Tag Archives: God’s Love

Love Without A Disclaimer

A photo from ProjectJAIA

A photo from ProjectJAIA

Today is my first official day of not being an employee of retail cosmetics. The decision to leave a job that has held me financially steady for six years was a scary one, possibly one of the hardest easy decisions I’ve ever made.

I say “hardest easy” decision because knowing that my time with the company I was with was over couldn’t have been more clear. Everything going on in my heart and my life pointed right towards the door, but taking the actual steps to walk out and facing the fear of all of the “what ifs”, took every bit of guts I have.

And here I am.

I jumped with both feet because I couldn’t not.

My constant prayer these days is, “Here is my life, God. Wreck it. Ruin it for your glory.” But don’t go thinking I’m super brave because most of the time I have to choke the words out in between sobs. I oscillate between terror of the unknown and a sense of adventure unlike anything I have ever experienced every day.

A big part of what has driven this big change in my life has been trying to wrap my head around how I am loved by God.  I realized that I was living a huge lie. My mouth claimed that God loves me just as I am while my heart believed that there were parts of me that were unlovable and I was in constant turmoil trying to cover, hide, and mask those parts. I could logically understand that God sees everything, but it didn’t stop me trying to block him out of the dark parts of my soul or pretending to others that those parts didn’t exist.

About a year ago in a moment of divine disaster God’s voice thundered through my head and my heart and said, “I see you Katie Elizabeth Brown and I LOVE every piece of you. ” And for the first time in my life that truth felt like a refuge in a storm instead of a threat.

The world needs THIS kind of love.

The answer is love and it always has been because God IS love.

I am determined to love without a disclaimer because I am loved without one.

A disclaimer is a statement that denies something, usually responsibility. In Christian culture we are used to “loving” with disclaimers that say things like, “I love you, but I don’t accept your sin”, “I love you, but only when you do what I think is right”, or “I love you, but don’t hurt me and or I will cut you off”. We are fearful of guilt by association when those we love fail, get dirty and maybe don’t get right up. We don’t want to be stained by their sin, hurt, or have to sacrifice anything in the process of helping them up so we hold these disclaimers up so we can deny responsibility and make it understood that our love only reaches as far as their ability to deserve it.

God’s love doesn’t do this to us.

God’s love took responsibility for us on the cross. God CLAIMED us as we are and I believe with all of my heart that he asks us to do the same for each other.  1 Peter 4:8 says,

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

How would the world change if we loved like this? If we claimed each other in love, if we didn’t hold anything back, if we took responsibility by going all-in for one another?

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put my whole life into finding out.

One of the ways I’m committed to “walking as a child of Light” (Ephesians 5:8) is by working with a bunch of students on a project called Just As I Am. ProjectJAIA is an opportunity to come forward with those parts of ourselves we’ve worked so hard to hide from God and everyone else and to step out into the light of God’s unconditional love for us. Through our pictures we hope that ProjectJAIA will encourage us all to let God and  his love for us into the places we feel the most vulnerable and that in the process we will learn to see each other the way he sees us.

I hope you will check ProjectJAIA out and if you’re feeling brave add your own photo! What have you let make you feel unlovable? Bring it into the light.

You can follow ProjectJAIA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. If you have questions, comments or would like to email a photo submission for the project you can contact ProjectJAIA at projectjaia@gmail.com. You can also participate by hashtaging your photo #projectJAIA on any of the social media sites mentioned above. 

 

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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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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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