I received a distress call right through my computer, just as I sat down tonight to write a brilliant post.

A sobbing friend didn’t feel safe in her home and her husband took away her car keys. So I drove over and loaded her, her dog and a few quickly packed items into my car.

She has just gone to bed – traumatized and exhausted.

I’m in bed now, too.

Would love it if you would say a prayer for her.

Hope all is well with you.


church nonsense, Light

Hated, Hounded & Human

“The Jewish leaders hated Paul.  They followed him from town to town and made trouble for him wherever he went.  He would spend weeks, months, or even years in a place teaching about Jesus and then his enemies would show up, get him run out of town, and then stay and attempt to undo what he had taught.

The Christians in the “circumcision group” continued to actively oppose him, too, insisting on adherence to their traditions.  Paul warned Titus about them when he wrote, “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain… Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.”  (Titus 1:10-11, 13-14)  I like the way the KJV words verse 14: “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”

Paul would go into a city and teach, the unbelieving Jewish leaders would soon follow to discredit him and the believing “circumcision group” would further confuse things by insisting on putting new wine into old wineskins.  (Matthew 9:17)

He was opposed from within and without.

Have you ever been opposed from within and without?

When I first started speaking about abstinence I expected to face some opposition from without, but I wasn’t prepared for the vicious opposition I would soon face from within.  I was asked to speak to a certain youth group one evening.  God had given me a message for them that was different from any I had given before or since.  As I was taking it down I asked, “Are you sure, Lord?”  Even though the message was intense, I had never had such a clear sense that I was taking His dictation.  As I gave the message one of the youth leaders (an adult male) began raising objections.  It would have been appropriate for him to pull me aside afterward to share his views but instead he repeatedly interrupted the presentation.  In spite of the interruptions a few of the students seemed to be taking the message to heart.  A few quickly aligned themselves with their leader.    The rest just looked confused.  I handled the objections cordially and then stayed for punch and cookies before hauling my equipment from the basement of the church.

As I wrestled to get my load through the heavy outer doors, none of the youth standing nearby offered to help.  They just stood in a huddle glaring at me.  I drove home grieved that those youth would exude such hate toward a guest in their church – a guest who had come to minister to them.  What grieved me the most was the realization that their attitudes reflected their leadership.  It had been a long day of presentations and I was exhausted when I arrived home but, since I had been away from my computer all day, I decided to quickly check my e-mail before going to bed.  Waiting in my inbox, just itching to pounce, was the worst vitriol – actually the only vitriol – that had ever been leveled against me.  In the time it had taken me to drive home that youth leader’s objections turned from rude to punch-me-in-the-gut ugly.  It sent me reeling for days.  A Christian is capable of writing that?  Or was he one of those guys about whom Jude warned?

For the first and only time I was tempted to quit.  I wondered whether I had been mistaken about my calling.  A few days later I received a beautiful note in the mail.  It was from a seasoned saint who encouraged me with Jesus’ words:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”  (Matthew 10:14-15 )

Her timely note reminded me what God had told me the moment of my call to this ministry, “It is not going to be easy.”  Instead of quitting, I resolved to speak all the more.  Shamefully, the man launched a whisper campaign against me, the ripples of which I still occasionally feel today.  The campaign against Paul was on a much larger scale.   The aversion some women have toward him even today are ages old ripples.  You’ll see what I mean.  For now, just keep in mind that those who hated and hounded him were not going to let his words go untwisted.

We’ll start some untwisting tomorrow.”

The above is an excerpt from a Bible study I wrote five years ago.  I am currently converting it to a book for publication.  Thought I’d share a bit of it with you, see if you have anything to say…

Update:  Years later I heard disturbing news about that youth leader, and about the pastor who backed his ugly words.  No wonder the hounds of hell were barking and snarling so viciously.  No wonder God gave me that particular message.

© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist

faith, restoration, Stories from the Island

Misguided Commitments

city rail

Creative Commons: Stefano Campolo

The small woman
Builds cages for everyone
She knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck her head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the beautiful, rowdy prisoners.

I stood behind Betty in the bustling lunch line.   It was our first opportunity to become acquainted.  She told me that she is retired from social work, spent most of her career in protective services.  “That’s a really tough job,” I acknowledged.  “It’s not the job I wanted,” she confessed, “but it is where God wanted me.  He held me there.”  Had the setting been less chaotic, had her turn to order not been quickly approaching, had I understood that she was trying to tell me something, I would have asked her to explain.  Instead I switched the conversation onto a shallow track and merely shared that I had been a social worker in an adjacent county.

Betty is a key dropper, one of the volunteers who drives into the city to reach out to prostitutes.  I thought that, plus the fact that she is a retired social worker, was the whole story.  But then she took her turn in the share chair Sunday evening:

I grew up a child of the sixties – very shy, lonely, naive, never dated anyone in high school, never went to the prom or any dance like that.  One night, between my junior and senior year, a friend of a friend came over and crashed our girls get together.  He was the first guy to think I was worth attention.  And so we went out.   He wasn’t like anyone I had ever known before.  He was a bad boy.  I looked up to some of the things he did that I didn’t have the nerve to do – to get angry, to show emotions of any kind.  So in a strange way I kind of respected him, but not in a good way.

We went out for awhile and then I went off to school and he went off to Vietnam.  I had made a commitment to him.  I was going to wait for him and I sincerely meant that, because I was grateful for his attention to me.

I got done with school and he got done with the army about the same time.  But along the way, the few times I had seen him I realized that we were going in different directions.  But I made that commitment and to me that was big.  Misguided but big.  So he asked me to marry him after he got home and I said yes.  I knew there were red flags, I wasn’t totally sure this was a good decision, in fact a lot of me said it’s not a good decision.  But I went ahead and married him, then realized how much Vietnam had changed him.  He came back angry with God, addicted, a womanizer.   All Bad traits.  So our marriage went from bad to worse.

Then our daughter was born.  He was not a good father, he was emotionally abusive to her, to me, it just kept getting progressively worse.

Finally I realized I had to get away from him.  I knew… I didn’t want to get a divorce… I was committed to “’til death do us part”, but I didn’t think God would want me to stay in an abusive relationship.  So I finally got up the nerve to say I wanted a divorce.  Then the threats started getting very desperate.  He threatened to kill me.  He said, “I’ve killed people before, they’ll never find your body.”  We had a submachine gun under the bed.  I lived like a prisoner in the house for several years.

Finally I contemplated suicide, but then that would leave my daughter with him so I ruled that out.  I thought I would end up in a mental institution, it was getting so bad, he was so controlling.  He put tape recorders in the house and he would stalk me when I went off to work.  It was unreal, but it still looked good on the surface.  He had a position of authority and he had to make it look good.

So finally, you know, when God is all you have left, then He is all you need.  So I started praying, “Lord, please create a distraction where I can get away from him.  Please create a distraction.  He won’t let me go voluntarily.  Please.”  Five nights in a row I prayed.  On the sixth day we were out of town and he said, “You know, there are people jealous of me.  You’re going to hear some things and it’s all lies.  They’re just jealous of me.”  I said, “What are you talking about?”  He wouldn’t explain.

We got back home and in the newspaper there was a story about people in his office who had been involved in a gang rape.  He was one of them.  This was why he was becoming so much more desperate in his behavior, so much more abusive.  He was looking to stay out of prison, looking to control me, looking to not lose what he had, not lose his image.

That was all I needed.  I said, “Thank you, Lord.”  It took two years, but I got away from him with my daughter.  I swore to God that I wouldn’t forget it and that I would help other people get away from situations like that.  My career was social work and I was involved with women in the same situation.  They would say to me, “You just don’t understand,”  and I would whisper, “Oh yes, I do.”  I worked for the state so I couldn’t talk about God but I would wear a cross and let them bring Him up to me.  Then I could tell them, “A commitment to no man comes near to your commitment to God.  He will see you through.”

Life is too short for misguided commitments.
Life is too short to take the shallow track.