Celebrating Life on Planned Parenthood’s Anniversary

As Planned Parenthood celebrates their 100 year anniversary, I choose to mourn the lives lost and the wounds that many women carry. Although Planned Parenthood portrays itself as woman’s health care,  its most      lucrative business is abortion. It masquerades as compassionate care.

I give thanks for the growing number of pregnancy care centers and for support groups that help women heal from the trauma of abortion.

Our community held a march for life, proclaiming that life is a gift.       Together we offered this prayer:

O God, our Creator, all life is in your hands
From conception until natural death,
Help us to cherish our children.
Help us to understand and respect the awesome
privilege of our share in creation.
May all people live and die in dignity and love.
Bless all those who defend the rights of the
unborn, the handicapped and the elderly.
Enlighten and be merciful toward those who fail
to recognize the sacredness of life.
Give us courage to speak with truth and love
and with conviction in the defense of life.
Let freedom be tempered by
responsibility, integrity and morality.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

life-is-a-gift

The Psalmist did not have the tool of ultrasound, yet he offers a clear    understanding of life. These verses convey a deep truth.

Oh, yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow
from conception to birth;
All the stages of my life were spread out before you,
the days of my life all prepared
Before I’d even lived one day.

Psalm 139: 13-16 MSG

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The Lack of Respect for Women

Words. Ugly references to women. It is hard to listen to the political mud slinging. Trump’s words revealed on a recording were vulgar and cannot be condoned. These words have opened wounds that many women carry.

Our culture is saturated in sex. I wonder if we are ready to assess the damage that has been caused by the push for sexual freedom. Perhaps the ugliness of this campaign will encourage discussion.

When sex is separated from a committed relationship, when men do not have responsibility for the potential pregnancy that may result from sex, women are hurt.

Beginning in the 1960s, significant court decisions took place. In 1965 contraception for married women was legalized by the Supreme Court under a right to privacy decision (Griswold v. Connecticut). In 1972 contraception for unmarried women was legalized as a right to privacy (Eisenstadt v. Baird). In 1973 abortion was legalized for all women as a right to privacy (Roe v. Wade).

The Supreme Court has a huge influence on our culture.

These court decisions set laws in place that made sex available to men without commitment or shared responsibility. This is not what God intended. God designed the family and the bond between husband and wife.

In the Bible Jesus reiterates the sacredness of marriage. When Jesus was asked about divorce he said this:

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”         Matthew 19: 4-6

Some people viewed contraception as necessary to avoid over population. Some people of faith thought that contraception would improve marriages and the care of children. The Bible does not specifically mention contraception, but the word itself is against life.

A couple can deepen their relationship by talking about sex  and  the   potential for pregnancy.  With contraception a woman may feel that she has to be always available.   Sex can be a self-centered act  instead of    affirming the sacred bond of marriage.

What about when we look at the big picture? What has changed?

Failure of contraception led to the “need” for abortion.   The rate of    abortion has increased over time. Millions of babies have been killed in their mother’s womb. Women have been wounded by abortion. The rate of divorce has increased. The number of children born out of wedlock has increased. Women’s health has been impacted by hormonal contraception. And respect for women?

Our human remedies may fail us. We need to seek God’s ways. This text states a hard truth.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools . . . Romans 1:21-22

The current political mud slinging should cause us to pause. We have God’s remedy for the moral descent that is going on.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.       2 Chronicles 7:14

God heals us if we turn to Him.

Bless the Lord , O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.
Psalm 103:2-3

Prayer:  Lord God, my human nature leads me to seek my own way.     Forgive my sins and guide me in the path of life. I praise you because you are my redeemer and healer.

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Truth that Keeps Us Steadfast

Sometimes the waves of events happening this election season knock me over and I have to catch my breath.   Then I remember that  God  is      sovereign. He has given us his word with timeless truth. I am glad to be studying the book of Romans.

Last Sunday we had a guest speaker at church. His message centered on the gospel truths found in Romans. Here are some key passages:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

We are all sinners. We all need God’s grace.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

Paul explains that we are saved by faith, by turning to God and accepting His way.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

God loves us!

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

We have to accept the gift.

After guiding us through the gospel message, our speaker suggested that we find words to tell our personal story.   He gave us his thirty-second    testimony and asked us to work on doing the same. So, here is my testimony:

I grew up in a Christian home and asked Jesus to be my Savior at a young age. It was the beginning of my relationship with the Lord. During college, Bible study helped me grow and work through questions that I had about my faith. Eventually I married, we had children and we faced a huge challenge. Our son was diagnosed with leukemia. God helped us through faithful friends. When our son passed away I was overwhelmed with grief. I had kept a journal through Steven’s illness and as I reviewed it I saw God’s hand on Steven’s life and His love for our family. God met me in my pain. God is faithful to his promises.

Do you have a testimony of faith?

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Family Time and the Gospel

The air was fresh. The leaves on the giant cottonwood trees were rustling with the breeze. My sister, brother and I were sitting at a picnic table at the botanic garden.

We had fresh apple cider and hamburgers. We enjoyed our lunch as we absorbed the joy of nature. We watched a blue heron standing in a nearby pond. I felt blessed with this interlude of rest from stressful thoughts.

My brother’s health is declining and as his guardian I have been asked to look into possible care situations. For a time the weight of concern was lifted.

My brother has a mental illness and his thoughts about God, about relationships, is tangled up. He has had a difficult life. But I believe that God loves him and can heal his emotional wounds.

My attempts to share my faith with him have varied responses. I feel like I am stumbling along. Conversations with my brother can be calm or erupt suddenly in an angry outburst. During one visit to his group home I asked if he reads his Bible.

He said, “No.”

I said, “The Bible is God’s love letter to us.”

He scowled and yelled, “It is not!” Then he stared at me daring me to say any more. I retreated—for the time being.

But on this day, after spending time in nature, he responded differently. On the way home, in the car, I asked my brother, “What do you think about Jesus?”

His answer came quickly, “He was the most hated man.”

Then I asked, “Why did he come to earth?”

After a long pause my brother said, “I don’t know.”

I said, “I think he came to show us God’s love.”

This time there was no angry outburst, only thoughtful silence.

I want the Bible to infuse my daily life and my conversations. God’s word is the source of our hope. I am still learning about putting this in practice. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul writes:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1: 16

Prayer: Lord God, thank-you for your Word and the example Paul sets for us. As I trust you day by day, may I be a witness of the Gospel.

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Pregnant Creation: We Have Much to Anticipate!

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Romans 8: 19 ESV

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.
Romans 8: 19-25 The Message

This statement by the apostle Paul is both striking and encouraging. And it fits the time we are living in.

Over the summer I have been studying the epistle of 1 Peter.   Peter      describes Christians as sojourners and provides instruction for how we are to live. This fall our Pastor will be teaching from Romans and my precept Bible study is on the book of Romans. I am excited to be spending time learning from Paul the essentials of faith in a culture that is    hostile.

We need grounding from the Word of God and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Then we can shine the light of truth, pointing to Jesus.

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Fear, Hype and the Zika Virus

If you look up fear in a Bible concordance you will find hundreds of     entries. Mentions of fear can be divided into two categories: things we should not fear and the instruction to fear God.

Recently the zika virus has been in the news. Photos of babies born with microcephaly are being shown on TV and social media. Pregnant women are being urged to avoid mosquito bites.

It is helpful to get a little perspective on microcephaly. Many people are unaware but the cytomegalovirus has been linked to microcephaly for decades. Because of my nursing knowledge I looked for recent articles about cytomegalovirus. This article was published in February of this year. You can read the complete article here.

In the US, about 1% of the 4 million babies born every year are infected with CMV, per the Congenital CMV Disease Research Clinic and Registry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. While most of them—about 90%—won’t show any symptoms, the rest may have at least one of a variety of abnormalities, including hearing loss and microcephaly. That’s around 4,000 affected babies.

For perspective, only 17 of the roughly 400 microcephaly cases confirmed by Brazilian health officials so far have conclusively tested positive for Zika infection, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

So what about all the media attention on zika and mosquitoes?

zika and mosquitoes

It makes sense to use mosquito repellent and to get rid of standing water around our homes. But we don’t need to live in fear. We still do not have a complete understanding of the zika virus and its role in birth defects. An article in the Tech Times suggests that the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil could have been caused by the use of a neurotoxic pesticide that got into the water supply. Read the article here.

Suggestions are being made in the media that microcephaly is a reason to support late term abortion.

We live at a time when we value individual autonomy and complete control over the events in our life. The truth is that we don’t have absolute control. The Bible gives guidance for sanitary and dietary measures that support health. At the same time it teaches us that we don’t have absolute control.

We should be informed and wise in the actions we choose.   For the     Christian, security is found in God. We fear and trust God. If we are touched by disease or crisis, God will help us.

Here are the words of Isaiah:

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold your God will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Isaiah 35: 4-6

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Lost! I Need a Map

The traffic on the expressway was light and I was enjoying the book on tape.  Suddenly a road sign for a town that was past my destination      appeared. I had missed my exit. I had to keep driving until another exit came up. Then I pulled over to a small shopping center to figure out where I was.

My husband has reminded me many times that my i-phone has a map application. So I pulled out my phone and typed in the address of my destination.  I had two choices:  turn around and back track on the       expressway or reduce the mileage by taking county roads. I chose the county roads.

The scenery was nicer than the expressway. The road wound through farm country and trees that made an archway across the two-lane road. I became anxious when the weather changed. Dark clouds rolled across the sky and a sudden down pour obscured my vision.

I had to check the map periodically. I am directionally challenged and can easily turn left when I should turn right or vice versa. So I went along with periodic pauses, pulling over when it was safe to verify my route. I breathed a sigh of relief when I began to recognize the street signs. I was so glad to reach my sister’s house safely.

Isn’t this like the believer’s life? Events in life can take us to a confusing place. We don’t know what is true or how to respond. We feel like God is far away. We need to take out God’s word and spend some time in prayer. We need direction from the Lord. The Psalmist expresses this for us.

Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map,
So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,
To the place of your presence,
To enter the place of worship, meet my exuberant God,
Sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God.

Psalm 43: 3-4   The Message

Send out you light and your truth,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
And I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43: 3-4 ESV

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Seeking Truth with Prayer

Each day, as I listen to the news I am deeply saddened. What is happening in our country? The reports of violence and death shake our sense of security. I think about my grandchildren and the world they are growing up in.

Social issues and politics have become so divisive. It seems to me that it is hard to get to the truth on polarized topics.

Yesterday I posted a link on Facebook to an article about the HPV        vaccine, stating one of the researchers disagreed with widespread use of it in the U.S.  The vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted infection,       human papillomavirus.  Almost immediately a friend posted a link with an opposing opinion.  So I did some more internet searches and found an article written by Dr. Harper, the researcher in question.  The article, Next Generation Cancer Protection: The Bivalent HPV Vaccine for Females, details the medical research and includes this paragraph:

Prophylactic HPV vaccination will have little cancer-reducing effect in the general screened population, but may prevent cervical cancer among those with no screening opportunities.   Prophylactic vaccination may help       decrease the numbers of women who develop abnormal cytology screens among those who are screened. Modeling indicates that HPV vaccination will prevent potentially 17% of the abnormal Pap tests based on current knowledge of HPV type distribution (Figure 3) [73] and only a very few cancers that Pap testing would not have detected [74, 75], not enough to lower the population incidence of cervical cancer lower than what screening already accomplishes [76].

I believe that knowing the truth about vaccines (benefit and the risk), and making informed decisions is important. In so many areas of life we need to pursue truth.

While Jesus was on earth he talked about truth many times. His counsel and prayer with the disciples in John 17 speaks to my heart and gives me courage.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17: 15-21

Jesus prayed in the days leading up to his sacrifice for us. We have the opportunity to lift our prayers to the Lord. Thomas R. Kelly highlights the importance of prayer throughout each day.

Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed.  Begin where you are.  Live this present     moment, this present hour as you now sit in your seats, in utter, utter submission and openness toward God. Listen outwardly to these words, but within, behind the scenes, in the deeper levels of your lives where you are all alone with God the Loving Eternal One, keep up a silent prayer, “Open Thou my life. Guide my thoughts where I dare not let them go. But Thou darest. Thy will be done.” Walk on the streets and chat with your friends.   But every moment behind the scenes be in prayer, offering yourselves in continuous obedience.*

* Thomas R. Kelly “Holy Obedience” (lecture, 1939)

Linking with Word of God Speak, Let Us Grow and Thought Provoking Thursday

Ezekiel on Heart of Stone and Heart of Flesh

It was good to hear President Obama quote from Ezekiel 11:19 during the memorial service for the slain Dallas police officers. He was expressing the hope that the people of this country can come together and put aside past hurts and prejudice to resolve our problems. I share this hope. It is helpful to look at the larger context for this verse.

The prophet Ezekiel is speaking to Israel.

Thus says the Lord God:  I will gather you from the peoples and      assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And when they come there, they will remove from it all the detestable things and all its abominations. Ezekiel 11:17-18

God is our redeemer and healer. We need to turn to God for help. We cannot solve the problems of this age on our own.

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds on their own heads, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 11: 19-21

Repentance. We need repentance. We need to see where we have strayed from God’s precepts and direction for living.  We are self-centered by     nature, yet God asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is easy to carry a grudge,  but Jesus instructs us to forgive as we have been         forgiven. Life is a precious gift given by God—do we honor all life in word and deed? It has to begin within the Church. It has to begin with me.

Search me and try me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:16

Show me my prejudice and my lack of love. Forgive my sins, and tenderize my heart towards the hurting. Be at work in my life so that I can be an agent of healing.

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A Bluebell Bellflower & the Rocks and Waves of Lake Superior

“Grandma, come see the blue flowers I found.”

I followed my granddaughter along a rocky path, as waves pounded the shore of Lake Superior. A light wind brushed against my face. The leaves on the birch trees rustled gently.

There they were, bluebells, growing in a crack between the rocks. God created the majesty of Lake Superior and the delicate beauty of the blue flowers—setting them side by side.

Bluebell Bellflower & Lake Superior
Bluebell Bellflower

I was so blessed to spend time at a favorite park with the grandchildren—exploring the rugged coast of this great lake. It was time to pause and take in God’s creative power.  It was a break from the news of sad and   violent events taking place in our country and throughout the world.

Esrey Roadside Park

The Psalms come to mind and the beautiful rhythm of faith displayed in the words of the Psalms. We read heart wrenching prayers and confessions. We are instructed to spend time in the Word. Still, the Psalmist takes time to pause and observe God’s power and sovereignty. He sees God’s majesty in nature giving him the glory.

Lake Superior

Psalm 93

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
The Lord is robed in majesty
and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.
Your throne was established long ago;
You are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, O Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
The seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the Lord on high is mighty.

Your statutes stand firm;
Holiness adorns your house
For endless days, O Lord.

Linking with Thankful ThursdayTuesdays with a Twist,  Seasons, Sue’s Wordless Wednesday,  Let Us Grow and Word of God Speak