The Harvest

Things aren’t always as they seem.
Sometimes we see, sometimes we dream.
Purpose means an aim, a goal,
a reason for our undying soul.
Amid the turmoil and the pain,
We ask for just one refrain:
“Move with the punches.”
That’s what God said.
“Be careful by whom you are led.
“Remember well the lessons learned.
“The harvest reaped is the one you earn.”

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Christian philosopher, Bible teacher, author, and prolific poet, Margarett Inez Bates is a graduate of Mount Vernon Bible College with a Bachelor’s degree from the Christian International School of Theology. Actively involved in Christian service for over forty years, she currently resides in her hometown, Kokomo, Indiana. Margarett has published two books: Poetical Insights: Lifting Up a Standard, and Poetical Insights Vol. 2: A Closer Look. You can read more of her work at Kokomo Poet.

Hope That Assures

“We have this hope [Jesus] as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” – Hebrews 6:19

Coulda, shoulda, woulda, maybe, might, perhaps, someday, if only … sigh …

Alas… whither hope? And oh, by the way… prove it.

Is hope a wish or a fact? Is it faith to come, or faith in action? And how in the world do we prove it? Is hope something we already have or something we “hope” to attain? Or is hope, in fact, the living presence of Jesus? I’d say, let’s go with that.

I can’t think of a less appealing and less useful way to describe one’s trust in God–“the hope we have,” etc. (1 Peter 3:15)–than to think the fruits of our relationship with the eternal God through Christ are something indeterminate and far off in the future: a big, subjunctive “maybe” of expectation someday later rather than the active, inspiring, and assuring truth of God’s presence, grace, and relationship today. In Christ.
Jesus can’t be much of an anchor if His truth is still bouncing along the ocean bottom, dragged uncertainly by its tether to the boat above being tossed by the winds, currents, and vagaries of life’s–and the fallen world’s–temptations, untruths, dangers, and deceptions.  A “set” anchor is a sure and present truth to a voyager in a storm:

We are the voyagers, the world is the storm, and Jesus is the set anchor we trust.

Hope is neither subjective nor subjunctive nor far off; it is the truth we know now. It is the Jesus truth of mankind. It is Christ resurrected and the Holy Spirit in our hearts, today. Hope that hasn’t happened yet is the longing of unmet truth; the patient waiting we see throughout the Old Testament. The arrival of Jesus brings human life’s greatest gift: humanity’s restoration of relationship to God and participation in His glory.

For Abraham, hope meant patiently waiting.

For us, hope–the baptism by the Holy Spirit–arrived in the person of Jesus. Our joy is not in the faith and patience of something still to come; we have it right now in our love for Christ and love for each other. It occurs to me that to love God and to love others are the two great commandments because love is the gearbox of putting our hope in motion in our lives. We miss out horribly if we think the Kingdom is relegated to some unknown time years hence and defined by that which we cannot know.

“Hope” infused with “maybe” inspires no one; unanchored expectations are the bane of good will. “I hope so!” is unpersuasive, like when one “hopes” all that stuff in the Bible about salvation and heaven and forgiveness is true.  Instead of being anchored assuredly–now–to the greatest truth of existence, Jesus, one’s modern tires are spinning in the muck of the current, ill-defined culture of self-interest, satisfaction of personal appetites, and transmission of Satan’s soul-killing sacrilege. Our redemption in Christ is now… and forever. Be thankful. Use the hope of Jesus–the anchor of our soul–to live in His kingdom, in His hope, in the here and now. “Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done…” is Jesus teaching us to pray for, attain, and internalize the assurance of who He really is. He, Jesus, is our rest and our peace.

Our joy in knowing through Jesus that God is real, God is truth, God is eternal, and God wants us with Him, is the Kingdom that has come in Christ’s holy relationship.

Hope is assured today; firm and secure. No waiting required.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) hopes you’ll believe him that he just noticed, halfway through writing this, that his coffee cup has an anchor and Hebrews 6:19 on the side. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Out with the Old, In with the New?

How are you, friend? By now you have more than likely wrapped up the holiday celebrations and have stepped into the new year with fresh goals, new determinations, and dreams of the possibilities a new year brings. Me too. 
 
I love the implication that every New Year’s Day brings, “Out with the old, in with the new.” But I have to say, this year I feel as though I am in overtime from last year.  It seems 2019 just isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. The same struggles that I wrestled down on December 31 got back up and faced me head on January 1st.
 
My initial reaction is, “Come on, really? Will I ever catch a break?” But once the dust settles, and my toddler tantrum is over, God speaks. I lean in and listen carefully. As I listen, I hear an echo whispering from my past. A lesson taught in our early years of marriage and ministry. 
 
Steve and I had just joined a pastor friend of ours to start a new church work. We were zealous, full of fresh ideas, ready to take on the community for Jesus. We would shake things up a bit by tossing out the “old churchy” ways of doing things and usher in relevant, innovative and trendy ways of doing church. 
 
The church grew, faster than we could keep up with. We soon discovered that in order for us to build something that was solid in the hearts of the people, we needed to add something into the mix. What we were missing in all the new, was the foundation that came with some of the old. 
 
As much as I want to enter the new year, with a slate wiped clean, I do not want to forsake the valuable lessons learned in 2019. These lessons will be the foundation under the lessons I will gather in 2020.
 
If you were to pause a few moments and reflect on what God taught you about Himself or His ways in 2019, what would you discover? 
 
There were many turbulent storms Steve and I faced in 2019. The ushering in of a New Year did not change the fact that these storms are still brewing. However, God has used these hardships to mark my heart with some eternal lessons that I carry with me into 2020. Here are my top three:
 

  • He is God, I am not. All my striving changes nothing, it is only through the power of His Spirit at work in us and through us, that true transformation happens. He offers me an invitation to be a co-laborer with Him, that I may have a front-row seat to His wondrous grace at work.  

For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Philippians 2:13, NIV
  • Choose seeking over striving. When I relinquish the control of always trying to figure out how to fix someone or a situation and earnestly seek His heart in the matter, I walk in more peace and joy. I don’t know how He does it but He surpasses my circumstance with His very presence. I guess that is the beauty of faith.  

Surrender your anxiety
Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations,
and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth.”

Psalm 46:10, TPT
  • Live fully in the moment you are in. God faithfully supplies the grace for that moment. If I rush ahead of the moment I am in, I am borrowing sorrow from tomorrow and not trusting that God’s grace is big enough to meet me when I step into that next moment and what it holds. Rushing through life blurs my vision, preventing me from seeing the glory of God in my “right now moment.”

Refuse to worry about tomorrow 
but deal with each challenge that comes your way, 
one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Matthew 6:34, TPT

 What about you, my friend? Take some time and ponder, “What are some lessons from the past year that need to follow me into this New Year?” May God faithfully reveal them to you.  May 2020 prove to be a year where we pause in His presence more, look intentionally for the evidence of His glorious grace, and delight in His extravagant love. 
 
Let’s keep finding Hope in the journey,
Evelyn
 
P.S. I am thrilled to share with you that I will be finishing up my book proposal in the next two months. 

What a journey! God has taught me so much about myself and waiting on Him, as well as stepping out in faith and trusting His voice. What a blessing it would be if you would keep me in your prayers concerning two things. First, I will be away doing some writing this week. I want to be a conduit that flows with life-giving words. So pray I will hear God’s voice clearly. Second, my next step will be to find an agent. There are so many out there, but I know God has one for me. Thanks my friends. I will be praying for you as I write.

Bad Judgment

“When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” – Matthew 7:28-29

These two verses are how Matthew in his Gospel concludes Jesus’s famed “Sermon on the Mount” in chapters 5-6-7.  And if you know how to read this line, and somehow were able to think like an ancient Jew on the side of that mountain where Jesus taught, you’d know this whole sermon is God taking a great big giant condemning swipe at the Jewish leaders of that day. “[N]ot as their teachers…” is a total “diss.”

The crowds could discern the Godly authority of Jesus… an authority long since passed from the Jewish “teachers of the law,” i.e. the rabbis, Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, and scribes. Jesus was openly attacking the Jewish leadership’s hypocrisy and arrogance, while describing God’s true groundwork for the Kingdom of Heaven. It was nothing like what the Jewish leaders were teaching, the way they were living, or the truth they were espousing. Power, pride, status, and control were what they craved.

My friend and blogger extraordinaire Brent Riggs says it this way: “They (the Jewish leaders) were a part of the system; the World. Christ said we are to be salt and light to the system, not be a part of it… They had denied the Word of God and established their own traditions, rules, and regulations. Christ reestablished the affirmation of His Word—God’s Word—alone.”

It is so easy to read the Sermon on the Mount in modern error, thinking it only a list of somewhat mysterious but otherwise rational directions for leading a “good life” before the world and in the company of other Christians. Do good, feed the hungry, help the poor, etc., is how we read it. To the Jews, Jesus’s words were shocking.

Where Jesus says something akin to, “You say this …; but I say this…,” He was severely criticizing what the Jews had done to “religion.” Jesus was presenting the new covenant of faith and strongly condemning their failure with the old covenant of the law. The Jews had missed God’s point of humility and instead built a nation of pride.

“Blessed are the meek… the poor in spirit …they will inherit the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3-10) is not just a Jesus shout-out to the oppressed; it is the harshest of  rebukes toward the Jewish leaders’ priorities and values mirroring the world, not God.

Today’s favorite Bible verse for all who do not actually understand the Bible is a similarly condemning assertion that the modern world loves to self-righteously and incorrectly quote as a declaration of freedom.  It’s right there in this sermon, Matthew 7:1.  We all know it well: “Do not judge,” contemporary code for, “Get out of my face!”

Emphatically, it is not that.  It was Jesus telling the Jewish leaders they had lost their authority to judge Godly things because they had assumed worldly values.  The dumbest taunt you can level at any human is “Don’t judge!” and think it means, “Let me do whatever I want.” Bald permissiveness is the opposite of what Jesus was saying.

What I’m saying is, my New Year’s goal is to improve my judgment, not ignore it.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that better judgment always starts with love. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

What It Is… and Is Not

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 41:10

Peace is not absence of war, of strife, or of anger; it is calm trust in God and knowing Jesus, our peace.

Obedience is not the absence of sin; it is working for the Glory of God.

Patience is not the absence of hurry; it is the acceptance of God’s timing.

Joy is not absence of concern; it is assuredness in God’s truth.

Righteousness is not me being better than you; it is God being best all the time.

Love is not the absence of hate; it is the art and insistence of putting others first.

Salvation is not the absence of Hell; it is the excitement of Heaven.

Forgiveness is not the absence of blame; it is freedom from the past.

Divine rewards are not a pending “let’s see” transaction; they are God’s promise.

Grace is not the absence of judgment; it is the action of sacrificial love.
Judgment is not the opposite of mercy; it is the proper complement of mercy.

Mercy is not turning a blind eye; it is seeing things God’s way.

Thankfulness is not a debt; it is the joy of recognizing God’s gifts.

Freedom is not the selfish exercise of my rights; it is my recognition of God’s will and my responsibilities—to Him and to humanity.

Rebellion is not only Satan’s example; it is our failure to accept God’s love and assert God’s freedom.

Truth is not just the absence of a lie; it is the presence of the person Jesus.

Eternity is not just the absence of time; it is the quality and substance of the life of God.

Science does not replace God; it reveals God.

Doubt does not have to be the absence of faith; it may be the discipline of curiosity.

Hope is not a gamble on the future; it is our awareness of the reality of God.

Faith is not a blind idea; it is our living experience with God.

Church is not for being fed; it is for feeding each other.

The Gospel is not just the Good News of Jesus Christ; it reveals the perpetual light of the Spirit, truth of Christ, and love of God.

The Incarnation is not just the birth of a Savior and Emanuel-God-now-with-us; it celebrates humanity’s reunion with the Kingdom of God.

The Crucifixion is not just a horrible settlement for sin; it is the glorious, gracious, selfless, and complete obedience of Jesus Christ; it is Jesus’s human nature surrendering to God’s divine nature.

The Resurrection is not just the defining evidence of the love and power of God; it is our release from sin, the end of death, and the promise of life everlasting.

God’s glory is not merely God’s pride; it is His love He shares with us and the freedom He affords for our own response to the gift of His son Jesus, our savior.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) first dashed off this column as punctuated verse, but alas—as his wife Pam, the retired English teacher, pointed out—Walters is not a poet.  Walters is however sensitive to and observant of positive vs. incomplete, simplistic, secular, and/or negative doctrinal proclamations (and somewhat panicked by the latter). Humans tend to rebel against God rather than seeking to replace our nature with His.

Fourth Day Gazette, November 2019

Honoring Our Creator & Defending a Created Universe

Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.’

“Thus says the LORD: ‘If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD. ’”

Jeremiah 31:35-37, ESV

Certainly our LORD is in control but we are still catching up with Him. Israel still exists but scientists continue to explain earth and life without a Creator and Ruler.

Three of our four annual seasons occurred and we anticipate winter 2020. Sunrise in the southeast and sunset in the southwest is providing the hot to cold cycle in our northern hemisphere. Down under the southern hemisphere is transitioning from cold to hot again. The weather and climate indeed varies every year as we orbit the sun. Forgotten and ignored is the reason for our perpetual atmosphere conditions. The first eight chapters of Genesis contain the original history of real climate change.

Lucky Thirteen?

The ongoing cultural dichotomy can explain the adnauseam from environmentalism to global-warming and climate-change campaigns! Yes fellow readers it was thirteen years ago when Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. produced the film An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. And now we have teenage advocates who have been seriously brainwashed from such campaigns. Readers beware; we can expect additional annual polar ice cap melting frenzies. Simply ignore the annual polar summer seasons and you could be happy again but there are annual freeze and thaw cycles upon Earth poles!

Closest to the Sun

Sunday, January 05, 2020, we earthlings will be closest (perihelion) to the Sun at 91,402,477 miles away. Yes, the northern hemisphere is closest to our sun in wintertime, while folks below the equator experience summertime.

Four Planets

Four planets shine in the southern sky during November and December. Begin at dusk to see them. Look low west at the bright evening star Venus. Next see the bright Jupiter in the southwest. Then the ringed-wonder Saturn is dimmer and shining in the South. Uranus appears as a pale blue-green star in the southeast and is the dimmest. This writer needs to positively see Uranus!

Planet Uranus, Enhanced Image.

Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun and is four times larger than Earth. On a clear night sky it is barely naked eye visible. Since it is 1.8 billion miles from the sun, binoculars will distinguish it from a star. It is passing across the dim constellation Aries (between Taurus and Pisces) from 2019-2023. The “bulls-eye” planet rotates backwards on an axis 08° from the orbital plane! Like Saturn it has a ring system but not as spectacular. Every 42 years we see Uranus, rings, and moons from its north or south pole which looks like a bulls-eye target. Amazing images from the Voyager 2 flyby-probe plus HST and Keck telescope sites show some of our Creator’s glory and splendor towards the edge of our solar system. Twenty years ago Fourth Day Gazette 16 (August 1999) featured planet Uranus.

Glory

There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

(1 Corinthians 15:40-41, ESV)

You have to wonder why Apostle Paul compares creation and resurrection for the Corinthian Christians. Obviously 1900 years later the subjects are still controversial.

50 years ago, twelve American Astronauts journeyed to the Moon; Apollo-Saturn 9 in March 1969, A-S 10 in May, A-S 11 in July and A-S 12 in November. We celebrate the historical achievement of Apollo 11 when the first two men walked on the Moon. Two more walked on the Moon in November 1969. What a year it was. Each three man crew of Apollo left and subsequently returned to Earth together. One remained aboard the Apollo mothership in Lunar orbit while two descended aboard the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) to the lifeless surface of our Moon. (Yes, there are Americans who do not believe this actually happened.) A-K events of 1969 were submitted in Fourth Day Gazette 80 and reader’s responses were surprising. Thank you to those who did reply.

The past two generations have experienced much anti-Americanism within our borders. Many fellow citizens have been brainwashed and converted to extreme ideas about our heritage. The obvious national objective of 1969 succeeded because enough respect and unity was still intact. This writer laments the loss of such objectivity and respect for our nation. I am growing weary of the ongoing rejection of our Constitutional Republic. Might the founders have anticipated this with “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union”? Could they really believe unity and perfection would prevail without our Creator’s principles and standards as a basis from history? You know, those historical truths found in the 66 books known as the Bible!

Full Moons

Eye-inda-Sky, November 14, 2016.

Full Moons are difficult to observe and photograph without light filters. Clouds can be worked around but eventually can spoil viewing or enhance it. The picture shown above is an example of such viewing. Watch a full moon with sunglasses for a quick and economical solution.

Upcoming Attractions

The annual Geminid Meteor Shower on December 13- 14 will be spoiled by the Full Moon (December 12) and the bright waning Moon that weekend. So watch anyway for stray bright meteors to streak across the sky from the constellation Gemini. A day or two before and after peak shower nights may be rewarding.

Holidays

Thanksgiving November 2019 is our truly historic American holiday and holyday for family and friends. May it never become only another market bonanza.

Christmas December 2019 is an honorable holiday to remember the historic arrival of Immanuel. His thirty three years on Earth connects the Old and New Testaments. His departure and next arrival will complete history as we know it.

Ernie & Ruth

At your service with telescopes and sky. Sign up for our mailing list, request a back issue, or send a copy to a friend. Contact (217) 361-6374 or email erp72creek@yahoo.com.

“Grace Guy”

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus, Matthew 11:30

My friend Glen approached me before church last Sunday–as always with a smile–and mentioned he’d been reading my weekly columns for “a while now.”

Glen is a trained chaplain (hospitals, etc.), is an astute Bible guy, helps out in seemingly every ministry in our church, and it’s encouraging to know he takes the time to read my weekly heartfelt but un-trained offerings.

Still smiling, he added, “…I think I’ve figured out that you’re a grace guy.”

A “grace guy.” I liked that. But then looking at the expression on his face more closely, I felt compelled to inquire, lightheartedly, “Is that OK?” 

“Um, yeah!” he responded, still smiling but with a moment’s hesitation.

Noticing the pause and myself not being one to miss a sardonic opportunity, I asked, “Do you prefer punishment?” He laughed and said, “No!… Well… maybe.” 

I responded, with a wink. “Well, it does help to control the flock.” Then it was time to go into the service and that conversation was over. But it got me to thinking…

The Apostle Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament and in every one he offers the greeting, “Grace and Peace.” Jesus, in the Gospels, is constantly telling us He is the truth, the way to God, the life of God, and in so many words, the face of God. Jesus came to help, not to harm; yes, to set us free from our sin but mysteriously to “enslave” us in His own goodness, protection, and love. Punishment?  No.

It is beyond weird that a “slave” in this life who finds Jesus is set free (think of worldly sinners), and a free person who finds Jesus becomes a slave (think of Paul). And I’m not talking about the slave trade; I’m talking about humanity’s spiritual tendency to bind itself to evil because of fear, guilt, greed, pride, and self-righteousness, with a perpetual sense of inadequacy or debt when it comes to an encounter with goodness.

Jesus, you see, is goodness. Jesus knows what is best for us. Jesus, Son of God who is also God–another mystery–models God’s plan of self-sacrificial love that defeats evil. Jesus is our only “way” out. He is the “truth” we can trust. He is the “life” we can live in freedom now and in God’s eternity forever. Jesus didn’t “trade” His life for ours; He showed us perfect love and obedience. His lesson isn’t what we “owe” for our sins; His lesson is what we must do, how we must love, and how we must obey.

My life goes sour when debts overwhelm me. I know what it is to be bankrupt. The parables of Jesus not only teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven but they also instruct us in the impossibility of repaying divine gifts. Think of the overwhelming amounts in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). The lesson is not the enormous amount; the lesson is the enormous mercy–and justice–of the master.

Praise God for the enormous mercy of our master, Jesus. Praise God that what Jesus desires is not repayment or guilt, but that He blesses our faith in Him and our love, mercy, and compassion for others. Guilt never builds a loving relationship.

In Matthew 11, quoted above, Jesus invites the weary to rest in Him. His well-fitting yoke helps us work together easily and productively. His demands are worthy and uncomplicated: “Follow me.” The greater we trust, the greater we love. Grace abounds.

I would not trade that love–or grace–for anything.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) is thankful, not burdened, by Jesus.  It is the world that is a burden, and the world that demands repayment. Grace is divine. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Human Trafficking Awareness

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 | 7–8:30PM
First Church of the Nazarene (2734 S. Washington St., Kokomo, IN)

Hope Center in Indianapolis is a residential campus for women survivors of sex trafficking.  The nonprofit’s mission is “to transform the lives of women exiting sex trafficking by providing a Christ-centered approach to healing, self-sufficiency, and reintegration into the community.” For more information, see hopecenterindy.org.

Pastor Hubert Nolen, the Executive Director of the Hope Center, and other leaders will share about the lives God is changing through the Hope Center.

Please pre-register by calling the First Church of the Nazarene office at (765) 453-7078.

A love offering will be collected for the Hope Center.

Hubert Nolen is a Co-Founder of Hope Center Indy and serves as the Executive Director and a Board Member. He is the former Senior Pastor of Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine, IN, and pastored there for 33 years. Under Pastor Hubert’s leadership, the congregation grew to more than 1,000 members with an annual operating budget of $1.1 million, which has provided millions to world missions and church planting. Pastor Hubert was instrumental in establishing more than 70 churches globally including in India and Brazil. He earned his B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Ministry from Barclay College and completed graduate studies at Asbury Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Seminary.

In 2015, he took notice of a promotion video featuring a young woman on the verge of taking her own life because of heartache she had lived through from a violent past. Subsequently, she found hope when she discovered an organization where she was given a second chance. Pastor Nolen felt prompted in that instant to launch a center where victims of human trafficking from coast to coast and all walks of life could find a place to heal and recover from the effects of human trafficking. He and his wife, Tonia, have been married 40+ years. They have five children, seven grandchildren, and live on the family farm in Shelbyville, IN.

The Hope Center

In 2018 alone, 85,613 human trafficking victims were identified worldwide.

“This is an urgent humanitarian issue. My Administration is committed to leveraging every resource we have to confront this threat, to support the victims and survivors, and to hold traffickers accountable for their heinous crimes.”

President Donald J. Trump, 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report

Enough

By Social Club Misfits | Lyrics from Songtexte.co

This Friday, celebrate the fact that Jesus is enough…

I was born to walk through the fire
I was made to run through these flames
Yeah, even when I’m broken and tired
You are enough, enough, enough

And I know you’ve been feeling like nobody cares
Looking for love everywhere, but nobody’s there
Your secrets are hidden and buried deep inside
You try not to show it, but all I see is pride
All I see is fear, that’s not welcome here
Fight hard, persevere, slowed down, switch your gears
Focus, make this the year
Yeah, you’re hopeless, give Him your tears
And I remember going through the same thing
All that weight on my shoulders tried to break me
Father stretch Your hand down from heaven, please save me
I’m holding to the promises that You gave me, You made me

I was born to walk through the fire
I was made to run through these flames
Yeah, even when I’m broken and tired
You are enough, enough, enough

Yes, You are
Yeah, lately my prayers sound more like complaints
I’m trying to fight insecurity while balancing faith
Nobody ever changed the world by playing it safe
When you’re afraid is the only time that a man can be brave
So, don’t tell me God is silent when your Bible is closed
I know that I’m far from perfect, but I wanna be close
Even on this broken road I know that God’s in control
I’m not where I wanna be, but I’m not where I was
Yeah, so I don’t wanna over complicate it
Your love doesn’t change, it made me who I am yeah
And even when I don’t think I can make it
Your grace surrounds me, I’ma sing it ’till the end yeah

I could give up, I could just hide
But You walk with me through all of my fires
You do, yeah, You do
I could give up, I could just hide
But You walk with me through all of my fires
You do, yeah, You do

I was born to walk through the fire
I was made to run through these flames
Yeah, even when I’m broken and tired
You are enough, enough, enough
I was born to walk through the fire
I was made to run through these flames
Yeah, even when I’m broken and tired
You are enough, enough, enough
You are enough, enough, enough

Ashley Bratcher on What Pro-Life Means to Her

By Catherine Yang
Originally published and updated September 11, 2019 in the Epoch Times

Actress Ashley Bratcher had no idea who Abby Johnson was. The role came to her in a completely unorthodox way.

One day, Bratcher received a comment from an Instagram stranger who told her she would be perfect for this part.

“She said, ‘Ashley, I have been praying for you for about this year, and God is telling me that you’re meant to play this role.’” 

Bratcher thanked her, and then ignored it, because it sounded crazy.

“It was the strangest thing,” Bratcher said.

But a while later, the commenter came back around, and told Bratcher she was really meant for this role, and if she could just please take a look.

She relented, and agreed to look at a few pages of the script.

Abby Johnson was funny, witty, and charismatic. From the pages Bratcher had, she had no idea it was the story of a woman who was responsible for 22,000 abortions, and who would do a complete 180 on her position.

Bratcher auditioned for the part.

“I learned that she was a real person, and after the audition, I thought that the character was really cool,” Bratcher said. “So I wanted to look her up and see what she was like in real life.”

“And it was then I heard her testimony for the first time, about what she saw, and what happens during the abortion procedure,” Bratcher said. It hit her, emotionally and spiritually. “I was absolutely floored.”

Ashley Bratcher in “Unplanned.” (Unplanned Movie)

“I knew that this was something that I wanted to be part of, and I wanted to make sure the world heard the story,” Bratcher said. “From that point on, I was really all in, and ready to just take on the role.”

Unplanned

Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood clinic director; she’d worked for the organization for eight years and in that time rose to employee of the year. Later that year, in 2009, Johnson quit.

Not only did she quit, but she turned to a pro-life organization because they were the only people who understood. And then she spoke out about what she had seen, shocking millions with the truth of abortion.

Johnson had been with the organization, recommending abortions to women, for eight years before she had ever seen the abortion procedure take place via ultrasound, because Planned Parenthood didn’t do it that way. It was only when she was asked to assist an outside doctor with a procedure that she saw it take place—and learned it was common that the baby, still a fetus, would jump away from the abortion instruments, before being dismembered and suctioned out.

It turned her worldview upside-down, and was the final nail in the coffin. In press conferences and talks around the country, she exposed Planned Parenthood as an abortion-driven business, aiming to increase their sales, rather than a health provider as it claimed to be. She’s written her story down in the memoir “Unplanned,” and the film “Unplanned” came out earlier this year.

Abby Johnson. (Abby Johnson)

Today she also runs the ministry And Then There Were None, which supports abortion workers who want to transition to other careers.

Johnson and Bratcher didn’t meet until halfway through production, but they talked on the phone and texted constantly and became fast friends.

It was an intense seven weeks of filming.

“I was cast and I had a four-hour notice to get on a plane,” Bratcher said. She had a hundred pages of lines and appeared in nearly every scene of the movie, and she dove right in.

Ashley Bratcher in “Unplanned.” (Unplanned Movie)

Before “Unplanned” Bratcher’s stance on abortion was a common one in the current cultural climate. She personally didn’t want to get an abortion, but didn’t want to stand in the way of women who felt they needed one.

“I wasn’t really familiar with the pro-life movement,” Bratcher said. But in the few days she had to prepare for the role, she was researching non-stop. She watched all sorts of videos and talks, and heard Johnson’s story for the first time, reducing Bratcher to tears.

“It was a lot,” Bratcher said. “It was probably the biggest undertaking I’ve ever had as an actor.”

In the film “Unplanned,” actress Ashley Bratcher plays Abby Johnson, a clinic director at a Planned Parenthood located next door to a religious pro-life charity named 40 Days for Life. Johnson’s encounters with the organization’s prayer group members ends up changing her life. (Courtesy of Unplanned)

The “Unplanned” story put a face on the victim. “Knowing that and seeing that in my research just really blew my mind—to think that I’m my age and I had never known what really happened,” she said.

Another twist in Bratcher’s own story occurred while filming was underway. It was on set when she learned that she was almost aborted herself.

Bratcher had already known her mother had an abortion at age 16, and wanted to share this story she was working on as it was about mercy and forgiveness. But as she was describing the story, her mother broke down in tears, and told Bratcher that when she was 19, and pregnant with Bratcher, she had decided to get an abortion. She was on the clinic table before she had this gut feeling she couldn’t go through with it, last minute, and left.

Bratcher told Fox & Friends she later confirmed the story with her father, who told her that they didn’t think they could afford a child, and couldn’t even afford the abortion. To pay for the abortion, he had pawned a family shotgun—that was the price of her life.

Bratcher is often asked whether she was worried the film would negatively impact her career. Twitter had suspended the film’s Twitter account and revoked its ads, and a number of television networks refused to run its advertisements. The filmmakers have protested the R rating given to the film, which prevents minors from seeing it. But Bratcher says she is fearless, because she knows where she stands.

Despite efforts to limit the distribution of the film, “Unplanned” hit No. 1 in DVD sales on Amazon and received rave audience reviews.

Selfless Love

Bratcher got into acting almost by accident. In her last year at college, she needed to take an elective and chose an acting class on a whim, since she had fun in theater classes in high school.

“It kind of ignited that fire inside of me,” Bratcher said. On stage, she had escaped. She wasn’t Ashley Bratcher, whose mortgage was due and had to go grocery shopping later. She got to tell someone’s story.

Then, out on a date with her high school sweetheart—now husband—at the North Carolina State Fair, she saw a big booth with a sign: “Do you want to be an actor?”

Bratcher signed up, and auditioned for a local commercial—and got the part. From there an agent took her to New York, where she auditioned for a hundred managers and agents, and received over 20 offers.

“It just made me realize, ‘Oh, wow, I can actually do this,’” Bratcher said.

But at the time, it was driven by a desire for fame, and Bratcher, who is competitive by nature to begin with, said she had more or less been living with a selfish mindset. Life was about what she wanted, and what she could get out of it. She moved to New York and lived an emotionally and spiritually exhausted life battling rejection. One acting workshop planted some positive seeds, when she was tasked to write a letter to herself.

She had to write down why she decided to become an actor, and what it meant to her, and what sort of impact she wanted to have with her career.

“That was the first time where I said, ‘I do have a serious, legitimate reason for wanting to be a part of this,” Bratcher said. “From that moment on, I always took that letter to heart.”

“In the last couple of years … I have been able to be a part of stories that I feel give people a sense of hope,” Bratcher said. “I wanted to be part of telling really good stories that did something good for people on the inside.”

Much of this is rooted in Bratcher’s faith, which hadn’t been a big part of her life until she became a mother herself.

“I had my own unplanned pregnancy,” Bratcher said. She had just started acting, with few results, and her husband had graduated college and had a job, but neither really had a career.

“I had to be on government assistance. I had Medicaid, I used WIC; we just couldn’t afford it,” Bratcher said. “But at the same time, we were figuring out ways to solve that problem. And I totally believe in government assistance when it picks people up and gets them on their feet. I think when it’s used appropriately, it empowers people to get back up and do what they need.”

Bratcher needed it for a little over a year, and it helped put her on the right track.

“Having my son, first and foremost, deepened by faith. I looked at this tiny little person, and I just could see nothing but the love of God,” Bratcher said. “I couldn’t imagine loving him so much. And it just clicked with me that if I love him so much, how much more God must love me to be able to hold this little baby in my arms and feel this incredible amount of love.”

It changed her whole outlook on life.

“The most important thing I learned from my son was what it meant to love selflessly—because I had been so selfish in the past,” Bratcher said. At the root of all her choices was pleasing herself; other people weren’t even a consideration. But the moment she understood selfless love, she realized what a shallow life she had been living.

“I had experienced a love that I feel like we’re on this planet to experience. I had felt, for the first time, this very pure and selfless love,” Bratcher said.

“That was a huge spiritual awakening for me,” she said. “After I had him, and I got back into the film industry, I had this sense of faith and identity.”

“I wasn’t looking to anyone for validation, I didn’t need to book a role to feel like I was going to be successful, I didn’t need anyone’s approval to know what my worth was,” she said. “It is critical for me to make sure that I am digging into my faith.”

Bratcher initially never wanted children, didn’t want to be responsible for another life and forego all the travels and experiences and the career she dreamed of. Now she has all of those things, and her son as well.

Bratcher attends the Save the Storks 2nd Annual Charity Ball at the Trump International Hotel on Jan. 17 in Washington. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Save the Storks)

And “Unplanned,” far from ending her career, has opened up avenues for Bratcher to help make a positive impact. She’s done two TV shows and is the lead in a romantic comedy where the proceeds of the film will go towards charity. She recently partnered with Heartbeat International to launch the Unplanned Movie Scholarship to help moms with unplanned pregnancies with educational scholarships.

“A lot of times women choose to have abortions because they don’t have the support that they need or want or desire,” Bratcher said. “They’re told if they have kids they can’t be successful, they can’t finish school, all of these things.”

She wanted to provide an option to solve the problem, such as the scholarship fund that would give mothers financial means to finish their education, and partner with an organization with resources and expertise. Heartbeat International has 3,000 pregnancy health centers and provides everything from parenting classes to formula and childcare.

“I wanted to make sure that I was using my voice in a way that was loud enough to say ‘yes, you can’, and actually do something about it,” Bratcher said.