Surrendered on the Prairie

Over the past year, I have repeatedly considered

a) Shutting down this blog page completely …..or…

b)changing the name.

Neither have happened. I can’t seem to let go of my “prairie” designation as this is where I live and life is harsh here. It’s either too hot and dry in the summer or too cold and unforgiving in the winter. The happy medium is fall when it rains or the days are warm and nights are cool or in the spring when we can go outside without a jacket but still have to turn up the heat for evening.

I spent the majority of December crying. This is not my favourite pastime for the month of all things Christmas. I’m a joy bringer- I’m the one with the sugar cookies and tinsel garland. I puke mini-lights and shortbread like it’s my job. I cannot go a day without some Amy Grant Christmas on my airwaves. I’m all eggnog and Bailey’s for 31 days straight and no one can snap me out of it.

Until this year.  This year, the Christmas carols that started in early November drifted into laments in early December. One day I was clicking through my playlists and landed on Tasha Cobbs Leonard. I stayed there for the next 10 days. That was around December 5.  Things did not get better.  By December 15 I was a miserable, shaking, crying, angry mess.

On Friday, December 15, 2017 I helped my friends pack a U-Haul and watched them drive it away.  They had only been here for 4 1/2 months.  It was a shock to my system.  I was heartbroken that I may have contributed either to their coming or their early departure. Doing ministry work is messy and thankless at times. You spend a lot of hours wondering if you heard God right or if you interpreted His leading correctly. But there is nothing as hard as losing loyal, grounded, committed allies when the work of ministry was *just* beginning to bear fruit.  The shock of them leaving so quickly after arriving gave way to anger which gave way to heart-crushing sadness and then a complete state of confusion followed for weeks.

I’m still not totally out of that but I have prayed a lot for God to give me something to hold on to. I’m a fixer and a doer and sitting around feels like a prison.

The very same day, another era was also coming to an end. As we packed up our friends’ home, our other friends were holding the tiny hand of their little boy as he entered into Heaven’s gates.  And my heart nearly couldn’t take it.  In fact, unbeknownst to me what was happening in that hospital room 9 hours away, my own heart was hurting so bad I nearly had my husband drive me to the ER. The weeks of worry and waiting and praying and crying and wishing and pleading had left me broken. And I don’t think I could have taken another day of it.

I woke up December 16 exhausted and done. I was just so done. Our friends drove their Uhaul away from our house and I told my husband that I needed to sleep for a week. I was so sad to see them leave but we both agreed that we needed a rest from all of the pain. In the hours that followed the reality of the other painful event would be revealed and the very first thing I realized that day was this: my heart wasn’t hurting anymore. It had been hurting for so long I hadn’t even noticed how much it had become a part of my daily life. And on that Saturday afternoon, I sat in silence and the pain was gone. I asked God to give peace to these families as they transitioned into the “after” of their lives.  The “before this happened” portion was done and now they were going to be marking every day, every triumph, every tragedy, every sadness, every joy by this day.

We may be smiling but it was an act of surrendered defiance to not be miserable as they were about to drive away.

I don’t know why I had that heart pain for all of those days while that precious boy lay fighting for his life in the hospital. I don’t know why there was all of that personal turmoil in our lives with our friends and their sudden termination from ministry here. I don’t understand any of it. And I tried to figure out why my physical heart pain was suddenly gone. And God gave me this: surrender. I looked it up.  Among the definitions for  surrender is this:  “abandon oneself *ENTIRELY* to a powerful emotion or influence; give in to. ”

My friends surrendered. They could have stayed. They could have fought. But they did not.

This little boy surrendered his body- he abandoned himself entirely . And in so doing, his family was forced to surrender as well.

Surrender is powerful. Because once you give in and give yourself over to God, the pain goes away. It’s just over.

I’m still sad. I’m still angry. I’m a beat-the-doors-down, slam my fist on board room tables, demand answers kind of girl. I’m not easily pushed over. But I have found myself in this new, awkward, quiet place of surrender. It’s a place of brokenness.  I don’t really like it- I’ll admit that quite readily. I’m not comfortable giving in and not having a final word. But I’m choosing it as gracefully as I can.

The harsh prairie wind is blowing again today.  Some say it’s no place for humans to be when it’s this cold. I’m not moving, yet. And the God that dwells in the tropical places on mountain tops and in rain forests is still the same God who we surrender to on the cold and barren prairie.

 

“Take all I have in these hands
And multiply, God, all that I am
And find my heart on the altar again
Set me on fire, set me on fire
Here I am, God
Arms wide open
Pouring out my life
Gracefully broken
My heart stands in awe of Your name
Your mighty love stands strong to the end
You will fulfill Your purpose for me
You won’t forsake me, You will be with me
Here I am, God
Arms wide open
Pouring out my life
Gracefully broken

All to Jesus now
All to Jesus now
Holding nothing back
Holding nothing back
I surrender
I surrender
I surrender”
Tasha Cobbs Leonard “Gracefully Broken”
The thing about surrender is this….it’s fertile soil for growth.
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This is our ladies fall Bible Study group. Movers and shakers and wholly surrendered.

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Explaining “Me Too”

At the tender age of 20, on the night before my wedding, a male member of my husband’s family and unfortunately, in our wedding party too, grabbed my rear end and told me “You’d better get used to it- you’re in the family now.”

Mortified, shaken, annoyed, shocked.  I mean, how does one react? I was stunned and didn’t respond at all. I didn’t tell anyone. Least of all, I didn’t tell the one person I should have told- my future husband.  Because, as all women in a similar situation, we brush it off. We downplay it. We make excuses. To whom? Ourselves mostly. We make excuses that it was probably nothing. We make concessions and we give reasons and we don’t speak. We don’t tell. Shhh. Quiet, or you might bring shame upon your family.  Don’t rock the boat. Don’t make a big deal. I mean, it’s not like he raped anyone…….

A few months later, while on a bus loaded with congregants from our local church, we were on our way to a church service out of town.  A gathering of the faithful to celebrate unity among our denomination. The bus was full of young and old. I don’t remember what happened first or how it unfolded but I was smack in the middle of a verbal assault by a “hot-headed”  young punk whose family were long-time adherents.  In the midst of a fun ride, casual chatter and group building he told my husband “you better get control of your wife”……I was hot and flushed with rage. I nearly tore his head off. Just prior, he had made a shameful, degrading comment to me and decided in that moment he had patriarchy and the mob on his side. He went on to be a serial rapist and child molester.

I have 3 girls in young adulthood. All of them are at or near the age I was when these two unfortunate occurrences happened. I don’t lose sleep over these things but at one time I did. And that, in and of itself, is the problem. Because no girl or woman should feel shame, degraded, assaulted, man-handled or shaken simply because she is a female. But this is our world. And this is what it means to be a woman. This is how we grow up: told by our mothers and grandmothers to cover up, run and use our gut instinct.  The former 2 are right and wrong. That’s a discussion for another day.  The latter…….that is right. And it is what we do not discuss enough. Instinct.

In the above two examples of pathetic excuses for “men” I had instinct. With both people, long before the incidents took place I was uncomfortable. Call it that “icky factor”.  Maybe slimy. Maybe gross or creepy.  If you’re a woman, you know what I mean because it has happened to all of us. I had this discussion with my husband years ago. I told him about all the men I found creepy. He didn’t understand it or see it. He couldn’t even wrap his head around what I meant. And it is so hard to describe. Unless you’re a woman. You know.

They hover over you. They breathe hot down your neck. They swoop in while you’re sitting and stare down your cleavage. I see this at church sometimes- older men, hovering over the young girls who don’t even realize what is happening.  Standing too close, touching hair or shoulders, leaning forward to catch a glimpse of something that is barely there.  I shudder.

Me too.  I’ve seen it posted a hundred times today.  It might have been the time an inappropriate grandfather touched his granddaughter’s bare shoulder and twisted her bra strap back….what business is it of his? Why does it matter? It shouldn’t. But he did it. And she was uncomfortable at the least and disgusted at the worst.  Never in my life have my dad or grandfather EVER touched my shoulder in such a way and NEVER would they even consider adjusting the undergarment of a girl.  I’m ill. This was my daughter.

Or maybe it was the time when the 12 year old niece at a family dinner was hugged too closely by the creepy uncle whose hand slipped way too far down. Don’t tell me it was accidental. It was purposeful and intentional. But she never told anyone.

The creep, the weirdo, the off-putting, the aggressive, the loud one, the funny one, the charming one, the awkward one.  Women know.

Parents, caregivers, youth leaders, pastors: help out the girls and the women here. Tell your boys and your young men and your married men and your older men to stop. Stop touching and feeling and looking and hovering. Stop wrapping your arms around girls and women who you have no business touching. Stop looking at breasts and cleavage and butts like they’re hills to conquer. Stop pushing your way into every female’s personal space.  Stop being domineering and threatening. Stop man handling and laughing about it. Stop presuming you have a right.  YOU HAVE NO RIGHT.

 

And for the girls and the women: keep trusting your instincts. Don’t worry if it makes you look mean or cold.  Don’t let anyone force you to touch or be with any man or boy or beast who does not respect your boundaries and your body. YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT.

I’m 46 and there are a dozen times in my life I should have said “me too”.  I didn’t. But I am today.

One Word for 2017: MORE {or less}

We’re at that pondering stage of the holidays; recounting Christmas, accounting for our year and looking forward to what’s in store.

A few years ago I started to join the trend of bloggers who were choosing ONE WORD to focus on for the year. Instead of resolutions and goals, a word helps us to focus generally or specifically on an area or many areas of our lives. I skipped last year and recently have found myself wondering about a word for this year.

Funny thing, the word ” MORE”  keeps coming to mind. And even though I tried to push it aside as something selfish and excessive, I have come to relish the thought of MORE for this year.

MORE blogging, less thinking about it.

MORE reading books(less internet reading)

MORE exercise(less sitting down)

MORE painting(less PINTERESTING)

MORE creativity(less critical thinking)

MORE time with family(less alone time, although I still need that)

MORE water(less of everything else that isn’t water)

MORE home baked from scratch(less processed crap)

MORE dates(no comment necessary)

MORE joy (less sorrow)

MORE peace(less worry)

MORE laughter(less seriousness)

MORE adventures(less fear)

MORE travel (less boredom)

MORE family( less of me)

MORE time with friends(less time apart)

MORE country(less city)

MORE cuddles(less seclusion)

MORE board games(less TV)

MORE sunshine(less shade- this is an ongoing issue for me — the one who wilts in the hot sun).

MORE camping

MORE backyard fires

MORE listening(less talking)

MORE loving (less fighting)

MORE hearing(less judging)

MORE time (less busy-ness)

MORE sit at the table meals(less meals on the run)

MORE grace

MORE love

MORE hope

MORE joy

MORE gladness

MORE gratefulness

MORE of Jesus every day.

 

I could go on and on. I need more, not less. I need bigger and better, not smaller and worse.

May today be the beginning of more.

Have you thought about your WORD for the year?

 

How To Keep Your Christmas Tree from Ruining Christmas

2015 Update!

I wrote this blog about real Christmas trees 4 years ago. To date, it continues to be one of my highest read posts. As we near Christmas, the searches that lead people to my blog become more desperate and alarming. Things like ” how to revive a dead Christmas tree”  or ” what to do when your Christmas tree is dried out”  …..

So here’s the quick news you probably already know. THROW IT OUT.  Seriously, if you forgot to cut off the trunk, haven’t watered it daily and it is brittle dry…it is a FIRE HAZARD.  People die every year because of dry trees that are lit up with warm bulbs.  Please don’t do that. Please, remove the tree from your home immediately. There is still time to get a new tree and have a lovely Christmas.

 

Here’s another trick I saw today:  use a wrapping paper tube to water your tree. So easy and efficient! I just did it myself today as we have a real tree for the first time in 10 years!  I check the branches every day to make sure they are still pliable and getting water.

christmas tree watering trick

***UPDATE*** After numerous Google searches with people frantically trying to revive their sad and pathetic trees, I must interject and let you all know that #2 is SO CRITICAL to the health and life of your tree. It cannot be said loud enough or often enough….YOU MUST CUT OFF at least 2 inches  off the base of your tree before you put it into your tree stand with water. The bottom is sealed tight and opening up the trunk is the only way for water to get to your branches and needles. If you don’t do this, your tree will die and that’s really all there is to it.  Happy tree trimming and tree hunting!

I’m sad to admit that I have a very high mortality rate with any living plant in my house. I just can’t seem to have a thriving greenish type of thing that isn’t plastic, silk or otherwise fake.   And when it comes to Christmas Trees…well, I’ve killed my fair share.

Needles all over the carpet, ornaments too heavy for brittle branches, even trees that topple in the night due to pathetic hydration.

I grew up on a farm and we had a real tree every year. My mom would use a coffee can to hold the water and I really had nothing to do with it from there. I just cared about tinsel and shiny balls all over it along with the multi-colored retro LARGE bulbs.

We had artificial trees when we moved off the farm and my husband and I only started with real trees in our 5th year of marriage.  I killed that tree early too.  And then next one.  I couldn’t figure out how to prolong its life.  Until I asked my mother how it was that we always had our tree up for at least a month on the farm.  Ginger Ale.  Say what?  Yes.  You know the saying ” a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”? Well, it applies to evergreens too.  Seems that the sap in the tree blocks up all the pores when you cut it down. Sort of a life preserving technique but it makes it pretty tough to absorb any water.  So here’s the tricks I learned and let me tell you, it works and you can even revive a nearly dead tree!

  1. When you buy your real tree or cut it down , you must let it “settle” in your warm house before it can be decorated. It may take hours or up to a day.  But you cannot leave it inside without putting it in water.  So set up your tree stand(or coffee can) and fill it half full of water.
  2. CUT OFF the bottom of the trunk. Regardless if you have cut it down in the forest yourself or not, the sap will have solidified on the bottom of the trunk and you need a fresh cut to absorb the water.  I have even had to take down a tree and cut the bottom off after I’ve started to decorate just because I forgot this step. Not fun.  Also, trim off  those straggler branches on the bottom. You don’t need them sucking up the water before it gets a chance to travel up the trunk.
  3. Add equal parts of Ginger Ale(I like Canada Dry myself) and water to your tree stand.  Watch the water level~ in the first couple of hours the tree will suck up most, if not all of the liquid and you will need to top it up. After the first day you can go to a 1:4 ratio of ginger ale to water.
  4. You MUST check your water level daily. If you live in a dry climate, have a wood stove, have forced air heat it will dry your tree out quicker.  Also, if you have a vent near where your tree is, consider closing it off for the season to avoid it blowing directly on your tree.
  5. All trees shed needles a bit at first.  You are going to want some sort of proper tree skirt that will catch most of them so that you aren’t still vacuuming needles in July.(been there)
  6. Check your tree daily. It should smell, needles should be pliable and not brittle.  Keep the water level up at all times and you will enjoy your tree through New Year’s! ( I also have used a spray bottle mister sometimes to add a bit of moisture to the upper branches but that’s not really necessary if you’re watering properly)

I don’t have a real tree this year…but next year….OH YES I WILL!

*** NEW**** if you don’t have ginger ale, sugar water will work too! But my experience has shown the gingerale works faster/better??? Not sure why. I’m not an arborist or chemist.

A Viral Post and Holy Ground

Dearest readers,

I don’t even understand how this has happened. Last week when I hit “publish” on a post that I barely thought through, I was hoping maybe I’d get 200 views. Not because the number 200 is magical and a fantastic goal to strive for, but because that’s a little more than the number of friends I have on Facebook and I happen to know that most of them are suffering with various ailments, dilemmas, hardships, worries and struggles.  I prayed, “Lord, just use me to share your love and your message.”

What happened since then has been THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of hits and shares with my daily totals topping the 10’s of thousands and only growing. I am dumbfounded and in awe.

Lately, I haven’t blogged much. Actually, 2014 saw very few posts from me. I have so many in my drafts folder but I’m overly critical at times, think way too hard, or don’t think at all and then they sit there.  Unpublished. Wasting away in a forgotten corner of the interwebs. Blogging has always been , for me, a virtual journal of life and journeying through. Sometimes inspiration strikes me in the oddest of places at the weirdest of times.

And then Thursday happened…..

I have felt like I’m walking on Holy Ground. And I “know that there are angels all around…”

I didn’t want to really post a response. I didn’t want to edit. I wanted it to remain. Jesus is coming…….and the brokenness and waiting is part of the preparation.

So, I’m not adding to that message. I didn’t want it to be cynical. I didn’t want anyone to feel that all hope is lost. It’s not.

Jesus is here. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is moving and speaking and whispering to His people. Through His people.

May I instead, point you towards more inspiring posts to encourage you? You may not feel it at this moment, but there is a place for you to rejoice this Christmas. It is okay to laugh unexpectedly in spite of your situation. It is okay to giggle at silly gifts and look forward to a big feast. It’s okay to stay home and watch stupid movies and play games. Or maybe, just smile in line at the grocery store. It’s all okay. And you know what else is okay? You are. You are here. You made it! 2014 is almost over and you’re still standing. Maybe you’re wobbly. Maybe you’re hurting. But you’re here. And you will be okay.

Sarah Bessey is one of my favourite author/bloggers and she tells stories like nobody I know.  Please go read this:

The sacred and holy moments of life are somehow the most raw, the most human moments, aren’t they?

But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much.

the rest of the post is here: http://sarahbessey.com/in-which-we-get-this-part-of-the-incarnation/

Then there  is Ann Voskamp who completely levels me every time she writes. This post today is such a poignant follow up to my own Merry Broken Christmas. It is a must read for sure:

What if Christmas was about seeing Christ in that family member you think just stinks —- seeing Christ in that neighbour you’re tempted to be offended by, in those politics you’re offended by, in the people you’re offended by, in the point of view you’re offended by? 

What if Christmas gave us the Gift we need to walk through suffering, live for justice, lay down prejudice?

What if Christmas demonstrated how to overcome suffering and evil with good, demonstrated how God overcame the world’s suffering and evil forces by willingly laying aside His power and becoming a helpless babe, demonstrated how the strong turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, seek peace – quietly lay themselves down so that there might be peace on earth and good will toward men.

see the entire post here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/12/how-even-pain-division-cant-steal-our-merry-christmas-with-a-spoken-word-poem-an-advent-lament-a-brave-merry-christmas/

And then, a few of my own posts. Christmas is my favourite thing to talk and write about. I do it a lot. Honestly, there isn’t enough Christmas in the world.

A couple of years ago I did a 31 Day series on Redeeming Christmas. It continues to get views at this time of year with some posts being particularly popular.

The Ones Who Hate Christmas

The Secret Giver

It’s Complicated 

Christmas Eve message~Merry Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIENDS! May the peace of Jesus be the greatest gift you receive.

Merry Broken Christmas

“I’m getting a divorce.”  She whispered it; her voice cracking under the weight of what that sentence held. She could barely contain the sob that followed. It’s a week before Christmas and her family is broken.

I watched a funeral procession go by today. There were dozens of cars following the hearse and two limos. Obviously, someone who was well loved and valued in this life is being laid to rest today- a week before Christmas. That family will never be the same. Their Christmas is broken.

It’s been 19 months since Emma died. She was only 15. Her parents are experiencing yet another broken Christmas. There is no getting around it.  The family table is missing someone. Time does not heal all wounds. Christmas is broken.

In Peshawar, Pakistan hundreds of families are burying their children today. Mourning. Wailing. Scars that will never heal. Trauma that is too painful to relive. Fear. Jesus, come quickly. Broken. So broken.

It was 2 years ago this week that a madman ripped bullets through tiny bodies in small town America. Tiny lives obliterated. Broken families. Broken lives. Broken school. Broken nation.

Michael Brown‘s mother is a broken woman. And because her son was shot down, her city and country are broken too. Politics aside- these people will never be the same again. Violence against police. Violence against each other. Violence in the name of justice. Broken system. Broken nation. Broken world.

In Ottawa this Christmas, Nathan Cirillo’s young son will have to unwrap presents without his daddy.  He will never have another Christmas with his dad. His family is broken. These lives are broken. Our world is broken.

I could go on all day.  Every week there are more horror stories. Sydney, Australia.  Seattle, Washington. Portland, Oregon. Calgary, Alberta. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The family of Donald and Shirley Parkinson in Unity, SK…..I knew Shirley. She was a light in the community. A light that was tragically and violently snuffed out at the hands of her own husband. And now her daughters are left with this legacy of brokenness and unanswered questions.

It would be nice to say “Merry Christmas” and be completely oblivious to the world around us. But that would be lying. The fact is, more of us are broken at Christmas than whole. And I’m here to tell you that’s okay. In fact, your brokenness is exactly why Jesus came. Your brokenness is the dirty, filthy stable. Your brokenness is a manger made for feeding animals, not for a King. But Jesus will come anyway. He will come and He will stay and He will cry IN your brokenness, WITH you. Because Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.

charlie brown tree

We have to put away this notion of a perfectly decorated tree, perfectly adorned houses, perfectly wrapped gifts, perfectly planned meals and perfectly pretty people.  Jesus didn’t come for any of that. And actually, it’s quite offensive. If your world is so perfect and sanitized then you have no need or room for Jesus. You are simply the Innkeeper telling Jesus to move along because there is no room for Him. That concept shocks and scares me. I don’t want perfection to the point where I have no room for Him in my life, in my home, in my family or in my brokenness. I would rather take all the sad, scary, horribleness WITH Jesus, than perfection without Him.

Mark 8:34-37 (MSG) Jesus says…..

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Psalms 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.

Even Mary, who was so young and so unprepared for what her life would be like, knew that the coming of Jesus was not for the free and the satisfied, but for the oppressed and the soul-crushed.  Her words are powerful…these words that she uttered from deep within her spirit knowing that soon she would bear a son who would save her people.

Mary’s Song(Luke 1)

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

My husband and I had one of those epic, smackdown fights last night that don’t happen often but really shake us to our core. We are so imperfect and prideful. We lash out in defense of our own agendas. None of it is even important. But we made it more important than anything else. We’re broken.

We have four children but we rarely see or speak to one of them. Broken.

For a couple of years we have had little to no contact with my inlaws. Deep wounds. Toxic, painful memories. Dysfunctional relationships. So broken; all of us.

Money troubles, relationship troubles, family issues, job worries, houses in need of repair, unfinished tasks, assignments overdue, marks falling, everyone failing. Struggling. Barely existing. Trying too hard to get no where.

If this sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. The Saviour is coming. He is on his way to find a place to be born. Is your heart ready? Is it open?  Christmas Day is a week away but Jesus is born every day in the hearts of mankind. All we have to say is “yes Lord, I’m broken. Come and fill me. Come heal me. Come live in my brokenness.”

The woman who is getting a divorce….I didn’t know what to say. I choked back the tears as they started to fall. Her words were amazingly poignant, ” there is nothing to say- just pray. Pray, pray pray.”

All I want for Christmas is to be broken enough to be the stable and not the Inn. 

Merry Broken Christmas.

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[Some Christmas thoughts | Chris Martin Writes
http://chrismartinwrites.com/2014/12/24/some-christmas-thoughts/caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”480″] Click on this to read another blog about imperfect, broken Christmases.[/caption]

 

and a follow up after nearly 200,000 views in 5 days! Wowie!  A Viral Post and Holy Ground

I love comments but due to some unfortunate and egregious comments I am now shifting to managing comments through an approval process. I’m sorry I even have to do this on Christmas Eve but clearly the very broken are lashing out at me; someone they don’t even know. But the overwhelming majority of you have been gracious and kind and for that I am so thankful.

I Crossed the Line

When I see a really adorable baby in the grocery store with a frazzled, tired looking mom, I bust out of my introverted non-eye contact self and tell her how cute her baby is or how brave she is for confronting the cold or line ups while toting a car seat. It may only take a very short moment and I certainly don’t do it to make friends; we don’t exchange numbers or even names. I just give her that knowing nod- the affirmation she needs to press on.  I’ve been there. I’ve been that mom. And I’ve been on the opposite end of having glares, stares and “what a shame” glances. Listen, we don’t all LOOK great ALL the time. We don’t all do our shopping the same or mow our grass the same. And we certainly don’t raise our kids the same. My kids often had unruly hair, dirty faces, messy clothes and no shoes. But they’re loved and cared for- I assure you.

 

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks. Maybe months.  You see, I’ve crossed the line.  I’ve crossed over to a new way of thinking. I’ve grown up.  I used to be a black and white thinker.  I was the “what a shame” woman without children shaming the frazzled, exhausted mother.  I was the judgy woman who labeled people I did not know based on how they looked or acted or spoke. I. WAS. THAT. PERSON.  And for the most part, so are/were you.  We all make too many assumptions on people by what they wear or how they wear it.  We hear stories of little boys wanting to take “girly” backpacks to school and we poo-poo the parents for allowing such an action.  We are GREAT at our passive aggressive stance on anyone who is sinning differently than we are.  We are. Christians.  We are AWESOME at telling other people about THEIR sin and how GREAT we are at NOT DOING what they are CLEARLY doing WRONG.

 

I’m going to take a leap.  I’m going to jump from the old-school way of thinking that there is absolute black and white, sin is sin, hell is real, my need to point out your faults kind of judgment.  Do I still believe in black and white?  Mostly.   Do I still believe in sin and hell and God’s judgment? You bet.

I will tell you this- I am just as confused and concerned as anyone.  I know what my Bible says. And you know what else? Those who do not profess the Christian faith even know what the Bible says.  People KNOW what the Bible says about sin. What the general public doesn’t know, doesn’t understand is why a faith that is built on the LOVE OF CHRIST, on the foundation of LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOUR, on the premise of FORGIVENESS AND GRACE is so HELL BENT on telling them what they’re doing wrong and how bad they are. It sickens me daily. I see it played out over and over and over again, online and in real life.

 

Christians!! If you really want to reach people for Jesus, stop telling them about their sin(which they already know) and show them how you’re going to love them in spite of it! Because I hate to break it to you, but you’re a sinner too.

I don’t know when it first happened~ this idea that some sins are worse than others.  I don’t know how it happened that God-fearing , righteous holy rollers decided it was perfectly OKAY to publicly shame, yell at, berate, mock, tease, bully, hound and condemn to Hell those whose sin is of a particular nature.  You do know that all sin is selfish, right? Read the 10 commandments(which I might add are not the only 10 sins- there are literally 100s if not thousands of sins listed in the Bible).  If sin is about selfishness, then worrying about the colour of paint on my walls while my neighbour has nothing for supper tonight is sin.

If sin is selfishness, then buying supper at MacDonald’s before I pay my debts is sin.

If sin is selfishness, then pushing my way in front of a little old widow in the grocery store is sin.

We all sin.

We all sin daily.

We are all sinners.

We are all sinning daily.

Each night since I was a little girl, I fall asleep AFTER I have cleared things up with the Lord. My nightly prayer goes something like this:

“Lord, I know I messed up today.  I know I spent more time on Facebook than I did with you. I realize I was short tempered with my kids and I love them and I’m sorry.  Dear Jesus, I don’t want to hurt you or hurt my family, but I know I do- so I ask you to forgive me and help me do better tomorrow. In your name, Amen.”‘

ann voskamp quote

You see, I cannot share Christ’s love with others if I don’t realize that my need for Him is also desperate. I cannot be a light in the dark if I have surrounded my own heart with darkness.  We are only as effective in our crusade to be the hands and feet of Jesus if we are willing to humble ourselves as he was humbled, if we are willing to walk where he walked, if we are willing to touch the dirty sinners as he did. We have to be the Jesus who, the night before he died- the night before one of his best friends gave him up to the soldiers for some pieces of silver- if we’re willing to wash the feet of the ones who will hurt us.  Jesus did. That is love. That is grace. That is mercy.  Jesus didn’t yell in Judas’ face. He didn’t berate him. He didn’t have to. Judas knew he was guilty. Judas already knew that what he was going to do was wrong but he was willing to do it anyway. Because of selfishness- even in the face of his own friend.  Let your heart and mind sit on that for a while.

We have a mission:  Love God and Love others.  Jesus did NOT give us a mandate to judge.  In fact, he said the opposite: “don’t judge anyone”.  As hard as it may be for some super duper McJudgy Pants Christians to admit- your judgment and subsequent condemnation of others is actually pushing them AWAY from the throne of grace of which YOU represent!  Your theology, your interpretation of the Gospel and the words of Christ will only be heard and received if you serve them on the platter of grace and love.  If you feel it is your duty to defend the gospel at all costs- even at the cost of someone’s spiritual life, you do not represent the Jesus Christ whom I love and serve. And ya, that makes me judgy.  I am a sinner too.

This week, the internet exploded with the news that World Vision would now NOT DISCRIMINATE against those who profess to be gay. So , you know, to show the world our love and all , Christians took to their keyboards in contempt- disavowing World Vision, dropping sponsorship of small, helpless, innocent , hungry children. Because that’ll teach ’em! Right? Right…………..

I have seen some pretty ugly words. I have read things that should never, ever, ever come out of a Christ-follower’s mouth or mind. Good gracious, people, what are we doing?

Can I be honest here about my feelings on the gay issue?  I’m on the fence. I know what my Bible says.  I know that homosexuality is listed as A SIN in the Bible. I also know that adultery is listed in the same sentence.  I also know that lust(looking at someone and dreaming and drooling about them in our minds would be covered in that) is also listed.  You know what else is listed? Drunkenness. As are many other sins of the flesh. So now what? How do we move forward as people of grace and mercy? How do show the way of the Cross, forgiveness, and justice too?

I’ve crossed the line. I have grown up. I have realized that hammering and pounding my fist in profession of my faith is NOT the way to win souls and influence anyone. I have gay family members. Do I shun them, hate them, pour salt on the open wounds they are already feeling from the church? What about my family members who are in adulterous, fornicating, relationships? Do I prevent them from coming into my home because of their dirty, sexual sin? Who am I to judge the condition of their hearts? Who am I?

I suspect God is waiting for His Church to put down their slings and arrows.  Like a good Dad he is waiting for us to calm down and grow up.  The temper tantrums need to stop. The finger pointing and line-drawing has to end.  He is waiting to see how we handle the next phase…..the part where we start receiving people into HIS Kingdom with all of their messes and sins and troubles, knowing they aren’t perfect and neither are we. He is WAITING for us to open wide our doors and be people of love.  He is quite up to the challenge of worrying about who is sinning, how they’re sinning and how to let His Spirit speak into their hearts. That is His job, not ours.

1 Corinthians 13 is often quoted at weddings. But at the end of it is a curious verse about growing up….I think there’s something to that.  I don’t understand all of what God is up to. I don’t understand why we continue to sin when we know we shouldn’t, but we do. We all do.  We learn to love and then we learn to BE LOVE.

1When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I really would ask that comments remain respectful. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but comments that go the way of judging sin will be deleted. For real. Because I can. And I’m tired of Christians fighting about what is sin and how we need to tell the whole world about their sin. Over it. Not gonna have it.

Also, read these opinions and pleas from very gracious, wonderful people:

Jamie The Very Worst Missionary’s Post

Jen Hatmaker’s Post

Kristen Howerton’s Post

And this very sobering thought from Benjamin Moberg