A prayer for today—because I trust in You, God.

People who follow me on Facebook know my political leanings (and it’s a safe bet that about half of my readers feel differently than I do), but this isn’t about politics. It’s about trusting God when things don’t go as you hoped. Here’s a prayer I posted on Facebook today. Join me in reaching out to ...

Read More

People who follow me on Facebook know my political leanings (and it’s a safe bet that about half of my readers feel differently than I do), but this isn’t about politics. It’s about trusting God when things don’t go as you hoped. Here’s a prayer I posted on Facebook today. Join me in reaching out to God, whether you are happy or sad (or somewhere in between) about today?

Because here’s the truth. I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to be defined by hate. I don’t want to feel constantly disappointed. I don’t want to constantly criticize. I also don’t believe in staying quiet when I think something needs to be said. But my brain isn’t sure how to process current events… So I’ll do what I do when my brain doesn’t know how to process… I’ll pray.


Dear Lord,

You and only You know the future. You and only You know the possibilities for the days and weeks and years to come. You and only You have the potential to effect significant positive change and to bring good out of any situation, whether originally intended for good or not. You and only You can forgive us for our mistakes and give us strength to live for You, and in the ways You have commanded.

You are the God who said, in effect, “Let the children come. Let the weak and the poor and the outcast and the lost come to me. Love like I love and the poor will be clothed and the hungry will be fed. Obey your rulers but change the world by sharing my message. Don’t ever give up—because I hear you and answer. I know what you need. I’m with you. And I’m already victorious.”

So, Lord, when words and ideas and fears and disappointments battle for dominance in my brain, I have to lean on You. I have no other choice. When I feel like I know some of the answers—but they don’t match everyone else’s—I turn to You for comfort and hope and wisdom. When I don’t know what is going to happen to my country, my world, my life, I stand firm in my faith. I stake everything on who You are. I have to believe You are in control. I have to believe that You have already prepared answers for the questions I don’t even yet know to ask. I may be struggling with all sorts of things, but thank You that I do not have to struggle with the assurance that You are my God. You are good and merciful and compassionate and just. You are forgiving and redeeming and healing and hoping. And You are the author of love. You are the giver of love. You are the inspiration for love. You ARE love. And there is NO ONE who is not loved by You. Help us, God, to show it, live it, feel it, and believe it.

Amen.

Maybe this is a good place to start

  Every time I see another person say “suck it up” or “stop whining and move on,” I feel more bereft than before—because those statements show that people don’t get it. This isn’t about politics, and suggesting that my sadness isn’t valid is belittling. Honestly, this response only underscores the reasons I’m upset in the ...

Read More

 

Every time I see another person say “suck it up” or “stop whining and move on,” I feel more bereft than before—because those statements show that people don’t get it. This isn’t about politics, and suggesting that my sadness isn’t valid is belittling. Honestly, this response only underscores the reasons I’m upset in the first place.

Since hearing someone else’s story always changes my understanding, I’m sharing mine with you. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are whining and pouting and just like to be mad. But there are lots and lots of other people who, I think, feel much like I do. Our rights may not be compromised, but we see that those of others might be, and we feel the pain on their behalf.

If anything unusual happened during these past few months, it is that people went public with their thoughts and opinions and our social media environment helps remove social filters. Which should be good. We want honesty and authenticity, right? Except that in so many cases the thoughts and opinions exposed were ugly. Downright hateful and mean and insulting.

(I know this goes both ways, although among my friends, I’ve seen next to nothing of the sort coming from the liberals and tons of bashing from the conservatives—but many of the conservatives I know tell me that all the liberals are hateful and violent. And that’s exactly my point. When we make broad generalizations, we’re insulting actual, specific individuals. Most of us are not extremists, and general statements like that are, quite simply, not fair. And I’m genuinely sorry I didn’t realize that sooner.)

Am I happy with the outcome? No. I accept that Donald Trump will be my President, and I will try to give him a chance. But my political disappointment is no more extreme than that of a conservative when Obama was elected. About half the time, simply because of the way democracy works, we will all be disappointed. No big deal.

Am I grieving? Yes. But the reason is not because “my” candidate lost the election.

It is not because Donald Trump was elected. It’s because grief is sometimes the appropriate response when something is lost. It’s right to feel sad when you see wrongs and injustices.

These past few months, we all witnessed new levels of hatred and division, name-calling and bullying. As I watched the results pour in on Tuesday night, I started to cry because I realized that the conclusion of the election will not conclude the problem.

We’ve seen too much to go back. We’ve seen who we are—as a country, as different political groups, as a Church. Maybe Trump didn’t cause the ugliness in individual people but he inherently, by his own words, gave permission to people to speak out. They felt comfortable letting others see parts of themselves they would have once kept hidden. And now millions more feel acute rejection—because even if, as a Trump supporter, you’re not hateful or bigoted, Trump’s victory seems to many to be an endorsement of those traits.

When people are hurting, we—as Christians—should feel empathy and sorrow. It’s not sadness about Democrats “not getting our way.” It’s about having compassion for the millions of hurting people who need to know that even though Trump won, we believe they have value. We see them.

Here’s just a little bit of what else we’ve seen.

  • Many people—who are anything other than straight, white, middle class Christians—are feeling justifiable fear. Countless individuals are being taunted, facing hatred, and experiencing violent backlash simply because of their ancestry or a stereotype.
  • Millions of women are victims of sexual abuse, and many men simply cannot understand what mainstream acceptance of sexism and abuse does to a woman’s soul.
  • Not all Christians believe the same things—or if we do, we choose to live out our ideologies very differently.
  • Many Christians (and to be fair, probably many other religions, too) feel threatened by those who believe differently.
  • Nobody likes to be stereotyped; we want to be evaluated on our individual merits and behaviors, not someone’s opinion about a group we belong to.
  • Our actions have a real impact on others’ perceptions of who we are—especially as Christians, who are called to show God to the world. People (within and outside of the Church) are questioning if Christianity is all they thought it was, and if our God is worth following if His followers act this way.
  • Minorities and differences are not as accepted as we thought.
  • Thousands (probably millions) have spent their lifetimes feeling ignored, so when Trump made them feel seen, they responded to him. At the same time, countless others feel unseen now because of the number of votes for a platform seemingly opposed to their beliefs or lifestyles.
  • Because so many voted “against” rather than “for”—we know that negative emotions like dislike and distrust are extremely powerful motivators.

These issues aren’t about politics but basic human decency—the lack of it and the necessity for more of it. Now that we know, it’s not as simple as just “dropping it” and moving on.

This could be a really good thing. It could. When something is hidden, it can’t be addressed. Hidden things hold a dark kind of power over us.

But now we can change.

So, as a liberal, am I packing my bags and leaving the country? No. I won’t deny that in the midst of my emotions, I didn’t wish I could. But I don’t usually run from a problem, even if I could. So instead I’m spending time with trusted friends who make me feel safe to be me. I’m talking to God and trying to come to terms with our new reality. I’m praying for insight and direction and inspiration.

And I’m hoping—fervently, passionately hoping—that this will be the start of something amazing. That this will not be an era of hate, but that people will pull together to find the good. That we will work together to help people who aren’t just like us feel they belong. That we will learn to look beyond our own experience and be aware of someone else’s.

Recently, we’ve focused on our differences, but if we look harder, I believe we can find more to bring us together. And if we believe what our faith teaches us, we all have work to do.

  • As Christians, we have to forgive—not because it’s our gut response or because we’re feeling magnanimous but because we were first forgiven by Christ.
  • We have to love others—because we were loved first with an extravagant love whose depths we cannot begin to fathom.
  • We must stop judging because God is the righteous judge. We must stop casting stones because we are not without our own sin.
  • We need to accept others, because Jesus turned no one away. God’s love is freely offered to everyone.

But it’s not all hard stuff.

  • We get to hope because God alone brings hope into impossible situations.
  • We get to remember that these trials in our world are nothing for a God who is not limited by place or time or circumstance. No need is beyond his capacity for repair or his ability to procure.

We do know this, right? Then let’s act like we believe it. Let’s build genuine relationships with all types of people and not be afraid of that which is different. Let’s attempt to understand where those we disagree with are coming from. Let’s not get bogged down by despair but let’s do find more, better ways to extend kindness and generosity with sincerity and grace. Let’s show God’s love in more genuine ways. Let’s acknowledge that the Church will never be perfect because it’s made up of imperfect individuals—but that doesn’t mean we can’t be better.

It’s not all on us as a country or community, though. We each have our own personal work to do—getting to know God better, seeking Him sooner and more often. Turning from selfishness and ignorance toward the light of His understanding. Putting our trust in God, who never fails us. (He may do things we don’t like, but He doesn’t fail us.)

So even though I am mourning and hurting, and even though I’ve been insulted and am disappointed in others, and even though I’m overwhelmed with despair, I will keep trying to do what’s right. Because I know that someone else’s misbehavior doesn’t justify my own. Lashing out to hurt someone else doesn’t heal the wound they inflicted on me.

I have to believe that mankind is better than the examples I’ve seen lately. I have to trust that every insult directed at (pick one) liberals/Democrats/Christians/women isn’t a personal attack. I have to give people the benefit of the doubt, even when I don’t want to, even when it would be easier to skip church or cancel lunch with a friend or unfriend someone on Facebook. I have to be all right with knowing that lots of people don’t understand me and never will.

And it’s okay. Because in the end, I don’t have control over anyone else. I can only be responsible for myself, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to hold grudges and be bogged down by despair. I want to be better. I want to let other people know they matter. And I want to be able to look God in the face and hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

I want His best. I want Him. I want to be quick to embrace and slow to take offense. I want to live true to my faith and convictions. I want to see that in you and I want to develop that in myself. And that, my friends, is something that goes way beyond politics and elections, and it provides a solid start on a place in which we can agree. I hope you’ll join me there.

If my people will pray…

It’s finally here—election day. It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? Lots of division and debate—but if there is one thing I think we can all agree on during this volatile time, it is that our country desperately needs prayer. If you’re anything like me, though, you may be intimidated when facing such a ...

Read More

It’s finally here—election day.

It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? Lots of division and debate—but if there is one thing I think we can all agree on during this volatile time, it is that our country desperately needs prayer.

If you’re anything like me, though, you may be intimidated when facing such a huge need. Where do we even begin? We step away from politics and parties and begin at the Rock. Our firm foundation. The unchanging, ever-stable Word of God.

Will you please join me in prayer for our country?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people…

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we have to remember that we belong to God. We are His children. Let’s pray that our relationship with Him will define us and guide us, and that we will come together as one “people” in unity with the sole purpose of bringing glory to God.

who are called by my name…

Those who do not know God will form an opinion about Him based on our behavior and words. There’s a responsibility attached to this privilege we’ve been given, and we need to structure our behavior accordingly. Pray that we will faithfully represent God in all that we do.

 will humble themselves …

None of us likes to be wrong. It hurts our pride to admit we’re wrong. But the first step in a relationship with God is humility—recognition that we cannot do this without Him, nor do we have the abilities and the character that He does. In my faith walk, God has rarely let me be “right,” even when the facts seem to be on my side—because in my determination to be right, ugly characteristics like pride and judgment surface. Pray for our leaders—and for all of us, individually and collectively—to approach our positions with humility and an appropriate reverence for God.

and pray and seek my face …

How many of us log in to social media before we’ve thought to say good morning to God? How often do we complain to a friend and do everything we can think of to fix a problem before remembering to turn to God in prayer? Pray that God will help us earnestly seek Him in all that we do. Pray that God will renew our desire to serve Him and know Him and ignite that fire in others, too.

and turn from their wicked ways…

Many are distraught about the state of our country and world. About the political candidates’ behavior or character, the faith choices we have to make in order to vote, and the culture and permissiveness that have led us to this place. There’s plenty “out there” to critique—but true change starts from within. Let’s repent and then ask God to help us see clearly according to His values, His teachings, and His perspective. Let’s be open to letting Him change us as the first step towards a better country for our children and their children to live in.

then I will hear from heaven…

Many of us feel powerless to effect real or lasting change, but God does have the power to transform any situation in the blink of an eye. In spite of the fact that each of us is simply one among a multitude, and He is omnipotent and omnipresent, God listens when we reach out for Him. We have an advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus. Let’s give thanks for God for inviting us to come to Him and then praise Him for hearing and answering our prayers.

and I will forgive their sin …

No sin is too great to keep us from God. This is a promise He has made to us all. Because God is so holy, so perfect, beyond all of our imaginings, and we are not, we shouldn’t be able to stand in His presence. Our sin and His holiness are like water and oil, never mixing—but because of Jesus, now they do. Let’s go to God in prayer to ask for His forgiveness, individually and collectively.

and will heal their land.

This is the core of what many of us want, a nation without serious divides. A place that upholds the freedoms on which our country was founded, allowing us to serve God according to our individual beliefs. We long for a society that places value on integrity and hard work and high moral values, and yet still respects the differences that are a foundational part of who we are. Let’s pray that God will heal our country in powerful ways, restoring, reuniting, repairing, and renewing us. Fixing what is broken, and teaching us to work together to make something that is better than ever before.

When we come together in prayer, there are no limits to what we can accomplish. Pray with me to the One who hears from heaven.

Lord, You are mighty and magnificent, compassionate and generous. Just as Jesus granted forgiveness before he healed the sick, putting the soul before the body, we ask the same thing. Forgive us, God, and heal the soul of our nation. We come to you, earnestly and humbly, knowing we’re asking for a large thing, but fully aware that You are a big God. Nothing is too hard for You. Our hearts overflow with gratitude for the privilege of having access to the King of Kings. Help us bring glory to Your Name in all that we do. Inspire us to new levels of greatness. We know that none of this is possible without You, and we ask for your mercy and grace over this great nation. Amen.


productgraphic_nov2016calendarWill you join me the rest of this month in praying for healing for our country and turning our hearts towards gratitude for Thanksgiving? Download my free November prayer prompt calendar here by subscribing to my monthly e-newsletter. Even if you don’t, I hope we can come together to lift up our country as we navigate through these next days together.


This post was written for Internet Café Devotions.

My prayer for the church (for you, for me)

Lord, I am tired of all the ugliness I see in the world. I’m frustrated by the way some people use your Word as a weapon. I’m ashamed by the way we treat each other. I’m horrified by the hatred and violence. I’m disappointed by the lack of authenticity and by the differences that once ...

Read More

Lord, I am tired of all the ugliness I see in the world. I’m frustrated by the way some people use your Word as a weapon. I’m ashamed by the way we treat each other. I’m horrified by the hatred and violence. I’m disappointed by the lack of authenticity and by the differences that once made us interesting and unusual but now simply drive us apart.

It makes me wonder what in the world I am supposed to do. Where—and if—I belong.

I want to believe in You, and I do—but I see people professing to have faith in You who do not offer the kind of grace that You do. Who condemn rather than embrace. Who don’t seem to represent what I think Christianity is supposed to stand for.

So I have to ask: do I have it wrong? Who or what is the problem, and how do we fix it? I want to be part of the solution, because I want to be part of Your Church. I need the relationship with others. I need the teaching. I need help living this life of faith, but sometimes it’s hard to want to be a part of it because it doesn’t look like I think it should. Am I partially to blame for any of it?

Because I am far from perfect. I try to overcome it, but my gut instinct is often judgmental and unkind. I am no better than anyone else.

I mourn, overwhelmed by sadness that You are being misrepresented. Worried that we, as a church, have gotten so much wrong. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying the church is the cause of all of our problems, or even that it’s necessarily the cause of any of them. The online world is suffused with people expressing the damage done to them by the Church. Whether it was the Church as a whole or a single individual, whether the actions were done with good intentions or were purposely cruel—whatever the situation is—the pain is real and it remains.

Through it all, I’m having a hard time relating to the religion I’m supposed to identify with.

I say that with love, fully aware that I’m in no position to judge, fully prepared to offer grace. The whole point of grace is that we can’t earn it, yet it’s given freely anyway. I’ve received it, and I want others to experience that, too.

As the Church, we’ve done some things right, and we’ve gotten other things wrong. So, dear Lord, I ask You to help us. Help the Church get it right. Help us welcome people and show them who You are by the way we treat each other. Help us dig deeper into Your word and fight fiercely to grow our relationships with You so that we will be changed, and through that, so that others will know that the gospel message is true and that Jesus is real. Help us to teach Your truth, as You reveal it, and not to promote personal agendas. If change is needed, work inside each of our hearts individually, and let the enormity of our love for You prompt us to do better.

Because here’s the reality: The Holy Spirit is what changes us. Not someone else telling us we are sinners. Not someone pointing out scriptures we may or may not be violating. Fear and anger and judgment are not strong motivators—well, they might cause us to run away from something, but when it comes to running towards something, we need to feel love. No one held up a sign when I joined the church saying “You’re welcome here—after you make some changes.”

And oh how grateful I am for that.

We don’t always have the right answers. But we have a God who does.

So help us, God, to lean on You. To seek Your direction before we act. To receive Your mercy so that we know how to offer it. To love You without limit, freely, and in so doing, to shine that glorious light of Your love into the darkness.

And never, ever let us take for granted the depths of the love You hold for us. Your Love is what inspires us. It’s what teaches us, comforts us, and sustains us. It’s the basis for all that we are and all that we have been given, and I pray that You will show us how to make it universal. For everyone. In all situations. In every possible way. Your love for us is at the very core of who we are. It defines us. Or it should. So let it also be the spring from which everything we do bursts forth.

Let the Church accurately represent You. Let us be known for our love. Let us reflect who You are. And, please, let us all—every last one of us—be changed in the process. By You. For You. With You.

Amen.

Branch Out with Me — 2016 Reading Challenge

It’s a new year, and I love reading challenges. Or, at least, I like the idea of them. Not sure I’ve ever completely followed through. But I’m willing to try, and hope you are, too. Things are always better when you do them together. Quite a few of you responded to my blog survey. (Thank you.) ...

Read More

It’s a new year, and I love reading challenges. Or, at least, I like the idea of them. Not sure I’ve ever completely followed through. But I’m willing to try, and hope you are, too. Things are always better when you do them together.

Quite a few of you responded to my blog survey. (Thank you.) What I learned is what I already suspected: You don’t have a lot of time—and you are tired of the conventional. You like to face doubt, explore, and find new, practical ways to live your faith.

Clearly, so do I. And what I have learned is that it is always good for me spiritually when I am challenged. When I face new thought and ideas (even if I don’t agree with them), I grow because it forces me to figure out what I believe. To read, to study, to research.

Don’t worry, though. You’re not required to do anything extra. But what I hope you will do is let this be your excuse to try something new. To hear other voices, ones you might not have encountered on your own. To keep an open mind in the hopes that it will enrich your spiritual life. That it will deepen your faith. That you will have a newfound respect for other people’s opinions, and that you will realize that different views don’t have to be threatening.

First rule: no pressure. I want this to be helpful, not another obligation you feel you have to endure. So here’s the deal: If you hate it, you don’t have to finish it. If you love it, you can take your time with it—read it all year long if you wish, and skip the rest. If you want to check off the challenge but don’t have a lot of time, skim your books. Read the first chapter, flip through the book, and read the last chapter. Maybe you’ll want to go back and read it all, maybe you won’t, but you’ll at least have some awareness of the approach, writer, or concept presented. Or read some reviews online. Or check out the author’s website or blog. Or take a break and join us again the following month.

Each month I’ll provide a list to help give you some ideas—but they’re just ideas. Insert your own. Let this be a reason to explore, to strengthen your beliefs, to start new discussions. To see what God will reveal, to be open to hearing from Him in a new way, to expect surprises and insights and revelation.

So won’t you join me? Please? When you do (even if it’s only periodically), I hope you’ll share your book selections in the comments. Each month, I will write something about the books I read. And if you have any “nuggets” from your book—a single quote that you’ll remember, your overall impression, or whatever—it would make me so happy to have you share those with me.

So how about it? Ready to branch out a little? I know I am.

If you’re planning to participate, please comment below with the name of the book you plan to read. And at the end of the month, when I tell you about the book I read, you can share your insights in the comments below that post. Thanks!


My pick for January: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Why? Because I love her but I haven’t read any of her actual books yet (only her blog and social media posts). And because my book club is reading it anyway. (That’s not cheating—it’s simplifying to give me a better chance of success :-).) I also chose this because she’s part of the team of women who are speaking on the new Women of Faith Belong Tour—which, I’d like to add, is the organization for which I wrote my next book, Designed to Pray (coming out in August for their first event).

Some other ideas to consider (note: I’ve only read a couple of these so I have no idea what they’re like… all I know is they look interesting):

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman
Color the Psalms: An Adult Coloring Book for Your Soul (Color the Bible)
I Was Blind (Dating), But Now I See
by Stephanie Rische
Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey
Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul by Erika Morrison
The SuperMom Myth by Becky Kopitzke
The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns
Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong
Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty and Adventure—Right Where She Is by Sarah Mae
Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
by Rachel Held Evans
Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup
Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way
by Amber C. Haines
Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life by Carey Scott

Are you a Christian? And does that matter?

Several weeks ago, one of my friends and fellow MWW peeps, Kelsey Timmerman, posted an entry on his blog that I think everyone should read and discuss. It’s called “Are You a Christian?” One thing that I didn’t expect when my book was published is how many people have asked me to tell them my faith story—What denomination am I? ...

Read More

Several weeks ago, one of my friends and fellow MWW peeps, Kelsey Timmerman, posted an entry on his blog that I think everyone should read and discuss. It’s called “Are You a Christian?” One thing that I didn’t expect when my book was published is how many people have asked me to tell them my faith story—What denomination am I? When did I come to God? What is my church background?—before they hear what the book is about. I thought the prayer topic would come first.

I admit, I am often surprised by things that, upon reflection, I realize shouldn’t surprise me. I want to believe that people aren’t judging me, that they’re simply trying to put me into some kind of category to make it easier to put what I’m about to say into context. We do it all the time—Is the speaker a man or woman? What color is she? How old? Where does she live? What does she do for a living? Do we have any friends in common? We note cultural differences, career training, even hobbies as a way to frame or evaluate the information that person is about to give us.

Gathering information isn’t bad. It reminds me of what I’ve said for years—that doubt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It all depends on the reason you’re asking—are you trying to find a legitimate reason to reject God, or are you seeking to know Him better and draw closer?

A similar concept applies here. And I don’t know about you, but this train of thought leads me to all kinds of questions. Do we have a right to know whether someone is or isn’t a Christian? Do we get to make a judgment call about where someone is coming from or whether it’s relevant to the discussion at hand? Although the questions in and of themselves aren’t necessarily bad, when we ask them, I think we mustn’t overlook the most important one: Why does it matter? Are we merely observing, or are we limiting or stereotyping someone?

Those are some big questions worthy of reflection. And before you get offended, let me say, I’m asking this of myself, too. I absolutely like to know where people are coming from. In my better moments, my intentions are good. I like to understand the motivations behind actions, the reason people hold certain opinions. But I have to admit, sometimes I ask those questions as a way to vindicate myself, to reinforce the stereotyping I’ve already done. (See? I was right about her.)

In Kelsey’s post, he tells us that when he was talking about big, global, humanitarian issues, someone wanted to know whether he is a Christian. It made me think: would we (as Christians) use a negative answer as a way to discredit all the good he’s done, all the insights into people he has to share? Isn’t it still good, whether or not it’s motivated by his faith? Aren’t the stories about people’s lives still worth sharing, whether or not the teller is coming from the same faith tradition you are?

As the posts on Facebook (and, really, everywhere you look) focus more and more on the election, we’re in danger of a whole lot more of this kind of judgment. Of course, you can absolutely look for common ground, find people who are like-minded and know you’re not alone in your views. We all do it, and that’s part of how we build relationships and connect to others.

But don’t let the categorization of a person matter more than his (or her) actions. We’re not here on this earth to be on opposing teams. It’s not us vs. them (or at least it shouldn’t be). We’re all in this together. And even if we don’t agree, we can work side by side. I’m not someone who believes it’s my place to change someone—it is my hope that I will model the kind of generosity and kindness that will reflect the love I have for God. It’s God who will do the changing. It’s God who will open hearts and minds. It’s God who will reveal truth.

I hope that I can remember that next time I’m on Facebook. And that I will pay attention to the person—and the way he or she treats others. Because those behaviors (compassion, generosity, kindness) say a whole lot more about a person than any descriptor (Democrat/Republican, Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/Atheist) I might apply. But that’s only my opinion, and there’s a lot to think about.

I love Kelsey’s post, and I can tell you that he is genuine and empathetic, concerned and involved, loving and motivated by his compassion. He feels a great responsibility to treat each person’s story with respect and reverence, and I admire him tremendously for the work he does. (Do yourself a favor and read his article in Relevant Magazine, and you’ll see that for yourself.)

But really, this post isn’t about him. It’s about us. What do you think about these ideas? Do you or don’t you think someone else’s faith is relevant to your opinion of them and what they do? What can we do to notice the person rather than categorically applying a label? Do you think it is good to surround ourselves with like-minded people or can we learn more—and share more of our faith—when we get involved in lives of those who think or live differently than we do? Please comment. It’s a discussion I’d love to have—and I welcome opinions that are different than mine!

A glimpse into my convoluted thinking

A while back, as part of a blogger review network, I received a movie to review. My family sat down and watched it. And then I wasn’t sure what to do about it. See, it wasn’t bad. As far as Christian movies go, it was actually pretty good. But it stirred up all kinds of ...

Read More

GRAPHIC Christian to mean lesser

A while back, as part of a blogger review network, I received a movie to review. My family sat down and watched it. And then I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

See, it wasn’t bad. As far as Christian movies go, it was actually pretty good.

But it stirred up all kinds of feelings inside of me.

As an author with a book releasing soon, I certainly didn’t want to say anything about it if I couldn’t say something good. But at the same time, I want you to trust me, to believe what I say. To know that I don’t gloss over the things that are less than perfect, that I will say what I feel needs to be said.

And I didn’t love it. So I was conflicted.

But last night, as I thought more about it, I realized why. And I knew that it was OK, that I could tell you about it. I realized we didn’t need to talk about the movie by name in order to have a good discussion.

Here are the things that bothered me. While the acting wasn’t too bad for a Christian film, I hate that we have to give special dispensation for something calling itself Christian. Why can’t it be just as good and just as strong as something that isn’t? And if it’s not as good, why not? Why do we watch it anyway? The same questions apply to books, to music.

I don’t want Christian to mean lesser. And yet in our society, it usually does.

The movie ended with a happy ending. I have friends who love that, who long for the resolution in which every loose end is wrapped up in a big, perfect bow and they live happily ever after. And in Christian movies and books, that often happens. Because of God. Because saying a magical prayer washes away all your worries and suddenly life is good.

And really? Admit it. We all know that’s not true.

We want it to be true. We long for life to be carefree. Along the way, I’ve experienced for myself the truth that life with God—even when facing frightening, tragic or otherwise unsavory situations—is better than going through those things without Him.

But we’re afraid to admit to someone who doesn’t believe that life won’t suddenly be perfect if they take that leap into faith. We live in a Photoshopped world, a place in which appearances matter. So when we tell our non-believing friends about God, we leave out the parts when God gets angry and smites people. We ignore the behaviors of God that we can’t defend or explain. We skim over the hard parts, the places where Jesus says that, although many called on His name, He did not know them. We neglect that whole love-thy-neighbor-as-thyself and the part about selling all our possessions to give to the poor. We don’t try to convert people by reading them the part about how we have to give up everything to follow Him.

Because we don’t know what to do with that. We think it’s our responsibility as Christians to sugar-coat God. To put a colorful, unblemished mask on Him so that people will like Him.

And in a way, it is our responsibility to market Him. To exhibit Him and all that He believes to the world. To live according to His commands. To love extravagantly, to give joyfully, to stop judging. We’re called to let people see Who He is. We have a responsibility to draw close to God, to reach for Him in prayer, to study His Word and His life so that we know Him. So that we can show Him truthfully and accurately.

But it is not our responsibility—or our right—to try to change Him.

It is not our place to pick and choose the “good” parts.

In my spiritual life, I’ve struggled with certain things, some of them pretty foundational to Christianity. For example, I’ve actually spent time questioning why I should have to accept the sacrifice Jesus made. I didn’t ask for it. And I don’t understand why it had to happen. After all, if God is God then shouldn’t He be able to say He’ll take us anyway? Can’t He abolish the need for a sacrifice? Why did something so bloody, so unsavory, so troubling, have to take place? Why didn’t He stop it? Why didn’t He change the rules?

Finally, I came to peace with the idea that there are certain things I will never understand. I don’t know why it had to happen. But if God is the God I believe Him to be, then there must be a reason. If He is holy, maybe it’s like the opposing ends of a magnet, pushing us in our unholy states away from Him. Making it impossible for us to come to Him. Maybe that’s simply the way it has to be. And maybe I’m too full of myself when I begin to think that I need to understand God, or to think that I’m capable of grasping something that is obviously ginormous and critical to my whole belief system.

Because if my God is big enough to take care of my life for all of eternity, then He’s surely big enough to be in control of the facts. To make the right choices. To not be petty. To not require useless sacrifices. I have to be willing to yield—control, yes, but also the chance to be “right”.

I’m willing to share my doubts with believers, and I believe passionately that doubt and faith can exist side by side. But I don’t want to be the reason a non-believer turns away from God. I don’t want my lack of answers to get in the way.

But maybe it’s time we all started talking about it. Because to any outsider looking in, it’s clear that we, as Christians, don’t have it all together. It’s obvious that there are things we don’t know. That we live imperfectly, that our understanding, at times, is flawed. When we pretend otherwise, they can see right through us. And then not only do we look like we don’t know what we’re doing, we also look like hypocrites. Pretenders.

None of this would make anyone want to join this exclusive little club we’re in. To tell the truth, I’m not always convinced I want to be here, either. Not that I doubt God. I always believe in Him. But sometimes I cringe at the impression left by those who profess to follow Him but act nothing like Him.

So how about it? Want to start having some of the hard discussions? Want to develop relationships with people that are strengthened by the shared journeys towards answers we can live with? Want to muddle through this together?

If so, talk to me. About anything. I don’t have words to express how much I love to have these kinds of discussions. So, what’s on your mind?

My kitschy religion

I promise I’m not irreverent. But you might not believe me if you saw my collection of religious artifacts. I have a Mexican Sacred Heart of Jesus candle bought at the grocery store. A plate with a drawing of Notre-Dame Du Cap — with a halo glowing around her great big cap, I mean crown. Antique ...

Read More

Image

I promise I’m not irreverent. But you might not believe me if you saw my collection of religious artifacts. I have a Mexican Sacred Heart of Jesus candle bought at the grocery store. A plate with a drawing of Notre-Dame Du Cap — with a halo glowing around her great big cap, I mean crown. Antique postcards depicting Jesus and the disciples. Bracelets dripping with charms of the saints taken from old rosaries. A tin of Last Supper Dinner Mints. And, of course, a Dashboard Jesus.

I’m not making fun of these things. As much as anyone, I believe Jesus is Lord and is due every bit of respect and exaltation we can possibly show Him — and more. I take my faith seriously. But I see the looks — confusion, concern, uncertainty — when people see my collection. At best, they think I’m weird. At worst, they think I’m blaspheming when I wear the rosary charms.

I don’t believe there’s any particular magic in any of these items. I don’t think they’re lucky charms, nor do I mean for anyone to be offended by my quirky taste. But would you like to know why I do this? Why I collect these things that are kind of funny, kind of odd? It’s true, some of them were chosen simply for their kitsch factor, like the Notre-Dame du Cap (which actually means Our Lady of the Cape, but it somehow amuses me to think of her as the Madonna of the Hat). And the Dashboard Jesus — well, it’s just a strange gift someone gave me, knowing I’d find it funny, but it’s also a reminder that He is with us wherever we go. (Just so you know, though, he resides on a shelf in my office, not in my car.)

The reason I keep most of these items is because they once meant something to someone. The pressed glass, antique plate of DaVinci’s Last Supper — how many generations of families were served banana bread on this? How many meals, gatherings, occasions did it take part in? How many hands touched it? And how about the Saint Christopher medal that is worn smooth, probably from aging fingers who rubbed it for comfort? It once hung around someone’s neck and made him feel safe. It wasn’t the deliverer of safety, but it may have been the conduit for that person’s prayers.

I find comfort in these objects of ritual and tradition. They remind me I’m not alone. That generations and generations before me worshipped the same God and sought solace in Him. That He was the source of strength, the bringer of hope. That He transcends years and decades and centuries. That faith can endure. That even when I am weak, even when I fail, I’m part of something so much bigger than I am. That He is mighty and glorious and transcends all cultural and denominational boundaries.

That He is my God, and I am His. That I don’t need plates and charms and postcards to see Him in my daily life, but maybe someone else once did. Seeing Him, beholding Him, experiencing Him — these are things worth commemorating. Things I hope I never forget. Things I remember every time I look at these items perched on my shelves. (Or my dashboard.)

What items bring you comfort, and why? Comment here or send me a link to a picture and I’ll post to my board on Pinterest.

This website and its content are copyright of Kelly O'Dell Stanley  | © Kelly O'Dell Stanley 2019. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red