elbow room

Posted: January 25th, 2017 | Filed under: God | Tags: | No Comments »

In those days I went all out in persecuting God’s church. I was systematically destroying it. I was so enthusiastic about the traditions of my ancestors that I advanced head and shoulders above my peers in my career. Even then God had designs on me. Why, when I was still in my mother’s womb he chose and called me out of sheer generosity! Now he has intervened and revealed his Son to me so that I might joyfully tell non-Jews about him.Paul in Galatians 1:13-16 MSG

Everything I know about God tells me that He has a plan and that He gets His way. He took Paul, hell bent on destroying Christians, and made him so influential for His purposes that he is one of the major contributors to the very book we use as the primary source for spiritual information and guidance. Another thing I know about God is that nothing is a surprise to Him. We are living the story He wrote. The ups and downs are all His. Paul confirms that even before he was born, God had designs on him. We can say that about ourselves, too. Paul, murderous Paul, was playing his part in the story that God wrote about us. You, flawed and self-centered you, are, too.  There is always a bigger story that our small, even guilty and traumatic, moments fit into.

My focus today is to leave room for God to be who He is. Nothing is as it seems and I trust him.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Keep your life so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point. Live in a constant state of expectancy, and leave room for God to come in as He decides. – Oswald Chambers


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Speak up! Silence isn’t silent.

Posted: January 24th, 2017 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments »

I’m a passionate person. If something interests me or affects me, I exhaust the available information to learn as much as I can about it. I’ve always avoided learning about political matters because I didn’t feel them affect my day to day life. I took for granted that more knowledgable people would keep things in line and I focused my energy elsewhere. I saw people get passionate about politics the same way I would get passionate about the Gospel and, of late, using food as your medicine, and I didn’t want to get caught up in it. However, this political season has pushed its way into my world to the point of not being able to ignore it. People are getting weird and I try to check out their sources. I want to see things from their perspective to compare it with mine. Consequently, I’m more informed. Being informed leads to shock and, at times, disgust. The more I see, the more I have something to say.

Politics began creeping into my awareness in the form of dissenting opinions of people I would consider friends. I would see their social media feed, the brazen negativity from otherwise positive people, and I would do a bit of research to gauge their accuracy and see what was getting them so worked up. Barely scratching the surface of the easily accessed information revealed the inaccuracy of my friends’ shared opinions and hurt my respect for them. It stained everything else they said. Including the things with which I would normally agree.

This had me double-checking information that I would normally take at face value, which isn’t a bad thing for me. However, if my friendship and/or respect is important to these people, then it was a bad thing for them. I became disappointed and increasingly sober. It wasn’t humorous in the absurdity. It was disheartening and scary. How could they not see it?

I found myself wanting to create distance so that I wouldn’t be associated with their politics, but I didn’t do a good enough job. Uncertain, uninformed, and, admittedly, unthinking friends, who didn’t know which direction to vote, would check out my posts, find nothing, and then gravitate to my friends’ posts who were more vocal. Someone came up to me and told me they voted for Trump because my friend made such a good case for why she was voting for him. My silence looked like my agreement. I learned a valuable lesson. Silence is not always silent.

Since then, that same friend confided that she regrets looking to my friends for voting direction and wishes she could take it back. She gained her independence through this, though. I know she’s not alone. And I’m sorry she trusted me so much that my associations were good enough for her. I need to be more careful about my associations or at least let my feelings be known.

I watched that man do everything possible to sink the ship on which he was sailing while my friends and fellow Christians made excuses for his behavior and patched up his holes. He was vulgar and sexually predatory and they would say “That was ten years ago.” He would mock a disabled man and they would say, “That’s just how he makes fun of people.” He would lie and they would say, “He’s just a colorful communicator.” He would talk about women saying they were “disgusting”. I watched him wish “the good old days” back as a protestor called him out on his KKK approval. “What good old days?” I wondered.

“In the good old days this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily. …I like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you what. I love the old days. You know what they use to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on stretcher, folks. That’s true. …In the good old days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast…. In the good old days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this. A lot quicker. …I am the law and order candidate.” – Donald Trump in response to protestors at his rallies. Click here to see his words against the backdrop of  “the good old days” as portrayed by the documentary “13th”. I highly recommend watching the whole documentary.

I don’t want to talk about him anymore.

I couldn’t believe he was actually elected. I was at work the following day and more than once, I escaped to the bathroom to cry privately when those around me were celebrating. I didn’t cry because he won. I cried because of what his win said about our country. I was no longer blind and what I saw broke my heart. I wanted this insanity to be over and for us to move on to a different kind of challenge, but it’s not over and I refuse to “normalize” what is abnormal and horridly destructive. I live in a very conservative part of the country. I’m surrounded by people who voted for him. I have kept my mouth shut because nobody has asked me what I think. I’m the quiet one. But as I sit quietly, I can’t believe that no one is speaking up. It makes me feel alone.

I struggle to separate politics from the person to the point of wondering if, in this case, there is a difference. I don’t think so. This isn’t about red or blue. Is it about Red, White, and Blue? The active word being “white”? Is it about a Russian agenda? I watch as children suffered horribly in Allepo at the hands of Russians and wonder how in the heck anyone could be okay with a friendly connection to them. Their faces haunted me and woke me up at night. I would pray myself back to sleep and cry when I was awake. It wrecked me. I would ask people around me if they were aware and they weren’t.

Do they not read the news? Oh, yeah. They don’t trust the news. Real things are happening, things they could do something about, causes they could support, they could be lifting these babies up in prayer… and they don’t watch the news. They don’t read the articles. They’re robots, but who is the programmer?

You know what’s most disturbing to me? A lot of his supporters are self-proclaimed Christians. They’re exalting him as though he’s going to do something to make their lives better. Do they think he’s going to get them more money? At what cost? Isn’t the love of money the root of all evil? Do they think he’s going to make them safer? He uses props and constructs a show like there are no consequences to the masquerade fallout. He’s used to a world where there is no such thing as “bad press”. If they’re talking about you, then you still get ratings. He calls himself “the ratings machine”. But this isn’t a show.

How can a Christian be a nationalist? We are no better than anyone else and thinking that God loves Americans more than any other country is asinine. I’m not saying that I don’t love my country or that I want to live somewhere else. I’m just saying that we are not better than anyone else and it’s more patriotic and Godly to embrace the outcasts and outsiders, and provide shelter for the war wrecked. Hypocrisy is the alternative. Read the words on our Statue of Liberty: 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We, both as Americans and as Christians, are supposed to be a safe place. We, as Christians, are supposed to be gentle and kind. This man is dolling out lies and inconsistencies like a pedophile in an ice cream truck and the gullible are intoxicated by his schoolyard tune of dirty lyrics. They’re starstruck. They think this guy is going to get them something. Meanwhile, they sacrifice their witness and say things they can never take back.

I’m a Christian and I’m not like them.

I don’t support protesting him with violence, by defacing or misrepresenting the flag, or by hurting other people, and I don’t support the divisions. I don’t even support divisions between countries, colors, languages, genders, or any other differences. I’m struggling to know how to navigate this time in our history, but I know enlightenment can come from what appears to be darkness.

The whole world is watching us right now. Don’t stand down. Let love win.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


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If grace is not for everyone, then who is it for?

Posted: January 2nd, 2017 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

If grace is not for everyone, then who is it for?

I spoke at a church conference a few years back and had an interaction I had with the pastor that has been replaying itself in my head since. For reasons beyond me, I always seem to end up speaking at churches that are ripping themselves apart over the meaning and application of grace. They have people who are barely clinging to the implied hope of an explicit Gospel on one side and people who are trying to maintain some form of orderly structure that resembles a religious institution in their communities on the other side. Then, here comes me: this incredibly small person with a giant message of grace and a free spirit with no real respect for structure or status.

My message was always the same. When I needed a Savior to forgive my sins, standards and structure weren’t the answer. They can alter behavior, but not the heart. They can make you pass human inspection, but not the Holy Spirit’s. You need Jesus, even at the expense of getting nothing else in the religious realm right. As a matter of fact, all the religiosity, structure, and status are used to crush the one who needs Jesus, not lift him up. So, yeah, I have no workable respect for religious status or man-made structure.

The church was located in gorgeous Massachusetts. I used to live on the Cape and left a bit of my soul there, so any chance I can get back there, I jump on it. The visit was timely for me because it wasn’t long after the Boston Marathon bombing and I wanted to be close to others who had the same hurting New England heart that I had.

We were sitting in a Mexican restaurant having lunch when the topic of the bombing came up. In preparation for speaking, the potency of grace was paramount in my own mind. The two subjects rolled around together in my mind in the days and weeks leading up to my speaking engagement. The one surviving bomber was only eighteen, the same age as my oldest daughter. I could be his mother. He ran over his big brother trying to get away. He hid and bled out while, undoubtedly, trying to reaffirm his mission as the events and his fate played over and over in his mind. I have been the villain and I know the hell it can be. My heart, as a mother, broke for him. My heart as a grace recipient had hope for him.

I said as much in response to a comment the pastor made about the young man. My burrito was steaming up at me from my plate and I could feel the screeching halt of conversation as I took a bite. I looked up to see the pastor and his wife exchange raised eyebrows. They turned the subject quickly and I ate in silence wondering where the limits of grace were supposed to be, even for a grace preaching pastor. He was losing half his congregation because of his message about God’s love, but I found his faith limit within the first ten minutes of meeting him. All I thought, for the rest of my time with them, is about how they could possibly embrace anything I have to say if I’m preaching an unconditional love to a conditioned congregation.

My question then and my question still is this: If grace is not for everyone, then who is it for?

Boston


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