Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘grace

I know what happened to John Paulk in terms of logistics, because we are Facebook friends. I know he’s gone from a nerdy looking man to Chef Cuteness in the last 13 years. I know I’d like to cook like him. I know he’s a dedicated father and has gone through deep pain with recent changes in his life. But I’m here to talk about what happened to him…

You see I’m an unofficial expert in the way things look. I can see print and know if it’s off by a fraction of a millimeter. I’ve been given a good eye for balance and what looks right: too many words in a sentence, the balance of flowers in a centerpiece, too much fabric in a dress, and too little grace in our churches.

My Twitter account has been blowing up with all kinds of religiously negative words about John. Everyone has their input, so I’ll tell you what happened to John Paulk: In 2000 he walked into a drag bar, if my memory serves me right. It was in DuPont Circle in DC, I know for sure. He was there for about 45 minutes before he was recognized by someone who told the press. Because of John’s position with Exodus it was a big deal. After that a series of official statements were made by the board of Exodus International—a board from a ministry based on high Christian standards.

This isn’t about Exodus, because I’m very impressed with the willingness of Alan Chambers to listen and embrace the hurt. No, this post is about the board that was overseeing the program in 2000 and what happened to John Paulk…

For a moment I will digress. We conservatives love to point fingers. We say our problems would be solved if only we had an Evangelical President, hadn’t let gay people marry, hadn’t legalized pot, and on it goes. Ironically our fingers never point to ourselves. There’s nothing ever said about getting before the Lord with sack cloth and ashes, and repenting for our sins. The top of our sins should include not being Jesus to others.

Where would John Paulk be today if one of the male humans on that board had been a man and washed John’s feet? What if they hadn’t sent him off into the vast wilderness called “excuses”. I have no idea what happened outside of all their weekly missives of “what really happened that day on DuPont Circle”, but soon John disappeared from our lives. These men went right on with their lives believing they had been the voice of God in the matter. Instead they abandoned him in his hour of greatest need. How could they sever ties as casually as one would unfriend someone on Facebook? But Jesus tells us a story like this in Luke 10. The priest and the Levite have nothing to do with the man wounded on the road, but the Samaritan comes along and helps.

Just recently John Paulk issued a statement about that time and the years since. His words were raw. As I read, I could feel the beat of his heart. Suddenly a new decade of gossips rise up to try to take John down: their words are condemning; their fingers are pointing. Some are close relations and some are self-proclaimed experts, but none are seeing through the telescope of grace. They offer no edification. I suggest they don’t know grace. The grace we saw when the Amish embraced the family of the shooter. The grace we love to see when the Bishop gives Jean Valjean the candlesticks.

What happened to John Paulk happens to countless others in our churches. They probably aren’t associated with Exodus, but they have hurts and stumble, and then we continue to pour salt into their wounds. We must remember that there’s only ONE difference in our faith and countless other religions: Jesus took our sins in an act of grace. We are told to walk in His Steps. Consider the verse below. Consider what would say if it means grace and grace only…

Matthew 28:18-20…Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

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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.

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.

I wanted to add this little bit of personal information. I’m part of that group of 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys who are molested. There were no books in those days to help ease the pain, since it happened when I was a youth and now I’m 55. I was the victim of countless nightmares and would come almost nightly until I told the secret. My violater never was punished and I never got a financial reward. As well, when I reported it I was told “if we do something then it will upset so many people.”

About 15 years after it happened I visited my doctor who was also a church fellow. I explained that for each of the last 15 years the season when I was molested was black and I felt lifeless, depressed and dead for a span of three months. He did pray for me and then he told me this: You have no choice but to forgive. Whether you ‘feel it’ or not, you have to start speaking it out forgiveness.

I can remember leaving his office and looking into the clouds saying: I forgive you (I saw looking up there to tell God I forgave the perp). Just a little note here: there were no registered sex offenders back then. There was no group to sit around and discuss it, and no going back to get my day in court. It was simply God and me.

Realize now I had already been praying for at least five years about getting emotional healing from this, and it would take another seven more years….actually the Sunday before I got married…when our church had a time when people were asking forgiveness of things in their heart. I later fictionalized and wrote that service into my book And You Invited Me In.

It seemed that everyone was confessing hurt and pain and asking forgiveness during that extra long Sunday morning service. If you come from a tradition of three hymns, prayer and a 20-minute sermon, then this spontaneous service might seem a bit odd. Yet in a flash that can only be God, I knew my hurt and pain was gone, and I had truly forgiven the person who had violated me.

For over 20 years I had lived in deep emotional pain and suffering—not only from the abuse, but the lack of help from those who couldn’t help me when I asked. There were moments during those years when I had wished I could open my skin and let out the pain because it was so deep. I knew I’d done  nothing wrong, but I felt all messed up because of this physical assault and wondered by God had permitted it to happen. However, there in that Sunday service after seven years of speaking forgiveness each time I didn’t feel like forgiving—in a flash it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was no longer scar tissue over my heart and mind, but just another event I lived through like breaking my leg.

Therefore, the following post entitled WW(y)CD and registered sex offenders operating with the church is more than blog-lite. I’ve been there, and I know that no amount of money or prison would have done what God did for me when forgiveness for this man became real. I had to embrace forgiveness before it ‘felt okay’; I had to speak forgiveness each time the waves of darkness rolled over me in the day and night.

My doctor said: you will never be the same, but God can make you better. And it happened. Grace works…it’s the only thing that heals. Forgiveness is difficult but it is imperative.

What would your church do?

There seems to be a firestorm of press going on about City of Refuge in Louisville, KY concerning the ordination of a registered sex offender. You can find details about this on most newsfeeds.  As well you can find out the stats about people who are abused. The numbers are staggering—I know because I teach young people about unwanted touches.

However as Christians who believe that God can redeem and make new, this may just be the beginning of something we will need to consider in our churches. What happens when a registered sex offender comes to church? What happens when they want….(and you fill in the blanks).

I know of a church that believed they could not refuse them, but established strict guidelines that if (s)he was to be at church, (s)he was to be in the company of the elders. I have read in the Christian Post that Rev. Randy’s church has set down strict guidelines as part of the ordination.

At one time 20+ years ago I had a preacher tell me that he would not allow a person with AIDS in his congregation and I was to not “bring that plague” into his church. To me it was crazy that someone could be refused entrance into a church…therefore, what about this situation? What do we say? How do we respond as Christians who have been forgiven?

It is time to consider the road to be taken if this happens in your church. Can this person participate in worship? Socials? Sunday school? Certainly they will truly learn what grace is by how you respond. There should be reasonable conditions asked of this person, but the overall question is: how can you lovingly embrace this person so that you display Christ?

Not every registered sex offender is like the man in California who held Jaycee captive for 18 years. We have friends whose son is a registered sex offender, and I’ve seen him participate in church. This isn’t a blog to convince you of the degrees of offense, but it’s one to make you think about what might happen, and ask how would you respond? How difficult is grace at this point—especially if you have been molested?

Here’s a fairly recent stat: only 4 out of every 100 sex offenders are ever caught. I got that figure from a training video from the YMCA. Therefore if that information is correct, then you’re probably going to church right now with someone who has at least acted improperly with a person under 18. However, that isn’t the point of the blog either. Blog point is this: would this push us all to our grace limit, and can we do it?

In closing this situation in Louisville is an opportunity for us to forget what unsaved newspersons are thinking, and begin to listen to God. While there won’t be a great number of churches that ordain a registered sex offender, there are many who might become home churches to these offenders, and in this situation: What would your church do?

0214091038 Supplies available to clients are those necessary items that can’t be purchased with food stamps.

There is something wonderful going on in Dallas. It is an AIDS Service Organization called White Rock Friends…an outreach of the White Rock Community Church and its mission is to support the HIV/AIDS community by offering a variety of programs to assist individuals in their day to day lives. It is more than just your bag of groceries and a pat on the back until next month…

I don’t know who began the program years ago, but right now Douglas Shaffer is the go-to man with all the facts. It was his vision to take this from government red-tape into a program that’s available to meet peoples’ needs. Clients become friends who come to the church facility on Tuesdays (for the store, only) and Saturdays to get their supplies like Pinesol, bandaids, and toilet paper. They can also get clothes and have a wonderful lunch. Daniel is the head chef of these lunches and he has only missed one Saturday in eight years. That’s dedication! Everyone there is dedicated.

0214091037Another thing that Douglas realizes is that many times our friends who are HIV+ or have AIDS need food for their pet. Pet food is in abundant supply at White Rock Friends (and so is Emma, the Maltese and mascot of White Rock).

The word in a nutshell for White Rock Friends is caring. Everyone who serves cares for the clients. The clients feel the love. For Valentine’s Day there was an elegant meal of chicken cordon bleu, green bean casserole, dressing, salad (with nice greens), fresh fruit salad, chocolate covered strawberries, cheesecake with caramel or strawberry sauce…and it was YUMMY! My family got the honor of serving food that day. We also got the honor of meeting many of the clients.

If you are ever in Dallas visit White Rock Community Church and find out how you can help this wonderful ministry.