Loving the Homosexual

As I have contemplated the Supreme Court ruling that took place earlier this week I return to many thoughts I have had over the past months in regard to homosexuality.  For quite some time I have not known how to deal with it.  One of my favorite friends from our time in Tampa was gay and I absolutely adore her, my husband’s cousin and his boyfriend are gay and they are wonderful men.  As I process what these people have experienced throughout their lifetimes, the struggles, the feelings of being an outcast, questioning themeselves and even God, my heart hurts for them. The life they have experienced because of their orientation must have been so hard.  The joy they must have felt after Friday’s ruling must have been so affirming of who they feel they are.

I love these people, I cry for their struggles, but as a Christian I also know what the Bible says, and my heart hurts even more for them.  We are all separated from God because of sin, we were born sinful, each and everyone of us.  As a Christian it is not my place to judge or condemn, it is not my place to look on those outside of the Church and call them to live a life acceptable to those within the Church.  It is my place to love them and to draw them to Christ with that love, like a moth to a flame.   And if they choose Christ it is also my place as a Christ follower to warn them, just as with all others who come to Christ, that they must set aside sin when accepting on Christ. That doesn’t mean change WHO they are but to no longer practice sinfulness. This is where the real rub comes in, this is where Christ becomes the Cornerstone or the stumbling block. We all must set aside our sin when coming to Christ.

So as I say these things, let me be abundantly clear this is not for those outside the Church who are in sin, regardless of what that sin might be. This for those within the Church or wanting to become part of the Church.  It is a warning that Christ sacrificed all and He requires us to do likewise, not because He is unfair or unloving but because He wants to give us something so much better- relationship with Him.  1 Corinthians 6:9-10 tells us that “those who practice homosexuality…will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”  Notice the wording here doesn’t say those who are homosexual it says those who practice that behavior will not inherit the Kingdom.  So please, if you claim to be a Christian, do not allow our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle in this sin to continue on alone, or to continue practicing the act. Instead walk with them, stand in the gap and pray with them, pray that God would strengthen them (and all of us) to turn away from our sinful desires.  Not so that we can condemn them and judge them but that they might finish the race victoriously.  Just because the world lies and says something is ok doesn’t mean the Church needs to bend to those ideas.  We have a higher calling, let us not allow one another to continue in sin, but walk alongside one another interceding, being honest about our shortcomings and acting as the body should.  There is no reason this change in law needs to destroy the Church.  It can be an opportunity for further honesty and transparency and a showing of love to those who struggle both inside and outside the Church.  Let us not in the Church look on this as the worst of all sins, as if it is unforgivable or somehow unable to be overcome through Christ’s strength.  But let us also not sway too far to the other side and take our cues from the world and condone and accept what God calls sin, whereby we prevent our brothers and sisters from receiving the Kingdom that they are seeking. “We have ALL sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified by His. Grace. As. A. Gift through the redemption of His son Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24 a

Living the dream and still not satisfied…

So, what do you do when you are living the life you dreamed of and yet still aren’t satisfied?

I suppose I need to back up for a minute and share a bit about myself, for as long as I can remember I have been a dreamer.  I have sought or dreamt of adventure in many forms, whether that is travelling the world or living long term as a missionary in a foreign land.  I have dreamed of writing, sewing, building, creating; I have dreamed of having children and space to raise them and homeschooling.  I have dreamed of living on a farm in the mountains and having the great outdoors be my childrens’ teacher, growing good things and feeling the warm dirt between my toes.  I have dreamed of doing big things that change the world and of the quietness that comes with solitude.  I guess you could say I am a bit of a contradiction, and my dreams are many.

The life I am currently living is a fulfilment of many dreams, my family and I live right outside of Asheville, NC on a 7 acre farm with beautiful mountain views, I get to hike and see views like this as often as I want:

mountains

I have the world’s most amazing husband, I have 3 wonderful boys, and a great dog. I homeschool and we spend loads of time outside hiking, playing in the stream, and having adventures.  We have a huge garden that we just planted with plans to store and keep all of it so we can enjoy the fruits of it year round.  I am living a life I always dreamed of: simple, with a good amount of hard work and fun thrown in.  I am not saying all this to brag but rather to give a little background to where I am coming from when I say: and yet…and yet, amongst all of these amazing things that I have been blessed with I am still not satisfied.

I wake up in the morning and look around at all of this beauty and wish that I were somewhere else, doing something else other than this life.  I have started to contemplate what that means, why do I feel this way?  Shouldn’t I be happy, I am living a dream after all… What will it take to satisfy me? Another move, more friends, a new baby, a new purchase, more stuff? Will I ever feel content right where I am at?  Maybe if my kids are better behaved or my husband more attentive this void could be filled…

Or maybe…maybe…maybe the issue isn’t with the external, I have moved many times, things in my life have changed tremendously over the years, but that same nagging dissatisfaction always inevitably creeps back in.  So where is the water that will quench my forever thirsty soul?  Is it in the noise, the hustle and bustle or is it in the solitude, the quiet moments with my Creator, my Soul Quencher? Elijah heard God’s voice not in the storm or the fire or even the earthquake but in the still, small whisper.  He had to strain his ears to hear it at first, but he knew it was the voice of God meeting with him, comforting him, encouraging him, letting him know he was not alone.

We all need to be straining, fighting, striving to hear the small whisper of the one telling us our worth, quenching our deep, dry, dusty places.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. ~Psalm 63:1-8

Christ brings our satisfaction, when we meditate on Him, when we seek Him.  It needs to be a daily practice, it can’t be just when we are feeling empty, but at all times! Our souls need to cling to Him and He will satisfy us.  But it won’t happen over night, trust me I have hoped that it would be that simple.  But it does happen, in the fight, in the uphill climb, beating back our flesh with the sword of Truth and the knowledge that relationship with Christ is the only thing that will fill the void.  It is the battle of our lives, the one we sign onto when we take Christ and make Him our God, it does not end, it is a lifelong dying and yet awakening to some newness of life not yet known to us.  There is no arrival point, only “farther on and deeper in”. And although the glory of Heaven is not for this lifetime we can fight to become more like Christ in the here and now and rest in the peace and joy that it brings.  Will you commit with me this day to seek Him first, to allow Him to be the satisfaction of your soul, to create the habit of meditating on Him so that you might sing for joy instead of weep from weary sorrow?

What is Love?

Besides being the title of a song, it is also the topic of an upcoming blog series I am working on for the purpose of keeping track of a study I am starting looking at the life of Christ.  Whether you are a Christ follower or not you have probably heard the song “Jesus loves me”, but as I think of this I have to ask myself what does love mean?  Our culture has many different ideas of love: that it is permissive, tolerant, approving, that it doesn’t hurt feelings, and that it always strives to make everyone happy and comfortable all the time.  I think love can be these things but I also think that it can be so much more.  Just yesterday I was having a conversation with my six year old encouraging him to to act in love towards his family. I said that we should look at the Bible and see what it says about the way love acts and we could figure it out together.  He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, “But, Mama, don’t you already know what the Bible says about that?”  I thought for a minute and realized that while I do know generally what it says, when it comes to day to day living the specifics get blurry.  How do I treat those I disagree with with love? How do I discipline with love? How do I express my hurt and frustration with love? As I started to mull over these ideas I realized that I didn’t have a tried and true answer, and… if I am being really honest…I often feel confused and torn as if these difficult questions cannot be answered by the word love.  I have grown up in a generation of believers where love means you do whatever you can not to hurt people, even if it means closing yourself off and never expressing how you really feel.  We are so desperate to get other people to like us, to see that not all Christians are bigots and hypocrites that we sugar coat the truth of love to make it more palatable.  We live in a culture where truth is relative and tolerance and  acceptance rule the day.  So I have decided to read through the Gospels and see how Jesus loves all those he comes in contact with.  For the foundation of this study I will use the verse John 3:16, “For God so loved the WORLD, that He gave His only Son that WHOEVER believes in Him may not perish but gain everlasting life.”  The key here is that Jesus came for ALL, the whole WORLD, so as I read through the Gospels it will be with idea that ALL of Jesus’ interactions with ANYONE were through the lens of his love for them.  Please read along with me if you want, I will be posting updates as a I proceed through starting in Matthew, I would love comments and to hear what different peoples’ opinions of the verses mean in relation to Christ expressing love. Hopefully by the end we can all have a better picture of what love looks like in both easy and hard situations and can grow daily to become more like Jesus.

In the face of suffering…

I am ashamed to admit that for the past few years I have avoided acknowledging the suffering in the world, I have been afraid of the overwhelming emotions that come with facing the suffering of others and feeling helpless to do anything. It has been a fear that caused me to turn off the radio, change the channel when the news came on, or even avoid conversations with people about current events. For me the suffering of others and my lack of ability to help has the potential to literally paralyze me with grief and overwhelming emotions. Maybe you can relate? In our culture whether by constant immersion and desensitization or the ability to fill our time with more pleasurable pursuits, many of us don’t give much thought to the presence of deep suffering. Because we don’t know how to help, how to deal with our emotions, it becomes easier to ignore, less painful. And so we become a fortress with a giant door marked “DO NOT ENTER”; us against the big bad world, don’t let them in. We become focused on our own personal dramas, and the things that we should be bringing to The Lord and laying down, walking away from, trusting Him with, become all consuming opportunities for worry and selfishness.
But, the last few months God has been wrenching my door to this scary world wide open. Not just opening it, tearing it off it’s hinges and throwing it into the fire. It wasn’t even something I noticed He was doing until it was done, and although my heart will never be the same I am so thankful for that. It started when sweet friends of ours who are missionaries in South Sudan came home on furlough early because war broke out. I could sense their heartbreak as the people they so dearly loved and felt called to minister to were in danger of their very lives. It was at that time I started actually seeking out news about the suffering in South Sudan, actively praying and walking through the heart wrenching struggle of a nation in turmoil. Then another missionary friend’s son was diagnosed with cancer. God laid them heavily on my heart when they first started sharing about everything they were walking through. There were many days that I felt the paralyzing sorrow of their suffering and all I could do was pray and ask God to intercede on their behalf. Then more news stories caught my attention: Ebola raging through West Africa, killing hundreds, the IS slaughtering thousands of Christian believers in Iraq and Syria, so many heartbreaking things that I, we, are literally powerless to change.

Woman in South Sudan caring for her children amidst war, famine, and disease

Woman in South Sudan caring for her children amidst war, famine, and disease

House marked with the symbol for Nazarene or Christian to let the IS know where to find and kill them

House marked with the symbol for Nazarene or Christian to let the IS know where to find and kill them

Man with Ebola (which has a 60% death rate) being cared for in Liberia

Man with Ebola (which has a 60% death rate) being cared for in Liberia

Cancer, war, disease, human depravity. These are real things and when we can no longer ignore them and their very real presence in our world, we must ask ourselves: What do we do now that the blinders are off, now that there is no veil between the pain that is out there and the sorrow that crushes our hearts? How do we cope when prayer doesn’t seem like enough and even if we had the loudest voice or millions of dollars we still couldn’t stop this heartbreak? Why, why face this suffering, why bear it up? Doesn’t all the pain of others just flow all over everything? How can we leave our heart open to endure suffering and yet still have God’s unconditional love flow out? How can we find the joy of God in this!?
Or, is that maybe the answer? That the suffering, the love, the joy are all mingled into one, beautiful, messy, bittersweet True Love. When we open our heart to the suffering of others, be it our friend next door, the cousin we barely ever talk to, or the strangers half a world away we are opening our hearts to receive their burdens and help carry those sorrows before the feet of the Healer, the Matchless One. We become the conduit, the channel between the suffering and the pouring out of the Father’s unconditional love that He has so generously lavished upon us. We have the opportunity to know and allow others to know joy unspeakable, that is deeper, and different than anything we have ever known. This doesn’t mean that there will be no more suffering, but what it does mean is that we no longer have to bear it up alone. And maybe, just maybe we will be able to take down the imposing “DO NOT ENTER” sign and not only carry the heavy burdens of others’ suffering before the Lord but also learn to lay down our own to Him in pursuit of something so much better. True Love. Let us aim to lead lives that are less self-focused, less protective of our own hearts and more focused on the heart of God. Seeking all that it means to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

Shepherding our sheep

This is post is for those parents out there who are weary and worn down and have a lot on their plate.

I have bewoman-sitting-on-a-basket-with-head-in-hands.jpg!Blogen weary and worn down lately, struggling to find joy in my circumstances, overwhelmed with all that is going on in my life.  I have been letting my fears and worries of the known and unknown over take me and have lost my joy and with it my gentleness towards those who are in my immediate vicinity.  That means my husband and especially my kids.  I have been begging the Lord to fill me with more of Him and as I met Him in His word last night He did just that.

I was reading the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. I read in all 4 gospels the same account of Jesus withdrawing to a secluded place with His disciples.  (Matt. 14:12-31; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13). In Matthew we see Jesus mourning the loss of a dear friend, cousin, and a man who lead the way for Him.  John the Baptist’s loss is hard to bear and Jesus asks the disciples to go somewhere quiet with Him so He can process.  In Mark and Luke we see that the disciples, His chosen, prayed about friends, have just returned from being sent out to spread the Good News in the surrounding areas.  He has missed them and wanted to talk with them.  Because of this Jesus asks them to go somewhere quiet so He could connect with them.  Then we see in John that it is almost Passover so there is a lot going on and it is really busy so it is a struggle for them to get their hearts into the right place.  So Jesus asks them to go somewhere quiet so they can prepare their hearts.  I believe that these are all the same story and Jesus is dealing with all of these things at the same time, it seems overwhelming to say the least.

But as we continue reading in all 4 Gospels we see that all the story lines merge into one and as Jesus steps off of the boat in that “quiet, secluded place” He is greeted by many people seeking healing and wisdom from Him.  And what does He do? He lashes out at them and is angry, what about me and my time, and what I need? No, the Bible says: “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34)

And that is where the conviction begins for, Jesus is hurting, and tired, and has been so busy, busy, busy taking care of everyone else.  And yet, and yet…He sees the masses and has compassion on them.  Then He nurtures them through healing, then He gives them wisdom by sharing God’s truth, then He serves them by feeding all of them.

How often are we hurting, in need of friendship, overwhelmed with the busy-ness of life?  How often do we let those things get between us and our children and the joy that the Lord wants us to have?

And then I see it, the answer to why Jesus can be so selfless, why He nurtures, and gives, and serves even through the pain and looking past His own needs.  And it is like fresh rain on the face, it washes the tears and the brokenness away and gives us hope for a better tomorrow.

Jesus meets with His Father, He prays and finds the renewal of His heart in communion with the Creator of all hearts.  We see that after the day is done He sends everyone away, the disciples, and the crowds alike.  He has given and met the needs of those around Him and now He must be refreshed by the only one who can bring peace.  “After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray.” (Mark 6:47).  It says that it was evening time when He started praying and that He went out to the disciples on the water around the 4th watch which was 3am.  So He didn’t just say a quick prayer, He soaked in all the goodness that God had for Him, all the comfort, peace, and renewal for a weary heart.

As we struggle through our daily tasks, sometimes we are laden down with things along the path.  Let us remember to be like Jesus and seek God and all the peace that He wants to extend to us through our weary, broken, heavy-laden times.  That we may be refreshed to nurture, give wisdom, and serve our children.  We only have them for a short time, may we lead them with gentleness and compassion and may our example be one of seeking the Lord in the good times and the bad.

Stepping out on the water…

Our God is so good, He brings us to new things and gently leads us by still waters, He guides us with His mighty right hand and causes His face to shine upon us.  But, sometimes in the midst of life, in the midst of the busyness we forget God’s goodness and we question everything around us.  I found myself in this place, waking up one morning about 2 weeks ago wondering, “how did I get here?” Angry, critical, frustrated and exhausted.  I am surrounded by God’s goodness and His blessing, He is guiding us down a path we have yearned for so long to go down.  I have looked down this path for many years now, looked at it with anticipation but didn’t realize all that it meant for us.  You see, my little family of 5, we are joining Africa Inland Mission to become missionaries in Uganda.  And my heart rejoiced for the healing we will see, and the people we will meet, and the lives that will be changed.  I just never anticipated, never recognized how much our lives would be changed going down this path.    I didn’t realize how hard it would be to say goodbye to family and friends that we deeply love.  My children will have to say goodbye to the only family, church, friends, house, life they have ever known.  And my heart has broken, again and again as I see what it is we are moving away from.  But, instead of leaning into, throwing myself upon the loving, strong arms of my Guide I have been running in the other direction.  No longer finding joy in our journey, or in any of the daily joys of my children, husband, friends around me.  I have been refusing to soak it in, terrified of eventually having to let go of all of this.  I thought I held everything with such an open hand, ready to move when God said go, ready to lay aside everything for His glory.  Indeed I am not afraid of living a simple life, in point of fact I am looking forward to it, I am not afraid of the adventure of new lands, languages, faces, or friends.  It is the leaving of those I so desperately love here, the chance that in this lifetime I might not ever see some of them again.  And I cry, and mourn, and my heart turns to stone because I refuse to look upon the face of Love that wants to hold me in my hurt.

Thankfully, oh, how thankful I am that God hears our hearts when they are breaking, He has not left us without hope in the midst of our grief.  Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.  And He has, He has given me rest, and so much more: Freedom! This does not mean He has changed my situation, we are still heading down the same path, but He has lifted the heavy yoke of sadness, the oppression of my enslavement to despair.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1.  I am once again able to see Him, seek Him, worship Him, relish the joys of life and the smiles of my children and husband.  The anger, frustration, and exhaustion are falling away and I am reminded of His goodness.

I know sadness will return again as we continue to move down this path and that if our lives continue in His great commission, sharing His wonderful Gospel light with the those lost in darkness, the grief will visit from time to time.  But I will strive to not let it settle, I have been made free in Christ, I am no longer slave to those old ways and I no longer have to live in frustration and anger, turning away from my Love.

So as the new year dawns and with it all of the gambit of emotions, lessons, new and old things that my Father has in store, I choose to lean into His open arms of freedom.  I choose to follow Him out onto the water, where there is mystery and unknown.  I choose to call upon Him and seek His face above all that may arise.

Won’t you join me seeking Him above all else and choosing to embrace Him in all that He has for you?

God’s Grace

Sometimes life brings things our way that are so hard, so painful, that we are unsure how to process, where to go from here. Where is God? I need to tell you about God’s Grace. It is the sweet in the bitterness of the struggle. If we allow this pain to bring us to our knees, draw us into the arms of our loving Father we will find a depth of peace and grace that alludes others. God’s grace is known more abundantly through our struggles than through our times of ease, we just have to seek Him. So many of us question how can a good and sovereign God allow His people to be in such pain? To experience such hardship, such ugliness, such tragedy, such depths of despair there seems like there is no way out. But I have come to believe through the struggle that God allows such pain because it draws us into the depth of His presence like nothing else in life could. In our pain we can come into His presence dragging our mangled, deformed brokeness, such things we might never share with others because of the pain it causes to even say the words out loud. And He, He meets us there! The Creator God, King of all, the Prince of Peace, Abba Father, He stoops down and scoops us up into His arms and carries us, bears us up, speaks truth into our brokeness. Stop and think about this for a moment, the God and creator of all the vast, never-ending, universe, all the stars and planets and galaxies, to the tiniest building blocks of you and I, all the atoms and cells and microorganisms. He, Him, that God cares about YOU! Not only that but He wants you to know Him deeply. He wants you to know that His heart breaks for you and all that you are going through, He wants you to know that He promises us He will care for us if we will allow Him to.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ” -Matthew 11:28-29

Our skinned knees, broken limbs, that we hide from the Father because we are so afraid that the cleaning will cause pain, we miss that even if there is pain, there will be healing through it. If we can just trust Him we will find that as we repeatedly cast our cares on Him, minute by minute, sometimes even second to second, He trades our pain for His grace, for His peace, for His love. We grow to know Him in ways that we did not ever know before this. His grace is the sweet in the bitterness, it doesn’t mean the bitter never happened, won’t hurt, won’t leave a scar, a reminder of the pain. But what it does mean is that His sweetness is with us as we choose to seek Him in the hard places. His grace can abide in us…