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Silent Night | Seeking the Savior Amid the Noise of Christmas

15 Dec

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Christmas comes the same time each year—but does it always seem to just blaze by at lightning speed and go careening off into January before you get a chance to breathe it in? Perhaps it seems like the more Christmases you experience, the more Christmastime feels like a striving for a feeling—that warm, peaceful feeling you’ve always associated with the birth of Jesus. Yet Christmas comes faster and faster each year, and the feeling you’re so desperate to feel just seems to sweep in and out, muffled by the whirlwind of gifts, lines at the mall and Christmas parties you arrived late for. So you buy tickets to Christmas concerts and holiday expos, penciling in time to get some Christmas in your life before the 25th arrives. But these efforts are in vain. They offer a short flicker of the feeling, but it is quickly snuffed out once you re-enter your life, where the bills are waiting to be paid, dinner is waiting to be made, the dishes are waiting to be washed and, of course, Christmas gifts are waiting to be be bought. Perfect gifts that will make everyone you love feel special and make you look like a thoughtful friend—not like you’re trying too hard or anything, but not like you’re just cheap and in a rush either. It’s a tough balance to master.

Before you know it, it’s New Years Day and you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to take down the lights, when to disassemble the tree, where in the world you’re going to put all the new stuff you got, and when you’re going to have a few free hours to go back to the dreaded shopping center to make your returns and exchanges. Maybe you feel a bit of remorse for never really obtaining the feeling, but it’s not something you can dwell on. It’s a new year—you’ve got to try to make some feasibly obtainable resolutions, lose that holiday weight and get on with life. You made it through the season, though, and maybe things will be better next year when your life is a little more together.

But we all know that won’t be the case. Life is unpredictable. New seasons bring with them new joys and sorrows, and by the time Christmas rolls around again who knows what your laundry list of things keeping you busy will look like?

The trick isn’t to put the joy and peace of Christmastime on the back burner until all of your duties are accomplished. You can’t push the manger aside until you feel like you’ve done enough to rest in the promises of a silent night. There will always be more to do. Consumerism and our own self-induced societal expectations do an excellent job of drowning out the cries of the newborn king with the ringing of jingle bells and the stampeding of shoppers. The peace of Jesus is unlikely to be found amid such madness. Expecting that Christmas feeling to overwhelm you while you’re caught in life-altering traffic trying to get out of a packed-out parking lot is naive at best.

Jesus made his entrance into the world quietly and discreetly. The greatest gift ever given was given on a silent night two thousand years ago, in a barn, to an audience of poor shepherds. 

Try to bask in that simplicity for just a moment. The God who gave us that gift is not a God of grandiose, complicated expectations. He is a God who had every ability to give this gift in an elaborate, over-the-top experience for the whole world to see, but instead He sent his son to a little-known couple traveling to their hometown by donkey. The gift was delivered in the deep stillness of a silent night. Even the grandest part of the story, the choir of angels declaring his birth, was only revealed to a group of shepherds watching their flock in the night.

The promise of Christmas is the same today. It can’t be achieved by constant striving for more Christmasy experiences. It can’t be put off until a more convenient time comes around. It is here, now, in the stillness of a quiet and receptive heart. It is here when you allow it to bubble up inside of you until it spills over into everything you touch. It’s here when you slow down, give up your striving and simply ask for Jesus to meet you in this place at this time.

He’s waiting for you to wait for Him—expectantly, joyfully, with all the hope and anticipation of that first Christmas.

Wait for him in these last few days of Advent. Allow him to join you in your waiting, to point your heart in the direction of the stable. Let him show you the beauty of his gift—the only gift that really matters when the blur of December fades and gives way to the new year. Be still and receive it.

Trusting You Anyway: An honest discussion about my miscarriage

11 Aug

Praying woman hands

What does it mean to trust God with everything?

I’m trying to figure that out now. Ordinarily I feel like I’m a person with pretty strong faith. I’ve faced some serious mountains in my life, and in everything God has been faithful. In every dead situation He has brought forth new life. After every storm He has brought the dove and led me to dry land. He has rescued me, time and again. And in return I have shown Him the deepest faith I could muster.

I’ve always known that God gives and takes away. I’ve heard it all my life, experienced it to certain degrees even. But I never felt the full weight of it until two weeks ago, when I miscarried my unborn baby.

God, why?

What good could come of such a thing? What could possibly rise from the ashes here, Lord? There is no good here. There is only despair, heartache, emptiness.

It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it the pain of a miscarriage. Imagine the anticipation of a beautiful and unexpected change in your life. A surge of potentials, a surge of dreams. Planning, praying, preparing. Doctor’s visits. Seeing things on a screen that jolt you from fear and anxiety to joy and anticipation–instantly.

See that? That’s the heartbeat. My gosh, babe, that’s a heartbeat. Our baby is half a centimeter but it’s got a heartbeat. Imagine that.

You envision your future in a whole new light. There’s a date several months away that’s meaningless to most people, but it means absolutely everything to you. Your life will change, and it’s going to be for the better. God has given you a gift. It’s a gift that you didn’t expect, but it must be part of God’s plan even if it wasn’t part of yours. Okay, God, I got this. I get it now. Let’s do this.

And all of a sudden you’re ready. You’re excited. It’s go time.

And then one night something is wrong.

Why are you feeling like this? Why is this happening? Should we call the doctor, go to the hospital?

No, because in a moment it’s over. It’s over, everything you thought was happening is no longer, and you’re on your knees on the bathroom floor crying out to God­­­ in utter despair. Why?

I thought if I listened to God obediently and followed His direction I would be okay. I thought that trusting Him with an unexpected and untimely pregnancy would bring me favor. It was bad timing and less than ideal circumstances, but I believed. I was faithful. I said yes, God, I’ll do this. This must be your plan. It must be your will. So I’m all in.

But then in an instant it was gone. I didn’t understand. I don’t understand.

I’m still asking why. Maybe I’ll always be asking why.

What does it mean to trust God with everything?

I think it means trusting when it doesn’t make sense; having faith when the world looks on and says you have no reason to. It means that you truly believe in something greater than human understanding, a Creator that is so loving and so powerful and all-knowing that there is no possible way to comprehend His will. It means that you trust your Maker so deeply that even when He takes away in ways that are totally incomprehensible, you hold fast to faith, because you know that He is good in all things.

Our world is so small. The things we can see in one lifetime are miniscule in comparison to what the God of the universe sees in one moment.

That doesn’t necessarily make it easier. It doesn’t make the pain go away. But it reminds us that this is not the end. It reminds us that there is an end to our toils and our tears. It reminds us that through it all, we are held in His love.

We are never promised an easy life–but we are promised that God will work everything for our good, if we love Him. Everything. Even our suffering and heartache. Even the loss of our unborn children. Everything. It’s a promise. And it’s a promise I’ll believe because, although I am not always given a reason why everything happens, I have never experienced an unfulfilled promise from my Savior. And so I will believe, and I will trust, and I will give praise.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 
(Isaiah 41:10)

P.S. Sometimes in times like these it’s helpful to have a song that you can go to that reminds you to continue to keep hoping. Here’s the one that has been my anthem these past two weeks. I hope that if you’re facing something similar it will encourage you like it has me. It’s a reminder to those of us who have seen God move in our lives in the past to hold onto Him. No matter what we face, we know there is One who is able to heal, bring joy and restore. He’s done it before and He will do it again.

“And if there’s anybody here who’s found Him faithful
Anybody here who knows He’s able
Say Amen
And if there’s anybody here who’s seen His power
Anybody here brought through the fire
Say Amen
Anybody here found joy in the middle of sorrow
Peace in the storm, hope for tomorrow
And seen it time and time again
Then just Say Amen”

Prayer Poll

13 Mar

I have ANOTHER request of you. My class is now requiring that I conduct a text messaging poll about another aspect of spirituality. Below are links to four quick poll questions about prayer. I would be so appreciative if you would take a moment to respond! All you do is click the link to the poll and respond via text. It’s totally anonymous. Thanks so much!

Is prayer important to you?

How often do you pray?

Does your generation pray?

What do you pray for?

Rambling of the Day: Desperately Seeking Permanence

10 Mar

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Photos by Simone Anne, courtesy of Death to Stock.

We’re all seeking permanence of some kind. Whether it’s a career, a relationship, a personal goal or maybe even a spiritual need, we are all seeking the stability we believe can only be found only in a permanent situation. Nobody likes the uncomfortable feeling of floundering around in temporariness, harboring on the edges of something that could be but wondering all the time if something will ever come of it. We hate that in-betweenness, that uncertainty that hangs over us in situations with undeterminable outcomes.

Will this relationship ever move forward into something permanent? Will I ever get the promotion I need to have to income that will make me feel stable? Will I finally find the perfect place to call home, never wondering if there’s something better out there—and be content to stay there?

And we get weary waiting. Day after day we become increasingly desperate for that thing, whatever it is—that thing that’s going to flick the switch from temporary to permanent: that job, that person, that perfect situation, whatever it is. Once it comes, we’re certain things will change. We’ll be happier, less worrisome, more comfortable, at peace with ourselves. Life will be better. And so we live on, each day plodding along, eagerly anticipating that day when we won’t have to anticipate anymore because we’ll finally have it. Permanence. I’ll be happy when…

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When what, exactly? When the stars aline and life is finally all you dreamt it would be? When you’re finally at that goal weight and it’s here to stay? When your relationship is finally going smoothly and you’re settled down comfortably in happy wedded bliss?

It’s funny how we do this to ourselves. We’ve got a whole lifetime of experiences to prove to us that that nirvana state doesn’t really exist, yet we continue to hold out for it, waiting for something permanent to take hold of us and sweep us up in the beauty of complacency once and for all.

But this life doesn’t offer permanence.

Nothing about it does.

Tomorrow morning isn’t a guaranteed event. Neither is your next birthday, or next year when you’re up for that promotion, or ten years from now when the mortgage will finally be paid off. None of that is guaranteed to you. And even if and when you do finally get there, there is no guarantee of what life will look like at that time. That permanence you’re so desperately holding out for is simply the illusion of stability; up close it is just as evanescent as the moment you’re living right now.

Here’s the point. I’m in the midst of a very uncertain time in my life right now, and I have found myself increasingly living in a state of desire for it to be over and longing for the things in store for me in the future. I’m constantly in a state that feels like something similar to the agony of adolescence: an entrapment in a painful in-between phase that nervously clings to the status quo while at the same time staring wistfully toward the future, daring to dream—no, demand—that it come blazing in like a chariot. I’m impatient for that future now. I’ve waited long enough. I’ve done enough of the in-between work. I’ve done enough temporary. I want the permanence.

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But it is in this moment that a voice whispers, ever so gently, that nothing will ever be permanent. That it was never intended to be. Because this place is temporary, and everything here will one day pass away. This world is not the end of the road; in fact it’s just barely scratching the surface of the beginning. So the light of the end of the tunnel isn’t anywhere to be found in this life. It’s only found in the One who has overcome the troubles of this world. The One who has gone before and paved the path from temporary to permanent, who has our future solidified in His work on the cross.

And so, that voice whispers, carry on. Carry on in all that you do with a grateful heart, an open mind and a hopeful spirit. Carry on with your day-to-day in-betweenness, your working-up-to-something-ness. And do it cheerfully. Do it willingly, with a full heart, confident in the wisdom that this life is not your permanent situation. This world is not your dream home. It won’t feel any more so when you finally get to that elusive goal, either, because this life doesn’t offer that, and it was never intended to. This life is wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary—but, oh, so very, very temporary.

And so, my dear, I hear in a whisper, stop your desperate search for the permanent here. Steady your heart—it needn’t be so overwhelmed with longing for the things of this life. Some of it will be wonderful, and you will get to those places, and for a moment you’ll be at peace and you’ll feel the warmth of the sun on your face and you’ll think that this is it. But, darling, the sunshine will soon be overcome by clouds once again, and you’ll wonder what you did wrong, and you’ll again question why, why, why, dear God, can’t I have permanence? My love, you shall, but please believe that it is not to be found here on this earth. So embrace the sunshine and the clouds alike, bask in the beauty of whatever weather comes your way, and eagerly await the permanence of the place being prepared for you.

Survey: Christianity and Abortion

21 Feb

HELP
Hi everyone!

As you might know, I’m currently working on getting my Masters in Strategic Communications, which will be complete this August. Hooray! Anyway, one of my classes is Media Research & Analysis and I have to conduct a qualitative survey on a spiritual topic. So if you would like to participate, here is the survey! I appreciate your help with this!

Take my quick survey 🙂

Rambling of the Day: Why Phil Robertson deserves his suspension from A&E

20 Dec

Phil Robertson

I really was going to stay away from this topic, as I don’t even watch or care about “Duck Dynasty,” but as usual, I have an opinion burning a hole in my brain so here goes.

Here’s one of the statements that’s gotten Phil Robertson, the no-nonsense, self-proclaimed Bible-thumping star of “Duck Dynasty,” into trouble with A&E:

“‘Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,’ he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: ‘Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.’” Phil Robertson, quoted by Drew Magary, GQ Magazine

Alright, alright, let’s all settle back down into our seats and take a deep breath. I’ve done the article about how Christians need to change their mindsets about gay people, and you can read that here if you’d like, so I’m not going to reiterate all that information here. I’m just going to look at this at first from A&E’s perspective as a for-profit business, and then from the viewpoint of a Christian looking at this situation from the outside (as I said, I’m not a fan of the show nor do I know anything about the stars beyond what I read in mainstream news).

The statement released by A&E Wednesday says, “His [Robertson’s] personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supports and champions of the LGBT community.”

Honestly… I don’t see why people are surprised or somehow offended by A&E’s decision. It’s their network, their image and their reputation that’s at stake if they continue to have an affiliation with someone who expresses “anti-gay” sentiments (whether Robertson’s statements are actually anti-gay or just the ranting of someone too ignorant or thoughtless to know better is left up to interpretation).

If A&E has a legitimate issue with the things said by Robertson, then they have every right to suspend him from the show on their network. Because of the show’s popularity, it’s not like this is some kind of profit-making move on their part. They’ll probably lose a good amount of viewers to outrage over the decision. However, it’s their choice to make as a network, and therefore there’s really no good reason to be incensed by their choice. (And really, if you think this guy’s career is over just because one network suspended him, get real. This show is hugely popular and someone else is bound to scoop him up.)

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about how this is all an infringement on freedom of expression, but I find that ridiculous. Robertson is free to make any kind of comments he wants, unless they directly affect national security or the welfare of society. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t real-world consequences for publicly expressing a controversial opinion when you are employed by a company that doesn’t want to be affiliated with that opinion.

So for example, I work for a magazine that is not affiliated with any particular religion or religious organization. They do their best to appeal to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs. So if for some reason I decided to go on a rant about how horrible Jewish people are, and for some reason I decided to do this very openly in a publication I knew my employers at the magazine were sure to read, it is very likely I would lose my job over it. Oh, and I would deserve it. Because it doesn’t matter if I hate Jewish people (I don’t, by the way. This is an example.). Just because I have that opinion doesn’t mean that expressing it publicly—especially in a purposely degrading and lewd manner—isn’t going to cost me my career. It would, and there’s nothing about that fact that infringes upon my freedom of speech. Just because you have the right to say something does not mean that you should. You have to have the discretion to know when you’re crossing a line that might interfere with your professional life.

Moving beyond the freedom of speech argument though—the comments Robertson made are not exactly the shining beacon of Christian love and principle that some people are insinuating they are. The problem is not necessarily that Robertson believes homosexuality is a sin (read that other blog post if you want to read my opinion on that), but it’s the way in which he addresses it that I take issue with.

First of all, Robertson is not a psychologist. He has no evidence whatsoever that homosexuality “morphs out” into things like beastiality and sleeping around with tons of people. And even if he were a psychologist, that evidence does not exist. Being gay doesn’t inherently make you a slut, just as being straight doesn’t inherently make you a devoted partner (I think the divorce rate in this country can attest to that flawed logic). It’s insulting, cruel and just purely ignorant to say this of people who Robertson claims, in later statements, to love and not judge.

Another statement Robertson makes in the GQ story is this:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Oh, okay, so homosexuality is not “logical.” I don’t suppose Robertson would see anything “illogical” about his heterosexual orientation. That’s right, he wouldn’t, because that’s something that’s ingrained within him, so strongly it may as well be DNA. He feels so strongly that heterosexual sex is the only way to go that it’s like second nature to him. Congratulations, Mr. Robertson, you’ve found the secret to human sexuality—it’s second nature, it’s a vital essence of who we are, it’s so much of our identity that we can’t be separated from it. So how do you think a gay person feels when you say that his instinct not to have heterosexual relationships is “illogical”? Probably like he’s somehow less than human than you are. This is why that old ridiculous “love the sinner, hate the sin” adage has just become an eye-roller to the gay community. They don’t want or need that pity-inducing sentiment. And the idea that Robertson can go from making that degrading and unfounded assumption and then go on to say “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me” is totally hypocritical.

Now, I’m going to let up on Robertson for a minute here to say that I don’t know what’s in his heart. Maybe he just had a moment and didn’t think about the implications of what he was actually saying and how hurtful his words would be to the gay community. And perhaps he really isn’t a judgmental person (although it’s hard to believe considering what he said). But even if he’s actually a great Christian guy, making statements like these that come off as purposely demeaning to gays and in no way show the love of Jesus only does a disservice to the Christian community.

Christians get enough of a hard time that we don’t need people claiming ridiculous things in the name of our Creator that, very simply, Jesus would never have said. Disagree with me? Come on now. Quite frankly, Jesus was never sarcastic, degrading or cruel when he spoke to the broken people he chose as his followers, nor was he condescending to the hurting people who came to him for healing. He would never have said, “Hey, why do you like ass? Vagina is better.” No—Jesus stared in the face of Pharisees who tried to call him out for eating with “tax collectors and sinners,” telling them, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

Rambling of the Day: What it takes to give

5 Aug

What does it mean to be generous? I think oftentimes we get the concept of generosity confused with the concept of wealth; however, these two are vastly different and in some cases not even related. In fact, arguably the most generous people in history have not been so out of abundant wealth but rather out of abundant compassion and love.

When we think about the generous people of our day, big names come to mind, like Oprah, maybe Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. These people get a lot of media attention for using their wealth and power to help others. They have foundations established in their names, awards on their shelves for their philanthropy – everyone knows that they are charitable.

Which is awesome, don’t get me wrong. They are generous people, and it’s a wonderful thing that they choose to use their wealth for good.

But I think that seeing that Oprah giving away a car to every audience member has somewhat distorted our idea of what it means to be generous. We think, “Oh, that’s so nice that she can do that. It must be great to have money to throw away. If I had that I would be generous, too.”

Let’s be real. Having a lot of money or things is not going to make you a more generous person. I don’t think being overwhelmingly generous is what makes 90 percent of lottery winners spend all their winnings in less than five years. Or why the King of Pop had at least $300 million in debt when he died. In fact…

“One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income.” Ken SternThe Atlantic

That’s right – in 2011, America’s wealthiest 20 percent of earners donated about 1.3 percent of their income to charity, whereas the bottom 20 percent of earners donated 3.2 percent of their income. That’s not middle of the road earners; we’re talking about bottom of the pyramid earners.

There are a lot of theories as to why that is (you can read some here) but I don’t feel the need to go into that. Being rich doesn’t make you a bad person, and this post isn’t an outcry about the selfishness of the wealthy. I simply bring up these numbers to show you that it’s not about how much money you make. Accruing more wealth won’t make it easier to give to others.

What makes it easier to give to others is having a compassionate spirit and a loving heart. It’s having the insight to realize that life is not about what you can acquire for yourself but rather what you can do to make the world better for others. It’s understanding that life is more meaningful when you live selflessly, give willingly, and walk humbly.

After all, I’d argue the most generous man to live didn’t have a salary at all.
He was a homeless, traveling storyteller with no possessions but the clothes on His back. And He was born in a barn, for goodness sake.

Rambling of the Day: In pursuit of our legacy

2 Jul

Emma running in sandAs I often am, I was disturbed by some of the things I heard and saw the other day at work. A restaurant is a place where you can seriously interact with every type of person from any background, with any story and any personality. Honestly I think I’ve seen it all. But I was particularly bothered the other day to hear some of the younger people who work there talking about their bad relationships with their parents. Casually, in conversation during downtime, I heard a girl say, “I never see my dad. He’s always working” Another said, “I really don’t talk to my mom. We don’t get along so she pretty much just ignores me.” A young man in the room said, “My dad is always either at work or drunk.” They sort of laughed these things off and started talking about other things, but I was struck by their words. Three out of three kids in this conversation have a bad relationship with one of their parents. Why?

There could be a million reasons, I know. Maybe the mother doesn’t talk to her daughter because she is just too busy with working full time and taking care of three kids that she doesn’t have the time or patience to deal with the snotty attitude of her 17-year-old. Or perhaps the father that is always drunk when he’s home has a boss that berates him day in and day out, and he simply can’t deal. I don’t know. What I do know is that there is no excuse good enough for you to not take advantage of the opportunity to have a relationship with your children. I could give countless reasons for why this is true, but I’m going to just stick with one, and that is that no matter what you do, who you are, where you came from, what you built, earned, or saved during your lifetime, your children are your legacy. If you do not take time to learn about, understand, play with, talk to, grow with, and love your children, nothing else matters.

Your life may look like the definition of success from the outside, but if your home is crumbling from the inside it is all for naught. We all want to do great things with our lives, to make something of ourselves, but we can’t do it at the expense of our children.

I’m not saying it’s easy to maintain a good relationship with your kids all their lives. As parents, we are not the only influences in their lives and there will be times when they push us to the brink and make us question whether it is even worth it to keep fighting for that relationship.

But we have to remember that it always, always is.

I don’t know what I’m going to do if my daughter comes home someday stoned from a party. Or tells me she hates me when I don’t give her what she wants. Or shuts me out of her personal life because it isn’t cool to tell me things anymore now that she’s a teenager. I cringe at the thought that she will ever outgrow my hugs and kisses. I worry about the day when she becomes embarrassed of me in front of her friends and begs me to leave the room. I fear the crucial moment when she keeps something from me that I desperately need to know so I can help her.

But I realize, from having been in all these positions not so long ago, that these are the moments I must press on more persistently. It is in the struggle to continue to fight for her through the toughest of times that I will win her over with my love. I might go out of style for a time, but my consistent, relentless love for her will be what keeps her close. Even when she strays, I’ll love her the same. Even when she lashes out in anger, confusion, and pain, I’ll pursue her heart. I will never give up on her.

I’m still a very young mom and I know I have a long road ahead of me with my daughter, but there is one thing I know for certain – I couldn’t care less what the world thinks of me as long as my daughter knows that what I did, I did for her. As long as she thinks I’m a success, then I am one.

I was 17 years old when I found out I was going to have a baby. I had always thought my parents were strict, pretty hard on me when I did something wrong. I truly expected to be lashed out at, berated, condemned – it’s what I deserved. I had deceived, caused myself and others pain, and made a complete mess of my life and my future. I thought I would be left to handle my mess on my own.

Instead, a blindingly bright light shone in the darkness, and I was enveloped in the warmth of unconditional love. I felt the full weight of a parent’s passionate pursuit for his child, and I was overcome with a wave of compassion and care the likes of which I had never before experienced. At a time when it would have been much easier to give up on me, they pressed in closer, and made me realize that that is what it means to be a parent. That is what it means to relentlessly and unreservedly love someone. That is what it takes to build and sustain a deep, meaningful relationship with your children. Sure, it’s important to be there for the good times – the awards, the championship games, the class field trips. They make the best memories. But that’s easy; any parent can do that. Good parents stick around through the bad times – and great parents trudge through the muck of the worst of the worst times, following their children into the darkest places of their lives, and filling those places with the light of love, no matter how long it takes to make them see it.

A conservative Christian’s unconventional approach to gay rights

28 Mar
Photo by Doug Wheller via Flickr

Photo by Doug Wheller via Flickr

Yeah, right, you scoff as you read this headline. There’s nothing unconventional about that. I know exactly what she’s going to say.

My liberal friend, I hope to prove you wrong.

Oh, goody, you say, as your Google search of “Christian arguments against gay marriage” somehow brought you to this blog, and now you’re wondering if I intentionally tagged this blog post wrong to trick you into coming here.

My homophobic Christian friend, I hope to speak to your heart.

This week is tantamount in the history of gay rights. The Supreme Court is hearing cases that could potentially change the course of history and the lives of gay people around the country.

And tomorrow is Good Friday – a day when I am reminded of the most incredible act of grace and compassion that has ever, and will ever, be extended to me. Through a sacrifice incomprehensible to the human mind, a scandal of unmatched proportion, a man who knew no sin endured the harshest brutality his society could issue in order to pardon the sins of his beloved people. This was compassion. This was Jesus’ message.

It’s a message Christians are called to extend to others. An undeserved extension of grace and compassion is to be our signature characteristic, setting us apart from the culture of selfishness and greed around us. But is this the message we’re sending to the gay community during this tumultuous time in their cultural history? Most importantly, if Jesus had instead come at this time and place, what would He be doing right now?

I am increasingly more disturbed listening to my favorite talk radio programs and watching my conservative representatives on TV using phraseology like, “Forcing their lifestyle on the rest of us,” “It’s their choice,” “That perversion,” “Imagine putting kids in that kind of environment.” Such commentary has overridden HIS phraseology – “Beloved, let us love one another,” “Let all that you do be done in love,” “See to it that no one misses the grace of God” – and ultimately: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Where is our compassion? Where is our grace? Where is the unconditional love we are to extend, from the grace and love we have been so undeservedly given?

We will never be anything more to the gay community than Bible-bashing rednecks if we can’t get around our severe case of homophobia that we try to play off as simply following our Biblical principles. We will never shed the stereotype of hypocrisy that shrouds the church, the “religious right” and Christian conservatives.

The saddest part about this for me is that between all the bickering, the noisemaking, the slander and the name calling, the most important element of the argument is lost in the melee – the person. The person who we are called to love, to show compassion to and extend grace to. Not the gay person. Not the person with the perversion so much more severe than the log in your own eye. Not the person unredeemable by God because of a somehow special sin that inherently renders him too far from grace to be saved. Get that person out of your head. I’m talking about the person whom God loves with a love so passionate that He sent the same Son to redeem him as He sent to redeem your perfect, sinless ass.

Let me be straight (pun… intended. Get over it.) I believe in the Bible as God’s truth and the ultimate authority in my life. I’m not saying the Bible says homosexual behaviors and the gay lifestyle are right. However, I’m removing myself from that argument right now to focus on something I wholeheartedly believe is more important than explaining to gay people why their lifestyle is or is not right. Why? Because in my Bible, Jesus explains to us what is most important. I don’t know if you caught that or not, but let me refresh your memory if you’ve forgotten. The Pharisees (these guys basically represent everything that was wrong with followers of God back in the day… aka we’re supposed to try not to resemble them. Just a thought.) try to trick Jesus into saying one of God’s laws is more important than the others by asking Him which of the Ten Commandments is the greatest. These guys can’t fathom how Jesus will get around this question, because all they know is law. They really think this is their “gotcha” moment… sound familiar? But Jesus blows them away, saying,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Get the point? The point is love. Love God and love others. Show compassion, show mercy, extend grace. Don’t stand outside the Supreme Court with a sign that says, “I SUPPORT TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE.” Even if you do. That’s not demonstrating love. Let the court do what it will. Give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s. Your job is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Do you think Jesus would be protesting outside the Supreme Court? I have a feeling he’d be elsewhere – breaking bread, washing feet and speaking healing into people’s lives.

Thanks to my incredible life group at Greenbrier Church, my best friend, and Andrew Marin’s book Love is an Orientation for inspiring this post.

Rambling of the Day: Taking a deep breath with confidence

22 Aug

I’m changing direction on topics today, because it is just one of those times I feel really bogged down by the personal struggles in my life and it’s difficult to focus on other things. I won’t go into detail about my problems and why I feel overwhelmed, because that’s not what this post is about. My issues are going to seem like huge problems to some people, and other people will just laugh at them because they seem so minor compared to their own. I’m writing this because I’m sure I am not alone in oftentimes feeling so anxious about life that it causes me to stop living it as fully as possible. When I was talking about this with someone today, I was graciously reminded that sometimes we go through times when we’re tested. I know the language is cliché, but it was a great reminder to me to calm down and adjust my attitude about my situation.

Sometimes we get so caught up in everything that seems to be going wrong in our lives that we downplay the good things that deserve our attention. We forget that we are loved during both the good and bad times in our lives. Perhaps we even feel that God is neglecting us when we are going through difficulty, but it is in these times that we need to remember the promises of God. Sometimes when we think about the Bible, we only want to take into consideration the parts that make us feel happy. But oftentimes the promises God offers are prefaced with the fact that this life will not always be easy! We are told we will have difficulty in this life, but we are also reminded that it will eventually be overcome.

John 16:33 explains it perfectly: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Philippians 4:6-7 is also a wonderful reassurance for those of us with the tendency to be anxious and dwell on our worldly problems: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I read these words today and it is amazing how much easier it was for me to focus on the positive things. The key to this verse is the description of the peace of God as being something “which surpasses all understanding.” Once you realize that God’s peace is greater than anything understood by man, how can you not simply let go of your burden and accept that peace? I know sometimes it seems impossible to let go of the difficulty in our lives because we feel like we have so much to be worried about. Honestly, sometimes I feel like if I’m not worried about something then I’m doing something wrong, and I do that mental checklist of things going on in my life, until – oh, yeah, that thing, that’s what I was supposed to be stressing over. But that isn’t the way we’re supposed to handle our burdens. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The first part gives us the instructions, and they are pretty simple to follow. The second part holds the promise – we will be given rest! The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds, and we will be given rest. That’s more than enough to convince me to let go of my anxiety.

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