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

To All Those Who Didn’t Show

I wrote yesterday about the waiting on the Fool’s Bench at Easter.

As it turned out, I didn’t sit.  I stood near the door to church in the Great Room, craning my neck, looking over the shoulder of anyone I was talking to, hoping to see the shaved bald head of my next-door-neighbor and his blond wife walk in.

I prayed and prayed.  I saved seats at two (count ’em, two!) services, which did NOT endear me to those who did come and were tackling others for a spot, practically paying hard cash money so they could sit inside the sanctuary instead of in the overflow rooms.

It didn’t happen.  Yes, the other friend did show at an earlier service and I pray that she felt totally hogswaggled by the enormity of God’s love for her, but it’s hard not to focus on the ones who didn’t come.  photo-109

I’ve been thinking about them…All the friends and neighbors and co-workers and prodigal family members you invited to church this Sunday.  Or last.  Or any one of a bazillion times. Continue reading

When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Want to Hide

I’ve titled this series “When Mistakes Have Been Made”, but I’m thinking that may minimize what we’re talking about and what many of us experience.  Maybe the title should be something more like “When you’ve messed up messier than Lindsay Lohan.” or “When your sin seems like a toxic waste dump”.

The problem is most people are doing the best they can.  They’re trying really hard to do the right thing.

Sometimes as a leader you make an error in judgement that hurts many like friendly fire.  Other times you feel like you’re walking through a land mine of personal sin. But you long to do better.

Whether it’s your personal choices, or identifying with a community that has behaved badly, sometimes you just want to hide. I’ve written about silence and lament, but clearly there’s more.

When I make mistakes I think I want to hide, but I realize I really want something else.

This is a note I framed that Katy wrote when she was about 4 or 5 years old.

IMG_3323 In case you can’t decipher it it says,

“Do not come in! P.S. I will be under the covers.”

In other words, I’m hiding, but I really want to be found. I want you to find me and love me no matter what I’ve done or how bad I’ve messed up. 

Isn’t there a part of all of us that feels that way? A desire to be known. Found. Accepted no matter how big the mistake. No matter how “not good enough” we feel.

I’ve been thinking lately that I should hang another picture underneath this note.

picture of the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman trying to hide in plain sight, going to the well in the middle of the day – like an obese person shopping at Walmart at midnight – so she wouldn’t be shamed by critics.

It struck me recently when I was teaching on this passage… What is it that she runs back and tells everyone after her encounter with Jesus? What impacted her the most? “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.” (John 4:29 MSG). He saw her and He still accepted her. She mattered to Jesus.

Just a reminder. In case you’re feeling like you’re under the covers and no one knows, you’re wrong. God knows. He sees. He loves you. No matter how “not good enough” you are.

 

What I’ve Learned About God at Halloween

This is a re-post from two years ago.  I hope it’s an encouraging reminder this Halloween.


I think that Halloween is my husband’s favorite day of the year.  Odd, I know for a pastor.  The pc answer should be Easter,right?  But honestly, I think he likes Halloween best because there’s not much that brings him as much joy as handing out candy and oohing and ahhing over every single kid’s costume.  He looks forward all year to parking his chair by the front door and waiting for kids to come.  Even though he’s terrible at figuring out what the costumes are, he greets each kid as if they were THE most amazing, creative, delightful goblin of the night.

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Baggy Overalls, Hot Mamas, and Your True Self

Think of your most comfy, go-to-on-bad-days piece of clothing.

You know what I mean…the super soft snuggly sweatshirt with paint stains from when you were fixing up your first house.  Or the holey pair of jeans from 1998 that make you think of friends.  And watching Friends.

You like to call it “classic”.

For me that piece of clothing is a tad more embarrassing than classic.  A little more obviously out of style.  It’s a pair of baggy, khaki capri overalls that are just sooooo comfortable.  I usually reserve them for wearing at the lake, or on days when I’m not going to see anyone (or at least anyone I know).

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But a few Wednesdays ago was a bit of a bad day.  I did a six mile run which started off with a bite in the butt by a dog who chased me (I know!  How embarrassing is that?!), and ended with me positive I was going to die and will never be able to finish this race or get water to thirsty kids in Zambia.  Total fail.

So I took a shower and put on my baggy Khaki overall capris.  The only other thing I had the rest of the day where I would see people I knew was a missions meeting at the home of my friends, Mike and Megan.  I debated changing, but I thought, “No, it’s safe.  Although they always look totally hip and cool and pulled together even in their exercise clothes, I think they’re ok with my come-as-I-am self. Not my fancy-pants, polished, achieving clean water with a half-marathon, trying-to-be-good-self. Continue reading

Saying the Last 10%

Monday I wrote about our culture of who’s in and who’s out.  About how often, subtly, we “disqualify” people for church.

Jesus says we’re all broken, but through Him we’re all “in”.  A messy community of sinners redeemed and being continually picked up, dusted off, and set on our wobbly feet to take a few steps forward before we tumble again.

Here’s the tough part about this.  In an effort to be inclusive, we’re often afraid to say the last 10%.  The hard truth that everyone’s included, but everyone is also in process and in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Somehow, in our culture, inclusion has become synonymous with approval.  Not only do you need to welcome me, it’s taboo for you to point out anything that would indicate that perhaps not everything I do is in line with God’s Word and will for me.

How is it that we can follow Jesus in this?  How can we love, welcome, and accept, but also be honest in saying “We’re on this journey together and none of us have arrived.  Let’s help each other out as we try to move towards holiness.”

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Saving a Place on Fearless (Good) Friday

This morning I sat down at Starbucks at my table next to the fireplace with Phillip.  He’s like Norm of Cheers, friendly and fun.  Except that he’s tall and he’s from England.  He’s here every morning at 5:00.  He knows everyone and chats with all.

Today he wanted to talk about God and church and how he didn’t think God could love him.  And I wanted to listen.

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Underneath the jovial facade, what I heard was fear.  A fear that all of us have if we’re honest.  Fear of not being good enough.  Fear of not having a place in community where he would be loved and accepted.

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One More Antidote to Being Daunted and Undone

I’m not sure, but I think maybe the most crushing phrase Satan can whisper in our ears is “You’re the only one.”

You’re the only one who’s ever made a mistake that bad.

The only one who hasn’t had a date in a year (or three).

The only one who didn’t get that job or didn’t get into that school or wasn’t invited…

The only one who hasn’t done something important like marching on Washington or getting published or feeding the hungry in Calcutta.

You’re the only one small enough to feel jealous or sensitive about that stupid thing. Remember?  Like that thing I confessed here on Friday.

But then God gives a gift.  The gift of friends who put their arm around us and whisper “Me too.

They say “It’s really ok.  We’re all messes.  All fixer-uppers.  And I still love you.”

The other day after my post I took a walk on the beach with my dear friend… the sun so bright, the rolling tide so steady – dancing with the sand in a frolicky way, not rough and mean like it can be some days.

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And my friend asked some gentle questions and she listened and poured grace like she was pouring me a tall glass of sparkling icy tea.  Like she always does.  And she shared a little of her own “maybe I’m the only one” stuff.

Though the exact words may not have been spoken, everything about our conversation said “Me too.” and “I still love you.”

It feels like God provides these safe friends for a glimpse of the divine.  They remind us we’re not alone.

And then, like when the surf after a storm has left a lot of junk on the beach, our friends help us sift through the broken bits and find the beauty that’s still there.  The bright pieces of sea glass and the intact sand dollar that has survived the pounding.

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So today I’m thankful for friends who say “Me too.” and “I still love you.” and “There’s still beautiful treasure in the mess.”

Stupid Prayers?

I remember an acquaintance of ours once saying “So-and-so fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.”

Some days I think he might say that about me.

Today I was driving home from the grocery store and all of a sudden I realized that I was praying that something would “happen” so that the couple who booked the wedding photographer that Maggie and Austin want would…you knowcancel.

Now, I didn’t pray that the couple who booked him would be struck dead or break up or anything.  But still, it was kind of like I was asking the godfather to “fix” a basketball game or something.

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And then I shook myself as I turned the corner at the stoplight and thought “I’m a terrible human being!  That’s such a stupid prayer!  I should be praying for Obama, Africa, or global warming.”

Do you think “stupid” is a word in God’s vocabulary?  Is there such a thing as a “stupid prayer”?

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“That” Person

I’m taking a little August sabbatical, so I’m reposting some entries that you’ve seemed to like from awhile back.  If you’re newer to the blog and know others who might be encouraged, I’d love it if you’d pass along the link.  

I’ve thought a lot about this.

If I ever become an actress (Don’t laugh.  It could happen!), and I have a scene where I have to cry on cue, no sweat.  I’ve got this one covered.  Not because I’m particularly weepy (I’m really not at all, you know).  But because all I’ll have to do is think of “that person.”

You know.  “That person”.

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