Doubting Thomas: How To Show A Hurting World That God's Love is Real

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Last weekend in church we heard the story of doubting Thomas, who wouldn't believe in the risen Christ until he could touch his wounds. 

The story has been sitting in my head over the last week. While it's not a perfect analogy, I'd like to share my thoughts on how I believe this story illustrates part of why a love protest is so important.

In our current times, many people have a difficult time believing in the risen Christ because his wounds are not visible to them. 

All they see is the sealed tomb; the death of hope.

No good news. 

No resurrected Christ.

Why is this the case when the Gospel has been spread far and wide? Everyone should know of the resurrection by this point. 

But people are starving. For love, for stability, for financial solvency.

They're starving for proof of God. 

They haven't seen the reality of His love manifest itself in a tangible way. 

This is a shame.

There are billions of Christians in this world. Loving our neighbors {and our enemies} should cause such an overwhelming flow of charity that no one goes to sleep hungry at night. 

Like Thomas they need to have some physical manifestation of God here in this time and place.

We could be a "proof" of the resurrection.
But we aren't. 

We Christians can be particularly uncharitable -- especially in terms of pregnancy outside of marriage.

This is part of why a love-protest is *so* important.

While we couldn't even begin to compare our good works to Christ's wounds, this doesn't mean we can't try our hardest to be an example of His love on this earth. We can be an introduction to the Gospel for someone who  doubts.

When we come as Christians to help fragile families, we are a witness to the resurrection. We are proof positive of the power of God's love.

In holding out a hand to our neighbor, we're  trying to bypass the "welfare system", which so often entraps families in a cycle of poverty.

In sharing stories, we can encourage others to hold out a safety net so families can move beyond their trapped situation: a situation which often times leads to pregnancy terminations. 

No one dreams about being poor. For those  families who do manage to overcome poverty many do so because they have very small families. And that's ok..... But what if those small families are a result of abortion?

Are we willing to risk babies lives because we don't want to associate with people "in the system"? Because "welfare moms" are somehow beneath us?

I know I'm not. This is so much more important than a political point to be made. I'm motivated with love to make sure no one ever has to feel their unborn child could be a burden. I try to be encouraging those who are less fortunate than I am. I make sure they know how important they are to me, and in turn I hope they begin to see how important the potential new lives they will bring into the world are.

We all need to be told we are valuable. We all need someone to tell us they're glad we were born. 

Helping people gives us the opportunity to show them the wounds of Christ: they receive the opportunity to learn about the plans He has for them, which are not plans for despair but plans for their good. 

People can't always hear the Gospel when they're hungry.

What The Heck Is A Love Protest?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What exactly is a love protest? 

We all know the basics of protesting:

A company or government agency is doing something we don't agree with.

We stand outside of their headquarters with bullhorns and signs, highlighting how they've failed to do business in an ethical way. 

Company or agency answers by amending their behavior or clarifying their stance. 

The basics of a love protest:

The "company" we are protesting is a world where vulnerable families are left unsupported when facing an unexpected pregnancy, and when raising children with limited financial means.

Instead of using bullhorns and signs to make our point, we use hot meals and offers of close friendship.

Hopefully, the world will stop being a hostile place for families in crisis through our actions.

Most pro-choice editorials claim that pro-lifers are only interested in babies when they are in the womb. I am dead-set on proving them wrong. I want you to help.

I started a Pledge drive. But I don't want your money. I want 1000 hours dedicated to making someone's life better.

So, what do you need to do:

Sign the Pledge and go do your good deed. 

After that, write a couple of paragraphs about what you did and send it to me at sarah @ shebringsjoy (dot) com, with some clear, beautiful photos. I'll share your story with a bunch of people who may share it with their friends.... And you may be part of a seismic change. When people see you committing random acts of loving kindness, they may be more inclined to help themselves.

Because I am going to share the heck out of your love protest at every turn and through every platform. People will no longer be able to claim that pro-lifers only care about babies in the womb. 

We'll show them that we care about mothers and fathers, babies, toddlers, and school aged kids. We care about them all, because that's what being pro-life is all about.

To read a more in-depth post about what a love protest is, see here, where I wax poetically about the inspiration for this movement.

As always, please follow My Protest Is Love on Facebook to get even more updates.

My Church Turned Me Away Because I Was A Single Mom

Thursday, March 24, 2016

It's true. My church turned me away, because I was a single, teenaged mom.

Not directly from worship, mind you- they were fine with me attending services (and dropping money into their collection plate). It was being part of the inner-workings of the church that was a problem.

I was 18, and trying to support my son alone. He was less than a year old. I had separated from his (teenaged) father, and was attempting to brings some focus into my life. I was a prodigal daughter, having been inconsistent in my church attendance during my teen years. But at this point, I had been faithfully attending church for months.

This was the church I had attended since childhood. My mother was not a church goer, but I went regularly with a neighbor. I had been baptized there, and at the time I was not only going to church, but partaking in Bible classes and group activities.
There was an opening for a helper in the after school program, and the helper could bring along their child if they had one. 

I applied, and was instantly denied. 

No interview. 

I didn't think too much about it, until someone off-handedly remarked that I hadn't been hired because I would be a bad influence on the kids. 

I was floored. 

I was floored because the woman they ended up hiring had also become pregnant before marriage. She married the father of the child, and then divorced him very quickly afterwords. She was newly divorced when she got the job. 

She was only a few years older than me, and had also been a "teen" mom. 

What about her influence? 

The rejection stung for a long time, and it eventually soured my relationship with that particular church.

As an older, wiser adult, I understand a little more about why I was denied employment. I understand that an after-school program in a church has a little more at stake in terms of "keeping up appearances". People brought their children there expecting a certain moral standard. Economically speaking, having me work there was a potential problem.

But at the time: I felt abandoned.

I drifted away once again, embarrassed and ashamed.

This was a good church, with a solid grasp of theology. The pastor was extremely knowledgeable, but honest enough to tell me when he didn't have an answer to my many questions. I not only spent my Sundays there, but many other days as well. I fondly remember cutting images out of donated greeting cards to make collages and running through the playground trying to avoid the thousands of red ants which lived underneath the swings.

It is the church by which I judge all other churches. The church where I learned to love the Law and the Gospel. My identity as a Christian was formed singing the liturgy -- through it I felt connected to every Christian who had ever lived.

And I believed they had abandoned me.

It was like a lifeline being thrown and then quickly pulled out of your reach. I was so close to the shore.... I could almost see "normal". There was a part of me which believed if I could just spend more time there, maybe I could fit in enough that people would see past "teenaged unwed" and I'd just be a mom. A mom who loved her son and wanted what was best for him, just like every other mom.

This is one place where a love protest could be most effective.

We can mimic the attitude of the "Prodigal" Father and run to those who come back to the church.

We can pull them in and celebrate their return, feeding them with the Word and Sacraments.

We can love them unconditionally-- not taking account of their situation.

We can be glad they returned, and find them a place at the best table, with the best food and wine.

Or like the "prodigal" brother, we can be bitter and envy the gifts they are given, fuming about how they are taking "our share". We could look down at them for not doing things "the right way".

Sexual sin is no different than any other sin -- it's just more difficult to hide.

How does your church welcome single parent households into their fold? Do they gossip about then when they're not there? Do they cluck their tongues when speaking about their living situation?

What about the young mother who may be choose to give up an education to give birth to her child? How do we help guarantee that she will have the opportunity to continue on a successful path in life? (And though we're primarily talking about young moms here- how do we help the older mom, who may have given up the idea of gaining a degree?) The burden of single-parenthood disproportionately falls on the female party in this type of situation. 

How does your church family support the young man who suddenly finds himself facing fatherhood... when he hasn't even figured out childhood? How does it help him rise to fulfill his vocation as a father? How do you help him understand the importance of parenting his child -- especially when the law often sees him as no more than a monthly check?

We can protest outside of a clinic all we want, but unless someone steps up to the plate and promises parents they will be supported, those abortion statistics will never significantly decrease.

(For those claiming we've already decreased numbers, I believe offerings such as Plan B have more to do with this than the current pro-life surge.)

Statistics show that Christian women have some of the highest abortion rates.

The primary reason a woman ends a pregnancy is because she "isn't ready". Not because she doesn't want the baby, but because she doesn't feel emotionally or financially secure enough to birth and raise a baby.

Those of us in the best position to help, are able to walk into church every Sunday without putting our indiscretions on display.  It doesn't mean our indiscretions are any less sinful, it just means we can hide them more easily.

If we put aside our judgement of other people's situations we may find our churches filled with babies who would otherwise be aborted.

You can be a life-saver and a world-changer. All it takes is a quiet tongue and an open heart.

10 Ways To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Change Someone's Life

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I want to share some ways you can help a family in need which are a little out of the norm. Remember, our goal is to help families who may choose to end an unexpected pregnancy. Some of these suggestions are geared specifically towards supporting a woman during pregnancy.

TEN WAYS YOU CAN STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE (and make  someone's life easier)

1) Volunteer.

Call your local pregnancy resource center and find out how to volunteer. Make a commitment to serve regularly. When clients consistently see you there, they know you care. Caring for them on a personal level will go much farther than donating a few dollars. 

2) Host a baby shower.

Organize a baby shower for expectant clients at your local food pantry. You may be able to do this in a local church {hopefully you're attending}, in conjunction with your local food pantry. Other organizations which may be able to help could be local clubs like The Knights of Columbus, the VFW, and the Rotary Club.

"Advertise" in your local library, the grocery store, and if possible in your local social service department. 

When you advertise, look for sponsors to drop off items which a new mom would need, at the food pantry.

Ask for volunteer families who would like to decorate the party space so expectant moms feel welcomed. 

Make sure you know how many moms are going to be in attendance, and prepare a diaper bag full of goodies for each one. Also sure you include a personal gift for mom. 

Ask them for a list of friends and family to invite, and invite the community to the party, on terms which fit the occasion. 

(A church may invite congregants, a club may sell dinner tickets to pay for the space, etc. - an RSVP is vital for this type of event, as you don't want more guests than you have food, or more moms than you have gifts for.)

3) Babysit.

Offer to babysit -- and pay for a movie date -- for a family whose children are small, and who may not get out that much. (Obviously, this is more appropriate if the family is someone you are close to.)

4)Donate your talents.

If you have a skill, donate it to someone who may not be able to afford your talents. 

Are you a hairdresser? Offer a haircut. Nothing makes someone feel better than a great haircut. It's also important to look well-groomed for work advancements and other professional appointments.

Are you a carpenter? Repairs are always welcome, even if someone lives in a rented living space. Help putting together furniture safely and attaching heavy items to the wall properly would assure the safety of both children and adults in the household.

Can you sew? Offer to alter an item of clothing so it fits properly for a job interview or other professional appointment.

Whatever your talents are, using them to help someone is a beautiful thing. I once had a young friend crochet me a brightly colored afghan because I lived in a dark, dank apartment and she wanted me to have some color in my life. I still treasure that blanket.

5) Prepare a meal for them.

If you know someone is struggling due to illness, cook a few meals which can be frozen and reheated. Even if they're not ill, a meal would be a nice respite - especially if both mom and dad have to work, and don't have a lot of time.

(Be sure to ask about food allergies before bringing food into someone's home.)

6) Purchase a gift card for something frivolous.

A Starbucks or Dunkin card or a manicure. Many times struggling parents can't afford simple pleasures, and giving them the ability to indulge themselves reminds them of their importance. We don't just want to help them parent their children, we want to help them reach their full potential as well. Remembering their own unique humanity goes a long way towards establishing the self-confidence needed to succeed.

7) Bring them to church.

This should be obvious. The best way to emotionally support a family is to bring them to the table of the God who created them. Reminding them of the love God has for them, of the care he took in creating their child(ren), and of His vocation for their lives will help them to remain a cohesive family unit.

(This invitation should be extended with the understanding that an unmarried couple should not be shamed or chastised, but invited as honored guests. God, along with your pastor or priest, will work on helping them enrich their family life together in a constructive way when the time is right.)

8) Host a family dinner.

Invite them over to share a weekly family dinner with you. I had a friend who did this for me and my son, and it was one of the most beautiful gifts anyone had ever given me. Because of this friend's generosity in inviting me into her family's home each week, my son was given the "cousins" he never had. These friends became our extended family and confidants. There's really few people I trust more than I trust them. 

9) Invest in their children.

Sponsor their school-aged child's after school activity. There are a whole range of after school activities which are out-of-reach for the struggling parent. For younger children, it may be Scouting or a summer team sport. For older children it may be joining the school band (instrument rentals and uniforms can be costly), or playing a school sport. In helping out a child in this way, you also show them you are invested in their future. You care enough to make sure they have the training and connections to fill out the job applications and the life experience to write those college essays.

10) Pray for them.

Pray for them the way you want people to pray for you. Pray for self-control during times of success and pray for comfort during times of disappointment. Pray for their children. 

(And ask them to pray for you in kind. Let them know you find their esteem of your family valuable. Let them know you need their help in this way, too.)

If you have ever served someone in a novel way which caused you to step out of your comfort zone and make a deep connection with an individual, please let me know. 

I'd love to compile more lists of ways to help families in need.

5 Reasons A Love Protest Is The Answer To All Of Life's Problems

Friday, March 18, 2016

Supposedly, people like lists. So here's a list:

5 reasons a love protest is the answer to all of life's problems.

We obviously want you to love your abortion vulnerable neighbor (whether or not you make the Pledge), but we'll take all the love we can for this broken world, so use this list anywhere you'd like. This list also may not be the answer to all of life's problems, but love is. So we're running with it.

1) Love begets more love:

If you love someone, they internalize that love, and are more likely to show love to someone else because they feel secure in their own worth. People who are secure are kinder and more empathetic to other's suffering.

On both a personal and community level, love causes abundant growth. When we nurture a plant it bears some type of fruit- a flower or a fruit. Plant seeds which will bear good fruit.

2) Love is a respite:

Love requires us to do something. It turns our thoughts away from our own problems, and makes us focus on someone else. We are relieved from the burden of our own problems for a short time when we help someone else.

3) Love inhibits hate:

We can't love someone and hate them at the same time. We may believe we can, but realistically the concepts are mutually exclusive. During a moment of love in action towards a specific person, we lose the ability to hate them. 

4) Love is attractive:

We look good when we are loving people. 

Loving someone is the closest we will get to heaven in this life. There is nothing more important we can do than love someone. Doing important work leaves us fulfilled in a profound way.

Love makes us glow.

5) God tells us to love our neighbors:

We know all things work for the good of those who love the Lord. Who am I to doubt His plan?

It's a short list, and I'm sure someone could come up with a more elegant explanation of why love is the answer to everything.

What could you add to this list? How can love he the ultimate form of protest in an unloving world?

{if you'd like to join me in a love protest, like me on Facebook -- and if you have a great love protest story to tell, message me there so I can share it! My goal is to collate  thousands of stories of love in action }

I'm Going To Need A Favor Soon.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sometimes things get a little crazy.

The holidays came and went, and during that time I worked at making some connections for this little project..... But I didn't post any new updates here. 

Sometime in the next week (or two) I will be releasing the coolest little stop-motion video you've ever seen. I'd love for this love protest to become a "viral" event. You can help by sharing the video and by making The Pledge

I have no idea how to give this "movement" any momentum, so I'm appealing to you to share, share, share when this little "commercial" comes out.

(Note: there are no ads, etc. here. I'm not doing this for money, I just want to make a difference.)

I'm not an internet marketer, I'm just a woman who was an unwed, uneducated, teenaged mom. 

I know how difficult it is to face an unexpected pregnancy. 

I know how difficult it is to worry about where your child's next meal is coming from. How difficult it is to wonder if things are ever going to get better.

I also know how affirming it is to have people who are there to help pick up the slack. People who tell you what a great job you're doing.

I may not know much about marketing, but I do know that we have an opportunity to change lives right now. There is nothing more pro-life than helping to support babies after they've been born.

For too long pro-choice persons have made the claim that we only care about babies before they are born. 

It's time we prove them wrong.

Leave the debates to political pundits. Leave the arguing and in-fighting to those who think pre-born babies lives are no more than a philosophical discussion. 

Choose kindness over indifference.

Choose love as your protest. 

Love Is A Verb

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Love is a verb... Well, I know it's also a noun, but in our case when we talk about love protests, we're talking about the verb love.

So, think on that. 

What actions can we all take to make our world a better, more welcoming place for families faced with a difficult situation? 

How can we present ourselves to others in a way which conveys our willingness to love them unconditionally?

I know when I was a young mom (at 17) I found the time people gave me to be invaluable. 

My son's grandmother was instrumental in helping me to hold down a job and continue attending school. Without her caring for my son, I may have ended up a lot worse off than I was.  Daycare isn't always flexible enough for a young mom who has multiple obligations in addition to their child rearing duties. She also went above and beyond by bringing my son to work so that I could nurse him, when I could not express enough breast milk to leave her a bottle.

My own grandfather would often come pick me up at my apartment and drive me to work, even though it was way out of his way. Many young parents can not maintain both a household and an automobile. The lack of reliable transportation can be the difference between welfare and a decent job. 

When I wrote the pledge, I asked people to donate $20 or 5 hours. I wanted to make it easy for anyone to participate, but really what I'm hoping for is a donation of time. 

Time from your schedule to let someone know that they're important. 

Time to develop a solid relationship with someone, a bond which will carry over into their child's life.

Time which will demonstrate to them that all lives are important enough for someone to notice them-- when they see themselves as valuable, even in less than optimal circumstances, they will be able to see others as valuable as well. In addition, your attention and concern expresses your unconditional love to them.

Love is a verb, and your practice of it can make a huge difference in someone else's life. 

Be bold in your love. 

No one ever suffered from someone loving them too much. We only suffer when we are not loved well enough.