A Change of Focus

That moment when someone says something to you that changes your focus. Ever have one of those?

I bet you have. I know I have.

Recently I have had a couple conversations that have shifted my focus on the way I am going to be handling the crazy ass, hateful, ridiculous things being said by people who think they are serving Jesus by cheering for kids who are taught to parrot hateful songs, or calling for the extermination or legal prosecution of our homosexual brothers and sisters. Rather than focusing on these negative and hateful messages that do not bring life or hope, from here on I am choosing to focus on the people who are living in the light and bringing a message of hope and love to the world.This does not mean that I will stop standing up for people and standing up against injustice. On the contrary, I intend to fight it with the only weapons that work.

My focus was becoming increasingly negative and I was allowing the hate they have been spewing to become my focus which only brings hopelessness.  I had become increasingly frustrated, especially since the passage of Prop 1 in North Carolina, because these things are going on in churches. In a recent poll 91% of people 16-29 choose “anti-gay” to describe Christians. Heck, even 80% of church going people in that age group described the church as “anti-gay”.  I am hurt and distressed that people are taught that God can’t possibly love gay people. For crying out loud people even if you believe it is a sin, Jesus died for sinful people and the cheering for such a horrible song this week made me want to do something. Say something. Maybe because I didn’t know better when I was young and listening to people like like the leader of my former community saying homosexuals should be lined up and shot and producing songs like Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Homos”.

Well, this is where hope breaks in. While I do think it is important that people realize just how pervasive this kind of thinking is and while I do feel that people need to be informed, I also think that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr . had the right idea. Whenever he spoke about injustice he always cast it in the light of the truth. That side loses. Love wins. Dr. King called us to be our best selves, he called us to overcome, he called us to love. He set a vision for the dreamers. He invited us to hope that things could change; that God’s will could truly be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Romans 12:14-21 it says,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Not that this is easy. It isn’t. Individually we must love, even when someone is hateful towards us. This week on Primetime: What Would You Do? the scenario was that a young white woman was introducing her black boyfriend to her dad for the first time. He was not happy, to say the least, about their interracial relationship. There was an elderly woman who (after the young couple left) expressed support for the father and her extreme distaste for interracial relationships. At the end of the segment after it had all been revealed for the social experiment it was, this beautiful young black man hugged that ignorant old woman and do you know what he said when asked why? He said I have been taught all my life that people like her exist, I wanted her to know what kind of person I am.
Dr. King said,
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
That is my plan. Let us drive out the darkness with the light. Let us drive out the hate with love. Let us overcome evil with good. Starting today, whenever I am feeling hopeless about the state of this or like the darkness might be winning. Instead of focusing on that I am going to feature a person or organization who are bringing light, hope and love. I am going to start today with Minnesota Pastor Oliver White.  According to the Independent, Southeastern Minnesota‘s daily newspaper, Pastor White is

A black leader at the helm of a predominantly black church, White — who marched for racial equality during the Civil Rights era — faced pushback from his own community after he stood up for gay rights in 2005.

During a national synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, he joined a majority of delegates from across the country in voting to adopt a resolution supporting gay marriage.

He returned to his congregation the following Sunday and explained his decision. Almost immediately he saw church membership plummet. Within weeks he lost two-thirds of his followers, and now a Sunday sermon draws at most about 20 people.

He now stands to lose his church for good as their balloon payment of 200k came due yesterday. Even though Pastor White, 69, stands to lose everything he stated in a recent interview,

“If we are not successful, I am not going to feel that we are defeated,” White said. “I’ve often said if one person has been turned around, if their thinking has been turned around, and they are no longer homophobic, and they can reach out and love their brothers and their sisters as they love themselves, unconditionally, without labeling them in any way, then losing the church will not be in vain.”

Here’s to you Pastor White. You are my hero of the day and the champion of those who Christ loves. Your reward sir is in heaven.

Grace Community United Church of Christ
You can email your word of encouragement here: mystory42@hotmail.com

The Closest Friends I’ve Never Met and an Unladylike Manifesto

These days I have lots of friends I have never met and I am surprised by how much a part of my life they are. A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog by Rachel Held Evans (I am not even sure how). Then I got her book on Audible.com and she rode shotgun with me while I eagerly listened to her every word. Together we laughed and we cried. Rachel is actually someone that I have had the privilege of meeting and lived to blog about it here.  After a couple months of reading Rachel’s blog and several others it lead me to, including Sarah Bessey’s, I had an epiphany of sorts… I had something to say! For those who actually have met me in person it will be hard to believe that I would be at a loss for words, but because of past experiences over time I unwittingly became (or tried to appear to be…) ladylike. For me, most of the time meant biting my tongue. I am a natural talker and strong woman with leadership skills that don’t involve kids, crafts or tea and little sandwiches. Outside of my church life, this was never a problem, in fact it was seen as a strength in most areas: high school, college, bar tending, and in the art departments where I worked after college. No, it was only in my church life and with my church friends (I never thought I kept my life separate and I most ways I didn’t but when it came to my behavior and how much I spoke up and took a leadership role I was definitely leading a divided life) that I felt the need to be less _________ and more ___________ than I am. You could fill in those blanks with all kinds of words. I was always either too much (Alise Wright) or not enough (Rachel Held Evans). At one point I even had a friend (someone I admired and whom I love very much) write down verses and talk to me about how I needed to speak less and be more dispassionate about what I had to say. That one act both upset me greatly and muted me for a long time. I became somewhat convinced, in a very conflicted way, that there was something wrong with me. It took me a lot of years, the support of my husband and a lot of listening to the voices of other women who were tired of being quiet, dispassionate and ladylike to finally be okay with releasing my true and authentic voice: the one God gave me.

These days, I am much less “ladylike” (Webster: feeling or showing too much concern about elegance or propriety or lacking in strength, force, or virility) and also much “less divided” as my friend Kathy Escobar (who I get to meet in October!) said in her recent post (you must read it, you must read it now!). It is one I am printing out and keeping to read and reread whenever I need it, kind of like my emergency chocolate. Like my friend Kathy, today I am happy. She writes,

the thing that makes me happy right now is that many people i know are finding freedom and becoming less divided.  we’re breaking free.  we’re finding our way.  we’re loosening shame’s grip.  we’re stepping into who God made us to be.

These are a few of the closest friends I’ve never met, let me introduce them to you my lovelies, you will never meet a finer, more fierce, more passionate group of leaders anywhere. There’s Kathy and Rachel and Sarah and Alise and Jo and so many more. It is in large part because of these women that I am able to be truly free to serve Jesus with all that I am. It is my great privilege to join their voices and add mine to their mission to bring freedom to all God’s children, men and women together.

Today one of these women, Pam Hogeweide wrote a brilliant post in response to The True Woman Manifesto which was posted on truewoman.com. I want to share it with you. It is truly inspired.

Unla­dy­like Manifesto

  • We believe that male and female are cre­ated to col­lab­o­rate, co-lead and co-exist in a mutu­al­ity of sub­mis­sion to one another. (Gen 2:18 – 23,Galatians 3:28)
  • We believe that gift­ing is appointed accord­ing to the will of the Holy Spirit and that call­ing is deter­mined by gift­ing, not gen­der. (1 Corinthi­ans 12,  John 20:1 – 20)
  • We believe that the power of the Gospel restores men and women in right rela­tion­ship to one another to live, serve and lead side by side rather than in patri­ar­chal hier­ar­chy. (Gala­tians 3:28, John 4:7 – 39)
  • We believe that the voice, influ­ence and author­ity of women is meant to be fully unleashed in accor­dance to the full per­son­hood that women pos­sess. Male  head­ship is a myth. (Joel 2:28 – 29, 1 Peter 2:9 – 10)
  • We believe in the mutual sub­mis­sion and part­ner­ship of mar­riage where nei­ther has author­ity over another by virtue of gen­der. We reject the headship/submission model as a bib­li­cal truth and instead embrace the lib­erty and wis­dom of def­er­ence to the other. (Eph­esian 1:22, Eph­esians 5: 15 – 33, 1 Peter 5:5)
  • We believe that the lead­er­ship of women is needed in full part­ner­ship with the lead­er­ship of men in all are­nas of cul­ture and church. Women were not cre­ated to fol­low any­more than men were cre­ated to lead. (Num­bers 12:15, Judges 4 & 5, 2 Kings 22:13 – 14, Acts 2, Romans  16:3 – 4, 7)
  • We believe that Jesus mod­eled a rad­i­cal agenda of respect­ing women’s full per­son­hood in how he treated them as noted in the Gospels. Jesus went against cul­tural and reli­gious norms in his treat­ment of women. (Luke 13:10 – 17, John 4, Luke 8:1 – 3, etc.….)
  • We believe that men and women of faith ought to resist the injus­tice of inequal­ity wher­ever it is found, includ­ing the halls of the church. Jus­tice is a king­dom of God value and is the lan­guage of love. (Hosea 2:19, Amos 5:15, 24, Micah 6:8)

 

Who Can Withhold the Water?

This week I had lunch with a good friend. She has been following the blog and wanted to know how my beliefs had evolved on the issue of homosexuals and homosexual marriage. As we talked and I heard her story I felt compelled to share it with you and she has graciously agreed to allow me to share it here. This story and the many many others like it reaffirm my strong conviction that I can no longer remain silent nor does God expect me to. In fact, I strongly suspect that he expects me to speak and that it is the holy spirit within me that  is egging me on.
I listened with intensity and as my friend told me how she came to believe that “God has gay children” over 20 years ago. She read and researched and visited local gay affirming churches. She asked questions that one of the pastors said she would normally refuse to even entertain. But you see, that pastor could see my friend’s heart and that she was truly asking because she desired to understand. In the end, she came to believe that indeed, God has gay  children and that he loves them. So far so good I am thinking, but it was then that the story turns ugly. When she began to talk about what she was learning she found herself face down on the floor, 8 grown men on top of her holding her down, 2000 people looking on while they attempted to cast the demons of homosexuality out of her. Every time she tried to work herself free they assumed it was the evil spirits in her and pushed her down harder. Thank God she was not crushed or suffocated as been the fate of some others in that situation. It did not stop there. Even though my friend is straight, they refused to believe her, she was after all a single woman with no boyfriend. She said they would not be convinced and she wondered if they would believe her even if she had sex with a man in front of witnesses.

(It is interesting to note here that this week I was having a discussion on Facebook about President Obama coming out in support of gay marriage, when the gentleman on the other side of the discussion asked me if I was a lesbian. Why is it my lovelies that some folks automatically go there?)

Back to the story, my friend went on to tell me how she had been so damaged by her community that she has difficulty looking at herself in the mirror to this day. They told her she should die. They told her she should kill herself. By now my friend has tears streaming down her face. And she looks at me and says, “that is why I keep silent” about this issue now.

How sad is that?

We wondered together how many people there were in churches like us. Who knew deep in their hearts that “God has gay children.” How many of us are there that are afraid to speak out because they fear the backlash they might receive or in the case of my friend, the backlash they have already experienced?

My friend is one of the most loving, caring, giving people you will ever meet. The people in her current community value her advice and seek her out to pray for them. They trust her with their children. The sad part is she feels like all that would be negated and ignored if they knew her stance on gay marriage. As of now that is not a trade she is willing to make. I do not condemn her. With her past experiences I don’t know if I could do it either.

This week Rachel Held Evans wrote an amazingly powerful post called, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” It is a quote from Huckleberry Finn by the great Mark Twain. Huck faces a moral dilemma over his friend Jim who is a runaway slave. Huck’s neighbors have Jim locked in a shed and are going to return him to his owners for the $200 reward.

Huck has been taught in church that Ephesians says, “Slaves obey your earthly masters”. and has been convinced that by being a friend to Jim he is going to go to “everlasting fire.”

This is the scene Evans quotes,

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”– and tore it up.

Rachel goes on to discuss her own feelings of trepidation about going against “what the Bible clearly says” in the interest of obeying her own conscience. Then she says something that should shake us awake from our slumber,

But another part of me worries that a religious culture that asks its followers to silence their conscience is just the kind of religious culture that produces $200 rewards for runaway slaves. The Bible has been “clear” before, after all—in support of a flat and stationary earth, in support of wiping out infidels, in support of  manifest destiny, in support of Indian removal, in support of anti-Semitism, in support of slavery, in support of “separate but equal,” in support of constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage.

In hindsight, it all seems so foolish, such an obvious abuse of Scripture.

…But at the time?

Sometimes true faithfulness requires something of a betrayal.

She then relays a story about a recent trip she took which found her serving communion in a church that accepts gay people. And as she shared communion with one man in particular  the disapproving words of her own sunday school teacher came to mind and she couldn’t help but remember Huck’s words, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”. Thankfully she and I both believe that won’t be necessary.

I have been continually amazed by serendipity lately. As I was sitting down beginning this post yesterday I received an email from my husband with a link to a stunning article on the  belief blog called My Take: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage by Mark Osler.

Mr. Osler uses the example of Peter extending the sacrament of Baptism to uncircumcised, unclean Gentiles. Osler poses the idea and Peter asserts by his question, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” that we have “no moral authority to deny baptism to to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws. It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit which fell over the entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.”

He also uses the example of Christ who at the last supper offers the bread and the wine not just to the disciple who would take care of his mother but also to the one who would deny him three times, the ones who would desert him and even the one who would betray him to be killed.

Osler issues powerful challenges to the prevailing wisdom. He states,

It is not our place, it seems to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind we find through baptism, communion and marriage. The water will flow where it will.

Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not . The water is for all of us…

Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of God’s love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out to stingily!

Sadly my friend’s current community as well as her former community are still trying to withhold the water. Sadly too many beautiful hearts like that of my friend have been silenced by people who say they follow  Jesus.

I received a beautiful note from my friend this week thanking me for lunch. It was the first time she felt safe to be able to express the fullness of the love that was in her heart. She compared our conversation to, “breathing my first breath of fresh air”. It is my prayer that now that the waters of love shut up in her for so long have been released that the dam that has held back the water in her community would break apart and she could lead the way in offering the love of Christ through Communion, Baptism and Marriage to all, not just the ones we think are worthy.

Jesus, Peter, Osler, Evans and my friend are the reasons why I will no longer be silent. I cannot betray the voice of the Holy Spirit that cries out in my heart, “who can withhold the water?”. You may try to dam the river, but the living water of the “Holy Spirit is relentless, as Osler says, “making us all into something better and new.”

What is Traditional Marriage Anyway?

Recently a friend told me that they “just believed what Christians have always believed for thousands of years” about marriage. Hmmmmm. Really?
Do they believe in arranged marriage? Marriage for family connections or financial gain? Women being forced to marry their rapists?

There was an excellent article written this week on this very subject called, Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves by Jay Michaelson on Religiondispatches.org. In it Mr. Michaelson pointed out in answer to the assertion by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that marriage has been one man, one woman for over five thousand years by pointing out the following (from the Bible):

Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.) But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants.

He goes on to make the points that marriages up until 200 years or so ago were all arranged marriages (the idea that people would get married of their own volition to a spouse of their own choosing was a radical notion), and that in Europe and North America, marriage was mainly a commercial proposition rather than a romantic one. As he says,

Princes married princesses not because of fairy tales, but because their parents had political alliances to consider. Further down the economic ladder, people married for a variety of biological, commercial, and genealogical reasons—but rarely for love. (See Stephanie Coontz’s excellent Marriage: A History for more.).

And finally he raises the issue of interracial marriage, which certainly was not traditional and was even seen by some as a crime against nature and God up until the 1960s.  We must remember that a century ago, African Americans were not considered fully human by religious conservatives. Interracial marriage—as much as it’s disgusting to even say so today—was seen as an unnatural marriage between different species.

Last week I also ran across a little something that BLEW MY MIND. Now, in all fairness, these ceremonies were mainly “civil unions” more for legal purposes and not carnal ones, however there are indications in some of the cases where the men concerned were also called lovers. My point in bringing it up here is that these “unions” certainly call into question at the very least what “traditional marriage” actually means.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, wrote a little book called, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. In it he cites liturgical church documents which discuss, Christian ceremonies dating from the 10th-12th centuries called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” and the “Order for Uniting Two Men”.  These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, the couple was blessed at the alter with their right hands joined, they exchanged vows, a priest administered the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was held afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

The chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) recorded Christian same-sex  unions taking place in Ireland in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

Boswell also tells of same sex unions as late as 1578 that took place at St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church).  As many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together” according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in many archives such as the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in his collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

British historian Alan Bray in his book The Friend, gives a Latin text and translation of a similar Latin Catholic Rite from Slovenia, entitled Ordo ad fratres faciendum, literally “Order for the making of brothers”. Also see Allan Tulchin, “Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement.”[4] in the Journal of Modern History: September 2007, which article demonstrates the ceremony of affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in life long unions which raised family, held property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.

In an article written by Allan Tulchin titled, The 600 Year Tradition Behind Same-Sex Unions, he states,

The affrèrement, which existed in France and elsewhere in late medieval Mediterranean Europe, was a contract that provided the foundation for non-nuclear households of many types and shared many characteristics with marriage contracts, as legal writers at the time were well aware. Non-nuclear households were quite common in Mediterranean Europe — more than half the population probably consisted of people in such households. So it is hardly surprising that the law provided for affrèrements as a means to regulate them.

The consequences of entering into an affrèrement were profound. The new “brothers” pledged to live together sharing ‘un pain, un vin, et une bourse’—one bread, one wine, and one purse. All of their goods usually became the joint property of both parties, and each commonly became the other’s legal heir, cutting off other close relatives. They also frequently testified that they entered into the contract because of their affection for one another. As with all contracts, affrèrements had to be sworn before a notary and required witnesses, normally the friends of the affrèrés. The model for these household arrangements is that of two or more brothers who have inherited the family home on an equal basis from their parents and who will continue to live together, just as they did when they were children. But the affrèrement was not only for brothers, since many other people, including relatives and non-relatives, and even married couples, used it.

He also writes in an article in the Journal of Modern History:

But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships.

While my post today doesn’t clear up much on the topic of marriage, one thing is for certain, marriage as recognized and practiced by American churches and the U.S. Government is anything but “what Christians have always believed for thousands of years.”

You can look up the research in these places.
http://www.amazon.com/Christianity-Social-Tolerance-Homosexuality-Fourteenth/dp/0226067114
Saints Sergius & Bacchus, Roman martyrs. Their Catholic feast day  is October 7th. Catholic Encyclopedia [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13728a.htm ]
John Eastburn Boswell (American Council of Learned Societies); Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Random House, June 1994

If all are Martha Stewart where is Amelia Earhart?

Yesterday Rachel Held Evans Wrote an amazing post about how we as women are enough. Just. As. We. Are.  In her post she laments the seeming agreement between much of the messages given in the church about the “Proverbs 31 woman” and the media headlines and magazine covers which ask, “Are you beautiful enough?”, “Are you sexy enough?”, “Are you crafty enough?”, Are you woman enough?” or in the aforementioned cases, “Are you Biblical enough?” and of course, the recent TIME magazine cover, “Are you mom enough?”. In her post Rachel has this to say about being enough,

…by “biblical,” most pointed to a glamorized, westernized version of the Proverbs 31 Woman, who rises before dawn each day, provides food for her family, trades fine linens for a profit, invests in real estate, and works late into the night weaving and sewing.  Christian books and conferences tend to perpetuate the idea that a woman’s worth should be measured by the details, rather than the message, of Proverbs 31, and like the magazines in the checkout line, often  focus on fitness, domesticity, beauty, and success as ways of earning the favor of God and men.

But here’s the thing.

The poetic figure found in Proverbs 31 is not the only woman in the Bible to receive the high praise of, “eshet chayil!” or “woman of valor!

So did Ruth.

And Ruth could not be more opposite than the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Ruth was a Moabite (a big no-no back then; men were forbidden from marrying foreign wives).

Ruth was childless.

Ruth, was a widow— “damaged goods” in those days.

Ruth was dirt poor.

Rather than exchanging fine linens with the merchants to bring home a profit to her husband and children, Ruth spent her days gleaning leftovers from the workers in the fields so she and her mother-in-law could simply survive!

And yet, despite looking nothing like the ancient near Eastern version of a magazine cover,  Ruth is bestowed with the highest honor. She is called a woman of valor. Eshet chayil!

She is called a woman of valor before she marries Boaz, before she has a child with him for Naomi, before she becomes a wealthy and influential woman.

Because in God’s eyes, she was already enough. 

 The brave women of Scripture—from Ruth to Deborah to Mary Magdalene to Mary of Bethany—remind me that there’s no one right way to be a woman, and that these images of perfection with which we are confronted every day are laughable to those of us who are in on the big secret: We are already enough. 

We are enough because God is enough, and God can turn even the smallest acts of valor—letting go of a grudge, cleaning puke out of a kid’s hair, inviting the homeless guy to dinner, listening to someone else’s story— into something great.

Proverbs 31:25 says the wise woman “laughs at the days to come.”

I don’t think the Proverbs 31 Woman laughs because she has it all together. 

I think she laughs because she knows the secret about being enough.

For me the best part about getting older has to be that I have finally become me. By that I mean I am embracing who I am and how I was made. Surprisingly, rather than causing me to compare myself to all the amazing women I know, this has freed me to celebrate them for all that they are as well. My lovelies, the truth is we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses and it is only when we fully embrace the amazing women that God gifted us to be that we realize how much we all need each other. We are humans complete each other. We fill in the gaps. Like it says in 1 Corinthians about the body of Christ, if all are the eye, how do we hear? I submit to you: If all are Cindy Crawford, where is Mother Theresa? If all are Martha Stewart where is Amelia Earhart? If all are Rachel Held Evans, where is Michelle Krabill?

So, you know what?

I do not scrapbook, and I am enough.
Lots of days I don’t wear makeup, and I am enough.
My kids aren’t perfect (but they are awesome), and I am enough.
I am a horrible secretary and not well organized, and I am enough.
My kids only breastfed 6-8 weeks and I didn’t really enjoy it, and I am enough.
I didn’t cry the first day my kids went to Kindergarten, and I am enough.
I do cry when I get angry, frustrated or upset, and I am enough.
I don’t like confrontation, but I like to challenge the status quo and ask questions, and I am enough.

I laugh at the days to come. Eshet chayil!  I am enough.
And you know what else?

You are too.

And a Little Child (Josef Miles) Shall Lead Them

or how Todd Starnes and Paul Cameron were given a lesson in love by a 9 year old boy.

This week Paul Cameron of the Family Research Council responded to President Obama’s statements in support of gay marriage. The above recording is taken from an interview on Crosstalk with Jim Schneider of VCY America (Voice of Christian Youth). Not only did Cameron assert that the President himself might be gay, but he also stated that

“the long term goal of the homosexual movement is to get every little boy to grab his ankles and every little girl to give it a try,” he added, “They will not rest until every one of our children at least gets to try, has the opportunity and maybe is forced to at least once experience homosexual acts.”

This is preposterous, inflammatory and hateful. To accuse the entirety of the homosexual community of such nonsense would be laughable if I didn’t know he was dead serious. Paul Cameron should be ashamed of himself. Please sir, you are making the rest of us look like hate-mongering, paranoid, fools.
http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/pl55.swf

Next up, we have Todd Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary radio show who declared that the reason for the generational divide on the issue of Same Sex Marriage was the public school system. Mr Starnes took to the airwaves with this statement:

“Look at what’s happening in public schools, they’re indoctrination centers. Boys and girls are having their views formulated on gay marriage through the public school system and that’s why it’s becoming generational.”

Education is a very powerful thing. It was after all the desegregation of the schools in the south on the heels of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that signaled the beginning of the civil rights movement. I suspect that in forty years people will look back at this era in the same way we look back at the Jim Crow days of the south.

I will give credit where credit is due here. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, said the president was “now in the 21st century” and that Republicans were “sitting very firmly, without much question, on the wrong side of history on [the issue].”

Now we come to Josef Miles. He is the boy in the sunglasses on the right hand side of this picture.

This past weekend Nine-year-old Josef and his mom were walking around the Washburn University campus in Topeka, Kan., when they saw a group of Westboro Baptist Church protesters armed with the signs you see above. This young man asked his mother if he could make his own sign. He wrote, “GOD HATES NO ONE.”

I am reminded of a conversation starter given by my good friend Nanette Irvin at Novitas Church, in which she said, “If you want to stand out on the street corner with a sign, it ought to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.'”  Our signs should be messages of love.  1 John 4:18-21 says this:

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Jesus also tells us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (there is no unless in this statement). We can disagree about whether or not we think being gay is a sin. But we cannot use that as an excuse to hate our neighbor and to bear false witness against them.

All three of these people chose to “hold up signs”, whether literal or figurative, that presented their message to the world…
Paul Cameron’s “sign” said, “All homosexuals want  your children to be gay and possibly be forced to have a homosexual experience. You should be scared.”

Todd Starnes’ “sign” said, “Your children are being indoctrinated to accept other people for who they are and this is a bad thing. You should be angry.”

Josef Miles had a sign too; An actual physical sign. It said, “GOD HATES NO ONE.”

And a little child shall lead them.

Your Existence Gives me Hope

Image

So I woke up today with a strange feeling of hope; hope that the tide is shifting; hope that the conversation is taking a new shape. Hope in the face of setbacks like a female attorney who bows to the will of her client,  by wearing a burqa; a client, who if he had his way, would have prevented her from becoming an attorney in the first place and who would strip her of her freedom to practice law and even from leaving her home unaccompanied if given the opportunity. Setbacks like the state of North Carolina passing an amendment that robs fellow Americans/humans of enjoying the same privilege to marry their beloveds and not to be alone, that is why God designed marriage, remember? It is not good for us to be alone, we need someone who is a perfect fit for us.

But like I said, I am feeling hopeful today. Why?

1. The existence of Kent Krabill; Proof that God loves me.

2. The existence of my children who live and breathe and change the world with their love.

3. The existence of Novitas (aka the island of misfit toys) who continually challenge me to love more and judge less.

4. The existence of the countless new friends I am discovering daily.

5. The existence of inspiration. I finally feel like I am learning who I always was.

6. The existence of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead me into the truth and to change me.

7. The existence of the amazing Rachel Held Evans (who inspires me over and over) and her new article.

8. The existence of Justin Lee and his 30 confessions.

9. The existence of magical moments. I mean did you see Josh Hamilton hit 4 home runs in one game? Have you been to Disney World?

10. The existence of Sixty Percent and people who write such things.

11. The existence of Kathy Escobar and The Refuge, Alise Wright, Amanda Miller Garber and RISE church and Pam Hogeweide and all the other UNladylike women of the church.

12. The existence of Brian McLaren, Wade Burleson, Rob Bell, Jay Bakker, my husband and every other men who supports the UNladylike women of the church.

13. The existence of Bert & Evelyn Waggoner and the influence he had on my life and the seeds of change planted in Kent and I at the Sugarland Vineyard.

14. The existence of Derek Watson  who set in motion the tectonic plates of our lives.

15. The existence of Laurie Watson and the work she does as a sex therapist who happens to be a follower of Christ.

16. The existence of the parents I know who are trying to teach their kids to love people, all people.

17. The existence of a shift that has begun in our country and the church toward freedom, equality and acceptance.

18. The existence of people who fight for these things every day.

19. The existence of groups like Christians for Biblical Equality.

20. The existence of the Marin Foundation.

21. The existence of common ground: President Obama and Vice President Chaney both support gay marriage.

22. The existence of Matthew Vines.

23. The existence of people who refuse to stop loving or believing better of people; even the ones who disagree with them.

24. The existence of my parents and grandparents and all the people who have helped to make me who I am.

25. The existence of art, music and poetry.

26. The existence of my God who never stops loving, never stops pursuing, who will one day make EVERYTHING right, who loves all and gives everything to bring his children home to him.

27. The existence of…YOU. YOUR EXISTENCE GIVES ME HOPE

It Does, It Must and It Will Get Better.

Last week Dan Savage the founder of the It Get’s Better Campaign lashed out at the Bible and some of the students during an anti-bullying conference at a high school in Seattle. In his statements he clearly went over the line and became that which he most despises: A bully. In his statements Mr. Savage attacked the Bible, belittled the beliefs of others and used a slur to attack the students who disagreed with his statements by simply walking out. This is a transcript of the portion of the speech in question:

“We can learn to ignore the bullshit about gay people in the Bible the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waived Bibles over their heads during the civil war and justified it.”

“If the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong, slavery, what are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? 100 percent.”

Afterward, Savage remarked: “You can tell the Bible guys in the hall they can come back now because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-ass some people react when you push back.”

While I vehemently disagree with Mr. Savage’s attack on the students because of their protest, I do believe that he can be forgiven. He has issued an apology for the “pansy-assed” comment saying it was “insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong. And I apologize for saying it.” Therefore, he gets a second chance. I have certainly spoken in the heat of a moment words I wished I could retract as soon as they left my mouth. I am sure you have too.

I also disagree strongly with Mr. Savage’s view of the Bible as I read it. I do however think that some things people have used the Bible to say and do are BS. And honestly when I think of the way the church has used and in some cases still uses the Bible as an excuse or even an encouragement to bully, hate and abuse the GLBT community as a whole and individual GLBT people I can easily figure out how  Mr. Savage ended up on a stage calling bulls%#t on the whole thing. Sometimes I actually want to stand up and join Dan Savage in calling BS for the way people use the Bible for purposes which I believe were never intended. After all, this is the same Bible that says that Jesus came not into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. This is the Bible that says  people will know we are Christians by our love. Today is a day I am going to call BS. Today I call BS on Pastor Sean Harris of the Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Currently the state of North Carolina is in a battle over Amendment 1 to their state constitution which states in part:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

This past Sunday was declared “Marriage Sunday” by Vote for Marriage NC, a political action committee. Their purpose for organizing the day was:

Marriage Sunday is an early voting awareness campaign focused on equipping churches and citizens to vote FOR the Marriage Protection Amendment during the 4/19-5/5 early voting window. Churches participating in Marriage Sunday are encouraged to preach a marriage themed sermon on April 29th, and encourage congregants to vote early on Monday April 30th.

This is the United States of America and this is the way we decide things here. We vote. I am for voting. The good people of North Carolina get to go to the polls and decide how they will define marriage in their state. What I am not for, what is complete BS, is the hatred and abuse that was spewed out in the name of my Lord Jesus and my God. I will not be silent. I teach my children to stand up and speak out in defense of the weak and the oppressed and today I will do the same thing.
http://www.goodasyou.org/player.swf

If you are unable to listen to the audio, here is a transcript (emphasis added):

So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, “Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,” you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.
Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male. And when your daughter starts acting to Butch you reign her in. And you say, “Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.
You say, “Can I take charge like that as a parent?”
Yeah, you can. You are authorized. I just gave you a special dispensation this morning to do that.

Well, you are going to need more than a special dispensation because Jesus authorizes you to do no such thing.

In fact, I would assert that parents treating their children in this way does not prevent one person who would have grown up to be gay to suddenly become heterosexual. Just ask any number of people in the GLBT community. I bet you can find many who were treated in exactly this fashion by their parents. My guess is that not only did it not stop them from becoming gay it also made them think that God didn’t love them, didn’t come to be near them, and doesn’t offer them salvation. All I know to say is, God forgive them for they know not what they do. Forgive me for the times I know not what I do. This has nothing to do with whether or not people have the right to believe whatever they want about homosexuality. It has to do with the fact that Jesus does not give you the option to hate, bully or abuse your child or anyone else ever. You don’t have that right, Sean Harris doesn’t have that right and Dan Savage doesn’t have that right. So far Dan Savage has apologized for bullying the kids, I wonder if we will ever hear an apology from Sean Harris? I hope so. I pray that the radical love of the Jesus who died for us all grips the hearts of Harris and Savage. Today I shout at the top of my lungs that it does and it will get better. Lord, let your Kingdom come.

You’ve Got Personality.

Today I would like to give you a gift my lovelies. It is a gift that will help you know yourself, your spouse, your partner, your child, your friend or your bf or gf better. It is a gift that will help you to love yourself, your neighbor and your God better. It is a little personality test called Meyers-Briggs.

For my husband and I this test has been a real eye opener. Kent and I got married 2 days after my 18th birthday and have been married for almost 25 years. This simple personality test has helped us tremendously in furthering our understanding of one another and what makes us do the things we do and not do the things we don’t. It has helped me personally to be more understanding and it has helped us to look for solutions that will actually work for both of us. Knowing the information from the relationship analysis for our types has even helped to defuse potential issues.

I remember when I first saw this on our profiles:

Mine says this:

Because ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on details maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivious to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves. This is a challenging area of life for most ENFPs, and can be frustrating for ENFP‘s family members.

Kent’s says this:

ENFJs like for things to be well-organized, and work hard at maintaining structure and resolving ambiguity. They have a tendency to be fussy, especially with their home environments.

I was so excited! I finally knew why Kent and I had an argument about this every 6 months for our entire marriage. We weren’t crazy! It was all right there in black and white.
This is just a small example of how these tests have benefited us.

Another example comes from the relationship analysis for ENFPs in relationship with ENFJs:

Where these two excel in relationship is in dealing both with individual people and human affairs in general, the ENFP pften leading the way towards change, development of ideas and possibilities for improvement of conditions; the ENFJ complementing this role with strong advocacy and educative skills combined with commitment to social justice and care for the disadvantaged.

You can see how this could be helpful for us moving forward to love God and love people, all people. You can see how this helps us to use our unique giftings to be all we were meant to be. It makes sense when you see it in light of my blog and Kent’s work as an attorney and our work together as planters of Novitas Church.

I hope the following resources help you to become all you were meant to be and help you see how you were uniquely gifted to love people.

You can take a shortened FREE version here:
http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

You can find out your child’s type here:
http://www.personalitypage.com/cgi-local/build_pqk.cgi

You can get a type to type relationship analysis here (this costs $2 and is worth every penny)
http://www.personalitypage.com/html/type_to_type.html

Homosexuality and God: Conclusion

For the last several weeks we have been going through the passages in the scriptures that have been used to condemn gay marriage, convince gay individuals that they need to “pray away the gay”, and sadly, by some to bully LGBT persons.

It is my contention that these verses have been either misinterpreted, misunderstood or misapplied.

I set out in the beginning that I read the Bible as a library of God inspired books that together tell the story of God and humanity. It is a collection of books that contain the truth as it was seen and told from different points in history in the ways and words of the people of that time and culture. God spoke in each era in a way that the people of that time could understand and apply. I believe that God revealed himself little by little, all the while drawing humanity into a more and more reconciled and connected relationship with him. The story of God with humanity in the Scriptures begins with a beautiful poem about the beginning of our story: God and individuals. As the story develops, Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebecca and Jacob & Leah & Rachel are added along with the 12 Tribes of Israel: God and the Nation of Israel. Soon Jesus arrives on the scene and expands the story to include previously excluded or marginalized people and give them a voice and a place at the table: Gentiles, women, adulterers, drunks, tax collectors, prostitutes and all others: God and all of humanity. As it turns out God’s story has ALWAYS included ALL people and inviting them in. The blood of Christ covers all. His perfect love and sacrifice is enough for all sin for all time. As we like to say at Novitas, if you want to stand on a street corner with a big sign it should say, “Your sins are forgiven.” The forgiveness, grace, mercy and love of Jesus is big enough to include Pharisees and Homosexuals, Jews and Gentiles, Saints and Sinners.

You can read all the posts in this series at the following links:

Homosexuality and God: A Weekly Exploration
Homosexuality and God: Part 1 – Lev
Homosexuality and God: Part 2 – Genesis
Homosexuality and God: Part 3 – Jude
Homosexuality and God: Part 4 – Eunuchs Who Have Been So From Birth – Matt
Homosexuality and God: Part 5 – Romans
Homosexuality and God: Parts 6 & 7 – Pornoi, Arsenokoitai, and Malakoi – 1 Tim & 1 Cor