Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Did you go or did you boycott? Someone brought me a biscuit, but I didn’t go myself. I wasn’t boycotting either. Twenty years ago I boycotted K-Mart, and didn’t think much about it. Today I’m looking at the hard cold facts.

My facts probably differ from yours. I’m a conservative Christian and I love my friends in the gay community. They have loved and supported me in more ways than I can list. I love my conservative brothers and sisters. Without the conservative Gospel I would never have known Jesus like I know Him!

Therein lies the issue. Is this boycott from Jesus or is this a politically motivated boycott (girlcott, chickencott or whatever)? What would Jesus do? He’d probably go to Chick-Fil-A and buy enough for all his gay friends and eat dinner at their home. He’d love beyond reason…grace…and…

And where does the boycott work in bringing people to Him? Loving when it’s difficult is called grace. When we become Christians we give up our old man, and are supposed to be Him where we go.

So when the flying chicken biscuit wrappers fly to the ground what will be left to dwell on? A huge business day and someone shouting from their side of the fence saying “we won this one.”

Is that Jesus?

Several days ago I took a minute away from a maximum-crazy day at work, and decided to check the local news. I saw a picture of a woman who looked like a good acquaintance from church…a bigger than life personality who entered our lives a year ago. This woman and her husband had been charged with a bigger than life crime and the trial began the day I was perusing the news. As details have rolled across my computer screen this week I’ve wanted to vomit. I’ve never had a reaction quite like this; however, I’ve never been around people who are regular John & Jane Q. Christians who’ve done something so terrible.

Before Tuesday I’d use expressions like exuberant, hard working and radiating with genuine concern for people to describe them. Watching them on the news I can only say: fragile. In hearing details of the crime my adjectives would be ghastly, inhuman and want to ask: “what the hell were you thinking—why didn’t you get help?”

Now this could be a situation where the media has worked overtime on hype. Or it could be a situation where it is a series of unfortunate circumstances that implicates the wrong people. However, it appears to be a situation where people are just plain guilty. From what I’ve read the defense lawyers haven’t arrived in the courtroom yet. Their only defense has been improper Mirandizing and the blame game. There isn’t a one-armed man in the wings on this one—I really wish there was.

Yet, the minute I read the first story, I immediately knew what God wanted me to do, and it was simply: give grace. Right now I’m sort of at Grace 101 with this. I love them, but my mind can’t wrap itself around the events for which they are charged. That makes grace all that more difficult…that is what makes it grace.

I’ve also learned something from this. When we’re in a place and see someone who’s bruised…ask about it. Don’t keep notes and hope one day to tell someone. Keep asking about the bruises and don’t stop. But don’t just ask about bruises: offer your help. Bruises on children or adults. Ask about it again and spend time to help relieve pressure. Help prevent another tragedy. Back in 1987 I had decided to report my neighbor for verbal abuse against her young children. I could hear her through our paper-thin walls. God whispered to me: help her.

I doubt if I will address this issue again, but if you should be reminded of this blog, and then pray for my friends. Pray for a big Jesus to wash away big tears and big regrets and open big doors.

In thinking about the Penn State mess I wondered if I would have enough courage to buck the system and be a whistle blower. Would you? It takes courage to swim against the established tide. JoePa was a force who didn’t want trouble, and to come against him didn’t happen. And because of that no one was a voice for those boys. As hindsight we can look back and say “oh yes”, but really??? Would you lose your job for someone?

Would you dare lose your standing in the community to stand up for someone…would you be like Jesus and love even though you might be called a sinner and be ridiculed? I think doing that would be radical for Jesus.

That’s grace and that’s hard.

Like it or not we’ve become a Heidi-&-Spencer society in church. We like things clean, neat and perfect…and we don’t want a mess. It doesn’t matter what kind of mess: hot, cold or lukewarm, the church in America wants to look good. Let me explain my point:

I have a friend who is gay. He has tried all the groups, prayers, deliverance, dating girls, and has been celibate for well over a decade. He has shared this with a pastor…a pastor in a church with You Are Loved! on the church marquee. The pastor questions my friend’s Christian walk..apparently you’re loved unconditionally if you aren’t messy. Otherwise, as in the case of my friend, you’re pointed to a group that will santize you–oops, a group that will “show you a better way” to live for the Lord.

This isn’t an isolated situation. When my friend leaves the church, he isn’t running from God…he’s running from people who continually tell him he’s too messy to be truly be love by Jesus. Jesus never said that…the Heidi-&-Spencer church did. Jesus washes feet. Jesus sups with sinners. Jesus ate with tax collectors. Jesus loves Heidi and Spencer, He just doesn’t want his body to be the Temple of Heidi-&-Spencer.

Messy? Not an outwardly perfect Christian. You know that person who isn’t messy: one who has all their bills paid, is a perfect size with less than 20% body fat, good tan, no sickness, great house and family, and they always have a seat next to the pastor. They’re the only ones that the pastor will look at in the eye–otherwise, he’s scanning the crowd for Heidi-&-Spencer. Everyone loves perfect.

I have no idea who made those rules for our church in America, but most people in church know not to challenge them. These church folk realize the phrase “we love you no matter what” is generally a lie. We’re only allowed one no matter what visit to church, then you’d better change into Heidi-&-Spencer or the die is cast against you.

Same goes for teens. A girl goes to the youth group. A victim of many things…a predator, deep hurt from people she loved, being betrayed, having to deal with medical issues decades before most people think about such things…then in the picture perfect youth group she’s an outcast. Now those words aren’t spoken, they are there. People pick on her for things others are doing. There are new groups within the group for people who are “serious about the Lord”…and she’s never asked. No one talks to her and no one wants to hang out. The group wants to look pretty and cool.

And the older ladies–they love their luncheons. Years ago their prayer group slowly gave way to other things. When the leader died they chose someone safe, and not the person who got under their skin…a person who spoke the truth. Truth burned their ears and rubbed their hearts the wrong way. It didn’t tickle.

Slowly the isolation drives a man from a potentially wonderful church. He will be judged for not attending church and people will gossip. They will claim it is because the sin of homosexuality is deceiving him. The girl in the youth group doesn’t want to return. She loves the Lord, but she doesn’t feel the love of those who represent Him in His Church. She knows no one will call her, because they prefer to forget the year she was with them…she challenged their belief system about picture-perfect Christianity. The elderly gals just want to slide on into eternity without conflict (think about Corrie ten Boom’s father who died in a concentration camp for hiding Jews in his home…that was messy and he didn’t meet eternity on clean sheets surrounded by his loved ones).

Does Heidi-&-Spencer make us feel good because then we believe we’re perfect? Why can’t we love messy? You know messy can be irritating and harsh. Messy can challenge our belief system, and we want to quickly nail together a little building and push our messy into it. In hiding messy, we overlook the real sin. And what would that be, Cheryl? you say to me.

That would be the lack of grace, for one. That would be ignoring the girl who tells her youth pastor there is excessive gossip in the youth group, and his response is “I’ve preached on gossip, there is none in our group.” Spiritual pride, maybe? Has someone who is messy exposed our soft belly? If she was a real Christian she would be_____. That blank would be judgment. Judging her keeps us from looking at the hidden sins of our heart.

My friends here all love the Lord and realize they are messy. They want to be heard and have friends and be treated with dignity. That means no group referral and no isolation We are all like them, but we hide behind the things we make pretty and flawless. The American church only likes Heidi-&-Spencer. Heidi got extensive plastic surgery because she didn’t like how she looked. She wanted to cover the flaws. We want to get rid of messy in our church.

However, Jesus is with the messy. Where do you stand?

When faith seems to fail…when God says “no”…in people’s minds it seems to fall back on someone who either is in sin or didn’t have enough faith. Why do we do this? If we tell our child “no” do we do it because they didn’t love us enough? Hopefully not. We generally say no because we know down the road that no is better… “No, don’t go play down by the pond” … “No, don’t go to the ATM in the bad part of town at 2 A.M.” … “No, don’t lick your hands after you pull ticks off the dog.”

When you’re praying for something, God will answer: yes, no, and most times “wait.” Waiting builds stuff God can use in us. Back in 1977 I felt like I was Queen of Faith. I was praying for people and I saw healings…then my dad (who was sick) required many surgeries. Several were amputations, and he had 3 attempts to get to good flesh. I cried and beat the soil and couldn’t understand how God would answer the prayers I had prayed for non-Christians and then not answer mine.

After a time of silence the Lord told me that there were witnesses watching how I handled it. It is one thing to win the Million Dollar Pot and another to weather the financial storm. People around you watch and listen. If you praise on Sunday…what do you do on Monday when you’re fired?

Last year I ran into a terrible personal situation. I said “Well, God, if _____ happens I will dance before you and praise you nonetheless.” And suddenly I realized I didn’t need to wait until _____ happened because I could start dancing. I danced all day long, and in front of my daughter’s friends (for the moment they may have thought I was nuts, but I told them I was dancing before the Lord). Know what? The situation changed.

A bad situation isn’t anyone’s fault. Here is why (and that’s all I’ll say): John 9:1-4…

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.

2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”

Hannah and Her Sisters was the name of a Woody Allen movie. Can’t remember much about the plot or anything else but the name. Movies…Hollywood…Stars…all are people you can soon forget. Having spent time on a movie set I know the stars are cared for and pampered. Each and every need is met. The bigger the star, the bigger the demands and the bigger the isolation from the “rubber meets the road” we all experience each day. Temporary pleasures immediately fulfilled that keep these people (and many others) from reaching for the eternal.

This week my friend Hannah lost her baby. It wasn’t a miscarriage of 8-10 weeks, but the death of a baby on his due date. Hannah’s sisters (+ Mom, Dad and brothers + Hannah and her husband) all kept faith that this baby would be resurrected. Simply put: one day this precious baby was moving and the next without a heart beat. I can’t imagine anything sadder for parents and family to experience.

I come not to dwell on this event, but what took place because of the event. A family stood on the Word of God and total trust in Him. They spoke the Word and lived on prayer for several days. I’m not sure what happened at the hospital, but I would imagine that they didn’t permit anything to invade their faith like double and triple checking hospital monitors. They threw all they had on God; they put their faith in the eternal.

Sadly for us who are earth-bound, this child is with Jesus. We know we will see him shortly. The empty place he left will last a lifetime, but we know that life is short. “Soon” (50-70 years) the real Hannah and her sisters will be holding this child and embracing the One who has taken care of him since he passed from this world to eternity.

This kind of faith is mocked. People think you’re crazy, but God is well-pleased. Their trust was totally cast on Him. Satan and his demons tremble at actions like these. And this kind of faith is more real than the computer you’re looking at right now. This computer will soon be biting the dust in a recycle bin…faith like this can change history. Because it didn’t change events this time doesn’t mean God didn’t get the glory. Think how this impacted the hospital staff for starts. Their short email updates impacted my faith level and pushed me to believe that God might surely resurrect this baby.

I don’t know what you’re going thru today. It might be just a day or you might be worried about bills, tornadoes, floods, job, stock market…just like the movie Hannah and Her Sisters…those things are a temporary moment in time with temporary benefits. Soon these will be long gone and replaced by something else. Consider what this family has done. They spoke into eternity and caused the demons to tremble.

Please take to heart these verses…Romans 8:35-39: 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Please ponder what this nameless family has done….trust Jesus with all you have that you’re willing to look silly to the world to trust Him.

I just finished the article by Albert Mohler…and here’s the link:  http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-church-and-the-clobber-scriptures-the-bible-on-homosexuality-50792/

Before you read the Mohler article, I’d like to express my thought after I finished reading: Where do we get the term “cheap grace”? It’s used all the time by my conservative brothers and sisters. It seems if we love without expectation then we become guilty of making Jesus’ sacrifice cheap. On one hand we say/tell potential converts there’s nothing we can do to earn grace, so what makes it cheap? What must you do to give/get a “perfect grace”?

A certain SBC church I attended actively preached against the gay community (the focus of Mohler’s article). From the early 1980’s the pastor of this church preached that AIDS was a plague sent by God. The Rev. Dr. Pastor damned the homosexual community in his sermons. Yet this church had no time for my landlord.

Mr. Landlord was also an active church, and he was dying of AIDS. He did all the church asked: joined an ex-gay group, left all his old friends, joined Sunday school, etc. Long before this death the church fellows weren’t there to pick up the loneliness pieces (after all the church sternly suggestion to be free he must give up his friends “from that life”). When he was in the hospital (after I called and explained the situation to the pastor pool) the duly appointed pastor came to visit ONE TIME. That’s pretty cheap, don’t you think? Could cheap grace be something we give because we don’t want to sacrifice to give the good stuff? Maybe we call true grace the cheap stuff so no one will notice how cheap we are on the unconditional love.

What do you think Jesus wanted His church to do for Mr. Landlord? See Matthew 25 beginning at verse 31. The pastor is to be the chief of servants. He is to be on the frontlines (in terms of fighting the battle) and not at the back of the line giving orders (and in the case of this church, a pastor with body guards and a $1M budget for security).

I left that experience of my landlord’s death wondering what’s wrong with us conservatives that we can’t see the person for their issues? If we don’t see the person, then they won’t see the true Jesus. We give “ye ole sinner” a bunch of rules, and then expect them to fall in love with Jesus. They can’t see him because we’re so cheap on the giving of grace. Grace must be experienced. The term “clobber” might be from WWII, but when someone speaks of clobber scriptures, please listen. They are telling you they feel they’ve been hit over the head by the Bible. Did Jesus ever clobber anyone other than the religious leaders? No. Is addressing any sin wrong? No, but before we pick the splinter we need to remove the log.

Grace is what Jesus was all about, and it’s difficult. I’ve found that grace comes in the heat of battle, not locked up in an ivory tower. Most pastors today are in an ivory tower and don’t know what it means to be on the frontlines of battle—visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, visiting the prison. All of these tasks are assigned to an underling.

You men of the pulpit surround yourselves by “yes men” while trying  to get a sermon to meet the people’s needs…a people you haven’t truly connected with in decades. Having a huge salary and body guards at all times means nothing is risked…the old adage is: nothing risked—nothing gained. Oh, Rev. Dr. Pastor at the huge SBC church has had his share of trials; but what if you took away the ivory tower, and then put him to work for an unjust boss, with a second job at Mapco just to put food on the table. Add in three kids with homework after the jobs plus housework. What if the weekly check didn’t cover all the expenses, and there wasn’t extra money to fix the car to get to work? Once you’re there Rev. Dr. Pastor, then you’d be a man who walked in the shoes of his congregation. Maybe in these tough times your budget is running thin. But cutting a program pales in comparison to the mother who doesn’t have enough money to get to the doctor when their child is sick.

Somehow as conservatives we think we have to do it all for God or the person won’t be properly Christianized. If God can change a heart, then he can finish the work without our help. Yes, he does need our help: to be Jesus in shoe leather and be the bearer of a love so extraordinary that it can’t be explained by everyday terms.   

Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy, and the focus of the article) has knowledge of what it means to live on the “other side”. He knows about being an outcast. Hear his heart. Hear the hearts of those we’ve cast out of the church or from our friendship or no longer support because “they fell”.

Is preaching that homosexuality is a sin Biblical? If you say “yes”, then do you give equal time to preaching about the sins of liars—gossips—gluttons? Those three would hit every prayer group and church social. Have you told the gossips and liars they aren’t welcome, or must attend a group to change, or they’re going to hell? And if you’re covering hot sin topics of the church, what a series of sermons on coveting—it would hit us all, I think.

For too long and in the name of Jesus we’ve overlooked the painful issues because we don’t want to go outside our Christian boundaries. We’re like the pastor in the office who doesn’t want to be outside because he’d be on the frontline and hit with the enemy fire (sometimes the enemy is a dear Christian brother). Jesus was all about being outside the box. He was outside the box with unconditional love, and the religious leaders were there to tell him why he was wrong.  

Please, please, please embrace grace, and get lost in it! Forget cheap grace. If it is truly grace then it is painful—grace is undeserved favor, and it isn’t cheap. Grace is what separates us from the rest of religion…let’s practice it.