The Unpopular S-Word

This post is not for perfect people or those unwilling to get real.

I’m always grateful when the Lord gives me an object lesson to share with you guys. If you saw my story this morning, then you know I had a confrontation with a nasty little critter, a roach, that I had to chase down and kill and dispose of on my own. And it got me thinking about sin. (And I’m using this photo because I figured it’s a little better than a photo of a roach, and also, because sin is black-and-white, serious business).

Sin is an unpopular word today. Non-Christians don’t want to acknowledge it because they don’t believe many things are really “wrong” but a matter of perspective, human nature, or the fault of others. Christians don’t like to talk about it or face it in themselves because it forces them to confront that they still battle it. It makes them vulnerable and reveals how, even with salvation, they fall short of perfection.

Much like the roach that surfaced in my hallway this morning, sin is insidious. It lurks in the darkness and festers where ugly things grow. It’s always around, looking for an opportunity and space where there is no protection or guard to invade your life, catching you by surprise, threatening to spread its disease in your home, life and relationships.

The good news is here, and it really is black-and-white: that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), that He has provided a way of escape for us to stand up to temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), that if we confess and turn from our sin He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), and that we are no longer burdened under a yoke of slavery to sin (Galatians 5:1), but are set free in victory.

What this means for you and me is that all the struggles in emotions and relationships that drag us into dispair, that make us feel guilty, that threaten to swallow us—have no true power over us. When I recognize sin in myself, it makes me angry, it repulses me. I can’t ignore or deny it, because it doesn’t belong in my life and doesn’t represent who I now am. Instead, I call it what it is and reach for the weapons that God has given me to fight it (Ephesians 6:10-18). I can’t give in to it and let it bring disaster and decay upon my life, because God has promised me abundant life (John 10:10), so I have to face and fight it, even if I don’t want to, and do what’s necessary to remove it.

But whereas this morning there was no one home but me to chase down, kill, and dispose of the roach, when it comes to sin, I have a Helper. I have someone I can ALWAYS call to fight it for me, because I have to recognize when some enemies are too big for me to battle alone. He never laughs or belittles me when I have to run from the room in disgust. He never shakes His head and rolls His eyes when I come to Him groveling and in shameful tears. And even when I come to Him with a blind and haughty spirit, He lovingly changes my mind, my heart, breaks down my self-worshipping pride and shows me how much I need Him.

So for those who have made it this far—my hope for you is this: recognize the little creatures that attempt to infiltrate your spirit. Be on guard against “roaches” that fit through the cracks in your heart and try to turn it from Jesus, to harden it to His voice. Listen for the “roaches” that creep across your mind and make you doubt His word and His promises (2 Corinthians 7:1). He has fitted you with the power to chase them down and rid them from your life.

Far From Suburbia: What I Learned in Two Hours in the Slums of San Francisco

I was uncomfortable to say the least.  From the moment my Uber pulled over and I stepped out of its pristine cleanliness onto the wet and trash littered sidewalk in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, I felt my guard go up.  My shoulders tensed and my head swung left to right as I looked for number 232 Jones Street.  The storefronts lined the sidewalk without a break, many of them plastered with posters, decorated with graffiti or marred by cracked glass and rust stains.  Somber faced people passed on either side of the road without making eye contact with me, but somehow I knew they still saw me.  The drone of traffic was occasionally broken up by people 20 feet away from each other shouting jokes, a woman babbling nonsense to herself as she pushed an overloaded shopping cart.

I stuck out like a sore thumb–clutching my purse, wearing clean Nike sneakers, eyes wide and afraid.  This was not my suburban North Carolina sidewalk.  I walked up it a few feet, counting the numbers before deciding that I’d gone too far and then turned around and retraced my steps.  It was nestled in among buildings I’d just passed, and seeing the sign on the door, I breathed in relief:

San Francisco City Impact Mission

Opening the door I was greeted by a smiling young woman who invited me to sit while I waited for someone named Andrea, who had been emailing with me the week before and had given me instructions for meeting her at the City Impact office.  When she emerged and introduced herself, she apologized as she confessed that she’d forgotten who I was and what I was doing there.  I chuckled and repeated what I’d told her over email.  My husband was in San Francisco for a work conference.  I’d tagged along on his trip as a little vacation.  I’d never been to San Francisco before and the trip was mostly pleasure, but I liked to take a little bit of time serving in a local mission as a way of getting to know the city and not spending my entire vacation solely focused on pleasing myself.  Despite my altruistic explanation, there was a slight swell of pride in my chest as I spoke.  I thought of the old Friends’ episode where Joey tells Phoebe that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed and she sets out to prove him wrong.

Recognition came to her face as I explained my presence and she started nodding.

“Oh THAT’S right!  I’m sorry I just totally blanked about why you were here because you didn’t come through our regular volunteer pipeline.  I do apologize.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

“We’re so glad to have your help though.  Thanks for coming down.  I’ll take you over and introduce you to Randy and he’ll get you settled.”

Randy is a diminuitive man orginially from the Phillipines, a former youth pastor who was now dividing his time between overseeing operations at City Impact and setting up events at the Moscone Center, San Francisco’s convention center.  He took my hand and gave it a firm shake, smiling warmly when Andrea introduced us.

“Great!  Thanks so much for being here.  Come on in and I’ll show you what we’re doing.”

As Andrea said goodbye and turned to go back to the office, I followed Randy inside the meal hall.  It’s a basic cafeteria-style room–tile floor, white walls, folding tables and chairs set up the length of the room, about enough to accomodate a maximum of 50 people.  All the chairs were arranged to face the small stage at the far end of the room, where a simple podium stood in front of a cross mounted on a backdrop of shiplap.

The air inside the hall was warm, close and musty.  I wasn’t sure if the smell came from the bedraggled people already lingering in the room or the crates and boxes of donated produce that were stacked up just inside the door–perhaps it was both.

Several eyes followed me as I followed Randy, who was walking quickly and greeting people just as quickly.  He took me back to the small kitchen behind the main part of the hall.

“So I’m a little disorganized today.” he chuckled amicably.  “Cara who usually runs our meal service isn’t here, and I don’t really know what I’m doing.  But we’re gonna figure it out.”

He introduced me to an older Asian man named Yomo who didn’t speak any English, but who was so accustomed to the flow of the meal services that he didn’t really need to talk or understand what you were saying.  The entire time I was there he rotated from one task to another, filling plates, washing pans, and wiping tables.  I quickly learned that he  was one of those invaluable, behind-the-scenes people who is often unnoticed, but without whom the entire process would crumble.

Randy continued to describe his plan for the meal.

“Since it’s raining today I asked them to make some soup in the kitchen.  That’s a treat, we don’t normally have soup.  We’ll walk over there now and see what else they have.”

I wondered if I looked as awkward as I felt: my small purse clutched tightly against my side, my Columbia rain slicker zipped up to my throat and my wedding ring turned to the inside of my hand so that my diamond wouldn’t be obvious to people who may see me as a mark.  I mentally kicked myself for not leaving my ring back at the AirBnB.

“Is there a place I should put my stuff?” I asked Randy, hoping for a locker of some kind, or a drawer in the internal office that I could see through the window.

“Uh, yeah, you can just stash it in here.”  He gestured to a stainless steel cupboard full of dishes and pots and pans and aluminum tins.  “Alright, let’s go visit the kitchen.  I’m supposed to have more people helping serve here today but I think a lot of them are running behind with the rain…hopefully it won’t just be us!” The smile had never left his face, but he chuckled nervously.

I only considered putting my purse in the cupboard for a moment, but quickly decided against it, afraid that one of the rough-looking men staring into space in the cafeteria would wander into the room and discover it and take my phone and credit cards.

On the way out, an African-American man named Russ (who unfortunately bore a resemblance to Bill Cosby) stopped to talk to Randy, and when Randy introduced me and said that I was there to volunteer, Russ’s eyes went wide and his arm swung open in the direction of the office.

“Well, I’ve glot plenty for her to do!  Follow me young lady.  I’ll put…”

“Um,” I chuckled nervously. “I’m actually here to help Randy with the meal.”

“Yeah, sorry Russ,” Randy said. “She signed up to do the service.”

“Oh! I’m sorry!  I didn’t realize that.  I shouldn’t have assumed.” Russ apologized.

Randy waved him off.  “It’s okay.  We’ve gotta get over to the kitchen.”

As Randy and I went outside and walked around the corner to the kitchen, he asked me where I was from and how I’d found out about City Impact.  In turn, I asked him a couple of questions just to find out a little more about him, but I was distracted by the people on the street–either shuffling along and staring at the ground as though every step was a movement of great effort, or aggressively striding down the sidewalk with a pace that indicated you should not try to stop them or speak to them.  Expletives were flying through the air, horns were blaring incessantly, steam was hissing up from the ground, the occasional used needle littered the sidewalk, but Randy continued smiling and chatting with the ease of someone who had become accustomed to the noise and subliminal intensity that set all my nerve endings on edge.

The kitchen was full of hot food, with not a soul in sight.  It was almost as if it had been prepared by ghosts.  There were at least six huge pans of penne pasta; two vats of an indistinguishable brothy soup (which we later mixed with the pasta); ovens containing four whole baked chickens; two pans of corn-dogs; two enormous plastic bins of salad; one filled to the brim with sliced oranges and another with slices of baguettes; and three metal pans containing what we assumed was meatloaf, which we ended up smothering with barbecue sauce.

As if on cue, a couple of teenage boys showed up and loaded all the food onto a cart with Randy’s help and wheeled it back over to the room we’d just left, which I now realized wasn’t really a kitchen after all, but more of the assembly station.  Randy quickly filled a styrofoam container, showing us how he’d like the food to be presented and then left me and Yomo alone to get started.  About five minutes later, a young Latino man walked in, donned an apron, snapped on a pair of latex gloves and, smiling, introduced himself to me as Allan.

I’m ashamed to admit that my first glance at Allan produced a combination of fear and judgment.  He was dressed in all black, his pants hanging low on his hips, and he walked with a cocky swagger that didn’t fit his childlike, crinkly-eyed smile.  His hair was closely shaved and the sleeves of his baggy black hoodie were pushed up to reveal tattoos that covered his muscular forearms.  I just knew, that in my regular life in my upper middle-class, mostly white neighborhood, if I was ever alone on a street at night and saw Allan approaching me, I’d assume he was trouble and would cross the street to get away from him or look for storefront to duck into until he’d passed.

As these shameful thoughts came to my mind, I intentionally pushed them aside and started asking Allan questions about how he became involved with City Impact, because the fact that he was beside me, already scooping out the mystery meatloaf onto the plates I was passing him and neatly arranging them on a cart without a word of instruction or a glimpse of hesitation, spoke volumes to me about the heart under the intimidating exterior.

“I drive the truck, pick up donations.  And this part of the job is just a kick-back,” he said, still grinning and looking directly into my eyes.  I found myself grinning back–it was impossible not to.

“A kick back?  What do you mean?”

“I get to see these people smile, just because they’re getting a warm meal.  It makes my day.”  It would’ve sounded cliche, fake, except that it came from someone who looked, on the outside, like they wouldn’t care about such simple, yet essential things.  I liked him so much in that moment–he reminded me of my brother, and I would’ve hugged him if I had known him for longer than five minutes, and if I’d known that he’d have let me.

Soon the room was full of helpers: the same lanky teenage boys who had brought the food over from the kitchen, me, Yomo and Allan, and then an Asian woman in her 40s named Jen, who seemed to take on a leadership role once she arrived.  The two teenagers cut up and joked with Allan while our assembly line passed Styrofoam trays, but their joking around never led to idleness.  They were funny and happy and never once seemed to begrudge their time being spent in a soup kitchen.  At one point, I heard one of them tease Allan about prison, and he calmly but firmly said:

“Man I’m never going back there.”

It was then I wondered whether this young man had to have had an experience with God, whether through Randy, someone else at City Impact, or maybe no one connected there at all, that had changed the course of his life.  And he was here out of gratitude.

IMG_1696

Someone turned on some praise music, and as the cart filled up with trays and the talking ceased, I focused on the words to a popular song, “Build My Life”by Housefires:

“Holy, there is no one like you, there is none beside you, open up my eyes in wonder.  Show me who you are and fill me with your heart and lead me in your love to those around me.”

This chorus was one I had just heard for the first time when attending worship with my parents the Sunday before flying to San Francisco.  It was meaningful while standing and singing it, but it was so much more powerful as it rang in my ears in this tiny makeshift kitchen in the slums of San Francisco, working side by side with people I would normally never encounter–people outside my age group, outside my socioeconomic category, outside my preference.  We were there not to be seen, not to be noticed, praised, graded, or critiqued.  We were there because we’d been led by the Father, in love, to serve those around us, regardless of the legitimacy or caliber of their stories.  And it also explained to me how things just seemed to happen in this place without discussion and even when my first impression was that things were completely disorganized: God was so active here, His love so palpable, that people joined in where they were needed without complaint or rush, because they just wanted to be His hands and feet.

Randy spoke to the crowd of wet men and women, about 30 of them, and he brought them a message of hope, of challenge.  His diminutive frame seemed to grow larger as he filled the musty air with fragrant truth.  He reminded them that Jesus is able to change their hearts, their desires, to reflect His own heart and then use them for His glorious purposes.  His angle surprised me, because on an average day I would’ve looked at these people as beyond hope, as expendable, as weak.

Their faces lit up as we brought them food.

“Thank you.” “Please.” “Where are you from?” “I used to live in North Carolina–Winston-Salem, do you know it?” “What brought you to San Francisco?”

My own eyes were opened in wonder in those two hours in the Tenderloins.  I marveled, and inwardly praised God, for these reminders and the urging to come to City Impact, so that I could see again how wrong I was and how easily my assumptions block the pipeline for Christ’s life-changing love.  For these people, so easily ignored and looked down upon by the rest of the world because they outwardly wear their struggles, simply reflect what so many of us are like on the inside: broken, tired, slogging through life, hostile, dirty, hungry.  And City Impact was a place where all of these similarities were laid bare.

IMG_1699

The meal wrapped up and the people left quickly, arms full of to-go boxes, heads nodding in thanks.  A couple of them stopped to say a word to Randy or Russ, but most just walked out the door without looking back.  I guess there wasn’t much to say when this place was so familiar to them, such a regular stop in their days.

I helped wipe some tables and then stood up and looked around the room, understanding that my job was finished.  I went back to the mini-kitchen and tossed my rag in the sink and grabbed my belongings out of the cupboard, which, halfway through the meal I’d decided was actually the best place for my purse and jacket after I’d tried to dish out pasta with my purse constantly swinging forward into my arm.  I went back through the cafeteria toward the door and was grabbed by Russ, who apologized profusely for assuming I was there to help him. I assured him it was fine, that I wasn’t offended.

“Thank you Jesus!” He breathed, wiping his brow dramatically.  He then sat down on the edge of the stage and started to give me his testimony, telling me how he became a part of City Impact, and about the biggest roadblocks and problems the mission was experiencing.  Something he kept saying over and over again was,

“It’s bad out here.  People are hurting!”

He asked me to pray for him.  I felt so unworthy to pray for a person, for people, for a movement that was investing in the details of the most difficult environment in San Francisco.  Knowing that they would be back there tomorrow pouring themselves out, and that I would never look back and would eventually get on my airplane and go back to my comfortable furniture; my needle-free, swept sidewalk; my suburban life with an expanse of green grass, put a lump in my throat and I had to fight the shame, the thought that Russ didn’t really need my prayer.

But I prayed anyway.  It was uncomfortable at first, but as he squeezed my hand and agreed with me in prayer, “Mmm-hmm.  Yes Lord, yes Jesus,” my wall crumbled yet again and tears started to well up in my closed eyes, because I felt as though I was praying for a brother.  I knew that I’d made a friend, one only God could’ve brought into my life.

Russ said thank you after I said Amen.  He gave me a quick hug and then jumped off the stage and disappeared.  I shouted goodbye to the rest of the volunteer team, who responded with smiles, waves and a few thank-yous, and then pulled Randy outside for a photo under the City Impact sign.  His smile was still there, even in his eyes, as I walked away and called probably my 20th Uber in San Francisco.

A week or so later I was showing my six-year-old daughter how to pot some pansies for the pedestal on our front porch.  She was eager to help, but she wanted to just pull the pansy out of the plastic container and stick it straight into the pot.  I explained to her that we first had to break the soil that had retained the stiff, rectangular shape of its confined space in the plastic.  She watched as I gently squeezed the soil and freed the delicate roots, turning the rectangle into a mess and then placed the pansy into the waiting bed of soil in the bottom of the large clay pot.

“See honey, this pansy can’t grow anymore if it just stays in the same space.  It needs to have more room to grow, but first we have to break up the soil and expose the roots so that they can grow deeper and stronger, so that the flowers will grow higher and produce more buds.”

I’d like to thank San Francisco City Impact, for being the space that I needed to see, to experience in order that God might break down my comfort and shallow soil, expose the frailty of my roots and give me the nourishment and inspiration that I needed to blossom and grow deeply into His love.

IMG_1701

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Party On–Joy in the Face of Judgment

I have an annual tradition for Mother’s Day that began about five years ago.  Every year, I throw a party for my local mommy-friends.  We gather without husbands and children with no purpose other than to celebrate the one thing that we all have in common—being mothers.  I can always tell that those who are new to the party aren’t sure what to expect because there’s no agenda at all.  I’m not trying to sell Pampered Chef, Norwex or Lula Roe.  I’m not raising money for a charity.  We’re not throwing a baby shower for anyone, and most difficult for these sweet women to wrap their heads around is that I don’t need them to bring anything.  They are so accustomed to helping and serving that showing up to something empty-handed, and then consuming food and drink, seems selfish.

And that’s exactly why I do this.  Moms throw parties for their children.  They bring food to families welcoming newborn babies, struggling with serious illness or recovering from surgeries, or mourning a loss.  They are always so busy working, working working—inside and outside their homes, that they often forget how it feels to enjoy their own brand of fun.

My Mother’s Day parties have varied in their style and size over the years.  One was a fancy brunch, several were evening parties with lots of snacks and wine and a chick-flick about motherhood.  We’ve played funny ice-breaker games at a couple, and at my first one I asked everyone to bring photos of them with their mothers or of them with their children.  But one thing that all my parties have had in common is an interesting blend of women.

My friendship spheres sometimes intersect, but many times they don’t, and what I love about my parties is that they are comprised of women from many different countries: Americans, Brits, South Africans, Canadians, Swiss, Australians, Luxembourgers, Belgians.  They’ve been comprised of women with different religious beliefs: Atheists, Christians and Muslims.  I’ve invited moms I’ve met through church, mom’s groups, the gym, my neighborhood, my children’s’ school, and through some very random connections.  I’ve invited women from different ethnic backgrounds.  And the beauty of this gathering is to see them begin to open up to one another as they laugh and relax, to watch them discover the things that they have in common with each other as they gather as mothers.  In a world where we tend to congregate with those groups of people who are most like us, what I seek to provide in this environment is an opportunity for the Lord to reveal His nature in the surprise that comes when we find a kindred spirit in someone we may never have spoken to otherwise.

But this year, when I decided to go with a Zumba theme for my party, I discovered that Phariseeism is alive and well. I know that my party idea this year was a little unusual, but it’s very frustrating when people assume the worst about something you’re doing simply because they misjudge your intentions.  Because I know that God desires hearts and community, I knew that He could even use my Zumba party to spark conversations about Him, and to build friendships that can lead to testimonies of His goodness.

On the outside looking in, apparently that wasn’t the conclusion for some people.  They questioned the holiness of Zumba-style dancing—even though there were no men around for women to grind on, and no children to influence one way or another.  They questioned the lyrics of the song choices—even though I went over and over the playlist to ensure there were no offensive curse words or extremely suggestive lyrics.  They questioned the fact that I served alcohol—even though almost every gathering in the Bible involved wine because it’s a social beverage, and I barely served enough for my guests to have more than two drinks.

And I don’t know what judging a fellow sister in Christ for throwing a dance party will profit anyone.  Does it make the judge happier to declare the party unholy or inappropriate?  No, it just divides the family of God even more because it pits one person against another over something that’s really a gray area.  I bet if I asked those critical of the party if they really thought that Jesus loves them more because they think my party was a bad idea, they’d honestly say no, so why bother judging?

Would it benefit me to argue with people to try to convince them that my way was right, that my party was okay?  No, because it’s not my job to try to win an argument and allow myself to be distracted by someone’s opinion of me.  And to get wrapped up in defending myself would waste energy that I could be spending loving on people, and it would make me angry instead of filling my heart with compassion for those who are picking my choices apart.

Would it be better for the party not to happen and for none of these women to interact and socialize?  I say no, because God is all about seeking people out and building relationships and opportunities to share the gospel.  So by now, the ladies who came to my soiree and are still reading, have learned that my surface goal was to have fun with my menagerie of friends from my life here in Raleigh, NC, but as usual with me, there was an underlying purpose, which was to serve up just a taste of the goodness and extravagance of the Lord’s love by loving on my friends.  To show them what joy and fellowship and diversity exists in the kingdom and family of God.  And I don’t think that any Pharisee could argue with that.

And you know what?  I suspect that Jesus loved a good party, and maybe even a little dancing.

zumba group

My Month of Dresses

I spent the entire month of December wearing a dress, well, at least publicly.  At the end of 2017, an organization called the Dressember Foundation launched a campaign to raise 2 million dollars of support for victims of human trafficking worldwide.  People were encouraged to advocate for Dressember’s mission as individuals or teams via social media outlets.  Around 80% of victims of sex trafficking are women and girls, and as a victim of rape myself, this subject as been close to my heart for many years.  Whereas my assault was an isolated incident, a crime that was immediately reported, sex trafficking is usually a nightmare that goes on and on for its victims, with no end in sight.  Also, it’s a profitable business across the globe, making it easier to push on the dark web and almost directly under people’s noses.

So, when I found out about Dressember’s mission during the month of December, my interest was piqued.  All I was asked to do as an advocate was wear a dress every day, take photos of myself and post them to social media, and ask people to donate.  That last part was the most intimidating for me because I’m not a natural salesperson, and December is already a heavy spending month for people; I felt a little awkward asking them to stretch their budgets even more.

But several things surprised me about my month of dresses.  Wearing a dress didn’t seem like such a big commitment or statement to me at first, probably because I’m a girly-girl and I like to wear dresses anyway.  But as the first week ended and the second week began, my perspective on my limited wardrobe options changed.

First, I noticed that I was relegated to about four dresses that suited the wintry weather in December in North Carolina, and that got me thinking about women in second and third world countries who may not even have that many dresses for the season.  The fact that I had four warm and fashionable dresses and then went out and easily purchased a skirt to wear with some of my sweaters, just because I could, increased my gratitude.  Second, as I had to decide which dress or skirt was better for that day’s schedule or itinerary—was it grocery shopping, hiking with my family, church or yard-work—I was aware that pants are a recent and western adornment for women, and that for centuries (and even today in certain parts of the world) women performed every task under the sun in a dress.  It’s not comfortable to squat, to lift, or to sweat in a bulky skirt.  This awareness tied my heart to women of all nationalities and races, past and present, and increased my resolve.

Finally, as I posted photos of myself in my dresses (more uncomfortably as the month went along), I learned how little people know about this issue, and how desperately most want to help once they become aware of its scale and power.  Human trafficking, and sex trafficking in particular, is often regarded as something that happens in third world countries.  Americans don’t believe that it’s a problem in their own country.  But as I continued to post my photos with statistics about sex trafficking in the USA, I saw support pour in from women AND men, old friends and recent acquaintances who wanted to help somehow.  I started to see the dress as a symbol not only of femininity and beauty, but of solidarity and strength to overcome.

If I’m being honest, yes, I really missed my jeans.  There were days that month when the last thing I wanted to do was to pull on my tights and shimmy into a dress, but then I thought of all the women and girls who are victims of human trafficking.  How many days have they wished that they could stay in their sweats, or just walk down the street in jeans and comfortable shoes in freedom?  How many times have they been forced to shimmy into a tight miniskirt and step into strappy heels, only to walk down the street as slaves?  The dress-wearing ended for me on December 31 and I began a new year in clothes of my own choosing.  For victims of sex trafficking, 2018 brought no comfortable options.  This year when you choose to wear a dress, I hope that you’ll stop and consider women across the world, across time, and that you’ll be grateful for the freedom your wardrobe represents.

To find out more about how you can donate to or partner with the Dressember Foundation, please visit http://www.dressember.org.

 

 

When Being in Control Controls You

Come with me for a moment and picture this—you’re sitting on the bow of a boat in rough water.  The boat moves steadily toward an approaching wave.  It’s big, and you know when you reach it the boat will tilt upward and slam down hard on the other side of the wave.  It may hurt, it may jolt you from your seat, so your body tenses in anticipation.  You grab onto your towel and the handle beside your seat.  And sure enough, you feel some pain after that wave.  You may come away with some bruises from knocking sideways into the hull.  But here comes another wave, and another, and soon your jaw hurts from clenching your teeth so hard every time the boat crests the water.  So you decide to let go, and when the next wave approaches and the boat rolls over it, you intentionally relax your muscles, loosen your grip, and allow the movement of the boat to pass through you.  The downward dip doesn’t seem as steep, you haven’t lost your place and you find yourself leaning forward, ready for the next wave.

Trying to maintain control of forces and people out of your control is like the above scenario.  Over the last ten years, I’ve been noticing and pondering the differences in people’s reactions when things don’t go their way.  When someone realizes that they have no control there are a myriad of ways they can respond.  Perhaps they’ll be angry and bitter, frightened and immobilized.  They can become withdrawn and uncommunicative.  Or they can step back and take stock of the situation, understand they have something to learn or some plans to adjust, and they can change course and sail on.

What makes the difference for people in how they respond to drastic change or loss of control?  For so much of our lives we are taught to become independent, to set goals and make plans, but I think there’s a flip-side to setting goals that you can only learn through failure.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “there is no effort without error and shortcoming, so that doers shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”  Teddy Roosevelt talks about action, about effort and perseverance.  Truly, it’s a mark of maturity to work, to plan for our futures.  To sit idly by expecting fortune to smile upon us is vain and irresponsible.  There is definitely a time to plan, to rebound and be a “doer.”

But it’s also a mark of maturity for us to be at peace in the midst of adversity and unwanted change.  There is an element of humility and trust that goes along with remaining flexible and teachable.  The book of James speaks about contentment, perseverance, generally a humble and positive perspective toward life, but what I really like is this remark about making plans.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.  All such boasting is evil.” James 4: 13-17

Ouch, that stings a little, doesn’t it?  How many of us have laid out blueprints for our lives only to see the colors smear and run when rain begins to fall?  Yet, these are good precepts to keep in mind.  As far as I know, there is only One who knows exactly how my life will turn out.  And after moving 14 times in my 39 years of life, being a victim of abduction and sexual assault, suffering three miscarriages, watching friendships die, dealing with personal temptation and sin, I can say with certainty that my life has not gone the way I expected.

Yet, I have a wonderful life.  I can only be grateful, and it’s because of my trials, defeats, failures, that I can recognize today’s blessings.  It’s because I have tasted humility and sorrow and heartache that I can have compassion, acceptance, and empathy for others when they are tempted to withdraw or lash out because their lives take a dip.  If I had never experienced these dips in life, I wouldn’t see when I’ve crested the waves.  And because I have gratitude, I have perseverance, because I know there’s always hope.  This gives me the courage to not remain defeated.

A recognition of my lack of complete control also prevents me from giving full reign to judgment.  Because of my past struggles, I know that at any moment, everything that I hold dear could be taken from me or I could make a mistake that would cost me peace and stability.  This last year I’ve seen good friends suddenly lose loved ones.  I’ve talked to people whose lives have changed drastically in mere hours due to hurricanes, health diagnoses, marital bombshells, and more.  And as I get older, these things seem to happen more frequently.

When days and weeks and months of comfort go by, I count my blessings.  I know that they come as a gift from my good Father.  But I must confess that I am tempted to soak in that comfort and look down my nose at others who are struggling and wonder what they could have done to earn these difficulties It’s tempting to judge people, to sit back and analyze and smugly prescribe a solution for someone’s problem.  My compassion weakens.  My humility suffers.  And I don’t like myself that way because it means that I’m starting to worship my blessings more than the One who blessed me.  I forget that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1: 17).

I have a trick for bringing myself back to earth when I tend to mentally boast in how “together” I am.  To me, the ultimate test for how I’d handle utter lack of control, human dependence and find out for sure how much I depend upon the Lord would be if I suddenly lost my husband.  There have been nights when he’s been late getting home from a business trip and I’ve wondered: is he okay?  Is he alive?  And then that gets me thinking, what if he doesn’t come home tonight?  So, every once in a while, I’ll allow myself to ask the “what if” questions.  What would I do, how would I respond if I no longer had Bryan?  How would I live if my bread-winner was gone?  Would I trust in the Lord for my daily bread?  How would I sleep at night and feel comforted if my lover wasn’t in bed beside me, holding me?  Would I cling to my Comforter and the Lover of my soul?  Would I remember that no matter how quickly my life changes, my Father does not change?

It’s these “what-if” questions in life’s comfortable moments that turn into living, breathing “what now” questions in life’s terrible moments.  Because the fact is, as much as we like to pretend that we do, we don’t have absolute control over our lives.  And living under the pretense that we do makes us self-focused, fearful, judgmental people.  We grip so tightly to whatever is in our reach, whether that’s diet control, health control, emotional control, child control, spouse control, calendar control, to the point that we bring ourselves more pain, more fear, more reluctance to let go and ride the wave.

Life is an unpredictable sea rich with depths and storms and doldrums and peaceful currents.  At times we will cruise comfortably, but rough waters are always a possibility.  Then we will get jostled.  Things around us will roll and tumble and fall.  We can fight the wave and come away bruised and weakened, dreading what comes next.  Or, we can loosen our grip and trust the boat to carry us over the swells to smoother waters once again.  Either way, we will reach them, but our approach to the next swells will largely depend upon our posture in the past, and who we trust more, ourselves or the boat.

I trust the boat every time because it has an Anchor, a Life Preserver, and a Captain.  Only He is fully equipped to guide me safely across the sea.

What Entertains Us? Thoughts on Weinstein and Pornography.

Yes. Me too.  I was abducted at gun point, robbed and sexually assaulted when I was 21.  I can assure you that being assaulted changes your life in a heartbeat.  Those are the testimonies that we’re hearing from these women who were bullied and assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.  Listening to the now infamous audio tape, it seems that he liked scaring them, wielding his power in the business over them, threatening their future.  And many of them walked away from “the industry” at that point.  They realized that they couldn’t participate in a game where their success depended on their willingness to surrender their morals.  As Weinstein said in the audio, “everybody does it.”

And apparently everyone knew about it.  From the jokes about Weinstein on shows like 30 Rock, to jabs at award shows, it truly seems as though this behavior had been happening for quite some time.  As one person was quoted as saying, “it was the most open secret in Hollywood.”  Yet the Weinstein Company and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are just now expelling Weinstein to distance themselves from his soiled reputation.

This tells me one thing, and I think we need to be reminded of this:  Hollywood, powerful people, entertainers—they did not care about those women or their futures or they would have stepped in long ago.  And guess what?  They don’t care about you, or me, or our kids.  They care about us insofar as we pay their bills, and that’s all.

So what can we do to stop sexual assault and harassment from happening in America alone?  I believe that sin and selfishness are going to drive this sort of mistreatment until the end of time, but there is one thing that I do believe could help in stopping the endless flow of damaging sexual images, ideals, and practices into our own homes and minds.

If people really want to see a better future, I think we need to start asking ourselves some tough questions: Although we may tell our children how to treat others, how to respect them, give them space, are we following that up with what we allow to pass from our eyes or ears to our brains as “entertainment?” Weinstein is a movie producer after all–how did he get so powerful? His very pockets were lined by us! He has produced some 80 films, and many of them are blockbusters.

What we pass off as entertainment is damaging business and relationships and teaching our children harmful messages about intimacy.  What music, TV shows, and films are we hooked on which promote casual, dangerous, selfish physical indulgence? It has been proven that pornography rewires the brain and viewing it releases dopamine which satisfies that “seeker” habit, however, after a while just watching isn’t enough, and the viewer must act out their fantasies. I wonder if this is what happened to Weinstein? And did you know that the pornography industry made $4 billion last year alone? That is symptomatic of a serious problem because it reveals a “need” that is feeding this business, and also because real people don’t respond to sexual advances the same way that actors do.  It is not “normal” for people to watch porn–it’s destructive, plain and simple, and I don’t know a single man who has had a problem with pornography and is recovering from it who has ever been proud that he was exposed to it.

Here’s something pretty pornographic (and I apologize in advance but I felt this was important).  A billboard hit about three summers ago contained these lines:

“You’re the hottest bitch in this place…”

“I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.”

The song?  Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke and Pharrell.  And it was featured on Jimmy Kimmel, The Voice, So You Can Think You Can Dance, played over the radio all summer (we heard it over and over again while living in Luxembourg), and who knows what other TV shows.  Teens were listening to this for months and months.  They were being taught, through music, that it’s appropriate for men to tease women in this way.

I was going to post a photo of Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus when they performed the song together on MTV in 2013, but it was just too gross.  Perhaps the most disturbing part of those images is while Miley is twerking all over Robin Thicke, young fans are reaching up worshipfully, in complete support of the perverse mess happening right in front of them.  It’s no wonder Thicke’s wife Paula Patton divorced him after that.

Mainstream TV and movies, Netflix and Amazon originals are not much better. What people defend as artistic license appeals to the most carnal instincts in a person and is inherently damaging. When our children are little we want them watching educational television that will stimulate their brains, but as adults we entertain ourselves with tawdry trash that feeds perversion in people like Harvey Weinstein.  I’m not blaming the public for his indiscretions. He of course is responsible for his actions, but I can’t help but think that the growing obsession with sex and self-gratification and lack of accountability in this country largely contributes to the twisted reasoning of people like Weinstein, and helped keep his secret quiet for a long time.

I think that it’s time we back up our words with our choices.  This may require us to give up our favorite shows, to walk out of movie theaters or be a little less cool.  So be it.  Let’s stop lining Hollywood’s pockets when they don’t care enough about us to stop abuse.

I’d like to leave you with a picture of a man who did care.  He was a champion for a woman who was being harassed and whose very life was being threatened.  She had exercised poor judgment and cheated on her husband.  A group of powerful men laid most of the blame on her and we have no mention of whether her lover was tried at all.  But they dragged her into the street and prepared to throw rocks at her until she died.  That’s when Jesus stepped in front of her and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” (John 8:7).  The crowd, in its shame, dispersed, and the woman presumably learned from her own mistakes and walked away unscathed, her future ahead of her.  So I don’t want to wholesale lay the blame on men and patriarchy.  There are great men who follow Christ’s example in their fair and noble treatment of women.

In contemplating people’s indiscretions and sins, I think we should mourn the pain and loss that one miserable person caused, but we should also pray for them and search our own hearts, ask the Lord to reveal how we can contribute to change.  It will take humility and grace to heal what has been broken.

Hope for Today

Is it just me or are there more causes and criticisms than ever before?  Oh, how I wish for simpler times.  When there wasn’t such a need for instant information, when there weren’t ever-changing windows into others’ lives, when we weren’t voyeurs watching for something better than what is right in front of us.  (When the temptation wasn’t so great to do all of the above).

Is it any wonder that children are happier and more content than adults?  Is it any wonder that once young people are handed a smart phone they tend to become more rebellious, meaner, and depressed?

People poise ready to attack–anticipating being criticized and judged.  People compete for attention and fame.  People elevate their causes and their rights above compassion and empathy.

We don’t concern ourselves any longer with how our actions and words affect others.  We shock intentionally, and more and more, just to get attention.  Nothing is ever good enough for us.  No ONE is ever good enough for us.  We dismiss and discount and insult without a second thought whenever someone dares to disagree with us.  This imperfect world will never satisfy–no matter how many times we protest, march, complain, fight, debate.  And if we do win a court battle, if we do see legislation change, it will only pacify our greed for a little while, before we find another perceived weak spot that we feel needs to change so that our lives can be “fair” or “better.”

Whatever happened to contentment?  The notion that things aren’t perfect but that it’s okay because that gives us the desire and opportunity to help, to contribute, to work instead of take.  Not everything is supposed to be given to us—that makes us lazy and selfish.  Instead of giving up on each other in friendships, marriage, government, communities—we’re supposed to give grace.

We elevate ideals above people.  We obsess over problems.  We go straight for huge issues that have already polarized a nation, instead of building bridges in our own communities—one relationship at a time.  We yearn for change that may or may not prove to be healthy instead of acknowledging the goodness that exists here and now.

I want my kids to enjoy and appreciate this life.  I want them to look back and say that their childhood wasn’t perfect, but it was good.  I want to see them content in the life they are living now.  I want them to be grateful to God.  I want them to see other people as fellows and contributors to their current joy, not as battles to fight, causes to push or stepping stones to nebulous dream.

I want to look my friends in their eyes, hear their voices and remember their hearts.  I want to remember that behind each typed word is a deeply considered thought and a memory, an experience.  I want to listen to what they say, to pray about it and let the Lord work out the truth.   I want to try to understand.  I really want to try.

Yet, there is hope in this jar of clay.

One day I will be no more.  Maybe my words will live on (this is one of my personal dreams), but they may not.  But I do believe that I will leave a legacy, and above all I want it to be one of faith, hope and love.  Tests will come and go that will shake my faith, but if it fails and disappears like a vapor, it was never faith.  Jesus has proved Himself to be true and trustworthy, and although I am occasionally untrusting, I can always hope to see His hand move.  I can always hope that one by one, lives will be changed and hearts will be changed when people know Him as Savior.  I can hope that as people go from sin to righteousness, from despair to joy, from idolizing themselves to worshiping Jesus, that the world will be different.  Love has been minimized to simply a feeling and an acceptance of everyone and everything, when in its purest form, it means sacrifice and elevating others’ needs above your own.  This self-sacrificing, submissive and encouraging love is one that the world at large does not know.

The joy of Jesus is not a promise of ease.  Christians are not meant to bury their heads in the sand and pretend like all is okay, like the world doesn’t have problems, that there isn’t true injustice.  But we are meant to identify FIRST with Him and His glory.  We are not meant to hold our personal banners and causes, our races and genders and occupations and educations above Him.  All those things are subject to Him.  All those things are meant to point to Him, to celebrate His kingdom and glory and His perfect love.  We are meant to hold our banners up to Him and see that He is still higher.  We are meant to walk through our struggles with Him leading the way.

Oh, that I could love and hope like Jesus.  That is my deep dream.

Godliness Over Girl-Power: Setting Priorities of Identity

Last night I went to see Wonder Woman with a girl-friend.  To be honest, I’m not really into superhero movies, and especially not ones with a female lead because they are usually even more far-fetched than superhero films with male leads.  But I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  Yes, Wonder Woman was strong, and fast, and GORGEOUS–deflecting bullets with her wrist-guards, leaping hundreds of feet in the air and flattening villains with her supernatural power.  But there were things she was NOT, which are worth mentioning.  She was not selfish.  She was not vengeful.  She was not easily discouraged or offended.  She was not a man-hater.  She was not prideful.

It was intentional for the story of Diana Prince (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) to be set during the 1920s when the War was amping up and women’s suffrage was a controversial issue. To see Diana in her tiny uniform barely hidden by her cloak, taking advice from corseted secretaries in their prim-and-proper dresses with buttons to their throats was quite ironic and comical.  But as I watched the interaction between the two primary female characters: one a dowdy receptionist and one a beautiful, warrior goddess, I found myself becoming grateful.  I’m grateful to be able to celebrate the freedom as a Western woman who benefits from the battles won for women throughout the 20th century.  But I’m most grateful that my worth as a woman does not come from what I can earn.

I know that I can celebrate my femininity because God gave it to me.  In some way, I am able to image Him.  This gives me meaning as a woman, and the fact that His son rescued me from sin and gave me new life gives me freedom.  It’s an ultimate freedom that has already been won and need not be proven by marches, by protests, by wearing my female-ness as a prideful badge.

Everywhere I look, there’s a groundswell of women on a mission to prove themselves. There’s an idolatry of gender that offends more often than it helps, alienates more often than it unifies, and embarrasses more often than it encourages.  And for Christian women, this is especially dangerous because the risk is that we begin to hold our cause higher than the cause of Christ.  Do we want to be seen first as women or as children of God?  If our goal is to have equal treatment, then we would be best served by remembering these words:

Galations 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight for women who are marginalized or oppressed. There are women all over the world who are raped, enslaved, mutilated, ignored, abused, and mistreated in a number of ways.  These are real problems.  This is true inequality.  What I am saying is that as a Western, Christian woman, my goal is to be grateful for what I already have and to look for opportunities to glorify God in this body and in the feminine way that celebrates His goodness, not to complain that my life is different from a man’s.

The cause of Jesus Christ is my banner, my march.

Wonder Woman showed some Christlike characteristics: grace, generosity, a recognition of who she was, not what she didn’t have, perseverance, hope, LOVE.  In these ways, she is certainly a superhero that my daughters and I can admire.  But she is also fictional. There are real women who have made a mark on history, on the world, women who were heroic in their faith and strength–Hannah, Ruth, Mary, Priscilla, Elizabeth, Esther.

Theirs were voices of peace.  Theirs were hearts of love.  Theirs were hands of strength. Theirs were spiritual battles of heaven and earth, which they won without picking up a megaphone or a sword.

May we be women of faith, strength and gratitude.

 

8389be683cc907aa428e8a1f801244bc

 

Worry: the “Mother” of Sins

It often begins as a small remark about someone’s health, a scary experience with a food allergy, a stressful day of travel with kids, an economic crisis or reports of crime in the news.  Something in us grabs ahold of a passing remark that elevates legitimate concerns to full-blown, action-quenching, logic-robbing WORRY.  And for some reason it seems to be an epidemic among moms.

I call worry the “mother” of sins because it is one of those qualities that runs rampant in mommy circles.  Not only is it common, it’s often somewhat reasonable.  It’s excused away.  We worry ourselves sick and call it “concern” or being “responsible.”  But here’s the thing—real worry goes beyond being aware and concerned for your family’s safety and well-being.  It can cripple you from engaging with people.  It can adversely affect your health when it robs your peace of mind, interferes with sleep and leaves you with no appetite.

worriedface

For the non-Christian, I would say that worry has gotten the best of you when:

-Most of your conversations are negative and focus on the hopelessness of your country, your political system, or factors that you cannot control.

-Your peace and contentment is based in how much of your life you can control.

-You obsess over “research.”

-You don’t participate in things that interest you because of what “could” happen or go wrong.

For the Believer, worry reveals selfishness, a lack of trust in the Lord or willingness to relinquish control to Him.  Worry as a verb is defined as “(to) give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.”   In its most extreme form, worry evolves into fear.  Lou Priolo has written a helpful booklet about fear and how to recognize when it has gripped you in a paralyzing, sinful way.  I think many of his points can be applied to worry as well.  Below are what he claims are characteristics of sinful fear/worry.

-Fear (worry) is sinful when it proceeds out of unbelief, or distrust, in God.  When you worry because you do not believe that God can or will do what he has clearly promised in his Word, your fear is sinful.

-Fear (worry) is sinful when that which produced the fear is attributed more power than what the Bible allows.  When you believe that what you worry about has more power than God, your fear is sinful.

-Worry is a problem when it is so paralyzing that it keeps us from fulfilling our biblical responsibilities (loving God and neighbor as the Bible commands).

-Worry is a problem when it reveals selfishness rather than love and sacrifice.

fear-2019930__340

Healthy, loving concern seeks the best interest of others.  Worry doesn’t mean you can’t plan for emergencies.  But worry does turn our focus inward and so distorts reality that we are blind to the needs of others.  This must be one reason why Jesus himself forbade it when he preached the Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew, verses 25-34.

To you moms out there–you dear ones love your children so much that most of you would lay your own lives down for them.  I believe that is exactly how we parents are supposed to feel, and if the time ever comes for us to make such a sacrifice, it would be a noble and loving one indeed.  The fact is, we are not promised easy lives, and although most of us reading this are probably not going to face life or death decisions for ourselves or our children, there may come a day when something terrible happens that is beyond our control.  But if it does, I guarantee no amount of worrying would equip us for it.  Why waste the precious and glorious moments of this life in sinful worry that prohibits us from enjoying the Father’s blessings?

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6: 27, 34)

 

Truths and a Truce: a message from the heart for the LGTB community

sorry2

Just last night I got sucked into a debate regarding restroom rights and how they are impacting the general population and transgender people.  I had some valid concerns and was sincerely trying to express them in a straight-forward way, but as usually happens when you post something on Facebook, the discussion took an ugly turn and before long I became frustrated with other people, frustrated that I was being misunderstood and then utterly exhausted by the effort and time it took me to convey…really nothing super important.

And then this morning I tried to take a moment while the kids were occupied to have a quiet time with Jesus and found that I could not concentrate.  My mind was so consumed by this Facebook battle of ideological punches and counter-punches that I had forgotten to communicate the primary thing that the Holy Spirit would lead me to communicate: love.  This scripture came to mind:

Matthew 5:23, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

I am not gay or transgender.  I have no idea what it must feel like to be bullied, shamed, hated, ridiculed, or marginalized for the complicated issue of sexuality.  I am not too proud to acknowledge that it is something that I do not really understand or feel comfortable with, but that has also proved beneficial as it has forced me to consider how I am to engage with the LGTB community as a Believer and Follower of Jesus Christ.  I believe in biblical precepts that God has revealed to us in His Word, and balancing my firm convictions with showing genuine love for people who are not like me can be difficult when I try to do it in my own strength. It is only when I am brought low at the feet of Jesus that I can abandon myself to Him, allowing His love to do something through me that no legislation or politician could ever do: change minds, hearts, create growth and understanding.

Here are some things that I know for sure:

All people are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” Psalm 139:14

There is no one righteous, not even one,” Romans 3:10

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus, Romans 3:23&24

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:38 & 39.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” Romans 12:21

Romans is a good book, right?  See, sometimes as a bold, free American woman who has been told all her life that she can do or say whatever she likes, I forget the truth that “everything is permissible–but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:11).  The confusion begins when I try to combine my American citizenship with my Heavenly citizenship.  I can cast my votes and declare my opinion on various social and political issues, but when the results are not what I would have hoped, I then must choose instead to trust God and do the only thing He has really called me to do–bring glory to Him by showing His love to the world.

sorry1

I know that I have no right to judge or condemn others.  I was a sinner, wandering far from the Lord and bound for destruction before Jesus saved me.  The only thing I can boast about is His greatness and the Grace that I did not deserve.  And every other person, regardless of their sexuality, race, gender, past, present, future, economic class, social class, is as loved by God as I.  His grace is for all and for all time.  (Thanks Michael for reminding me of this.)  Sometimes we Christians are afraid to speak about God’s radical grace because we believe that it gives people license to sin and live a life that doesn’t reflect God’s righteousness, but those people have underestimated the absolute power of God and the transformation that happens when people have a genuine encounter with Him.  Here is another truth:

He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20.  As Christians ministering to a broken world, all we can do is love, pray and then get out of the way and watch God work.

And then be ready to wait, which is tough.  Life will go on.  One debate will be replaced with another.  Issue after issue will rise to the forefront of American and global politics and social relevance.  Some of us will do and say great things that the world will applaud, and some of us will do and say brave things that the world will criticize.  An action is often only considered worthwhile if it makes the news, and love and kindness rarely get much attention.  But God is able to use things such as this to reveal His power and everlasting peace.

So to the LGTB community and to their loved ones, I am extending a truce.  I am sorry if I have ever said anything or implied anything hurtful or hateful.  It was not and is not my intention.  I am not naive–I know that on some positions we will never agree, but that does not mean that we can’t live peacefully.  I am not able to love you because I am strong.  I am able to love you because God is great.  It is my sincere hope that you would know Him too, and find peace in His presence.

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life,” Revelation 22:17.