The Gospel

The Frustration of My Fractured, Distracted Brain

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I used to be someone who could hold it all together or die trying.

Then I had eight kids.

Then I thought homeschooling them would be a brilliant plan.

Then I had to feed them three meals a day and do all the domestic stuff that keeps a household and adult sanity in tact.

Then I began to write and publish and edit for other people because I was bored (just kidding).

And I kid you not, there is a decade of my life in all of this that I barely remember. I have two children whose babyhoods escaped me entirely, as in, I don’t remember them as babies. Before you snap your laptop shut and write me off over that last confession, you have to know that they were born 14 months apart, at the end of the line-up and the beginning of tragedy, and it’s a doggone miracle that any of us had clean clothes.

I suspect that you have had a season very much like this, too, and if not, perhaps you’re not in the Western Hemisphere? Because we westerners and more specifically, Americans, spin plates like nobody’s business. Out the door with the spinning plates flies our concentration, leaving us with a sort of living whiplash.

Just today as I sat down on the living room couch to work on an article due this coming Friday,  child #6 is searching for her make-up brush, child #7 is singing “Radio Gaga” at the top of his lungs and walking through the house looking for a glue stick, child #4 is Marco-Poloing me from college to debrief her Easter weekend, and child #5 needs to discuss her rehearsal schedule. Sometime within the next 8 hours, children #1, 2, and 3 will text me with a question, a request, or an anecdote.

I also have a long-suffering husband who needs dinner and who I married because I really, really like spending time with him. Child #8 hasn’t been mentioned yet because he’s at school, but that’s after a night in which he woke up his dad and me (separately) with complaints of stomach pain and diarrhea, both the result of too many Hot Cross Buns and Easter candy.

Somewhere in all of this I am supposed to be working on an article about the parables and reaching my own readers because I’m committed to helping people leave legalism with their faith somewhat in tact. And a high school lit course I’m preparing to teach. And laundry.

I laugh, painfully and ironically.

And sometimes I’m mad at God about it.

How does ministry happen in a life like this? When and how am I supposed to dedicate my time to study? I can’t recall what it’s like to concentrate on anything because there is never a time when I’m not interrupted by someone or the next door neighbor’s dogs. Focus eludes me.

I read about great Christians who came before me and I’m in awe of women like Catherine of Siena, who spent the first three years of adult life in seclusion in her parent’s basement so that she could commit herself to studying the Scriptures and to her deepening prayer life.

Well, yeah, I think. If I had three years by myself in a basement, I’d get pretty good at prayer, too.

I’m a little bit jealous.

I’m a lot jealous, if I’m being completely honest.

As I was listening this morning to a book about notable Christian women like Catherine, I began to feel like I had been robbed of an opportunity to use my overly curious brain and intelligence for the glory of God and the good of others. Good grief, the distractions in this household!

And then a tiny thought entered into my consciousness and wormed its way in like it had found a ripe, juicy apple.

What if God calls me to the distractions?

Ouch. What if? What if, in all of this whirlwind of never-ending activity and need, there is ministry happening in spite of the distractions? And what if, more to the point, ministry is happening because of the distractions?

What if the ministry is the distractions?

Catherine of Siena was the 25th child born to her parents. Mercy me. During the three years of seclusion, guess who was caring for, walking alongside, feeding, dressing, listening to, guiding, educating, and nurturing all of Catherine’s other siblings upstairs? Her mother, called to the distractions. The point was not lost on me.

Honestly (and let’s be honest), this is not a revelation that has totally changed my life today. I’m not writing this to tell you that my life has been radically changed by the realization that God has given me a poignant ministry opportunity right here in my home. Christendom has been clanging that gong on behalf of its mothers for centuries, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.

Honestly, I will still struggle because of my fractured, distracted brain and the circumstances of motherhood that do not allow me to have solitude, silence, or time. My friend Sallie Borrink has written an excellent piece on why gifted women (that’s me) struggle with the construction of motherhood. Might be helpful if you, too, have a hard time with all of this.

The brain remains distracted. The writing is what it is. The time spent with Christ alone is limited. But here’s the truth I will stand on until the day I die:

He knows this.

All of the spiritual growth born out of hearing and reading the Bible, praying, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines is his work, not mine. The real miracle is that God can take the 8 minutes I spent praying this morning and expand it to reach every person I come in contact with today, including you.

And while I still thrash against the unstructured ministry of the distractions that accompany serving others, I can relax knowing that God has promised to finish what He started.

The lesson for us all? Be still and know that he is God. Our ministry is fed by the knowing, not the doing.


Who, If Not the Muslim, Is Our Neighbor?

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King Solomon wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Last night I wore my Huguenot Cross to the mosque. I almost always wear it everywhere I go, but last night as I sat and listened to the grief and the sorrow and the condolences shared among our local Muslim brothers and sisters, I was struck by the symbiotic symbolism of the cross I wear and the events experienced last Friday in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Huguenots were the French Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries, emerging out of the Reformation like their Protestant brothers and sisters in nearby countries of Germany, Switzerland, England, and Scotland. They suffered severe persecution at the hands of French Catholics.

On August 24th and 25th, 1572, some 3,000 Parisian Huguenots were dragged out into the streets and massacred, their bodies thrown into the Seine and their homes and business burned to the ground. Plotted by Catherine de Medici, the killings continued outside of Paris into all of France, with the death toll reaching nearly 70,000.

“Carts piled high with the dead bodies of noble ladies, women, girls, men, and boys were brought down and emptied into the river, which was covered with dead bodies and ran red with blood,” -Simon Goulart

And as I sat there last night surrounded by grieving Muslim men, women, and children, I could hear the cries of the Huguenots. My heart ached as it recalled the wailing of the Jews, the millions (yes, millions) of Bengali Hindus, the Sikhs, Baha’is, and people who follow smaller factions of faith. Each, at some point in history and many today, experience hatred and intolerance.

In it all, there is this truth:

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The lie is that we have the right to step in and act as God, deciding who lives and who dies. And as Christians, we have two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Who, if not the Muslim, the Jew, the Sikh, the Hindu, the Bah’ai, the Catholic in your community, is your neighbor?

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What James MacDonald Forgot

What James MacDonald Forgot

Can we stand yet another post on the James MacDonald debacle?

I first watched a video of James MacDonald teaching back in 2010. He was a mighty fine speaker: eloquent, passionate, and well-prepared. He had charisma and humor, to boot. He loved the Word of God.

He seemed so much like so many other charming and well-spoken pastors with big names and bigger platforms, thanks to publishers driven to capitalize on their books and social media outlets that stand in as a worldwide pulpit. Less like shepherds, more like celebrities.

Power trips and the root of it all, pride, are the tip of the iceberg according to insiders. Honestly, I wish the festering pimple would just pop so we could have it all out and be done with it, swabbing the whole mess with a gigantic cotton ball soaked in alcohol.

Or the gospel.

Because, see, that’s what’s been missing for a long, long time. Back when he began, back when I heard him speak, back when he was running an organization that touched the lives of thousands all over the world, I can believe that the gospel was the goal. But as the personality and the ego begins to serve one person—James MacDonald— the gospel becomes painfully absent from the mission. Oh, it might take the forefront in word, but in heart, it becomes, shall we say, nonattendant.

The gospel that reminds us of Whose we are and what He did for us. The gospel that reminds us that God is more than enough, that Jesus paid it all and declared “It is finished”, and that what He did was more important than what we do. The gospel that reminds us that we don’t have to go anywhere else to look for our value, worth, acceptance, or fulfillment. 

That’s what James MacDonald forgot, and I am just like him. Because I, too, leave the gospel behind daily in my quest to feel accepted. I have to remind myself of the finished work of Christ on my behalf daily, hourly. I have to bask in the love of a God who cannot ever fail to love me. 

So really, we’re not so different, James and I. Perhaps now that he’s left with a deep, hemorrhaging, gaping, festering wound, he’ll remember why he loved Jesus in the first place. It may mean isolation and a profound loss of relationships and at the very least, the complete collapse of that pathetic little empire he built apart from the gospel. But that would be the greatest thing James could ever do in his life. Return to Jesus and be filled up with Jesus’ value and worth and significance. It’s all about Jesus. 

Because empires built on anything less than the gospel aren’t worth the tiny men who’ve slaved tirelessly to erect them. In the end, what they had put up as a prop for their own inadequacies fails them miserably, and they become slaves to the very things they might have used to point people to Jesus instead of themselves. 

The gospel. That’s what James forgot.


By the way, if this article sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you read my post called What Doug Phillips Forgot or heard our podcast episode called What Josh Duggar Forgot. James MacDonald shares a lot of company, unfortunately. Us, too.

If you happen to be one of those Christian leaders who find yourself increasingly all about yourself, find a place to start here: In Light of Fallen Men: How Christian Leaders Can Avoid the Abyss.