A Plea for Open Conversation between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Voices

A Plea for Open Conversation between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Voices

Yesterday was the Women’s March on Washington. It was beautiful to see women gathering all across the country to speak with a common voice.  I have friends who participated with eagerness. I know others who questioned its purpose.  And I know some, like my friend Shannon, who wanted to participate but felt excluded because of their Pro-Life stance on abortion. Hers is just one of many stories I’ve heard from women, holding opinions on both sides of the abortion issue, feeling isolated and excluded from a community of women because their stance on this topic separates them from the dominant culture around them.

Like most complex topics, when it comes to abortion there are intelligent people arguing it from many different angles.   And while plenty of folks seem quite certain that they have the “right” answer, the reality is there are valid arguments on both sides.

Will you, for a minute, set aside your own convictions, pull out your imagination, and try with me to put yourself in the shoes of someone standing on the opposite side of the picket line?

Pro-choice women care deeply about women’s health. They have well founded concerns about what will happen to women who seek abortions illegally if this practice were to be abolished in the US. They see a world history that has treated women as second class citizens and they deeply desire that women maintain freedom to control their own bodies.   They fear for children who will be brought into a world when parents don’t have the emotional or financial resources to provide for them.

Pro-life women believe that a baby’s life begins at conception, with this in mind how could they not fight to preserve these lives with the same diligence as they would for the lives of children who are one, or ten or sixteen years old and in danger. They fear for the trauma that women will experience after having aborted a child, grief and depression that can set in even decades later which is often devastating to the woman and her family.  They worry about women being coerced by family and un-supportive partners into abortions that they don’t truly want.  And they are concerned about the medical consequences of abortion.

Pro-choice women are not Pro-death as their opponents like to think, and Pro-life women aren’t Anti-choice. Each side is simply looking at this delicate conversation from a different angle and starting with a different set of values.

There is social and medical science to support arguments on both sides.  There are religious beliefs and cultural traditions that can lead to drawing conclusions in either direction.  There are heart wrenching testimonies from individuals to support both perspectives.

I am not an advocate for taking a moderate stance. If you do your research and feel passionate in one of these directions than certainly speak up, protest, donate, take action.  But don’t make an enemy of those who disagree with you and don’t shut them out of your life. Don’t assume that they aren’t equally motivated by love, and data and respect for human kind.  Don’t assume another is a misogynist or anti-feminist or sacrilegious just because she falls on the opposite side of this issue.  We all want what is best for women and for our country and we all have no choice but to work together to achieve it.  So let’s be the first to sit down with someone who holds a different view and give them a listening ear and an open mind.  Let’s go out and speak up for our side with all our heart but let us never loose sight of the fact that what binds us as women is far greater than what divides us.

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To Suffer With, Sin Nature and the New Creation a reflection on an act of violence

We all grimaced, just the headline was enough, Four Black Teens Torture Disabled Man. Through squinted eyes we watched a few seconds of brutality before we turned away, our stomachs in knots. In our conversations and on social media we cried out for justice, asking for a punishment equal to the crime.  And then we prayed for peace for the victim and his family.


And yet, at least for those of us who call ourselves Christians, but probably for anyone who calls themselves human, we were compelled to go further.  As our anger softened we began to make room for pity, not just for the victim but for these four young souls. These teens who, in another world, would have been at home with their own families instead of living in a world where kidnapping and assaulting an innocent man is a reasonable or even exhilarating thing to do.  We still wanted them to be punished but in our piety we prayed for them too, to know love, to seek forgiveness and to be put right.


But Christ does not call us to contempt nor does He ask us for pity.

Christ, our sacrificed lamb, asks from us the reward of His suffering. He implores us to bring Him our own broken and bleeding hearts. Hearts big enough for both victim and persecutor. Hearts with open eyes to see each human as our own flesh and blood.

When we look into the face of a stranger we see ourselves, and in this transcendent  mirror we find that we share with them the condemnation for the wrong that they have committed and we are ashamed to realize that they share in ours too.


Each of us is responsible before all, for everyone and for everything.

– Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

If this seems like a stretch, let’s take a step back and think for a minute about The Butterfly Effect.

What if you had $20 in your pocket and instead of giving it to the lady begging on the street you spent it on a frappaccino and gluten-free scone? Meanwhile that lady is down to her last dime and decides her only option is to start prostituting herself to put food on the table.  What if her daughter’s (one of the culprits in this assault that we are discussing) introduction to violence was from the men who came over to buy sex from her mother?  What if by the time she was 18 a beating and some cigarette burns were nothing because she had been through far worse? And what if your $20 could have spared her that? What if the next day her mother would have found a real job?

Each of us sit in our positions of moral authority not because of our intrinsic personal virtue but by another set of  happenstance situations that have brought us just as randomly to where we are today.


Evil isn’t something that someone else does, if we are sinners then sin is something that we do, it is part of us. The words we say or don’t say, the work we do or don’t do, even in our best intentions we can’t help but cause harm.  We inherited a sin nature and we perpetuate it everyday as we continue to live out our imperfect lives.

This may feel like the ultimate of dismal injustices.

But it is also the very truth which allows us to connect with another person, which gives us courage to suffer with and leads us to cry out for justice not just for one act of violence but for every single hurt and failure that has wounded the hearts of all mankind.


“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

-Henri Nouwen

We see ourselves when we see Christ suffering on the cross and we see ourselves when we see the brutality of the soldiers nailing Him to it.

Our hope in Christ does not spare us  or the world from the tangible consequences for our failures. But as we profess with St. Paul,

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

To Suffer With: Sin Nature and the New Creation: reflection on an act of violence

we see that our story doesn’t stop in our sin. Instead we claim a boundless victory. We celebrate a restored creation and we rejoice in a  grace that is free to us no matter how grotesque our actions.  The vilest sin in the whole world no longer binds us because  we have a new life and a renewed nature in a resurrected Christ.
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A Giving Party and other Ideas for Teaching Kids to Give at Christmas

The Christmas spirit is still going strong around my house. I didn’t have time to share these ideas before Christmas but I’m hoping they will make it to your Pinterest boards and be there ready and waiting when next advent rolls around.

So much of a child’s experience of Christmas in America is around receiving gifts. There is no denying that it is truly delightful to watch a child’s eyes light up with the arrival of a long desired special toy.  But we tend to underestimate the joy that our kids can experience by giving gifts as well. We adults know far better the anticipation of watching a loved one open a gift that we have worked hard to bring them.  Our kids can participate in the satisfaction of giving too and the more we practice the more pleasure they will find in it. Below is a list of some ideas that we did in my family or that our friends did this year.


A Giving Party:

It has become popular among adults to gather together for fundraisers or to even use one’s birthday as a chance to raise money for a good cause.  But these sorts of events usually require that the kids stay home with a babysitter. This year we decided to get our kids together and have them make a simple gift they could give away themselves. They all brought ingredients for a trail mix.  We read A Baker’s Dozen,

which is a story about generosity  and St. Nicholas. Then they mixed their ingredients and assembled gift bags. Each child made three bags. They also had a chance to make a card or label and choose who they were going to give their bag to. It was a simple idea and both kids and parents enjoyed it. There are so many different types of giving parties the possibilities are endless.

A Giving Party and other Ideas for Teaching Kids to Give at Christmas

A Giving Party and other Ideas for Teaching Kids to Give at Christmas

Buy a Gift for a Stranger:

Around the holidays there are always opportunities to buy gifts for a stranger. Talk to your local foster home, family shelter or other social service agency and they often have lists of children and adults who won’t have anyone buying for them. Take your child along, encourage them even to spend some of their own money towards picking out something really special for someone they don’t know.

A Nursing Home Visit:

My daughter and I took candy canes to a nursing home this year on St. Nicholas day (growing up this was always a day that we did a church service project so I wanted to maintain the tradition).  It took essentially zero preparation we just showed up with a smile and had a wonderful time visiting with the residents.  It was a good reminder that even little kids who can’t do much in the way of work can offer a lot just through their presence.  This is something we are hoping to start doing with our moms group a few times throughout the year.


A Secret Secret Santa:

One of my daughter’s friends brought over an unexpected gift. His mom had written the names of their friends on slips of paper and had them each draw one. The kids then got to pick out a gift for their person.  There was no gift for them in return just the fun of delivering a surprise package to a friend.


Include Kids in Shopping:

It  may be as simple as bringing a child along to shop for a sibling or parent. Or encourage them to save a few dollars and purchase a thoughtful gift on their own.


Random Gifts for Neighbors:

Another friend had her kids assemble small gift bags mostly of candy and cookies that had begun accumulating around the house. Once they had 15 or so bags they went door to door knocking and introducing themselves to neighbors, many of whom they had never met before and passing out the gifts.  It was a simple way to connect with new people and spread some Christmas cheer.


Making Gifts at Home:

Including kids in the creation of gifts is one of the best ways to get them excited about giving. If they are small they can make a card or drawing. As they get older they can create ornaments and all sorts of handicrafts. Getting started on these early in the year is key so that a child actually has time to finish a gift themselves.


What else have you done to encourage your kids to give around the holidays or any other time of year?



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God with Us Even in Our Mess

God with Us (even when we are a mess)


“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us)”.

Mathew 1: 23


God with us.

God incarnate. A  God- baby living and growing right here on the dirt of the earth.

All of Christendom stands on this reality. Most of the time I don’t stop to let these words sink into my soul. Mostly I try to put the incarnation into a box that has more appeal.  In a breath I move from God with us, to us with God. It’s a subtle switch but a far more  alluring concept.

I desperately want salvation to mean being whisked up to heaven to float around on clouds playing harps with angels. I want  an escape or at least a world where there is no infertility, no miscarriage, no sudden death, no Aleppo. And I want to be angry with God for not making it the way that I think is best.

But Mathew insists on, God with us. He starts his book out with a painfully tedious genealogy (which I usually skip over if I ever come across it) towards this point.

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, etc. etc. etc.

This year I’ve been reading the Bible stories with my daughter, so some of these names are starting to feel more familiar than ever, some because we read them, others because I carefully edit them out.

Characters like Rahab the prostitute are difficult to explain to a four year old. Then there is Tamar, twice widowed and so desperate for a child that she dresses as a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law (who is the kind of guy apparently that frequents prostitutes).  Then the famous King David who takes Bathsheba to bed and when she gets pregnant has her husband  Uriah killed in battle to cover up his offense.

There are good stories too, stories like Ruth, a foreigner brought in and made part of a new people. But none of the stories are simple, few of them are what we would look at today and call “christian”. They are stories of a messy people, of real failures, of genuine pain and this list of names is recorded here so we don’t forget it when we come to this next passage,

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.


An unmarried  pregnant teen who swears she is still a virgin. Her fiance  deciding whether to call it off quietly or have her publicly stoned (which would have been a reasonable option back then).

God with us. God enters into a  mess that has been growing for generations. He does not rescue us out. He  gives us His Spirit. And in the face of our deepest darkness and our ugliest failures He gives us light.  He so transforms the world that in the simple act of loving another person we see His face and hope begins growing out of every broken place.

This year has left me lonely, I long for more children, for the growth of a church, for a deep sense of community. Still compared to many my griefs have been small. I have stood alongside of friends who have watching their children and parents and grandparents cross over to death. I have seen bodies that I love wrecked with illness.  And I have grown ever more aware of the fragility of the world as I’ve heard the stories of immigrants  fleeing violence, traveling by foot through central America to reach our border.  I want it to be “Us with God,” I want to escape this pain.  All I can do is pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”  And He has come, and is to come and will come again, Immanuel, not us with God, but God with us.


For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.