Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Archive for April 2008

There is a saying: when the rubber meets the road. Today that experience was very painful. It was something like William “Braveheart” Wallace with Longshanks’ torture tools.

I am more than positive that God wanted me to act in this person’s behalf—a person who deserved ZERO. When I laid out specifics, I was promptly stabbed in the back. The whole thing is painful, but my reward will be in heaven (because it sure isn’t happening here!).

We must be obedient to surrender ourselves to extending grace. I say that with all honesty…at the end of a train-wreck of a day. The people you’re extending it to might be a real pain and they might spit in your face. It happened to Jesus.

 And You Invited Me In … read the book!

At the suggestion of my brother and his family, I made another YouTube video about why the book was written. Check it out: http://www.YouTube.com/cherylmosstyler.

Get the word out about the book…read it…THANKS! 

I’ve had inquiries about sin. What about sin and gay people?

As I lick the fried chicken grease off my fingers so it won’t get on the prayer list…maybe I need to tell the pastor that his sermon was great, even though I was making a list of how I want the remodel my house the whole time he was preaching.

Instead of looking outside at others—let’s take a look inside our own house: gluttony, gossip, lying and coveting. And the horses are out of the stalls and down the track…

I’m being a lot sarcastic here, but honestly think about what goes on in most American churches. Lots of judgment about people…eating big meals…talking about people (also see judgment)…wanting that big old gold Cadillac to show how great our faith is…and little white lies (by the way a “little lie” is like being a “little pregnant”).

Then there are situational sins. For example the girl who goes from guy to guy is called a harlot, whore, or fast. The teenage boy who screws around is just “sewing his wild oats”. Sex outside of marriage is sex outside of marriage.

So what about sin? Jesus has enough power to convict a person of sin, and then to change them. It’s all about the heart and what goes on inside. It is between the Lord and me.

I do know that Jesus was concerned about the condition of the heart. All the religious people of his day had the outside issues conquered, but inside they were a mess. And only God knows what is going on inside. Therefore, I spend my day working on my issues and trying to be more like Jesus…

I have a video about the book in YouTube. Take a look and tell others! My video is submitted under: CherylMossTyler and it is called: And You Invited Me In. http://www.youtube.com/cherylmosstyler

Here is more information about the book:

Alex Marshall is dying of AIDS. Over his partner Scott’s objections, he asks his conservative Christian sister, Annie Whitley, to help take care of him. Annie must decide whether to hold to her position of separation, hoping to force Alex to repent of his sins, or go to him without expectations. Close family friend and football legend Jett Taylor insists she will become tainted by the sin of homosexuality if she follows her heart.
Annie and her family must learn the true meaning of God’s grace to show Alex and Scott who Jesus is. But nobody could predict the explosive series of events their decision sets into motion, not only in their town, but in other lives as well – including Scott’s father, a well-known conservative preacher. These dedicated Christians learn about sacrificial love.
And You Invited Me In is a bridge that embraces diversity with unconditional love. It is a life-changing, thought provoking, unforgettable novel that will capture the attention and hearts of readers from diverse backgrounds and faiths.

 

And You Invited Me In--available at your local bookstore  My book: And You Invited Me In.

I’ve taken my last few thoughts from the last blog and started this new one. I want to clarify when I comment about “my church” I’m bringing together dozens of conservative churches I’ve attended/visited over the last three decades. My current pastor is a very merciful man who wants the members to extend grace to others to the fullest. While all other churches are nameless, Church of the Living Water is a real church in Nashville, and I have permission to be specific about my wonderful association with them.

Here goes:

Why should a 14-year-old girl (in 1968) with all the white privilege be concerned about people of color? Why should she compromise her safety to stand up for a cause that wasn’t hers? Why should a 46-year-old straight woman (in 2000) who has all the straight conservative community privilege stand up for gay people she is barely acquainted with and risk anything for them

My life-long investment had been in my conservative Christian friends and our mutual beliefs. In my local church I had support for my life in every area. I was well respected intellectually because I had gone to Vanderbilt University for my Masters—actually went there on a scholarship and make all A’s during a catastrophic time of life. When I got the scholarship, my husband had just been diagnosed with a chronic illness, I was 7 months pregnant and taught behavior disordered kids, and had no choice but to push forward and keep going.

On the spiritual side. God was a significant part of my life from an extremely young age. I got saved the Thursday evening before Palm Sunday in 1963. I chose to be conservative, and went through many many years of being radically conservative. For a period of time I was oppressive to others and to myself. I’ve been to camp meetings, tent meetings, large revivals and even stood in an Ernest Angely prayer line. But that visit to the gay conservative church in 2000—Church of the Living Water—did something profound to my heart.

What did it do? I have to let you know that when I went, I expected straight-bashing and a liberal, New Age church that had nothing to do with Jesus. But instead I saw men, women, and even a few kids who very obviously loved the Lord. So what things made my mouth drop open?

First, one person after another praised their partner…I can’t remember the last time I heard such praise about a significant other in my church. Actually at one church of my past the pastor is always joking about his wife burning his toast or her knowing every inch of the local consignment shop. (My thought as I sat there that first night at Church of the Living Water was: wow, if only my church would have people praise their spouse like this!).

One woman at Church of the Living Water had gotten saved and was fasting the two weeks before her baptism so she would get everything out of it that God had for her. (My thought was: wow, if only we straight Christians took our baptism so seriously.)

The pastor, Rev. Tony Sirten, actually spoke to me for at least ten minutes after the service with many guests in attendance. I can’t tell you the number of churches where the pastor is looking just over the top of my head to find the next person they want to talk with—and leave talking with me, and do not remember anything I’ve said. 

As well the members took time with my kids. They have never looked on them as children but as people who were valuable to their church. A few years ago on the spur of the moment the girls and I dropped by on a Wednesday night. They were discussing a chapter from The Purpose Driven Life, my eight-year-old’s comments and ideas were allowed during that class (with all the congregation present) just as if she was 28. Today, this same daughter has desired for over a year to participate on a worship team, however, in conservative churches the general rule is to be part of the team you have to be 18 and she is 11. Hum, I wonder where that is found in scripture? Sorry to be sarcastic, but consider this if you’re in a conservative church.

At Church of the Living Water the members wanted all of Jesus they could get. I was never taught that a group of gay people would want more of Jesus. It seemed like an oxymoron. After one visit, I had an unquenchable thirst to find out why would these gay people love Jesus so much—had I been taught wrong? That’s when my daughters and I went to a Bible study. And my trouble with conservative friends (not just locally, but at various places around the US who knew what I had experienced) began when I started attending the Bible studies. I was warned that I was listening to the devil and being deceived. No one ever asked why I was attending the Bible studies, they just assumed I was deceived.

Let me inject here: the Bible study was a wake-up call for me about what we straight Christians need to know about ourselves. First, there are people in the gay community who think they’re going to hell because that’s all they hear from us. It doesn’t matter if you don’t say it , OR it is only said by some radical conservative preacher from the Midwest, OR you don’t exactly mean it like that, but that’s what the gay community hears us saying.

Next, my dear straight, conservative Christian brothers and sisters, you may get offended by the way Christians are portrayed in movies like Now I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. But they quote the words we say and the signs we carry. And the question we must always ask is: do they see Jesus in us and have a desire to follow Him because of the way we live our life? If the answer is “no” then we need to change.

I struggled with what I’d been taught in churchabout the GLBTQ community and Jesus vs. what I was experiencing at Church of the Living Water. I cried out to God 24/7 to help me sort through these confounding issues…but I kept coming back to two things: When Samuel was going to anoint the new king of Israel, God told him not to look on the outside, because He looked on the heart. I learned that it is God’s job to judge a person’s heart. We’re to look at our fruit. If people can’t see the fruit of our experience with Jesus, then we need to assess our lives and make changes ASAP. Answer this quick question: does your child, co-worker, or neighbor want more of Jesus because of your life?

Number two: When the day is over and we’re taking account of our day, the one thing that matters most to Jesus is that we forgive and extend grace. It is what he did for us. If that was how we truly lived our lives, then there would not be so many parodies of conservative Christians on movies. People can’t understand unconditional love, and they can’t get enough of it.

These people at Church of the Living Water were “inside the house”. I wanted to understand them and their infectious hunger for Jesus. Once inside the house, I knew it was where God had taken me. AND THEN I learned what it was like to live as a gay person in a straight, conservative Christian community. Not that I was gay, but because I was in their house. If someone came in with gun to “kill all the fags” I’d have been shot. In reality my credibility was already being shot down in my conservative community because I was in a gay “house” (aka church). Maybe this happened to Jesus when he went with Zacheus to lunch at his house.

We think of Zacheus and we think of the unconditional love of Jesus. It was in the summer of 2000 that I began to learn about true grace. Grace…..Our faith isn’t in the number of Cadillacs in our yard or in the number of people who have been healed by a huge ministry. The devil can mimic all of that. One thing old Satan can’t do—the one thing that only people saved by grace can do is love unconditionally. And that’s what being inside the house is all about for me—it’s not about my privilege, but about Jesus.

Today is the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. I can remember exactly where I was standing when I heard about it. I can also remember the reaction of those in the Deeper South a few weeks later. We lived in the South, but were in the Deeper for a visit with friends. I helped my teen peers babysit, and we were miles away from the grown-ups. You see, LBJ had declared four Sundays after MLK’s death as a time of mourning. Well, in the Deeper South they didn’t like it when that preacher honored the President’s request. And we were babysitting for the preacher on a Saturday night.

Have you ever been terrorized by the KKK? We were that night. And because it was a tiny community, those terrorists had to know the preacher wasn’t at home. It didn’t matter to them, they just had an agenda of harassment. I felt threatened, but looking back I also didn’t feel like waving a white flag for my safety. I think I knew we had to protect the children and stand up for what is right in our simple teen way.

Well, digressing a bit, but along this same plane I just saw Now I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. I can see how this movie would upset my fellow conservatives. But most don’t understand what it feels like to be “inside the house”.  

Chuck & Larry is a very real look at how non-affirming straight people react to gay people. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it is about straight men who “marry” to get insurance benefits. Their friends start shunning them. 

I’m not LGBTQ in any way. However, back in 2000 when I began associating with the gay Christians the same sort of Chuck & Larry scenario happened to me—and there aren’t enough adjectives to describe the pain, shock and feelings of betrayal that surfaced because of my Christian friends who thought I was “listening to the devil” or “being deceived” or even in sin for taking communion with these gay people. And I started being shunned.

I discussed this in some of my original blogs. I only went to meet an author, and I wanted him to associate my face with our e-mails. I tried to find him a day earlier at the local gay bookstore, but I couldn’t find the bookstore. Now I know it was God that kept me from finding the bookstore. It was my destiny to go to that gay conservative Christian church. And it was their destiny, too. The LGBT church members were abuzz with “why does a straight woman and her children visit this church?” They decided they needed to accept anyone who came through the door. I felt like I needed to make a return visit. In the meantime I started geting ultimatums from my conservative friends…

Those ultimatums felt like the night I was babysitting at the preacher’s house. I decided that I wouldn’t let people harrass me. In fact one of the things I asked the Lord was to let me feel the rejection that gay persons feel from the straight, conservative Christian crowd. God answered immediately and I felt totally rejected. I felt like Larry (in the movie) being asked to not come on a camp out or Chuck not having anyone to play basketball with anymore. I couldn’t believe that same people who had sought my advice for years were suddenly giving me ultimatims to “return” to the church and get my life right. And in the midst of all of that I knew I needed to stay in the house. I wanted to learn…

I learned more than I bargained for when I went to that church on May 21, 2000. My daughters and I had a pact to rush in, talk and leave. I just wanted to talk with a man for a moment— AND THEN God gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. He opened doors of understanding of where my straight community needs to wake up. The first awakening issue is this: gay people are people. They bleed blood and cry tears. Their hearts break when they can’t spend holidays with their families or they are asked to leave home because of their orientation. And God is very sad when we can’t see the pain for the rules—church rules, neighbor rules, whatever rules.

God has heard the cry of their heart…why can’t we? Why are we conservatives on the outside of their heart saying hurtful things in the name of Jesus. Don’t you know that He is right there with them? And Jesus wonders why when he died for our sins that we can’t remember to extend grace…period…extend grace. Live by grace, eat by grace, walk by grace…. to be continued….