Sunday, August 6, 2017

Jesus knows who I am, even if no one else does



Last month there was a story in the news about a baby born in British Columbia, Canada. The child was not born in a medical facility and therefore did not receive an official gender designation or a birth certificate. The news article I read only mentioned one parent. The parent identifies as non-binary transgender, which is neither male or female, or maybe it’s both. I’m not really sure. Anyway, the parent wants the child, named Searyl, to develop and decide for themselves what gender they identify with. 

Identifying pronouns was another thing the news article tried to explain. This new parent refers to the baby as “they.” I am so confused. The parent didn’t want the baby to be labeled as “he” or “she” and as I understand it, the preferred pronoun for the baby is “they”, which to me is plural, but there is only one baby. If this keeps up, we’re going to need some entirely new words because the old ones are only confusing me more. 

I hope that somehow this child will be able to find “their” true self, but I am not sure how “they" will be able to reach a decision on gender identity without any cultural influence at all. It’s not a neutral world. If it were, there would be a lot less to argue about in congress.
Recognizing personal identity is often difficult even when the lines and pronouns are clear. There are some details that I might think are clear markers for my identity, but then other people may see me and never associate those characteristics with me at all. My name is one of those things.

For several years after moving to Walterboro, I got called Jan a lot. Jan was the pastor’s wife. If it wasn’t Jan, it was Mrs. Scott. Scott is my husband’s name. Mrs. Scott is neither my first name or my last name.  Just to make matters more perplexing, Scott is my husband’s middle name. His first name is Timothy, but I’ve never heard anyone call him that.
It’s not just names that give us identity. Often, it’s what we do and where we go. Earlier today as Scott and I walked out of the Cracker Barrel and joked about wanting to know when awards night was because we want to be present to pick up our trophy for being the most frequent diners there. Some of the servers there know what kind of salad dressing Scott likes. They know we both like the Wednesday broccoli cheddar chicken special. They don’t know that we’re also working on a frequent diner prize at Subway too.

The one thing that’s common in both of those examples is the relationship to my husband. The people at church who couldn’t remember my first name still associated me with him. The Cracker Barrell cashiers do the same thing. My identity is often defined by my relationships.  

Psalm 51:5 offers a description on my identity too, “for I was born a sinner.” Many of the New Testament books written by the Apostle Paul include multiple mentions of my sinful nature. I was born with it. We all were. None of us can help that we were born that way, but the truth is, we do need help with it. We cannot fix it ourselves. The only way to change our identity as a sinner is with a relationship. More specifically, a relationship with the only one that can take the sinner moniker from us and carry it himself. Jesus. 

Isaiah 43:1 says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  He knows my name. He calls me by it. He’s not going to call me Jan. He might even call my husband Timothy. He knows our names and who we are. Our identities are not in question with Him. He calls us all into a relationship. He wants a relationship with us so that we will no longer be identified as sinners, no matter what pronoun we prefer. 

The was originally published August 6, 2017 on The Press and Standard website

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What does adoption mean to an adult?



Cats and dogs were not something that were a part of our household when I was a child. We just weren’t a family that did pets. My husband’s family was the complete opposite. With them, there was always a dog around. Scott still remembers each one with affectionate familiarity. He’s talked about them enough through the years that even though I never met them, I know who he’s talking about when he mentions names like Champ or Mickey. Scott has always loved his animals.

Earlier this year Scott found himself face to face with a stray cat that had been injured and it broke his heart. The bloody eye of this cat was so dark you couldn’t even see its outline in the black fur. After several attempts and with a little help from his friends, Scott was finally able to trap the poor thing and take her to the veterinarian. Afterwards, we kept her in our bathroom for several days while we administered medicine. She was improving, then one day she was acting funny. We wondered if her infection had spread or if she’d developed some other medical issue as a result of the initial trauma. Well, surprise! The next morning when I peeked in the bathroom to check on her, she was not alone. There were three tiny kittens in the sink with her. 

We had no idea she was pregnant. The veterinarian hadn’t said anything about it either. All we could think was, “what do we do now?” We finally resolved that she and her new litter needed to stay in our bathroom until she’d weaned the kittens, which turned out to be eight weeks of four felines in that bathroom.

I, being the never-had-a-pet child, was a little overwhelmed. Scott fell in love with those little fur babies  immediately, so it was hard for him when all three kittens were adopted into wonderful and happy forever homes. We knew, however, that adoption was best for all the humans and the kittens.

Sometime during these kitten-filled weeks, Scott took a couple of days to go with his father and sister to begin cleaning out his childhood home in the upstate. They unloaded the attic and went through boxes in storage buildings out back. He brought back some adorable baby pictures, reminders of his childhood, and thoughts about his own adoption. 

He was adopted by the Davises when he was 29 days old. He’s always considered Lloyd and Lois his real mom and dad and has always loved them as such. Just like I know the stories of Mickey and Champ, I’m also reminded of the story about how excited Lois was the day she received the call at work that there was a baby boy in Charleston that was now was hers. This week marks the tenth anniversary of Lois’ death. Birth, adoption, life and death are the things that have been on all our minds lately. I am so thankful to have become part of a family that loves and accepts, as their own, others that were originally born to other mothers. 

God set the example for this kind of choice, acceptance, and love. In Ephesians, the apostle Paul declares praise to God for loving us and choosing us. He goes on to explain that God made a decision to adopt us, even before we were born. 

Child adoptions these days involve attorneys. There must be legal documents outlining stipulations, bearing proper signatures, and filings with the appropriate agencies. The benefit of going through all that effort, beyond bringing a new child home, is that you now have proof. It eliminates most of the uncertainties of where home is. 

Of course God didn’t have to use an attorney for our adoption, but it did cost Him something. God is perfect and sinless, and therefore we humans, who are not perfect or sinless, wouldn’t be able to live with God without some kind of mediation. So, God sends his perfect, sinless son, Jesus, to earth. Jesus then takes on all our sin and it kills him, but Jesus overcomes death. The thing that would have kept us from living with God has been eliminated. The adoption is final. 

What does adoption mean to an adult? We’ve pretty much figured out how to eat and bathe on our own by now. We’ve learned how to read and walk. We don’t need parents for that anymore.  Instead, the things that would make a difference in an adopted adult’s life are things like love, belonging, and inheritance. I think those are the things God wants us to know we already possess.

As an adult, however, we have a choice in letting ourselves be adopted. Choosing to allow God to be our father means believing that all the effort He went through to have us close to Him was worth it. It means that everything that’s His will become ours. It means we believe “he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:4-7)

To the praise of His glorious grace, indeed. 

This was originally published July 23, 2017 on The Press and Standard website.

Monday, July 10, 2017

There is one word that will never be wrong


I recently read an article posted online and I now have no recollection of what it was about. It was followed by several comments from different readers. One of the responses posted distracted me from pondering any further on the article itself. I’m assuming the commenter was trying to express that the article had helped her see things from a new perspective. I think she meant to say that she had gained insight from the article, but instead she used the word incite. It sounds the same, but means something completely different. One is internal understanding, the other is external action.

Not too many days after being incited about insight, I read a social media post where a commenter stated he was going to be a paw bearer at a funeral. Not a pallbearer, but a paw bearer. Maybe I’m clueless about some unusual kind of paw related ritual or tradition, so can someone please tell me what kind of paws you bring to a funeral?


One day I drove over to pick up my husband for lunch. I parked outside of his office and sent him a one-word text, “Here.”  I assumed he would know from that text that I was outside waiting on him.  I didn’t realize until after I hit send that I must have made a typo because the autocorrect feature on my phone changed “Here” to “Jerry.”  My husband wondered who in the world Jerry was. I did too.   


On another lunchtime adventure, I went through a fast food drive-thru and ordered a hamburger. The voice coming out of the speaker box asked me to repeat my order. The second time I spoke slowly and a little louder. Then I made my way up to the window, gave the cashier exact change, took my paper sack, and drove away. Later I read the printed receipt and realized what might have caused the order-taker to need the order repeated. The receipt showed that I had not ordered a hamburger, but rather, a cheeseburger without cheese. Instead of one word for what it actually is, it seems I ordered something that took three words to explain what it is not. It’s the same sandwich, but the words that describe it are apparently different depending on whether you’re making it or eating it.


When I sit down in front of my computer to write a column, I always try to rely on inspiration from God as I type the words and sentences. Sometimes it comes long before I sit down to type. Other times I stare at a blank page on the screen for longer than I want to admit. Perhaps I need to rely on God for more than just inspiration because in the end, my spelling and grammar always need to be corrected. I always read what I’ve written several times before I show it to anyone. The first time I read over something I’ve written, I correct spelling errors. The second time I read it, I correct spelling errors again. The third time I read over it, I’m still correcting spelling errors and maybe some grammar. Then I give it to someone else to read and they find errors that I have to correct. Chances are probably pretty good that even when I submit something I’ve written and reread several times, the editor will still find and correct errors.


The point of all this business about words is that we all get them wrong sometimes. Words are important and because of that, using the wrong ones can be frustrating and embarrassing. But there is one word that will never be wrong. John’s gospel says that this Word became flesh and dwelt among us and that his glory is full of grace and truth as the one and only Son of God.


Imagine that. The perfect Word is always right here with us. This Word has been here since the beginning, with God. Everything was created through this Word. Then, God gave this Word, his one and only Son, to us so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life. That’s the only Word we can trust to be faithful and true. It’s the Word that has insight on every need there is, the Word that autocorrect will never change, the Word that knows your name, the Word that knows the difference between a hamburger and a cheeseburger because they were probably His idea.  The Word is Jesus.

The was originally published June 10, 2017 on The Press and Standard website.