Note – What you will read below may, in some instances, become slightly graphic and I will use personal examples. If these depictions bother you, or if you knew Ellen Louise Allen, you may want to refrain from reading further.
We still don’t know why.
We likely never will.
January 13, 2016 my sister, Ellen Louise Allen, took her own life. And like many of those affected by this kind of action, we are left wondering what we could have done to stop it. What we could have done to change the outcome. And just left wondering what part we may have played in it.
In the days since I have come to the conclusion that there is no yes or no answer. There is no long-form response or explanation that will ever make it truly clear or sufficient.
Ellen was a loving, helpful, joking person who seemed to be OK to many who met her. She always had a helping hand to lend, would fight for those suffering injustice and was well-equipped with a kind word or gesture for anyone she ever met or knew. Only close family members and friends knew that she was fighting a battle below her cheery exterior.
What may shock those that know my family is that as a child, she and my sisters watched my father’s physical and emotional abuse our oldest brother, Eddie. We’re not exactly sure why, but it seems that maybe my father just wasn’t ready to be a parent when he was born. I was some 18 years behind him life so I never witnessed it, but my sisters all agree that there were beatings and verbal lashings that went well beyond discipline and reason.
My burden came in just the last few years when I learned that my father used to treat me as the “golden child”, comparing Eddie’s failures to successes I had not even yet attempted as an infant. He was made to feel inferior by my “example”. An unfair comparison if ever there was one.
It’s no wonder that Eddie chose a life of heavy drinking and drug addiction. He eventually died as a result of those choices and the view he held of himself.
But more than the other girls, Ellen was always very emotional and deeply affected by Eddie’s abuse. Maybe because she was the second oldest and they had a deeper connection. Maybe it was that mothering instinct – that she displayed with everyone she came in contact with – that caused her to care so deeply for Eddie and try to protect him.
In the present day, Ellen still seemed happy even though she battled dark times that had crossed her life. She had lost the love of her life decades earlier in Ronnie Brown. A divorce and loss of other loves also followed in recent years, yet she always seemed like she was on top of it.
Ellen knew God, but I’m not sure she knew of all the resources God makes available to believers when they face times such as hers. I think she knew of God’s unfailing love and what he did for her with the sacrifice of his son, but how to truly access the healing power of God’s love was something she just didn’t have knowledge of. And that is where I think the problem began and eventually ended.
Her daughter Sara texted me the other night, ranting as to why her mother was dead and how “Satan had won.” She turned to me as one of her spiritual guides for a scriptural answer, and I’m not sure there is a good one.
What I do know is that Satan prowls about us like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But like a lion, he knows he has to spring his trap when the moment is perfect, or he’ll lose his prey.
Satan laid this trap some 60 years ago when my sisters watched my brother being abused. They saw it. They heard it. They lived it. It’s something that I’m sure still lives with my remaining two siblings to this day.
As for Ellen, I believe that she got distracted from who God was because she might have been getting close to figuring out just who and what Jesus could do for her. Whatever was good in her life, I think Satan whispered, “Well maybe, but it’s really not that great, is it? I mean, it’s a cruel world.” He may have even tossed in, “Look what your dad did to your brother, right?”
And I think Ellen would hear it and agree, just a little.
And each time the enemy repeated his lie, she reluctantly agreed a little more.
And finally, after years of hearing the lie, she lost all sight of the truth and the savior and could only see the darkness that she’d been deceived into thinking consumed her on all sides.
My sister, the mother of three wonderful children and the grandchildren they blessed her with, is gone. Try as we might, we cannot change that.
But in her loss we can learn that there are others like her all around. Men and women every day are struggling over personal loss, tough times and just making ends meet. They need to know that there’s a God who loves them and who has already sacrificed everything for them, if they would only choose to accept his free gift of salvation.
While the Allen and Brown families are left with numerous questions at the time of our loss, the real question is what are we going to do about it?
Who, standing right next to you, needs to know the love of God today?
Semantics – The meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage came down last week, a lot of people have been playing fast and loose with words and their interpretations. Sadly, many of them are Christians. They are people who are anything but perfect, but demand that everyone else act as such while ignoring a veritable lumberyard in their own ocular cavity.
That’s a log in your own eye, just so you don’t have to go look it up, around … well … that log in your eye.
Let’s be clear on a few things we KNOW about today’s world:
- The world hate’s Christians, even if it states otherwise – “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)
- Sinners and Christians have the same sin – “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22b-24) and “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)
- God’s ‘Great Commission’ gives Christ’s followers two jobs, and one of them is NOT condemnation – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
- God makes it pretty clear that belief or unbelief are the qualifiers for salvation – “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
So let’s start at the beginning…
If you’re a Christian, or at least claim to be, then if you have read any of the Bible you should already know that the world is out to get us. It’s not some breaking newsflash or some bullet point that just came in over the wire on CNN. Get over it and get on with what God wants you to be doing.
In case you think I’m pulling your leg, let’s take a look back at just some of society’s greatest anti-Christian hits from the last 70 years or so:
- 1948 – Supreme Court rules that time set aside for prayer in public schools is unconstitutional. (McCollum v. Board of Education)
- 1962 – Supreme Court rules that children may not recite a state written prayer in school (Engel v. Vitale).
- 1963 – Supreme Court bans individual school prayer (Murry v. Curlett) and Bible reading in public schools (Abington Township School District v. Schempp).
- 1965 – Supreme Court rules that a child may pray silently to himself if no one knows he is praying and his lips do not move.
- 1980 – Supreme Court rules that the Ten Commandments cannot be posted in classrooms, “for a child might read them, reflect upon them and then obey them.” (Stone vs. Graham)
- 1985 – Supreme Court strikes down Alabama law requiring schools to have a moment of silent meditation at the beginning of the day.
- 1987 – Supreme Court overturns a State Law requiring a balanced treatment of creation science and evolution. (Edwards vs. Aguillard)
- 1992 – Supreme Court rules Clergy may not offer prayer at graduation ceremonies. (Lee vs. Weisman)
- 2000 – Supreme Court rules student initiated or student led prayer at football games is unconstitutional. (Doe vs. Santa Fe Independent School District)
Same Shtick, Different Decade
Maybe you’ve been distracted by soap operas, disco and Deflategate over the past few decades and missed all that. But as you can see, what’s going on is nothing new.
As GI Joe would say, “Now you know and knowing is the half the battle!”
But sadly, we have Christians sounding the war trumpet and threatening (falsely I might add) to set themselves on fire or move to Canada. Folks, I believe this is nothing more than a slight of hand trick by the Master Trickster himself.
I remember of friend of mine in college named Dave who was a crack magician. When we had a talent show and some classmates coaxed him into performing and when he hit the stage it looked awful. He tried the old pouring milk into a newspaper routine, but fumbled with the newspaper and the cap to the milk. I was sure he’d crash and burn. But in the end, he seemed to just barely pull it off.
When I saw him off stage later I told him how concerned I was for him and was glad he had completed it. “Tim,” he whispered out the side of his mouth, “if they’re watching the paper and cap, they’re not watching what else I’m doing.” I realized at that moment I had been duped!
Truth of the matter is that I believe that Satan is having one heck of a laugh right now. While we’ve had pastors and Christians making declarations about what they would do if gay marriage was allowed, we’ve yet to see it happen. For starters, it’s kind of tough thing to set yourself on fire. And secondly, moving to Canada will only take you to a country that has had publicly funded health care for the last 31 years and gay marriage for the last 10.
In short, you better pick someplace else that’s likely a tad bit less accessible by your immediate family. But then again, that might be inconvenient, huh?
Following Christ usually is. Suck it up, Buttercup.
Satan has everyone whipped up into a frenzy, with Christians doing everything but what Christ commanded them (we’ll cover that in a few moments) and doing it in such a way as to alienate anyone who might be riding the fence about coming to God. And while we watch the verbal firefights on social media and in the news, he fades back into the shadows and watches believers fall by the wayside and take their friends with them.
It’s a bad parlor trick that we fall for every time.
Same Sin, Different People
Point number two makes it pretty clear that sinners and Christians suffer from the same disease – sin.
You know, that’s the point above where it says the sin you consider little and the stuff you think the homosexual agenda is promoting is horrific are actually one and the same.
Let that sink in for a moment. Yeah, humans may think that being gay is worse than lying, or that murder is worse than gossip, and who really knows if God differentiates them or not. But what God has said is that if you break ONE law, you’ve broken them ALL. Not some or a few or a couple … ALL OF THEM!
So to make things easy on you, just stop worrying about what the other guys are doing. It’s not your business if men are marrying men, women are marrying women or if there are farm animals involved.
IT’S NOT YOUR BUSINESS!
Pray for your sins first and how you can improve yourself to avoid them in the future. Pray for your family and friends. Pray for guidance on how to be more useful in the Kingdom of God and how you might better serve your spouse.
And if you still have time and breath left, pray for the people making the choice to be homosexual or have transgender surgery. But I’d suggest making sure you spend more than three minutes on your knees, or you’ll be lucky to get done with your own issues, much less anyone else’s.
But I can tell you right now that your job on this planet has nothing to do with condemning, convicting or converting another soul.
Are we clear on that? Good, let’s move on.
Two Jobs, Hold the Condemnation Please
I love The Apprentice. Not because of ‘The Donald’ and his perplexing hairdo, but because I enjoy watching how people go about organizing themselves and accomplishing a task. And the team that loses each task seems to have a common theme – They didn’t do what Trump asked them to do.
And thus our problem here.
Christians, God has neither asked nor ordained you to condemn, convict or otherwise judge your fellow human. It’s your job to love. Period. End of story.
How do I know that? Because EVERYTHING a Christian does, according to Jesus, has to be done in love. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied,
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:37-40
If you think I’m wrong, maybe now would be a good time for a little backup from another source you might recognize …
See, it’s really simple. If you can’t find true love in what you are doing, saying or thinking, then don’t do it.
Calling names, threatening bizarre actions or wishing harm on folks because of something that happened either to, for or by them has no love in it and Christ has no part in it. Whipping people up into a frenzy about the world and causing them to not focus on their walk with God – no love in that and Christ has no part in it.
The fourth point above also indicates this, as people who are not followers of God’s only begotten son are already condemned. It’s already done. So what on earth makes you think that by you verbally or physically heaping coals on someone’s head that you’ll accomplish what God did not choose to accomplish?
In fact, God commanded that you do just the opposite.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.~ Psalm 25:21-22
Hmmm, guess this poses a little problem for those using that “Christian baker and a gay wedding” argument. Well, that’s for another discussion…
Listen, if you truly are a Christian and follow the one, true Lord of the universe, then no amount of anything you do will alter the course of history other than prayer. Pray without ceasing, as the Bible tells us. Instead of talking to yourself, talk to God. Not every prayer needs to have a dozen ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and flowery words in them. Just talk to God and let him know what you’re feeling and what’s going on.
He can and will do whatever he wants and he already knows everything you will ever want or need, but he absolutely loves the sound of your voice. So talk to him.
In closing, Christians stop acting the fool. It’s not your job to force a culture that you came from to live a life that you chose to follow and that they have not. Remember that, you made a CHOICE. And a choice straight from the heart is what unbelievers need to make for them to have an authentic, real relationship with Christ – just like the one you’re trying to have with him.
“… wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” ~ Matthew 13b-14
Drop the rhetoric, the misinformation and mistrust and put on the armor of God. Because without it you’re just another easy target for the Father of Lies to shoot at.
Lately I’ve been researching my family tree and it’s been quite interesting.
In the last two months since I really got into it, I was finally able to find the birthplace of my grandma MacDonald. Just getting there was a task, but thanks to the Internet and Facebook, I was able to find so much more.
I actually found pictures of her as a child, as well as her brothers, sisters and father – my great grandfather.
And once that door opened up, I was able to start seeing connections to people in the past that I’d never known. And interestingly enough, some I did know.
I found that I was related to the likes Robert The Bruce, Charles Martel and even Charlemagne.
Finding yourself attached to those folks is somewhat sobering. But this weekend it might have gotten even better.
I was searching for pictures of these new-found family members when I found a web site that linked members of this royal chain even farther back than I expected. I knew I didn’t have time to enter in all the data, so I just started clicking through the father’s names until I hit one I recognized.
Isaac (Ishaq) ben Abraham.
That seemed a little coincidental, so I glanced over at his wife’s name and found it to be Rebekah. One more look and I found that his father’s name was Abraham and his mother’s Hagar.
And it suddenly dawned on me that – according to this one web site – I had a direct lineage to the father of Israel. Not just any Abraham but the Abraham.
Of course you make enough clicks backward and you end up with a nice pair of newly weds (and newly createds, for that matter) named Adam and Eve who were having some housing issues.
It dawned on me at that point that what I had always thought to be true with the story of Noah, was true all the way around.
We’re all family.
Think of all of the evil in the world today. Greed. Theft. Envy. Lust. Murder. Wars. This list is practically endless.
And when we think we’ve just about reached the end, we always seem to come up with a new spin on an old sin or something completely out of the blue.
But what is we thought of each other as family.
As a child considering the saga of Noah, it occurred to me that everyone on the planet must be able to trace the ancestral roots back to one of Noah’s three sons and then to Noah. That no matter our skin color, race or sports team affiliation we are all related.
Think about that for a moment.
That guy who cut you off in traffic and gave you the bird.
That woman that called trying to collect a bill.
All of them – and yes, even the Congressmen – are your brothers and sisters. They may be a few times removed, but we are all part of one family. The family of man.
And it was for that reason that God sent the Son of Man to atone for our sins. Because to make amends for the seemingly endless array of things we have done and will continue to each other, He had to send a member of the family to get it right.
Am I directly linked to Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. Well, if I believe the story of Noah then I must be somehow. But whether or not I am in their bloodline means little in that we are all one race, under God and we really ought to start acting like it.