no longer my daughter.”
There is never a time in a child’s life when they should hear these words. Our kids deal with so many mixed messages in society, their family should be the one place they can always turn to no matter what. Our kids have to know that as parents they hurt us with their mistakes at times, but not one action they ever take can make us love them less. My friend was shown conditional love. That statement told her as long as she stayed in step, met her father’s expectations, then she will still be able to receive love from him. What message did these words send this young girl about God’s love? A father has a great responsibility to model God’s unconditional love to his children.

These 3 statements may never cross your lips. Your heart may be hurting for this young girl too, thinking about what kind of parent would speak these words. Allow your mind to think about where you may be showing conditional love to your child; or wanting him/her to hurt like they hurt you; or saying those things that hurt instead of heal your child’s perceptions of God.

We have to lay the groundwork before the crisis to make sure our child turns to us at that moment. In the case of an unplanned pregnancy, how many of our sons and daughters have had abortions because they know, “my dad would kill me” or “it would crush my mother to know I did this”. So our children are continuing on in the mistake by choosing abortion, instead of knowing they can turn to a parent who will be their hero in that moment of crisis.

Don’t wait for your child’s crisis and respond out of hurt and anger like this father did. Start today being the hero in your child’s life. You just may be saving the life of a future grandchild in the process.

Do you have an example of the first words spoken to you in crisis; good or bad? Are they words you have always remembered? Comment below with your example and how you responded to it. You just may help others along the way.

SaveOne- The Ripple Effect

It’s always exciting and a little scary when I have a new book published. There’s a part of me that still cannot believe God is allowing me to work for Him, using such an ugly part of my past to help others. Then, if I’m completely honest, there is a part of me that beats myself up, believing I will receive criticism, and no one will like it. I don’t say those words to make you think I’m fishing for a compliment…I’m just being transparent about the voices in my head.

But then you run across a blog like the one I have copied below. I first saw it on my friend Susi’s blog, who is a fantastic writer. Check her out at www.survivingsibling.wordpress.com. I knew this was the perfect way to kickoff and announce my latest book.

What you read below may be the first time you have ever thought about the abortion issue from this point of view; but I can promise you, the SaveOne staff and myself have been dealing with this for many years. We continually have grandmothers of aborted children, siblings of aborted children, aunts, uncles, friends of aborted children come through our SaveOne classes. We have even had people come through our class to deal with the fact they drove a person to the abortion clinic and for two decades regretted that decision, feeling as though they were an accessory.

Abortion has a ripple effect.

We can no longer focus primarily on the woman and think we are getting the situation worked out. We MUST deal with the entire scope of the family to make sure they are whole, healthy, and intact as they move forward as a unified whole. Please read what I have posted below from an anonymous writer and let your mind open to a different realm of the abortion debate.

From Susi’s blog…

When I was a kid, my mom was very involved with the Right To Life movement. She volunteered with fundraisers, helped lead educational groups in our area, attended rallies, manned an educational booth at the county fair, and did other things I am unaware of because she didn’t really talk much about that work. What she did talk about was the value of human life, and the importance of protecting unborn babies, and I took her very seriously because she seemed to have a lot of knowledge through her work with Right To Life.

At the age of 12, my vision of my mom shattered. As she was driving me to a Bible club at our church, she brought up in conversation that she’d had an abortion at the age of 18 (before she was with my dad.) She gave me a brief bit of info on the abortion, including the fact that she had been told the gender (a boy) by a nurse, after he was born. I sat silent in the car, and had no idea how to respond to her.

I spent the rest of my teen years feeling incredibly angry at my mom. I felt like she had betrayed me. It seemed like she was trying to white-wash her abortion history by getting involved with the Pro-life movement, only to later reveal that she had done the very thing she was speaking out against. I hated my mom for taking my brother away from me. I blamed her for the fact that I’d always longed for an older brother and felt a close bond with my cousins who would have been similar in age to my brother. I became obsessed with thinking about my brother. I wrote him letters, wrote poems about him, tried to draw out what I imagined he would look like, kept careful track (as best I could) of how old he would be, named him, and deeply grieved over all the things in my family that my brother hadn’t gotten to witness or be a part of. It was an intense grief process that took me years to walk through, and a very silent pain that no one, not even my own family knew about.

This writer goes on to say later in the blog…

Last year, I went through training to become a volunteer with a pregnancy center. The information they went over in training was just incredible! I suddenly felt like, for the first time, my mom made sense. All the quirky things she did, like suddenly shutting down, not responding to things in emotionally appropriate ways, rejecting affection from myself and my dad and siblings, and many other things sounded like symptoms of PTSD from her abortion. I realized that she was like many other post-abortive women (and men) who tried to push the abortion aside and move on with life, and bore some incredible wounds as a result. That training prompted me to talk with my mom, for the first time since middle school, about her abortion. I learned some shocking details about what she experienced, and understood a little better why she was so quiet about it (to this day, even her siblings don’t all know that she aborted.)

A wound carried through decades of this writer’s life, finally made sense and began to heal when she learned more about the symptoms of Post Abortion Syndrome. She was able to finally understand her mother and begin to forgive her. Education into this subject opened the doors for them to talk and come to grips with the mother’s choice. This is what we see happen every day in our SaveOne classes. We shine the light on grief, symptoms, reasons, and God’s forgiveness, bringing families back together with great restoration! Read on…

I wish that people realized how much my mother’s decision to abort at age 18 affected my whole family, how every Mother’s Day was a day when my mom cried and cried and felt completely unworthy of affection, how the gentle touch of myself or any other family member would make her jump or even feel excruciating pain, and how my mom’s secret about her abortion became the secret my whole family was forced to carry. The abortion industry tells women that abortion will remove the embarrassment, shame, and worry of telling people that they are pregnant, and then having to go through the birth process and the process of raising a child. The reality is, abortion creates a world of hurt and pain, anxiety, shame, guilt, intimacy issues, and host of other difficulties. Those emotions don’t just belong to the woman who goes through the abortion, but her family as well.

That last paragraph has incredible insight into what happens to the future family of each abortion survivor. Read on, this next paragraph is extremely important….

My mother is still a loving mom, despite the fact that she aborted. My heart hurts to see, however, that a piece of my mom died with my brother. She is not like other moms. She’s broken. And she will never get the piece back that left her on that fateful day. But my mom’s story can prevent others from enduring that heartache. Her story can echo through the ages as a reminder that abortion is a terribly tragic act, and something that can never be undone. And there are whole families like mine, quietly protecting these wounded women, while we grieve the loss of a family member as well. My prayer is that one day, I will be able to speak openly about my family’s abortion journey, and validate those who feel voiceless in this boat. Until then, I will speak privately or anonymously, with this important story. When we speak up, there is power there!

I feel this blog from an anonymous writer speaks volumes as to why, “SaveOne- The Ripple Effect” needed to be written. This book mirrors the SaveOne Men’s and Women’s Studies, so it will be very easy for a loved one to go through the class with others. Please contact our office for more information, or go on the site at www.saveone.org to order your copy today.

Big Shoes to Fill…Part 2

I felt it only appropriate to pull out this post from August 2014. Ms. Dot finished her race well, leaving a legacy behind her that we all can aspire to. So happy to have known her, so proud of the grace which flowed through her husband of 61 years yesterday at her funeral, and her daughter who has cared for her these last many months. I hope Ms. Dot knows what a profound effect her life has had on me and countless others. I hope you enjoy once again…

The text I received went something like this, “Hey I’m cleaning out my mom’s shoe closet and I was wondering if you knew of any ladies who might wear a 9 or 9 ½.” What I heard was, “Is there a lady you know who could possibly have a foot this large?” I contemplated for a moment wondering, “Do I tell her I wear that size? Will she think of me as freakishly huge? I’m 5’10” for heaven’s sake a size 6 would look strange on me. But still it’s never fun to whisper in the middle of Macy’s—could I just try a 10 in this boot? These must run small.” But my mind goes back to the text, there might possibly be really cute shoes at stake here. So I swallow my pride and reply, “YES! I wear that size.”

As I drove to her house later that day, I began to contemplate these shoes. You see, these were not just anybody’s shoes. They belonged to a woman who in 1958 boarded a cargo ship (A CARGO SHIP!!!) with her husband, said good-bye to her family, her home, and her life, and devoted the next forty years to loving, reaching, teaching, and mentoring the wonderful people of Africa. She sometimes lived in conditions too painful for us to imagine. She was pressured to put her children in boarding school hundreds of miles away. She lived a selfless life, totally and completely counter-cultural to what women are taught today. She did it all because God asked her to and she was obedient. She chose things like staying in her marriage and not ever considering divorce an option even when things got hard, and all marriages at one time or another get hard. She chose things like sacrificial service instead of promoting herself. Today she is reaping the benefits of her Godly choices.

At 87 years old, her body is reacting naturally to nearly nine decades on this earth, but her mind is intact, her marriage is happy and intact, she has a beautiful home, two children who adore her, love her, and both serve the Lord, and an army of people who seek her out for wisdom, great stories, and genuine love. Her obedience, although hard at times, has brought great blessing into her life. Her selfless love has transformed countless individuals and families not only here in America, but in Africa too through a ripple effect still going on as I write.

As I had these thoughts on the way to my friend’s house, I was getting the privilege of filling these very large shoes both figuratively and literally! To be honest I didn’t have my hopes up really high that I would walk away with any chic or trendy styles. But when I saw the Steve Madden and Sam & Libby labels I knew I had hit the jackpot, so I took four pair of the coolest shoes from this 87-year-old shoe connoisseur.

When I got home I pulled the shoes out and have them sitting in my closet. I have yet to put them on, as I feel a certain gravity about them. Call me dramatic or say I’m over-thinking but when I look at these shoes I can’t help but hope that I too can live selflessly. I pray that I may walk out my days in service to others, that I may see my boys love and serve the Lord deep into an old age. That my marriage will remain blessed and intact because of Godly choices I make, and that I may never hesitate to be obedient even when obedience is hard. This is a prayer I pray for all of us. May we strive to fill the shoes of the giants of faith who have walked before us and may we forever endeavor to fill the shoes of greatness like my 87-yr-old shoe fashionista friend, Dot Webb.

You can get the full story of Dot’s memoirs by going to Amazon.com and typing in, “A Harvest of Joy” authored by her daughter, Tammy Webb-Witholt. You will be glad you got this book and learned from this incredible woman!

Finding your Elaine

When I get bad news I usually let my emotions out and then I go straight to my journal. Writing is my outlet when I’m in shock and in pain and this is one of those times.

We got a call last Thursday that my friend Elaine had been given a really crappy prognosis. 4-6 weeks they told her. I was in Dallas but immediately knew as soon as the plane landed back in Nashville I wanted to lay my eyes on her. When I did, all I could do was cry. She ended up consoling ME instead of me going in being the comforting pastor’s wife I had planned on being.

I started making plans to visit every day with her, and my heart soared when the family allowed us to keep seeing her. We felt extremely honored and was so thankful for their generosity. I had it all pictured. I was going to show up everyday, laptop in hand, and write a letter in her own words to her husband Mike, each of her three daughters, and each of her grandkids. I wanted them all to hear her wisdom which was great, and her love for them which was vast.

I know about this wisdom and unending love for her family because I made a decision a couple of years ago that afforded me precious time with Elaine. This decision stemmed from being at churches and working in offices and being told no to things I wanted to do because, “If we do it for one, then we have to do it for all.” We’ve all heard that saying and many of us have lived our lives thinking it was true. But when my friend Elaine was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, I wanted to help her any way that I could. I found out she was sitting, sometimes for 4-5 hours, in her chemo appointments. I wanted to go to those with her, but I thought as a pastor’s wife if I spend that kind of time with her then others will expect me to do that for them and it could cause conflict. In other words, what I did for one I would have to do for all, and I couldn’t do that. As I was thinking through that saying I felt yucky and knew that idea was flawed. The thought came to my mind of a quote I heard years before from Andy Stanley which went,

“What I want to do for everybody, do for one.”

BOOM! That revelation made so much more sense, and totally obliterated the excuse for non-action I had been taught before. So I set out to do just that. I did for Elaine what I wanted to do for everybody. I started going to as many of those appointments as I could. And if you know me, you know I work constantly because I love my jobs. My mind rarely slows, and my phone is constantly buzzing. Those appointments became a treasured time. My phone would be put away for hours and my focus was totally on my friend Elaine. She would take me around and introduce me to people as though she was proud of me being her friend. She would send me over to other chairs of people she knew were “really suffering” and ask me to pray for them. If someone came in that looked particularly sickly I could always tell when she felt pity for them. But the minute I would try to pity her and what she was going through she would cut me off immediately. There was no time for pity in Elaine’s world. Life was too short and she was “just fine”. I can still hear her voice saying, “Just fine!”

We spent those hours talking about everything from our love of 70’s rock, to her level of Candy Crush she was on. I heard about her touring all over the world with a singing group she was in earlier, and we would end up on deep theological debates. I would usually have to act out some crazy event that had just happened to me, and more than once we got in trouble from the nurses for being too loud. We laughed a lot together.

These appointments quickly turned into not me helping her, but her helping me through the problem of the day, her helping me slow down long enough to just enjoy a few hours of talking face to face with a friend, her listening to me ramble on and on about my life, my family, my work, my travels. Elaine had that effect on people. Even though there wasn’t that much difference in our ages (she called me a young pup! haha) she just had that calming quality that seemed older, wiser, more graceful, and far more in control of things than I have ever been. I was drawn to that demeanor, that friendship, that sisterhood.

Elaine was a trusted, loyal, friend that is walking with Jesus and has been for 3 days now. I keep hearing her voice in my head remembering things she told me that actually was helping me prepare for this day, this time, of not having her anymore. Things like, “Remember now, I want a celebration when its my time. I’m going HOME!”

So yeah…I thought I had a lot more time with her and would get to live out my plan…but God knew better. I will forever be grateful I spent this time with her instead of succumbing to the old adage. My advice to you reading this blog is not to ever rob yourself because you believe what you do for one you might have to do for all. Maybe your actions won’t be fair to everyone, but life isn’t fair. Take the time to do for ONE what you want to do for ALL and you just may find your own Elaine.

I am a better person for having known her.

(The featured image on this blog is a picture of Elaine I took in January of this year. This moment was in the middle of a women’s conference I was hosting and I was sitting at the head table with all the speakers, worship leader, etc. This table was reserved for the people who were “important” to have easy access to the stage. I couldn’t think of anyone more important than her right then so I asked her to sit with me at that table. She just giggled and said, “ok!” and enjoyed her bird’s eye view. I was overwhelmed with how much I enjoyed her friendship and getting to see the conference unfold through her eyes, so I snapped this picture.)

I hated you when you walked through that door…

I know you’re going to love hearing Timothy’s story as much as I have been privileged to watch it unfold!

From Timothy…
Talk about being put on the spot! Actually I love sharing my story now. First man to go through a SaveOne class, hmmmmm.

Should he be here?

That inquiry is what I saw on the faces of those around the circle. If it wasn’t for the unanswered questions I was desperate to get answered, I would have turned around in the parking lot.

There were a million unknowns. What kind of interrogation were the ladies in the class going to put me through? Would they accept me, my story, my answers? Would they be shocked that I felt grief and love for my child? Sheila had no idea what I would say, how the other ladies would react, etc. But God knew the end result before the beginning. Thank God everyone accepted my answers and my story unconditionally. It turned out to be extraordinary.

Misconceptions were shattered.

I heard their regret and they heard mine.

Our sharing melted hardened hearts in that room over the course of the SaveOne class. One of the ladies confessed to me at the end of the 12 weeks, “I hated you when you walked through that door just because you were a man, but now I’m glad to call you a brother in Christ.” I will cherish those words forever.

Finishing the class was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my life, my marriage, and my family. When I finished SaveOne I knew I would share my story and hoped God would use it for His glory. I’m an average, normal guy, so if this affected me so strongly, I was sure it would affect other men.

Sheila asked me what it feels like to be the inspiration behind the men’s study. The tears well up knowing there are men everywhere looking for answers, trying to put words to their feelings and needing to know they are not struggling alone. Seeing the men’s study book really motivated me to share even more. But I had no idea this idea/movement/help would spread throughout continents.

As I’m writing this I’m reminded that women need to hear my story as much as the guys. Ladies, we may not express our feelings as eloquently, but deep down we need healing too. Our struggles are different and the same. And more guys than you realize wish we could turn back time and be a better man than we were. I miss my daughter and I can’t wait to meet her.

Men, we can’t change how we reacted or what we did/didn’t do to complicate the circumstances. But today we can allow God to heal our souls and be a healing agent to others.

To everyone, follow me as I follow Christ. Spread the light of God’s love and forgiveness. Inspire those that I can’t. Hug those out of my reach. I love every one of you. My heart rejoices at the thought of you.

Deception vs Faith

The art of deception is this…to make someone believe things are other than they are, so a person will do something he or she would never otherwise do. I read this sentence from an incredible book entitled, “The Enemy Within” by Kurt Lungaard. The chapter discussed how our sin nature can deceive us sometimes by making us believe things that are not true. When I read the above definition the words jumped off the page and hit me square between the eyes.

If we look at this definition from the viewpoint of deception it makes sense. But now reread the words above with the viewpoint of faith. The two could share the same definition.

The enemy rarely tempts us with the exact opposite of God’s Word. No. He brings us similarities…with a twist. Those similarities can deceive us into thinking things are other than they are so we do things we would never otherwise do.

Faith is the same. There are all kinds of examples in the Bible I could insert here, but let me tell you about a few of my friends. Shana was diagnosed with one of the top five worst cases of meningitis the doctor had ever seen. I know this because I was standing in the room when he told me and her husband, Larry. I saw this husband fall to the floor on his knees immediately and pray healing like I’ve never heard before. Larry knew at that moment things were other than they were and was doing something he would never otherwise do. I can guarantee you Larry didn’t know he had that amount of faith in him until faced with this life or death situation. He was not deceived into thinking she was defeated and sickness had won. He KNEW Jesus stripes had already taken care of his wife’s healing so he was activating a faith he didn’t know existed. He was able to do that because he had cultivated that faith long before the negative circumstance came. Within two weeks Shana was home; healed and healthy.

We could also talk about my friend YvRose who was a successful teacher in North Carolina. That is until God called her to go back to her homeland of Haiti. So she and her husband, with nothing but a call from God, quit her job and moved back to Haiti. She knew there was purpose in this decision. I’m sure leaving the confines of a good salary, an honorable job, and an easy country, to go to a place many are too frightened to even visit, did not make sense to her family and friends. But she knew the voice of faith over deception. She believed things were other than they were and the faith in that knowing made her do something she would never otherwise do. Today she and her husband Pierre run a home with 28 of the most beautiful kids you have ever seen. She also runs a school with more than 200 children who come every day for a Christian education they would have never received had Pierre and YvRose believed deception over faith. (insert big cheesy smile here!)

How about my friend Tracy, (name used with permission) who had an abortion more than two decades ago. Through the years she allowed the abortion regret and pain to make her believe things were other than they were. After living with this deception she found herself in her 40’s with a shell of a marriage, battling depression, having suicidal thoughts, and many problems in her family. She contacted SaveOne and came clean about the past. She wanted to voice her regret and seek a better future. She worked through the SaveOne study and began to see the reality of what happened to her when she opened the door of death in her life through abortion. She had been greatly deceived, but now realized the truth of the past. She began to believe things were other than they were. She began to believe God could salvage her marriage. She began to believe God could heal the relationships with her family. She began to believe she could be brave enough to tell others about her past so they would never make the same mistake. And after years of believing nothing but rejection would come her way if she ever told of her abortion, she began to believe things were other than they were, and it made her do something she would never otherwise do. Not only has God restored her marriage to better-than-it-has-ever-been status, but she told her family of the abortion and the truth healed the relationships. To top it off, I sat in a living room the other night and watched her tell her entire abortion story to a room packed with her closest friends.

You see, faith brings about much greater outcomes than deception. Where we come in, is the moment when we have to decide if we have deception or faith talking to us, and in which we are going to listen and put our trust.

That’s what David had to do long ago. He had to face the giant believing the situation was something other than it was, and by doing this he performed an act he would never otherwise do. There was no way he should have won that battle. But his faith told him something entirely different. Because of his great faith in the Lord he experienced great victory…and because of your great faith in the Lord you can experience great victory.

Faith for some reason is controversial. People want to make it something it’s not. I’ve been criticized for believing this way by people who want to shout that I’m preaching a prosperity gospel, or that I’m believing in some kind of humanistic, new age religion. But there are many, many scriptures, as well as examples from Jesus which teach us that what we believe we will receive. If we believe deception then we will receive the death and destruction that comes along with that type of deception. If we believe in faith that God has our back, has our life under control, will guide us in all things, will make every problem work for our good, and has already taken care of our healing, then our problems have purpose, and we will receive the victory in every circumstance. If you don’t believe me then read these; Mark 11:24, Matthew 8:13, Romans 8:28, 1 Samuel 17, Hebrews 11:1, actually, read the entire chapter of Hebrews 11 because it shows a list of brave men and women who believed something was other than it was and completed incredible feats they would have never otherwise completed.

Take some time today to do a self-check. Are you cultivating your faith? Are you ready for when, not if, destruction hits your life? Are you equipping yourself and your family to stand in the face of deception and act in faith? Be honest with yourself and then take the necessary steps to start on the path of cultivating that faith today. This process is imperative to being able to distinguish between the two.

Don’t get caught in a battle you are not equipped to fight!

Draconian- Part 4

Driving down the road one day I encountered what seemed to me, to be something out of place. You know those pictures we were shown as a child and were asked to pick out what didn’t belong? That’s what I was reminded of at the moment. It was an odd addition of a business nestled between the Food Lion, car wash, and Kmart that caught my attention. This business was located in a small strip with three store fronts. At the top of one door was a HUGE sign that read “PLASTIC SURGERY”.

At first I thought they surely could not be serious. Someone would actually go have plastic surgery there??? It became a source of curiosity to me wondering if people would show up. Now maybe there is something more to this than meets the eye, but let me tell you, if I ever choose to have a tummy tuck or nose job, I’ll be headed to my local hospital, and not a store front by the car wash.

This scenario still applies in Nashville, TN. Fast forward to today. The TN voters have an amendment to our constitution coming up on the ballot this November. I’m writing this short series of blogs to talk about what this amendment means to us and why we should VOTE YES ON 1.

Back in the late 70’s TN passed four laws protecting women and their right to choose. Here are the four…1) Informed Consent, (which I covered in “Draconian- Part 2) 2) 48 hour waiting period, (which I covered in “Draconian- Part 3) 3) late-term abortions had to be performed in a hospital, and 4) abortion mills had to be regulated and inspected. Planned Parenthood came in and sued our state in the case, Planned Parenthood vs. Sundquist. They accused TN of interfering with a woman’s right to choose by passing those four laws. TN lost the lawsuit and became one of the most liberal states in regards to abortion. Few people know that if abortion were outlawed tomorrow in America, one could still travel to TN and obtain a legal abortion… So now because of these results we have to pass a constitutional amendment to bring our state back to a neutral position on the issue of abortion; in line with all eight surrounding states. This Amendment is the one I spoke of earlier. Vote Yes on 1.

I decided to dissect each of these laws that were stripped from us and the women seeking abortion, after I was called (indirectly, but still) an “anti-choicer wanting to place draconian laws on women” in regards to abortion. In this blog I want you to think about requiring late-term abortions being performed in a hospital and whether or not you think it is a draconian law against women.

Most people do not know that America is one of only four countries that allows late-term abortions. Yeah, let that one sink in a minute. As you can imagine, a late-term abortion is a horrific procedure performed against a child. I will not go into what is involved in this gruesome act against humanity, you can find this information for yourself with one look on any internet search engine. Due to the fact we have no state laws regulating late-term abortions we have “doctors” performing this procedure in these abortion mills without a second thought in regards to the health of the mother. In other words, they’re performing serious surgery nestled in between the Food Lion, car wash, and Kmart. If the abortionists were concerned about her health more than her money they would encourage her to go where she could get the best care.

When Planned Parenthood sued the state of TN and stripped us of this requirement, we began to have women at risk who go into this procedure with no knowledge up front (remember they took away informed consent too) into these places that are not equipped for such a major surgery. Picture PLASTIC SURGERY above the door of a store front, miles away from the nearest hospital.

Voting YES ON 1 will not bring this law back. I want you as a voter, a reader, an informed citizen to get FIRED UP and angry that Planned Parenthood has this kind of power over our state. It is common knowledge they have an agenda and that agenda is money. They are not concerned for women, our health, or the well-being of our state.

In the last few weeks I have seen and heard that the “no on 1” folks have said this amendment will regulate birth control, interfere with child-rearing, ban abortion, keep women who have suffered rape or incest from having abortions, and even have something to do with gay marriage!! These claims are completely laughable! I have been called names, and some pretty cruddy stuff has been written about me since I started this series of blogs. Not one has challenged the truth I’m espousing. Name-calling is the extent of their attacks. People are angry that I’m telling the truth. People are angry that others are telling the truth. They’re grasping at anything they can pluck out of the air to try to make fear and doubt come into the minds of TN voters. Don’t let it.

In fact, I challenge you to find the truth for yourself. Look at the actual amendment and think about the words written there. I had one woman saying this amendment would allow the government to make health decisions for women when the amendment clearly states, “the people retain the right”. Look at honest, reputable sites and ask honest, reputable people what the truth of the matter is. Check what I’m saying and educate yourself about this subject. This Amendment is too important, and there are too many people telling lies about this subject to keep the abortion agenda alive in our state. It’s time we took our state back and allowed the voters to decide what they want!

Protect our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, and our state. Vote YES ON 1.