For my Friend Who’s Gay

I don’t read many blogs regularly.  Maybe three.  One of them is written by a friend I haven’t met in real life yet.  He is raw and wounded, confused and self-absorbed, and a little narcissistic just like the rest of us.  He is an incredibly gifted writer.  And he’s gay.

I read his brave, anguished posts and I want to give him a hug and say “I’m so sorry.” and “I can’t possibly understand your pain, just like you can’t possibly understand mine, but I want to try.  I’m listening.  I want to be better at loving you and others well.”

I want to be friends, but there are a couple hurdles.  There’s a caution and a question I’d like to raise with him as gently as possible.  But I fear his wounds are too raw.  Still scraped and bloody and in danger of infection.  I fear even soft, well-meaning inquiries may be interpreted as attacks.  That’s not at all what I want.

Here’s what I’d like to say to this gay friend I’ve never met (Even as I write that I’m nervous that I should say “friend who is gay” instead of “gay friend”):

1.  A Caution.  I want to be friends, but I will always disappoint you. The church will always let you down.  So will secular gay friends.  So will your mom.  And your boss.

Sure, we’ll try.  We’re a well-meaning lot, most of us, but we’re not wired to be constantly attentive, perfectly sensitive, ever-loyal.  You may have us confused with God.  Nope, we’re definitely not.  We’re fearful and proud and self-centered just like you, so we’ll mess up.  And you’ll get hurt.  Again. So will we all.  Even as victims of friendly-fire perhaps.  I know.  I too have the scars.  There was a time, for a year I felt so rejected and discarded I couldn’t enter the church I once loved.IMG_0991

The church, and your gay friends, and even your mom, or your boss or I may have thought or said or done insensitive or unkind things that need to be repented of.  I don’t want to minimize that.

But just because we’re hypocritical let-you-down-ers don’t write God off.  Please.  He IS the One who will never leave or forsake you.  He IS the One who knows you inside and out and loves you fiercely.  You are His beloved riffraff.  And so are the rest of us, hot messes one and all.

2. A Question. (This one is hard, so you might want to sit down and breathe).  Do I have to agree with you to love you?  Do I have to believe what you believe for you to feel accepted by me?  I have to be honest.  Although sometimes you say it’s ok to differ, it doesn’t seem like you feel it’s ok.

I know it’s hard.  We all want others to agree with us, support every decision, cheer our choices.  That sure describes me.  I want to feel included, invited, inside, and indisputably right.

I also want to be inclusive, and inviting with others.  I want to have conversations not diatribes.  I want to love God and you, my neighbor, well – with both grace and truth.

So I start by saying I think you are gifted, broken, and beloved just like me.  Just like all children of God everywhere.

Gay describes only your orientation, and I accept that with all its challenges, just like you accept the fact that I’m blonde and blue-eyed.

Beloved, chosen, redeemed describes your identity and I celebrate that.  I celebrate the God in you.

I also affirm that you have the right to choose your own path.  Everyone, everywhere, has civil rights we must defend vigorously.  But that doesn’t mean I believe those rights are what God desires most for you.  We may disagree there, and if that pains you, I’m sorry.

3.  A wish.  I wish I could see something different in Scripture that would enable me to endorse the lifestyle decisions that most gay Christians long for.  But I can’t avoid what seems to be God’s design for us to thrive, either as single celibate people or in the marriage of a man and woman.  This is not a position I’ve come to lightly or without a ton of reading and conversations and humbly listening to brothers and sisters in the community of faith.  I want to keep listening.

Does this mean we can’t be friends?  I hope not.

Jesus was friends with a heck of a lot of people he didn’t agree with.  The “lifestyle choices” He condemned even while loving others, ranged from greed to hypocrisy to adultery, idolatry, and self-righteousness.  You may disagree with my politics or think I’m addicted to comfort, or that I don’t sacrifice enough for others.  I still wish we could be friends.

We’re all of us “plank in the eye” people.  We’re all stumbling along, many of us trying to do so by grasping the Hand much larger than ours.  My prayer is that we can go together, and receive God’s great love for both of us.

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“First Step” #1001
C 1992 Jonathan Rogers

The With-God Life

I recorded this conversation in 2002 when Maggie, like Alexander, had had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

Me, trying to comfort Maggie: Remember sweetie, the Bible says, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

Maggie: Mom, I’ve just had a bad week, I haven’t been trampled by a horse!

Me: Ok, got it.  Ratchet back the hyper-spiritualizing.

Recently I’ve circled back to Psalm 34 where that verse is found.  It’s a “praise-the-Lord-even-if-I’m-dying” Psalm, because God is present.  It’s a good reminder Psalm.  God has used it in my life in some of the lowest times (can you tell from all the scribbling and times I’ve dated it?)photo-149

But on other days I love it that we also have the “crap-life-sucks-and-never-will-get-better-so-let’s-kick-ass” Psalms.

Psalm 35, for example Continue reading

5 Questions About…Singleness

Ok, many of you reading this may not be single.  Or a woman.  But who doesn’t have single friends we want to love well?  I think this is post in our series “5 Questions About…” will be helpful for all of us.  Claire Wyatt is one of my many incredibly-talented-beautiful-inside-and-out-full-of-life single friends.  She writes a witty blog called Single Christian Girls.  You should totally check it out!

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1.  What lies are you tempted to believe during this season of singleness?  What is God reveling to you about his character?

One of the main lies I go to is wondering if I’m single because I’m being punished, or if God is trying to teach me a lesson but in a very vindictive sense.  I have to CONSISTENTLY remind myself that God is good and that all of my sins have been taken care of on the cross.  While I might be disappointed that I’m not married, God’s plans are better than my plans.  Not only because he’s God, but because He knows me even better then I know myself.  He also loves me even more then I love myself.  If I rest in that, being single feels manageable.

2.  What has been your worst experience as a single woman? Continue reading

Finding Your Own Walk

In the summertime I feel like a thirsty person at the end of a long run, standing in front of a gushing fire hydrant, mouth open wide to receive big gulps of sparkling, cold water as fast as I can.  In Minnesota summer is short, so we have to drink quickly!  It’s the DELIGHTFUL season of barefoot and bike rides, corn-on-the-cob and birdsong, pink sunrises and living large outdoors. All of the time.

A friend went strawberry picking and made shortcake for our small group.  Another divided his Hosta to share with me (my yard bunny thanks him 😦 ).  I got fresh vegetables at the Farmer’s Market Saturday.  Today I’ll celebrate a friend’s birthday lunch outside on the lake.  A baby robin, Roberto, rescued from our window well, has become like a member of our family.

Summer, you are so good.

This past week I had the added gift of getting away to a retreat home in Virginia – tucked in between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Alleghany mountains.  It is a place that has been built with love and prayer and attention to every detail.IMG_7524

I wanted to share some excerpts from a poem, written by our host, Anne Grizzle, in hopes that you might find your own walk with God this summer and “join in the applause”. Continue reading

Three Ways to Fight

My husband John has been in the leadership boxing ring with a maddening challenge for the past couple years.

I’m on the sidelines, literally jumping up and down, shadow-boxing in our kitchen and yelling “Go to the mattresses!” when he reports the latest crazy atrocities at the end of a day.Unknown

I’m a DO-er!!  I want to take out an Uzzi and FIX this now!  Ok, as a Jesus-follower that might not be the best plan, but for the love of justice!!!

Trying to ratchet back the passion and put on the mantel of patience John seems to wear so easily, I’ve been reflecting on the different responses to THE ROCK AND A HARD PLACE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES I see in Scripture.  Here are three I’ve come up with: Continue reading

5 Questions About…Disappointment with God

Conrad family-40Emily and her husband Steve are dear friends of ours. I had the delight of working with Steve in ministry and traveling with him in Congo before he knew Emily.  Then, John and I had the privilege of performing their wedding ceremony together!  This remarkable young couple inspire me with their faith and authenticity.  It’s an honor to walk alongside them on their journey!  I asked Emily 5 Questionsbecause I knew she’d be honest and reflect from a heart seeking God.

1.  Over the past year and a half you’ve had an experience that has been deeply painful and disappointing.  Can you describe what happened?

In early 2013, my husband and I got the green light to travel to Congo to meet and pick up the little girl and little boy that we were in the process of adopting. We had spent 13 months previously preparing our home and our family for the addition of 2 more little ones, a little girl 18 months old and a boy 2 ½ years old. Although we knew it would be crazy to have 4 little kids in our home, we felt that adoption was always supposed to be a part of our family’s story and felt that it was a desire that God had placed in our hearts.

We had been prepared for the fact that the little boy we were adopting might be a little older than what we had originally been told, perhaps 6-9 months, however, when we met him in Congo he was clearly at least 6 ½ and was a very angry, emotionally fraught child, quite prone to physically aggressive outbursts. Continue reading

Why Underwear is Important

Did you know that the average American woman owns approximately 21 pairs of underwear? About 10% of women own over 35 pairs.

Did you know underwear can mean the difference between a girl who’s educated with a chance for a bright future, and one who’s not?

Sometimes it just blows my mind how much I don’t know.  Recently I learned some not-fun facts about the challenges facing women in Uganda, including the challenge of underwear.  But I also learned something I can do about it.  And boy that feels good.

I’ve written before that our daughter Maggie is working in Northern Uganda this summer at Pader Girls’ Academy.  They teach and give vocational training to girls, many who have escaped the Lords’ Resistance Army, but can’t return to their communities.  They have become outcasts because of the stigma of being raped by soldiers or having babies out of wedlock.

But even after they have a tiny glimpse of hope for the future through education, there are still hurdles.  For example, I learned that girls often miss about 5 days of school a month when they have their period because they don’t have sanitary pads.  Or underwear.

Are you freaking kidding me? Continue reading

How do You Carry a Tree?

Fourteen years ago we took our daughters to Africa for the first time.  We spent a month there on a sabbatical.  One day we saw a woman walking down the road with a tree balanced on her head.

Yep, you read that right.  A whole tree.

You see people balancing a lot of unusual things on their heads (or on their bikes) in Africa, but this was the first and last time we saw a tree. (apparently it’s not THAT rare cuz I was able to Google this picture!)

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That night, our daughter, Maggie, walked into our room, carefully balancing a book on her head.

“I’m working up to a tree.” she said.

Since then, Maggie’s “tree” has been a dream of helping underprivileged girls and women around the world to be healthy and happy and to carry their own dreams. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Risk

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Sharon is a dear friend who both inspires and intimidates me with her amazingness.  She has guest-posted here before.  I’m so thankful that in the midst of a busy, stressful time, she was willing to share some more of what she’s learning.  Here’s the next in our 5 Questions About…series.

1. Recently you took what must have felt like a huge risk. Can you tell us about it?

Eight months ago, I resigned from a job I had loved and made the leap to running my own business. This happened after an extended season of prayer and discernment, so by the time I made the change, I felt certain it was the right thing to do.

Yes, there were practical risks involved: leaving a certain income, benefits, 401K; losing the familiarity of my office and team. And as a single person, I didn’t have a safety net of a second income, back-up insurance, or a support person to pick up slack in other areas of life. But I was also very clear about why I was making the change: 1) to be faithful to what I understood God was putting in my hands; 2) to learn and grow through a new challenge.

So when I framed it that way, I realized that even if my business failed (and I had to move into my parents’ basement), I would experience God in deeper ways and learn things I wouldn’t otherwise. Continue reading

When We Can’t See the Angel Armies

I know this is a long post, and it’s still just a tiny bit on a hard topic. I’m posting it because I know many people are facing really hard battles. If you want to listen to the whole message, it’s here.

This past weekend I got to preach at our church.  It is a privilege and a blast for me, but it is also very humbling when you’re preaching the weekend after the 4th of July to a handful of the faithful, and the old guy in the front row is asleep before you even start speaking. Too much celebrating with root beer floats?

Anyway, I got to preach on a passage I love – 2 Kings 6:8-23. The Israelites are being attacked by the enemy Arameans.  Map-Aram attacking

Elisha’s servant is afraid and here’s what happens:

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyesLord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.elisha-army

It’s a story about Elisha, his servant, and trying to see God in hard circumstances.  I love this passage because it highlights the challenge of the with-God life: to pay attention and recognize His presence and power with us in the everyday situations and the dramatic moments. Continue reading