Is It Calloused to be Pro-Life?

I was out of town when I read a post that suggested that those of us who are pro-life may be calloused toward women and have lived comfortable lives distant from the pain of women in crisis.  Given the gravity of the statement and the depth of my heart felt reaction, I opted to hold off on replying until I was home and had access to my files.

First, I sadly acknowledge that many in the pro-choice camp are most familiar with the legalistic and hard-nosed portion of the “Christian” world that condemn without insight. The same is true of the pro-choice camp that is only known by the rabid feminists who were the most sensational and offensive members of the women’s march in Washington.  They are extreme and demand abortion at ANY point and for ANY reason during a pregnancy. Both camps are repugnant.

It is a mistake to assume everyone resides at either extreme. I concede many pro-choice advocates believe in limits and abortion out of compassion for the women involved. Though somewhat reluctant to resurrect the discussion, I have decided to make the case for those of us who are pro-life and not hate filled. Much of what is included here is about being a voice for others.  We walk our talk in ways that are as diverse as the people and personalities involved. 

Like my friend Doug , my husband and I have donated tens of thousands of dollars to the crisis pregnancy and single mom’s ministry in our region in the last 4 decades. Surprising how something done consistently adds up.

Mom’s House of Johnson City: For over 31 years, Mom’s House has been providing free childcare and other support services to low-income, single parents enrolled in an accredited educational program or trade school.  Our goal is to enable these families to become financially independent and thus realize a brighter future.  Education is the means to that end, and Mom’s House is there to give opportunity and ensure success.

Life Choices Center: offers pre and post abortion counseling, supplies, and mentoring: Risk Avoidance, Goal Setting, Sexual Health, Decision Making, Disease Prevention.

You can find both organizations online to evaluate their tone and scope. They are not merely there to guilt women into living on the terms of the organization but combined are there to go the distance.

I know the next charge that may rise. Yeah, it’s easy to throw money at a problem when you have more than you need to survive, but what do you know of the realities of living or being in crisis? Few have any knowledge of the life I have lived so I will offer a bit of insight to dispel assumptions.  While completing my applications for law school, I visited my doctor because I had been feeling so ill. Imagine my surprise when she informed me that birth control had failed, and I was pregnant. Yeah, my first born should be exhibit “A” in a sex ed class. He beat all kinds of odds and is proof –life and birth control do not come with guarantees.

Yes, I was married, but a lifelong dream was on the line. I was angry; I was scared. Suddenly, my life was not my own and I was not in control. I had played by the rules, been responsible, worked hard at college, and this was not supposed to happen. I had plans; this was unfair! Then someone suggested I consider abortion. 

Abortion was never a consideration. Fortunately for me, I had been well grounded in my faith. It kept me from making my situation worse by compounding a temporary emotional state with the aftershock of abortion remorse that can last a lifetime. I know this because of all the close friends who have not been so lucky.

I define love as acting in another’s best interest.  Some sincerely believe abortion is an unfortunate but loving and compassionate answer for women in crisis. This, however, is a lie.  Abortion does not serve the best interest of the child, the father, our society, or the mom.

The Christian world is filled with men and women who bought the lie that abortion was a quick and easy answer.  Many sincerely believed that abortion would provide relief for themselves and women in crisis only to be devastated by the aftershocks. I have had some cry in my kitchen telling of the anniversaries they experience each year: the date the baby would have been due and the date they had the abortion. Others have gone for counseling and told me of the painful recovery they have endured and the funeral services they have held to come to terms with their loss and grief. One has even had the courage to tell her children what she did and written a book about her journey.

The Truth About Abortion No One Tells You (It’s NOT over when it’s over…) by Tina Chambers Smith available at Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Abortion-truth-testimony-resources-available/dp/1546920951

Some live in fear that their children will find out what they chose to do in a moment of weakness and desperation. They had an abortion BEFORE science revealed when the baby’s heart began to beat or when they could feel pain. Other’s little knew the horror of partial birth abortion procedures. Fewer still knew a baby could survive saline procedures and be born alive. These are harsh realities brought to light in the decades since Roe v. Wade.

Two of the most life changing encounters I have experienced were with a young woman from a horrific home life and another of a man from an indulgent background. I have heard many heartrending stories in my lifetime. Rose’s was the most daunting.

Rose was sexually abused from an early age by both her father and her brothers. At the age of 14, she found herself pregnant and with no idea who was the father. She did not have an abortion but opted to place the child up for adoption—not easy by any means. Her only regret some 15 years later was that the file was not open so that her child could contact her if she felt a need. Rose needed help with coming to terms with her anger at her predators. She needed to learn about setting boundaries which was a skill she had never acquired while growing up. She was not, however, filled with self-hatred and remorse. Rose was, instead, one of the kindest individuals I ever met.

Rob, however, was an entirely different story. He became sexually active at an early age and was in a long-term relationship through high school. When his girlfriend announced she was pregnant, he was ready to commit. She, however, was not going to have her plans for college interrupted and opted to have an abortion against his wishes. Her body; her life. To hell with what he wanted and had invested in the relationship or the baby.

The betrayal left Rob cynical and mistrustful of women and commitments. He became a serial hit and run artist. With an abundance of money and good looks, life became a marathon of sexual addiction, workaholism, and alcoholism. Eventually it resulted in an emotional collapse.  When Rob sought me out, he was committed to rebuilding his life and did find the courage to face his past and break free. It had been a dark 20-year cycle though and had come at an exceedingly high price to himself and all whose life he touched. I could go on and on about others, but you get the point.

As for society’s stake in the game I will share these links that I have shared on other posts. I have stated that if a candidate has a shallow understanding of abortion, chances are they are wrong on the method and means to prevent them as well. To give help and hope to those at risk, some new messages need to be articulated to a culture saturated in “instant gratification.”

Sex education and contraception are not the answers. Look beyond the surface. Families are falling apart. Children of divorce have given rise to commitment phobias, declining marriage and fertility rates. It took 20 years of abortion on demand, for the harsh reality of life after abortion to hit the social psyche. The false belief that sex exists without consequences is exacting its toll.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/how-leaping-bed-harms-relationships-8100740.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-and-sex-in-the-digital-age/201506/what-are-the-psychological-effects-casual-sex

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201303/how-casual-sex-can-affect-our-mental-health

Life takes who we are and refines it with the people and experiences we encounter. I became actively involved with teaching and lay pastoral counseling in my church. It was a growing congregation and reached about 1500 in members.  I have taught the Boundaries in Dating course from Cloud and Townsend to teenagers and been the target of their outrage when I had the nerve to expect them to read the book and master the material. We ran small discussion groups with extra support teachers in addition to lecture sessions and even quizzes. If even one kid’s life was impacted for the better the effort was worth it.

I have taught adults the Boundaries and Safe People curriculums. If I have learned nothing else in working with people in crisis, it is that boundaries are alien concepts in our culture and that the ability to identify safe, non-toxic people is often rare!  Victims of domestic violence are frequently caught in cycles of re-victimization because they are so unaware of these root issues and never acquire these skills.

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I never did make it to law school. Other unexpected challenges and opportunities cropped up along the way.  I made different choices. After being very active in our local public school for 6 years, I withdrew my kids and home schooled for 11 years.  Certainly, this was not anything I anticipated while in high school or college. 

The church I was involved with for so many years went through a “split” just as my last child headed off the college. The counseling  ministry that I believed would be a full time effort was abolished—the equivalent of a local corporation being shutdown and the workers being displaced. Perhaps this is worse because it is like having and huge extended family decimated by divorce.

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I launched a coffee shop/ outreach shortly after I recovered from surgery for a brain tumor. We gave it a valiant effort despite the severe economic downturn and accomplished good for a season. Unfortunately, it became unsustainable several years in.

I transitioned then into building a business in Florida with a friend named Ken. That was great fun and lots of work for several years until he was diagnosed with cancer. My job then was not only to keep the crews running and hire more office staff, but to help Ken endure treatment, handle doctors, cope with  insurance challenges as Obamacare disrupted the medical world, and come to terms with death.  He died in less than 7 months, at 45 years of age. The company became the target of an ugly takeover.  Another one of those times when I sincerely wished I had made a way to fit law school into my life.

These are just highlights from a complicated life that has been blessed but far from charmed.  It has had its share of failures, disappointments, setbacks, and losses.  From the backside of reaping the benefits of growing up in a home with a full-time mom, my sons used to regularly claim I lived a misspent life. I had not acquire the trappings of “success”:   no high profile, no titles, no massive bank account. To be honest, part of me agrees with them.

I know I have fewer regrets because I did not get completely lost in a career while the kids were at home—which would have been extremely easy for me to do. I also know I have tried to be there for others. Still, I have to admit I could have made choices that would have better leveraged my skills into helping more people once the counseling ministry was dismantled. Our choices do matter and I did not get it completely right. I have more to say about that at the following link.
(https://gatheringinsight.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/our-choices-will-determine-who-we-become-2/)

This long reply is my attempt to challenge the false notion that pro-life advocates are necessarily calloused and judgmental. Many are like me. They have had firsthand knowledge of what a traumatic impact an unplanned pregnancy can have on life. Like me, their lives have not been charmed. They are my friends; they are empathetic; they are sometimes involved behind the scenes working and helping in meaningful ways. We recognize that well-meaning people support abortion, but we  do not consider that a loving or a best answer for the woman, the child, the father, or society. What comes after abortion is often downplayed and devastating. We also see that the message of sex without consequences is fraudulent. It is tearing  lives, families, and our nation apart.

RELICS OF A LOST CULTURE.

 I find it fascinating that people are discovering  during this pandemic what stay at home mom’s, home business owners, and homeschooling parents experienced, but so few understood. I have done all three at the same time, so I  know of what I write.

Living in your work environment could make it a 24/7, unrelenting existence. There was always something or someone screaming for attention. Nonetheless, there were always folks who thought I had it easy and had time on my hands.  To this day, I still burn with anger at the off hand comment from one of my husband’s co-workers about me “spending all my husband’s money” !

Folks have often been shocked to hear how video game developers literally ate and slept at their offices, but never recognized homemakers, homeschooling moms, and home business operators have been doing the same for forever. This pandemic may have an unexpected benefit —cultural empathy for stay at home moms, relics of a lost culture often due to lack of support and appreciation.

Every Loss is a Wake-up Call

Every loss is a wake up call to the potential we possess to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

For those of you, who like me, lost precious friends this year, here is something to ponder. It was sobering for me to admit that even if I had the power to bring them back, I would not because of the joy and wonder of heaven they would be denied due to such selfishness.

Having admitted this, my focus shifted to speculations regarding the interaction between all those I love and value that have gone before me. It made me smile to think of them meeting and swapping notes and sharing stories in heaven much as those of us left behind do. A major difference, however, being their story is written and they have set a bar for us. We have a race to run ever mindful of their example.

I thought about the nature of their legacies. Some have left me cautionary tales, others models of inspiration, recollections of warmth, images of loving expressions, words of encouragement and insight, and an abiding sense that we brought something meaningful and worthwhile into each others life.

Yes, every loss is a wake up call to the potential we all possess to make a difference in the lives of those around us. We cannot impact those who have gone before us as in the past, but we can take what we learned in our times together
and use that wisdom to produce high yield investments with eternal value.

https://getstarted.wordpress.com/…/what-is-the-great-cloud…/

The great cloud of witnesses are all those people who have lived before us — whether famous or not — who have lived lives of faith, following God, worshipping Jesus, leaving for us a rich spiritual legacy.

Thinking about their lives, how they lived, what they lived for, and how they died, is an inspiration. Their example shows us how to have that kind of faith and how to live it.

What He Found When He Looked Up

Glimpse Look UpThe refining fires of life have the potential and power to transform us and with it the lives we touch. They rudely shove us from our comfort zones and worlds Glimpse  with Treeof self sufficiency and self satisfaction. We are no longer permitted to live life on our terms, but are compelled to dig deeper, learn more, and change how we approach and handle challenges in life.This has never been more true than in the life of my friend, Ken Hughes.

Ken began to re-dedicate his life to Christ in recent years.  The seeds of childhood faith ceased to remain dormant as he began to seek greater understanding of beliefs imparted by his mother. Something  prompted Ken to call me shortly after  surgery to remove a large brain tumor. He was stunned to learn that I –an intense type A personality–had had  no fear of death and experienced  only a peace that only God could give and my self will could not manufacture. Long conversations began and so it was that our friendship was established 5 years ago.

Since our paths have crossed, there has been an unrelenting series of refining fires. I watched the Lord allow hardship to wake Ken, His truth to transform him, and His compassion to protect him. When Ken relocated to Florida in 2012, he began to attend the Church By the Glades in Coral Springs, launched a new business, and  generally started over. He chose to be baptized, characteristically taking a stand and making an outer profession of that inner faith. No, Ken did not become perfect, but he did change greatly as he embraced the compass and goals of his renewed faith.

In spring of 2014, Ken was diagnosed with lung cancer and life changed for all of us close to him. When life deals you the hand it dealt Ken, the world gets pared down to the essentials. On one hand there is no time or energy for the extraneous; on the other hand top priorities come sharply into focus. Loss, release, and good-byes are unrelenting and hurtful. Belongings, activities, and simple pleasures are in good measure usurped by protocols, pain, and uncertainty. It is a refining fire that reveals the heart.

Most noticeably after his diagnosis, Ken began to have a heightened sense of what mattered. He looked up. The photos so many have viewed and enjoyed this year were the result of a new appreciation of God’s presence in the world around us.PS 23

The Lord blessed that seeking after Him in a series of remarkable sightings– sightings that are missed by those too busy or too preoccupied to be still and know He is God, sightings not allowed everyone.  Ken’s  photos revealed a glimpse of heaven.

Ipad 2-27-13 Looking Up

 

I firmly believe Ken’s  experiences and evolving relationship with the Lord became a road map for others around him.

What Love Is and Is Not

People often confuse love with no limits,
so let me clarify.

Being patient does not mean I am inviting continued attack.
It means I am creating opportunity for improvement.

Being kind does not mean I am a fool.
It means I am trying to motivate someone to do a little better.

Going the second mile does not mean I have nothing else to do.
It means I care enough to come alongside
a bit longer to create time for healing.

Biting my tongue does not mean I have no cause to speak.
It means I am waiting for someone to be able to hear.

Putting someone else’s interests before my own
does not mean I believe I don’t matter.
It means I have chosen to invest the margin in my life
with someone with little or none.

Any behavior, however, ceases to be loving,
when it ceases to move us toward being more like Christ.

When mercy feeds the monster in another’s soul,
justice must be allowed to do its work.004

Joe Axtell, an Example of a Life Well Spent With Ongoing Returns

A very good and decent man died recently. Just one look at the response to his unexpected death was a sermon in itself. A good friend had hit the floor running in the middle of the night to be at his side. The home was immediately overflowing with people who wanted to be there for the inconsolable wife and heartbroken sons and daughters. Calling hours saw long lines and broken schedules. There was no facility in the community large enough to hold all who wished to attend the funeral. Overflow rooms at the church had to be created because that was the best they could do. It was something to behold.

Even more interesting is that the man at the center of all this was not some powerful dignitary, influential business man, or famous entertainer as one might assume. The man at the center of all this was a small town pastor named Joe Axtell. Joe had been a farm boy who came to the Lord at 15, went to a Christian college, married, and supported his family as a stone cutter. Nothing terribly remarkable in all that. What was amazing was the consistency with which Joe invested his life and how God blessed it.

Joe was passionate about bringing his life changing faith in Jesus Christ together with the people in his world. It was obvious in how he chose to invest his life and the kind of return he pursued. Joe invested with his smile, his laughter, his work, his hunting and fishing, his preaching and teaching, his counseling, his sense of humor, and his friendship. Joe was not a perfect man, but one who estab11021412_10152329962322325_3930044982391770320_olished an enormous warehouse of good will with people. So much good will existed, in fact, that forgiveness was not so difficult when he did stumble.

Joe made a difference with the decisions he made and the way he chose to relate to people. There is now a congregation of men and women equipped to do God’s work where there had once been none. There is an intact family where each member knows what it is to be loved and valued. There is a wife who knows she is loved more now after 33 years than the day they met. These are precious and increasingly rare lifetime achievements. None of this happens by accident.

The kind of life Joe led was intentional, the result of choosing to put God and others first. In doing so, he cultivated a life time filled with a positive outlook and memorable encounters with others that reflected what truly mattered to him, being used by God to change lives and bring joy to others.

Joe’s example of a well spent life has stuck with me more than any sermon I heard from him. It has made me think long and hard about the return I may or may not be getting on how I am investing my life. Have I been a good steward of the opportunities God has put before me? Am I faithful, available, and teachable? What kind of choices am I making? These are sobering questions. A well spent life is no accident and Joe’s passing was no doubt part of a much bigger plan.

God is an agent of change. It is something Joe firmly believed. Furthermore, he sensed change was coming and regardless of what it was, he preached that he trusted the Lord was doing it for good.

God’s choice to take Joe home was a game changer. It will no doubt trigger a series of choices amidst everyone impacted by his death. Some will be called to step up to things they had hoped to avoid or never dreamed of doing. Others will have to do what they have long been called to do, but do it that much more diligently. For a few it will be about stepping aside to make room for other, possibly painful, changes God has in store. Pruning and refining is unavoidable. None of this is easy. None of it will go ignored by the enemy. All of this will be about more change and more choices as God finishes what he has started for the sake of accomplishing some well hidden good.

I have no doubt that recalling the image of Joe’s big smile and good natured ways will keep many motivated and encouraged during the hardest times. It is one way we know that God isn’t done using Joe even yet. Some might say Joe has residual returns coming on his life well spent.

Our Choices Will Determine Who We Become

I have listened to graduation speeches and wondered, “What would I say if I had the opportunity and responsibility to speak?” In all seriousness, this is what came to mind.

I am neither Fork in the roada genetic nor an environmental determinist.  In plain terms, though I recognize that the way we are “wired” and what we have “experienced” impact us tremendously,  I ardently believe our choices determine who we are and who we will become during our lifetime.

It saddens me when I watch people run from the opportunity to take responsibility for their lives. Too often they seem to possess faulty perceptions, wallow in woundedness that circumstances and people have inflicted on them, or passively rely upon the well intended though misguided over-involvement and support of others. In essence, some surrender their lives to self hatred, pain, or dependency. Life for them becomes a crippling captivity rather than the adventurous journey it is meant to be.

Viktor Frankl decisively contends that the surrender to a living death is indexa matter of personal choice. As a holocaust survivor, he saw and learned much from personal experience about the nature of humanity.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl states:

We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of Viktor-Frankl-quote-2circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

…in the final analysis it (became) clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Pg 75

Most people have heard of Stephen Covey’s life changing book,  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Few, I think, are aware of its subtitle: Restoring the Character Ethic. In this work, Covey builds upon Frankl’s compelling argument for personal responsibility as an advocate of proactivity.

Just as the great philosopher Plato stated that “an unexamined life is not worth living,” Covey challenges each of us to scrutinize our lives, our motives, our principles, and our paradigms—all as a part of embracing responsibility, truth, choice, and character. In doing so, we intentionally make them a part of who we are.I want to challenge you to do the same.

Covey states: The more we are aware of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view. Pg 29

This is not a call to turn your back upon all that you have lived and believed to this point in your life. To the contrary, it is about seeking truth that liberates and eradicates the lies that enslave us. We must be vigilant in determining what principles we will live by and die for. Principles inform and guide our decisions; they impact our choices, and consequently determine Good enemy of bestwho and what we will become in this life.

As the famous author, Emerson, declared, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you say.

None can pretend forever. What we truly choose to become will not be hidden forever. We can be sure the truth will find us out.

So my charges to you, the reader,  are these: Become a person of strong character. Live proactively, take responsibility for your life, your choices, and who you will become. Resist the temptation to live a mean, self centered life and passive existence. Pursue truth, truth that establishes the maps through life and teaches you how to live it effectively. Find the answers to the big questions about life’s meaning and why God has put you here.

I sincerely wish you the very best of God’s blessings.

We humans have an aversion to reading books others have decided are “good” for us. (Bet it goes back to an innate desire to make our own decisions—wiring (free will and fallen nature) — and post educational trauma =) Therefore, I will indulge myself only to inflict a suggested reading/viewing list. I could go on for pages, but will stop at these. I can only hope you will experience the life changing “lift” offered by the truths within these works if you choose to consider them and break free from the “drag” of experience and genetics.

Isaiah 40:28-31
Books:Atlas Shrugged                                                                                                                                                Boundaries by Cloud &Townsend                                                                                                                        Safe People by Cloud and Townsend
Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
Covey’s 7 Habits of highly Effective People
C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity
McGee’s Search for Significance
Peacemaker, by Sande
Works by Os Guinness and David Noble

Rummaging Through the Trash—Finding One’s True Motives

Some of the best work in television is done during commercials. The extraneous is cut away and the essence remains as the sponsor strives to get the message across in a minute or less. Recently, just such an ad caught my attention. The  leader of an investigative team was surrounded by walls filled with evidence.  She spoke of  identifying patterns in order to get at the truth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdtH0E3mOCs&sns=fb

Not everyone appreciates the genius of this advice. Trash Can What we throw away or ignore can be very telling when it forces us to reconcile the patterns of our behavior with the principles we claim to embrace.

 

Decades ago, I learned that self-awareness comes from stepping outside the moment and looking for the “Ground Hog’s Day” experiences in life. Humans seem wired with repetition compulsions. What we find ourselves doing over and over again can be traced back to a belief that is at the root of a thought and the source of an action. There is truth in the saying:

Sow Treasurea thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap your character; sow your  character, reap your destiny.

Stephen Covey has stated:  We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives as we quit hacking at the leaves of attitude & behavior and get to work on the root, the paradigms (beliefs,worldviews) from which our attitude and behaviors flow.

If we want to change the way we behave, it follows that we must take time to correct the way we think. More surprising, however, is the possibility that what we may really think may be hidden amidst the ideas and actions we cast off without a moment’s consideration.

There are powerful forces that oppose self awareness. Cultivating the habit of identifying patterns in one’s life is a tricky business given the human penchant for self deception. Truth can hurt. As with trash, we sometimes tell ourselves we simply want to put nasty stuff far away from us rather than admit we don’t want to deal with it.  We can be careless. It is precisely because we believe trash is worthless that we may get cavalier about where it goes or what it says. So too, we can be just as offhand in how we assess a situation and choose to respond to someone or a situation. We can believe lies–lies WE sometimes tell ourselves.

Faulty principles can foster hypocrisy as it discourages us from seeking and seeing uncomfortable truths. We can be lazy. The reality is that rummaging through our beliefs and behavior is hard work. It requires that we take time and step away from our endeavors and involvements with a measure of objectivity that either routine or relentless activity does not permit. (Workaholism serves a  dark purpose folks.) Considering all this, is it really any wonder people walk through life unaware of how their walk and talk do not line up?