How Did We Get Here? Zero Tolerance and 12 Steps to Creating The Other

The stories and pictures are heart-wrenching. Children and teenagers separated from their parents and warehoused in gated pens, internment camps and “tender age shelters”. Surely this is a scene from some faraway country, some distant time. This can’t possibly be the reality in 2018 in the United States of America.

And yet, it is.

Make no mistake, this is NOT a partisan issue, it is a humanitarian crisis. Compassionate voices from both sides of the aisle, including every living First Lady, have denounced this practice as cruel and inhumane.

We shouldn’t wonder how this happened. The purposeful and systematic Otherizing of immigrants is complete. If you’re still confused about how “good people” can accept this kind of atrocity, let me take you through the steps. If you follow these 12 steps completely, you too will see the logic in separating families and your conscience will be clear.

  1. Always, always, always refer to The Other with broad, demeaning generalizations. Do not make the mistake of humanizing those who oppose you. Instead, lump them in groups and refer to them in the broadest terms possible – criminals, pigs, rapists, socialists, liars, cheats. Avoid calling them by their given name or humanizing them in any way.
  2. Remember, The Other is anyone who looks, believes or votes differently than you do. All who oppose you are The Other and they should be discredited loudly, emphatically and often. When a member of your party breaks ranks, Otherize them immediately and discredit them in any way possible.
  3. Never take the side of the vulnerable, the weak or the disenfranchised. Instead, always refer to them as losers, thugs and criminals. Repeat these words loudly and often.
  4. Court news sources that will disseminate your propaganda and repeat your lies. Give them exclusive interviews and quote them whenever possible to ensure they return the favor. Always blame The Other. Take all the credit and accept none of the blame.
  5. Even when you have all the power and control, portray yourself as a victim. Convince your followers that they too are victims, regardless of their privilege, power or status. Remind them of The Good Old Days, before the arrival of The Other.
  6. Surround yourself with religious leaders who will proclaim a blessing on everything you do and who will encourage their followers to do the same. Praise them, promise them power, learn their language and look sober and serious in their presence.
  7. Continually stir the pot. Say and do things that are outrageous and offensive. Do this often enough until it becomes the norm. A constant state of crisis creates a diversion. People will become bored of the crises and binge-watch Netflix instead.
  8. Promote fear – this is essential if you want to truly demonize The Other. Facts are good but not necessary. Instead, present ideas, possibilities, nightmare scenarios and convince your followers they are in danger from The Other. Remember if you repeat a lie loudly enough and often enough, it becomes an Alternate Truth.
  9. Do not, I repeat do NOT waste your time in thoughtful conversation or face-to-face dialogue with those who do not believe the way you do.  Instead, communicate only through memes, tweets, reposts of your favorite news anchors and angry social media rants. Remember, when all else fails, scream the words “Fake News!” This is an all-purpose phrase and can apply to virtually any conversation.
  10. As it relates to immigrants, the Ultimate Other, be sure to muddy the waters as much as possible. Don’t confuse the issue by making distinctions between immigrants and asylum seekers or refugees and Dreamers. Instead, always refer to them as Illegals or Criminals. If necessary, refer to their presence as an “infestation”.
  11. When opposed, double down. Remember YOU have all the power, but you are also a victim. This is not an easy tightrope to walk, but with time and experience, you can do it.
  12. When the opposition heats up, get your religious friends to quote Scriptures that support your cause. Pick and choose at your discretion. Avoid the words of Jesus.

Once you have convinced your followers that The Other is evil, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to taking away their children with impunity. When The Snowflakes start to scream about it, blame The Other.

Three Wrong Ways To Respond To Suffering

Job’s comforters are busy these days. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Somewhere in your Facebook feed, on the “interwebs” or on TV, they are working overtime, delivering, with a smile, their consolation laced with condemnation to those in the midst of tragedy.

The story of Job tells us of a man who suffered unimaginable pain and loss. He went from great wealth to the depths of sickness, poverty and despair. Through all this, his three ‘friends’ insisted that his misfortunes were God’s punishment for his sins, something he had done wrong. But Job persisted in his belief that misfortune comes to both the godly and the wicked. He was convinced of the goodness, mystery and wonder of God, even in the midst of his pain.

The dictionary describes a Job’s comforter as someone whounwittingly or maliciously depresses or discourages someone while attempting to be consoling.”

You know, that person who seems to be saying the right thing, the spiritual thing, even the true thing, all while making you, or those they’re meant to comfort, feel worse.

Job Rebuked by His Friends – William Blake (1757–1827)


Instead of mending wounds, Job’s comforters poke their fingers deep into those wounds, inflicting pain instead of bringing healing.

We must NOT use times of tragedy to make a theological point.

We should never use someone else’s pain as a battering ram for our beliefs.

  • While it is certainly a fact that a house can be rebuilt, it is too soon to utter those words to someone standing in the rubble.
  • It is true that the sun will rise tomorrow, but for the one caught in a desperate midnight of the soul, that fact brings little comfort.
  • Perhaps time does heal all wounds, but spouting slogans to someone in pain, only serves to delay the healing.
  • Maybe those parents, grieving the loss of a child do have other children remaining but offering such trite comfort only reinforces the fact that we have grossly miscalculated the depth of their loss.
  • God can and does heal, but for the person trapped in a broken body or consumed with chronic pain, these words may sound more cruel than hopeful.

So how should we respond?

Number 1 – don’t ignore the suffering of others. When we are suffering and the world spins around us with no acknowledgment of our pain, the loneliness is soul-crushing. Let the suffering know they are seen.

Number 2 – don’t glorify pain. Yes, God can use our pain for a greater purpose – in our lives and the lives of others. But remember how Jesus responded when he heard his friend Lazarus had died? He simply wept. We should do the same when faced with pain, grief and loss.

Number 3 – don’t weaponize someone’s grief against them. For the love of God, don’t imagine you know whether or not they should be grieving, whether or not their level of grief is appropriate, whether or not they have unconfessed sin in their life. Unless you’re God, or their therapist, it’s not your place to figure that out.

Let’s save our theological debates for the classroom, the discussion group, the one-on-one conversations. They are not welcome, helpful or kind during a time of tragedy.

So, what can we do in response to suffering? It’s so simple, it’s almost ridiculous.


Weep with those who weep.

Lament with those who lament.

Scream with those who must scream.

Walk with those who are restless.

Eat with those who need food.

Pray with those who desire comfort.

Touch those who need to connect.


Be still with those who are silent.

Offer the simple, powerful gift of your presence and God’s presence in you, to bring healing and hope to a broken and wounded world.



Hey, I would love to have you join my private Facebook group “Pain-A Conversation.” Beginning September 25, 2017, I will be sharing a daily video conversation on the subject of pain, with my good friend Sanejo Leonard. We would love to have you join the conversation. Click here to join.

Thank you to Kelly M. Kapic for his insightful and compassionate book “Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering

On Fridays

On Fridays, I feed the homeless.

I’m part of a team that gathers every week. We prepare food, organize the pantry, make sack lunches and feed our homeless guests. They are given hot meals, a bit of shade and a free shower.

Most Fridays I do my job (I’m in charge of bread), and when my shift is done, I go about the rest of my day as usual.

But every so often there’s a Friday like today. When I leave, I sit in my car and weep.

Perhaps it was the thick, humid air or the heat radiating off the pavement.

Maybe it was the smells – the combination of body odors, gas fumes, cooked onions and rotting fruit.

As they came through the line today, I looked every single person in the eye, smiled and greeted them like I always do.

But today, it hit me, like a punch between the eyes.

There are cravings that no bread can satisfy.

There are thirsts that a cup of water can’t quench.

There are regrets and shame that no shower can cleanse.

My weak smile can’t erase the loneliness.

I felt utterly useless today. I honestly don’t know what the point is. Why do we do it? Why do I go back, week after week. Does it matter?

I feel like a hypocrite, smiling and offering measly band-aids for gaping wounds.

There is so much pain and brokenness and illness and suffering and addiction and loss – and it’s written on the face of every single soul that stands in line waiting to be fed.

So… next Friday, I will feed the homeless.

Un-Mother’s Day – A Day For The Motherless, The Childless and The Ones With Regrets

Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, my heart feels a twinge – of sorrow, regret, empathy – I don’t know how to describe it, but it lingers throughout the day. I think of the precious women whose longing for motherhood is never realized and imagine how the celebration must stab deep in their hearts.

I think of those whose mothers failed or abandoned them and imagine how the day reminds them of what they will never have.

I think of those whose mothers are gone, and imagine the sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter memories that are stirred.

I had a perfectly lovely Mother’s Day this year. It was simple, relaxed and spent in the company of my family. I felt loved and appreciated and enjoyed the gifts, the food and the words of love. My own mother is a woman of rare grace and I am honored to have such an example of a woman of faith and boundless love.

But I’m embarrassed to say, there have been Mother’s Days in my past where my expectations for what should happen, how I should be acknowledged, what gifts I should have received left me feeling more self-pity than gratefulness.

I’ve had Mother’s Days when depression and a deep sense of regret over all the things I didn’t do right and the ways I mothered horribly made it impossible for me to get out of bed.

There’s something about the contrived, commercialized, over-the-top THING that Mother’s Day, has become that makes me cringe and want to quit celebrating it all together. But I’m not sure that’s the answer. Because the celebration of mothers and all that they do is a sweet and necessary thing. I just wish we could tone it down a few notches!

If you love the hype and noise of Mother’s Day and think I’m crazy, that’s fine. But for the rest of you, reading my words and whispering a silent “amen” I want to honor you today, on this un-Mother’s Day, a Tuesday like any other.

To the motherless, the childless and the ones with regrets

To the grandmas and the mamas with empty nests

To the mothers who do it all wrong – forget the school recital, let the kids watch too much TV, feed them Froot Loops for dinner and run out of toilet paper

To the mamas with the wandering child, the stubborn son, the ungrateful daughter

To those who do it alone, without reprieve

To the dear one with the messy house, the empty bottles of wine, the unwashed dishes and piles of laundry

To the brave souls who mother other people’s children

To the women whose quest for perfection exhausts and depletes them

To the mamas who yell and scold too often; who praise and teach too little

To those who navigate motherhood without a healthy example before them

To the tireless and tired ones with children who will always need them and never become independent

To the women with angel babies

To the lost souls in a dark hole who can’t get out of bed, and who are racked with pain, with guilt, with fear.

I honor you today with a prayer for…





May your minds be at ease, your bodies find rest and your spirits be comforted by the One who IS peace.

Happy Un-Mother’s Day!


The Infinite Benefits of a Grateful Heart


Do you have a heart filled with gratefulness, or one that’s always in search of a pity party?

Don’t get me wrong, I like a serious pity party as much as the next person. I’ve been known to stay at one way past closing time, reveling in the melancholy, sipping the bitter dregs from the bottom of my bottle and searching for tiny crumbs of misery. But I never leave those parties with a smile on my face and confetti in my hair. I walk away with a solitary balloon dragging behind me on a string.



I’m constantly tempted to compare my own meager portions with someone else’s feast.

But comparison is a thief. It robs us of contentment and joy and drives a wedge in relationships.

So, I have to ask myself often. Am I grateful for what I have or striving for what you have?

It’s easy to avoid comparison when someone achieves success in a way that doesn’t threaten me. For example, if you open a restaurant and are booked solid every night, I will be thrilled for you. Not only do I have no plans of opening a restaurant, but I have zero desire to cook. Your success is not a threat to me.

But, what if your success is my dream?

Not long after Steve and I were married, we had our first beautiful baby. Ashley was our delight and after a short time, we decided to expand our family further. Year after year, we tried to have another baby. Over ten years passed and I had all but given up hope. During those years, friends and family had babies, and more babies, and even MORE babies while we prayed for another child, went through fertility testing and suffered through a failed adoption.

With every year that passed, I longed for what I didn’t have and struggled to be grateful. I held back the tears each time someone announced a pregnancy. I forced myself to attend a seemingly endless parade of baby showers. But pity cast a dullness over each and every celebration.

Over time, God revealed to me that His love and grace are infinite and his gifts are chosen specifically for me.

I finally found peace with our little family of three, became grateful for the gifts I was given and was truly happy whenever a friend announced another baby on the way.

So, imagine our surprise when thirteen years after the birth of our first daughter, we welcomed another daughter, Rachel, followed two years later by our boy Sam. The joy and light that our friends and family beamed onto us, with the birth of each of our children was nothing short of dazzling.

It’s been nineteen years since I last gave birth and these many years later, we now know the endless bliss of grandchildren. Our hearts are full.

Here’s the thing. It’s hard for the light in others to reflect back on me when my own gleam is gone.

It’s like looking into a mirror and refusing to smile, because the image staring back at me isn’t smiling either. 

In the past few years I have come to realize that the more I practice gratitude and send love out into the world, the more it multiplies. When I am grateful for the gifts I’ve been given, I can celebrate with you when you succeed.

Love and gratitude are infinite. There isn’t a Scrooge McDuck vault out there somewhere with a miserly, finite supply. It’s endless and multiplies the more it’s given away.

I’m not saying I’ll never throw another pity party. But the next time, I may not stay quite as long.


Does Jesus Love You? A Quiz

Here we are at the end of another exhausting week. I don’t know about you but I feel depleted. I don’t know if it’s the cold I’m fighting or the worry that’s nagging, or the world that seems to have gone to the other side of crazy, but I’m plum wore out.

When I feel this way, there’s no amount of self-motivational chatter or mindless eating or brisk walks or any THING that can pull me out of the funk.

Except.  Jesus.

I sat down this morning and opened up my Bible, lapping up the Scriptures like a sun-baked hound dog. I flipped through the pages and underlined verses, allowing them to soak into my parched, thirsty soul. But still, the day beat me down.

I realized this afternoon that my frantic searching through Scriptures was still ME – doing, striving, working.

It’s true that I need God’s Word but without ‘the Word made flesh’ it’s not enough.

I need Jesus.

This made me think of you, my sweet friend. How was your week? Are you feeling depleted and worn-out? Do you feel like a hamster on the wheel, spinning around and around and getting nowhere?

Maybe you read my words above and think “Yeah, me too. I need Jesus.” Maybe you read them and thought, “Jesus? I’m fine, thanks.” or maybe you read them and thought, “Jesus. I don’t know if I need Him and even more, I don’t know if He would want me.”  Whatever your response, I have a few questions for you. Answer them honestly if you want to know if Jesus’ love is for you.

Would you describe yourself as an optimist, a realist or a pessimist?

Jesus loves you.

Is your bank account fat or are you dirt poor and sinking in debt?  

Jesus loves you.

Are you a pastor? Are you a porn addict? Are you both?  

Jesus loves you.

Are you straight? Are you gay? Are you trans? Do you not know how to answer?  

Jesus loves you.

Did you spend your day in the service of others? Did you waste your day in front of the TV?  

Jesus loves you.

Are you enveloped in the love of friends and family? Are you desperately lonely and hopelessly friendless?  

Jesus loves you.

Did you encourage your children with words of affirmation and love today or did you scream uncontrollably at the people you claim to love? 

Jesus loves you.

Are you fit? Are you fat? 

Jesus loves you.

Are you conservative, liberal or ‘over it’? 

Jesus loves you.

Is your business successful and flourishing? Are you a complete and utter failure? 

Jesus loves you.

Have you spent your life in the pews of a church or have you determined to never darken the door of a house of worship? 

Jesus loves you.

Are you a believer, a doubter or a cynic? 

Jesus loves you.

Are you a teetotaler, a social drinker or a raging alcoholic?

Jesus loves you.

Have you been betrayed? Are you a betrayer?

Jesus loves you.

Do you have a genius IQ or is your mind broken in ways you can’t express? 

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

There is nothing you can DO to deserve His love more. There is nothing you have done that will make Him love you less. Isaiah 49:16 says that God loves you so much that He tattooed your name on the palm of His hand. That’s some hard-core serious love! Psalm 56:8 says that He loves you so much that He saves your tears in a bottle. He sees you. He hears you. He loves you.

Jesus loves you so much that He gave His life for you. He suffered a brutal, painful death for you.
He longs to be in relationship with you – to know you and to be known by you, to bind up your wounds, to bring peace and love and strength to your weary, worn-out soul.

If you want this love – this tattooed-on-the-palm-of-His-hand, tear-saving-in-a-bottle, dying-on-the-cross-for-you love, all you have to do is ask. Admit that you’re a sinner (welcome to the club!) and ask Jesus to take up residence in your heart. Trust me, a relationship with Jesus is the greatest love affair you could ever imagine. A love without restraint, without limit and without end.

A Valentine’s Day Gift for the Unloved and the Unlovely

Our picture of love is warped.

On the one hand, we have a Hallmark-created, Disney-distorted image of love that bears little or no resemblance to the gritty, daily reality of true, enduring love. It’s an un-obtainable, romantic fantasy.

On the other hand, there is a dramatic counterpoint to these saccharin-sweet sentiments – a dark and distorted view of ‘love’. Pornography and the storylines of many popular books and movies portrays a perverse picture of love as domineering and abusive or submissive and abused. It presents love as unbridled passion, power and lust – a commodity with a price tag.

True love is radically different and so much more. Sure, true love is sometimes expressed through marriage and sex and roses and chocolates. But it’s also beautifully demonstrated in friendship and family, through community and acts of charity and sacrifice. It’s complicated and difficult. It ebbs and flows. True love forgives and believes, hopes and endures, clings to what is good and denies itself retribution.

But what about the times when love seems unobtainable? When betrayals and our very humanness seem to banish love from our lives? For those of you who are struggling to give love or to accept love on this Valentine’s Day, may I remind you of the gifts that your Heavenly Father offers.



To the ugly and the scarred – Through His scars, you are healed – Isaiah 53:5

To the ones who lust and hunger but are never satisfied – He offers the bread of life – John 6:35

To the fatherless – He wants you to know that you’re His precious, beloved child  – Psalm 68:5

To the rejected and discarded – The rejected One has redeemed you – Isaiah 53:3

To the ones who run away and to the ones who long to be found – He is waiting for you, with a robe and a ring – Luke 15:11-22

To the doubters and the seekers – Seek Him. He will be found  – Proverbs 2:1-6 Luke 11:9-10

To the weary and the weak – He will bring you rest – Matthew 11:28

To the grieving and the hopeless – He will carry your sorrow – Isaiah 53:4

To the broken and bruised – He was broken and bruised for you – Isaiah 53:5

To the lost and the wandering – He is relentlessly looking to find you – Matthew 18:12-14

To the whores and the harlots – He waits by the well, with water to quench your thirst – John 4:7-26

To the unloved and the unlovely – the Bridegroom is entranced by your beauty – Song of Solomon 4:1-3


Whether you feel cherished or neglected, valued or worthless, I pray that today you would receive God’s gift of love – a love that is boundless in mercy and available to all. It is a love that is true, a love that endures and a love that never fails.

A Prayer For A President

On January 20th the 45th President of the United States was sworn into office.

I don’t like Donald Trump.

I struggle to see an ounce of wisdom or integrity in him. But I have a predicament. He is now the President of the United States. Whether I like him or not, as a citizen of this country and as a follower of Jesus, I am compelled to pray for him out of respect for the office that he now holds and out of obedience to the God that I serve. I confess. This is really hard for me.

I am not suggesting that Mr. Trump’s actions can’t or shouldn’t be criticized. The First Amendment guarantees the rights of citizens in a healthy democracy include: Freedom of the Press, with the liberty to speak openly without fear of government restraint and, Freedom of Speech as demonstrated by a vocal and engaged citizenry with the right to express any opinion without censorship or restraint.

At the same time, the Scriptures urge us to pray for “all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”

Have you ever prayed for someone you don’t like? I don’t mean pray they’ll get hit by a bus or covered in boils, I mean really pray for their soul. I don’t remember the last time I did. Mainly because there aren’t many people that I truly dislike.

So, what to pray for Mr. Trump? This is a challenge and is something I’ve thought about long and hard. I’ve searched the Scriptures and considered my own life. I confess that I am a sinner and that I am often willful, proud, thoughtless, unkind, selfish and stubborn. I am painfully aware of my flaws and my sins. Daily, I confess them and ask God to transform my life and remake me into His image.



As an act of obedience and discipline in my own spiritual journey, and keeping in mind my own sinful nature, I composed a prayer for our president.  

The prayers I pray for myself are the prayers I will pray for him. The transformation I seek for my own life, is the one I seek for his.

“Father in heaven, I pray that President Trump would be aware that he is a sinner, confess his sins and accept the forgiveness that is available through the death of your son Jesus.

I pray that as he receives your grace and forgiveness, he would extend that same grace and forgiveness to others.

I pray that You would replace his spirit of pride with a spirit of humility.

I pray that he would live a life of generosity, and consider others above himself.

I pray that he would be devoted to caring for the poor, the hungry, the immigrant, the sick, the prisoner and the marginalized.

I pray that You would grant him a humble and contrite heart.

I pray that he would exhibit self-control and be compelled to live his life as a man of truth and integrity.

I pray that he would listen more than he speaks.

I pray that he would grant mercy instead of seeking revenge; for Your Word declares that mercy triumphs over judgment.

I pray that he would be an advocate for peace.

I pray that he would be a man of grace and dignity, treating everyone he meets with respect and that he would see them as Your beloved children, created in Your image.

I pray that the fruit of the spirit would be evident in his life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I pray that he would hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Transform him Lord, into a man of integrity and into a leader who is sober-minded, thoughtful, compassionate, wise and good.

With the same measure that he blesses others, may he also be blessed.”

These things I pray for my own life and for the life of my president. Oh that we may “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” Grant it Lord, I pray.

Thanksgiving – My Story of Seizures and Coming Out of the Dark

“Where am I? What am I doing?”  These were the thoughts that raced through my brain as I sat by the side of the road, gripping the steering wheel in my hands.

Thanksgiving Day, 2001 – I was driving home from my parent’s house, less than five minutes away. We had just enjoyed a day filled with an abundance of food and laughter in the midst of our large and noisy family. Our two youngest children, Sam (3) and Rachel (5) were with me in the back seat of the car. Steve had gone on ahead in a separate car.

As I drove down the hill, I suddenly felt lost. I knew this road well. I had driven it hundreds of times before but, at that moment, the familiar became strange and unfamiliar. A fog began settling in my brain. I looked down at my hands on the steering wheel and had no sense of what I should be doing. My heart trip-hammered wildly as I pulled over to the side of the road and I struggled to get my bearings.

“Why are we stopping?” Rachel asked. “What’s wrong?”

I could hear her voice and my mind formed the answer, but my tongue was tied tight and I couldn’t speak. She repeated the question but again, I couldn’t answer. A numbness and tingling spread across my left cheek, like a foot that has fallen asleep. Eventually, the fog began to lift, my voice returned and I turned to reassure Sam and Rachel that everything was okay but deep down I knew it most certainly was not.

The whole incident lasted mere seconds, maybe a minute or two at the most, but in my mind, time became elastic and those seconds stretched into an eternity.

I didn’t want to continue driving, for fear that the incident would repeat itself, so I sat there, waiting for someone to drive by, hoping they would see me at the side of the hill and come to my aid.  The minutes ticked by and nobody came. Sam and Rachel became anxious.  They could sense that something was wrong and they were afraid.

Cautiously, I pulled away from the curb and drove through the hills. I arrived home without incident and sent the kids to get ready for bed with further reassurances that everything was fine.

I walked down the hall and into our room. As soon as I saw Steve I burst into tears and told him of my strange ordeal.

I vowed that I would not get behind the wheel of a car again until I knew what was wrong.

The next morning Steve brought me to the doctor’s office as soon as it opened.  I told the receptionist I needed to see someone immediately and I was willing to wait all day, if that’s what it took.

When I finally saw the doctor I shared how I was feeling and the specifics of my incident the day before. He asked if I ever spaced out and lost track of time. “No,” I said. “Yes, she does,” Steve interrupted. I looked at him in disbelief and told him he was wrong.

The doctor questioned Steve further. He asked him what my behavior was like when these incidents occurred, how often it happened and for how long. The doctor then proceeded to perform a litany of tests – tapping my knees with a hammer, pressing down on my upturned palms and watching me walk across the room. I had no idea what on earth this weird series of exercises meant but when he was finished, he sat down and pulled his chair close to me.

“Karen, I believe you’re having seizures. You can’t drive anymore until you see a neurologist. I’ll make a referral right away.”

The impact of his words hit me like a punch to the face.

I looked out the window, at the cars driving by, and thought, “This can’t be happening to me. What does this mean? How will I survive without driving?” The rest of his words were a blur. We walked out of his office and I wept the whole way home.

That day, I walked into a dark and scary tunnel. WE walked into a dark and scary tunnel. My license was suspended and for three years I was unable to drive. I underwent constant tests and doctor’s visits – EKGs, EEGs, CAT scans, SPECT scans and more. I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I was experiencing partial complex and absence seizures. The neurons in my brain were misfiring.

Daily, as endless seizures rolled in, I questioned God, my faith and my sanity. My children learned to dial 9-1-1. The doctor prescribed one medication after another, in an effort to stop the seizures. We fumbled through our days and, clinging to God and to each other, somehow survived.

It’s hard to believe, as I write this story, that fifteen years have passed. I have now been seizure free for twelve years!

My faith wavered but ultimately was strengthened. My sanity is still up for debate. Our marriage, by some miracle of God’s grace, survived this and subsequent years as illness, heart attack, injury, chronic pain, depression, drug dependence and more, have plagued our lives.

Next week I will celebrate my 55th birthday and another beautiful Thanksgiving together as a family. We marvel at God’s grace that continues to lead us.

Our times of suffering and crises of faith appear like underground tunnels, ominous and dark. We don’t know what’s around the corner or when the tunnel will end.

long dark tunnel

If you are at the entrance of a dark tunnel, looming large and long ahead of you – take a deep breath, grab the Light of God’s Word and hold tightly to God’s hand. (Psalm 119:105)

If you are in the middle of that dark tunnel, with the damp and dark pressing in on all sides – guard a flickering light of hope, reach forward towards daylight and remember that, even when it seems like a lie, God is there with you in the dark. Search for Him. He will be found. (Jeremiah 29:13)

If you are coming to the end of that dark tunnel, with a glow of light ahead – rejoice in the light, thank God for bringing you through and reach back to grab someone’s hand who is still wandering in the dark. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Here’s my hand, dear friend. Grab tight. You are not alone.

The Chains We Show and The Chains You Cannot See

He was handsome, with dark black skin, a proud erect stance and a muscular build. I hadn’t seen him before but I was fairly new so perhaps he was a regular. He moved quickly across the yard and took his place in line. It was Friday morning and I was serving breakfast to our local homeless community.

He was younger than the average man there and taller by several inches. But the thing that made him stand out was what he wore. Draped around his neck was a thick chain.

No, that’s not it. That picture you have in your mind – a thick gold chain, a piece of jewelry – that’s not it. He wore an actual chain.

No. You’re still not picturing it right. It wasn’t like a bike chain or a dog chain, it was more like this.


The chain he wore around his neck was a heavy, steel chain – dark gray like thunderclouds – the kind of chain you would expect to see in a shipyard, tied to a piece of equipment or lifting a crate to the deck of a ship.

It weighed several pounds. It was at least three feet long and each link was two inches – but in spite of it’s weight, the young man stood straight and tall. The burden of it made no impact on his posture.  He had that chain draped around his neck and hanging down his chest as casually as a winter scarf.

As he moved up the line, I felt it and it was clear the other men felt it too. The tension in his body crackled in the air around him, electric like a gathering storm. Inadvertently, the men in front of and behind him moved a few inches, giving him a wide berth.

Finally, he stood before me. I looked up into his handsome face, smiled and greeted him. He stared back at me with blank eyes as dark as a winter night, without a flicker of light or warmth.

He didn’t respond to my greeting but simply took his food and walked away.

I finished serving breakfast, completed my morning tasks at the kitchen and went home, but I couldn’t get this young man out of my mind.

That chain. He was literally wearing his chain. He had surrendered to the burden that life dealt him so completely that he wore it, like a millstone, for the world to see.

How weary he must be, shouldering that every day, I thought. I sat down on the sofa, imagining the weight on my own shoulders, and prayed for peace for his soul.

That’s when it struck me. We all have chains. Some of us show our pain on the outside, sending signals to the world through our faces, our clothing, our scars, a tattoo and even a chain. There’s a scar that runs the length of my husband’s chest – the result of his open heart surgery. It’s a constant reminder to us of his brush with death.

Most of us, however, wear our chains on the inside. Our scars are hidden there where nobody but God can see.

We wear masks to hide the pain. Paste on smiles to disguise our scars. Laugh and nod to one another while hiding the burden of our chains.

I have borne my own chains. The chains of my sin. The burden of my past. The heavy weight of regret and pain. These chains shackled my spirit with fear. I was helpless to remove them on my own. But then this.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Oh, how the tender words of Jesus ministered to my heart, like an ointment to my sin-sick soul. When I fully surrendered my sin and my pain to Jesus, he removed the chains that were binding me and set me free to love fully and accept his forgiveness completely.

I don’t have to bear the burden of my sin. You don’t have to bear the weight of your shame.

Surely He has borne our griefs

And carried our sorrows;

Yet we esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten by God, and afflicted.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,

He was bruised for our iniquities;

The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,

And by His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

We have turned, every one, to his own way;

And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6