Monthly Archives: June 2017

Advice the World Won’t Give You (for my brother)

Dear Tim,

Make Marla your wife.

I’m writing this, knowing it might poke or sting or upset you, but also knowing we’ll still be family at the end of the day, no matter what.

You need to make Marla part of our family, too.

(This post is sort of a piggy-back on Part #1, in which I told my children that “hubby” isn’t short for “boyfriend.”   I’m tired of seeing young girls, playing house and living out their fantasies with a boy who clearly isn’t going to do the right thing and commit to her.)

Too many Baby Daddies are stringing along these girls with no self-esteem, by making promises and taking “family”  vacations and pictures–and basically doing/saying whatever works to keep the cow milking.


Thankfully, Marla doesn’t refer to you as her hubby on Facebook. (That’s one of the things we like about her.)  She’s easy to make laugh. She comes from a stable place, so she’s level-headed. And she has been honest about her intentions to marry you, as soon as you get the courage to take that step.

We’re waiting for you.

The whole family loves Marla.  In fact, they love her so much, that if you ever gave her a “married ring” as a way to compromise on commitment, we would punch you in the throat.


You know you’d hear from us!   Both of your sisters, your mother, your father, your aunts… All of us would tell you it’s ridiculous to try and go “halfsies” with something like marriage.  We would NEVER let you get away with something like this:



First: there is no such thing as “pretty much married.”

Second: thirteen years?!

Tim, I think you agree that a 13-year engagement is not an “engagement.”  Not really.

Likewise, a 3-4 year “dating relationship” isn’t really “dating.”

The point of dating is supposed to be finding a life partner…not spending decades waiting and seeing if you both just happen to stick around.  

When you spend years telling a girl you love her, without making her an official part of your family,  then you’re not really loving her. You’re using her to meet your current needs, while refusing to commit to her future.

You’re taking the love and support you want now, while withholding the integrity and sacrifice it takes to promise to take care of her forever.

Guys who try to hold back parts of themselves are cowards.

I have no patience for guys who put on a big show about how they take care of their woman, while still trying to keep an exit door open.



Honestly, it’s not the “piece of paper.”

And it’s certainly not the Welfare or Social Security benefits…

To me, it isn’t even the “ordained minister” which magically makes a marriage legitimate and official.



To me, it’s that last part about the dude being a chicken which matters the most. That’s what it comes down to.

Is the guy willing to close all of his exits, because that’s best for his girlfriend (and their kids)?    Is he going to stick his neck out and make a personal sacrifice, as an example of the sacrificing he will have to do many, many more times as they grow old?

Or is he a chicken?


Look, I know you want to be sure you’re making the right choice.  I know you’ve said you’re afraid of disappointing Marla down the road–and I appreciate that you see marriage as something serious enough not to rush in.  (There are people your age, already working on their second or third marriages, and I don’t think that solves the commitment problem, either.  So thanks for respecting marriage enough to be cautious.)

However, as your sister, I’m going to give it to you straight:  you’re not doing right by Marla until you make her your wife.  Commit to her.  Bring her into the family, so she can say blunt and uncomfortable things (just like this) to any one of us and have the security of knowing she’ll still be a member of the group.

Don’t make Marla the “Girl With the Sort-Of Marriage Ring”  or the “Girl With the 13-Year Engagement.” I know you can love her better than that.  🙂

Make your commitment official, because it’s the right thing to do.

I love you, little bro!

–Big Sis

Men: Learn to Cry on Command

I think I’ve figured out why we tend to protect females when they make bad decisions yet we judge males more harshly.

The reason, I think is: girls are better at crying…

Now hear me out!

If you have two different friends asking for your advice about a decision, and one of them seems pretty confident while the other is still visibly struggling through tears on the outside, who are you more likely to be honest with?

It’s not too difficult to tell the confident friend if there’s something he/she doesn’t seem to have considered.  (Maybe that friend needs to keep working through it!)

But would you treat the crying friend the same? Or would you assume he/she has struggled enough already and look for ways to make them feel better about whatever they’ve done?

Let me use a random example, to clarify.

Suppose you have two different friends, both struggling with placing their parents in a nursing home.

The first friend lists the pros and cons of each option (very matter-of-fact), and then shrugs and says, “I’m just not sure what’s best…What do you think you’d do?”

We’d probably share our opinion easily–maybe even adding a couple more angles to consider that our friend hadn’t listed, to make sure they are being thorough. And, we’d probably promise to pray for wisdom, on their behalf, to make the best choice.

But, if the second friend is distraught and crying, I think the last thing we’d do is offer MORE things for him/her to consider.  (We don’t want to add stress!)   Our message to the crying friend would be that they shouldn’t worry too much because God loves them no matter what choices they make…

Do you see the difference?

With Friend #1, we assume he still has some more considering to do.

With Friend #2, we assume she has been thinking pretty thoroughly already, because we can see the signs of struggle in her face.

So, we end up with two different types of responses for two different personalities.

The “Confident Friend” often receives practical advice for making the best decision possible. We say things like, “Keep striving” or “Don’t settle” (or “Man Up”)

Thus, he may be used to taking criticism from others because it doesn’t look (on the outside) like he criticizes himself very much…  We think he still lacks Wisdom.

Meanwhile, the Crying Friend receives a lot of support, and we say things like, “Give yourself grace” or “Don’t beat yourself up.”

Thus, she may be used to hearing lots of positive feedback and reminders of God’s love–because we interpret through her tears that she has the “Wisdom” part down already.

After all, she’s crying!

Obviously this is something she is really seeking God about!

Anyway, I think that’s how we’ve gotten to the place in church culture where (generally) men’s ministries focus on accountability during a personal battle, while women’s ministries focus on support.

Men are encouraged to conquer sin.

Women are told they don’t have to be perfect.

We think men need to be more responsible, while women need to let go…

For some reason, we have come to interpret that outward appearance of struggle as evidence of Wisdom, even though having lots of emotions isn’t necessarily the same as being closer to God.

Now, I’m not trying to say it’s wrong to give different kinds of advice to different people because I do agree with choosing a focus or emphasis based on what each individual needs.

But I DO think our biases can become an issue, if we aren’t aware of them.   Being more gentle with someone who’s emotional, just because they’re emotional, isn’t fair.

And it isn’t right to view women as the more spiritual gender, just because many tend to be more vulnerable and appear to seek God more earnestly than a dry-eyed man or woman.

Crying doesn’t necessarily mean “In Tune with God,” so let’s be careful not to act like it does.

On the other hand, if it’s too late to curb this trend, and you’re a man who wants unwavering support for whatever thing you’ve set your mind to do, just tell someone it’s a big struggle and squeeze out a tear or two.

I promise, crying will change the type of responses you receive drastically.


You’re Making Me Look Bad


My friend Bethany helped me notice a trend awhile back, and I think she’s right:

Whenever we see other people holding themselves to a higher standard, we’re tempted to talk them out of their convictions, instead of letting them convict us, too.

When a friend refuses to watch certain types of movies or eat certain foods, the rest of us are quick to shout “grace” to make ourselves feel better.

We’d rather get defensive than deal with the possibility that maybe–just maybe–our friend is doing something respectable, and we feel like we’re underachieving…
We get even more uncomfortable if the friend starts sharing all the reasons she reached her conclusion and they turn out to be fairly good ones.

Maybe she brings up some personal stories or relevant Bible verses that you’d never considered before.

Maybe she explains that she errs on the side of caution because she’d rather be “too hard on herself” than to cross a line into sin (as humans do so easily), and that makes a lot of sense to you.

Particularly if it’s obvious the issue isn’t as simple as we once believed, then we might get upset because we don’t really WANT to end up as “extreme” as our high-standard friend.

There is often a sense of dread that occurs when we realize the Holy Spirit might be tugging us in her direction.  (“No! Please, God! I was perfectly comfortable before!”)  🙂

So, whenever we’re feeling challenged by another person’s example, we have a couple of options:

  1. Thank the friend for the perspective and the chance to (maybe) make a change.
  2. Get defensive and try to convince the friend they’re actually wrong, so you don’t have to wrestle with that discomfort any more.


At the end of a debate, Christians who want to stay comfortably in the same place will always have that option.

We can always make the case that New Testament living is all about grace and freedom…

No one is “better” than another.

God loves us equally regardless.

We’re not under The Law anymore.

I mean, technically, Paul said point-blank, “EVERYTHING is permissible.”

But, if we’re willing to be honest, sometimes we use those platitudes as cop-outs. While they’re true in a context, we don’t have to turn them into convenient excuses.

That’s why I love what Charles Spurgeon wrote about decision-making:

It’s a bit frustrating when one Christian feels the need to argue they’re not doing anything “wrong,” instead of being open to the option of raising their standard on a quest to be even more right.

Personally, I don’t want to settle for what I’m allowed to do.  I want the wisdom and persistence to pursue what’s BEST, without copping out.

“Is my choice simply permissible–or is it best?”  That’s what we have to wrestle with, when we notice a fellow Christian going an extra mile beyond us…

Of course, we all like to believe we’re doing our best all the time already. (We tend to flatter ourselves like that.)

But, when we run into someone fighting against a temptation even harder or longer than we are, it forces us to pause and reconsider.

Do we appreciate that chance to evaluate ourselves–or do we resent the person who caused it?

Do we try to talk others out of their high standards, or do we take the challenge to raise our own?

Even when it’s uncomfortable, a wise person will give the Holy Spirit the chance to reveal that maybe–just maybe–we haven’t been doing our BEST after all.

Stop Feeling So Sorry for Women

I don’t understand how anyone can believe “the Church favors men,” unless they just aren’t paying attention.

I know there are cases of individual women who are abused by individual church leaders. (And I know there will be people who skip right over that line, so I’ll say it a different way:  I’m not denying that your sister or best friend was mistreated by HER church.)

But–speaking at the big picture level–this is not a systemic problem.

By and large, women need only to post their story on social media faster than anyone they’ve wronged can explain “the other side.” (Extra points for sad emojis.) And immediately she will be surrounded by an army of Christian defenders shouting for “grace” on her behalf, no matter the details such as whether she actually repents…

Even if her whole confession amounts to “It was a big misunderstanding” or “My biggest fault is caring too much,” people won’t even notice what a horrible apology that is.

Someone will suggest she just couldn’t help herself. (Everything happens for a reason, so her sin was God’s idea.)

Someone else will make a case for why her sin isn’t reeeeeally a sin at all.

Someone else will add helpfully that–even when she sins–God forgives her.

And, generally, everyone will agree that this woman mostly just needs affection and encouragement from friends and family. (Because women only sin when they’re not getting enough love, you know.)

Plus, at least 15 people will mention the adulterous woman that Jesus wouldn’t stone…

This is frustrating enough for someone who wants sisters to experience the growth that comes from accountability. (It’s annoying to keep having to fight civil battles with other Christians who are trying to protect the wayward woman’s right to sin in peace.)

But it’s even worse when you realize the Grace Brigade often fails to extend the same understanding and concern for our sinful brothers.

When a male hurts his family and community through ongoing sin, suddenly words like “consequences” and “responsibility” come back into vogue.

It seems to be common knowledge that women mainly need grace, while men need some version of tough love.

I’ve been aware of this trend for awhile, but I recently uncovered an example by accident, when I posted to Facebook about two different cases of sexual sin.

First, a few weeks ago, the conversation centered on unmarried girls who sleep around and get pregnant (sometimes multiple times).  Then, yesterday, we discussed Lysa Terkeurst’s unfaithful husband.

I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the number of people defending Lysa’s choice to file for divorce.

But it’s pretty incredible to compare the arguments for how the Church should “love” a serially-sinful female versus how to “love” a serially-sinful male.

I’ve decided to copy-and-paste a few of the quotes, in hopes we as a Body can start working to correct this double-standard.   I really believe it has gone on far enough.


#1.  On feeling sorry for the sinner.

Regarding the promiscuous girl:

“I feel so sorry for her.. Further, my heart breaks more for the guilt & shame she probably feels.”

Regarding the promiscuous husband:

“His poor wife has probably been through hell. Telling her it’s not ok to divorce is like saying she deserves to take on the effects of his sins, and that’s simply not Who God is…”

My questions: Why do we only ever see an issue from the female’s perspective, regardless of whether she’s the victim or the victimizer?  (Girl sinners deserve grace and girl victims should have to give grace, correct?)  Do grandparents deserve to help raise a baby they didn’t create–which is dealing with the effects of their daughters’ sin?  (Isn’t it wrong to judge them for kicking out their daughter, since telling them it’s not OK is like saying they deserve to pay for her sins?)

#2. On judgement vs. love.

About the pregnant girl:

“I think in many cases we tend to reach for the gavel as a human condition. But applying God’s love, agape love, is really the most important commandment. I would ask how is the school offering her agape love, reflecting Jesus, and offering forgiveness? That’s supposed to be what the body does.”

About the unfaithful husband:

“We aren’t supposed to carry [the sinner’s] load, or what they are responsible for. To stay in a relationship with him could lead to…enabling of his sin.”

My question: Are parents enabling their promiscuous teen if they don’t kick them out? …or are wives the only ones capable of knowing when it’s time to make someone carry his own load?

#3. On rejecting a sinner.

About the school’s decision to put boundaries on the girl:

“…A punishment isn’t going to ‘correct’ her…or make her repent out of rejection… I question if the school is more concerned about being right than being loving…”

About the wife’s decision to put boundaries on her husband:

“I’m not her and I don’t stand between her and God, like you don’t stand between them and God, to be their judge.”

My question: If it’s okay to offer opinions about whether a school principal is loving a female sinner in a Christlike way, why isn’t it okay to offer opinions about whether a wife is loving a male sinner in a Christlike way?

#4. On the sinner’s responsibility.

About helping the girl:

“I think there could be many other ways to help her deal with this instead of humiliation and rejection. It’s a sin cycle…”

About helping the husband:

“Sometimes the radical loving thing is to let go.”

#5. On the Church’s responsibility.

About saving certain sinners:

“I likely strongly disagree with much [Church discipline]… Just too many friends and family through the years have been turned away, kicked out, or treated unfairly and lost their faith and now are further from living a life of grace than they were before.”

About saving a wayward husband:

“I’d rather not play God in being this addict’s savior. That’s not a spouse’s job. That’s not her problem to save [her husband] from his sins…”


Time after time after time, the Church finds it easier to demand understanding for females caught in a “sin cycle”–while taking a harsher and less-graceful approach with men.

For the record, I believe a teenager who continues sinning over and over again (whether it’s sex, substance abuse, or something else) ought to be given certain ultimatums.

Parents should have the freedom to enforce therapy.  Their private school may get involved and take away privileges (like sports and graduation). And the whole process may even reach the point of kicking an unrepentant teen from the house, if they’re completely uncooperative.

These things should be done in love, with the hope of reconciliation, to protect the rest of the family and to avoid enabling the bad behavior.

I don’t have a problem with separating from an escalating, abusive, or enabling spouse situation, either.

However, I don’t think parents should EVER take their kids down to the courthouse to legally “divorce” them. 


I’m pretty sure I’m not one who’s being inconsistent here.

When it comes to holding Christians accountable for “sin cycles,” the Church must not protect and justify the promiscuous girl while casting out the promiscuous husband.

We have no trouble recognizing the backward-thinking and overall wrongness of disowning a girl when she’s weakest and most vulnerable. But, for some reason, we struggle to apply that logic to repeatedly-sinful man.

Hello?  Where’s my Grace Brigade?

P.S.  Random thought:  we all know the adulterous woman didn’t get stoned.  But now I’m wondering whether her husband divorced her…  hmm…

God Still Loves People Who Abandon Their Children

I heard a story awhile back, about a family who adopted a child and then un-adopted him when things didn’t work out…

I’m not sure if it was this story of Beth and Tom Remboldt:   “Love Can’t Always Conquer All.”

Or if it was this story of the Conners:  “Giving Up Adopted Children.”

Or if it was this article that mentioned Torry Ann Hansen, who put her 7-year-old back on a plane and sent him back to Russia alone: “Broken Adoptions.”

It could have been one of hundreds of stories of “re-homing”/”re-placement” of adopted children that are out there.

“A recent investigation by Reuters found Internet message boards dedicated to re-homing — with a new child advertised about once a week. While legal adoptions are handled through courts, a simple power-of-attorney document can shuffle kids to another guardian. Reporters discovered that with such little oversight, children were sometimes abused in their second, or even third, re-homing.”

But, the gist of all of these profiles is the same.

Bring a child into your home on the promise of “forever,” tell them they’re no different from your own, biological children, and then retract that promise.

6.15.17 Return Adopted Child (#2)

Does that make you uncomfortable?

It should.

Because, deep down, we all know that unconditional love is supposed to mean U-N-C-O-N-D-I-T-I-O-N-A-L.  

I hope we’re still at a place, culturally, where we can agree there’s something very, very wrong when a parent steps out of their child’s life completely.

Even when the entire family is in emotional crisis, what possible good comes from permanently cutting ties with one of the members?

Who will love the unloveable, if not his/her family?


6.15.17 Return Adopted Child (#1)

The topic is on my mind because I’ve heard that Lysa Terkeurst, of Proverbs 31 Ministries, was “pursuing a divorce” from her husband of 25 years…

…and I wondered what the Church opinion would be if she were “pursuing a divorce” from a 25-year-old son or daughter of hers.

Could there be any reason to cut ties with a family member, in such an official and permanent way?

6.15.17 Return Adopted Child (#2)

Personally, I can’t think of one. (Other than the obvious: to make it legally possible to remarry.)  What other “benefit” could there be, to telling a loved one they’ve gone too far, and you’re officially, publicly finished with the relationship due to their failure to meet certain conditions?

What’s sad and frustrating is that Terkeurst herself was quoted a few years back being equally critical of divorce.

She wrote, “While temporary happiness may be found, divorce causes death — it harms not only the spouses involved but also their children and friends.”

That’s still true, even though Terkeurst believes she’s now being led by God himself to file for one.

Divorce is still an attempt to fix one wrong with another.

As Dr. David Crabtree (of Gutenberg College) says:

“Divorce is to adultery what price gouging is to armed robbery: essentially the same crime, varying only in degree of brutality. Adultery…is the breaking of one’s solemn promise; it is the treacherous betrayal of one’s closest friend. Divorce involves the same kind of betrayal; it may be legal, but it is still nasty.”

In light of this, I don’t see how filing for divorce can ever be a loving move.

My own promise doesn’t become null and void, just because my husband breaks his. I’m not suddenly at liberty to put myself above him, even if he does it first.

Of course, I do believe that separation is necessary sometimes, when physical abuse is a factor.  But getting a lawyer involved to “finalize” a divorce, doesn’t actually make that situation better, either.

The other spouse is still abusive.

You’ve still got kids.

You’re still required to love him, even if from a distance.

Unfortunately, going to the courthouse and filing certain paperwork has a way of making us think we’ve solved a problem we haven’t. 

Whether it’s the son/daughter who never bonded with the family properly, or the spouse who is continually unfaithful, responding by breaking your promise to them never makes sense.



6.15.17 Return Adopted Child (#4)



I hope we haven’t sunk so far into Self-Protection Land that we’re unmoved by the examples I’ve shared.

But, I’m afraid we’re being nudged, a little at a time, to accept the lie that selfishness can be healthy–for both parents and spouses.

I wonder, to an extent, why any of us bothers making promises to anyone, at any time?

Because what’s the point? When, we talk about commitment and in the same breath we warn each other, “But anything can happen, so never say never!”

Why take any sort of solemn vow–ever–when we really mean “forever…unless it’s much harder than I thought.”

As for me, I’d rather be a lonely, celibate old lady–who has lived by herself and faithfully observed her wedding vows for decades, with no idea where her husband is–than to say “I did everything I could” and live with the guilt of knowing it wasn’t true.

One thing I can do is refuse to be the one who files for divorce.

And, even if I am served papers and given no legal choice, I can continue to live in faithfulness to my promises, no matter what anyone else does.

If one of my children turned into a sociopathic monster, I could put up barriers to keep the others safe while still making sure that child knows “You will ALWAYS be mine, and I will ALWAYS love you–whether I like you or not.”

That’s what faithfulness is.

Taking the “save yourself” route is never required.

I realize that’s radical. I know this is a huge sore spot for a lot of people and has gotten me into trouble before.

But what would happen if more outspoken, female leaders in the Church were this way?

I’m not talking about Anna Duggar or any other quiet, less-confidant woman who has been cheated on publicly and stayed with her husband.   I’m talking about the loud, strong, stubborn sisters who aren’t afraid to be called “doormats” because they can explain for you exactly, unflinchingly why they believe the way they do about sacrifice.

What sort of changes might we see in marriages across the country, if our sons and daughters were THAT committed to being blameless and pure, word-keepers to the bitter end?

I like to believe that shuffling children from one temporary relationship to the next would be a thing of the past…

…and that giving up on spouses would be ancient history, too.