Sifted and Refined: Your Responses

Lauri and I thought we would share with you some of the responses we have received thus far.  For the sake of space, we do not respond to them all here.  (We have responded to many privately.)  This particular blog entry is long, but is the sort that you can read some responses now and return to others later.  As always, we have anonymized the senders.  Our comments/replies are in bold.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry:

Thank you for writing this blog.  I am literally crying as I’m writing this.  I think God will use you in amazing ways to be real with people who are broken and hurting.

I am one of them.

Because of what I do, I cannot allow my name to be used, and that has been part of the problem.  I have been in a very public role in my community for several decades.  Being a very public person, you were not allowed to have personal issues that might cause you to lose grace and favor.

I was a good girl, who never got into any trouble, and that was never an issue for me.

Alcohol, in the years since, has become one.  My brother died from alcoholism, my Dad died from it, my Mother has struggled with it for years, my younger brother struggles with it, my husband struggles with it, as do I.  It is an ongoing battle and because of my concern about this becoming public (it would ruin my career) I have kept it hidden.  It is a burden.

So, I am a Christian who loves the Lord but is broken and hurting as well.  We are now in a church where there is a lot of good teaching, and grace, and forgiveness and love.  So, there’s that.

Amy
Seattle, Washington

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I love the blog and especially loved the blog on forgiveness.  What Lauri said challenged my unforgiving heart toward some in my life that I realized I had not forgiven.  I thought that I had and always said that I had. But I realized that I really had not when I read her words.

Vivian

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry,

You’ll want to brush the dust off an old book that is a great reminder of what and how the attacks will come on you.  Give C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters a read.

Harry

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry,

I have always loved your writing.  It has a quality that is very different from other Christian writers.  Some might even say that it is less Christian because you are frequently so irreverent, and you are drawn to so many topics that aren’t typical “Christian” fare.  But that’s what I like most.  You’re not so predictable and you’re not bound by convention.  But I never felt like you let your readers anywhere near your heart!  We weren’t allowed to know you because you kept that hidden.  This blog adds that missing dimension, and I’ve been wanting it!  I feel like I’m finally getting to know you!

Tara

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Mr. Taunton,

After your announcement, I wondered if we would ever hear from you again.  I prayed that God would give you and your family the strength to pick up the pieces and move forward in grace.  I hoped you would still fulfill your unique calling when your marriage had healed.  Needless to say, I rejoiced when I saw the blog!  Not only was I surprised to see it, I was surprised by the astounding content of it.  It’s unlike anything you have ever written and definitely the most vulnerable thing you have written.  You said in the first one that it would be more heart than head as if that was a bad thing.  If we are voting, I vote for more heart than head.

Michael

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dear Larry,

Your writings have always been interesting … now they will be helpful too.

Max

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I’ll be honest.  Reading the statement of confession you sent out a long time ago encouraged me.  I wasn’t glad that this happened in your life and that you and your family have had to go through this.  I just mean that I can relate to you now.  Your wife and Dr. Lennox were right when they said your pace was insane, not to mention dangerous.  You were doing so much, so fast, and in so many places that it was dizzying just trying to keep up with it all.  It is kind of a relief to discover that you aren’t superhuman, but experience temptation just like I do.

Jody
NJ, USA

Larry:  I never meant to give the impression of spiritual invulnerability, Jody.  I assure you that I experience sin and temptation like everyone else.  Perhaps more so.  At least it feels that way sometimes.  I know exactly what Paul meant when he said, For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)  Regardless, I said it many times.  Its just that now people believe me.  But Im encouraged and intrigued by the fact that Jesus greatest ministerial successes were with those people whose sins were of a public nature.  They needed no convincing of their own brokenness.  The Pharisees, good church folk you might say, didnt think they needed anything Jesus had on offer.  Their sins remained hidden from public view and, it seems, even from themselves.  They were blind, but thought they could see. (John 9:35-41)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Mr. Taunton,

I have often wondered at the power behind you.  Now I know—It is your wife!

Rick

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry,

There have been three occasions when I thought your public life (or your life on earth!) was over.  The first was when you were run over [by a car] on your bike.  When I heard about the severity of it, I prayed for you, but I will admit that I did not think you would live.  And even if you did, how could you come back from that?  But somehow you did.  The second time was when you started taking on the Muslims and then went to Nigeria.  That just looked like a man with a death wish.  I was certain that would be the last any of us would hear from you again.  I was angry.  It seemed like such a foolish thing to do and a waste of talent.  But then you defied my expectations and came back.  The third time is when I got your heartbreaking “statement.”  That statement felt like a goodbye.  But here you are after your long silence!  Once more you defy my expectations!  If you can survive the first two, I feel pretty good about your chances this time around.  Keep writing and, from now on, how about you trust the Lord rather than your own strength?  We need you now more than ever.  And what a grace-filled wife you have!  Whatever you accomplish going forward (in the Lord, not of yourself), we may thank her for it.

Ian

Larry:  Grace-filled is correct, Ian.  My wife nursed me back to health in the first instance; she prayed for me in the second instance; and she has forgiven me in the third instance.  So, yes, whatever good I am used to accomplish in the future, she is a primary reason for it.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry,

I look forward to your blog each week and I believe you have insight that is not common to all Christians but something you wrote [in Blog 4b] needs some clarification.  You wrote the following: “My point is not to condemn this man.  I’m sure that my sin is greater than any he has committed.”  Larry, that simply is not true, there are no little sins or big sins in God’s world, only sin.  In man’s world there is, and we tend to place more guilt on ourselves when we fail man’s standards.  We all know we will fail God’s standard and we somehow believe these failures aren’t as shameful, but they are.

Also, I would like to see your thoughts on unconditional love, Lauri has shown you that and I believe in your mind has given you a little freedom.  How much more should we be set free when we realize that God loves us completely unconditional.  Which leads us to realize just how much Christ has done for us.

Anyway, keep up the good fight, life is a marathon.

Chad

Larry:  Chad, I was simply making the point that I was not condemning the man.  We have all done what he was, on that occasion, doing.  I know that I have.  As for my wife’s love, I recall a line from a movie I saw many years ago where one man asks another how he knows his wife loves him.  The latter replies, Because she knows the worst thing about me and its okay.”  That fits here.  I am deeply flawed and Lauri chooses to love me anyway.  That is freeing.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The manner in which you and your wife have handled this has done more to make me think about the core issues of the faith than anything I have read before.  The initial confession, though admirable, was a major setback in my mind.  But this is so much more than I ever expected.  I mean, either we can be forgiven and receive eternal life or we can’t….  For me, that question is more important than the age of the earth or whether Noah really put two of everything on an ark….  You say [the blog] is raw, and it is.  But in a good way, I think.

Gareth
UK

Larry:  Well, Lauri certainly.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry – 

As someone with a history of addiction, I am often baffled by the lack of trust related to confession that seems to live within Christian circles….

I believe the stakes for today’s Christians aren’t high enough – stakes diminished by comfort and self-deception.  We are a people without an outlet for regular and sincere confession of sin.  Sin that we all commit and that requires repentance.  Regular self-examination and public confession are what keeps an addict from having a “slip” – how is this practice not a regular feature of our meetings as Christians?  

The answer, as your blog post proves, is lack of trust.  I am convinced that building greater trust amongst our congregations would build a path toward restoration and revival in our culture. 

Harold

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Those remarks seem like a good lead-in to this one …

Dear Larry,

A friend forwarded your blog and I cannot get you out of my mind since I read your post.  We actually met once …

I have been a Christian Counselor for over 20 years.  There is an old joke in counseling circles: “When Protestants closed the confessionals therapists got busy!”  The practice of confession is just that…. practice.  I believe the loss of this sacrament has greatly damaged humans.  We were created to confess.  The notion of confession fits beautifully into Trinitarian Theology. 

I pray as you and your family heal there is deep transformational healing.

Theresa
Birmingham, Alabama

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry and Lauri,

Thank you for your blogs, your vulnerability and your beautiful reflection of God’s grace and redemption.  I am praying for you and your family. 

Sincerely,

Andrew

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I never really liked you.  It’s not really about your sin, I just didn’t like you.

Rob

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry and Lauri,

Be prepared for the fact that the people who will treat you the worst are often those people who are hiding similar sins of their own.

Gina

Lauri:  Interesting comment.  Larry and I have been told this by at least three counselors.  We don’t know how true it is or isn’t, but the thought has stimulated much reflection about how unbelievers can form such negative impressions of Christians and the Church.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Mr. Taunton,

I’ve always admired your courage.  At no time more than now.  Something tells me this has required more courage of you than anything you have ever done before.  Don’t stop now.  Keep going, brother.

Gordon

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I wonder if your blog isn’t hitting a raw nerve in some believers.  Some Christians prefer to hang on to a works-righteousness based faith and the truth of the Gospel—that the Lord doesn’t love us more when we are ‘good’—is simply too untamed and scary for them.

Veronica
New York City

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Lauri and Larry,

Powerful….  you are both loved by me.  Nothing could ever change my mind about the two of you.  You are correct.  We all have secrets and our families have all been touched by sin.  Not one person is immune.

Barbara

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry,

I think you know that your wife is an absolute gem!

Brooke
Nashville, Tennessee

Larry:  I do. ;)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry,

If you knew half the s—t in my life, you wouldn’t think yourself so bad after all!

Quint

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I feel no condemnation of you.  I am too old.  Life has taken a judgmental spirit right out of me.  I am just glad you have been reclaimed by the Father.  Press on.

Shelton

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dear Lauri and Larry,

Steven and I are enjoying reading your blog so very much!  My very first thought was, “how beautifully he could fill the shoes of Brennan Manning…”  Rich Mullins and Brennan Manning are two of the VERY first people I will be looking to have lunch with in Heaven.  While at Wheaton, I well remember sitting on the floor in the dorm with other students and Rich, chatting about life.  As a celebrity, he was polished, put together, well-spoken, obviously gifted and talented.  But in his ratty, fringed jeans and bare feet, talking freely with a small group of us, he was raw and real.  And…. those are the words I remember… the stage comments were profound and inspiring, but seeing his flaws revealed, and hearing his unfiltered stories left a deeper impact.  

Thank you for letting us sit on the floor barefoot with you for this season, however brief it may be.  We loved your “stage season” too, learned so much, and witnessed the amazing impact.  But I’m grateful as we get a “closer up” seat, to see the beauty of Lauri’s humility reflecting onto you… her humility and gentleness have always been so evident… and now, as her humility and gentleness come from the same Lord who spoke articulately and had perfect answers to questions, it’s breathtaking to see HER beauty flowing through your pen…

Thanks is not enough,

Steven and Andrea
Vestavia Hills, Alabama

Larry:  If there are heroes in such stories, Lauri is at the top of that list.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Thank you both so much for this.

Jason

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

What the God of love can do! 

And the glorious beauty in such forgiveness—

Laurence

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Wonderful stuff.

Ed

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry and Lauri,

“Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love?  …..

I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:35-39 

I am keeping you and your family in my prayers. 

Love,

Elizabeth
Homewood, Alabama

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Glad you’re back!

Karl

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

                        Oh, for a consistent awareness,

            Of the consistent presence,

Of our consistent God!

Stephen

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry,

First of all, I am sure that there have been many disappointing reactions to your story and confession.  I am learning that the people who I am drawn to can see themselves in a spirit of admission to the “filthy rags” we all are in the context of all of our human sin.  As we age we either become bitter or better and I know that I am better because I can see clearly that ALL fall short of the glory of God.  Yes, in different ways but still ALL fall short….  I know God has forgiven me but because of years of this conditioning I draw near to genuine, strong, and wise people.  Be on the lookout for those rare and special people as those are the ones who will see you and your troubles through a view of kindness and an awareness of their own mistakes.

I enjoy your blog as it is real and tells the truth.

XXOO

Jamie

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dear Larry,

You’ve been through so much – with the accident, and with this.  But I’ve never ceased praying for you, as has my flock.  We prayed for you during your convalescence, and I’ve been praying for you since I heard this news…. I felt and now feel no sense of judgment or self-righteousness.  The gospel is from first to last the gospel of God’s grace to sinners (like me)….  But be encouraged!  God has used you mightily and will use you again, indeed, he is using you even now.

Love and blessings in Christ Jesus!

Trevor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

My Brother,

Thank you.  Please know that thousands around the world are day and night lifting you and your wife up in prayer.  I am only one of many….  I am excited about God’s plans for you Larry.

Stand tall through the pain; Aslan is on the move.

Richard

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dear Larry,

On many occasions while I’m judging folks I think about the verse in the Bible about those without sin cast the [first] stone.  I think I judge others harder than I judge myself.  I mean ministers and pastors don’t have untied shoes or sweat like the rest of us when it’s hot do they?  Of course, they do, your blog helps me remember that. 

I didn’t see any big words I didn’t understand in this blog, I always enjoy looking them up in the dictionary.  But I can safely say it’s been a long time since I thought about a Zeppelin docking station.

Phillip
Mountain Brook, AL

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dear Mr. Taunton,

So glad that you and your wife are “pressing on”.  Our Christian walk is a process.  He leads, and we follow.  Sometimes we get off the path and go our own way, but He is always right there to get us back on track.  He never lets go of us.  I’m pretty sure that in the “Greek”  that all have fallen short means “all”.  Grace and peace to you my brother.  If I don’t encounter you here, see you in Heaven.  His Grace is sufficient.  (always above what we ask or think).  I hope it will be said of me and my home that restoration was found in our home.  

Sincerely,

Your Sister in Christ

Shirley

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

WOW!  First time reading your blog.  Grace says it all!

Peter

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Hi Larry,

Thanks for your on-going meditations.  Even for those of us who’ve never fallen in this way many of us can say “there but for the grace of God go I”, & be thankful that we were spared the kind of temptation that you weren’t.

I must, though, comment on the lady who was offended at your use of the word “crap”. At a time when the kinds of public discourse we’re accustomed to hearing become more & more profane, & the worst of those profanities becoming heard frequently in public places, & used regardless of the presence of women & young children, & even by Christians amongst themselves (although it should be said that swearing in Australia has always been more colourfully inventive, & less often intended to be insulting, than it seems to be in the US), I think it’s worth considering “how shall we then live”.  But in your defense there’s the (in)famous passage in Philippians 3:7-8, where Paul uses the word “skubalon”, which the more prurient versions use the word “garbage”, “refuse” or “rubbish”, but is more correctly defined as “dung”. 

I found one or two articles online which claimed that Paul was using the word s–t, a term that Americans seem to find rather horrifying, though we Aussies are now conditioned to even hear it not filtered out of the 6 o’clock news. However, it seems that “crap” is actually the most correct translation.  For reference:-

https://www.biola.edu/blogs/good-book-blog/2015/did-the-apostle-paul-use-profanity

https://raisedwithchrist.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/did-the-apostle-paul-have-a-potty-mouth/

https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/2286/was-%CF%83%CE%BA%CF%8D%CE%B2%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%BF%CE%BD-skubalon-profanity

As for your own progress, I’ve been encouraged in the past week by 1 Thess 4, where Paul twice uses the phrase “excel still more” (vv. 1 & 10), which is the Greek words “perisseuō mallon”, which seems to me to be one of those places Paul is forced to stretch language itself, heaping compound upon compound, having run out of superlatives in the normal sense.  “Perisseuō”, according to “Strong’s” means “to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous; also (transitively) to cause to superabound or excel: – (make, more) abound, (have, have more) abundance, (be more) abundant, be the better, enough and to spare, exceed, excel, increase, be left, redound, remain (over and above)” while “mallon” means “more (in a greater degree) or rather: – + better, X far, (the) more (and more), (so) much (the more), rather”.  So it seems to me that Paul is saying “be superabundantly excelling & increasing more & more, so much more!”.  It seems to me that he’s saying that there’s a place we’re growing to where we, in our behaviour, our outlook, everything about us, both inwardly & to others, which makes us, not just an improved version of what we were before, but completely unrecognizable, which is (to quote my favourite verse of all) “the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).

God bless you & your family as you superabundantly walk this out.

Shelby,
Sydney, Australia.

Larry:  Wow. This is somewhat overwhelming.  But it’s nice to know that my more colorful language has the support of the Apostle Paul!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dear Mr. Taunton,

Your wife’s love and forgiveness of you is such a beautiful picture of Christ’s love and forgiveness of us.  If we all acted as she did in the face of offenses people did to us, the world would be a very different place.

Dillon

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Hey Larry,

I want to lift you up in words and in prayer.  I also want to assure you that I will lift up our Senior Pastor and continue to encourage him.  Last, I will pray that my heart will be ready if or when I am on the front line representing Grace. 

Stuart

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Graham Cooke once said, “God is never disillusioned with us because He never had illusions in the first place.”   Well said Graham, well said!

Karen

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry and Lauri,

First and foremost, thanks for sharing your journey so that the body of Christ may be both edified and convicted. I can only imagine that the Grace of God is the overriding reality that is allowing this to happen.

Second, what a great ending to the latest blog.  Earlier in my Christian journey, when “self-righteousness” saturated my soul, I would have responded in a judgmental way to your admission.  Since God has revealed that there is nothing good in me, hence, my “sin-crushedness,” I am daily overwhelmed by the immense favor God has for me.  I am learning that there is no limit to the depth and breadth of my sin.  It is so easy to play the comparison game and think that I am okay, but it is interesting that I am very selective with whom I play that game.

Blessings to you!

Trey
Virginia

P.S. I understand that you are a fan of fresh-roasted coffee.  It would be my joy and honor to send you a batch, as I roast my own.  Seven days a week my wife and I enjoy conversation and coffee before we begin our day.  Time we use to daily re-orient ourselves with truth and hope of the Gospel.

Larry:  Trey, you will like the song we have chosen for today’s blog.  It gets at the heart of our “sin-crushedness.”

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry & Lauri,

My dear brother and sister.  You are a great reminder that Jesus took our guilt and shame on the cross. Our motivation to confess sin, to be obedient, to love or any other action towards our Lord or others cannot be motivated by guilt, worry or fear.  Both of you have shown the wonderful truth that it is the love and kindness of God towards us and that has led you to repentance and the rest of us too! If we say we have not sinned then we are a liar.  But when we do sin we have an advocate and what a blessing He is!  He is able to make you stand.  He is the author and finisher of your faith.  He WILL complete the good work that He has began in you!  My wife and I are here with both of you by His Holy Spirit.  We have ALL fallen short and need to drink deeply from the eternal well of God’s grace through Jesus Christ!

You’re a fellow bond-servant,

Charles
Columbia, SC

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Larry,

It strikes me that as we begin to look in the mirror and see 90% of our problem, then real growth can begin.

As always, we love your writings.

Terri
Mountain Brook, Alabama

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Hi Larry and Lauri,

I hope you will get this email.  I would like to recommend a book to the both of you.  It is called “The Hurt and the Healer” by Andrew Farley and Bart Millard.  I found the book so helpful in showing how good Jesus is (way better than I realized) and the healing that comes from knowing who he is and just how much he loves us.  It was eye opening and heart healing for me.

My best to you both.

Dave

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

We have received many more responses that we don’t share here because they are just too raw and personal even when anonymizing the senders.  These have come from people who silently suffer from loss, guilt, shame, addiction, grief, broken families, broken relationships, or the lack of grace and forgiveness of others for something they have done or are perceived to have done.  Because many of these people are in very public positions, they do not feel safe sharing their burdens with anyone else.

Lauri and I are deeply moved by this outpouring of pain.  We get it.  But let me be clear of what we are not: professional counselors.  This does not mean that we won’t endeavor to be of encouragement to you as so many of you have been to us!  But solutions and guidance are best sought from licensed professional Christian counselors.  You may rely on their confidentiality.  If you need additional assurances, seek a counselor outside of your church or community.  As noted in the blog titled “Marble,” Marble Retreat Center in Marble, Colorado is a terrific resource.  It certainly was for us.

This week’s song is by U2.  It is titled “Grace.”  You can read the lyrics here, though they are not difficult to understand in the song itself.  Of the song, U2 vocalist Bono said:

“[Grace] is a word I’m depending on,” Bono explains in the book U2 by U2.  “The universe operates by Karma, we all know that.  For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. There is some atonement built in: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.  Then enters Grace and turns that upside down.  I love it.  I’m not talking about people being graceful in their actions but just covering the cracks. Christ’s ministry really was a lot to do with pointing out how everybody is a screw-up in some shape or form, there’s no way around it.  But then He was to say, well, I am going to deal with those sins for you.  I will take on Myself all the consequences of sin. Even if you’re not religious I think that you’d accept that there are consequences to all the mistakes we make. And so, Grace enters the picture to say, ‘I’ll take the blame, I’ll carry your cross.’  It is a powerful idea.  Grace interrupting Karma.”

Powerful, indeed.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: