Being Honest About What is Broken


Several Sundays ago, I heard a sermon that struck something inside me. The thoughts it brought up keep repeating over and over in my mind, and you know me. When that happens, it’s a large clue that whatever I am thinking needs saying. As it stands, it has taken me a while to get to the “saying it” point, as is evidenced by the fact that I am posting this several weeks on.

In the ancient Israel of the prophet Nehemiah’s time, Jerusalem was conquered, razed, the Temple destroyed, and the Israelites taken off into slavery. After decades in Babylon, some of them were then allowed to return to Jerusalem. However, the walls of the city remained broken down and destroyed for a long time. As the pastor giving the sermon analyzed, broken-down walls meant disgrace, defeat, and judgement, a lack of protection, and were a constant reminder of when everything went horribly wrong. In Nehemiah’s time, according to the pastor, the surrounding countries had “no respect for God or His people” and come against and conquered them because God’s people did not live up to His requirements, had set aside their faith, and ignored His messengers (2 Chronicles 36). The Israelites lived in exile for decades before being allowed to return home to rebuild their city and their Temple.

That idea about the countries surrounding Israel having no respect for God or His people stuck with me, or, more accurately, a reason behind it stuck with me. In our current day in 2019, what I have seen, heard, and what has coalesced in realization is that people outside of Christianity often have no respect or love for God or His people because His people have no love or respect for those outside. And that thought was a gut-strike, keeping itself on repeat in my mind throughout the remainder of the service.

People often “do not love and respect God” or the people who claim to be His, because the latter do not love and respect those outside their own echo chambers, or ostensibly even those inside at times. In the past several months, we have seen new holes open up in the proverbial coat of several areas of the Christian church institution. We have once again had light shone on secrets and dark corners in trusted, cherished parishes that have caused incalculable pain, damage, and life-altering trauma. At the same moment, in almost the same breath, when Christlike love and presence were needed most, in another denomination a decision made by a few was reinforced to ostracize the many, an entire community of people, and to deny them a place in that faith and, presumably by extension, in God’s love. While I have watched the beauty of Methodist churches rising up and standing in solidarity and love with their people–all of them–the reality must still be faced. Christians have—in a few very loud corners—with their tongues proclaimed to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and that they love their neighbors as themselves. Meanwhile, with their hands, they have betrayed those words and crushed them into sand that ends up blown into the eyes of those whom they have denied.

Does that come across as harsh? Maybe it does. Maybe it needs to.

I have written on this before, so it really should come as no surprise where I fall in this discussion of love, faith, and inclusion. Is it every single Christian who is guilty of this? No. By no means, no. But there are, unfortunately, enough to make a very crucial difference in the impact of our faith and the weight by which we are measured. The very last part of the sermon that Sunday hit me, this time right in the heart. It was a challenge to the congregation to “work together to bring glory to God and blessing to those who dwell in Him”. The pastor said four things that have stayed with me:

1. Do not ignore the needs in our community or in our church! Be honest about what is broken.

2. Don’t wait for someone else to get involved. Go for it!

3. Use what you have, and trust God for what you don’t have!

4. It is okay to expect a miracle, but it is not okay to wait for one.

These four admonishments may seem simple on their faces, but they are heavy with truth, Dear Ones. The one that has lodged its razor-sharp corner in my heart is “Be honest about what is broken”.

Our lack of love as Christians is broken.

Our lack of understanding is broken.

Our lack of humaneness is broken.

Our lack of mercy is broken.

Our lack of Christlikeness is broken.

Our denial, our erasure, these things are all broken.

We are broken, just as others are broken. Broken and in need. Why do we as Christians try to deny the love and open arms of God to someone else (as if we could!) when we are in such desperate need of them ourselves? Newsflash: God doesn’t need our permission to love someone. His love is not predicated on what we as fallible humans think. Again: God. Does not. Need. Our. Permission. To. Love. Someone. As Christians, we are not the gatekeepers to God’s love. We are supposed to be the instruments of it, but our actions, words, and attitudes can actively destroy the chance for that relationship to be born. We can actually get in the way of the love we claim to espouse.

Be honest about what’s broken. It seems a simple and difficult enough idea at the same time, doesn’t it? In these weeks, I have been faced with what might appear to others to be a simple choice: to post or not to post, to share or not to share. I am trying to pull all of this thinking into words and then be brave enough to “say” it out loud. I have posted a few things lately on social media pertaining to the LGBTQIA+ community and my Christian faith that I personally feel deeply and strongly about, as I have in the past. These are beliefs, statements, and stances that I know that some Christians in my life would, most likely, deeply disagree with. That alone has caused me a bit of anxiety. But, at the same time, I had a heart-nudge (which I have come to recognize as God’s prodding and actively try not to ignore), and I wanted to be true to my conscience, my faith, and my convictions.

Over the past few weeks and days, my heart has broken repeatedly. As a teacher, I look back and think of students that have sat in my classrooms over the past ten years, who have written of abuse they have suffered, of loneliness, isolation, self-hate, and fear, and the resulting trauma and self-harm. Students whom I have known to be or suspected were non-hetero, non-binary, etc., and the struggles they have battled through. I cannot fathom telling these beautiful, deep-hearted children that they are a mistake, that God doesn’t love them, doesn’t value them, or that they don’t have a place in their faith if they feel called to serve in that capacity. I cannot wrap my mind or heart around it. Not when the people I have been privileged to meet, know, love, and who have been formative in this, the second half of my life, are so broad and deep and wide and who span the entire spectrum. People whose light and love and faith have supported and walked with me through hard moments and times. Tender people who have unclenched my fists and held my trembling hands in theirs, both literally and figuratively. Beloved people who have treated me with kindness, mercy, humanity, and understanding beyond anything I could have hoped for.

President of Biola University, Barry H. Corey, recounts the day when a friend and colleague in Bangladesh took him out to lunch and then proceeded to tell him about her homosexual relationship and the partner waiting for her back in the States. He asked her why she was telling him as he was “obviously straight […] and neither a trained counselor nor LGBT ally” (Love Kindness, 60). Karen replied that she had told him “because she believed authentic Christians see people first and foremost as created in God’s image and of immense value” (60-61, emphasis mine).

So many people in the LGBTQIA+ community, both young and older, have been told, both directly and indirectly, that they are “less than” (less than desirable, less than acceptable), having any identity as God’s or being created in His image wiped away because they are “unworthy” or “wrong”. As a result, so many of them leave and never darken the door to a community of faith again because…well…who would want to? In this, I believe that the Christian church is broken. We fail to see God’s image in those different from us and therefore miss the deep value He has placed in them.

In For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, author Jen Hatmaker unpacks this idea with open honesty:

We [Christians] are losing influence in our culture, and it isn’t even a mystery as to why. Folks are explaining plainly why they are leaving faith or are too afraid to come near it. One of the chief reasons is this: Christians.

I realize the mass exodus is multifaceted and deserves a fair analysis, but the common denominator is so abundant, we have to face it. [Cultural] conversions are happening inside and outside of Christianity and are necessary to assess and understand. But treating each other poorly is not a factor Christians can pass off.

[…] This is the next generation weeping for their gay friends and classmates, rejecting the church that maligns an entire community. This is my smart and funny friend who lives in loneliness because her Christian “friends” wounded and shamed her, and she is afraid to try again.

[…] If we are inhibiting others from finding Jesus [through our behavior] this constitutes a full-blown crisis. Ultimately, the rejection of Christians predicates the rejection of Jesus, and if that doesn’t grieve us, we have missed the whole point. Jesus tried to impress this upon us. I mean, He was obsessed.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).” (190-192, brackets mine)

Something that Hatmaker reminds her readers of is that there absolutely is a correlation that can be drawn between how we as Christians treat each other and our fellow human beings and how the world that is watching us will feel about Jesus. If we say we are all about love and mercy and kindness and yet we condemn, decry, and dehumanize, how can people be anything but confused, hurt, and angry? The links between our belief, our words, and our actions are woefully broken, leaving us as Christians with a reality to face.

Our lack of love is broken.

Our lack of understanding is broken.

Our lack of humanness is broken.

Our lack of mercy is broken.

Our lack of Christlikeness is broken.

I am not waiting for a miracle. I am expecting one, yes, but I am not waiting for one. Our generation cannot afford that, and neither can the next one. I will love. I will be kind. I will pray. I will encourage. I will use what I have—my presence, my influence, my voice, my words, my arms—and trust God for the rest. I will tell my students that they are welcome in my classroom and in our school community just as they are. I will remind my friends and family—daily if need be—that I love them and thank God for them. I will do my best to speak out against injustice and call those in power to account. I will commiserate with, support, and comfort those who are suffering. I will do my best to live what I believe and write. We belong to one another, and that is how I choose to live.

“Above all, I desire to be part of God’s image-bearing people who relate to each other full of grace and truth, the same way God relates to us through Christ. Loving those who are different than we are is what we are supposed to do. And we’re called to serve together, to eat together, to have long and meaningful conversations with each other, to listen to each other, to sit on pews beside each other. […] I am working on the kindness of listening, understanding more and more the difference between listening while waiting to respond to someone and listening while wanting to learn about someone. Kindness is the latter.” (Corey 63-64, emphasis mine)

I am expecting a miracle, yes. I am not waiting for one, no. Love, listening, kindness, connection. These are the miracles I choose.

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The Halo Around the Throne – Melissa Snyder [Poems]


It is such an honor to he featured! Thank you!

A Tudor Writing Circle

I love sharing new things I haven’t actually thought of on this site. So when Melissa (awesome name, by the way ;)) contacted me and shared her entire poetry series on Tudor Women, its safe to say I got pretty excited. Each of the poems has a link to her website posting, but if you’re interested in checking out Melissas site click here!

The Halo Around the Throne (Tudor Women Series)
Melissa Snyder

= = =

“A Smile for a Kiss” (Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII)

Will you kiss me?
Will you restore my smile?
It has gone running, fleeing from my lips.
Will you beckon it back? Cajole and convince it?
Tease it up from the corners of my mouth where it has hidden itself?
Will you make a bargain for its restoration?
Will you kiss me?
Will you trade that one moment of lips upon…

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Those Amazing Moments…


One Thing…

 A few amazing and splendid things have happened since the beginning of the year. Firstly, I had a realization about my writing. I am not reaching for ‘astonishing’. I am not reaching for the bestseller list. However, I have realized of late that what I do want for my writing, my goal, my calling for this gift I have had since childhood is for it to mean something. I want my writing to be of value and good to someone. I want it to be encouraging, edifying, challenging, comforting, welcoming. I want my writing to speak God’s love to those who read it, to challenge them to keep going, keep trying, keep staying, keep loving. This is my goal.

I literally realized as I wrote that last sentence: this is my dream.

Friends, I cannot tell you the last time I had a dream. A dream to work for, a dream to reach for. Over the past decade when I have been asked what my dreams are, I have felt appallingly empty. I have had no words, no answer, no dream to speak of. And it made my heart ache; it made me cry, to be dreamless. I do not want big things; I do not want a huge, ostentatious house, to be famous, to top a bestseller list, or to speak to large crowds. Truthfully? I have accomplished many of the dreams that others might have. I have a solid job, health insurance, a strong relationship, a loving family, a healthy child, a home of my own, and enough money to cover our bills, our needs, and many of our wants, too. Are things perfect? No. Are they good? Yes. So, with all that, what else could I possibly dream for, reach for?

But, as I think about it, the more and more I realize that this is a dream. A new one! Like dear Flynn Rider (Eugene Fitzherbert to his friends), I needed to find a new dream, and…I guess I have. I do not necessarily know what comes next (sharing this post, I suppose), but the thought of having a dream is and feels nothing short of amazing.

            I’ve got a dream!

And Another Thing!

The second splendid thing was a moment of affirmation, one that meant—and still means—a great deal. On a recent Saturday, I wrote a post of thank-you’s on my personal Facebook page to my dear ones. A little while later, my phone pinged with a notification: my dad had commented on my post. Here is what he wrote:

Thank you too, for being yourself, true to openness and willingness to share such a ministry of helping others to feel that they are important, cared about, loved and have someone to lift them up. You are also willing to share their pain and climb down to where they are to keep them comfortable with your encouragement.

I really cannot describe to you just how deeply this affirmation touched my soul, particularly as it came from my dad, who has been in ministry in some way, shape, or form throughout my entire life. This is my life’s purpose and work: love. I really do believe that God put me here to do my best to love, deeply and well, those whom God has put in my path and life. Some may stay, some may leave, and some may just be passing through, but nevertheless, I am going to do my best to offer love to them all.

Encouragement is one of my spiritual gifts, without a doubt, but I learned it at my mother’s knee. She used to buy me little calendars for my study carrel (office) at school and she would write encouraging, loving little notes on them. When I went off to college, she sent prayer boxes with me (little containers with Scripture verses or prayers on them) and she would write notes on the back side of them. She never misses a birthday, anniversary, or holiday; her beautifully-chosen, loving cards come without fail. I keep many of them and re-read them when I need a heart-lift. With such inspiration and teaching, how could I ever doubt what my purpose on this mortal coil is?

My mother’s teachings, the affirmations of family, friends, ministers, dear ones, and now this timely one from my Da’…sometimes that is what a soul needs. What God knew my soul needed: affirmation that I am indeed doing what I am supposed to be doing. In that, God has given me a dream, a desire, a goal, and the confirmation that, yes, I am to step forward into it, whatever that mean. Just the next step, though.

When the Storm Forms


January 19, 2019 – Hope*Writers Prompt: Brainstorm           

Sometimes, a bolt of lightning strikes my brain (Well, that must hurt!) and it starts a hiss. That hiss grows into a rumble like distant thunder. I like that rumble. That rumble is fun. That rumble is twitchy. That rumble is smile-inducing because it means there’s something new to explore. A new idea to pick apart so as to see how it works, and then put it back together again in a way that is accessible. A new character with stories being born in their mouth and limbs every second: stories to live, stories to tell. A new world that blinks at me from behind its caul, begging me to be gentle in my examinations and explorations of its workings and people. That rumble means (hopefully) an oncoming storm of newness, the arrival of a new something to write about, to dive into, to disappear within for a while. It’s the shelter into which I duck as the storm finally breaks.

**Postscript: extra points if you caught the quote in the first paragraph and can tell me what film it is from. ^_^

Photo from vunature.com – Sky Nature Electricity Landscapes Night Cities Lightning Storm Light Skyscapes Beautiful Photos

Living Drafts


Draft

January 16, 2019 – Hope*Writers Prompts

            Drafting a piece of writing can be so difficult: figuring out some way to get those ideas out of your mind and down onto paper or a screen…somehow. Eventually, though, they do end up there, and then begins the task of tearing that painstaking draft apart and putting it back together again. That is what I love about drafts: the puzzling out and reconstituting of them, sometimes as something very different than what I started out with. I create something and then I blast my beloved creation apart, muck about with the pieces several dozen times, and then, eventually, end up with something that resembles a final draft. It may be a refined, elegant version of the original or it may end up looking nothing like the writing I began with, completely different proverbial eyes staring back at me from the computer screen.

            As a friend once reminded me, rather wisely: life is not being a great writer but a great re­-writer. Writing and life are about being able to to see where we have learned, grown, and changed, edit, revise our worldview as necessary, and life our lives accordingly. So, in more way than one, we are all living drafts every single day, always being revised into something new and exciting. Perhaps someday, new eyes will stare back at our Maker than those with which we began.

Morning Whispers


January 15, 2019 – Hope*Writers Prompts

When I wake on my own and the house is quiet, my dear ones still asleep, that is the softest, brightest feeling. There is that Christmas Morning anticipation fluttering from the sheer joy that I might be able to get up, get my coffee, and sit in the silence. Just sit and sip before the bustle of the day begins. A morning silent enough to hear the sun whisper as it rises.

Words Upon Words


January 14, 2019 – Hope*Writers Prompts

 I love words. I think you have figured that out about me by now. But there is something that I deeply dislike: saying words without a point. I don’t like babbling, and I feel exceedingly embarrassed when I think I am babbling pointlessly. I don’t think that I have ever wanted to be famous for my words, but I do know–or rather, have come to realize–that I want my words to mean something. I want them to be meaningful to someone in some way for some reason, whether that reason is encouragement, an inspiration to be and/or make the world around them better, to see others in a dearer light, or to extend that dear light to themselves. All I know that I am desperate for my words to mean Something.

Josephine March is my favorite novel character, and, inLittle Women, Jo longed for a life beyond her beloved Orchard House, a life that was astonishing. I am not reaching for astonishing, honestly. I am not entirely sure I could handle astonishing. I am not reaching for the book deals, the speaking engagements, etc., though I dearly do love rejoicing in and with those who have flown to those amazing, inspiring heights. I just have this craving, deep down in the belly of my soul, for what I write and say to have meaning, to fall on hearts and minds and sink in somehow for the better.