Tag Archives: crisis pregnancy center

Could We Just Agree to Make Beautiful Music Together?

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

I worry. A lot. Some would say (and have), “Get some meds lady!”

What I often worry about, is how people perceive my faith – especially those who financially support Choices, the mission I’ve served, fought for, deconstructed and reconstructed, for more than twenty years – and taken seriously the mission of nurturing life, thereby upending some former tightly held beliefs. (And as Kathy Escobar recently captured so well, my faith hasn’t changed, only my beliefs. If you have a few minutes, take a listen to her wise guiding.) I’ve given up certainty and rightness for faith, hope, love and mystery, which, while that might make some nervous, brings me a sense of closeness to God.

Most people don’t care. Some people do. Others wonder why I even talk or write about it. My life is complex, in that, I’ve mostly not been allowed to be honest about my faith journey – it’s a risky venture when you’re in ministry. And frankly, it has been a tremendous time of loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, stress, and sadness. Interestingly, there is a life-giving sense to letting my life speak more openly and vulnerably. Why? Because what I find is that I’m not alone. But, that might be another post.

One of the greatest gifts of my life was/is to experience frustration with my faith and beliefs. To have my taught understandings not fit my current life experiences – to being increasingly desperate to find a different understanding…as in, well, surely, there must be more to the story – or at least another perspective that was more compassionate, that would better represent the person I was created to be – and reflect back to the world.

“Learn to be humble by doing all the humble work and doing it for Jesus. You cannot learn humility from books; you learn it by accepting humiliations. Humiliations are not meant to torture us; they are gifts from God. These little humiliations—if we accept them with joy—will help us to be holy, to have a meek and humble heart like Jesus.”
— Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Thanks for the reminder Mother Teresa. I get it. 

So, shifting gears a bit by way of metaphor – remember these are random musings – here’s a little something Jim and I were conversing about this morning – these are just short little insights to help us consider how we might sit with others of different beliefs – but the same faith.

Some people believe there’s only one way to parent, so if you’re doing it differently, from their perspective, you’re wrong. Now consider all the parenting articles, books, blogposts, and opinions from friends and family. I think you get this.

  • Children don’t listen to what you say, they do, however, watch what you do.
  • It is a lived life that speaks, and not the mouth. (Thanks for these words, beloved hubby of 22 years on Friday.)
  • So many perspectives, but love shows up as the strongest factor for change.
  • Even when parents abuse or neglect their children, those children will defend their parents. They will choose to be with them.
  • Every parent has his/her unique gifts – it is as they live into who they are that they give their best gifts to their children. Living into infers it’s still happening, that is, the learning part – after almost 40 years of parenting. (Yes, early start, coupled with later additions, equal lengthy parenting experience.)

This morning, I made the decision to not wake my 15 year old up, because after doing so several times, and hearing his complaint, “Mom, I was just getting up – you didn’t need to come and be sure I was up,” I chose not to, even though I feared he would be late. Was it wrong? Should I have gone to be sure he was up? Some would say yes, some would say no. And that’s my point. There’s no exacting way to do it right.

These albeit somewhat random thoughts are to help us consider the unique ways in which we respond to people who come for care at Choices – we believe that the belief differences present among our volunteers, are a healthy balance in community.

Even when there’s tension. Even when our beliefs are in conflict with one another. Here’s an example of what that looks like: birth control. So, some believe that birth control prevents procreation which is their high value, others believe birth control invites more sexuality-outside-of-marriage, and others believe that if you (actually) want to curb abortion, you will most definitely be a birth control proponent.

Head spinning yet? Just try juggling these, and other tension-filled talks of best practices on a given hot topic!

And here’s where some of the fear shows up for me: depending upon where one lands in the above conversation, one might withhold critical dollars. Consequently, people will not be cared for. People will suffer. Maybe people will succumb to whatever keeps them from finding life and well-being, because having a precise and quite certain perspective implies that difference must not be supported, and by extension, neither must people – the very people we’re called to love and nurture.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who isn’t in a faith stream who uses the word saved, and her first priority isn’t to ensure that they know Jesus – at least not in the sense of reciting something they don’t yet understand. She prefers they experience what knowing Jesus feels like: compassionate, loving, generous, merciful, and grace-filled. Does that make her of no value as a volunteer in a mission where one’s faith compels one to serve? Well, duh, right? Except, I’ve lived with the reality of having your thoughts, words,  actions, and life scrutinized – and truth be told, I’m not very good at being under a microscope. Frankly, it’s terrifying and dehumanizing.

And so I live in constant fear – some would say irrational, hence the meds suggestion – that the manner in which I hold my beliefs, and subsequently that which informs the processes of caring for pregnant and parenting folks is less-than sufficient, or worse (as I have been told), just plain wrong.

But it’s who I am. It’s who, after years of discerning and wrestling with ‘how then shall I live’ most honors my Creator’s createdness in me.

Is there only one way of holding faith? Given that our Creator God, (and creative God?) has shown such grand diversity among the world’s people and places, I’m going with no. I’m going with another metaphor, that of an orchestra, where each musician, in concert together with others, plays their unique part and together presents beautiful music. If everyone played the clarinet in the same manner, with the same notes, well, boring, just boring. I want to hear the cello, the viola, the double bass…and more, the percussion instruments of the cymbals, drums and maybe the gong. Each sounding a bit different – and each contributing to the wholeness of the orchestra.

Could we just agree to make beautiful music together? 

Interestingly, and conveniently, my friend Jim Henderson posted this today, on his birthday – his faith work being one of the key reasons we originally moved to Seattle. If you take the time to read it, my sense is that you’ll grasp a better understanding of my approach to faith and belief, especially this, because, well, this has been on the repeat cycle for the past several years:

“My experience with most Christians and Atheists for that matter is that they cant find a way to sit in the room with difference. They can’t stop themselves from mentally comparing their best with their ideological opponents worst. They either try to re-educate them, control them or exorcise them.”

I thought exorcise was a typo, until I used an online dictionary to remind me that to exorcise is to drive out or attempt to drive out (an evil spirit) from a person or place. And sadly, that is too often what occurs with difference.


I Stand With Katie

UPDATE 6/23/15: It appears the video clips supporting the assertions in this blog post are no longer available, which makes the read less clear, but nonetheless compelling to do this compassionate work of caring for pregnant and parenting mamas, daddies, their little ones and families.

To be sure, this is NOT a blog post to debate abortion – that is a VERY different conversation. This is a justice declaration in responding to those with sexuality, pregnancy and parenting challenges – and in some sense of a current national theme, a whistle-blowing attempt to call out the wrongdoing of misdirected crisis pregnancy centers. Further, this is for those who have been harmed  by well-meaning, yet mislead caregivers, in the process of the working out and wrestling with these weighty and deeply personal matters of the heart and soul. Forgive us. Join us. Help us.  We are so much  more than the abortion question. A quick nod to the amazingly supportive village that is Choices, getting to know our guests who become friends, and providing one on one help in the areas of parenting guidance and insights, (along with practical resources, such as diapers, wipes, clothes, blankets, car seats), dating/partner abuse/violence, and sexual  health and trauma. We were not intended to journey alone – we are better together.  And, as is customary, while I realize this is not a formal writing piece, (clearly!), and lower word counts equal more readers, I struggle with brevity. You’ve been forewarned.  But hang in there – you might just find some intriguing, surprising, challenging, and hopefully encouraging thoughts. As I identify as a Christian, this is the perspective I write from, and while there are many Christian perspectives, it is my utmost desire to honor God with the tools, experiences, and passions given me. You may believe differently; there are many shades of gray. My hope is that we are able to live in peace amidst the difference.  And, please also know this represents my wrestle with a Beloved God, who is at work among us, and through us, and loves us in the midst of all the hard, vulnerable and failing places of our lives – the messes and gray areas, the surefooted and the shaky. Please be kind.  An Unlikely Alliance Katie Stack, founder of the Crisis Project, is just now learning that I stand with her on calling out crisis pregnancy centers who do harm – for many reasons, but also because I am appalled and grieved that such tactics purport to represent the heart of God.

noun. injury – damage – mischief – detriment – hurt – evil
verb. injure – hurt – damage – prejudice – impair – do harm

Katie might be suspicious of my contact. And, honestly, who can blame her? I’ve identified myself as a longtime crisis pregnancy center director – the very group (at large) she is rightly investigating – which, as a movement, has shown itself to be largely deceptive and manipulative to accomplish its aims, (in addition to a tremendous amount of honorable, compassionate work). Why should she trust me? And I get that, and maybe I don’t even know why I wanted to contact her, except perhaps to say – you’re right to do what you’re doing with the Crisis Project. I stand with you.  As Katie has personally visited several crisis pregnancy centers posing as a young woman in need of services, she has uncovered and publicized what we have known to be standard protocol for more than twenty years — and what we have sought to excise and transform, steadily and incrementally since my role at Choices began in 1994. Below are some examples of her necessary and important work, but first a disclaimer. If there was any hesitancy in including these links, which publicly identify these surely well-intended women, it is that I do not desire to hurt them – they are deeply entrenched in perpetuating a system that is flawed and in need of overhaul, that is inflicting harm through many of the 4,000 plus crisis pregnancy centers across our nation. Certainly not all, and certainly there are models with varying degrees of unhelpful and damaging procedures that mostly thwart the stated mission of CPC missions, stated in some form to provide ‘Christ-centered ministry’.  On an aside, a question might be, how can we define ‘Christ-centered ministry’? Likely, we would have varying definitions, as we are all created to reflect different facets of Christ. But, I hope that we can agree that deception, manipulation, invoking fear, guilt and religious propaganda are not among them.

And, sadly, there are more. How many more are there that haven’t been captured? How many women are being victimized in the name of God? So, a challenge in response to viewing Katie’s work – and, some of you will first need to take a breath and dig deep –  might be to identify and acknowledge the irresponsible and outright harmful tactics these volunteers have been taught in an attempt to steer women away from abortion clinics – and to save them. One cringeworthy story I recall is a terrified young college-age woman who went into a CPC for a pregnancy test, discovered it was to her greatest fear positive, and then promptly to be told by the counselor, “If you would just turn your life over to Jesus, everything would be okay.” This is a lie, not helpful at all, and it was these words that completely missed this young woman’s deep pain, and offered her no tangible help. And, since I know this young woman, her Christian faith was already intact –  in case anyone is curious. The outcome? She fled and sought an abortion to relieve her pain. Did she want the abortion? Perhaps. Could she have used a safe space to explore her feelings? Definitely. Harsh and judgemental words that miss the needs of women inflict harm – in the immediate, and in the future. Well-Meaning, Yet Mislead It seems that this phrase could be applied to a few sides of this conversation: those who have labored alongside so many women in crisis and with challenges – and those who have strong opinions, yet little experience in direct care. Meeting face to face with people in pain makes a difference. Misguided agenda includes:

  • Religious proselytizing
  • Fear-based information
  • Images or words intended to emotionally manipulate

Courage hasn’t always come easily – well, maybe never – but perhaps ironically, as I’ve wrestled to live further into my faith as a Christian, I find there is no other option than to declare what I know to be true: my faith informs me that God created us all with the ability to make choices – and that means I don’t get to make yours. To set-up a scenario that seeks to shame, judge, manipulate, impose fear and agenda to accomplish one’s aims (no matter how strongly one feels), is to disrespect God’s intentional design. Our job is not to dissuade women from having abortion – our job is to create an emotionally safe space for a woman (and her partner if desired), to get in touch with her own voice, and to discover that there are resources, both economical and relational to come alongside her should she desire to continue her pregnancy. Our job is not to take advantage of and proselytize women in the midst of deeply painful, vulnerable situations. To hear, “If you would just give your life to Jesus, everything would be okay,” is a flat out lie. Yet, more than once I have heard a woman tell me some version of this was her experience. And mostly, coincidentally, these women will think twice before setting foot in an institutional church. Purporting to represent the heart of God, these inappropriate statements do incredible spiritual harm, and ultimately often keep people from experiencing the Belovedness of God, who loves them unconditionally, just as they are – even if they proceed with abortion. Do Justice e·thos: The disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement When a pregnant woman comes for a pregnancy test, because though they’re readily available, she may not have the financial resources to purchase one – or she may have come needing a friend to help process a hard place. She is offered a private room, devoid of happy, smiling pregnant mamas and babies, and no visible display of fetal models. Her advocate is there to provide support, listening for conversational cues that guide responses to meet spoken emotional, practical and spiritual needs – always respecting boundaries, with no imposition of what one should think, do or believe.

I’ll never forget the look she gave me as she explained, clearly, that continuing the pregnancy was not an option. I realized in that moment that the only way to be truly compassionate was to trust her; that what ever abstract, philosophical debate was taking place in my head, I simply had no way of knowing why she felt the way that she did in her heart. http://www.katiestack.com/?p=71

Justice infers that we are fair, that we are respectful of one another’s understandings and boundaries – regardless of our own standards, values, morals, beliefs and lifestyles. Justice recognizes that there are many factors that may contribute to a pregnant woman’s ability to honor her own desires in the sexuality, pregnancy and parenting realm. These may include domestic violence, sexual shame, trauma or abuse history, family of origin issues, losses, and perceptions. These are deeply personal stories that we must engage carefully and honorably – not as having answers to fix, but as having presence to listen and respond with compassion. Justice respects, so it must also be stated that those entities that lump all CPC’s in the same category with regard to harmful and deceptive ways is not justice, and potentially deprives women, partners and children of needed compassionate care. Justice is that women and their partners have access to the informed services they choose and are available, but the unfortunate fact is that there are those who malign the good work of centers such as Choices that do not intentionally or deliberately mislead or pressure women with any form of an agenda. Shifts Happen It must be said that we understand, know and care deeply for many who have very strong, yet differing perspectives regarding what we should be doing in the *counseling  room. In fact, some of those who read this will think we’ve jumped the ship of faith – at least the correct representation of faith – but nothing could be further from reality. Our deepest desire is that people might begin to glimpse the loving presence of God that looks – and feels – like hope, as we care and are attentive to concerns. Without a doubt, I am convinced that the beautiful, compassionate community of Choices well represents the heart of God, and the compassion of Christ, which has no place for the use of manipulation, fear-based materials or language, judgement or religious agenda.

Love God. Love others. The rest are details. ~Jesus, based on Matthew 22:37-40

So Katie, I stand with you. While it’s likely true that we may differ on various desires for what crisis pregnancy centers should offer, we can likely both agree that there must be change that honors and cares well for those who come seeking love, tenderness and mercy for sexuality, pregnancy and parenting related concerns.