“I Believed Him. I Believed Him So Much.”

I’ve been unsure what to write about today’s graphic…other than to tell you I think what this young woman is saying may connect with some people. There are sketchy details, and I’m okay with that. She actually says a good amount even when hurried and afraid.

Anyone can feel let down and beat up. Anyone can feel like there’s something wrong with themselves that has caused their life to turn out as it has. Of all that she has to say, I think the words in the post title are perhaps the most revealing because “Him” could apply to both Jesus and the man at home. Hers is a life of broken dreams.

This series doesn’t really have a name yet. It’s sort of like “Voices From The Last Pew,” but the setting is never a church. It’s more about going out into the world and finding people right where they are because they probably will never go to a church again ever unless the church goes to them first.

I had thought about doing a different portrait like this to go with each of the “Seven ‘I Am’ Statements Of Jesus” found in John’s Gospel, but that may be for a different time. I just wanted to present “I Am The Good Shepherd” right now because it has the most meaning for me.

It is perhaps the one “I Am” most needed by the majority of people who grew up in the church but later outgrew the church. (That is, as adults they feel Christianity to be outdated, irrelevant, or based on silly superstitions, but they had a genuine connection to Jesus in their childhood.)

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11 (NASB)

“and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:28 (NASB)

I don’t believe Jesus ever stops being Our Good Shepherd…not even when we say we have abandon Him or think He has abandoned us.

“Of Goats And Emerods (With Apologies To John Steinbeck Fans)”


One of my favorite summertime novels were those of John Steinbeck. For quite a few years, I would read a different one each summer. So the title and some of the wording today is just a fond reflection of those summers. I’ve always appreciated the way a good novel can capture what it means to experience life.

When you sort through all of the gobbledegook and gibberish that has been cobbled together by Flamethrower Mommy, you’re really left with just a lot of what it means to experience death. So I’m not going to touch any of that! (In other words, I’m avoiding all of that like I would avoid a plague. Not even a cartload of golden mice and golden emerods would get me started down that path!)

What I would like to focus on instead is how Flamethrower Mommy uses words that are filled with death. Many of us may be carrying around similar messages. “This must have happened to me because I did something wrong” is one that seems very common. Along with that is “There must be something wrong with me. I’m a goat, not a sheep” is also another one that sneaks into our minds and disrupts our peace. (Instead of “goat,” substitute any negative label or stereotype.) Statements like this put the focus on self, not Jesus.

I also have a feeling that the best way to make changes in my life is to focus on Jesus, not on myself! As backwards as that sounds, it just might be right, especially when I realize that most days I don’t know what to change or how to change!

The question that began this comic strip is a simple one which comes from John’s Gospel. “Do you believe that Jesus is who he says he is?” It is very similar a question that appears in the other three Gospels. “Who do you say that I am?”

But I think the slightly different wording to the question in John’s Gospel works well with the miracle that follows.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 (NASB)

And then Lazarus comes out of the tomb! He is raised from the dead! In other words, it is very important that you also believe what Jesus says about himself. Believing what He says about Himself brings life, not death!

Just as there are seven titles for Jesus in John Chapter One, throughout John’s Gospel, there are also seven “I Am” statements like this one. Each one is Jesus saying who He is. Each one brings life, not death. More on that list in a separate post!

In the meantime, focus on life. Focus on who Jesus says He is, not on what other people think you are or say you are.

“Three Simple Words?”

Who do you say Jesus is? That’s one of “The BIG Questions” I think we all have to answer. But do we answer just with words? I think that’s the point of this comic strip. Does what we say matter? Do words count? Do words make things happen?

Maybe you’ve been caught in a situation like this before where everyone else is saying or doing something, but it doesn’t feel quite right to you yet would make others happy or at least cause less conflict. Maybe you felt like God would know you weren’t completely sincere. After all, He knows your heart. Yet you still have that nagging inner voice that just won’t leave you alone saying, “It’s SIMPLE so why don’t you just do it?”

To be honest, these are words that I sometimes have a difficult time saying even when I’ve confessed all my sins and am feeling totally right with God. For me, it’s because I know that there are still temptations that could cause me to turn my back on Jesus. Maybe you’ve felt like that too.

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 16:16-17 (KJV)

…and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3 (KJV)

What these verses let us know, and what I think our main character is trying to say, is that there are no “magic words” when it comes to “Who do you say Jesus is?” We know who Jesus is because Our Heavenly Father has revealed Jesus to us (Matthew 16:17) and the Holy Spirit proclaims who Jesus is to us through our words and our actions. (1Corinthians 12:3) It’s from your spirit. That’s what counts the most.

But in this life there is always something new to learn about Jesus, some new area in which He is to be Lord. (We may never get to 100 percent in this life.) This may be some of what Peter had in mind when he closed a letter with these words.

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 (KJV)

(By the way, you do know that the “Memory Verse” is not really a memory verse, right? Just a reminder that sometimes we can get a very wrong message stuck in our minds.)

“Finding Your Voice”

If you are a new reader, this “Voices From The Last Pew” series is about how past experiences may influence what we hear in a church setting or scripture reading, even when not intended. We don’t know about this place. We only know for sure what she is hearing and what she is thinking. We know some of her history that has brought her to this place.

This post has taken some time to get the pose right and fitting with the idea of finding one’s voice. Hopefully it looks as if this woman on the last pew is able to speak, ready to speak, but choosing not to because that is her choice, not anyone else’s choice for her. She has found her voice. This is so very important for anyone who has experienced any form of abuse.

The secrecy and shame that often accompany abuse can keep a person from saying that they have been harmed and can carry over into many other life areas. They may feel overwhelmed and worried about what would happen if someone knew the truth.

It bothered me at first that she said along with everyone else “Thanks be to God” after a scripture verse is read that tells her to be quiet in church because she is a woman. It almost felt to me like she was agreeing.

The next words from the speaker may be, “These words from Paul the Apostle have been used in oppressive and abusive ways, and for that, I am truly sorry. Here in this community of believers, we put more weight on these other words also from Paul: ‘there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ So how can we let those words give life here in our community?”

Words can give life, but words can also give death. Finding our voice, using it remove those words of death, is critical for healing, I believe. Words of death like “You are stupid and worthless” only have power when they are kept inside.

I had tried to write the “dilemma” part of this post as being about how to get around the man’s beliefs and faulty logic. It’s difficult to change the mind of anyone who argues as illogically as this: “Men are better enabled than women to understand God’s Word, and it says so in God’s Word. Therefore if a woman disagrees with that, then she has only proven this point.” It’s just lousy logic like saying “God’s Word is inspired by the same Holy Spirit that is in me, so if you don’t agree with me about what God’s Word says, you don’t have God’s Spirit in you. You’ve probably got a demon inside you instead.” Or even something as totally nonsensical as “It’s shameful for a woman to have no shame!”

Here is the dilemma that I want to write about instead.

You want to tell others what has happened. You know that this will make you feel better because you desperately need the support of family and friends. You know in your heart how someone treated you was wrong, destroying your dignity and worth. But you know that you will most likely have to answer questions like “Why did this happen?” and “Why did you let it go on for so long?” You may have been asking yourself those questions as well. There are no good answers. “Why?” is my least favorite kind of question in situations like this because even if there is an answer, it seldom makes a person feel better. It always seems to lead to another “Why?” which is likely to cause you to falsely blame yourself.

If you are like the young woman on this last pew, you have been through a great deal. Maybe like her, you fell in love at a very young age. Maybe like her, you believed that when you fell in love, it would be forever and with just the right person. God would join you together, and nothing could separate you.

So you wonder, “How could I have missed God’s will for me?” and “Why didn’t I listen to God?” and “The minister said God joined us together. How can that all fall apart? Why?”

These questions, though well-intended, end up making you feel like there was something you could have done to prevent the situation. You wonder if maybe you were blind or week or stupid. That’s not the case at all, but it can sure feel that way, particularly when there has been someone in your life who is very good at being manipulative and shifting blame onto you.

Another question, almost as harmful, is “Why did that person treat you like that?” Quite honestly, the last thing you need is to try to imagine that “Why?” because it can very quickly lead you to feeling sorry for the person who has harmed you. Dwelling on things like this can not only keep you up all night, they can take you back to the dangerous place where you were.

My best advice is to seriously avoid the “Why?” questions. Tell what happened. Tell the facts. “I was blind” is not a fact. “I was weak” is not a fact. “I was stupid” is certainly not a fact. “He told me I was possessed by a demon because I would not obey him” is a fact. It’s what he said. “He hit me across my face with the back of his hand while I was standing at the kitchen sink preparing something he didn’t want for dinner” is a fact. It’s what he did. I think that’s why this woman in the graphic looks so confident. She is stating facts.

Perhaps the better questions to ask may be, “What was learned from this?” and “How can things be done differently in the next relationship?” That’s true if you are dealing with something like this yourself in your own thought life or helping someone else to deal with it when they are sharing with you. I think that’s why this woman in the graphic looks so self-assured. She is able to say what she will do.

One final key to finding your voice, I believe, is talking aloud to Our Heavenly Father. There is a strength in doing so which comes from the Holy Spirit’s guidance in what to say. It may also come from hearing your own voice speaking aloud what fear and shame wanted you to keep silent and secret. It is amazing how prayer works.

Here is the only part that I’m putting in bold. If you can relate to this and are struggling with this or know someone who is…seek counseling. There are resources available that can help you. I’m just drawing and writing from my limited perspective. But there are professionals that can help you.

If you are in an unsafe situation, get out! Get help! There are shelters that will protect you. That is more important than anything else!

Seriously. Jesus is right there with you on the last pew. He is your Advocate and He has nothing but good things to say about you. He will help you to find your voice. Honestly.

“How Shameful To Have No Shame!”


This is the kind of comic strip that prompts questions like, “Are you serious?!? It’s shameful to have no shame?!? Shame make you a better Christian?!? Do you believe this junk?!?” But really that’s sort of the purpose of this kind of comic strip. It says the exact opposite of what I believe…and in an extreme way…helps me examine myself. It’s sort of like asking myself, “If you think this is so ridiculously false, why are you acting like it’s true? Why are you hoarding away shameful secrets from God?”

Shame can cause a barrier that keeps a person from reaching out towards God even though shame never keeps God from reaching out towards a person. Shame finds a great deal of power in secrets. Shame haunts us with the question “What will other people say?”

Shame can come from wrong decisions we’ve made but it can also be imposed upon us through no decision of our own. (For example, the pregnancy in this comic strip might have come about because of teenage love, but it could have also been the result of rape. We don’t know. We only know what Margie, “Flamethrower Mommy,” assumes. Don’t you really just want to tell her to mind her own business?!?)

This is one of the things I most dislike about shame. It can make us feel like there is something for which we need to repent when actually we didn’t do anything wrong. Something wrong was done to us. But we still feel shame. We don’t know what to do or what to pray. 

I had a tough time choosing a Bible verse for today for that very reason. Sometimes we can feel a huge amount of guilt and shame when the truth is that we did nothing wrong.

Finally, my heart settled on this verse. It is a promise that doesn’t come to mind very often because it hinges on “if we ask any thing according to his will.” I’m not always sure of what His will for me is, but I know for a fact His will is for all of us to live our lives free from shame, so it’s a promise to hold fast in our hearts.

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. 1 John 5:14-15 (KJV)

When we find our voice and speak to Our Heavenly Father about the shame that we are feeling, His Holy Spirit will direct our prayers. Finding your voice, talking to God, letting His Holy Spirit guide you is, I believe, the best way to deal with either type of shame, and it prevents hoarding away secrets!