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My provider, my Hope

January 30, 2011

It’s been hard. Not really harder than expected, but harder in a different way. I’ve seen God’s faithfulness and provision as he’s provided exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it, and not a minute early or a minute late. But the waiting, the not knowing, the wondering if the next time I am in need will be the time that God chooses to wait a minute longer, has been exhausting. Draining and bringing me ultimately to a place where happiness seemed a thing of the past. Joy and peace have been ever present, but the giddy let it all go nothing to worry about happy feeling hasn’t been around in a long time. And I realize now that I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t think I could go on much longer without finding that happiness back.

Last Saturday I went to Second City. It was hilarious and in a very weird way life changing for me. It was the first time in months that I found myself truly feeling that happy feeling. The first time in months I just let go and had fun. And that night as I went home and went to bed I felt God telling me that things were going to get back to that again-soon. I went to church Sunday morning and while I can’t say I did a very good job worshiping God at church other things, community and relational things, were amazing and powerful and life-giving. Despite this being the hardest week at work I have yet had I felt a perpetual hope that this was it, this was the brink, the edge of the cliff. And it was, in ways I cannot yet fully comprehend.

The day after the worst day I have ever had at work came I got a call for an interview, which I had on Friday and by Friday afternoon I had a new job. Friday night and Saturday were spent with a girl who came out of nowhere and who makes my stomach tight and my heart beat faster and makes me feel safe. Which is beyond terrifying because I have never felt that way so quickly before, but it’s amazing and beautiful and hope building. And as I sit here looking over the past week I can’t believe how quickly and how greatly God has provided.

He is my hope, he is my salvation, he is my Father. I can see and feel and know in the deepest parts of who I am that God desires my happiness and my pleasure and my peace. Because no matter what happens from here God has blessed me when I was wondering if I could make it through another week. When I wondered what the next week would hold that would provide what I needed, God blew me away with his generosity.

I’m falling now. The edge of the cliff is behind me, the ground is below. I don’t know what it holds, but I know that God is guiding me and that he will place a trampoline at the bottom of the cliff, or perhaps I will fall and find myself broken and not knowing what comes next, but I know that God will be there to pick me up and put me carefully back together. Until the bottom arrives I don’t know which it will be, but I do know that God loves me and I know that love does not seek to hurt.

If you’re at the end of your rope, hold on. If you don’t know how to hold on, then let go. But whatever you do, trust that God is there, that God will provide. Perhaps only exactly what you need, but perhaps he will blow you away with the amazing things he gives you today, this week, this year.

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The Infallible Word

January 24, 2011

The Bible is the basis of so much of the Christian faith. We establish our beliefs and practices based more on what the Bible says than any other tradition or cultural factors. And while I don’t disagree with this, I do wonder if perhaps we place too much importance on the precise words of the Bible.

Over 2000 years ago stories were gathered and recorded. Stories from the Israelites. There’s a lot of good stories gathered, and a lot of really important stories for learning about and recognizing God’s presence in the world. But what’s missing? What stories got lost before being recorded? What stories were deemed unimportant by those writing down the history and traditions of the Israelites? We don’t know, and we won’t ever know probably. Do they matter? Do they change who God is? Do they change how we relate to God? I am going to say absolutely not. If they did then they would be there. God is all knowing and all powerful and if there was some essential piece to understanding who God is missing from our only tool for learning about him then I have no doubt it would never have been missing.

In the New Testament we have all sorts of references to other letters written by Paul and other Epistle writers. We know there is at least one other “Gospel book” and probably many more. Why aren’t they included? What did these letters and recordings of Jesus’ ministry while on earth have that those included in the Bible don’t? What didn’t we get passed on that might help us better understand Jesus and therefore God? I don’t know, and we probably won’t ever know.

What’s my point? It’s really rather simple. When we view the Bible, these 66 “books” that have survived the years to be passed along to us thousands of years later, we need to recognize not only that they were written for a specific people in a specific time and specific place, but also that we don’t have the whole story. I think there’s a reason for that too. Beyond the reality of losing things over the span of thousands and thousands of years. I think God doesn’t want us to have all the stories and letters and records. Because although I believe in the complete infallibility of the Bible I do not believe that the writers themselves were infallible. In other words- Paul might have given bad advice to someone, probably many times. Paul might have misinterpreted something, Peter might have written a letter in hasty response and said something he didn’t mean to say. The message of the Bible is beyond questioning, but those who wrote it, those who contributed their words to the Word, were not, are not.

I think that the problem we face today is based in fear. We fear that if we admit that something might be a little bit wrong. If we admit that Paul might have given a bad sermon on occassion, or that Peter had a temper, or that stories from the Old Testament might not tell the whole story; then we are saying the Bible might not be completely true. Then we face the problem of defending our belief and trust and faith in the God of the Bible, YHWH.

But that’s the thing. It’s scary to think about, but faith isn’t based on proof or science or lack of science or solid foundation. Faith is the trust that God is who he says he is. And we learn who he is through the message of the Bible, but we also learn who he is through his revelation in our lives today. I don’t think saying that the Bible isn’t literally, 100% word for word, beyond error takes away from the complete infallibility of the Word. In fact, I would argue that admitting that fallible human beings are responsible for the written form of God’s revelation actually strengthen faith rather than weaken it. The Bible was never intended to be the final word on faith. It was never intended to be the ultimate means to relationship with God.

The Bible is intended to reveal to us the nature of God. It serves to show us who God is so that we can recognize his presence in our lives here and now. The Bible gives us the basis for relationship, but it does not ultimately give us that relationship. The living, breathing, real presence of God in our lives and world today does that.

 

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I miss it

January 9, 2011

I think I’m pretty good about not letting on to how much I miss it, I think I’m actually pretty much okay with most of my life currently. But I miss doing something that feels worth while. And I miss the kids. I don’t mind working crummy hours in less than ideal jobs. I don’t mind the money part (yet, at least). But I miss the kids whose lives I may or may not have touched, but who touched my life. I miss hearing their ridiculous stories and watching their antics. I miss their unexpected insight and willingness to be challenged.

I’m not very good at stepping out of my comfort zone. I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and more specifically I don’t like feeling like I have no control. But I’ve realized that I need to get out of my comfort zone if I’m going to get some meaning back in my life. If I’m going to get back to a place of feeling like I’m contributing to the world.

Today I researched some opportunities and sent inquiries about volunteering. I’m excited and terrified at the same time, but I know that if I don’t do something soon the lack of doing something of value will bring me down and I don’t want that.

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A Surprising 2010

December 31, 2010

I haven’t blogged in forever. I haven’t really had anything to say that I am able to put into words. I still don’t really. But it’s the end of a year that has been absolutely unexpected in every single way and I felt a need to write a retrospective. As is the case with pretty much all my posts, this is probably more for me than for anyone else.

2010 has been the most challenging and life changing year of my life; and I’m almost positive that is not an exaggeration at all.  This year started much like any other year- I was working and overly busy planning retreats and scrambling to put together final details for summer trips and recovering from all the Christmas stuff. As I did all this I began wrestling with what it means to be a gay Christian and by choice dealt with this mostly on my own. I felt myself starting to pull away from people in my life and I also found that I was detaching myself from LCRC. In May I finally got the guts to tell the first people in my life that I am gay. In May I also felt God telling me it was time to say good-bye to the people at LCRC. This was not an easy decision for me. Practically it meant I would be jobless and I have a mortgage and student loans and all sorts of reasons why giving up a really good job right now is completely idiotic. Personally it was even harder. I felt like I was just beginning to really form relationships with the youth and adults of the church. I felt like I was just getting settled and finally able to call Lombard home. I cannot begin to explain how much I wrestled with the decision before finally accepting that God wasn’t going to change his mind. In June I told my fellow church staffers that I was resigning and why. I chose not to tell the church as a whole the reason for my leaving, and while that may have been the cowardly way to go I also do not think telling them and then just walking away would have been the right thing to do. For two months I searched for a job and worried how I would pay the bills. I didn’t entirely trust that God would provide for me- this is an entirely other post, but suffice it to say that I’m still working on this. The day I no longer had income coming in I got a new job. Seasonal but pretty close to full time. The week before Christmas I got a new job, we’ll have to wait and see how this one turns out. But clearly God is providing for me.

I have been overwhelmed by the love and support of my family and friends. I have been blessed by new friendships and a new church home that is becoming family.

I have absolutely no idea what 2011 is going to hold. I have absolutely no idea how God will provide. But if 2010 is any indication he will be full of surprises but constantly by my side.

I pray that you all may experience God’s faithfulness in the year to come whether it hold more joy or more sorrow. Happy 2011

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I am part of the problem

October 21, 2010

I wore purple yesterday, did you? It was a great idea and hopefully it gave hope to many, but simply wearing purple is not enough- it wasn’t enough yesterday and it isn’t enough for today and tomorrow and all the days to come. Neither is tweeting about love or against bullying. These are all great things, all beneficial and steps in the right direction, but none of these things alone or combined is enough. We must change the way we think about others in order to overcome bullying and hate.

I am part of the problem. I hate having to admit it, but I am. Although I rarely if ever act on my thoughts and feelings I still look at non-Christians as missing something (which they are in some ways but not others). They don’t have a relationship with Jesus, but that doesn’t make them any less of a person that I am, but I think somewhere along the way I got this mind set that they are. Now, people who are my friends and are not Christians I don’t have the same problem with. I see them as people just like I see my Christian friends as people, but unless I get to know someone I look at them and base a lot of how I see them on whether they are or are not a Christian.

I don’t like this and I’m working to change it. But when I think about it I can’t help but see how this mentality applied to any particular group of people (LGBT, religious groups, handicaps, race, etc) helps to contribute to bullying. If we view people as being less than or as missing something that we have then we automatically view them as lower than us and that means that we have less problem treating them poorly. We are far more likely to bully someone if we think of them in a less than whole way.

The end to bullying, and the end to hate,  can only fully come when we change the entire way we view others. When I encounter someone different than myself I need to ensure that I do not pre-judge them, I need to make sure that I don’t diminish them as a person for any reason, and when I feel threatened by their difference I need to recognize this as a fault in me and not a flaw with them. Only when the “other” becomes equal to or greater than myself can I truly love them. And love is what conquers hate, and bullying is born of fear and hate.

I’m still working on it, are you?

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Dear Church

October 4, 2010

In the wake of all the tragic deaths of GLBT youth this past week I think now more than ever the church needs to wake up and realize that it is not living up to it’s responsibility as the body of Christ, and until the church is willing to let go of always having the answers and always being right and always judging and expecting people to change and conform to it’s culture we will not be able to be effective witnesses of God’s love. Here is my contribution to the conversation. I wrote this letter to the church in October 2009 although I only actually delivered it in June along with my resignation, I feel the church must respond to the sentiments of this letter if we want to have any part in helping bring such tragic death to an end.

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Dear Church,

I am a 25 year old Christian woman. I was baptized two months after I was born and have been regularly attending church since. In high school I made Profession of Faith and officially became a member of the church. I spent two summers working at a Christian camp and attended a Christian college. I am now working in the church. But I have a problem with you, church. I cannot bring my biggest question, my greatest insecurity, to you. I cannot do this for many reasons. First, I would be unfairly judged. Second, I would lose my job. Yes, it’s true. I’m keeping a secret from you church that would cost me my job. You see church, I am gay.

You might not be willing to continue to read this letter after seeing that. I am a gay woman leading in your church. But to be honest, being gay is not my problem. My problem is that I cannot seek help or guidance or wisdom from you as I deal with this. Officially you say it’s okay that I am gay. I mean, I can never act gay; I can never have a relationship or a family. But it’s okay that I’m gay -officially.  But we both know this is not really the way you see it.

Unofficially to be gay is at the top of the list of things that prove you are not a Christian; because you cannot be a Christian and be gay. It just doesn’t work. That’s what you’re thinking right now, isn’t it? Well let me tell you church, you are wrong. I am a Christian and I am gay. I didn’t choose to be gay. And for years I have ignored and denied that I am gay. But I can no longer lie to myself. And yet, I’m not really gay by gay standards either. I’ve never kissed another woman; I’ve definitely never had sex with one. I’ve never had a date with a woman even. But I am sure that I am gay.

And so here I sit desperate to talk to someone about this; desperate to be able to talk about this reality without being judged. Desperate to talk about this from a biblical perspective and try to work through what is and what is not biblical. Because let’s face it – churches are changing their opinion every day. Some believe it’s perfectly okay to be gay and will even ordain gay people. Others believe that even having gay urges and desires means you are not a Christian. So which is correct?

More than anything in the world I want to have a relationship with the Lord; a relationship that makes everything else secondary. I want to hear God speak to me. I want to be honest with God about who I am and what I’m feeling. I want to know what God desires for me. I want to know that who I am is who God wants me to be. And I’ve thought I could work this out on my own. But I cannot. I need the community of believers to come along side me as I try to understand what this means. As I wrestle with questions that I cannot answer on my own.

Why am I gay? Is God okay with me being gay? Am I destined to be single forever because I am gay? Is it okay to have a gay relationship? What does the Bible really say about being gay? Is being gay a sin or not?

I can’t answer these on my own. But church you have done such a good job of making sure no sin filled gay person feels comfortable admitting their sexuality, if they bother to stick around, that I cannot bring these to you either. 

So I question and wrestle with these things alone. And I realize with every day that passes that I come closer to leaving you behind church- because you are not helping me. Every day I realize that I will go where I can find answers. Every day I take a step further from your door and the comfort of your community. Because I know that unless you change you will hurt me. When I need you the most you will turn your back. When I finally cannot go on alone anymore you will shun me. I will no longer be welcome. And this terrifies me. I want to be a part of you church. But I cannot be a part of you if you will not accept me.

I am not a seeker. I am not a lost soul. I am not someone who needs to be saved. I am a Christian. I love God; I have given my life to him. I seek every day to follow in the steps of Jesus. I do my devotions. I pray. I serve. I tithe. I am just like you church. And I am gay. I do not believe these to be mutually exclusive, but I do not think you agree. So church I am asking you for just one thing. Acceptance.

Walk with me as I work through what this means. Don’t try to change me, but don’t let me stay where I am. Don’t alienate me because I am gay. Walk this path with me. Allow me to be part of the community of believers without first expecting me to become something I am not.

Because church, if you cannot do this, I will leave. It will break my heart and it will tear me apart. But I cannot live in false community. I cannot pretend to be something I am not. God demands honesty and I am tired of pretending. I will not leave God. I will not leave my faith behind. But church, if you cannot help me and support me then I will go somewhere that can. I will find a community that will help me if you will not. But church, it’s your job to be that community. So I am asking you first. Are you willing to become uncomfortable with me? Are you willing to journey alongside me? Or do I need to find someplace else? I love you church, please don’t make me leave.

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Grace

September 24, 2010

***Part Two of my thoughts on If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person.***

Grace. It’s a big word, full of meaning and various understandings and interpretations. One of the things I will take away from reading “If Grace Is True” is how the authors have chosen to define grace. “By grace I mean God’s unfailing commitment to love”. I really like this understanding of grace, because it shows most clearly what it really is. Grace is God’s love overcoming everything else to draw us to him. It is God’s willingness to do whatever was/is necessary for us to have relationship with him.

One of the arguments the authors make regarding universal salvation is that the Bible presents us with two Gods- the God revealed in the Old Testament and the God revealed in Jesus Christ. They then suggest that the only accurate picture of God is the latter. That God is indeed only loving, and completely and perfectly so. That because of this, we must discard the contradicting testimonies of God acting in the world and instead recognize that because God is all loving and all powerful everyone will be saved eventually, because that is the only truly loving thing that can be done.

Grace is God’s perfect love conquering everything. Grace is God’s love taking us filthy dirty humans and making us shiny, clean, and new. Grace is when even after being made clean we get filthy again and God once more cleans us up and makes us new. And what’s remarkable, what’s amazing, what’s inhuman about this is that God does all of this without being even slightly tarnished by our filth. No matter how dirty I am, no matter how often I ignore the guidelines given me and go and get filthy and run down and beat up, God takes me in his arms and makes me clean again without even a smudge getting on him.

But where I take issue with the argument of the authors is that they believe this is something everyone will experience. I believe it is something everyone could experience, but not all will allow it. God has chosen to allow us a choice whether we wish to be clean or not. The longer we stay dirty the more miserable we will be, even if we don’t realize it. But God will never force us to be made clean and new. God will wait eagerly, but patiently at the door, for us to realize that being made clean and new is better than living in filth. And then no matter how filthy we are he effortlessly makes us clean. Even Hitler, even the 9/11 masterminds, even me. But the only way for us to be made clean is for us to allow God to do it. I believe that. I believe that God has given us free will because he desires a real and authentic relationship with us. To say that God will save everyone is essentially saying we don’t actually have free will.