Prepared to Give an Answer


It’s been a month!? Goodness! Well, yes, it’s summer, and I’m trying to enjoy it and be productive with some goals at the same time. So here I am.

Yesterday was a very interesting experience for me. Early in the morning, I checked a Facebook notification for a friend and saw that she had posted this:

This rather encapsulates how I feel about my faith and the subject of the human sexuality spectrum. So I commented on the post: “Yep! That’s exactly it for me.” I didn’t think there would be much more to it than perhaps a comment like or two. But then another friend whom I have known for about ten or eleven years replied:

So I do have a follow-up question that is something that I’ve been dealing with lately. While there is no judgment, does that mean you still think that being gay is necessarily a “bad trait”? For example, you wouldn’t judge thieves, but you wouldn’t promote their behavior as positive and godly. Any thoughts? 

I immediately knew in my soul that this was one of those situations that the Bible talks about where Christians need to be “prepared to give an answer”. I replied that, after I dropped my little girl off at daycare, I would sit down so I could answer her question thoughtfully and properly. And I did. I thought about it all through the drive to school and during my time at the gym afterward, drafting up responses and making notes of a Scripture that came to mind. Finally, I was able to sit down and arrange my thoughts into the following response:

Okay. Here I am. Honestly…your question is something that I have struggled with thinking through sometimes. However, after thought and reflection, I cannot bring myself to a “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality. I just can’t. I can’t tell someone that I love them or that God loves them but, in the same breath, call them wrong. I have done too much wrong in my own life to pass judgment. Do people do things that are wrong? Yes, we all do. But if I’m so busy judging or telling someone their faults or, as you put it, bad traits, there’s no room left to love them or for them to BELIEVE that I love them. I am not God. I don’t know His mind. I don’t know the minds of any other person on this planet. I am not called to judge. I am called to love. To love all of someone. Do I want to help people grow in life? Yes, I want to encourage, support, and help them in that growth, whatever that may mean for them. I will love and pray for them, no matter what. 

What immediately springs to mind (and sticks there) for me is John 8:1-11 and I’ve quoted it below.

“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” ” (New Living Translation)

Jesus didn’t condemn this woman; He didn’t judge her. He said, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t lay her sins, whatever they may have been, out before her. He doesn’t tell her what’s wrong with her or bad about her. No. He just told her that He didn’t condemn her, to go live her life and do what’s right. In the same way, I will not condemn someone. I will not lay what I, in my fallibility, think are their sins before them. I am called to love and I will love and love and love. I will do what I can to help those I come into contact with to live the best lives they can in the spaces they are in. I have been so deeply loved in my life, have met and known and loved so many amazing people from all walks of life, but I have also seen what damage and pain and separation condemnation and judgment can cause. Such things are not of God and I will not perpetuate such pain. The Church is called to love God and love others. This is most important and it is what I have built my life on and will continue to. 

To be sure I answer your question, no, I do not think that being gay is a “bad trait”. Some of the greatest people of faith I’ve ever known are gay, and I will thank God for them from the rooftops and point those who need love and prayer and counsel to them all the time as people of God and some of the deepest, strongest, and most loving Christians I have ever known. Thank you for asking and making me think, love. 

I am called to love and loving is what I will do.

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What I Put On is Not Me


Today, I was asked, “as a favor”, to change out of the cute little capri pants I had on and into my jean skirt. To clarify, nothing was showing. I had a Peter Pan collar top that left covered my bust, decolletage, and shoulders and came down over the waistband of my pants. The capris were dark denim and came down past my knees. The reason I was asked to change? So I could meet the current principal of my old school–where I will be giving the commencement address on Friday evening–and “avoid any conflict” that might come from me being seen in pants. I did it; I changed. I did it because I don’t live here anymore. I don’t have to live with these people and their talk and their (more-than-sometimes vicious) gossip. She (the person who asked me) does and I want her life to be as easy as I can help to make it. But, honestly, I’m angry. I am angry and disappointed.  Not at the person who asked me but at the fact that she felt like I had to be asked to do this. I am insulted by the very idea that my worth or the validity of my faith or my respectability could be compromised by an article of clothing. Could be questionable in the eyes of someone who has never even met me, simply because I showed up in their presence wearing pants instead of a skirt. The idea that anyone’s clothes determine their worth or respectability, especially when you don’t know them. This, frankly, angers me to a degree that I cannot quantify.

What I put on, what I wear, is not me. Now, I know all about first impressions so don’t feed me that line. This isn’t about first impressions. This is about me not being Christian enough when I wear pants for people who have known me all my life but obviously know nothing about me or who I am at all. It makes me angry and makes me sad that this has Not changed in thirty-plus years, and I refuse to be that kind of Christian! I refuse to deny someone’s worth or faith or right to be respected because she wears pants or he wears a skirt or they wear whatever they choose to wear. What I put on is not me. What I do, how I speak, how I act, how I live out what I believe. That is me.  A woman came to Jesus with her head uncovered and used her hair to dry his feet after she anointed them with the dearest and most expensive thing she owned. Did he scold her for coming to him dressed immodestly? No! In fact, he told the others with him, who started berating her for “wasting” the perfume, to leave her alone because her sacrifice was heartfelt and true and made out of love for him. Somewhere, somehow, I think that woman knew in her soul that Jesus was going to go through something terrible, and she refused to let him experience pain without knowing that he was loved. Her lack of hair covering didn’t matter; her actions did and still do.

You cannot judge someone heart and soul by their clothing. You cannot judge their intelligence, their gentleness, their faith, their belief, their convictions, their journey, or their capacity for kindness and love based on what they wear next to their skin. What clothes our outside does not matter. In fact, in the New Testament, Colossian 3:12-15 says:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

I believe that we are all holy and dearly loved. We are all beloved of God. What makes a person important, what makes them indispensable, what makes who they are valuable and valid is how they have clothed their spirit, not how they have clothed their body. How that person over there dresses doesn’t make them any less of a person, any less capable of kindness and compassion and love and care, of courage  and determination and strength. You haven’t seen how they live their life. Don’t judge them in this one snapshot moment because of what you haven’t seen. Please! The fact that I wear pants on a regular basis as well as skirts and dresses doesn’t make what I will have to say to these graduating students any less true. It doesn’t make my testimony any less powerful. And it doesn’t make me any less respectable, any less worthy, of a person. And it definitely does not make me any less of a Christian.

If you judge me unworthy or less than just by looking at me, then I would dare say that it’s possible that you might have a much bigger and more serious issue than a 33-year-old woman in pedal-pushers. 

Finding Refuge in the Deluge


“Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory[a] will be a canopy.  It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”  Isaiah 4:5-6 (NIV)

The other morning, I took my daughter out into our backyard after pleas of “House? Please, house?” I had a plan, too. I was going to plant my chair underneath our mulberry tree and, from there, I would have a good view of her whether she was playing in her playhouse or climbing up the ladder to go down her slide. While I sat in this shady refuge, I was going to continue reading and journaling and had plans to write a short devotional on the refuge of peaceful spaces. It was going to be a lovely time outside.

Unfortunately, the insects had other ideas. It has been hot and muggy and raining off and on the past few days, and the dew was still on the grass when we went out so the bugs were out in force.  My backyard, which is usually a beautifully cool refuge in the morning hours, had turned into a torture zone for me. I am notorious for being bitten by insects. So much so that there are times that I just about flat-out refuse to leave the house. If there are bugs about, I will get bitten, buzzed, and, really, just all-out bugged.

How like life, isn’t it? We sit down and determine that this will be our sacred time, our time with God, when we absorb His Word and listen for that still, sweet voice. This will be our time to center ourselves in the midst of everything, to find silence and calm and peace. And then the thoughts creep in. Or, rather, they pop in, buzzing about our mind while we are trying to be still. Grocery lists, dinner ingredients, errands that need to be run, appointments needing to be kept. They buzz and bite at our concentration, threatening to draw our minds away from God, away from quiet.

Sometimes these thoughts are like annoying insects, interrupting us. Other times, it can be our emotions that interrupt, suddenly washing over us like a sudden storm. I can personally attest to this. Thoughts lead to emotions and those emotions lead to more thoughts and, before I know it, I am lost in the storm. I have no idea what I was thinking or praying about in the first place, or even what I was reading or journaling. Something that I tend to forget, however, is that, even in that deluge, God can still be my refuge. Our refuge. We can still call out to Him, call out His name, and He will meet us in that place. That place of trying and failing, that place of frustration or overwhelm. He will meet us there.

As it says in our key verse, “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” The “it” refers to the presence of God. It is there to cut through it all and draw us back. Back to a place of quiet, a place of reflection, a place where we meet God, where He can speak to us, and where we can hear Him with our whole heart.

So, while my backyard might not have been the shelter and refuge I had hoped for of a morning, it served as a great reminder of the God Who is, no matter what.

Refuge

NaBloPoMo 2014 Day 25: Encapsulated Mind and Soul


I have had the same Bible for at least the past twelve years and I am loath to be rid of it. Not because it is the most comprehensive or best reviewed translation. No. I will keep this Bible until it falls apart and maybe even then because it is full of memories and reminders for my heart.

For instance, Proverbs of my favorite book of the Bible. My high school teacher would go through it chapter by chapter, day by day, a few months a year, and I was always amazed and blessed by how she could pull meaningful and relevant interpretations from a centuries-old text. So I still continue the practice today in my personal devotion and prayer time. If a particular verse strikes me, I usually mark it with that day’s date and it’s rather amazing to go back and see how often verses come back into my life with a new relevance, a new poignancy. Sometimes I can match verses and dates with entries in my journals and it’s always eye-opening to review just what was going on in my life at that time and how those verses were relevant to my process and growth.

This Bible is full of note cards with specific prayer requests from college Bible study groups. A thin purple ribbon that a best friend once tied around my finger marks the beginning of the book of Philippians, right next to Paul’s joyous prayer for his friends, what I have now come to call my “Ribbon Prayer”. There is a sticker/picture of the Russian pastor and his family with whom I and three other young women worked ten summers ago. I remember that family and their enthusiastic smiles and kindness and exultation in life and in us. There are notes that I have written in any spare white space I can find in this Bible’s pages, thoughts on my life and on these words of God and their impact, as well as prayers, interpretations, and reminders.

Yes, I think I will hold on to this Bible for as long as I am able, if for no other reason than to be able to pass it on my daughter with my journals, so that may be able to see a glimpse into the process and growth of her mother’s life and faith.

So many memories in this Bible.

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Heart Taps: God’s Blessings


From my husband’s sermon yesterday:

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4

Main Text15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardlywe are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

= = =
“God’s blessings do NOT equal “stuff”, money or possessions or things. The blessings that God gives us to us are the happenings/events in our lives that encourage us to draw closer to Him, even the difficult and “bad” times. The blessing comes in that we become better people, better Christians through having to trust in Him through those times, both ours and others’. We are blessed with experiences that allow us to draw closer to God’s heart and to be good to/for and love on others.”