Prayer for the non-controversial, invisible Christian

This is a prayer for the non-controversial, invisible Christian.      For you, the one who flies under the radar. Who doesn’t cry persecution, or rejoice when another self-professed Christian trounces someone with his religion. Who doesn’t jump to conclusions or resort to petty name-calling and judgment. Who reads the Bible as a life-giving source ...

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This is a prayer for the non-controversial, invisible Christian.
     For you, the one who flies under the radar. Who doesn’t cry persecution, or rejoice when another self-professed Christian trounces someone with his religion. Who doesn’t jump to conclusions or resort to petty name-calling and judgment. Who reads the Bible as a life-giving source of sustenance and not as a weapon with which to bludgeon unbelievers.
     Who doesn’t even use the word “unbeliever.”
     Who prays, hopes, trusts, holds her tongue, and errs on the side of love. Always love.
     This is for the one who accepts those who are not like her and doesn’t let the differences threaten her own beliefs. The one whose faith is not diminished when faced with opposition. The one whose faith is, in fact, strengthened by different perspectives. The one who is never reactive, combative, hateful, or exclusionary.
     The one I want to be.
This is for you.

Dear Sweet and Gentle Lord,

Thank You for who You are. For being the God of the humble, the loving, and the generous. Oh, how You must grieve at the self-righteous anger, the vicious and vile words spewed across the Internet (and in person), the misguided and hurtful actions perpetrated by people using Your name. Your holy, lovely, truly righteous name.

Oh, Lord, forgive us all.

The hatred has gotten way too much attention, and the true beauty of this life has been overlooked. A life filled with You radiates beauty and goodness. It is saturated with peace and kindness.

Please, Lord, reach down to Your people. The ones who are quietly mourning the damage being done to Your name and to their faith. Reward them for their steadfastness by giving them an increasingly fulfilling, authentic experience with You. Whisper into their ears as they sleep peacefully at night. Nudge them, gently, when an opportunity to serve appears in front of them. Soothe their souls with fresh knowledge of Your magnaminous, all-consuming love.

Every day, renew their strength. Show them new heights of grace and new depths of generosity. Flood them with love, with an abundance of goodness and a sense of contentment beyond their wildest dreams. Let them feel You, see You, hear You, and know You. Shine so brightly into their lives that there will be no darkness left to be seen—anywhere. Radiate truth and goodness. Overflow their lives with Your Spirit, and let that be what the world knows of You. Reveal Yourself through the most humble and gentle of souls.

We want to see You. We want more of You, not the god (with a lower-case G) that some Christians are shouting about. We’re tired of shouting. We want the God who whispers and yet is mighty. The One who is holy. The One who saves lives, who redeems and doesn’t destroy. The One who is truly worthy of all that we have to offer. The One who is big enough, capable enough, and present enough to change us—and to change the world.

Lord, help me be true to You and not get caught in the opinions and troubles of the world. Let me hold on to the Truth. To the most gentle, wondrous One of all. Help me never, ever let go of You. Amen.

 

What are we really grieving?

Everyone—myself included—has been pretty incensed by the recent controversy over the religious freedom act (whichever side they fall on). I’ve felt deep in my soul a need to speak out. I’ve prayed. I’ve cried (sobbed, really). And although my political beliefs fall on the losing side in this state of mine, and if you ask ...

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What are we really grieving graphic

Everyone—myself included—has been pretty incensed by the recent controversy over the religious freedom act (whichever side they fall on). I’ve felt deep in my soul a need to speak out. I’ve prayed. I’ve cried (sobbed, really).

And although my political beliefs fall on the losing side in this state of mine, and if you ask my opinion I’ll tell you, I really try not to use this as a public forum for anything political. (Don’t worry. I’m not defying that guideline even now.)

Sunday morning, we were in the middle of a typical worship service at my church. We began to sing a Brooklyn Tabernacle song called We Are United, which I’ve always liked just fine.

[chorus]
We are united in Jesus Christ
We are the soldiers of the light
We don’t wrestle flesh and blood
But principalities of the dark
We do our marching to one beat
Crushing the enemy under our feet
We are mighty in our stand
With God’s word in our hand

In our hearts we have a vision
We have made our decision
To show the Father’s love
With great power from above

Let us reach this generation
Every tribe and every nation
For we’ve overcome the world
By the blood of Christ The Lamb

[bridge]
The Lord our God is a sword and shield
We fight our battles on our knees

But on that day, I couldn’t even sing along. Because instead of this being an anthem of unity, a rally to strength and victory, all I could hear were fighting words.

And words of untruth. Because we, as Christians, are not united, no matter how much we wish we could say so. I stood there, tears streaming down my face, realizing that I was in mourning. Not because of the law. But because of all the things it has brought to light.

I can’t even find words to express how deeply my heart hurts from all of this. How appalled I am by the people who have latched onto this as a way to justify hateful behavior. How surprised I am by the number of Christians who are rejoicing in victory over persecution that I’ve never actually witnessed myself. The words in the law don’t see to overtly justify those things, but there’s so much conflict in the ways this has been interpreted. I’m not a legal scholar and I do not know the hearts of those who pushed this bill forward. I am not entirely sure what to believe, but the reality is that many (not all) Christians see this as a way to justify their disapproval of certain people (or, at least, certain behaviors). I don’t know if they are true, but I’ve seen stories about business owners already proudly refusing to serve gays. Again, it’s not necessarily the bill I’m objecting to. It’s how people are acting in response.

But our God is all about redemption—about rescuing, and putting to good use, those situations that, without Him, are otherwise hopeless. He can make something from nothing. Bring light to darkness. Show mercy. Offer forgiveness.

And as God’s people? We can do the same.

We can try to turn around this perception that the world has of us as hateful, closed-minded bigots. I’m not asking you to turn away from your deeply-held beliefs. Just asking us all to prayerfully consider the reasons behind our views. Hoping we’ll examine ourselves, our lives, and our words to see what kind of impression we’re giving the world about our faith.

Because let’s not kid ourselves, this one issue is only so provocative because it encompasses so many other ones. How do we feel about homosexuality? Can we love each other no matter what we believe? In what ways do different people identifying as Christians disagree with each other? When did our society stop allowing us to agree to disagree? Why is a difference of opinion now so divisive? When did disagreement begin to be synonymous with dislike of an individual? Can we apply the same label (Christianity) to our faith when there is such a disparity in what different segments believe? Is it still possible to strive for unity among believers? Shouldn’t we do it even if the Bible declares that many will “fall away”? Are Christians to set themselves apart or to associate with the broken, hurting, “non-holy”? Do Christians consider it freedom if a law can be used by a non-Christian as protection from a Christian? What is modern Christianity telling the world? Is there anyone out there who isn’t a Christian who would want to be one with all this crud going on? I think this is why people (myself included) are getting so riled up. It’s not just the bill. It’s that all the other things people disagree on are also coming to light.

So I’ll start by apologizing to anyone who has read my words on this topic and been offended. Working towards unity—among believers, yes, but also simply among people—has been my greatest goal and desire since the moment I “found” God as an adult. If I have done anything to divide people, that saddens me tremendously, and I sincerely ask for your forgiveness.

I really do believe, though, that as the body of Christ we’re not acting in a way that Christ would like. I believe if He were still walking on this earth He would be calling out our behavior, not that of the ones who authored this situation. That’s why Jesus has always been so controversial. Why it takes courage to accept Him and humility to begin to act like Him. Because He always shows us that we need to turn the pointing finger back to ourselves. And in the process, He brings healing. But not the way people expect. He heals bodies—but not until after He heals people’s souls.

Praying today—always—that Christ will heal this Body. But that first, He will heal our souls. That He will show us what we need. That He will soften our hearts with compassion. That He will plant a root of truth deep inside our hearts, where we cannot uproot it even with our natural stupidity and stubbornness. That He will demonstrate to us how the Church—as a single, unified Body—should behave. That He will remind us that even though we’re part of a Body, He comes to us as individuals by giving us the gift of a relationship. And that as individuals we have a responsibility to maintain and improve upon that relationship. And we can only do that with intention. Transparency. Humility. Respect.

Believing that He will place before us situations that we can redeem by building relationships with people around us, one on one. By letting people inside the facades we erect. By opening our hearts and allowing two-way discourse. By forging relationships based on His guiding principle—love.

Hoping that we can look at the larger issues and begin to reflect the very reasons we chose this faith.

Praying that we can behave in a way that reflects glory back to Him.

Because like it or not, we—as God’s people, and as residents of Indiana—are in the spotlight. The world’s spotlight hones in on controversy, but God’s spotlight always shines on truth. And God’s truth is full of kindness and grace and mercy.

Let’s redeem this. Let’s show the world what we’re really about. Let’s surprise them with our vulnerability and kindness. Let’s let people into our lives. Let’s make it so that they want to be there with us.

And let’s learn from this.

Do you see what I see? No? Good.

Don’t worry. This post isn’t about The Dress. Well, not really. As a graphic designer, I pride myself on how I perceive color, on noticing the nuances of hues and shades and being able to describe them to my clients. So I confess that this has been kind of hard on me. One, I like ...

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Don’t worry. This post isn’t about The Dress. Well, not really.

As a graphic designer, I pride myself on how I perceive color, on noticing the nuances of hues and shades and being able to describe them to my clients. So I confess that this has been kind of hard on me. One, I like to be right, and I still disagree with some of the conclusions regarding what the dress actually looks like. And two, I’ve always been adamant that I am a really good judge of color. I can see a paint chip once, and weeks later at Target pick up a throw pillow or vase that matches perfectly. One year I got a sweater for Christmas, and without having it with me, bought a pair of leggings the exact color as the sweater. I notice when there’s a little more blue in this green than in this one, or when the red contains a smidge of yellow.

When clients don’t see the same thing I do, at times I get a little bit of an attitude. Because it’s soooo clear to me, and I don’t know how they can’t see it. (And I may have mentioned that I like to be right.)

But this (somewhat annoying) dress debate has taught me something. There may be reasons I’d never considered for why someone else might see a specific situation in a different way than I do. Something that isn’t readily apparent. Something hidden. Unseen, if you will.

It’s not really about being right or wrong, no matter how much you want your perspective to be true. I’ve heard from many Christians “we believe the Truth.” “We only teach the Bible’s Truth.” And they mean it. I’ve been known to say the same thing, and I mean it too.

But my truth may look slightly different than yours, even when we’re both looking at the same picture. I see a light bluish-lavender color, which I assume is a white dress in cool wintry shadows (like the color of shadows striping an Indiana snowy landscape)—while you see blue.

Our culture has been edging more and more to extremes. There’s little middle ground, and practically no tolerance for different opinions. If nothing else, the dress has shown us that. And within the Christian culture, it seems that differences in worship or interpretation or practice have polarized us, rather than pulling us together.

And yet we’re all striving to see the same truth. To discover it, apply it, and live it.

But while I may read the Bible and note that Jesus drank wine—and therefore decide that wine should be used for communion, another person serves grape juice because they want to cause no man to stumble. And another may say somewhere in the middle is more accurate, because the wine in Jesus’ day wasn’t as strong as ours, so really if we’re wanting to follow Jesus, we should mix water with the wine.

I know there are bigger issues than this, and I personally don’t think this one is that important. Because we’re all trying to follow His directive to do this in remembrance of Him. To honor Him. And in my deepest self I believe God honors all of our intentions.

I do hope the discussion about the dress ends soon, but even more, I hope we walk away from it having learned something. Maybe when someone disagrees with me, or sees a situation differently or draws an alternate conclusion than I do, I have to consider that there’s more to it than meets the eye. It might be that their life experience has given them a different outlook. Perhaps they bring assumptions and biases to their interpretation of an event. Quite possibly, they’ve been hurt by someone using similar words as I am, by a church experience with imperfect people or leaders. Or maybe God reveals Himself in a different way to that person than He does to me.

It doesn’t mean my God has changed or that we serve different gods. Just that He created us as individuals. He speaks to us in a variety of ways.

Maybe we need to allow ourselves to be open to the possibility that neither of us is wrong.

And embrace the fact that we’re all just made a little bit differently.

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