Down to the river…

A few weeks ago we sang a song called The River by Jordan Feliz.  I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.  It gripped me.  I’ve been feeling down lately and the song just grabbed my heart.  I think one reason is that it reminds me of the day I got baptized.

I was baptized as a baby, but in the church I attend now we baptize people when they can make the decision to follow Jesus.  I had been a Christian for many years, but decided to get baptized as an outward profession of my faith.  The really cool part was back then we did baptisms in a large stream a few miles from our church.  It wasn’t quite a river, but that’s what I think of when I hear that song.  The weather was perfect…clear and sunny.  The water was cold and refreshing.  I remember keeping my eyes open when my pastor lowered me into the water.  I could see the sun, the bright blue sky, and the green trees hovering over the water.  It was beautiful, and it felt like a fresh start.  What made the day extra special was the fact that my husband and son were baptized that same day.

The song opens with these lyrics:

I know a place where we can go
To lay the troubles down eating your soul
I know a place where mercy flows
Take the stains make you whiter than snow
Like a tide, it is rising up deep inside
A current that moves and makes it come alive
Living water that brings the dead to life, oh-oh-oh-oh
We’re going down to the river
Down to the river, down to the river to pray
Let’s get washed by the water
Washed by the water and rise up in amazing grace
Let’s go down, down, down to the river (You will leave changed)
Let’s go down, down, down to the river (Never the same)

I like to visualize nature when I pray and water is something that I find soothing so I visualize that a lot.  This song reminds me of when I go to God with my heartache over what’s happening with the LGBTQ community.  And the river represents the tears I’ve cried because of it.  I go to God and I lay down the troubles eating my soul.  My tears wash over me and it’s a release that gives me strength to continue.  I stepped into this journey and God gave me a passion that has left me changed…never the same.  And although at times it is exhausting, and frustrating, I wouldn’t trade it.  At times I feel like the troubles I see are leading me to death, but God sustains me and brings me back to life.  “Living water that brings the dead to life.”

That all may sound dramatic if you aren’t living it every day.  It looks like we dodged a bullet with the Executive Order that President Trump signed today.  Some of the language that was in the order originally back in February was taken out.  Things like allowing people to discriminate on the basis of their faith for things like housing for LGBTQ individuals, jobs, services, etc.  Do you know what it’s like to worry that your basic human needs and rights can be taken away by the stroke of a pen?   Do you know what it’s like to fight for affection and not be condemned because of it?  Do you know what it’s like to see the double standards and be judged harshly for something you aren’t even doing?  It causes people to go back into closets that are just as damaging…if not deadly.

Since I had never heard of Jordan Feliz and liked his song The River so much I decided to look for some of his other songs.  It didn’t take me long before I found his song Beloved. I will close with the lyrics…

Head full of questions, how can you measure up?
To deserve afftection to ever be enough
For this existance
When did it get so hard?
Your heart is beating, alive and breathing
And there´s a reason why
You are essential, not accidental
And you should realize
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Oh, forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
You are beloved
Sometimes a heart can feel like a heavy weight
It pulls you under and you just fall away
Is anybody gonna hear you call?
Oh, oh
But there´s a purpose
Under the surface
And you don´t have to drown
Let me remind you
That love will find you
Let it lift you out
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Don´t be afraid
Don´t let hope, faith keep your eyes fixed on the light above
In the heartbreak, in your mistakes, nothing can separate you from love
Don´t be afraid
Don´t let hope, fait keep you eyes fixed on the light above
In the heartbreak, in your mistakes, nothing can separate you from love
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I wanted you to know that you are beloved…and you matter.

 

 

Messy faith…

One of my favorite shows when my kids were little was America’s Funniest Videos (AFV). I really shouldn’t find some of the videos as funny as I do.  When they do a montage of people falling down…I’m done.  My kids used to say, “Breathe mom, breathe!” I would be laughing so hard.

One video that really stuck with me was of a boy and his dad.  They placed an egg in their microwave.  They got close to the microwave window and you could see the egg in its’ shell rotating round and round.  The timer went off and the boy carefully took the egg out. It was in a little glass dish and the camera zoomed in to see that the egg was cracked a little and then…BOOM!  The egg literally exploded.  It was all over the boy’s face, on the ceiling, the walls…basically everywhere.  It was such a shock, and it was surprising how big of a mess one little egg made. Luckily the boy wasn’t hurt…he thought it was funny.

Life can be messy.  Let’s face it…it not only can be messy…it is messy.  But what happens when your faith gets messy?  We just finished a series at my church called “Messy Faith.” It was a great series that went through a lot of the things that can make our faith a little more complicated than we may have bargained for in the beginning of our faith journey.  I’ve mentioned before how my faith got turned upside down 9 years ago when I found out my son was gay. There are times when I long for those days when everything fit neatly into a box.  It was comfortable.  But that longing doesn’t last because my faith is so much deeper now. Back then I thought I had all of the answers…today I hardly have any answers.  Isn’t it crazy that I prefer to be here rather then where I was years ago?  As strange as it may sound it is very freeing.

I’ve deconstructed my faith…and it doesn’t all fit back together the way it did before.  I look at it like a puzzle.   You start out with the pieces scattered about and little by little you fit together the pieces to complete a picture.  Suppose the pieces don’t complete the picture?   Have you ever put together a puzzle only to get to the very end and realize you were missing a piece or heaven forbid more than one piece?!  That can be so frustrating! That’s how I see my faith and the missing piece or pieces are all of my questions.  Now some people would throw the puzzle away if it was missing pieces.  But I wouldn’t do that…something drew me to that puzzle.  There’s beauty in the puzzle and I can get satisfaction from it even if it isn’t complete.  Would it drive me crazy at times?  Yes!  But I would remind myself of what drew me to the puzzle in the first place and this is what’s gotten me through those messy faith times.  Something drew me to God. And through this messy faith journey I have discovered a deeper sense of love that really can only be explained as super natural.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  In my own way, I feel like I am part of the mystery of God.  I think we can all find ourselves there if we let go and let our faith get a little messy.

Now there is something that I have to remind myself of often.  When life gets messy and especially when faith gets messy, there are emotions that are involved.  Sometimes it’s frustration.  Sometimes anger, fear, anguish…a whole variety.  I need to be mindful of my actions and reactions during these times.  I need to try my best to not let those emotions explode onto others around me like the egg that was microwaved for too long.  To be an ally to the LGBTQ community, I need to interact with people who aren’t always going to believe what I believe, act the way I would act, respond the way I would respond.  Am I going to let that hinder my message of love?  I try really hard not to let that happen.  It gets messy, but that’s when that super natural love I talked about comes into play.  God is pretty darn amazing (smile).

How’s your messy life?  Better yet…how’s your messy faith?  Not messy yet?  Just wait…it will be at some point.  Remember what drew you to the One who can bring you through the mess.  His love will get you through, and then share that love…

Because love matters…

Sometimes a bark comes without a bite…

Lucy and I went for our walk this morning like we do every morning.  We had a little run in with another dog that left me sweating and my heart beating out of my chest.  I love dogs.  I really do.  If you saw me with my Lucy, you would understand how much I love dogs.  But…I’m also afraid of them…here’s why…

When I was 15 years old, I was hanging out with some of my friends.  We were outside of my friend’s house when her neighbor came pulling out of his driveway with his German Shepherd tied up in the back of his pickup truck. The guys we were with teased the dog.  Not physically…but they were barking at it and yelling at it…being obnoxious boys basically. You could tell it agitated the dog.  It was a short errand and we were still out front when he came back.  The boys again did their best to aggravate the dog.  We told them to stop, but they didn’t.  When the owner put the dog in the backyard, he didn’t realize that the gate wasn’t completely latched.  He went in the house, and the dog came tearing around to the front.  There was a block retaining wall that everyone jumped up on to get away from the dog…except for me. Being vertically challenged…I couldn’t physically get up there.  And although I wasn’t mean to the dog, he took his aggression out on me.  I didn’t run because I knew he would only chase me.  He jumped up on his hind legs and put his front paws on my shoulders.  Yes the dog was as tall as me.  I tried to push him off of me and that’s when he grabbed my right arm.  Have you ever seen one of those police videos where they show someone with protective gear getting attacked by the police dog?  Well that was me…except no protective gear.  My friends were yelling for the dog to get off of me, but he was shaking my arm like I was a rag doll.  The owner heard the commotion and came running out the front door calling for the dog.  It wasn’t listening.  As much as I hated to do it, because I would never intentionally hurt an animal, I punched the dog in the face.  That got him to stop long enough to hear his owner calling him and he went running to him. The owner came out to check on me.  I had a wind breaker on and it wasn’t ripped so he thought the dog must not have bitten me very badly.  The weird thing is that when I got home and took my jacket off, my shirt underneath was ripped.  You could see the imprint of the dogs teeth on my arm.  His whole mouth.  There was some blood and lots of bruising and the next day my arm was swollen as all get out.

So…this experience has made me very suspect of dogs.  Again, I love them, but I need to get to know them before I trust them.  Once they show me they aren’t going to try to rip my arm off, I’m usually good friends with them (smile).

There are times my Christian friends will ask me, “Why are gay people so angry all the time?  What do they have against Christians…they seem to hate us!”  Well that can be complicated, but the simple answer is…they’ve been “bitten.”  And what you see as anger or sometimes even hate comes from a place of self-preservation.  They may not understand that not all Christians “bite.”  I didn’t do anything to that dog, but he saw me as part of the group that did and he took it out on me.

Similar to a dog owner telling you, “Don’t worry.  My dog is friendly,” then uncharacteristic of the dog they try to bite you.  Christians should be people who others shouldn’t have to be afraid of, but sometimes they lash out in unfriendly and hurtful ways.  The good news is…they aren’t all like that.   I have some very supportive Christians in my life…even if we don’t see eye to eye on the LGBTQ community.  Now some have “barked” a few times…but it never resulted in a “bite.”  I have been hurt, but I knew it came from a place of ignorance.  Like I’ve said before…you don’t know what you don’t know.  Some of the people who have hurt me are now trying to be allies.  They want to learn.  If I had retreated and believed that all Christians would hurt me, maybe God would have never had the opportunity to grab hold of their hearts in this area.

I was attacked by that dog 34 years ago and I can still see it vividly in my mind as if I’m watching a movie. I know that not all dogs are mean, but it doesn’t change the fact that they scare me.  And as far as my fellow Christians go…I’m wary of them too sometimes.  I think it just comes with the territory.  When you’ve been hurt, it’s hard to let your guard down. I have shared some horrendous things that have happened to the LGBTQ community at the hands of people who call themselves Christians.  On the flip side, I want to tell you that I know many eager Christians that want to help, want to love, want to embrace the LGBTQ community and just don’t know how.  If we shut them down, they will never learn.

Once you learn what the LGBTQ community has gone through, you become really sensitive to the things that hurt them.  If I were in a Star Wars movie, Darth Vader would say, “The cringe factor is strong with this one,” about me.  If I’m that sensitive, how much more sensitive is that community?  I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to them…or allies…because you are afraid of saying something wrong.  I’m just asking that we be sensitive of each other.  We may “bark” at each other from time to time…but let’s not “bite.”  We will never get anywhere if that happens.  Let’s walk together and remember to have grace, mercy, and most of all love…

Because love matters…

(This post is meant to have us each think of what the “other side” might be going through as we navigate these waters.  I am in no way suggesting that if you are being abused you should remain in that situation, or allow it to continue.)

 

Are you being love this Christmas season?

John 3:16 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This Christmas season I’ve been reflecting on the words that we often see on Christmas cards…peace, hope, love and joy.  This week my word has been love and I’m sure you know that this one is my favorite (smile).

When I became a mother for the first time, I could not believe the immediate, overwhelming feeling of love I had for my son.  I knew I would love my child, but I really had no comprehension for the intensity of that love.  I couldn’t imagine loving anything or anyone more than I loved him.  Of course I loved my husband and my family, but this was a love I had not experienced before and it was very powerful. So much so, that I couldn’t imagine being able to love another child as much as I loved him.  It just didn’t seem physically possible to me.  I was actually really concerned about it when I learned I was pregnant with my daughter.  Could I possibly love her as much as I loved him?  The answer is yes.  I don’t know how it is possible, but my heart just expanded to depths I didn’t know were possible.  I did indeed love her every bit as much as I loved him.  To me, it really is quite the miracle that we have the capacity for this much love.  And it’s beautiful because to me it is a picture of how God must love all of us.  We are all His children so just imagine how big His heart is for us.  My mind just can’t comprehend it!

As I prepare for all the festivities of Christmas, I try to remember why Jesus came to earth…because God so loved the world.  Love.  God is love and to me Jesus is the greatest example for us of that love.  Jesus showed us what love looks like.  He didn’t let anything stop him from loving others, and he commanded us to do the same.  It’s not easy.  Love is easy, hard, and messy all at the same time, but it is so important. This article posted on Un*Lost shows us how important it really is to human beings. Science has shown that the need to be loved could be considered one of our most basic and fundamental needs.  Science also shows that we have a parallel need to love and care for others.

12391764_767543386681173_2827549231088575546_nI really like this quote by Liam Neeson.  As we celebrate Christmas with friends and family, let’s remember that there are some who have been abandoned by their loved ones.  There are some that have been told they can’t love or be loved.  Lets change that. Lets be Jesus to others.  Lets love beyond our capacity because that is when God shows up. Lets love one another as He has loved us.

Because love matters…

 

 

Love you to life…

01e9a0a2a24b4d1145d1518bce5df01bba8048fa80Last summer this was a vibrant, beautiful plant.  I usually take my plants off of my deck for the winter, but last year I never got around to it.  This pot sat outside all winter through all kinds of snow, sleet, and rain.  Now normally at the beginning of spring, I will bring all of my pots out of the garage and get some nice spring flowers to plant to make my deck look nice.  Well, if you are friends with me in real life, you know that my deck was in dire need of repair.  In fact, the whole thing needed to be replaced (except for the structure).  Since I wasn’t sure when that was going to take place, I never got around to planting flowers.  So, this pot sat on my deck with dead twigs in it.  I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but there are some twigs in there that have zero life sprouting from them.  And that’s how it looked all summer.  I did plant flowers for my front porch so every day I would go around and water my flowers…and the dead twigs on my deck.  I wasn’t really sure why I was watering a pot of dead flowers. Something in me just knew that flowers are supposed to have water…and although these were just twigs I felt compelled to water them.  And they stayed dead…all summer…until the first week in October when these beautiful little red sprigs blossomed.  I couldn’t believe it!  All that tender care all summer and it waited until the fall to spring to life!

I can’t help but be reminded of the people I have met along my journey when I think about this plant.  So many of their stories start with thoughts of death, despair, hopelessness, and they are barely clinging to life.  It’s when someone comes along and offers them unconditional love without fail that finally brings them back to life. They regain their spark, their zest for life, their love for themselves.  I have seen it happen in my own son, and in many people who I have met along the way.

I have been in a deep struggle lately.  It’s why I haven’t written much.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to be a part of the church…Big C church.  It is getting harder and harder for me to separate myself from what I’m seeing happening in the lives of so many.  There are too many lifeless twigs that are dying from the lack of love and my heart just can’t take it.  It is a daily struggle and I have to keep reminding myself that these people…”church people” do not represent the God that I know and love.  People have accused me of being divisive.  They say that I talk too much about the bad parts of the church.  I’m sorry, but I can’t ignore what is happening.  There is too much at stake.  Too many people that need love to thrive.

But rather than me share with you what’s happening, I invite you to watch this video to hear from the people who are actually living it.  It is an hour and a half, but it is worth every minute.  I sobbed through most of it because I have met people in these situations.  I have entered their stories.  I have shared their grief.  And some are no longer part of this world because no one loved them back to life.

If you call yourself a Christian, I urge you to watch this video.  Especially if you are a Christian that thinks you can’t be gay and a Christian.  I’m not sure what path God is going to take me on next…but I know that the status quo just isn’t going to work for me anymore.  If you watch the video and have questions, I’d love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you if you are local…or we can chat via email.  Be the love that so many desperately need…because love matters.