Ready. Set. Wait … what…?

I remember all too well the “Set it and forget it” infomercials. It was a sign of new times. You prepare things and you set the timer and you can go on to live your life at will. You could forget it was ever a thought. The buzzer would remind you. It was as simple as that.

It seems our whole society operates in a “set and forget” manner, but now it looks so much different. Instead of placing food in a box and setting a timer for dinner, we are placing judgements and strong statements in a box on social media and forgetting what (or who) is on the other side. There are no buzzers or cues to remind us that it’s “done”. What is done in these boxes can’t be undone. The view of that person is stained and changed forever. There is no going back.

While the month of August almost always seems to be a bit harried with back to school and traffic and demands at work and this and that, the whole world had a bit of that as well. The RAISE Act was introduced to the media, Venezuela began to shut down airlines due to the crisis, North Korea and Trump had a twitter battle, Charlottesville’s “Unite the Right” Rally, Monument “Wars”, DACA under constant threat, daily terror attacks claimed by ISIS worldwide, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey, and the Nashville Statement was released. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. All of this happened this month. Each day I woke up waiting to see another nugget of crazy or unexpected. All of the crazy began to feel normal.

Watching the threads on social media it dawned on me, the crazy is the new normal. Everyday everyone was posting something polarized on one side or the other and then going about their day as if it were nothing. They set it out and forgot it and their friends and their family and their friends of friends and friends of family and coworkers all begin to slowly view them a little differently. People excitedly declaring they are relieved to stop following at one time close friends. Declarations of “you have to be crazy to believe…” or “you can’t be a christian if …”.

Live loved and love the living

We have left actual human beings out of the equation. Information is consumed from mediums of strict like-mindedness, barely tested/reviewed, set out for everyone to see, and forgotten. There is so little consideration of other human beings reading these boxes of information that it is easy to forget who and how many can see what is written.

Christ reminded His disciples before His crucifixion, “They (the world) will know you by your love for one another” (John 13:35). The book of Romans reminds us:

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8-11; emphasis added)

As a Christian, it pains me to see so few people loving others and lifting them up through this time. During the Charlottesville Violence many were touting racial insensitivity, while others were painfully aware that many of those touting were their family … friends … colleagues … I know I’m going to get messages or feedback that there are more than two sides to this story, and that is correct. My point is not to be exhaustive, but rather remind of the pain felt by those unseen on the other side of the computer screen.

With Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey displacing so many and destroying so much, it has been refreshing to see others jump to the needs of those impacted. In the middle of this, the Nashville Statement was released with declarations on LGBTQ and the Christian church. The timing was poor given the natural disaster in Texas. This also put an uncomfortable spotlight back on the church for being unfriendly to so many that are not straight, white, “put together” people. It is incredibly frustrating to see friends who are Christians and struggle to understand their same-sex attraction in light of the church. Yes, the church. Not the gospel. The Nashville Statement further pushes away from the church those who already felt distanced in the first place.

We have left actual human beings out of the equation

Sadly, it wasn’t until Charlottesville that I began to do a deep dive into personal beliefs and thoughts on specific choices in my life. “How did I end up at this church or why did I visit that one…?” So on and so forth. All specific to churches. One Sunday I felt deeply unsettled and began to pray very specific things. I looked up and realized … everyone here looks like me (white) and dresses like me (Sunday’s best) and sounds like me and likes what I like and had similar plans for the rest of the day … as the list grew and I began to feel even more unsettled.

It is easy and comfortable to be part of a homogenous group, but it isn’t until we step outside of this that we see a much truer, clearer picture of the gospel and of the heaven that awaits. The gospel was not created on pretty, thin, white sheets of paper. It was messy, it was communal, it was multi-cultural.

I’ve heard it said (many times) that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week in the south. In the south it seems so common that all children are taught “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

While we cannot go back on what we have set out there and forgotten, we can ask forgiveness. We can love our neighbor as ourself as we move forward. We can, as Lysa Terkeurst puts it, we can “live loved” and love the living.

The gospel, the bible as a whole really, is filled with constant reminders that God is a God of the nations. He breaks cultural boundaries. He glides past religiosity and into the love of Christ. Christ died for the whole world. The. Whole. World. He died for every ethnicity. For every race. For every girl. For every boy. For everyone.

Salvation is free. Judgment is not.

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Reaching for the Moon

This weekend I found out a friend of mine passed away. It hit me in the gut and knocked the wind right out of me. The words coming through the phone seemed unreal. It was like falling flat on my back and losing every gasp of air.

This isn’t possible. This isn’t real. I should send a text … or call … He’s ok. Hearing his voice … but… but … but … I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t call. I couldn’t text. I couldn’t even email. There would be no return.

Just silence.

Googling didn’t help either. I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for, something, anything. An answer. Any answer.

Only silence. Blank Google searches. Deactivated Facebook account.

It’s the silence that hurts the most. The air that was knocked out of all of us. Everything was empty. Knowing that I’ll not know the answers to the questions I have. That the one person that knew, can no longer answer.

The next phone call hurt even worse. Crying as I explained to a dear friend of his. Afterward he said, “the moon is amazing. Go look at the moon.” I did immediately. Recently I’ve started “chasing the moon” because it is beautiful. It’s beautiful from every side. I want a clearer picture.

So I “chased the moon”. Angry that there was no explanation but knowing that there was pain I didn’t understand, would never understand, right before. The answers locked behind a door that I couldn’t open. I said goodby to the moon – even though the moon couldn’t hear me and he isn’t on the moon.

Which meant, there was more silence. Silence in my car. Silence in my apartment. Even silence in my office today. Many half written sent messages saying, “but how? But why? The rain seems to know.”

Oddly last week I felt I should reach out to my friend, and I hesitated. “What if he thinks I’m being weird? I don’t really have anything specific to say.” Then the call. Why didn’t I reach out? Insecurity? Maybe.

Life is a vapor, a breath, a withering leaf. It is too short for me to be insecure about how a friend perceives me, when I feel the need to reach out to a friend, I should do so. I’ve started trying that more. Even before I knew what was going to happen. I reached out. Then I knew. And now, I reach further. Deeper into my heart and in my friend groups, my acquaintance circle (I made that up, but it’s a thing).

I’ll keep reaching. I’ll reach to the moon if I have to. Reaching to remind my friends and acquaintances and fringes that they are loved and cared about and thought of and prayed for. Reaching until they (you) know, that like the moon, you are beautiful from every side.

 

Houston, you are dearly missed. While many of us have a million questions and know we may never have the answers, we pray for your family and friends and those who are here mourning your loss. With love, B 

 

I’m Not Brave: Not Yet Anyway

Are you watching?

Do you hear what is happening?

Have you noticed that everything seems to have shifted?

Over the past few years I have noticed that our country, while democratic and political in nature, has somehow become lost in politics. Most everything seems to be viewed as Democrats v. Republicans. The “v” there is important to note. It isn’t (D) and (R) it is v. We have adopted an idea that we can’t work together but rather tear down everything the other does. A few months ago I was on the phone with someone and they told me “Christians can’t be democrats. Democrats are all pro-choice and that’s not godly.” That conversation left me hurt and confused why someone who has known me for so long no longer believes that I am a Christian or a good person or *fill in the blank*. A difference in opinion had caused someone dear to me to completely question everything about me and made me wonder if they even trusted who they knew me to be.

Friends have told me that their family members use very unkind rhetoric when referring to political differences of opinion – I will spare you because again, it is unkind to so many people of so many various backgrounds.

Family members of my own consider going to church a conservative christian activity and have told me that “liberals don’t go to church.”

I’m watching, listening, and noticing that things are shifting to be either conservative or liberal activities. If church or being a christian is only what conservatives do, than what does that make me? Or my friends? What about non-American friends who have no political affiliation?

When living abroad I worked with a non-profit organization that had a specific mission of ministering to and serving women who had been trafficked or sold into prostitution. Visiting the brothel district, living in a shelter with the girls, spending time with them was looked at here in the US by my fellow church going friends as praiseworthy. One evening at church someone said, “oh my gosh, you are so brave” and I stopped. I’m not brave. That was easy. Because it wasn’t in America. Think about it, if I were to start visiting brothels or live with women who were former prostitutes or spend large amounts of my time with them many church goers would think I had lost my mind. That I had fallen off the deep end. That is what I said in response and I said it with a lot of passion and frustration. While my tone now is much softer, I still feel the same.

Bravery looks like loving and serving and supporting others when everyone else thinks you are crazy (see: Jesus and the Samaritan woman). Bravery looks like breaking cultural norms to show love and kindness (see: Mary pouring out expensive oil on Jesus’s feet – that oil was worth a year’s worth of salary mind you). Bravery looks like so much of what we have lost. It takes courage and bravery to love like Jesus loved. In James 2:1-13 it talks about the sin of partiality. It is easy to love those who love you, but what about the ones who don’t? It is easy to love those your friends love, but what about loving those who no one else around you wants to love?

Again, I ask, are you watching? Do you hear what is happening? Have you noticed that everything seems to have shifted?

When we look at political parties and name call and shame we are putting down our friends, family, and those who need to see Jesus. We aren’t looking much like Jesus when we are calling someone an idiot or using racial slurs or using mental disabilities as an insult. As a Christian, I believe that God made us all. We are different races, ethnicities, backgrounds. We are from different geographical locations and we have different opinions. He designed us to be different because differences create better community. We were made to live in community. We can’t live in community if we can’t trust that the person next to us is about to call us a name based on our political preference or change their opinion of us because of our skin color.

(Political) party lines should not define where we begin and end. (Political) party lines should not define how our families treat us or how we speak to one another. Political parties, like all groups of people, are made up of individuals. Not all people in one party support one thing. Not all people in one church interpret scripture the same exact way. We were not designed to do that. God created us to have different gifts and talents. He made our brains work differently, but they all work. He made our bodies look different, but we have bodies. He made our personalities different…

Our activities should be defined as one party or the other (I mean, unless you are going to party specific events). Going to church or participating in religious activities isn’t about a political party (or it shouldn’t be anyway). It should be about Jesus. We desperately need to shift our focus off of political parties.

It is easy for us to hide behind our computer screens and type mean things on social media, but it seems we have forgotten that interacting with each other is hindered by these very same posts.

Being brave doesn’t mean writing something “strongly worded” on social media claiming that “only idiots would do that” or “Christians could never do this”. I am not everyone. You are not everyone. Losing sight of grace, or kindness, or humanity isn’t going to do anything for us. Being brave is loving others. Being brave is being patient and kind. Being brave is having faith. These are also four of the fruits of the spirit (the others being joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, and self-control). Being brave is living like Jesus. When He encountered those who were clearly not following Him, He didn’t stand on top of buildings shouting how everyone was an idiot and they “need to get they lives right” (what I hear when I read a lot of posts on social media). Rather, He walked through life with them, He healed them of their ailments, He dined with them.

Jesus was brave and courageous. He loved well. He served well. We should do the same. Modeling that doesn’t match what is happening around us. Be a safe haven for your friends. A place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Your words (and social media comments) are much louder than you think. If a picture is a thousand words, what does that say about the thousands of words you say and write?

I’m not brave. Not yet anyway. But I’m praying, learning, working, reading, and trying.

When Did We Become Ok With Being The Pharisees?

In recent days we have all seen and heard that Target has made a choice to allow those who identify as Transgender to use the restroom of the gender they most identify with. As a Christian I understand and identify with the biblical view of the argument. I do not, however, identify with the hatred or anger that I’ve grown to see among so many professing Christians (and non-Christians alike).

You are probably wondering what this has to do with the Pharisees and why I am choosing to write about this. So let’s explore the Pharisees for a moment.

As we read through the New Testament we see that the Pharisees often did and said things that were religious, but often were out of hate so they could continue ruling and living in their own way. As Jesus enters the scene of scripture, we see something vastly different. We see a man that chooses to love those who have made choices that the religious elite disagree with, that Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit disagree with. Yet, Jesus won these over not through hate or brash remarks. No. He won them over in love.

In the past I have seen, and said something almost identical to that above: “Jesus wins because of love” and I’ve been told that it is more complicated than that. So I ask, is anger or hate – or hate crimes as I have seen professing Christians threaten on social media – an acceptable response to this issue? Based on scripture, no it is not.

Yesterday as I spent time reading the Word I read:

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be friends with the world makes himself an enemy of God”
(James 4:4).

Two things happened immediately after I read this verse. The first, was conviction. I was convicted by my lack of seeking God on this matter. I began asking Him what a biblical response to all of this would look like. The second, was realizing that hate and anger are equivocal to friendship with the world (just as much as complete and total acceptance of the issue).

The answer I feel like I received is not going to be one you may like (especially if you are currently in the boycott group). I feel like He kept bringing me back to the same thought over and over: “remember those I loved. Have I not loved you in you? Think of those I chose to love when others hated.” The other big thought He kept bringing me back to was, “you cannot choose who I adopt.”

I went back to scripture on the prodigal son, the woman at the well, the many who were demon possessed and healed … I kept going back to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “love does no wrong* to a neighbor; therefore love is fulfilling the law” (Romans 13:10). I kept thinking of the way Jesus chose to love and even went out of His way to encounter and love those that did not fit the Jewish mold. The story of the good samaritan was a story on loving others that are outside our culture and in need. Jesus went out of His way to speak to the samaritan woman at the well. This was counter cultural for Jewish people at the time. It was looked down upon and risque even.

The way Jesus loved is part of what angered the pharisees. As I watch the hate flood through Facebook I’ve decided not to be part of that. I’ve asked God for His guidance and the more of that I ask for, the more compassion I feel for a new culture of people. A culture that professing Christians are refusing to love. A culture professing Christians are literally saying they would beat people up and following it up with “it’s not hate, it’s respect.”

A dear friend of mine a few years ago said something so profound, and I’m not sure he or I realized its depth at the time. He said, “we’ve grown up being told we can do or be anything we have put our minds to. It is the American way. We’ve never had to wonder if we could get married if we could love someone. We’ve always been taught we can do both.” As a nation we have been taught we can do anything we want. We are Americans. There is no doubt that you can be pulled out of poverty. No doubt that you can own your own business, go to college, have as many children as you want, etc.

Yet there are now groups of individuals being told they cannot and will not receive service in certain businesses (particularly small businesses) under the guise of “rights”. There are a groups of indidviduals that are being publically told they will be beaten up for using bathrooms in public places under the guise of “protection and safety”.

When Jesus approached a group of men wielding rocks and large stones and looked through the crowd He saw a man and a woman accused of adultery. His response was not “right on, stone them for their sin”. No. NO. His response was “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

Jesus’ ministry focuses on the individual, not the group. Yet somewhere along the way we have missed that. We look at a group of individuals and say “HOW COULD YOU?” but we forget that group is made up of individual people. We forget we are part of a group of individuals. We forget that the group we are attempting to cast stones at can see our faces. They know we profess Jesus. This is why they do not want to be Christian, because Christian looks like nothing more than hate to them.

When we stop hating and we start loving, when we stop trying to cast stones at every person that doesn’t look like us or talk like us or think like us and we start looking at how to love them… when we do that, that is when we will see the world change. That is when we will see a break through. That is when we will realize God adopted us to be His sons and daughters; not the other way around.

When we are adopted we do not get to chose who else gets adopted. To professing Christians I ask, if there were transgender people in your church or if there were anyone from the LGBTQA community in your church would you love them? Would you welcome them? Would  you treat them with the same amount of respect and kindness as you anyone else? Does God’s word not address this very thing?

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9)

If less people were yelling and threatening and more people were pouring the love of Christ into the LGBTQA community, would there not be a drastic change in our society? Would there not be a drastic change in the way Christianity was viewed?

I pray for you, Christian reading this who is angry with me at my comments, for your blood to stop boiling and the Father to bring you back to His word.

I pray for you, Christian reading this who is struggling with how to respond to recent matters, to seek God’s word and ask for His guidance. For God to take you deep into His word and reveal His truth and His love and push you to do the same for others.

Finally for you, LGBTQA community member I pray for healing on your heart. That the hatred and anger that has been shown to you be restored by the only one who can do that, Jesus. That He open your heart to Christians who love like Jesus and live like Jesus and show you the hope that abides in Him.

When we love like Jesus and live like Jesus, the whole world will change. But until then, we will see nothing but hate and anger…

* emphasis added by
** all links attached to verses are the entire chapter to maintain context of scripture

Lovely

Yes, this is a post about Valentine’s Day, on the day before Valentine’s Day …   Scrolling through my newsfeed, twitter-feed, blog reel (and every other form of social media that could possibly exist) this morning I realized everyone was … Continue reading

Phasing as Often as the Moon

One thing about living in a new place, I get to make new friends. I love making new friends. I love loving people.

One of these new friends and her sister came over one evening. She is recently back from India, where she had spent the last year. We were praying for each other and she said, “I don’t want to try and make my life here mimic my life in India”. I knew exactly what she meant. As I looked around my house I realized I had almost attempted to make the set up similar to that of my apartment in China.

Living my life from China (or India or anywhere else anyone has been) is not really the point of coming back. The Father had me , and my friend as well, return from abroad. My life here is not to look like my life in China. There are some good things that have been incorporated into my personality that I have brought back with me. But trying to live my China life in Arkansas is not really practical. The Father didn’t bring me to China 2.0.

There are life lessons that I learned from being there, but there are some lessons to be learned living here as well, whether in class or spending time in the Word or otherwise. My life here looks different than my life there, and that is a good thing.

My life here now includes 40 hours of work a week and 9 hours of class plus lots of extra study/reading for class. It includes new friends, a new city, and new roommates. It includes candy (other than Snickers and Dove chocolate) and much easier baking. It includes pizza (!!!!!!!). It includes a class in non-profit management and learning what it means to be an administrator. It includes international students.

The moon has phases. The seasons have phases. The world around us has phases. We have our own phases. I feel as though my life has phases that circulate about as often as the moon; but I can’t say I’m mad about that. It keeps life interesting.

Bring on this phase, and the pumpkin spice lattes!