Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Archive for February 2008

My daughters are beyond wonderful. My heart sings just by thinking about them. There is rarely a moment when we’re out of sorts with each other.

Right now as I write I can smell the turnip greens and black-eyed peas cooking in our two crock pots for tomorrow. We’re having a Southern meal as my oldest is bringing home her friend from Russia. It gives me joy to get ready and make her day (or her sister’s) the best it can be. Consider how much more God loves us…(more to come with this one–give me a couple of hours I’ve got to entertain)…

The meal was good and our guest loved the Southern cooking. However, he asked about grits: “I don’t even know what they are,” he said.

How do you explain grits? I almost told him they were hominey, but unless you know about hominey then that doesn’t make any sense either. Just like grits, there is no way to explain or understand grace even though we talk about it all the time—even though it is the foundation of our faith.

We have a glimpse of grace as with our love for our children. No matter how frustrating or maddening they can be at times, there is nothing we wouldn’t do for them. Now with that in mind think about the people around you. Who is the most difficult to love? Next, who is the most difficult to love without condition?

For me—well, yesterday grace was difficult when I went to church to help with an upcoming mission trip. It was silly, but I got exasperated because the materials weren’t sorted like I would have done it.  A bit later it took 3 hours for an eye exam and to order glasses. Today it’s about the guy next door who leaves his dog out in the weather. We think he’s gone and the dog is without food (we took the bow-wow some). Tomorrow it will be another situation presented to test my “grace response”, and I’ll probably fall short of the mark. I just keep on trying to do what Jesus said: Love your neighbor as yourself.

As I worked toward loving myself less and others more, I began to notice a change within my heart. At the church, my daughter and I ended up working at a table with two older ladies and it was a complete joy to talk with them about art, even though it wasn’t where I wanted to sit. Later when I wanted to scream at the optical place, I persevered to get my much-needed glasses orders, and by the end I found out they were hiring and got an application for my oldest…

….I’m totally amazed at how God can change my heart as he teaches me about grace. 

In a few short hours the Academy Awards will be on television. I haven’t seen any of those nominated for best picture. Generally I like the ones that the critics hate such as Night at the Museum. This year, I understand, that an insignificant, independent film is the one that might win the big prize. It came out of no where and….well, we’ll see…

In the spiritual realm, many times the “sleeper”—the one we don’t pay attention to—is the one who is destined for the big prize. I could make a list of the most influential names in Christendom, or the ones who sell the most books, but do they have God’s ear? Who would be your pick for the person who has access to the throne of God? 

For me it would be Lois. She’s my mother’s good friend who, because of circumstances, can’t even be a Christmas and Easter church attender. Nonetheless, I can see God looking around when he hears her voice in prayer, because he is eager to talk with her. Why? Because she has nothing else to trust in but him. He gets her through terrible situations and sustains her through the most violent of storms. Her heart is totally fixed on him—and I know that he is equally fixed on her.

God wants our willing and committed heart. He wants us to be examining ourselves so that each day we’re willing to refine ourselves to be totally surrendered to him. It isn’t the big prizes here on Earth that are important. It is all about knowing him….knowing him like we know our best friend, our child, our husband…and loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

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If you’re interested in reading And You Invited Me In, check with your local bookstore such as Barnes & Noble or Borders. As well you can purchase the book from Amazon.com. Thanks for dropping by—read my posts about how the book came about, and how the Lord moved in my life during the time it was being written. Happy reading!

me-blog-pic.jpgThis is a picture of my youngest daughter and of course I’d take a bullet for her. But that wasn’t what God asked me. I was sitting in a church with a group of gay people, where if a gunman had come in and asked for all the straight people to leave I could have left. BUT as I sat there thinking about being vulnerable to outside irrational people (and this was in 2000, before so many of the recent, senseless shootings) I realized that this was my epiphany–my moment about what unconditional love truly means. Then I thought: Would I refuse to leave or would I walk away to be safe?

Back to 1992 when the landlord died and the months thereafter when I pondered the issues of the conservative church when it comes to being more than a talking head, I sent out a questionaire for persons in the gay community to complete. The questionaire was sent to the local AIDS clinic and the Metropolitan Community Church. I asked numerous questions about who Jesus was to them. I expected all kinds of far-out answers. I had been taught that gay people worked outside the realm of truly knowing God. To my utter shock I got back scores of replies of solid salvation experiences, as well as stories of deep hurt from their childhood churches. More than one said that when their former pastor saw them walk down the sidewalk, he crossed the street to avoid them.

After 1993 something would periodically come into my life to teach me more about absolute grace. I can’t say everyone on the face of the earth has my undying love. I can’t honestly say I’d take a bullet for Charles Manson–I haven’t been in that position to even consider it, but who knows I might be some day.

Yet in our individual lives there’s someone that makes them totally unlovable. Maybe it is a child who refused to submit to a family rule and was asked to leave home. Maybe it is that son-in-law who is a violent man with his wife and children. That new boss who is an ogre, or the people next door who leave their dog outside in the middle of an ice storm with no place to go for shelter. You know the type of situation that makes you so angry that you want to grab them by the collar and ram them against the wall.

Then there are other situations where someone has caused deep hurt: A friend who betrayed you, or worse that spouse you left you with nothing but bills and a broken heart. And while they are living the grand life, you’re having to work three jobs just to keep the lights on for you and your children. Those are the tough places. Those are the places that many times the church isn’t there for you and your heart feels more pain.

It is at this place of deep pain that Jesus is waiting for us. He’s there and is doing all he can, but where are those people in shoe leather who have the arms, hands, legs and feet to accomplish the task? Many times they are absent. And this is the place where my story begins…a cry for those people to wake up and attend to the pain around them. Pain that is present within their group of friends. It’s easy to run to Africa to have a ministry, but what about the gay couple across the street? Can you be a plain friend without any sort of conditions?

I sat in that church that evening, and thought about how vulnerable I was. I was in a conservative city with a group of gay people. Would there be a rogue village idiot who wanted to make a name for himself and “kill all of those people”?

Frankly, I’m a majority member of most classifications like white, female, etc. I don’t have to worry about crazy people who want to “pick off” a certain sect. I can travel quietly, and really lead a simple, unseen life if I wanted. But on that day, I realize that the question in my heart wasn’t a question of my own making but a question that God had placed there for me to consider.

The gay pastor of this church had never had custody of his son because the judge wasn’t going to “take this child from a legal home and put him in an illegal home.” The judge never appointed a guardian ad litem for this 16-year-old (yes, at 16 he was never given a choice as to where he wanted to live). And in his “legal” home he was seriously abused. Here is the kicker: a fellow conservative said to me “Are you sure he isn’t better in his home with two real parents?” WHAT? How can someone even suggest this? I was appalled. That reaction was a mild in comparison to my disgust when a pastor friend said that he couldn’t talk with a mutual friend because he was gay and his “sin was too great.”

There are many other stories. However, God used this and other situations to show me what it looked like “from the other side.” I don’t mean from a non-Christian standpoint, but what it looks like from the gay world when conservatives mount a political attack. (Hint: they don’t see Jesus in us, because we’re being political and not spiritual). As well, what does it look like to the woman who is being abused and you look the other way because church doctrine calls for “no divorce except in the case of adultery.” What does it look like to your child who knows you’re dedicated Christians and you’ve told her she can’t come home until she changes? Are you taking the bullet for these people?

So, yes, I knew I had no choice but to take the bullet for them. I (the one who wouldn’t have dinner with a gay guy because it went against all I believed) decided that day I would sit along side of them if a shooter came in. My love wasn’t conditional on acceptance by anyone other than God. 

“A bullet” might not be the one from a revolver, but instead a social bullet that will isolate you from your friends who really don’t agree with your decision. Several quotes come to mind at this point….Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail: “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustic anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Mother Teresa said: We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwated, unloved and uncoared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

And You Invited Me In is a novel about how to heal the impoverished soul that has been deeply hurt, and “take that bullet” to let them know just how much we care. 

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Here is a link to my website with information about the book: www.AndYouInvitedMeIn.com

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There are absolutes in this world. The sun does rise and set. And as well gravity plays an important part in our daily lives.

In my early days as the “conservative of Conservatives” I believed there were all kinds of absolutes for people who crossed spiritual boundaries into sin. Most of my conservative friends believed the same way. I can’t remember a whole lot of sermons preached on “absolute grace” or “absolute forgiveness.” Since I had asked Jesus into my heart when I was eight, and I didn’t have a long rap sheet of sin. Therefore, the idea of “grace” was more intellectual than experiential.  

One recent event that comes to mind when you speak of grace: the shooting at the Amish school. The Amish community embraced the family of the shooter and grieved with them. There was no reason for the Amish to do that except that Jesus has done it for them. He did it for all of us, and how can we do anything less? 

Loving my daughters is easy because they love me back and grace isn’t difficult. But what if someone took their life…I’d have no choice but to forgive and extend to him/her the same grace that Jesus has given me. Sometimes the offense isn’t as high profile as a murder. It may be someone who has hurt your feelings, or someone who has rejected you. Maybe you are the rejecter and need to go to that person and ‘come clean.”

The final example in my life about grace and forgiveness came about almost 20 years ago. A close friend—”Jill”—and I had been at odds. I had stood firm in a situation where Jill wanted me to help her. If I had, I’d have stabbed another friend in the back so I didn’t do it, and as the result, Jill had a great deal of hurt.  

I was barely a month pregnant with my oldest and we were on our way to my hometown. A friend was riding with us and he mentioned Jill’s anger toward me. He said “the Bible says if you have ‘an ought’ against someone, you’re to reconcile…” and he continued with “the Bible never said whether you’re right or wrong, it just said that you need to go to them.” 

I stewed about it, but the next week I wrote her a note. Eight months later, on the day my baby was due, Jill called me to apologize. She said she had torn up my letter in anger, but over the course of the months she realized she needed to call.  

Writing to her was the right thing because of my commitment to Christ. Just like the Amish did the right thing with the shooter’s family—because of what Jesus has done for us, we can do no less. Truly there are absolutes in our walk with Jesus: grace and forgiveness.

2d-copy.jpgMy maternal grandparents in the mid-1940’s

I’m still a proponent of conservative Christianity, and still consider myself a conservative. But in my first years of conservatism—okay, maybe a decade or two—I took conservative Christianity a bit too far. I never got caught up in a lot of emotionalism, and my most earnest commitments were made in private just between God and me. However somewhere along the way I got into wrong thinking. I was a conservative who turned into a legalist. I can’t exactly say how I got there, I only remember the moment when it all came into the light…

That moment came in late May of 1979 when I refused to go to a dinner party where a gay guy was also going to attend (I’ll call this guy George). I can remember standing with my garbage in one hand and telling my friend Karen that it was totally against all I believed to join them for dinner with George also in attendance…by the way, God has a wonderful sense of humor, and I was the joke: The next month I changed jobs. The night before I began someone said “You know George works there.”  And wouldn’t you know that in a building that covered about ten acres, George worked right across the hall!   

Then within a year a close friend came out–he was a professional, fellow church member with a wife and kids. And in no time there was another young man—“Jake”—who had been one of my students suddenly left the church. I tracked Jake down three states away and found out he was gay. Sadly, he has never come back home. 

So, of course, I heard God and immediately changed the way I thought and acted, and all was great….NOT! 

You’d think I’d learn when one thing after another was happening like dominoes collapsing, but I’m slow. Right now I want to go back to the first time I heard about someone being gay. Realize that in my childhood days you just didn’t speak about it. So for me to hear about a minister committing suicide because he was gay would have been huge. But hearing about it when I was a little over five years old in 1959, well that was another divine moment in this journey. 

As I said earlier, I was the conservative of the Conservatives. And soon after this boom-boom-boom of learning about all my gay friends, AIDS came on the scene. I can remember standing in my living room and hearing a guy on the Today Show cry about losing 25 of his friends to the virus. I sort of snickered about his losses—totally lacking Christian love. Then after a move to a large city a couple of years later I grew to believe that AIDS was incurable and that anyone who had it deserved it.  

It wasn’t until 1992 that I got a huge wake-up call about the Church and my conservative fellows. When our landlord was dying of AIDS and doing “everything right” according to conservative church standards…the church failed to show up. What a shock for me! How could this be? I have always believed (and still do) that the church needs to be more than God’s talking head. They also need to be His arms, hands, legs and feet. They should be the first with soup as well as prayer. When the pastors and members didn’t deliver to our landlord, I was emotionally numbed, trying to absorb what had just gone down in my ‘hood.   And this was the divine moment where God had me ready to listen. A place where I could begin to learn about the true meaning of grace…. More to come about how And You Invited Me In got on the shelves and into your hands.