Tag Archives: Love

Stuck.

2ea0b4f47225c04dba62330221b6c76aDo you know that feeling?

It’s as though all of the frustration in the universe is bottled inside you with no release valve. You have no options. You have no moves left. And the pressure is building, threatening to destroy everything inside you, leaving you a shell of a person. 

You can’t handle feeling. 

You can’t stand not feeling. 

It is relentless and you are stuck

What if I told you that it’s an illusion? What if you could believe that stuck is one of the greatest tools the enemy has to keep you from understanding the freedom that comes with finding courage. What if you realized that the worst possible outcomes you can imagine are a vail of lies hanging between you and what God created you for– bravery, beauty, adventure, meaning, trust, walking on water, climbing mountains, and doing the impossible

You can feel it can’t you? 

It’s just a whisper maybe, but it’s there inside you asking you to consider what if. What if we were unafraid, what if we believed that the world belongs to God and he can and will take care of us? What if we could do what we dream of doing? 

We are not stuck. 

YOU are not stuck. 

Don’t believe the lies, don’t give into the shame. 

You are a child of God. 

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No Fear In Love

love:fearA couple of posts ago I mentioned Project Just As I Am . Sunday will be our first live photo booth event at NewChurch Georgetown. I think we’re all pretty excited about it.

Since the beginning of the project I keep finding myself drawn back to certain passages of scripture, actually, in a lot of cases whole books of the bible.

In the last couple weeks the words “No fear in love” have been playing on repeat in my head. They’ve popped up as I’ve faced difficulty in my relationships, they’ve been echoing through my mind as I’ve listened to students tell me about different situations going on in their lives. I’ve heard those words loud and clear as I’ve thought about what life is all about and how I should be treating the guy serving my coffee or the lady bagging my groceries.

1 John 4: 18 says,

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 

I’ve always thought about this verse from a first person perspective. don’t have to be afraid when I am grounded in God’s love for me. And I believe that’s true and it’s a place to start, a jumping off point for this verse. It’s extremely important that we know ourselves through the eyes of the unconditional love God has for us. Brennan Manning says in The Raggamuffin Gospel, “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” If we ignore internalizing how we are loved by God we inevitably will spend our entire lives trying to earn something that is already in our possession and miss God’s calling for us. Thank God for grace.

All of that said, in the last couple of weeks as the words “no fear in love” have been the background music for all of my thinking and living, I began to wonder what it would look like if I applied this verse, which I had only been applying to myself, to the way I love others. It opened up a whole world for me, which I have to admit wasn’t exactly comfortable at first.

Without intending to, I think, we practice a lot of fear in the way we “love” others. I mentioned that several days ago in this post. We have our Christian disclaimers because we’re afraid of what it will look like we condone, or believe, or have taken part of if we just love people as they are. We constantly want to spell it out for people, “I MUST REMIND YOU THAT YOU ARE A SINNER” and then we wrap ourselves in turmoil over how to relate– Do I go to the gay wedding? Do I give the homeless guy on the corner money? Do I baby-sit for the teen mom?

And most of the time we DON’T– whatever our specific question is– because we’re afraid that the most loving thing we could do will be enabling, or condoning, or supporting something that we are morally opposed to. And I get it. But I think collectively we DON’T get IT.

Over and over again the bible says, “Love God and love each other”. I don’t see anything that says to make sure we stand daily on our moral soap boxes or that it is our personal mission to convict the sinful pants off of each other. Instead of being “salt and light” we Christians seem to be in the constant business of isolating ourselves and alienating others. It’s wrong, it’s backwards and it makes zero sense if we pay any attention to Jesus.

Jesus made the first move every time. He reached out and touched the dirty, he approached the prostitute, he surrounded himself with the broken, the outcast, the rejected, and then he DIED for all of us. ALL OF US. Without any promise that we would even understand what that gift meant, without any down payment from us. He said, “You know what, they are mine, make me liable. I claim them.”

If there is no fear in love then there should be no fear in how we love others. Jesus set the bar really high, so I feel like it’s safe to say that we cannot err too far on the side of love, because love is the point. The whole entire point. What do we really think all of our “good” and “moral” insistence means if we are missing the point? St. Paul says it pretty clearly in 1 Corinthians 13,

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

If we love without fear we change the world. Because that’s what Jesus did and the more we do it, the more we become like him… “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus. ” (1 John 4:16-17)

I know this is a lot.

Trust me, I’ve thought through the ramifications– it means self-sacrifice, and going out of our way, it means not caring what other people think, even other Christians, it means taking risks, taking personal hits, it means giving ourselves away… any of that sound familiar?

We can do this.

We have to do this, the world desperately needs it and so do we. I heard Rebekah Lyons say recently that anxiety is the result of unfulfilled purpose and I believe that’s true. It seems to me that the majority of the Christian community is experiencing a great deal of anxiety.  Could it be because we are not fulfilling our purpose? I think so.

There is no fear in love.

Let’s begin loving fearlessly, church.

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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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Giving Thanks

In my family Thanksgiving and Christmas are a really big deal.

We’re a family who likes to be together (most of the time) and invite, well, pretty much everyone else to be with us, too. It strikes me just now that we must think we’re pretty great to think the best thing we can do for the people around us is to invite them to pull up a chair and squeeze in wherever they can.

We are kind of great.

I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, I just love how we love, as a family. The “Come be with us” attitude is something that has been passed down to my siblings and I from our parents who learned it from other people who took them in and taught them how it felt to be welcomed and to belong. My parents experienced God’s love through these people in their lives and then became God’s love for others in the way that they invited them into the family, not just to the gathering. It’s a beautiful inheritance and I treasure it.

Today I thank God for loving us in a way that makes our imperfections perfect for a broken world. Every hurt, every cut, every scrape, every flaw becomes an opening for us to feel God’s love more deeply and an opportunity for us to know how to love each other better.

There have been mountains of mistakes that have brought us to this moment and I am thankful for a God who loves to redeem.

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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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What Are You For?

We all spend a lot of time thinking about what we are against.
Before I even finish typing this sentence I’ve already thought of at least ten things that I am absolutely against. Everything about our culture promotes the sense that we are responsible to know what we are against and that we need to join forces with other people who are against the same things that we are.

We draw attention to those things that we are against through boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, and blog posts. We leave the world around us in no doubt of what we don’t believe in, what we disavow, and what we reject.

We fight and we fight hard… the question is what are we fighting FOR?

In the war against all of the evil we’ve identified in the world, have we completely forgotten that there are things worth saving, worth uniting over, that there is good to uphold, and there is beauty to be seen?

What would our world look like if instead of bonding over what we are against, we stood together for good, for love, for things done right? What if we devoted our social spaces to honoring acts of kindness, to recognizing strength of character in others, to capturing moments of freedom, justice, and unconditional love?

At the end of my life I don’t want to be remembered for the list of things I was against, I want to be known for what I was for. I want give my life to pointing towards something and not steering people away. I want to be in the business of shining a light and illuminating truth, not exposing darkness and lies.

Can we live in that space? Can we use our words to speak life instead of breathing death?
What are we for?

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A Straight Girl, A Gay Club and God.

I love to dance.

I know. I am deceptively introverted, so I understand how much of a shock this news may come as to some of you.

While you try to recover from having your whole perception of me shaken keep reading.

 

As a younger person I was shy-ish. I say shy-ish because a lot of people assumed I was shy, but the truth was that I was more cautious than shy. I stepped out into the world with circumspection and moved through it doing a lot more watching than acting. There was something hidden deep inside, however, that longed for wild abandon.

 

It wasn’t the same as a desire to rebel– I didn’t feel the need to fight against an invisible cage placed around me by other people or circumstances. I wanted to break out of the prison cell of self. There was someone inside of me somewhere who wasn’t concerned with her reputation or how she measured up to everyone else. Buried under layers of worry about whether or not I exceeded people’s expectations and the constant drive towards perfection was a girl who was fun, who loved who she was, loved how she was made and I wanted to find her.

 

It was heartbreaking to admit over and over again that I had no clue how to unearth a less severe side of myself. I’m naturally a competitive and determined person, so my approach to personal change or growth has always been to white knuckle it into submission. After one inevitable failed attempt after another I learned that this tactic was paradoxical to finding freedom.

 

Eventually resigning myself to the belief that the carefree person I had hoped was hidden in my soul just did not exist, I finally met her in the most unlikeliest of places– A gay bar.

 

I was twenty-seven at the time and had come to the end of many ropes. Relationships had failed miserably, my desperate need for control was crushing me,  and all of the ways I had tried so hard to live up to the standard that I believed God and everyone else had laid out before me were leaving me feeling dead inside. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me. I’d had enough.

 

Literally and figuratively throwing caution to the wind I started going out with friends. I learned that a little liquid courage went a long way towards making me feel brave enough to face the dark side of the moon. If I couldn’t find a sense of freedom, I had decided I would settle for a sense of carelessness instead.

 

One fateful evening, weary of dodging the ceaseless advances of stumbling drunk members of the opposite sex, but anxious for something to do, my friend suggested we go to a gay club and dance. Up to this point dancing hadn’t ever occurred to me, the places my friends and I normally hung out were “grown up” bars where you sat around, looked pretty and drank fancy cocktails while pretending to maintain conversations. I had heard that gay clubs were a safe haven for the single straight lady looking for a place to have fun because there was little to no risk of getting hit on or propositioned in any sort of way.

 

Considering the way I was raised and my parents ministry I felt a tiny twinge of guilt and the hint of a sense of betrayal (which now seems ridiculous to me), but the appeal was too great and I agreed to go.

 

What I found there I will never forget. We stepped inside and the dance floor was crowded, the music was loud and the atmosphere was… brace yourself… joyful. It hit me like a wrecking ball– the air was light and easy to breathe with lack of judgement. People were jumping up and down and moving to the music, not only because they wanted to but because they couldn’t help themselves. Whether you were a skilled dancer or completely uncoordinated didn’t matter, everyone was welcome to cast off their labels, their insecurities, their pride and feel alive.

 

It was contagious. As Cher sang the words “Do you believe in life after love” to a roaring house mix I found myself, completely sober, in the middle of the dance floor flailing for all I was worth. The camaraderie between my fellow movers and shakers and I was unlike anything I had ever experienced anywhere else. These people didn’t know me, they didn’t care what I tried to live up to or how I failed, they just welcomed me in.

 

It felt like I was experiencing pure and unadulterated joy for the very first time in my life. Something cracked deep inside of my heart and God spoke– “This thing that you feel filling you up with a sense of wonder that is unrestrained is me. There’s nothing hidden from me, there’s no judgement in me, there are no wrong dance moves, but you can’t dance at all if you’re carrying all of your stuff, so come to me the way that you came to this dance floor.”

 

I love to dance.

It’s how I learned about surrender and joy.

I’m not perfect… Every day I have to remember to put my stuff down so that I can dance, but now I know that I can if I just will.

 

Will you have the same experience in the same kind of place? I don’t know, I can’t give you an answer for that. What I do know is that God isn’t limited in the ways he can and will speak. He is creative and he knows that sometimes what we need most is to see him in the unlikely places, not where we’re used to looking for him.

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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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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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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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