Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘unconditional love

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.

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?

I think one of the bigger issues this week has been the bill having to do with punishment for people who commit hate crimes. I’ve gotten a couple of pieces of advice from both sides of the debate. I would like to weigh-in a bit on this for my more conservative pals.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you know that when I was ten we moved from the “north” (Kentucky) to an area just south of Tuscaloosa, AL. I had lived my first years where the integration of schools was simply merging a school rather than a political drama. The drama began (after we moved) in 1964 when my fifth grade teacher asked me about going to school with black student…she actually used the n-word. She asked about “them” smelling and biting. I learned that “them” were hated by the locals. As well the locals believed that “them” could be treated in a sub-human way. Members of my father’s church bragged about the terrible deeds they did to “them”. Members of our church harassed my father for refusing to join their local whites-only club called the KKK.

So here we are 45 years later. I’m finding there is a new “them” out there. I’m a school counselor and one of “my” children told me it was okay to hit, stab or kill a person because they were gay. Certainly a nine-year-old doesn’t just go to bed at night and dream this up without a bit of help from a significant adult in their lives promoting this belief.

I’m not much for making comments on hot political issues, but let me throw this one out for you (my conservative pals) to chew on….

Almost eleven years ago we had the opportunity to speak out for someone who had been injured by a crime borne of hate. Matthew Sheppard was brutally killed and I don’t remember one significant conservative pastor opening their mouth to say “this is wrong!” Instead we were silent…I was silent. Maybe we just wanted to be “us” and if we spoke out against what happened someone might think we were “them.” No clue.

Instead, in our silence there was one “Christian” voice–an evil man who said he represented “us” because in his demonstrations of hate he held signs that stated he was a Christian, and was speaking for God. Because we chose to remain silent, he became the face of fundamentalism and in many peoples’ eyes they think he is one of us…

This bill was written to protect people from him. So when we worry about what the hate crimes bill will do to “us”–we need to first think about what happens when our acts of grace remain hidden. Next, take we need to take our “grace” temperature. Are we servants who live like Jesus or do we have a political agenda to protect our rights? Grace isn’t a warm fuzzy…it is dying to self so others can see Jesus at work.

I’ve heard rumor will this take away the rights of pastors/Christians who want to point a finger at sin. The answer I have: a person giving grace won’t lose their rights. When we live like Jesus our “rights” aren’t so important. We will take a bullet for them because we refuse to let “them” be harmed. Jesus did it for us…

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.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra by Michael Tyler

Trans-Siberian Orchestra as photographed by Michael W. Tyler

On Sunday we went to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and with all the lights and acoustics I suddenly felt like I could be on that stage performing. I was dreaming like when I was younger and it seemed like the sky was the limit on what I could do and who I could become. When you are young you don’t think about not seeing a loved one again.

The last twenty-four hours has been nostalgic in that I longed to be back at my grandparent’s house. There were certain things that could only happen there with them like my grandfather calling Santa “Santy”. Or my grandmother always burning the bottoms of cheap biscuits–those you buy in four pack for around a dollar for the four.

Everyone was welcomed at their home. Family members who might not be welcomed anywhere else were welcome to come and have a bite to eat and fellowship. Because my grandparents were peacemakers, no one who had an ought with another got mad at Jewell and Ercie for befriending the other party. This gift has been passed down to my parents as they could have hostile acquaintances come to their table and peace would take over everyone…there was no more family or friend “war”.

This is Christmas Day…the day our Savior was born and it was through him that our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to God. Today is the day you need to find that loved one who has been outside the warmth of your embrace…if you can’t find them by traditional means search through Google, Facebook and MySpace. Make this a “Lost Sheep Day” and welcome them home.

I started this blog by talking about youth and things we don’t think of such as losing our loved ones. On Christmas Eve morning I lost a friend named Jack. He was a beloved pastor who had the heart of a child and embraced everyone. I’ve known Jack for eight years and suddenly time was gone: time to tell him how much I loved him or how much embodied the grace of Jesus in his everyday life.

On Christmas Eve night a close friend became a grandmother. That baby is just like the baby that comes to everyone. Remember that special love the first time you saw your child, sibling, friend? If you are not in touch…reach out and get in touch TODAY!!! Blessings…

It has been a month since I’ve blogged. I’m getting settled into a new job and have been working long hours and many weekend days and nights. Last weekend the girls and I went to a church that had none of the perfect qualities that we might desire. My oldest loves worship. My youngest loves peers. I love intellectual sermons that challenge the heart. But for sometime I’ve known that God wants us to visit that church.

This church was the victim of an electrical storm so the scant sound system and overhead had “gone to glory” in electrical terms. The songs were long and not what we like for worship. Other similar issues were like this, and the guest speaker was a preacher who sounded like Tyler Perry’s Madea. Yet in the middle of all of this we were deeply touched by God. My oldest and I both felt like we were swinging in my grandmother’s swing at sundown on a summer’s evening. We haven’t felt such spiritual peace in months.

A couple of days ago I was with my mom and mentioned an older, poor preacher who came to town back in 1991 and his sermon spoke depths into my heart. Once again we were visiting a poor, poor country church that is commonly called “The Little Church” in our area. This man gave me some wise insight that continues to carry me today.

In my book And You Invited Me In there is a character named Miss Lois. She is a real person in my hometown. Family illnesses prevent her from attending church except on rare occasions. However, she reads and prays and has a closer walk with the Lord than anyone I’ve ever come across.

So what is the point of all of this? Finding God isn’t a matter of getting to Atlanta, San Antonio, Tulsa or Houston to get blessed in that mega-church where the pastor sells thousands of books. God is sometimes found in the hidden places. And it is there he has the greatest blessings for our lives. For a moment we might think “no, this can’t be God” but if we rest in Him we will soon find that He is moving mightily in the willing vessels, the pure heart and those who ask nothing but to be with him.

Yesterday I was in church…well there aren’t many words to describe the way I felt in church. We had a guest speaker who was anything but inspiring. And as well after hearing him, I don’t think anyone would want to be a Christian. Seriously, it was all doom and gloom about the End Times. I have as much ability to stop End Times from happening as I do to stop a freight train. Therefore being scared isn’t they way to approach what is coming. It is sort of like going on a trip: you have to be prepared, and when the time comes then you will have what it take to make the journey.

When I was sharing this with my mother, and we began a discussion that even if we were smack-dab in the middle of evil we’d have to continue to show the love of Christ; then she related this story that I thought was interesting. The whole point to this is that if we knew the context of the scripture as it pertained to the culture, we would have a different take on it. And we were talking about the original Dr. Evil…

If Adolf Hitler lived next door to me, I’d have to show the love of Christ to him. I’d develop a relationship, and then wait for the Lord’s direction on specifics of what I might say or do. And then Mom said “I always had trouble with the verse from Romans.” (Romans 12:20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.) She stated that it was strange that you’d make a person feel bad when you’re doing something nice. However, she told me what it meant back in the day…

Fire was important to life. If your fire went out, then you had to find coals and bring them to your location to start your fire again. Therefore, these coals are life sustaining. So when you give grace (undeserved favor/love) to those who don’t deserve it, then you give them/him/her life. Instead of making them feel bad, they would have life. People want to live, and grace gives life.

Grace is a command. Grace isn’t always fun, and doesn’t always work out pretty. However, God is in control and when you’re doing His will, you can’t go wrong.