Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

I Wish I Could Make Her a Sister

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This is going to be one of THOSE blogs. One of those really hard to write ones. One that really exposes the heart of an issue. Being real isn’t always easy, but in doing so we are often able to minister to and relate with others. It brings a sense of community and a feeling of understanding. It promotes compassion and gives others some insight into the trials of others which helps us to love them, support them and pray for them. So this is a REAL blog about REAL issues of life and the heart.

Tonight’s topic is especially hard though. You see, if you’ve never suffered through the pain and frustrations of infertility, you probably haven’t considered the many ways in which it affects a woman, a marriage or a family. There are so many emotions, trials and challenges. I have been experiencing one lately, as I deal with secondary infertility. (For those who don’t know, secondary infertility describes a woman who has been able to have a child but hasn’t been able to conceive or bring to term and deliver more children.)

My daughter is such a beautiful gift from God. She is five years old now and I can barely stand to see her grow up so quickly. I try to cherish every moment and every experience with her. She makes my life so special. The Lord was good to us in giving us this precious little girl, and I thank Him for her daily. I accept that she may be the only child He will give us, and that His plan is perfect, though we certainly have prayed for another miracle baby over the past five years.

While I am able to accept His will, it’s not to say it is without the occasional tear or heartbreak. A few nights ago I experienced a new kind of pain and it was for my daughter. She was playing with her little cousin and his big sister at Grammy’s house. At some point my daughter heard her big cousin referring to herself as the little one’s sister, so my daughter started to profess that she too was his sister. She was gently reminded that she isn’t the sister but rather the cousin and my brother (her uncle) went on to explain to her how special a cousin is. Still, despite their efforts to encourage her, she was heartbroken. She wasn’t a sister.

When they told me about this happening (I was at a wedding at the time), I was so sad for her. You see, we are part of a family and church family that places great importance on family and most of the families have been blessed with multiple children. In fact, many of our friends have very large families. We watch as sisters and brothers share sweet moments, hold brand new siblings, teach each other and love on one another. It’s precious and I’m so happy for those families. At the same time, I can’t help but ache for my daughter, who wants so badly to experience those moments, but can’t.

Sadness isn’t the only emotion for me. Whether or not it’s how I should feel, I’m often filled with guilt. I sometimes blame myself for not being able to make my daughter a sister. I would so love to give her that experience someday, and it’s my prayer that this will happen, but for now I’m left feeling inadequate and like a failure for not being able to make my little girl someone’s big sister. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but I’m sure other’s who have experienced similar circumstances will understand all too well.

I know that, just as I have to accept that I may never be able to mother another child, my daughter will have to accept that being someone’s sister in the traditional sense may not be God’s plan. What I will strive to remind her and assure her is that in the family of Jesus, she is a sister to many of God’s children. She will have friends who are like sisters. She will have big and little sisters in the Lord. While it may not be exactly the same, with Christ’s help it’ll be enough.

Perhaps our dreams of adopting will someday come to fruition and we’ll be able to give her siblings, but for now we will teach our daughter that God is the opener and closer of wombs. He is the one who knits families together, whether naturally or by adoption. He will give her plenty of opportunity to love others and to be loved. I pray now for my little girl’s heart, that she will have understanding in this and, even at this young age, trust the Lord. I pray also for this mommy’s heart, that I would feel the hurt when it’s needed but then move on to joy and contentment. I pray that my heart would see the opportunities all around me to use my mother’s heart to minister to others. I continue to thank God that I got the tremendous privilege of experiencing life forming and growing within me, and that I get to gaze upon my daughter’s beautiful face every day. Thank You Jesus!

Thank you readers for being willing to go deep and real with me here in this blog. If what I share touches your heart, I pray you will share the blog with your friends and stick with me here. If you have never suffered from infertility, I pray you will be able to give understanding and compassion to friends and loved ones who have or do now. I pray that, as you look upon the faces of your children, you will remember to pray for those women who are aching for children they cannot have even now. Pray for them and thank the Lord again for His blessings.

“And He (God) will make the barren woman to keep house and to be the joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

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CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! Where’s the Love Brethren?

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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned but have not love, it profits me nothing.”1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I’m not going to lie. I’ve found myself as of late being disappointed in the state of the “church” in general here in America. While I see God working in some wonderful ways, and while I love my brothers and sisters in the Lord earnestly, I find that as a body we are losing one of the key ingredients in the building of the church and God’s Kingdom….LOVE.

The church was built on Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone. The foundation that He laid for His people was and is love. He is the author and perfecter of love. He is the beginning and total fulfillment of love. He demonstrated the greatest love of all as Jesus spread wide his arms and bore the agony of our sin and our death upon Himself. He loved us first. He loved us while we were yet sinners. His love sustains us and His love endures forever. God is love. God and love cannot be separated…as His followers we are called to a higher, deeper and unconditional agape love. That love is what astounds the world, draws in the lost and softens the hardest of hearts.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4:16-17

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

Here they come! The pharisees. The sadducees. The scribes. The religiously pious, They come with their knowledge and understanding, ready to enlighten us all. They come with their rules and legalism, ready to bind us with rusty chains of the law. They come to debate, to argue and to spiritually dominate. I know them all too well because, sadly, I’ve been one from time to time in my life. Yes, it’s true. I’ve been the person who is so into head knowledge and yet so lacking in love and grace. I’ve gone through times of such loveless, merciless intellectual assassination that I have probably done more harm than good, even as I wielded the Bible. I confess. I repent.

You see, I love to study the Word of God, which is good. There’s nothing wrong with knowing and understanding the Bible. That’s something we should all want and work towards. There’s nothing wrong with sharing the Word, teaching, encouraging and even correcting. These are all practices of the New Testament church. Yet there is often a problem, and it’s a problem of the heart.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

There it is. There’s the problem. It’s a heart disease. It’s heart failure. It’s a lack of love. Where’s the love? Where’s the love in your words? Where’s the love in your good works? If love isn’t the motive, the means and the result, than your many words are nothing but wasted breath. Your intellect might as well be a garbled mess. Your eloquent and rehearsed speech might as well be the stuttering of a fool. Even your God-given gifts are wasted without love.

Your knowledge… FAIL

Your spiritual gifts….FAIL

Your faith….FAIL

Your generosity….FAIL

Every good work…FAIL

Without love, you’re nothing but a clanging cymbal. I’m so tired of clanging cymbals!!! Maybe it’s because I’m a music teacher? When I see believers bickering with meanness, rudeness and complete indifference to their brothers and sisters in the Lord, I feel like covering my ears with my hands and running for cover. Oh dear ones…don’t you see it? Don’t you get it? Don’t you realize that God gave you your gifts, your intelligence, your understanding and the Holy Spirit so that you could walk in love? He is calling you to love. He says in His Word, clear as day, that love is more important than winning a debate or getting the last word in. It’s about love.

I’ve been there, my friends. I’m not saying you can’t discuss theological differences, share words of correction (when you have an appropriate relationship to do that) and speak the truth with boldness. There just needs to be love. Each motive and word should be marinated and dripping with love and grace. That usually means letting go of pride. It means not needing the last word. It means that you are more interested in the well-being of the other person than proving you are right.

Not sure if you’re speaking in love? Read on in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

So here’s your test. Ask yourself this…

Is what I’m saying patient and kind?

Am I motivated by envy or boasting in pridefulness?

Are my words flavored by arrogance and rude tones?

Do I have to have it my way?

Am I irritated at this person or resentful?

Am I happy if I see him/her fail?

Am I truly happy for him/her in success?

Am I willing to bear ALL things this person does and says? 

Do I believe this person in faith?

Do I hope nothing but the best for this person and our relationship?

Am I willing to put up with anything to show love and grace and friendship?

Does my love have limits? 

DO I LOVE THIS PERSON?

I pray that we can answer these honestly and be willing to confront ourselves. No doubt we have all failed in some way. I know that I have. I’ve utterly failed. Let us return to love. Let us inspire love and rebuild this church on Christ’s love. That’s what He wants. He makes it abundantly clear. It’s time to let go of our need to be right, our selfish motives, our pride and self-righteousness and let us LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

In Christ’s abundant, unmatchable, radical, deep, unconditional and everlasting love I leave you to it.

 

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Church Partiality: When You Don’t Even Know You’re Doing It

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Remember Rachel and Leah? No, not the sisters from the Old Testament account, although with an extremely similar background. Our Rachel and Leah are two Christian women who both start attending a new church around the same time. They are both eager to get involved and make meaningful relationships within the church body. They are both friendly and outgoing. I’d like to say that they both found what they were looking for in terms of relationship opportunities within the church, but that’s not the way it plays out for many Rachels and Leahs.

What we actually see with Rachel and Leah is quite a different experience altogether. You see Rachel is flocked and flooded with attention, offers of fellowship and the admiration of even the leadership of the church. She and her family are talked about favorably and asked to be part of ministries not long after arriving. Rachel is a lovely person, inside and out. She is admired for her healthy lifestyle, her family’s financial situation, her many beautiful children and her sense of wholesomeness. She has a sweet countenance as well, and there’s no doubt she is a beautiful woman of God.

Leah, on the other hand, despite her efforts, has a much more difficult time making friends in the church. Sure, she is welcomed and treated kindly. She receives hugs after service and casual chit chat, but that’s where it ends. While she has tried to make deep and meaningful relationships with other women in the church, they always seem to be engaged elsewhere. They seem to have no time to fellowship with her. Just when she thinks she and another are growing close, she finds out this sister has had a birthday party and not invited her. Yet, Rachel was invited. Leah loves the Lord too. She s married but has struggled with infertility so she has no children. Her family struggles financially. They are not very health focused and Leah is overweight. She is a very sweet woman who offers kindness and grace to all. She knows the Word well and walks with the Lord steadfastly. She too is a beautiful woman of God.

Now that we’re familiarized with Rachel and Leah, let’s talk about the other people in this story. Let’s talk about the church body who welcome Rachel and Leah in with open arms, but then proceed with what can only be described as partiality. I put forth that most of these brothers and sisters in the Lord are good-hearted, honest and loving people. I assert that most of them have dedicated their lives to loving people the way Jesus did and does. You may be surprised to read this, but I honestly feel that most of the people in the church who show partiality are sincerely unaware of what they are doing. They are blind to it. They may not even recognize it when someone reveals it to them. They just don’t see what they are doing.

Even though we know we are new creatures in Christ, we also must realize and come to terms with the fact that we are still sinful human beings who are forced to struggle with the flesh until we are with Jesus and made like Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can have victory over the flesh, but there is always some of that “Adam & Eve*, fallen human flesh left in us, and there are times when we are in error, and even in sin, without being aware of it. That’s why God tells us to examine our hearts.

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:28-32

Partiality can be a hidden trap; a disguised snare. Why do so many fall into this trap? The reasons vary, but the most common would be that it is perfectly natural for us to be drawn to a person who shares our interests and passions, has a similar lifestyle, or has the kind of life we wish that we too possessed. It is natural for us to want to befriend someone who does well in life, who is beautiful and lovely to be around and who we admire. Isn’t that the truth? It’s natural. It’s just the way we are, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with drawing near to someone whose presence and company we enjoy so much. She needs friends too.

The problem is that sometimes we are leaving the Leahs out. We are so drawn to Rachel, that Leah is left isolated and alone, without anyone pursuing a friendship with her. We need to open our eyes and our hearts to this tragedy that is occurring so frequently within the body of Christ. It ought not to be this way. Listen, there may be many reasons you feel drawn to Rachel, and perhaps there are several reasons you find it more difficult to be close to Leah. Maybe Leah’s lifestyle isn’t as attractive. Maybe she hasn’t come from the perfect background. Maybe she doesn’t work out ten times a week. Maybe Leah is poor and will always be poor. Maybe she isn’t a fertile Myrtle like Rachel. Maybe Leah just isn’t as funny, as pretty or as cool by the world’s standards as Rachel. In the Lord’s eyes, is she any less worthy of love? Is she any less needful of true friendship, discipleship and fellowship? What do you think?

The truth is partiality in the church is something that often times goes unnoticed and usually goes unaddressed. I think more often than not we just accept it as the way it is, or we don’t see it at all. Men do it too, in different ways. Men admire other men who are successful, good-looking, athletic, popular, etc. Meanwhile, there are other brothers being left out without real relationships. It’s so sad and yet so common.

I also want to be clear that the Rachels out there are not bad women. They are usually very sweet, kind and sincere sisters in the Lord. They are not usually seeking this attention, nor are they trying to take attention away from others. They are simply attractive people for a variety of reasons and therefore draw in the admiration of others. The Rachels out there can actually be quite helpful in ministering to the Leahs. If you think you might be a Rachel, pray about using your “popularity” within the church to include anyone who may be more of a Leah. Reach out to her. Don’t just sit back and receive from others. You be the one to seek out that lonely lady who, for whatever reason, has not been blessed with your ability to make friends easily. You can do this Rachels, but first you too need to recognize and acknowledge that this is really happening.

So what do we do to make people see? How do we make them understand? Here are some questions for all of us to ask ourselves. Be honest with yourself and examine your heart, as the Lord commands in scripture.

1. Who are your closest friends in the church? Take a few of your best friends and describe them. What do they look like? What are their talents and hobbies? What is their lifestyle like? etc.

2. Are there any ladies in your church who seem to not have any close friendships? This may be tricky to answer. Sometimes a person may appear to have friends, but they only have casual friendships and no close relationships. Choose one or two of these ladies and now describe them the same way you did with your friends.

3. Take those descriptions of your friends and the potential Leahs you thought of and now put them side by side. While we don’t normally want to compare people, in this case it is revealing to compare these ladies (for your own eyes only). How are they similar or different? Meditate on this for a bit.

4. Do you have close friendships within the church? Do you find it easy to make friends? Do people seem to pay you a lot of attention? Perhaps you are a Rachel. Pray about how you can use this to minister to women who are struggling in the body. Pray about how you can leave your comfort zone and reach out to someone who may desperately need a friend like you.

5. Are you lonely, even surrounded by a hundred women at a women’s retreat? Do you feel that you have been passed over for deep, meaningful relationships in the church? Do you feel like Leah? Sister, ask the Lord to fill you with hope and joy. He has not overlooked you, nor will He abandon you. Be honest with the women around you about how you feel, and perhaps you will be the brave one to break some of the chains of partiality that go on in the church. You can be the one to open their eyes. Just remember that most are good-hearted, sincere people who have no idea that you have been left out. With humility and love, share from your heart. If you still are unable to find a good friend, perhaps it’s time to pray about finding a new fellowship? Regardless, you also have a calling. You know what it feels like to be a Leah. Seek out other Leahs and minister to them. I guarantee you that you are not alone. Other sisters are suffering in silence too. Keep a watchful eye out and make an effort to reach out in friendship to others who may need a friend too.

Many people will read this and dismiss it. They will see it as irrelevant or just unfounded. They will deny that this is an area of trouble in the church and that the Leahs are just being too sensitive. They will accuse the Leahs of just not trying hard enough to make friends. Is that sometimes the case? Sure. Sometimes people have tried to reach out, but for whatever reason a sister is closed off. This happens as well. We are called to reach out in love to every sister. We do our best and leave the rest to the Lord.

However, we are also called to examine ourselves. Pray about whether or not you may be showing partiality to a brother or sister because of the way they look, the money that they have or their lifestyle that you admire. Remember that it’s natural to feel this way, but God is calling us to a higher love. He is calling us to a deeper fellowship, and He doesn’t want any of his daughters left out.

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You Should Care – You Really Should

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But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

That’s the problem with so many Christians today. We love in word and talk, but we don’t love in deed and in truth. We speak great works of affection, but we close our eyes to real opportunities to put that love into action. We say that we care, but our caring falls short of being willing to self-sacrifice in any way to meet a need. We consider ourselves to be loving, but we pass right by one who feels like she is drowning with troubles and heartbreak, and we don’t even stop to find out if there’s something we can do to minister to that hurting heart. That’s the problem. It’s a big one.

As I write this, I know there are many who do love in deed and truth. There are many who do sacrifice of themselves to serve others. There are many who do care when they see a brother or sister hurting and do strive to minister to the brokenhearted. There are some who do seek to understand the pain of others. Still, there are so many in church today that are completely oblivious to their hardened, self-focused hearts. I have been there myself at times. I too have neglected a friend in need of comfort because of time or inconvenience or whatever the reason. Even filled with conviction and shame, I pressed on about my business telling myself that someone else would have to be the one to help. How sad.

You should care – you really should.

If you’re a Christian, you should care about people. You should have a pulling in your heart to minister to those who are hurting. You should care about your family, friends, church body and the lost. You should care about the one that everyone else ignores. You should care about the one that may smile on the outside, but you know is suffering on the inside. You should care about their hardships, burdens, struggles and heartbreaks. Do you try to understand their pain? Do you ever just feel it with them? Ever sit with them and weep? Ever put yourself in their shoes?

You should care – you really should.

Why don’t you? You may not even be aware of your lack of love. There is ample opportunity in this world to get lost in distraction. You are busy. You have your own problems to deal with. You don’t really have time to give. You don’t really think it’s that important what that person is going through. There are so many excuses. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are making them. Sometimes we are just so blindingly self-focused and self-centered that we cannot manage to see beyond our own interests to settle our sights on that hurting person right in front of us. We are so focused on ourselves, we can’t possible see their pain. We should see it. We should care.

You should care – you really should.

Perhaps you don’t care because you don’t think their pain is valid enough for your standards. You don’t see it. You don’t get it. You don’t try to see beyond your own understanding and to really be able to relate to what another person is going through. So you don’t weep with those who weep. You don’t shed their tears with them.

“What’s the big deal? So she wants a baby but can’t have one? So what? She just needs to get on with it and get over it.” Stop. Try to understand the deep pain, longing and heartbreak that a woman feels when she struggles with infertility. In your mind, picture her crying herself to sleep. See the look of disappointment and heartache that crosses her face when she sees a newborn baby. You’ll never know what it feels like if you haven’t been through it yourself, but you can imagine the pain and suffering. You should care.

“What’s the big deal about her being alone for so long after her divorce? She should just learn to be content in her singleness.” Stop. Try to understand that this woman who has been divorced or widowed is lonely. Do you understand that kind of loneliness? Imagine the heartache that she feels being the only single person at the event or family party. Imagine how she yearns for the protection of a husband, or just the comfort of having someone hold her. Remember her pain and stop minimizing what she goes through. You should care.

“It’s their own fault that they’re going through money problems again. If they just tithed they would be better off. They made their bed; now they’ll have to sleep in it.” Stop. Your judgement and your condescension is not welcome, and it certainly is not loving. You’ve never made a bad choice in your life? Get off your high horse and start loving people. Try to imagine what it’s like to go through one financial struggle after another. Imagine years of unpaid bills, fear, worry and anxiety over every rent payment and car repair. See the tears that flow as they try to figure out how they will provide for their children. Feel their embarrassment as they wear shoes that are falling apart and as they collect food donations. Try to understand how hard it is. Try to feel their pain. You should care. You really should!

We love in word and talk. We say “I love you” to our family members and friends. We may offer up a prayer for the person who is struggling, or maybe not. The problem is, so often we are not loving in deed and truth. We are not putting love into action. When we don’t put love into action, it calls to question whether we really love or not. That’s where truth comes in. Do I love you? Do I care enough about you to take my eyes off myself for a minute and be there for you? Do I care enough to experience your burden and your pain with you? Do I care enough to sacrifice my own time, comfort and pleasure to help you? Do I? Do you?

It doesn’t take much to show a person in deed and truth that you really do love. A word of encouragement. An hour of your time. Meeting a need. Weeping with them. Acknowledging their pain. Understanding. It doesn’t take much, but it does take loving yourself less and loving others more.

We should care. Do you know why? Jesus cares!

When Jesus took those lashes, those beatings, that crown of thorns, He cared. When He stretched out His arms and took those nails, He cared. When He gave up His Spirit and died for our sins, He cared. When He rose from the dead into glory beyond comprehension, He cared. When He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, convict and help us, He cared deeply. Jesus LOVES in DEEd and TRUTH. He didn’t just say, “I love you.” He proved it in His death. That’s why you should care.

I’m tired of love talk. I’m tired of loving in word. It feels empty now. I’m tired of receiving love and giving love that way. Let us love in deed and in truth. I want to be the kind of person that makes this real in my life. Someday when I go to be with Jesus, I want people at my life celebration to remember me as a woman who loved in deed and truth. I ask the Lord to crucify my self-love and self-focus, and to help me to really love. Join me.

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