Tag Archives: Faith

Courage to Doubt

Last week I read a Relevant article called 4 Things Jesus Never Said which I enjoyed tremendously and highly recommend that you read. My biggest take-away from this all-around great post was in the second section of the four things Jesus never said under the subtitle “Doubting is Dangerous”.

The author reminds us of our biblical friend “Doubting” Thomas  and the notorious moment where earned that nickname, then neatly follows that up with a reminder that Thomas was not the only disciple to doubt, quoting Luke 24:11 in which all of the disciples “couldn’t believe” that Jesus had been resurrected.

What stood out to me was this bit,

All the disciples doubted, but Thomas was the only one with the courage to admit he needed proof. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). And when Jesus finally encountered Thomas, he did not rebuke him. Rather he gave Thomas what he needed. He invited Thomas to touch his wounds, and only then did Jesus tell him he could stop doubting.

The beauty of this is Thomas had an encounter with Jesus none of the other disciples did. He is the only one who touched the wounds of Jesus, because he had the faith to doubt. Nowhere does Jesus condemn doubt; rather he meets people right where they are in it.

Courage to admit his doubt… faith to doubt… interesting.

Very shortly after reading that article I came across a video of Simon Sinek on the subject of serving those who serve others (which I will post below). I have, for years now, been a fan of how Simon Sinek teaches about leadership and stumbled upon this particular video while looking up things about his new book, Leaders Eat Last. This video is long (and totally worth watching all the way through) but in the first 10 minutes I heard something that reminded me of what I had just read in the previously mentioned Relevant article.

In response to being asked how he knows so much Simon describes how he’s learned to ask questions so that he can simplify complex ideas into something he can understand. He references a story from his own life in which he was challenged to go 48 hours without lying, not even employing “little white lies” to avoid humiliation. He points out that we all lie this way constantly, telling waiters that our food is good when really it wasn’t because we don’t want to create a fuss, or telling a friend that we’ve heard of the film/music/what have you they’re speaking about when we haven’t to avoid looking out of the loop. In the middle of this challenge Simon had an appointment with a speech writer for a politician and as soon as they sat down the speech writer asked how much research he had done before this interview. Under normal circumstances, not being in a no-lying-challenge, his answer would have been something like, “a little” in order to avoid looking unprepared, but instead he answered truthfully that he done no research and the woman went ahead to fill him in on on the details he needed to know.

His point was that, had he lied, he would have missed out on hearing vital information and that we feel so much pressure to have all of the answers all of the time that we miss opportunities to know what’s most important.

After hearing that I thought of Thomas and what if he had, instead of expressing his doubt, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure, it could be true.”? Maybe Thomas would have encountered Jesus in the flesh and it would have been enough to convince him. Maybe. But because he wasn’t afraid of looking like a fool or a coward, Jesus reached out to him and said, “Here, touch me and don’t just believe that it’s me, know

I wonder what our faith would be like if we had the courage to stop trying to spiritually save face, to stop pretending that we have the answers, and we could face our fears and our doubts at the feet of a God who has infinite love and mercy for us. I wonder if we could be brave in this way how God might extend his nail scarred hands to us and give us the opportunity to not just believe in him but to know him.

I do deeply desire the kind of faith that follows Christ out onto the surface of the sea, but I also want the kind of faith that looks to the Father as a child and can say, “God I don’t have the answer, I don’t understand what you mean here, I don’t know what I believe, please show me!”

What do you doubt?

What do you not have an answer for?

What do you not have the strength to believe?

Can you, can we, be like Thomas?

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I Am The Road

photo (8)Last night I walked across the Georgetown dam with my dad. I’ve walked across this dam literally thousands of times with my father. Miles of my life have been worked out and tears shed as we crossed the dam’s paved top overlooking the lake on one side and the city on the other.  As a child I stood on this dam and watched flood waters rush around one end during one of the rainiest seasons my home town has ever seen. When I was a teenager the over-look at the end of the dam was the place to go when you were going to have a serious conversation.

This dam has been a permanent fixture in my life, steady, strong, and tall.

In 32 years, however, last night was the first time that I have ever crossed that dam in near darkness. Dad text me before I got off work and asked if I’d like to walk with him and by the time we got out there it was around 5:45pm. We walked almost the entire length of the dam and then turned around to the sight you see in the picture to the left. The road and horizon were dark, almost black, with the glow of the last rays of the setting sun burning out behind them.

It was breathtaking.

As I noticed the contrast between the dark silhouette of the hills in the distance against the orange pink of the sky and realized we were walking into that darkness I heard a quiet voice like a whisper say, “Do you trust the road?”

I wasn’t afraid of walking into those dark places on the horizon because I did trust the road. I had been walking that road since I was a little girl, I know it’s bends and curves, I know the sound it makes under my feet, I know where it rises and falls and even though the landscape on either side of the road has changed dramatically over the years of my life, the road hasn’t changed at all. Whatever might happen in those dark trees and hills ahead of me, I knew the road would lead to safety, to home, to light.

“I am the road.”

God’s words sunk into my heart with a heavy, warm, fullness like a the kind of hugs you get from your brother that squeeze the air out of your lungs, but feel gentle and protective at the same time.

I met Jesus in the backseat of my parents car when I was around 4 or 5 years old. I’ve had people question the validity of that experience, but I know that’s when God became a permanent fixture in my life and I have been walking his road ever since.

I haven’t walked perfectly, there have been valleys and rough places I had to climb,  but just like the dam, I know the road.

I know how God feels in my life and even when I’ve had to walk through the dark places He’s never taken His love away and the road always leads to safety, to home, and to light.

I’ve come to a place in life where I know I am going to have to walk out in faith into some big unknowns in order to do what God created me to do.

The dark horizon is terrifying and I don’t know what’s in those dark trees and hills.

But with all of my heart I trust the road.

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Somewhere In Between

There’s been a lot to read about women in leadership, specifically in Christian circles and conference circuits, the last week or so. As I thought about the different sides and perspectives reflected on social networking sights and blogs it occurred to me that something seemed to be missing.

Somewhere in between the Beth Moores and Rachel Held Evans’ of the world there is a group of women who need to speak up.

Nothing against either of those women– I have learned quite a lot from both and I find myself agreeing with many things they have to say– however, I don’t feel like I belong in either of the core groups these women respresent. In fact, when I thought about it, none of the women I know seem to belong to either of those groups.

Don’t worry, I considered demographics…
The thing is, having been involved with an international organization I’ve gotten to know women all over the United States and some outside of it.
It’s not just the women in my area.

So these two sides are what stands as markers for women of faith…

On the one side the more traditional/conservative Christian women’s movement seems to declare, “This is how women should be…” and the example is the woman who has it all together. She’s a devoted wife and valiant mother. She balances grocery shopping, coffee dates, and bible studies all while looking fabulous and radiating joy. She’s the organizer, the Sunday school teacher, and she never misses her running group. These are beautiful, lovely things… and a lot to live up to.

The message of progressive Christian women, on the other side, almost insists, “This is how Christian women are…” and here the example is of the woman who is self-sufficient, politically active and hot-button savy. She is in the fray and society’s face. She is pushing the boundaries of theology, questioning centuries of church history, and her tenacity is unrivaled. Her dedication and determination are also beautiful and lovely, but a lot to live up to.

Both of these groups are vocal and passionate.
Both are valuable and yet… I don’t believe either represent the majority of Christian women. These are not the women I know, these are not the women who have spoken into my life. These examples don’t reflect the woman of faith I am or want to be. And that’s not a judgement against women for whom these examples make sense, but I do believe a big part of the picture the world sees of women of the church is missing and we need to give voice to it.

Somewhere in the middle there are those of us who are mothers just barely holding it together, wives fighting for their marriages, and single women who are neither relationship starved or desperate, but still value their relationships with men. These women believe in balance. They value tradition while they explore creativity, they are confident in their equality and don’t need it to be superiority. You won’t find them signing petitions, joining boycotts or holding picket signs. They are not activists, but they DO act– they find every opportunity to help those around them in need, they give the clothes off their backs, the food from their kitchens, and the time they would be spending asleep in their beds. They err on the side of grace, always, forever, for everyone, no matter what the situation. They look for where God is and they go there, they run, they are the first responders and do their best to honor Him by cultivating relationships that breathe His love and life into the world and affirm what is good and right. They create culture instead of placate, embrace, or rebel against it. They respect each other’s differences and hold each other up.

In the middle they hope, they pray, and sometimes they beg.
They see beauty and call it what it is.
They fight, they persevere and hold on with everything they’ve got.
They forgive what society says is unforgivable.
They stay, no matter what.
They are courageous and they know where they stand with our Creator even when they can’t stand at all, when the best they can do is crawl.
They know mercy, they long for justice, and they love so hard it hurts.

The core female church of today doesn’t have time to look a certain way or to belong to one camp or the other because she is too busy rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty.

If you want to know why there aren’t more women speaking at Christian conferences, writing books or taking positions of leadership, I challenge you, take a look around in all of the least glamorous places, where the hard work that comes with little thanks gets done and you will find women of the church giving everything they’ve got.

These are not the Christian women I hear or read about, these are the women I know. These are the women who raised me, who have been there when I was the most broken, who have patiently stood beside me while I hurt, who have taught me what it means to be seen, heard, and loved by God.

This is my mother.
My sisters.
My friends.
My mentors.
My co-workers.
Women I have served with.

This in between group needs to find its voice– for all of the other women in the world who don’t feel like they can see themselves in the current faces representing Christian women. It’s time to step out into new water, deep water, and take a risk by being vulnerable and honest in the public square.

Women are a ferocious and exquisite part of God’s image, everyone of us. It’s on us to show up, to speak up, to be heard, to think out loud. All of us, not just the groups who are already used to getting out there. No matter what our personal beliefs are about male authority in the church, we can’t keep blaming them for our absence. We have to stop waiting for them to give us openings and start taking responsibility for ourselves, for when and where and how we speak.

My prayer and hope is that we are about to see a new age for women in the church, that together, and in all of our diversity, we begin to reflect the image of Christ in a way the world has never seen before.

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The Gift of Going First

I heard someone use that phrase at the Love Does conference last week and it stuck to me like glue. He was talking about being vulnerable and how leaders lay themselves bare first to open the door for others.

Everything about the Love Does conference reminded me that I am a story made up of many parts and there are some parts that I am exceptionally comfortable telling and there are others I hold close and try to think of as background noise while the scene focuses in on something else, something less personal, or less painful.

Over the past six months I have felt with increasing urgency that these other parts of my story need to step into the light and when I heard this idea about going first it was like God tapping me on the shoulder and clearing his throat encouragingly.

I guess we can consider this post my attempt to put a toe in the water…

When I was twenty-six I found myself really disillusioned with life. Nothing was working out the way I had planned and it didn’t make sense because I had always been the good girl. When everyone around me was doing other things, I was towing the line for God. I prayed, I went to church, and I worked hard to be better than my peers. It was exhausting. It felt utterly unfair that I was lonely, unsatisfied with life, and worse, everything kept going wrong.

I lost my job, I had horrible roommate trouble and I ended up having to move home. It felt particularly humiliating being the oldest and being the only one to have to move home. I didn’t know who I was or where I was going in life and I was angry that after having tried to do everything right, this is where I found myself.

Timing is everything and I was ripe for something to change, so when I met someone and he planted the seed in my head and heart that I would feel a lot better about life if I worked on my physical appearance, I seized the opportunity with a vengeance.

What began as a plan to use the time I wasn’t working to exercise and make healthier choices about food turned into nearly two years of starving myself and exercising close to 30 hours a week.

The more weight I lost the better I felt about life.

It wasn’t just about what I saw in the mirror, even though I enjoyed the compliments I got and the way people praised my hard work, for me the greatest satisfaction came in finally having something I could control, and the more I controlled it, the more satisfied I felt.

I had dropped just below 100 pounds when God used a trusted friend to bring me back to reality with the words, “Hey, you’re starting to look really scary.”

One of the reasons I’ve avoided talking about this part of my story is that I have never wanted to wave the Eating Disorder flag for myself or let it be the center stage production of my life. I’ve feared both people’s pity and their disappointment. There is so much more to my story than this one part and it’s bothered me to think anyone might get stuck here.

What I’ve learned in the aftermath, however, is that our struggles don’t find us at random. As much as we are purposed by God, our stumbling blocks are strategically chosen for us by our enemy.

This might be hard to hear, but starving yourself is not easy. It takes an extreme amount of motivation and will power. Hunger is a basic and persistent human need and to deny it for long periods of time requires unwavering determination.

There are people who would say that through an eating disorder Satan preyed on my weaknesses– insecurity, self-esteem, belonging. But what I know now is that the truth is he subverted my God-given strengths and used them against me.

Knowing that changes the picture, it changes everything about how I take each step each day. Instead of seeing myself as a helpless victim, I have learned and am learning to understand that I am a target because I am strong, I am determined and I have what it takes to fight hard. My weaknesses are nothing compared to the strengths God wove into my being and so the best way for Satan to take me out is to distract me from what God made me for, not pick at the chinks in my armor.

This part of my story has been essential to me understanding who I am and how God created me.

Do you see the strengths in your struggle? I hope you will look for them, I promise you they are there and when you recognize them it turns life upside down in the best possible way.

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Gaming For Good

When I was seventeen I was a group leader for a youth event called 30 Hour Famine. During the Famine event youth didn’t eat for 30 hours and were involved in community service projects, parents and friends pledged money by the hour and at the end all of the funds raised were given to a foreign mission group.

People pledged without blinking an eye, this was a good thing that these kids were doing, right? Right!

What I remember most about that 30 hours is that being trapped in a room with a group of extremely hungry teenagers has to be the closest I’ve ever been to a real life Walking Dead situation.

 

sardinesThis weekend I spent 25 + hours with a group of teenagers who had gathered to support one of their peers as he gamed for 25 hours with an organization called Extra Life to raise funds for a children’s hospital.

When the young man told another leader and myself about this project I was really excited, I thought, “What a fantastic way to engage people where they are at and give greater purpose to something they are already doing and are already good at!” What came as a bit of a surprise to me was some other people’s reactions.

As we started spreading the word I heard a lot of what sounded something like this, “Oh. 25 hours of playing video games, what a HUGE sacrifice that must be!” accompanied by eye rolling and dripping with sarcasm.

The general feeling seems to be that its not really a service worth doing or perhaps not service at all if it’s not something sacrificial in a way that means we are dirty, sweaty, hungry or otherwise physically or mentally uncomfortable and I have to disagree with that way of thinking.

 

God made us and he said, “This is good work.” and then he made us good at all kinds of different things. This young man is good at gaming, it’s evidence of the way God created his brain. How he enjoys it is a part of the way God is communicating with him and I LOVE seeing him engage in opportunities to use how God made him to love other people. It was also awesome to see how his peers rallied around him to support him, to play with him, keep him company all night long.

We have to get out of this habit of compartmentalizing our lives into groups of “This is me”, “This is what I do for God”, and “This is what I do for work”. We also have to get out of the habit of looking at certain types of service and believing that they are the only real kinds of service.

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Video Tuesday : The Cure.

 

This Video Tuesday is brought to you by an amazing, life altering book called The Cure. You’ve gotta read this. From the book …

the cure“We thought we were cured. 

We thought so, but most of us unwittingly carried an old, dead outlook into our new life. We couldn’t measure up to the standard we created, so we convinced ourselves it was God’s. We read his words through our grid of shame and felt ourselves fall farther and farther behind. We took it out on each other; judging, comparing, faking, splintering. Some of us retreated from the whole charade, becoming cynical, mistrusting, jaded from hope. Our marriages, churches, families, friendships, our marketplaces, our culture… they all need the cure. 

But God’s cures rarely come in the form we expect. 

What if, indeed, God is not who we think he is… and neither are we?”

Check it out at truefaced.com

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Dear Mrs. Hall

Dear Mrs. Hall,
I work in youth ministry, it’s one of the things I’m most passionate about, so when your blog post directed at teenage girls showed up in my Facebook feed this morning it caught my attention and curiosity.
I’d like to preface this note by saying I am neither a mother or a married woman. I do not have a family of my own, but I am an Aunt to two precious nieces and four rough and tumble nephews and I hope and pray that I care for the youth I serve as if they were my own children. It is the deepest desire of my heart that the young men and women in my care are ceaselessly pointed towards the God who fearfully and wonderfully made them. And that they come to respect and care for the opposite sex the way God intended. I’d also like to make it clear that I am in NO WAY promoting the use of suggestive facebook (or any other social media for that matter) pictures.
That said, I was more than a little disappointed in your blog post. I respect, applaud, and admire your desire to raise young men who honor God and respect the young women in their lives, however, I’d like to suggest that there might be a better way to do that than the way you’ve chosen. Again, I know I’m not a parent and I’m fully aware that fact might discount my entire opinion for you. But your blog post reflects something I see happening in culture, not simply in parenting, and it concerns me.
First there’s the obvious double-standard that’s presented when you chastise (in a friendly way?) young women for their scantily clad photos on Facebook, while illustrating your blog post with topless photos of your male family members [Edit: Due to the overwhelmingly negative response to these photos Mrs. Hall has recently changed the blog post to only include fully clothed photos of her sons and removed or edited some of the statements commenters voiced concern over. While we appreciate this effort, the concerns we voice in this post remain the same.You can read the post in it’s original form here.] The comment thread on your blog indicates that I am not the only one to notice and be bothered by this mild form of hypocrisy. Let’s hope for the best and assume that we all have common sense and clearly understand that yes, there is a difference between young women imitating poses only naturally assumed by amateur sex-workers and young men enjoying a fun day at the beach, but as other commenters mentioned, given the tone of your blog post this seems like a really poor choice on your part. Especially considering that, for a woman who clearly values protecting the purity of the young male mind, you didn’t give a moments thought to the young men with same sex attractions who may come across these photos of your sons.
But the pictures aren’t even the bigger cause for concern for me. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that the strong emphasis on female modesty is one step away from Sha’ria Law, that we live in a country that is about to start yet another war because we’re supposedly against Wahabi Islam and that St. Paul talked about freedom in Christ, not hajeeb. It’s the underlying messaging of your writing that is the problem for me. I realize you may be completely unaware of it and I have to believe for the best and hope that you don’t mean to sound as condescending as you do. Please allow me to explain my perspective.
The biggest problem I have with your post is that you are unwittingly perpetuating the exact messaging that encourages those girls on Facebook to dress and pose provocatively– Value based on performance and behaviors. Culture says, “You are valuable when…” you are sexy, when people are attracted to you, etc. Your blog post sends the same message using a different method– “You are worth my son’s time and attention when you are modest”. In both cases the message is that value is measured by the ability to act a certain way, in neither case is the emphasis on our value as human beings who are loved by God. This is a problem because the consequences of believing you must seek value for yourself versus knowing that you have value are devastating.
You mentioned at one point in your post that the provocative image of a young woman, once seen by a young man, cannot be unseen. While this mentality is frustrating to me because I believe feeding the stereotype that all men are slaves to their sexual impulses is dangerous and relieves them of fully learning the discipline of self-control, I’ll use your comment as an example to say that the same sort of principle can be applied to young women– Once the seed of doubt about their value has been planted, they cannot unlearn to question their value as an instinct. They will fight the rest of their lives to understand how they are valuable and a life lived seeking value will result in a lot of painful lessons, the least of which is not confusion about their personal relationship to God.
Posing in sexually explicit Facebook pictures becomes the least of our worries when we start to pay attention to the young men and women committing suicide because they feel no sense of value or purpose. There are children in the world starving themselves to be thinner, requesting plastic surgery to be considered more attractive and therefore acceptable, having sex and reproducing to feel loved, and using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain when they don’t measure up. And all of it extends out beyond youth and into adulthood and then the men and women we have left have no sense of who they are, no sense of who God is, and no sense of what it really means to love or be loved.
I am sure, as a woman, you can appreciate and understand (perhaps have even experienced) how easy it is for teenage girls to feel unworthy and worthless. The self-esteem of most teen girls walks with a limp, they come out of the gate already believing that they have to get enough “likes” to matter in this world.
Dangling your attractive young sons like carrots in front of their female Facebook friends and denying friendship to those who fall below the purity line may well produce results, but I don’t believe that the end justifies the means. Modesty motivated by a desire to gain value through someone’s approval isn’t any healthier or beneficial to these young women than provocative Facebook pictures motivated by the desire to have attention and feel valued is. The damage done to the girls through that message will be much greater than the damage your sons will suffer by encountering racy Facebook pictures. What will be truly damaging to your sons, however, is that you are objectifying them and thus teaching them to objectify others by making them bait to get young girls to do what you believe is right. Let’s be brutally honest, your sons are handsome young men, probably a part of the popular crowd, and you know that gives you some leverage with these young ladies. We wouldn’t be writing these blog posts if your sons were acne-prone and awkward and maybe that’s a little shocking of me to write, but we all know it’s true.
Bottom line– As Christian men and women, parents, leaders, and influencers of the young we should not be shaping children around their weaknesses. Reinforcing the idea in young men that they are subject to their sexual urges by putting so much emphasis on female modesty sets them up to fail the very first time they encounter temptation in the real world, and it insures that young women feel like their bodies are their enemies, whether because they attract too much attention or not enough.
If we really want to raise men who are Godly and treat women with respect and women who know their worth and are confident in their God-given beauty, adults MUST make relationships with young people a priority. Truth be told, Mrs. Hall, those girls you are blocking are probably the ones who need young men like your boys as friends the most and they would most definitely benefit from having a woman like yourself invest time in them. We should be trusting God with the youth in our lives and encouraging them to take every opportunity to see beyond sin and to the person. To look for what God sees in spite of what our impulses may draw our attention to and for love of God and other people, choose to recognize true value and build relationships rather than find offense and reasons to separate ourselves from others.
Sincerely,
Katie Elizabeth Brown
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Hero.

Late one night a man is crawling into bed after a long hard day. He is weary. Not just tired, weary. In his soul, his body and his bones. There are times, these days, when there aren’t words in existence that can unburden the heaviness of his heart and the best he can do is to drag himself before the thrown of God and ache at the feet of the Father. Just as his eyes are closing and his body is unclenching from the stress of trying to carry the unbearable all day he hears it. It’s the sound of his wife’s voice coming from the hospital bed across the room from him. She’s sick, possibly dying, he’s not sure because he can’t fathom that being the reality he’s living, and yet… She’s weak, her voice isn’t much more than a whisper, but she’s calling him. A rush of a emotion floods his body. Anger. Frustration. Pain. He is almost overcome by the desire to scream or cry. His love for her is undeniable, but right now he’s not only sleep deprived he’s peace deprived and he only wants a few hours of rest. What could she possibly need -now-? He steals himself against the anguish he feels and with cool resolve pulls himself out of the warmth of his bed and goes to her side. As soon as he’s there she raises a fragile arm and motions for him to come closer. He locks his jaw and leans in, ready to hear whatever it she wants him to do and anxious to get it over with so he can get back to bed. She waits until he’s close enough that she can be sure he hears the words and then she whispers, “You know you’re my hero, don’t you?

Heart-crushing. Breath-taking.

These words are more than the soul can bear in a moment when nerves are so excruciatingly raw and body and mind are so completely spent, but they are priceless. Utterly and unquestioningly priceless. Dear God, oh how we love you! You are the God who makes heros out of us when we are at our weakest, when we hang on by a thread, when we are at the end of our ropes, and when we are broken to bits. It is only Your great and limitless love for us that has the power to, even in our imperfection, use us for good.”

Herogreek

My siblings and I gave this bracelet to my dad the Christmas after our mom passed away, it says Hero in greek.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a hero lately. There have been two occasions with friends of mine recently where being a “hero” was dangled in front of them like a carrot, “You could be a hero of you would […just do this thing we all want you to]. Forgetting that this kind of thinking completely discounts the many people to whom the people in question may already be a hero to, is this really how we think a hero is made? Does one really set out to be a hero? Are you really a hero if you’ve accepted a bribe to become one? Hm. I was curious about what people thought of when they heard the world hero, so I asked my Facebook friends to tell me in comments what the word hero made them think of. The answers were both entertaining and good. The covered everything from Mariah Carry to Batman ( which, interestingly, was the only “superhero” that got mentioned). Many agreed that a hero is someone we look up to and aspire to be like, people who are fearless and selfless and full of courage. My friend Sarah hit the spot I had been thinking towards, however, when she mentioned that a hero never sets out to be one. Yes. That exactly.

 

I think our culture has created a bad habit of confusing heroism with celebrity and that’s not ok. We appeal to people’s desire to want to be the center of attention, to want to be praised and admired and a lot of the time we succeed in getting them to do what we want them to hoping for fame as a result. We have men and women in this country who are getting up every day and selflessly serving others… even when they don’t feel like it, and mostly without any form of recognition for it. No one sees the people of the world who sit with the sick and the dying, who hold open doors for the handicapped, who park further away from the grocery store doors so that the mother with small children has less trouble getting in and out. We dont notice or often appreciate the people who pick up our trash, clean off our tables and serve our coffee, and some of them are doing that to keep food in the bellies of the little people who definitely consider them to be heros. When I think of the word hero, I think of the story at the beginning of this post. The man and women from that story are my parents and the scene described happened not long before my Mom came face to face with Jesus several Septembers ago. My Dad is not a famous man, he’s never chased after the dream of being the center of attention, but he is a hero– He was one to my Mom and he is one to my siblings and I. There are a lot of heros in the world who are like my Dad, who get up every day and do what they must and it matters to those it effects. It means the world to them. To us. Let’s not do those people and ourselves the injustice of calling celebrity heroism and using it as a bribe. Let’s be careful not to desire to be those types of “heros” ourselves.

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Video Tuesday: Relevant Magazine A Conversation With Alan Chambers

This is just one video from a 5 part video conversation with Alan Chambers hosted by Eddie Kaufholz from Relevant Magazine. It’s so great, in the interviews Alan talks about his Upbringing, Exodus, Sexuality In Our Culture , God’s Intent for Sexuality ( my fav!!!)  and The Apology he made in June.

  • To read the article go here.
  • To watch all 5 videos visit the Relevant Magazine Youtube channel here. (scroll down to recent uploads for the list of all five videos or just click the play all button on the video above )

You can also read more about what is going on with Alan in a fantastic article just put out by Buzz Feed titled The Man Behind The Historic Implosion Of The Ex-Gay Movement .

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Food For Thought: Part 3 (God Loves Me)

part3As promised, I’ll be finishing up my thoughts on Brent Bailey’s post The Crisis of Relationship with God. You can read parts 1 & 2 here and here.

I want to mention again that while I’m not trying to devalue how these issues specifically effect members of the gay community, I’m also really passionate about seeing the “us vs. them” mentality take a hike. The way to do this is find ways to relate as people without a subtitle.  I am thankful that Brent took the time to explain challenges he faced in his relationship with God and the church and for the insight it provides into what others may be going through.  I’m also thankful for the realization that what he describes is not so different from some of my own experience, even though I am female and straight.

In the second half of his post Brent moves into what I think is a really great description of two essential elements of being in relationship with God.

 Two thousand years of Christian history have taught us developing a relationship with God requires two basic components that seem to be non-negotiable. The first is spending time with God through spiritual disciplines like solitude, silence, and scripture. The second is interacting with a consistent group of other Christians through participation in a local church, an intentional faith community, a religious order, or some other body of faith. Neither of these works without the other, but in my experience, both of these can be problematic for gay people.

Brent’s suggestion for why gay people may have a difficult time with these two components has to do with a persons understanding of how they are loved by God. Brent says,

You know as well as I do that affirming, “God loves everyone” is entirely different from affirming, “God loves me,” and the reason I equivocated was that my intellectual assent to the reality of God’s unconditional love did not translate into any sort of emotional, gut-level confidence that God loved me. You’ll notice I’m not saying anything about approval or sanction of certain behaviors. Before I even had the chance to get to those questions, I struggled mightily to believe God loved me: that God was for me rather than against me, that God was interested in me and actually cared about me, and that God desired a relationship with me as an individual.

This really resonated with me because I can understand the struggle to internalize and personalize God’s love.  I’ve spent my whole life in church and my relationship with God started when I was five, but it wasn’t until the last several years that I began to understand how God sees me.  I believe that coming to this understanding is a journey every Christian makes, and I have great empathy for gay Christians because most of us don’t have to deal with picket signs declaring how God hates us on top of everything else that might be telling us we are unlovable, but even still… being loved by the Creator of the Universe is not something that comes to anyone without struggle and doubt and questions. This should unite us. This should give us reason to relate to one another.

The  difficulties in the second component, participating in a faith community, are not unexpected. Brent points out the possibility of pain associated with the church and the difficulty of being in the minority. These things are understandable and true.  I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but again, I feel like a lot of the solution relies on our ability to see what we all have in common. I have known many people who’ve suffered hurt from the church for a variety for reasons that mostly have nothing to do with sexuality. I know others who find themselves at odds with the church body because they don’t see where they fit because their circumstances throw them into a very small category.

These are things that happen in the church to people. None of them are things that are specific to one group, so I have to believe that part of the solution is recognizing what we have in common and letting it unite in our desire to know God instead of looking for how we are the exception to the rule, or believing that we are a special case and that no one can understand us.

At the end of the day, for any of this to get better, we have to drop the labels– the ones we have for ourselves and the ones we have for others.  Has anyone else noticed that our labels come ahead of our distinction as Follower of Christ? Gay Christian, Straight Christian, Single Christian, Married Christian, Liberal Christian, Conservative Christian… I could go on.

Perhaps these assignments speak a lot of truth about what it is we are really following, and perhaps that’s something we should put some serious thought into. Jesus is the one thing we all have in common, why not define ourselves through Him and stop there?

Young People Walking in Meadow

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