Author Archives: bgraciesmith

The Church and Unplanned Pregnancy

I’ve read numerous articles and opinions in regards to Maddi Runkles and how the Heritage Academy handled her pregnancy, which included banning her from participating in the graduation ceremony. I’ve spent a great deal of time the past month thinking about not only how poorly this school handled the situation, but perhaps more time thinking about the messages we, as Christians, give to women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.

There are a number of reasons why Maddi’s pregnancy and the Heritage Academy caught my attention.  First and foremost, I too have been a judger.  Like the administration at the school I was a master at what people should and shouldn’t be doing. Ask my own family, in years past I did extremely well in pointing out the do’s and don’ts of God’s word, but often fell short in offering the grace and mercy that our Abba Father so freely gives.

Secondly, this situation brought back memories, both good and bad, of what our family experienced when our unwed daughter found herself pregnant. Like the school administration, our church didn’t know how to minister to our daughter and family. There were comments like, she’s going to get married, isn’t she? Also, there were conversations repeated back to us by well-meaning friends, about what some of those in our own church had said.  Yet, no one in that small rural church directly came to talk to our daughter or us. Because of a series of misspoke words and mishandled actions during those months, we choose to leave our church family. It could have been a time when love drew our daughter back to God, but instead, it was a time where she saw how hypocritical and judgmental some in the church can be.

One of the final reasons this story caught my attention is because I have dedicated this time in my life to work with young women like our daughter and Maddi at a pregnancy care center. Both my daughter and Maddi made the difficult but brave decision to walk through an unplanned pregnancy. They didn’t make their decision in a vacuum.  Other key people influenced their decision to choose life.  Thankfully my daughter and Maddi were able to go their parents.  However many young women will not. Pregnancy help organizations offer confidential, safe and loving places for young women to talk through their options. During those conversations, I can’t tell you the number of times I have had a young woman tell me she has been hurt by the church.  I cringe a little each time I hear a story about how we as Christians have once again missed the opportunity to show the love of Jesus to a young woman in her moment of crisis.

In one of the interviews that I watched, Kristen Hawkins the President of Students for Life America stated, This has started a national conversation that needed to happen a long time ago about how Christians handle the sin of premarital sex and then if a woman gets pregnant how we show grace. I want to be a part of the conversation and the movement that extends grace and offers unconditional love to these young women.

I took the log out of my own eyes eight years ago when we walked through it with our daughter. I realized how wrong some of my words and actions had been.  And even though I thought my heart intentions were pure, I realized they were steeped in legalism and judgment.  Many of us in the church still have it wrong.  Not only does the conversation need to start, but our actions and motives need to be in alignment with Jesus.

Care Net, a national organization that supports pregnancy care centers, released the findings from a survey.  Their research showed that oftentimes women go from a church pew to an abortion clinic in order to avoid the judgment and gossip they would receive from the church.  Only 7% of those surveyed felt like they could discuss their abortion decision with someone in the church. And 76% said the church had no influence on their decision to terminate a pregnancy. Additionally, out of the women surveyed only 3 out of 10 felt like the church gave accurate counsel in regards to pregnancy options. And fewer than half of the women surveyed observed churches who were prepared to advise them in regards to their pregnancy options.  (To read the entire survey, click here).

How can we be better prepared to serve young women, like Maddie?  What can we learn from Heritage Academy?  Remember a few years back when all of us were wearing WWJD bracelets? Let’s start there.

What would Jesus do with a woman facing the crisis of an unintended pregnancy?

In an interview done with Maddie, she said that she understood the consequence of breaking the moral conduct code of her school.  She accepted the punishment of being suspended from school and removed from leadership positions.  In my humble opinion, this is where things went wrong with the school administration.  That should have been where the punishment ended and grace began. By taking it to the extreme, I can’t help but wonder what the rippling effects will be. Can you imagine what the other students who are involved in sexual sin thought?  Did it make them want to turn from immorality? Or did it drive them deeper into the secrets of their sin?

What about the next young woman at that school or one of the local churches that is faced with an unplanned pregnancy? Do you think she will go to someone at the school or one of the supporting churches for Godly counsel and support?  Absolutely not! Chances are her pregnancy will remain a secret and possibly end in abortion.

I’ve searched the scriptures and ask individuals who are far more versed in the Bible than I, Where in scripture are we required to publicly confess our sin?  Nowhere, do we see that Jesus made someone caught in sin publicly confess. Think back to the women caught in adultery. Did Jesus have her stand before her accusers and publicly confess her sin?  Nope! Instead, he called out the hypocrites.  I chose to believe that when he started writing in the sand it was the secret sins of those standing above him with rocks in their hands.  After the rocks were dropped and the accusers were gone, what did Jesus do?  He loving spoke to the women and said, Then neither do I condemn you….Go now and leave your life of sin.

What if we as Christians approach single women facing an unintended pregnancy with the love of Jesus? How would that look? What will be the rippling effects?

Let’s consider what would have happened if after the initial discipline, the school would have shown love and mercy. What if their message to Maddie and the entire student body would have been one that showed how yes, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Yet, God still loves us and desires for us to turn away from sin and live an abundant joy filled life. Patricia Heaton says, A woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy also deserves to experience unplanned joy!

What if Heritage Academy and the administration would have decided to help Maddie and her baby have an abundant life? What if they embraced her pregnancy, praised her for choosing life and helped her find joy during this hard season of life.  They could have offered support and services that would help her press on towards receiving a college education and a better life for her and her child, even as a single mom.  What if instead of shaming her, they helped her be brave? Joshua 1: 9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

That next young woman facing an unintended pregnancy, what would she have seen? A group of compassionate, loving individuals who want to show their support.  She would have seen that choosing life for her baby wasn’t shameful or guilt ridden, but celebrated and embrace.

This conversation needs your input.  Why not join in?  That next young woman might be from your children’s school, your church or even within your own family. Some of you, like me and the school administration, need to start with your own heart and legalistic views.  Don’t stop there! Check with your small group and church leaders.  Ask the questions and talk through the hard answers.  How will you as a church embrace a young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy?

Perhaps you have no clue where to begin.  Below is a list that can help you and/or your church become prepared.

  1. If you have children, start an age-appropriate conversation about this very story.  Research says that parents are still the biggest influence in a child’s life. They need to know what God, not man believes about life, whether it is planned or not.
  2. Check with your local pregnancy care center.  Schedule a tour of the center or ask for a staff member to come out and share how they extend Jesus’ love to women and men making a pregnancy decision.
  3. Start an Embrace Grace group at your church. Embrace Grace equips the church to come alongside women to providing emotional, practical and spiritual support when faced with an unintended pregnancy. Check out Embrace Grace here.
  4. Offer Making Life Disciples curriculum to your church.  This curriculum is designed to better equip the body of believers to offer hope, help, and love to women and men making pregnancy decisions.  This curriculum was developed by Care Net and can be ordered here.

 

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Pondering………

Pondering………

……….When  ”We the People” watch a live cam of April the Giraffe and anxiously await the birth of her baby, but stay silent about the 100′s of human babies aborted daily….Do “We the People” have our priorities all messed up?

……..When the current day Women libbers encourage women to #Shoutoutyourabortion, but ignore the millions of women who are silently living with emotional trauma from theirs…..Is the movement for or against women?

……….When a U.S. state brings legal charges against a filmmaker for exposing an organization that sells baby parts for profit but protects the criminal organization….Does this state believe the 1st Amendment is outdated and that some organizations are above the law? healing path

……….When a Nation no longer recognizes the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death…..What happens to the Nation?

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God’s Love Surrounds Me

As I headed east this evening on my commute home, I wept openly.  With Christian music playing on the radio, the events of the griefday muddled my mind. There were words spoken by a frightened young woman, sadness and grief seen in tired eyes, and the conversation and stories about yet another leader who had strayed from the teachings of our faith.  My heart was filled with heavy anguish. For a brief moment, I wondered is this how God feels as He looks at the current state of affairs.  Does His heart grieve for the decisions His children make which have rippling effects across our families, communities, and Nation?  My next thought was “Get a grip… I’m teetering on the edge of hopelessness.”

Almost as a last resort, I began to pray. First in words I knew, then with “groans too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)  The anguish started to lift as the lyrics of a favorite song came to mind.

“…….and there’s nothing I can do.
My only hope is to trust You
I trust You, Lord.
In the eye of the storm,
You remain in control
In the middle of the war,
You guard my soul.
You alone are the anchor,
when my sails are torn.
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm
…”

By the time I turned off the main highway and onto the last stretch of road towards home, I sensed God’s love surrounding me. He wasn’t going to let me sink into a hole of despair. He had replaced my anguish with peace.  In those few short miles, the situations which concern me hadn’t changed but I had.

Where are you tonight?  Have you experienced the rippling effect of bad decisions? Are you weary from fighting the war?  Did you just think “Get a grip?” If you are weary, teetering on the brink of despair? My hope is God uses this song to encourage you too!

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Do Something

Again, I say……………It’s time for us to do something!IMG_20140812_095850762_HDR

This time it is a well-known, beloved comedian and actor. Another family left in the wake, dealing with grief and asking why?

A nation in mourning! Every news station has covered his death; social media is blown up with his pictures, quotes and movie clips.  All of us join his family in their grief and ask why?

Isn’t it time?  Time for you, me, all of us to do something.

It’s time for us to recognize the serious of mental illnesses and disorders.

It’s time for us to move quickly and remove the stigma associated with these disorders. Helping enable those suffering in silence to get the treatment and help they need.

It’s time for us to ask the hard questions and seek the right answers.  If you or someone you love is dealing with depression, don’t be afraid to seek help.

There are organizations which can help you and/or your loved one.  Are you thinking of harming yourself or others? If so, seek help NOW.  Give yourself permission to call the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine (1-800-273-8255).

Other national and international groups such as To Write Love on Her Arms, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Freedom from Fear provide lists of resources and ways to find help for depression.

There are local mental health offices in most communities and cities across the nation.  Check your local phone listing or google mental health in your county.  Seek out a support group. These groups can provide practical suggestions and emotional support for individuals and families dealing with depression and other mental disorders.

For you and your loved one, it’s time for you to DO SOMETHING!

For us, as a nation, mourning the loss of another individual to a mental disorder, it’s time for us to DO SOMETHING!

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Tattletale

tattletaleBack in January I blogged about some unfinished business concerning unforgiveness in my life. Here we are 7 months later and I haven’t gotten much further in this business of forgiving.  However, in my devotional time on Friday, God showed a truth I hadn’t seen before.

I was reading through Overcoming Unforgiveness, a chapter in Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word, and she confirms it is ok to talk to God about these people.  She writes, “I mean learning to tell on them to God. Yes, I’m talking about tattling.  Learning to tell God what they’ve done to you and how upset you are.  Learning to tell Him all the things you feel and how unfair you believe someone has been to you.”

This is so NOT christianese for me to say.  But I love the thought of tattling to God!  Growing up I was never given permission to tattle and if I did, I was in big time trouble.  But now, I feel free to tattle all I want to my Abba Father. The thought makes me giddy!

God even confirmed it through one of the verses Beth shared.  Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in him at all times, O people, pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge!”  Refuge, there’s that word again.  My 2014 word!  Not only has God given me permission to tattle, but He is promising to be my refuge when I do!

Now, let me add a disclaimer here. I realize God doesn’t want us to stay in the tattletale mode from now to eternity. Yet, he does give us permission to pour out our hearts to Him. The Good. The Bad….and more than I like to admit. The Ugly!  My thoughts are that if once God and I get through this tattletale business, we will start working on the unforgiveness.  Doesn’t that sound like a great plan!

For now, I gotta go.  I have some tattling to do!  What about you?

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It’s Time For Us To Do Something

It’s time for us to do something!anguish

There has been another shooting.

More families dealing with unspeakable grief. 

Additional rhetoric by the media.  However, still no long term solutions for the treatment of individuals suffering with a mental illness.

In the song Do Something, Matthew West sings, “I’m sick and tired of all the talking! …. I want to be someone who stands up as says, “I’m going to do something!”  His words echo my heart this morning.  Isn’t it time, we do something?

A couple of opinions you will NOT read in this post are: 1.) It’s the families fault and 2.)  We need gun control.

In this particular tragedy the focus should not be on gun control.   It should be on how our society addresses and treats individuals suffering from a mental illness. 

My heart broke as I read the article which pointed out the shooter’s (Elliot Roger) family had contacted police in late April.  Upon visiting with the young man, the police deemed him stable and left it at that.  In a manifesto written by Elliot, he stated, “If they (police) had demanded to search my room … That would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over.”

“What if’s” and “could have been’s,” cannot change the outcome of this latest shooting.  However, serious conversations and immediate action in regards to education and treatment of individuals with mental illnesses can.

To date, I have written very little about the personal aspects my family experienced with Mom’s mental illness.   However, as I watched news coverage and read articles about Elliot Roger.  The memories flooded my mind.  There were those days when I sat next to Mom as she waited for a mental health evaluation.  As a family, we recognized a need for intervention and hospitalization in order for her mood to become stable.  However, even trained professionals, sometimes don’t get it right. The manipulation characteristic in mental illness can, at times, be difficult for even professionals to recognize. There were numerous instances when we were sent on our way, and Mom continued down the slippery slope into mania and/or depression.  Most of the time when Mom threatened to harm, it was to herself.  As I recall, there were only two instances she threatened harm to someone else.  Both times, she was taken to a psychiatric ward before the threat was carried out. It goes without saying that I am thankful Mom received the needed intervention and treatment, yet, I can’t overlook the fact there are hundreds of individuals and families, like Elliot Roger’s, who do not.

So, when reading the account on Rodgers, I couldn’t fault the police.  They are not trained mental health professionals.  They did what they were supposed to do, a welfare check.  I have no doubt the manipulative side of the mental illness Elliot suffered with, talked them into believing all was well.

Today, we know all is was not well!

Today, our entire nation should grieve along with the Roger’s family.  This family recognized the signs, they asked for help.  However, somewhere between April 30th and May 23rd, the system failed.  I am not talking about the police department.  And I certainly am not talking about the family.  I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be.  You realize a family member needs intervention and immediate psychiatric treatment, yet there is nowhere to turn.  I can’t tell you how many times we heard “she needs to be threatening harm to herself or someone else, before we are able to intervene.”  

Why does it have to get to that point? Individuals suffering from mental illnesses are typically not going to recognize and/or admit they are on a slippery slope spiraling downward. The family members who deal with these illnesses on a daily basis know better than any professional or policeman when their loved one is in danger.

When the individuals doing the evaluation listened to Mom instead of us, I always went away feeling angry, frustrated and helpless.   Even though I know that sooner than later, she would be admitted.  It was the in between time, the waiting and wondering what was going to happen time, that was paralyzing.

The helplessness and frustration had to be overwhelming for the Rogers family.  They too had to be waiting and wondering what next.  And the “what next” which came for Elliott and the entire Rogers family is something many of us will never, ever have to walk through.  They are experiencing a grief few of us will ever endure and a sorrow no one should ever have to bear.

Matthew West continues to sing, “Right now, it’s time for us to do something. If not now, then when will we see an end? To all this pain. It’s not enough to do nothing. It’s time for us to do something…”

Before another individual struggling with a mental illness reaches their point of no return.

Before another shooting.

Before more families have to deal with unspeakable grief.

Before we talk anymore about gun control, let’s take a good hard look at mental illnesses, the diagnosis and treatment for… and then begin to search for positive, life changing solutions.

It’s time for us to do something!

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A Change is Gonna Come

detourRoad Work Ahead.  

Warning:  Construction Area.  

Right Lane Closed.  

Detour ahead. …

This spring it seems that every street I travel on in Lawrence has road construction going on.  And let me say this, I am not the most patient when it comes to road construction.  Inevitably, when the right lane is closing, someone speeds up and wants in ahead of me. Due to the road work, I often have to change the course of my travel.   And why does my travel time from one place to the next seem to get longer each time I am in the car?

As I sat down to write this post, I realized how my life parallel’s road construction. 

 “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6 NASB)

Ok, so I know He is doing a work in me.  I realize with road construction, once the work is complete, the “ride” is always smoother.  However, some days I desire for His work in me to be over with already!  I want to speed up the process and in doing so; I get ahead of my God.

Then there are those days, He takes me in a direction totally opposite of my plans.   A detour of sorts.  Traveling on road I am unfamiliar with.  A course which scares the “bejeebers “out of me!   

The past sixteen months God has orchestrated course changes I would have never dreamed possible.  Not only has there been a geographical difference, there has been foundational development.  Even with all the changes, there is one thing I am sure of……He isn’t done with me yet….a change is gonna come!

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My. Heart. Grieves.

My heart grieves this morning! It grieves with a family I don’t know, who is grieving a daughter I never met. whole in heart

My heart grieves because the circumstances of this story are all too similar to tragedies of other children all across our land.

My heart grieves because we as a nation haven’t figured out the answer yet! And since we don’t have any answers, there will be another family, another child whose story ends up resembling this one.

I cried out to God this morning, not only for this family in a neighboring State, who mourn the loss of their child.  But I cry out for us, as people, to mourn the condition of our Nation.

As I ranted this morning to my husband about those few short hours after this child was taken, he chastened me. He was correct in doing so. We all have an idea without me expressing it, what happened in those few short hours. There certainly is no need for me to cast any additional thoughts into an already horrid situation.

And so, I. Continue. To. Grieve!

If you have followed this blog at all, you know my feelings in regards to the easy access of online pornography. You know I believe with all my heart the escalation our Nation is witnessing in sex trafficking, sexual assaults and other sex crimes are directly related to the apparent open door to online pornography.

throw awyMy heart grieves because as our Nation moves farther from the One true answer; baby, children and even adults seemed to be viewed more and more as objects. Objects to be abused, used and thrown away.  Seen less as a precious life, and more as a worthless commodity to be used and then thrown away.

My. Heart. Grieves.

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Unfinished Business………………Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness!

Unfinished Business in 2014….has to start with unforgiveness, at least for me.

I know the scriptures and understand God’s stance on not forgiving those who have hurt or offended me and/or my family.  In fact, Matthew 6:14 tells me that:

“For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [a]reckless and willful sins, [b]leaving them, letting them go, and [c]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Amplified).

Do I want my heavenly Father to forgive me? Do you even need to ask?  Darn tootin’ I want forgiveness, not only from Him, but from the long list of individuals I have hurt and/or offended!

But. Can. I. Be. Real. Here!

Just because scripture tells me to forgive and because I want to be forgiven, doesn’t mean it is always easy to forgive.  Not only is it difficult but sometime it seems I have to forgive over and over and over and …..(you get the picture).  

Forgiveness is NOT always a “piece of cake, a walk in the park or easy as ABC!” Forgiveness can be hard and sometimes just down right…UGLY!

Once again I find myself with some ugliness in my heart masked in the form of unforgiveness and I have to say..

 I.Can’t. Do. It. On. My. Own.

Some things have happened that my heart does NOT want to forgive.  (Did she really just write she doesn’t want to forgive?)  I can try to will it away.  Ignore it.  Or worse yet, I could live in unforgiveness.  But then I would be choosing to live with unfinished business.

And 2014 is about finishing our unfinished business! Right?

My Jesus was beat so bad, he was unrecognizable.  His hands and feet were nailed to the cross and he hung there to die!  After all of that…all the unbearable pain, He whispered three words!  Three words…

It is Finished!

Translated to Greek, “It is Finished” is tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.”  Did that sentence just give you goose bumps?  It should! Because what Jesus meant was that He had paid the debt owed to God.  It was gone, wiped away, erased from the ledger!  The debt was paid in full.  Paid by His grueling and cruel death on the cross. Paid! But…not His (Jesus) debt was paid, but mine, yours and those who I need to forgive!

When I remember the facts of Jesus death, in light of the truth of my life, how can I not forgive?  If Jesus suffered such a cruel harmful death to pay my debt in full, why can’t I mentally release those who have hurt me?

I. Can’t. Do. It. On. My. Own.

The next few days, my Jesus and I will be working through my unforgiveness.  With Jesus beside me, I know this unfinished business is about to be FINISHED.  Whoot. Whoot!!

What about you? Is part of your unfinished business…. unforgiveness? If so, why don’t you join me in praying this prayer? If you initially don’t feel any release after praying the prayer, keep praying it! It might take a few days or weeks, but at some point I promise, you will feel the freedom that forgiveness brings!!  And your unfinished business will be FINISHED!

Jesus, thank you! Thank you for paying my debt, for suffering through the public humiliation, anguishing pain and unfathomable suffering for me.  I don’t deserve it, yet you willingly did it.  So, can you help me? Please help me. In my eyes, ______________ doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.  You know what ________ has done. You also know that right now I don’t want to forgive, but I need to for me, for You and for ________________.

I can’t do this on my own!  But I know with you, I can be more than a conquer.  I can be a woman who is walking in freedom and finished business.  Freedom from unforgiveness!  So, please help me release ___________________ from the pain and consequences __________ caused in my life.  With You and through you Jesus, I choose to forgive.

Amen.

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