February 21, 2012

Grace Unleashed

I just finished a book written by a college classmate of mine about her brother's battle with AIDS, his ultimate death and legacy, and her grief and recovery. The book was written in 2001 but her brother died 9 years prior, and so lived with the stigma of his disease and lifestyle choices that, back then, were simply "not acceptable."

The author, Claire Anderson, as well as her brother knew a good friend of mine who also died of AIDS in the 80's. She honored him in the book, and my memories came flooding back in, how he was such a wonderfully funny and bright guy, and how I still miss him. Visions still haunt me of the condemnation, the judgment that my sweet, creative, friend received, not just from a culture that was not quite as tolerant then as it is now, but also from the one place, the one group of people that are to be marked by love. I knew of my good friend's struggle intimately, we talked about it openly together. I didn't understand it, not many did. But, sometimes there are things more important than understanding.

The church of Jesus failed my friend and Claire's brother, acting no different than the culture it lived in. Instead of caring for, and loving, and being on the frontlines of pain and suffering, and showing compassion, instead of all that a merciless, harsh spirit showed up, accusations were hurled that they deserved what they got for their immoral lifestyle. That they should have thought of the consequences beforehand. The same accusations that the Pharisees hurled and that religious folks today still throw around whenever they don't understand something.

Set aside what you believe about the rightness or wrongness or the neutrality that you personally hold for the gay lifestyle, just for a moment. Walk a mile in their shoes. Imagine if it was your son they were ridiculing. What would you want or need from others?  What if it were you, struggling with your own impulses that didn't fit with how you were raised? How would you escape? How would you deal? Would you need someone to remind you how sinful you are? Or would you need a friend?

"Judge not lest you be judged."

Jesus is a friend! The poor, the lonely, the sick, the weak, the societal outcasts, the strugglers were and still are the very people that Jesus loves, that He came to earth for and that He died for. Those are the very people that Jesus befriended and defended when He walked this earth. The woman at the well. The woman caught in adultery. Zaccheus, the deceptive tax collector. People who drink too much and party. Jesus sought them out. He hung out with them.

"They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love."

Not our pity. Not our holy-than-thou stance. But, by how we love each other. 

Through all of the rejection that the author endured, she finally loosed herself from the faith that she grew up with in favor of something much less easy to define and box in. She made some pretty strong statements in the book against God, leading me to believe that what spiritual beliefs she espouses now have more of a universalist characteristic. I was both saddened by this and standing up and cheering her on. Saddened because the Jesus I know is nothing like the one she described, and cheering because nobody should be kept prisoner by dogma that kills and destroys.

Going through the fire, experiencing loss and grieving have a work to complete in us when we pass through them. Suddenly, what's important is obvious to us. We spend our time differently. We think different and live different. Fairweather friends reveal themselves and are hopefully replaced with new ones that are real and hurting just like us or who have been touched by the fire themselves and haven't yet forgotten what it feels like. Sometimes as we walk through these times and begin to emerge on the other side, we throw the baby out with the bathwater, wanting to rid ourselves of any hint of what has failed us in our time of need.

What I was struck with as I read her story was how God loved her and is still loving her in the ways that she can understand and receive. How He brought people to her, gave her dreams and visions and aligned her circumstances that lead her onward. He IS love and it all flows from him, so as she experienced her loss and grief and anger and ultimately rejected the god she grew up with, the real God was faithfully loving her, knowing He would not get the credit for it, knowing she rejected Him, knowing that she had misunderstood Him and maybe always will...still, He loves her. Intensely. Faithfully. Quietly. Anonymously.

THAT is what we are to be like.

February 20, 2012


I'm not someone who is easily given to fear. I don't brag about that or think I'm better than anyone else, but I've just never really struggled with anxiety and fear. About the only thing you can really find that I have a fear of are wasps swarming around my head (a story in itself), and somewhat of heights. But, in daily life, there has been very little that has any kind of fear hold on me.

Which is why its strange that last night my heart was overwhelmed with fear...fear of losing love, of living alone to the point of not being able to stop the tears. What's even stranger about this is that I KNOW that nothing can separate me from the Source of love, and living alone has never been a problem for me. It is true that I've struggled with loneliness, but that can occur whether one is living alone or in a houseful of people.

Unable to sleep, I got up and fixed myself some Sleepytime tea, added in a little magnesium for its relaxing effect, then settled into the corner of the couch with Jesus. And, He said to me, don't fear this. I said, okay, and it was done.

Best I can tell, something triggered memories from the painful past and caused me to consider and be convinced that what I was feeling was real. I don't completely understand it, but after that I slept solid. It's weird how distant memories can surface, and how it can be as if we are right back in that place again, reliving hours and days and months...all in the flash of a few seconds or minutes.

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. 2 Corinithians 10: 4-6

Telling myself the truth, the things I DO know, and bringing fears into the light by confessing them to Jesus is my goal. "Perfect love casts out fear..." And, LORD, your love is perfect.

February 17, 2012

Who Is Wise?

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom." - James 3:13

I read a story today about a woman. Her husband had gone to Haiti, and when he returned home he told her she may as well get ready to go too. "Just get your shots, then you can go when God calls."

So, she did. She prayed every day, "Lord, send me." as she worked her way through the series of shots required to go to Haiti. After her last shot and on her way back home, she again prayed, "Lord, send me." She could have checked out local groups going to Haiti. She could have hunted down missions teams who could use an extra pair of hands. But she wanted this mission to be God's mission, she wanted Him to come to her, to call her.

When she arrived home that afternoon, she had an email waiting. It was from a woman she didn't know and who didn't know her or what she'd been preparing for. In the email, the woman asked, "Would you consider going to Haiti with us?" She said yes!

I believe that God is moving our feet. We will be moving sometime before July this year, but have no idea where we'll be going. But even with the final destination unknown, there are some preparations we can make so that when we get "the call", we can are ready and can go.

So, today I begin packing up our home and studying to be a community executive. And praying "Lord send me. Send us. Call us where you want us to be and to minister in ways uniquely us." And trusting that when we are packed and finished with the course, we will get the call.

"The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of Justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him." Is 30:18

Prone to Wander

Give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men. -Psalm 107
The nature of fallen man is to wander. to forget the often dramatic ways God has worked. We are attracted to the drama, we want to see God do big things, powerful things, things that defy the natural created order. We want Him to move in ways that cannot be explained and that skeptics can't argue with. And yet, God so often comes in stillness. In the quiet. And to hear Him in these places, we must commit ourselves to visit Him there.

We aren't any different than the people of Jesus day who had a hard time believing He was the King they were waiting for. He didn't come in power, or drama-laden festivities, He didn't ride in on a white horse with a shout, He didn't squelch his naysayers. Instead he came in smallness.

How He comes to me today and how he came long ago to this earth reveal who he is, what he's like. And how we should live.

Perhaps the way people respond to bigness vs smallness is more telling than we realize. The BIG gets our attention, but often leaves us craving for more. If more of that same BIGNESS doesn't come we get discouraged, lose heart, forget God and look for the next shiny object.

But small things...we have to stop and be still to even  notice them. And so often, these are the things that speak so deeply to us, that we remember. Thank you Jesus for coming in small ways, simple ways, but with so much power. Your still, small voice, when encountered, can break through torrents of emotion and brick walls reinforced with steel.

Psalm 107, however, is all about how God demonstrates His love in BIG and NOTICEABLE ways. These events come when we humble ourselves and cry out to him, when we are at the end of ourselves and our own power. Being humble is, then, a high place because it is where we access God. He draws near to the humble but resists the proud. Being rich, conversely, is a low place, the horizontal down on earth, man to man, human power working itself out, wearing itself out. There is glory in that only because it serves to bring us to humility when we burn our and have nothing to show that truly lasts.

So, walking with Jesus is about being small, walking humbly, crying out and seeing God's hand move. Why on earth do we crave anything more than that?