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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Holding the Days with Gentleness


2016 is almost over and what a year it’s been. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it now that I sit and think about it but I will try to put word to thought.

This year, my watchword was grace—to give grace as well as to recognize it when it is given me and to also give it to myself. I have spent this year trying to be mindful of opportunities to show grace, as well as to accept it when I receive it. I also worked to be mindful of opportunities to study and explore grace and its facets. This year, I spent my NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in November centering my writings on grace. I explored what I knew, what I have experienced, though, and considered, and even found new levels of thought on what it means to give grace, experience it, choose it, and even to be graceless. It was, honestly, one of the best writing experiences of my life and it renewed a desire in me to write, and I am determined to write as often and as much as possible in the coming year.

This year, I went back to teaching full time. It was a quick decision after many, many applications, interviews, and then coming to terms with being home with Elizabeth for a final year. I got a call, interviewed, and made a decision all in two to three days. I had to sacrifice some things, such as seeing my baby off on her first day of daycare/preschool, but I knew that it was the right decision for my family. Has it been easy, such a quick and large life transition? No, not really, and it has taken me almost the entire semester to feel as though I have found my feet or that I belong in teaching again (still not entirely sure on the latter but for now, functional will do). I am still struggling a bit to find a life balance again—to find the correct levels in time for daughter, husband, my self-care, and my writing–but I have learned and am learning a great deal from the teachers and students I am working with now. At the same time, my girl is enjoying school and missing her friends now that we are at the tail end of Christmas vacation. She is doing wonderfully, growing quickly, learning so very much, and I am thankful beyond measure for that.

My husband has just completed a leadership development program, which I am buttons-bursting proud of him for sticking with. I know that it was a testing for him and I am ever so proud of his perseverance and determination to get everything out of it that he could. He works hard each and every day and gives all he can as a teacher and a pastor and I am constantly awed and inspired by him. This year, we celebrated ten years of marriage surrounded by friends and full of laughter and good food. It was the best method by which to celebrate (well, that and the new Star Trek film) and I am so glad that we were able to do so. I love you, darling, today and every day and even beyond that.

As 2016 ends, I have been thinking and praying about a watchword, a word of intention for the coming year. This year’s word was grace and the year before was intentioned by courage and kindness. So far, the word that has come to me is gentleness. What does it mean to be gentle? To act and react, listen, speak, and be with gentleness?

With all the fear, the worry, the anger, the darkness, what does it mean for me to be gentle? How can I be gentle with the hearts that are afraid and hurting? How can I be gentle with those who do not understand or don’t want to?

How can I be gentle with my dear ones? Gentle with their feelings, their thoughts, with honesty, in my reactions and discipline as we raise our daughter, with my loved ones’ precious hearts and souls?

How can I be gentle in my job, with my students and coworkers, with their humanity that may break out in difficult ways sometimes, much like my own?

How can I be gentle in my faith, in speaking love and kindness and giving grace to others? In following the example of the God I claim to believe in and the Jesus I claim to follow?

How can I show gentleness in my craft, in what I write and how I post on social media, the corners that I build in the world around me, both real and online? How can I be gentle and bold and courageous at the same time?

I want to hold what people give me, what they trust me with, gingerly and carefully. I want to be gentle with souls, with words, with trust, with hearts and feelings. I want to do this for others because I know how much I want it for me. I want people to be gentle with me, with my thoughts, feelings, words, hopes, dreams, heart, and soul. Just as I know how much I need grace and so I try to give it, so it goes with gentleness. I know how much I desire it; why should others not be the same? Why should I not try to give the reactions that I would want to receive?

Everyone is going through or has gone through something; everyone could use some gentleness in a world so rough and tumble. This year may be hard, this year may be scary, but I will not let that stop me. I will not let it harden me either. I will not let it take my softness away but, if anything, I will let it increase, let it seep into my touch, fill my words, prompt me to listen more than I speak. May this coming year find me holding others with gentleness and radical love, continuing to act in grace, having courage, and being kind.

Farewell, 2016.

Welcome, 2017. I call you blessed and look forward to what we have to learn together.

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Thanksgiving Grace


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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, I will gather my family around a table full of lovingly-made, delicious food, and we will indulge in feasting, conversation, beloved traditions, and spending extended time together. Tomorrow, I will remind my daughter of what day it is and its significance and help her remember all the wonderful things that we have to be thankful for.

But I don’t just want to leave thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. I want it to be a part of every day. I want to make sure that I don’t forget my blessings the rest of the year. I don’t want to forget them. Not ever.

Over the course of this month, I have been inspired by and written on grace. I have one week left and I know that there is still so much that I have yet to learn about the kaleidoscope facets and beauty of grace that I am simultaneously floored and chomping at the bit to see what comes next in this journey of mine.

I never want to forget the grace that has been lavished on me, both by the God I love and serve and the people with whom I share my life. In these holidays (and every day), let’s determine to extravagantly extend the grace we so desperately need ourselves, dear ones, and fill our homes with safety, love, kindness, and mercy.

When I am Graceless


There comes a point in just about every evening when a switch is flipped within me. A moment when I go from gentle, loving, patient, ever-bearing Mommy to a weary, prickly, cranky woman who wants nothing more than for her child to go the eff to sleep and for a lion’s portion of quiet to reign in my house again for the little time that I have left before my body requires me to sleep before  getting up and doing it all over again. In those moments, I have to admit to being largely graceless.

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Turning on the Lights


BloPoMo Day 11

“Turn toward grace and you turn on all the lights.” – Ann Voskamp

When I was little and I was scared, I turned on all the lights in the house. That way nothing could jump out and frighten me. I could see what and who was around me and know that I was safe. This week, I feel like I have been running around trying to turn on all the lights. Not just for myself but also for those I love, those who are worried, despairing, angry, or fearful. I want them to see who is around them. I want them to know that they are safe with them, with us.

But I’m also turning on the lights so that others can see. I am turning on the lights so that others can see they are scared. I am turning on the lights so that they can see each other. So people can see people.

I am turning on the lights so that people can see what they are forgetting: that we belong to each other.

I am turning on the lights so that hopefully we can remember to have courage and be kind.

I am turning on the lights that we can remember to love fiercely.

I am turning on the lights so that hopefully we can really see each other, and that we can hopefully choose to sit with each other in the real and have the strength and grace to stick it out through the hard.

I have spent my week running around, trying to turn on all the lights I can, shed all the love, all the light, all the grace I can. I know that things are not okay. I know that people are not okay. I’m not going to tell them–tell you–to be okay; I’m not going to tell you that. I’m not going to tell anyone–ANYONE–to not be angry or worried or scared or upset or to feel anything other than what they feel.

I am turning on the lights so you can see something other than the darkness. I am turning on the lights so that you can see my hand held out to you. So you know where to reach if you need or want it. I am turning on the lights so you can see me sitting next to you, can see my arms held open.

Don’t worry, dear one: I’m turning on the lights.

Grace in the Unafraid


Today, I feel scared but I refuse to be afraid. I will not be afraid. Scary will not stop me. It will not!

Scary will not stop me from caring.

Scary will not stop me from doing as much good as I can.

Scary will not stop me from teaching my daughter and my students to stand in love, have courage, and be kind.

Scary will not stop me from being a decent human being.

Scary will not stop me from extravagantly showing the love of the God I believe in.

Scary will not stop me from punching above my weight to build a better, more loving, more graceful world for us all.

Scary will not stop me. It won’t stop us. We can do this. You and me and us. Every day. We can do this!

I give you fair warning here and now. I am dangerous. I will love fiercely. I will be kind. Scary will not stop me.

Grace in the Tumult (Election Day)


Today is the day. The day we have been anticipating-slash-dreading for months. Today is Election Day here in these United States. No other election in my lifetime has been so fraught, so loud, so tumultuous, so divisive. There have been so many times that I wanted to stop the world and get off, just to escape from all of it, even if just for a little while. However, here we are. Regardless of who you choose to vote for today, I would ask one thing of you. Please.

Go about your day kindly and gently. Go about it with grace.

There are people out there today, on both sides of the party line, who are scared, worried, and unsure. They could use your smile, a door held, a direction kindly given. Leave the candidates out of it. Don’t be a party member today; be a human being. Keep your pieces of mind; give your grace. Today is a day that could change our future forever, and that is incredibly scary. Let’s give a little grace today, soothe a heart, reassure a quaking spirit.b We are in this together, for better or for worse. We never how far the ripples go. Ripples grow into waves, waves carry more water with them and become great, roaring things that splash and spray and spread.

Can we do that with grace today? Can we let it help us see the person in front of us in line, the person behind us, as people, not party members. People who are doing what they can in the best way they know how. Can we, will we offer grace, let it ripple out, let it grow and splash and spray and spread? Because this country could desperately use some grace today.

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