Wednesday, January 28, 2015

From Dr. Mark and Beth Harris, Sanctity of Human Life

Dear Friends,

Conservatives across North Carolina worked seemingly nonstop in 2014 to stop, or at least slow down, the destructive direction that this President and liberals such as Sen. Harry Reid had taken us. I remember personally standing outside Kay Hagan's office along with a strong group here in Charlotte, urging her to support the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act legislation that would end abortions past twenty weeks. Then, after prayers, sacrifice of time, energy, and resources, we celebrated that finally this critical legislation for the life of an unborn child would have its day in Congress. Please take the time to read this piece my wife, Beth, has written in response to the disappointment many of us have felt...

Representative Renee Elmers’ success in killing the Pain-Capable Abortion Child Protection Act intersected with my chance to see American Sniper late last week. These disparate events left me sickened at how the cart of money and political expediency starts pulling the horse in Washington, leaving real people to suffer. Contrast candidate Elmers’ 2010 statement on the unborn from Congresswoman Elmers’ remarks last week:

From Elmers’ 2010 campaign website: “I have gained the wisdom of knowing that every life is a precious gift from God and it is not for us to judge its worth, deny its beginning or determine its end.”

From Elmers’ remarks to the press on the collapse of the Pain-Capable Abortion Child Protection Act: “It’s unfortunate the way it played out…I think we’re all just going through some growing pains.”

Why the change from words like “wisdom” “precious gift” and “not for us to judge” to “unfortunate growing pains?” Because those who don’t understand the grace of God or the strength of women falsely assume that women would not rise to the challenge of Motherhood even under the most difficult circumstances. Furthermore, they don’t understand that most women I know would be thrilled to depart from the ranks of China and North Korea, two of the handful of nations that still allow abortions after twenty weeks.

As events in Washington unfolded, I thought of a family who happen to live in Elmers’ district. I vividly remember meeting Darrin, Tracy, and their two sons because the oldest, a special needs teenager named Cory, touched me so. In Darrin’s office, Cory kept pointing to the Bible on Darrin’s desk and emphatically repeating “Daddy’s Bible…” Simply, profoundly, Cory indicated that Daddy and his Bible anchored that room and also their lives. Tracy told me that Cory loves to sing, attends school, and has an uncanny knack for identifying people who needed a hug at church. Only later did I learn the rest of Cory’s story, which with Tracy’s permission I’m sharing with you today.

In high school Tracy entered a relationship that over time became abusive and included both consensual and non-consensual sex. She recalled that the first time her boyfriend forced himself on her she screamed, but either was not heard or ignored by the parent who was in his home that day.  Like many women, she soon accepted this “new normal” and could not break away from the relationship.

When she was 19, Tracy became pregnant after a non-consensual encounter with her boyfriend at the state university they attended. She confirmed the pregnancy at a local Crisis Pregnancy Center, and as she met with her counselor that day Tracy at last confided in someone about the abuse. Her counselor gave Tracy her home phone number and kept in touch as the situation played out.

Like many young men in the same circumstance, Tracy’s boyfriend urged her to get an abortion.  She just couldn’t do it. When she finally summoned the courage to go home for the weekend and tell her parents she was pregnant, they began planning a quick wedding. Upon learning what she had done, her boyfriend sent word that he would “deal” with her.
At last she revealed the abuse to her parents. Tracy’s relationship ended amid denials of paternity and her mother’s guilt over not recognizing signs that Tracy had been physically abused.

Tracy withdrew from school as she began to develop high blood pressure. She was put on bed rest due to preeclampsia and toxemia. As her health worsened, Tracy was hospitalized and given steroid injections to boost the baby’s lung development. Finally, with failing kidneys and fluid filling her lungs, Tracy was put into a medically induced coma in the hopes of buying time for the baby.  Ultimately her baby boy was taken via C-Section at 26 weeks.

Despite the fact that Cory could only come out of his special incubator and into her arms for fifteen minutes per week, Tracy planted herself in the NIC-U. She wanted to feed and change Cory, reaching into the isolette to touch him often.  As Tracy puts it, “I became a mom, and nothing else mattered.” His premature birth left Cory with a host of health issues including seizures, asthma, scarring of his lungs and the need for a feeding tube.

But with God’s grace, there’s more to the story. When Cory was 15 months old, Tracy’s mother encouraged her to teach Vacation Bible School at church as a first step to reengaging her gifts and abilities. In a divine appointment, only Tracy showed up for an organizational meeting. Darrin, the church’s new youth minister and host of the meeting, had a chance to talk with Tracy and found that they connected. 28 years old, Darrin had surrendered his desire for a mate to the Lord in prayer just one night earlier. Tracy and Darrin married that fall with Tracy’s counselor from the Crisis Pregnancy Center in attendance.

On March 8, Cory will turn 19. Asked about regrets, Tracy hesitated.  Asking any mother to imagine a scenario in which one of her children does not exist is unthinkable. At last she said that if she had a wish, it would be for Cory not to suffer with so many health problems. She added “But he’s happy. Cory doesn’t see that he’s different. He has been a blessing to so many people. “

Tracy represents the kind of gray-area nightmare scenario politicians fear. She claimed the sexual encounter resulting in pregnancy was rape, although it was not reported as such and occurred in the context of a relationship. She was unwed, still in school and ultimately her health was jeopardized by her pregnancy.  Yet, like so many women, Tracy found that the circumstances of her child’s conception did not in the least affect her ability to love her child or recognize the blessing her child can bring the world.

Elmers remarked last week that she had concerns about “ending the conversation” if the GOP was perceived as “harsh” or “judgmental.” But the crux of the matter is that the abortion question requires a judgment. That judgment is this: Can one living being determine the fate of another innocent being? In one worldview, the answer is yes. In another, the answer is no.  But how can any thinking person object to joining the majority of the civilized world in banning the killing of well-developed infants who feel the pain of their deaths? Darrin tried to get a straight answer to that question from Elmers’ office last week, only to get what he described as “a staffer obviously reading from a screen.”  There is no answer; only the hopes that pro-life voters will forget by 2016 that within the first month of the new session of a Republican-dominated Congress our own elected Republicans derailed a bill they voted for in 2013. As for me, I plan to redouble my GOP involvement and help promote genuine conservative candidates rather than give in to disillusionment. Why?  Because I understand that every policy decision affects real people…people who are better and stronger than politically driven people like Elmers can ever imagine. 

- Beth Harris

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Friend Pastor Greg Kell wrote this and I wanted to share.

5 Things Your Pastor Wishes He Could Tell You
I don’t know why I wanted to write this today. But I did. I spent almost 7 years of my early adult life working for an oil company, first offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and then at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in the early years of the oil boom there. But for the past 27 years, pastoring a church is what I have committed my life to. 
I have probably had thousands of conversations with people (and so have you), but if you’re like me, there are some things you just never get around to saying out loud. It’s not that you don’t want to . . . it’s just that you don’t.
Yet saying them could help you and maybe even help scores of great people who are working so hard at your church. They might even make things . . . better.
Here are 5 things I think most pastors wish they could tell their congregations:
1. I’m trying to step off the pedestal people keep putting me on.
I’m not better than anyone else. Really,. I have never believed I’m better than anyone else. And I promise you if we got to hang out more, it wouldn't take long for you to see I don’t belong on a pedestal either.
I’m not in ministry because I've got this all figured out, or because it was an ambition of mine. honestly feel I was called into it. Believe it or not, I tried to resist the call. But people kept affirming what I couldn't stop sensing - that God was calling me to serve in the local church. So I obeyed.
It gives me a lot of comfort that the heroes in the scripture were flawed people. Peter barely got it right. Paul had his critics. Noah was a flawed leader. So was Moses. But reading their stories gives me hope for my story. And - you know what - it gives me hope for your story and for the church.
God doesn't use perfect people. His grace flows best through broken people. God belongs on the pedestal. So why don’t we keep him there and keep ourselves below it?
2. I also have doubts
I realize you might think my faith is rock solid. And in the end it actually is quite strong. But I have days when I’m not sure my prayers make it past the ceiling. I have days when I read the scriptures and it seems like just another book. And I have days where I wonder where God is in the middle of this. Just like you.
But I’ll tell you why I can’t let my faith go or shake it - because God’s faithfulness keeps overshadowing my doubts. God has been consistently patient, kind, gracious and giving toward me. And he has been toward you too. And the days where the prayers seem empty and the scriptures seem cold are inevitably followed by the days in which God’s presence is almost palpable and the scriptures read me.
So don’t let your doubts do you in. Persist through them. I have and I do, and all I keep finding is the faithfulness of Christ. You will too.
3. I don’t always know what to do
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t always know what to do. I know you know that. But there’s something in all of us that wants our leaders to know what’s next.
I've become committed to telling you when I don’t know, and I hope you can accept that. You also need to know I’m doing my best to surround myself with incredibly wise people. Together, we are far smarter and wiser than any of us is alone.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for a generation. No one understood why Jesus was so determined to go to the cross. And the birth of the early church in the first century probably made many peoples’ heads spin. But God was in all of it.
I’m sure as we pursue Christ the best we can, we’ll figure out where he is in the middle of all this.
4. I so appreciate it when you cut my family some slack.
It’s fine for you to put me under a microscope. I get that. I got called into this and I’m accountable. But this church is a place where my family is living and doing real life. It’s a place where my 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren are asking their own questions, and where my wife comes to worship and to serve on her good days and bad days.
When you treat them as people who are on their own faith journey and hold them up to no greater standards than you do any other family, you give my family an incredible gift.
We are pursuing Christ together, and when you give us grace, you actually make that journey richer. (Thank you Cornerstone for doing this so, so well.)
5. I’m more grateful for you than you realize.
I realize how demanding life is and how busy you are. I know you worked late on that project this past week . . . and still came to the event at the church. I realize you haven’t had 8 hours sleep in about three years and your kids are driving you crazy . . . and you took time to seek God today.
I realize your family argued on the car ride to church and still walked through the door anyway (Sunday mornings aren't always angels singing and church bells ringing at our home either). I realize the school trip cost more than you thought, and you’d really like to get to Disney this year, but you’re giving anyway. I know that you serve in a number of organizations in the community, but you still throw your weight behind this mission at the church we’re in together.
Thank you. Really. The church is the most blessed organization in the world. We have an eternal mission that will make far more sense when we stand before Christ than it does most days now. I think only then will we see how important what we’re doing now really is.
We rely on the good will and the hard work of dozens, even hundreds of people to be the church. And I want you to know how incredible grateful I am for you. I am.
Pastor Greg

Greg, thank you for sharing your heart, and the heart of most other guys I know who serve the Lord as shepherds of the sheep.