Six Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Child Protection Policy

child protection

With summer almost upon us, churches are gearing up for VBS, youth camp, and summer children’s activities. Before you stock up on marshmallows for chubby bunny, change the oil in the church van, and assemble that grass hut out of cardboard boxes and paper bags, there’s something else you need to think about.

Are your church’s child protection policies in place?

This is not fun stuff to talk about. But it is necessary, especially in light of recent events. Many of you who follow this blog are ministry wives or are in church leadership. If your church already has child protection policies in place, great. Follow them. If you don’t, establishing a robust child protection policy needs to be a priority. I know it’s not fun. No one wants to ask Mrs. Cindy Lou Who who has served in the nursery for 70 years to all of a sudden do a background check. But we must. Child protection policies keep your church, your workers, and your children safe.

Here are 6 reasons your church needs a child protection policy.

  1. Because Satan is evil.

    Satan’s goal is always our destruction, and children are not exempt. If he has the opportunity to attack a child through molestation or abuse, Satan sees it as fair game. And if he gets a chance to make that abuse happen on the church’s watch, it’s just bonus points. Hitting a family, a child, and a church all in one stroke? That’s a good day for the devil, and we need to be on our guard to make sure it doesn’t happen.

  2. Because abuse can happen anywhere.

    I know we all think it won’t happen at our church. We know everyone. We’ve got good people. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen here. Those are dangerous thoughts. Abuse is not restricted to certain zip codes. Abuse can happen anywhere a predator has access to vulnerable children–including your church. We cannot be so naive as to think it can’t happen to us. See point number 1.

  3.  Because abusers don’t look like the boogeyman.

    I don’t want to pile on the Duggars. I can only imagine the agony of recognizing that one of your children has molested another, though it is concerning that the abuse was not properly reported at the time it took place. Josh Duggar says this inescusable behavior is behind him. For his sake and the sake of his family I hope it is so. Josh recieved counseling. I hope his victims also received the counseling and support they needed to heal.

    The Duggar story reminds us that abusers don’t look like the boogeyman. A typical abuser is not the creepy guy down the street or a trench-coat wearing stranger. Abusers can look like a family member. They can look like coaches, camp counselors, or Sunday School teachers. Abusers are able to gain trust. That’s what gives them the opportunity to perpetuate their abuse. We have to let go of this idea that we’ll know them when we see them. We don’t.

  4. Because child protection policies protect your workers.

    Every report of abuse must be taken seriously. Let me say that again. Every report of abuse must be taken seriously. If we suspect or are informed about abuse, we are legally and ethically obligated to report it. And yet, we know that sometimes people lie. Sometimes people lie because they know churches have liability insurance and they’re hoping for a settlement. Sometimes people lie because they’re mad and want to get at you. Sometimes they lie because they’re covering up their own actions. Shaken baby syndrome? Let’s blame the nursery worker. Good child protection policies such as having two adults in the room at all times protect your workers from false accusations.

  5. Because child protection policies protect your church.

    Child protection policies protect your church in several ways. Robust child protection polices prevent opportunities for abuse to take place and make your church a less attractive target for an abuser. Your liability insurance company may require your church to adopt a child protection policy to ensure coverage. Also, even if your church has liability insurance your church can still be vulnerable if you do not have a child protection policy in place. Our church was advised that if we did not have a child protection policy our trustees could be sued individually if abuse took place. Adopting and following a good child protection policy can reduce your church’s risk of liability.

  6. Because child protection policies protect children.

    Jesus has entrusted our church’s children into our care. Church should be a safe place for our children. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure that our children are protected when they walk through our doors. A good child protection policy creates an environment where our children are safe but abusers are not. By eliminating opportunities for abuse and putting abusers at risk of discovery, we can make our churches an unwelcome place for those who would harm our children.

    Having a good child protection policy in place is a matter of due diligence. At the minimum, a child protection policy should include background checks for all workers, a two adult policy, and abuse prevention training for preschool, children’s and youth workers. Training should include types of abuse, signs of abuse, appropriate touch, and how to report abuse. Your denomination or state convention can guide you in finding appropriate resources.

What policies does your church have to protect children? What resources would you suggest?

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Forgiveness: Getting God’s Perspective


“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

If I wasn’t already convinced Jesus was the Son of God, those words would do it for me.

He hangs there on the cross in agonizing pain, flanked on both sides by crucified criminals. The soldiers who nailed him to the cross roll dice for his clothes, and the Jewish leaders who should have praised him mocked his name instead. He is utterly alone. He could have called down lightning from heaven or an army of angels to deliver his wrath. But instead he uses a pain-wracked breath to utter a profoundly simple prayer.

Father, forgive them.

You could preach a thousand sermons on that line, but the thread I’d like to pull is this: Jesus saw the cross from heaven’s point of view. He knew that his suffering was a stop on the pathway to victory. He recognized the blindness and brokenness and ignorance of those that put him there, and he knew that they didn’t have the faintest glimmer of the eternal consequences of their actions. And so in the midst of the pain he prayed for their forgiveness.

If we want to forgive, we need to see from heaven’s point of view.

We tend to see the world through the lenses of our hurt. And when we are hurt, we make all kinds of judgments and determinations against the people responsible.

Don’t waste your energy. She’s not worth it anyway.

He’s just a jerk.

That mean streak’s never going to change.

You can’t trust a word she says.




When we’re hurt, it’s easy to surround ourselves with people who will help us nurse our pain. They mean well. They don’t want to see us hurt, so they encourage us in our tendencies toward blame and judgment. Of course it’s “their” fault. It’s just how they are. Shake it off, get rid of them, they don’t have to be your problem. We agree and we try to be the bigger person and move on–then we wonder why we just can’t let it go.

forgiveness corrie quote

Forgiveness is an invitation to shift our point of view–to remember that this person, no matter how reprehensible their actions, is a person for which Jesus died. Forgiveness invites us to remember that hurt people tend to hurt people and that fear, pain, and brokenness may lie underneath. Forgiveness is a call to remember that our God still redeems.

We don’t do it on our own. As Corrie Ten Boom has so beautifully written:

I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. The Hiding Place

God gives us the love we need to see from his perspective if we will only ask. It might look like this:

  • God, how do you want me to see this person?
  • How should I pray for him?
  • What boundaries do I need to have with her?
  • How do you want to work in the midst of this situation?
  • Show me what it looks like to safely love this person.
  • Father, what is your heart for this person? How do you want to show your grace?

Every conflict is an opportunity to respond out of God’s storehouses of grace. What if we learned to move to intercession instead of judgment? To pray that God would work in this person’s life to fulfill the purpose he called them to before they were born? What if we prayed that God would demonstrate his grace in this situation and overwhelmed this person with his love? Would we finally get to see heaven start breaking loose?

To forgive, we need to get heaven’s point of view. As we learn to see through his eyes, God gives us the love and grace we need to forgive.

This post is Part 3 of a 5 part series on forgiveness.

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.

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Forgiveness: Looking to Jesus to Heal


Every now and then I like to introduce people to my friend Blue.

Blue is a large lump of blue playdough I roll into a ball. No lumps, no cracks–just Blue in all his smooth roundness. Then we pass Blue around the group and invite people to insult Blue and tear off a chunk of dough. Poor Blue gets called stupid and ugly. People tell him no one likes him. A few people punch him or stomp on him. Blue shrinks piece by piece till he gets back to me, half his size and jagged edges all over.

So then we put Blue back together. One by one we tell Blue we’re sorry and pay him a compliment or two as we mash our torn pieces back on. Blue gets stitched back together as he makes his way around the circle, but it’s not the same. He’s whole–mostly. But he’s not a perfect ball anymore. Blue has lumps, craters and cracks. One side is bigger than the other. There are thumbprints and dents where all the handling has bruised the dough.

I feel like Blue some days. Life–people–they take chunks out of you. The job you loved and invested yourself in for years vanishes overnight. Friends stop returning calls. You and your husband keep tripping over the same sore spots you’ve navigated for years. That person has it out for you and takes their pound of flesh a bite at a time. Church seems like a safe space till you realize we Christians can gossip with the best of them. And like Blue, you’ve got some pieces missing.

We all do.

What we tend to do is sit there like lumps of dough, waiting for the people who hurt us to come put us back together. It doesn’t work. Sometimes it doesn’t work because they don’t care. Maybe they don’t see the wounded people in their wake; maybe they just don’t care who they’ve hurt. Either way, they aren’t coming back to bind us together again.

Sometimes people do try. They apologize, try to make restitution–and we should welcome that when it happens. But just like smushing playdough back on the ball, apologies can’t really make us whole again.

See, wholeness isn’t a people thing. Wholeness is a divine thing; it’s what God does in us when we let Jesus reach down into those hidden, jagged places and heal our sin-sick souls. We struggle sometimes with forgiveness because we’re still looking for the person who hurt us to come fix us and make it better. And they can’t.

Jesus will.

Forgiveness requires us to change our perspective. We stop looking outward at the people who hurt us. We stop looking inward, gnawing at our pain. Instead, we learn to look up. Jesus is the great soul-healer. If we want to forgive, we need to look to Jesus to heal our pain and make us whole.

How do we do that? We ask. Loudly, softly, weeping, screaming–whatever it takes. Jesus, this happened. It hurts. This is how I feel. Will you come and make me whole?

And he does. It might look like Jesus showing us that he’s been with us all along. It might be God reminding us of who he is–Redeemer; Protector; Provider; Faithful Friend. It might be that the Spirit testifies to us of who we are: Child; Precious one; Redeemed; Chosen; Adopted; Gifted; Beloved. Forgiveness flows from knowing who God is and who we are to him.

Because when we know those two things, that’s when Jesus makes us whole.

This post is the second part in a 5 part series.

5 Steps of Forgiveness

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.

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Praying Upside Down

I’ve never been an artist. I can doodle and craft, but words are my playground. I’ve never had that extra something artists do that helps them see the world in color and capture truth on a canvas.

But last year I helped (read: was a warm body) in an art class for our homeschool co-op. As the teacher talked about things like seeing shapes, contour drawing, and drawing upside-down, I caught a little glimmer of what she was talking about. The next Sunday I found myself looking at the hymnal rack at church and breaking it down into shapes so I could sketch it next to my sermon notes. I had begun to find a different way of seeing.

That idea of seeing the world through an artist’s eyes is what drew me to Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s book, Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God. In Praying Upside Down Stanley explores how concepts such as perspective, white space, and sketching can impact your prayer life. Stanley shares honestly from her own faith journey, and each chapter provides a fresh perspective on prayer as well as suggestions for creative practices to incorporate into your prayer life.

faith is

I appreciated how honest the author was about her struggles with God and prayer in this book. She writes from a place of faith, but she’s also honest enough to talk about what we do when we feel God has got it wrong somehow. How do we press through in faith and prayer when we struggle with grief and doubt? Her stories about the sale of her home and the loss of her mother were poignant and powerful. I also appreciated the communal focus of the book. Stanley rightfully places prayer in the context of community. Some books on prayer tend to treat it as a solo sport, and one of the strengths of this book is that the author reminds us that we both need to pray for others and to be prayed for.

One of my favorite parts of the book were the Prayer Palette suggestions included in each chapter. In this section Stanley includes prayer experiences such as creating a prayer string, writing a screenplay, trading prayers with a friend, and doodling as a record of your prayer focus. I appreciate her creativity, and there are several ideas she suggests I want to incorporate into my prayer time over the next few weeks.

There are several resources for the book on Kelly’s website, including video content, downloads, and an 8-week study guide for small groups or individual use. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to inject some creativity into their prayer life–artist or not.

I received a free copy of this book through the Blog Spot. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not required to give a positive review.

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Forgiveness: Acknowledging the Pain


I was blow-drying my hair when her face popped into my mind. With it came the swirl of emotions–anger, hurt, frustration, guilt. I started rehearsing my list of I-should-have-said and litany of next-time-I’m-gonna’s. Then I stopped.

God, what gives? I already forgave her, didn’t I? Why can’t I just let this go?

Anyone else been there? We know we’re supposed to forgive. Jesus said so. If we take the Word of God seriously, we can’t escape the scriptural injunction that we are supposed to forgive those who sin against us.

So when we are wounded, we try to forgive. We try to forget about it, push it down, move on as if nothing happened, and just let it go. Seventy times seven and all that. But it’s hard. And when we’re tired, stressed, or that same person spreads their mess over our lives again, we find ourselves back at square one.

We know we’re supposed to forgive. We just don’t always know how.

What we have to understand is that forgiveness is a work of the Spirit. Real forgiveness–the kind that heals us and sets us free–is a matter of relying on God’s power and not our own. We struggle to forgive because we think it’s something we have to do. It’s not. Forgiveness is a matter of letting God’s power work in us.

As I see it, there are five steps to forgiveness.

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.

Forgiveness Begins by Acknowledging the Pain

We know the steps of the dance by heart.

I’m sorry. Oh, no big deal. It didn’t matter.

I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. What? It’s fine, really. It didn’t bother me.

We have the misconception that forgiving means what happened didn’t hurt or didn’t matter. That’s wrong. We don’t need forgiveness because it didn’t matter. We need to forgive because it does. Forgiveness is not saying “no worries–it didn’t matter.” Forgiveness is saying “Yes, that was wrong and it hurt. But I choose to forgive you and through God’s grace we can move on.”

If we’re going to forgive, we have to forgive something and we have to know what that something is. That’s why forgiveness has to begin with acknowledging and defining the pain. We need to be able to run our hands around the edges of the hole and identify it for what it is. Betrayal. Fear. Grief. Loss. We can do that by asking ourselves three questions.

  • What happened?
  • How do I feel about what happened?
  • Why?

Our process of forgiveness starts by being able to describe what happened. It might look something like this:

She gossiped about me.

He lied to me.

They stole from me.

He insulted me.

She embarrassed me.

What happened? Forgiveness starts by identifying the wound. If you want to forgive someone, you need to know what you’re forgiving them for.

But what happened is only part of the equation. Forgiveness doesn’t just take into account what happened. It also encompasses how we responded emotionally. What they did matters, but how you felt about it also matters. To forgive, we need to be able to identify what we felt and why we felt it. It might be expressed like this:

I felt betrayed because I thought she was my friend and she spread lies about me.

I felt hurt because his actions made it seem like our relationship didn’t matter.

I felt powerless because I couldn’t do anything to stop it from happening.

I felt foolish because everyone was laughing at me.

I felt sad because I realized he was only using me.

The “why” question is important because it forces us to dig down into our emotional responses. For example, anger is really a secondary emotion. If I’m angry at an event, it’s because of something has happened to trigger my anger. Maybe I was hurt, embarrassed, threatened, or accused, and now I’m angry because of what I felt in the first place. That “why” question may also help us identify that the real issue is not this particular inciting incident but past experiences or situations that were emotionally triggered by the current situation. If part of my emotional response is that the arrogant guy at work reminds me of a junior high bully or that a church conflict reminds me of things that happened in my family of origin, I need to deal with that deeper unresolved pain so that it doesn’t keep leeching into my present experiences.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean what happened doesn’t matter. Forgiveness means that it does, but we are looking to God as the healer of our hearts and trusting him to bring justice where it is needed. We begin by acknowledging the pain. We move on by inviting Jesus in to heal.

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How to Pray for Persecutors

photo-1429371527702-1bfdc0eeea7d (1)

I’ve known Paul’s story all my life. Murderer turned missionary. Destroyer of the church who became one of it’s greatest architects and builders. A persecutor of the church transformed into a fearless proclaimer of the gospel by that earth-shattering encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

I know Paul’s story. But these last few weeks I’ve had pictures in my mind to go along with the story.

We’ve seen again on the news those images of hooded men dressed in black, looming over their line of captives clad in prison orange.

We’ve heard the tragic story of Christians fleeing persecution only to be tossed into the sea and left to drown.

We’ve heard. We’ve seen. And we’ve wept with our brothers and sisters.

Jesus said we’re to pray for those who persecute us. When I see this, when I hear the arrogance, when I see the destruction waged by those who see rape as a weapon of war and the sword as an instrument of justice, what I want most to pray is probably not what Jesus had in mind. James and John once wanted to call down fire from heaven on a village that refused to welcome Jesus. I know the feeling.

But this week, God has shown me something different to pray for persecutors.

He’s reminded me that Paul was one of them.

Before Jesus brought Paul to his knees that day on the Damascus road, Paul’s goal was to destroy the church (Galatians 1:13). He ravaged the church, dragging off both men and women to prison. Like a dragon, he breathed out threats and murder against the church. Paul held the coats for the mob who stoned Stephen to death, and he “heartily approved” of what they did (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1). Paul had blood on his hands, and in his zeal he believed he was serving God by killing the church.

Paul would have worn a black robe.

Paul would have stood on that boat in the middle of the Mediterranean and held coats for the men who threw Christians into the sea.

Until he met Jesus, anyway. Jesus knocked Paul to his knees in the middle of that dusty road, striking him blind so God could open Paul’s eyes in spiritual sight. And he who had tried to extinguish the church started lighting gospel fires.

I’m praying for a new generation of Pauls among the persecutors.

I’m praying that those men holding swords and guns and cameras will be blinded by the light of God’s glory. I’m praying Jesus shows up in their dreams, asking questions, calling names, and showing them the wounds in his hands and feet. I’m praying that on beaches and boats and desolate roads they’ll find themselves driven to their knees before the Savior, weeping because the one whom they have persecuted is waiting to welcome them home.

I haven’t forgotten the victims. I pray for their safety and protection. I pray that God blinds the eyes of their enemies. May God shut the mouths of lions and be with his people in the midst of the furnace. Our God of justice will avenge his people. But I also remember God’s ultimate answer to evil was the cross. The road to victory always leads through Calvary.

“They kept hearing, ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they were glorifying God because of me” (Galatians 1:23-24).

May it be so, Lord Jesus–always and forever for your glory.


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Things I’m Loving: April Edition

Here’s what I’m loving this month.

What I’m Reading

I’ve  been on a bit of a Laura Ingalls Wilder kick lately. Our oldest read through the series on her own this winter, which prompted my own re-read. Revisiting the Little House series made me want to do some more reading into the history behind the story.

Before Little House, there was Pioneer Girl. Wilder wrote Pioneer Girl as an autobiography before she ever dreamed of writing for children, but the manuscript never found a publisher. Wilder later drew on the material in Pioneer Girl to write what became the Little House series. Pioneer Girl has now been published in a gorgeous annotated edition–tons of maps, footnotes, pictures, and notes on how the original manuscript was shaped into the stories we’ve come to know and love. I’ve had this on wait order for several months, but it finally landed in my hands a couple weeks ago. If you want to explore the history behind the series, this book is well worth the investment.

The second book I’ve enjoyed in my Laura Ingalls Wilder binge was Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life . A Writer’s Life is a biography of Wilder that focuses on her as an author and how she developed the Little House series. The book also explores the complex relationship between Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter and editor. A Writer’s Life also argues strongly that Wilder, not Lane, deserves the credit for authoring the Little House books. Lane served as editor, but she was not the ghostwriter some have claimed her to be.

I’ve never read much about Rose before, but I enjoyed reading more about Laura’s daughter in the novel A Wilder RoseA Wilder Rose is written from Rose’s point of view and deals deeply with the complex relationship between Rose and her mother. A Wilder Rose also portrays Rose as having more of a ghostwriting role in the series. That doesn’t seem substantiated by the other reading I’ve done, but I’m not an expert or a historian. If you read A Wilder Rose,  you might also want to check out the author’s Pinterest board. Susan Wittig Albert has put together a great collection of documents and pictures relating to the book. She also has a free readers’ guide and bibliography available on her website.

What I’m Knitting

I’m nearing completion on a lap blanket I’ve been working on for the last several months. Here’s the pattern: Banyan Love Super Sampler (Ravelry Link). It’s turned out beautifully, but I have discovered a new aversion to knitting cables.

How I’m Sweating

One of my goals this year is to do a better job of self-care through simple things like eating better, exercising, and getting enough rest. (Novel concepts, I know). Refit has really helped me out in. I discovered their YouTube channel last fall, but this January I treated myself to a streaming subscription. I love it. The routines are fun and the songs are clean. No provocative moves, everyone actually has clothes on, and it’s nothing I worry about showing my kids. I love that they end every class with prayer and incorporate some Christian songs into their playlist. I’ve kicked around the idea of signing up for an instructor training so I could teach a local class but haven’t because a) it’s not like I need anything else to do and b), while I like to feel that my dancing looks like this:

I suspect it’s actually something more like this:

Other miscellaneous stuff:

There is a deep and mysterious connection between a pastor’s theology and his jeans.

One of my friends shared this picture. I don’t know the original source, but wanted to share it with you. (And if anyone knows where this came from, let me know so I can credit appropriately).

super pastor's spouse

My top posts this month:

Making Space for Lament

Hard Words of Love

Thanks so much for reading along with me–and let us know in the comments what you’re loving this month!

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Making Space for Lament

songs of lament

My heart is heavy tonight.

Tonight, friends are grieving. Some are asking questions. Some are suffering silently. But tonight I’m praying for those who mourn, and my list is long.

Too long.

Today I’m reminded of the importance of making space for lament. Lament is the cry of the brokenhearted. We lament when we grieve that the world we know it is not the world as it should be. Lament is the voice of those who suffer, who live with unanswered questions, who feel rejected and embattled on all sides.

We lament when the sky is like brass and God seems like just another name on the list of those who have abandoned us.

Lament is the overflow of a desolate heart.

Scripture is filled with lament.

How long O Lord? Will you reject me forever? (Psalm 13:1)

My  God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)

I live in disgrace all day long and my face is covered with shame  at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge (Psalm 44:15-16)

All my enemies whisper together against me;    they imagine the worst for me (Psalm 41:7)

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief (Psalm 31:9).

Though lament is one of the most common forms of the psalms, it’s not something we often embrace as part of our worship. I’m not sure why. Part of it may be our discomfort with messy emotions. Part of it may be that the praise and worship movement’s emphasis on singing songs to God doesn’t always leave space for songs of encouragement we sing to one another. And I think some of it is that we “should” ourselves out of emotions–trying to talk ourselves out of the disconnect between what we feel and what we believe is true.

But sometimes we just need to weep.

Lament is our response to spiritual disorientation. We know–we know– God is faithful. And yet we still hurt. What do we do with that pain?

We lament.

We lament by being honest about our emotions. There is no “should” to emotions. Anger, loss, betrayal, loneliness, rejection, sorrow, fear–these are parts of life. We can’t talk ourselves out of deep emotions. These deep-seated echoes of the heart have to be experienced to be resolved. To lament, we must let ourselves feel.

We lament by sharing our sorrow with the community of faith. My introverted self prefers to keep deep emotions hidden. But I am challenged by the reminder that the psalms–even the psalms of lament–were used and sung in corporate worship. There are times for us to weep in private, but we should not always keep our lament hidden. Jesus was open and honest about his grief. He wept over Lazarus, mourned for Jerusalem, and agonized over the cross. We need safe spaces where we can be honest about our pain so that our faith families can help us bear it.

We lament by crying out to God. This can be hard. It feels disrespectful to tell God that you’re mad at him and don’t really want to talk to him right now. We may struggle with telling God we feel abandoned when we can cite verse after verse that says he never leaves us alone. But God knows the secrets of our hearts. What we see modeled for us in the Psalms is that when we take our complaints to God our circumstances may not change but our experience of them does. Sometimes God rescues us–and when he does, we rejoice. But sometimes God doesn’t take us out of our pain. He gives us the strength to keep on walking, one slow step after another. He doesn’t carry us out; he carries us through. And in those places of silent sustaining, we find we aren’t so alone after all.

Sweet sister, let yourself feel. Mourn. Grieve. Rage. Weep. Lament. Songs of lament are as valid expressions of faith as songs of joy.

And we need them both.

How do you make space for lament?

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Hard Words of Love (Mark 10:17-29)


The Gospel of Mark only specifically records one person Jesus loved.

It wasn’t one of the disciples. It wasn’t his mother. It wasn’t any of the familiar cast of characters like Mary and Martha or Mary Magdalene. It wasn’t even a person he healed, like the paralyzed man with his four friends or the little girl Jesus raised from the dead.

No, the only person Mark says Jesus loved is a young man who came to him one day with a question.

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

He was sincere, but the man’s question revealed a fundamental flaw in his thinking. We don’t inherit eternal life because of what we do but through what Jesus has done for us.

But the man doesn’t understand this. Jesus’ response that none of us are good but God alone only confuses him. Of course he’s good, the man thinks-hasn’t he kept all the commandments since his youth? But there’s one thing he lacks–one command he can’t fulfill.

And Jesus loved him too much not to call him to more.

Jesus looked at him and loved him.“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Mark 10:21).

Jesus loved him. What Jesus had to say to him wasn’t meant as rebuke, but loving correction. Hard? Yes. Isn’t it always hard when God throws open the windows and shines light on the secret places of our soul? Like Eustace shedding the dragon skin, we need Jesus to strip us clean so he can wash us new.

Jesus’ words stripped the man right down to his soul. The man treasured his wealth more than eternal life. He may have been concerned about his inheritance in the age to come, but not at the cost of jeopardizing his inheritance in this world. Hadn’t he obeyed the commandments? Wasn’t his wealth a sign of God’s pleasure? And so the one thing Jesus asked was the one thing he would not do. He went away sadly, missing the treasure of an invitation few ever heard: come, follow me.

What must I do to inherit eternal life? Come, follow me. Jesus answered the man’s question as he answers ours. What must I do to be saved? Come, follow me.

What keeps you from following? Riches, like the man? Or is it respectability and reputation? Fear of looking foolish? Or just your inability to believe it really all comes down to grace in the end.

It hurts to peel the dragon skin away, to let go of the things we’ve clung to for so long. It’s hard. But when Jesus tells us to let go, it’s not because he’s angry or scolding. Jesus’ hard words always flow from love, and he loves us too much to settle for less than our everything.

Jesus looks at us and loves us. And he says, “Come, follow me.”

Are you willing to follow?

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My Failure and God’s Faithfulness

Posting today at 5 Minutes for Faith:


I’ve been spending time in the Gospel of Mark lately, keeping pace with Jesus’ march to the cross as our days press on toward Easter. One of the things that has stood out to me on this reading is the disciples’ failure. We see it throughout the gospels, but Mark accentuates the disciples’ shortcomings.

In Mark, the disciples consistently fail to grasp Jesus’ mission as the one who will suffer for our sins. They have moments of insight, but the recurrent theme is of their failure.

The disciples failed. But God remained faithful.

The good news is that my failure does not annul God’s faithfulness.

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