When you grieve what’s going on a world away

My heart has been so heavy lately, for two things that I know have been all over the news.

For the people of Haiti and the region where I have Haitian friends, Haitian families and pastors that have been impacted by the earthquake and heavy rain. For the families whose houses were devastated and now have nowhere to take shelter. For the ones grieving with loss. I know this region. I have been there, multiple times. I have driven the streets of Jeremie, and seen the buildings that now are split in two. I have crossed the river that must be swollen with rain, walked the muddy streets. In many ways I feel utterly helpless.

My prayers have been that the schools New Life for Haiti built, the organization I traveled with, would be a shelter from the storm, that the people would be there for each other – helping – not selfish, and that the small but resilient body of Christ would be his hands and feet with the little they have to take care of them. I know that when things like this happen, there is a mad rush for tarps for makeshift shelters and rice and beans so that people can simple eat. My prayer is that those that know God and put their hope in him would BE the light and hope for their fellow villagers, even in the midst of their own pain. Not because they can fix things or have endless resources, but because they can love them and walk with them in the devastation, because they can cry with them and bring their tears to God.

My heart has also been heavy for the women of Afghanistan as I read stories of them rushing to get birkhas and the fear they are now headed into. Fear of losing freedoms they had enjoyed like working and education and freedom to go wherever they wanted. Stories of wondering how they will even feed their families, if they are not allowed out without the presence of a male in their family, yet they are widows so what will they do?

Reuters has a beautiful picture library of many of these women – police officers, university graduates, TV reporters, soldiers. There are women on a robotics team, engineers working to restore a temple, musicians practicing for a concert, cyclists. All free. I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like for them if all this is taken away.

It is not right

It is not good at all, and we all know this don’t we?

The Taliban is telling the world that they want peace, that they will not rule militantly, but we have yet to see if they really mean it. So much of me wants to cry EVIL!!! for that is what I see on the TV and read about on any news channel, no matter what their slant. But even these men are human. As a follower of Jesus that tries to take his call to love enemies and pray for those who persecute – I struggle to have compassion, to say as Jesus “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”. I want justice. I want to set it right, to fix it…. but I can’t.

… and so I will see and I will hear, thousands of miles away.

And I will never stop praying for change

My reading this morning was from Psalm 142. How perfectly timed.

Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned or me. I have no refuge, no one cares for my life.”

It never ceases to amaze me how clearly the psalmists from thousands of years ago express the cry of the human heart. Yet they do it believing there is a God who hears, and does not sit idly without feeling.

And so I say to my fellow Haitians, I grieve with you for the loss of your home, your hungry bellies. The hardship of how to move forward, yet again. I see you, and you are not alone.

I say to the women of Afghanistan my sisters and all those who are fearful and grieving – I see you, you are NOT alone. I mourn for your freedoms lost, and we are praying for change to come again.

We will not stop

The rest of the psalm is a perfect prayer to start this day (slightly tweaked):

I am crying out to you, the God of all the Heavens – can you help those that are grieving find you as a refuge somehow? I have no idea how, but please. They need you.

Will you be their portion in their village, in the midst of those around them also struggling? They are still alive, even if they feel dead, and you are the living God! Keep them alive! Keep their hope alive!

Hear their cries, for you see and you know they are in desperate need; rescue them from the ones who pursue them to steal and take what is not theirs, to arrest and condemn when they have done nothing wrong.

You know those that would be their accusers are too strong for them

Set them free from what feels like a prison, that their voices will rise and thank you

Show your goodness to them in the smallest of ways, through people around them, through your creation, through your quiet voice and whisper in the night, that they will know you see them.

Amen

A lesson from high country wildflowers

I am house sitting at a beautiful home this week, and although I am working from here its like a bit of a retreat for me, really. Peaceful, surrounded by mountains, trails near the river to walk, places to ride. I love it.

One of my duties (in addition to taking care of the cat) is to water the inside and outside plants… and I’m not talking one or two. I’m talking probably 50 or so. No kidding. They are beautiful and frankly I am amazed that someone can keep this many plants alive. It’s no secret that I do NOT have a green thumb. There are only ever two plants in my house: Pothos and Snake Plants or Mother-in-law’s tongue. They are very forgiving. Pothos will start to wilt to let you know you forgot to water them, and when you do – voila! – they come right back to life. These are the plants I feel confident about.

Needless to say I am following the homeowner directions VERY carefully so that their plants stay alive while I am here..

Today’s post though isn’t about having a green thumb or the beauty of potted plants. Today I want to talk about some wildflowers I saw on my hike this afternoon. These, I think could very well be the only thing I should be planting at home.

You see, out here in Colorado (and I’m sure this is the case elsewhere too), one of the things that’s hard to miss unless you are just not paying attention are the abundance of wildflowers in certain places when you are hiking. They are beautiful. Dark purple, light purple, bright pink, periwinkle blue, sunshine yellow. There are even these little tiny red ones that look like mini trumpets. Some grow on bushes, others grow in little clumps on the ground.

I’m always amazed that they can thrive in the altitude and dry, sandy soil. Yes, these flowers could work for me. They don’t seem to need too much to stay alive. Haha!

Yet I think there is a bigger lesson these wildflowers can teach us, if we will listen.

When I look at these flowers, they are so brilliant, I think they could rival any landscaping annual that is carefully planted and manicured in a flower bed or pot hanging from a balcony. Yet who takes care of them? No one.

So it makes me think of the parallel with life a bit.

I had the privilege of growing up in a pretty stable home, solidly middle class. I never feared where we would live or if we would have food on our table. My mom made most of my clothes growing up, we didn’t eat out a ton, and vacations were to mostly to see family. If I was missing something, I never knew it. My life was, in many ways, like a manicured garden, even though it got replanted every few years when we moved. Yet I could dream and hope, because the basics were not in question for me.

For some of you, survival was the name of the game. Dreams and hope were a thing for everyone else. You just wanted to survive and get out. Maybe you are still there. So as I share this next part I want to be tender in how I offer my thoughts.

Jesus talked with people in his day about wildflowers. When he did, he used it as a way to make God seem less “out there” and more “near” to them. He used wildflowers to teach them the truth of how much God cares for them. He had the audacity to tell people that they were worth SO MUCH MORE than wildflowers (Matt 6:28). Nice thought, but maybe harder to know what to do with it, right?

So to understand this, let’s consider the truth of these wildflowers:

1. There’s no one to water them every day.

2. It’s hot and dry.

3. The ground is sandy, it’s not rich or full of nutrients

4. There’s no one fertilizing them or gathering seeds to make sure they survive, yet they do. They flourish. They multiply. Who do you think does that? God. NO one else

I know I lack the ability to tease this out every way it could be. Maybe this describes your world right now, for whatever reason. Maybe this described how you grew up, without being nurtured, and you wondered where God was. Maybe this describes a season of faith you have or are going through..or maybe it describes the life of someone you know that needs to be nurtured and invested in..

What I see in these wildflowers is a dogged determination to shine, in all their colors, for everyone to see. Yes, I know I could research the scientific reason why they survive, but I think that takes away the mystery of the spiritual parallel. (Maybe for some of you, the scientific reason shows you more how God took care of them in their very design, so maybe that will speak to you more.. have at it!)

Friends, wherever you are in your story, and however it reads, can you dare to believe that there is not only a God who cares for you, but that this God is near and longs to show you the truth of his reality through the things around you? Today for me it was the wildflowers on my hike. I pray your heart and eyes will be open to see the reality God longs to show you in your world this week, or the way he longs to use you to love on and encourage a “wildflower” living near you.

Blessings!!

The creativity of “calling”

Early in my years as an evangelical Christian, the idea of calling was huge. Every question, every prayer, everything it seemed was designed to make sure that we, as college students, were seeking to follow God’s “call” on our life.

It was if there was one thing and if you missed it, you were destined to live life in the shadows of faith. Of course that is totally NOT the way to see it or understand calling. Yes, sure sometimes people hear or sense God leading them in a certain direction, but that doesn’t happen to everyone.. and if you are one of the people who (like me) who never “heard” God tell them to do something specific… you didn’t miss a thing.

Now, let me state for the record: I know I am certainly not the first to write about this, nor am I going to sit and write about what calling really means or how to find it or the plethora of other approaches one could take.

Instead, I want to just ask you to sit with me in the wonder and vastness of the creativity of God, when he created people of every nation and tribe and tongue, with brilliance and intelligence that I can just not fathom. Then I want to invite you to think of what “calling” really means, in the wake of this vast, creative passion.

I work with some brilliant solution architects, data gurus and programmers. The way their minds think boggles me. I’ve worked with them for 26 years and I still cannot do the things they can.

A good friend of mine from back in Virginia is such an amazing cook, he can make a gourmet meal no matter what he has in his kitchen. He was like those apps that you enter all your ingredients and they find you a recipe… before smart phones ever existed. I’m pretty good in the kitchen given a recipe…. but its no comparison to what he can do.

Two new friends are so musically gifted that I often sit in their music studios in their houses (well, one is in our garage).. and marvel at their screens and mixing tools and ability to blend instruments and voices and produce these beautiful melodies. Where do song lyrics come from? How are they inspired to write? I could never do that.. I just enjoy the fruit of their labors.

Then there is the whole architecture thing. How in the world do architects know just how to build bridges so they will sway with wind and storms, but not break? Did you know that there are people that climb them to check them, because their climbing skills are such that they can handle it if something happened, and they aren’t afraid?

What about this. Do you ever sit in the doctors office and look at the body charts they have on the wall? I did, the other day, waiting for my yearly eye checkup. The eye is crazy detailed. The reality that someone delights in learning all that and studying it so that they can help people see, or do eye surgery? Fascinating.

When my older daughter decided she wanted to head into the medical field, we took a trip to MTSU as she was considering nursing school at the time. One of the things I will never forget was a questionnaire they gave her as a screening tool. It had a bunch of true/false questions on it like “I faint easily” and “I can handle the sight of blood” to “I am generally calm in a crisis”. Appropriate questions for any medical career.

She just laughed reading them. “I watch brain surgery videos for fun,” she commented.

All I could think of was this:

Sure.. God called some to be prophets and teachers and pastors and stuff… but others he has called to be firefighters and paramedics, doctors and nurses, brain surgeons and every other surgeon you can think of. Only some people are cut out to see all that blood and guts … and its definitely NOT me!

Then there are the quiet ones, the ones that do things no one may seem to notice but play really imporant roles too. They type 90 words a minute and transcribe legal cases, or notes from a meeting with a CEO, or they work with people who have had their houses burnt down to and do all the paperwork to rebuild, or they design buildings, or they come up with new and creative ways to help sustain entire communities in other countries.

Some run non-profits and barely scrape by, but they are changing lives by getting people out of debt, or building wells for fresh water, or making sure people have shoes.. or that they are pulled out of slavery. They knit or sew or make candles or soap, or provide micro loans so people can get back on their feet.

Then you have your moms and dads of little ones that are so creative they can build forts out of the collection of toilet paper tubes and a few sheets and make $100 last a week when they need to, teenagers that are like little kid magnets that give their parents a much needed break. Teachers. Oh Teachers, the ones that have had to learn how to do things online when they never have before, how to engage kids and try to make it interesting, whether they are 4 year olds or 17 year olds. The ones that fork over hundreds out of their own pockets to finish their classrooms and draw their own diagrams and teach history in a way that kids can relate to it.

So

many

more.

I could go on and on – and so could you, I know. The thought of how people are drawn to certain careers or things they do to make a living or to help others just blows my mind.

So calling? Its ALL of it. All of it is a calling of God to take care of the world he has given us. Its right there in Genesis chapter 1 – fill the earth, take care of it, manage it.

He knew we were going to need all types of skills to do just that. … and no one can limit the breadth and width of what they are.

I love that even in the Old Testament, trades workers were called out. Bezalel and Ohiliab were specifically named for their craftsmanship, intelligence, and knowledge (and I’d say creativity too) – read Exodus 35:30-36:2 where they are highlighted – but really chapters 36-38 explain everything they and their team built and designed.

So my friends, whatever your job is, whether you are paid or not, whether you spend hours doing it or just a few – know that you are gifted and talented to dig into that and do it WELL, because YOUR job is important.

I also want to pass along a few GREAT resources I found – check them out if you are struggling to understand why what you do matters!

BOOK: Work Matters, by Tom Nelson

WEBSITE: http://www.theologyofwork.org

Another version of the road less traveled

As much as I love to hike locally, hiking in Boulder is a “get out early or deal with crowds” type of hike. There are usually a lot of people out on the trails – and for good reason! The view is great, you can find trails of any level, and … well, it’s Colorado.

Last week I was itching to hike, but it was a last minute decision after having slept in on Saturday. The forecast predicted rain at 60% by 2pm. It was 10am. By my calculation.. it was not a good day to start hiking late. Oh well. I grabbed my rain jacket, a water bottle, my new waterproof hiking shoes, and headed out. I figured I would hike as long as I could and leave if it got too wet.

Sure enough, it started misting about a half hour in – but nothing like what the forecast predicted. It was actually nice and cooling. Thank goodness!

For the first hour I saw a good number of people. It’s summer, after all 🙂

As I got closer to the top of either the 1st or the 2nd Flatiron (still trying to figure out the difference between the two to be honest), the number of people still hiking grew fewer and fewer. The trail got a little more slippery because of the mist, but my shoes held steady. They were made for this.

My mind drifted as it does when I am alone, knowing how often the Lord uses everyday things around us to speak about spiritual truths. I thought of how many people collected around Jesus in the early days. They sought him out, they listened to his blessings, his reminder that they are salt and light, and they brought their sick to receive healing. They stayed through the challenges of their religious leaders, knowing Jesus was different. Yet, as time went on, the road got harder as a disciple. More was required….. and less and less followed.

The parallel wasn’t lost on me.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High…”

You can’t be serious Jesus. You actually expect us to forgive our oppressors and the ones in power? They are in the wrong. They are misusing it and all of us regular folks will have to pay for it.

“…because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked….”

Um.. what about all that wrath stuff that the prophets talked about! You’re supposed to deliver us and punish them!

Be merciful, just as your father is merciful” – Luke 6:35-36

Then he went on to explain just what mercy looked like for those who wanted to follow him: don’t be so quick to judge, check your heart, watch your motives, forgive if you expect to be forgiven, don’t just listen and give lip service. Be different, actions matter.

Later, John tells a story of how Jesus said that if anyone wanted to follow him, they had to “eat” his flesh and “drink” his blood (John 6:53+). For good Jews who knew that God didn’t want child sacrifice and that they were not to drink blood (both condemned in Torah) – I’m sure this sounded like sacrilege. John said many left that day and couldn’t follow him any more. But to those that did, the mystery of this teaching must have caused them to search and understand what he meant.

I thought about after his resurrection, when Jesus challenge Peter to feed his sheep, Peter looked back and asked “But… what about that guy?” (meaning the disciple John). Jesus’ answer was essentially this:

What is that to you?

If that doesn’t speak to the fact that we all have our own path to follow, I’m not sure what does. And I don’t mean it in that generic attitude of “I’ll do my own thing” that we tend to have as westerners. We have to be careful not to look at others who are walking with Jesus and compare or wonder why we can’t do what they can, or how come God didn’t do that or ask that of us.

Some things, we are all “called” to. The good news, the gospel, is that God has come to invade the earth with his promise of redemption, restoration, and shalom. Tell that story. Live into that reality.

If you’ve headed down the wrong path, made wrong choices, there’s forgiveness. If you have been denied justice, He knows. That belongs to Him, because sometimes it’s not given in this world. Yet he offers His very presence as a trade. He gives real joy, life, and strength in the middle of every part of life, in a way only you will be able to explain once you experience it.

Those who choose to walk in the way of Jesus – you all have a story. You are, like the disciples, the ones who get to – even in your doubt (Thomas) and denying (Peter) and misunderstanding of what might be best (Martha) – be a living representative for the reality of God in your corner of the world, your job, your neighborhood, your life. It doesn’t have to be huge or something that is big and flashy to be real. You don’t need your social media “followers” to like it if you post about it. You know what He has done, you know how He has called you to love others and serve them. So do that.

For some…. like the fact the trail thinned out for me near the top…. You may find there are places in your life that Jesus may ask you to go, and no one else seems to be going that way. He may have put a specific burden on your heart to reach a particular people group, start something new that fills a need, or love someone that no one else wants to. He may have asked you to give up something that’s hard, or that you feel you have a “right” to because you’ve worked for it. Take that risk. Talk to trusted friends, and trust He’s in it. Stay in conversation with Him about it, and He’ll give you the wisdom you need.

I realize it can feel lonely. It can make you question if you heard Him right. You might not get a ton of people to join you, or others might not seem to understand the level of commitment you have in whatever it is… but do what He has put on your heart. Do it faithfully, being fully human, but filled with his Spirit. You won’t do it perfectly because He’s the only one that is, so have grace for yourself. He’s got you!

You never know what the result might be.. the seeds sown, the lives changed. One day, you’ll find out!

Blessings, my friends – and don’t stop seeking!

Can we let them represent?

A friend of mine and her husband do something really cute. Each year, they get one of those small square flip calendars that has one page for each day, showing what day it is to celebrate. Like National Chocolate Chip Cookie day, or National Ballet Day or National Sock Day. Then they do just about all of them. It’s fun to watch when they post their pictures on social media – and definitely gave them something fun to pursue this past year staying home!

Needless to say, when I went to Michael’s last year for some scrapbook pages, I ran across a sticker book for calendars that had a bunch of those holidays in them and I just had to get it.  I have had fun using them making certain desserts for my husband and I, and for sending notes (like to my niece.. did you know your birthday is on national bologna day?)  – but I will never forget the day one of the stickers hit home for me.

Back in March, my youngest chose to use International Women’s Day to come out as non-binary, in a pretty public forum. I know it was a huge step for them, but I will be honest that I scrolled past it and was a bit shocked. Not that we hadn’t talked some before then, but because I immediately went to a place of trying to figure out how I was going to respond when folks called or texted me to ask me about it, and to check in on how I was doing. What’s a mom to do? No matter how you feel about someone coming out, when it’s your own kid, it hits you differently, I will not deny that. Regardless of what it caused me to begin processing internally, I determined I would remain committed to love them. 

I worried of the judgement that my youngest would face, not just from family and friends but even people that didn’t know them.. and sure enough, it happened. The bullying they dealt with in junior high didn’t even compare. We’re talking actual hate speech on one platform. I don’t care how much someone may disagree with their coming out – it was flat out horrible. Thank goodness they didn’t let it speak into their life at this age, but all of my momma bear protectiveness went up just hearing about it, that’s for sure.

So back to the sticker calendar. That first day was really hard for me, I admit. I hadn’t checked the sticker calendar for a while, and low and behold, on March 9th I saw this:

I had to laugh. After many tears and prayers the 24 hours prior, I saw it as God’s nudge to step back from it for a minute and think of the big picture: 

I know the journey this kid has taken. I know the Lord has spoken – and still does – very uniquely to them. They have witnessed God’s saving power in their own life. That is still an important thing to them. Sure, they are in the “figure out who you are” phase that all 20 year olds go through right now, but God’s right there in the middle. He knows them.

For the next generation, they will be growing up in a world where “coming out” happens less and less. From a societal perspective, understanding self as male/female/non-binary may be more common. Schools are considering changing to more gender inclusive language and teaching of alternate family structures.  I know that according to the latest Gallup poll, only around 5.6% of Americans self identify as LGBTQ, so it’s still going to be a very small percentage of folks.  But acceptance of this community will grow, even as we have seen legal rights be extended to them in the forms of marriage and equal protection under the law from a job perspective. From a human right’s perspective, I’m glad to see this happen. 

As a Christian, it could be easy to shrug this off and say that is “of the world” and to stay in my nice bubble of being heterosexual and just not worry about it. But as I’ve tried to share my own thoughts and considerations in my previous posts, the body of Christ cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and ignore this small percentage of people – especially the next generation – as they recognize their own identity. Why? Because its not just “in the world”. It’s people in our churches that have been silent about it because they are not sure people can handle the truth, it’s your kids or your nieces and nephews, or it could be kids in your neighborhood.

Yes, I know it’s not something as a Christian you might be comfortable with. You might wonder how as a Christian you could stand alongside someone who is LGBTQ and be an ally and still honor God, because doesn’t the Bible say homosexuality is wrong? (again, I do not disagree that the scriptures address it, but there is enough I have read about how to interpret the context and original language that has challenges me to have a more grace-filled view of this as well as to question of some misinterpretation. See end of post for book recommendations.)

There are too many that I know who have walked away from church because they could not reconcile their sexual identity with their understanding of God. That breaks my heart. Since when is sexuality related at all to salvation? 

My questions are these:

For the next generation, for those in the LGBTQ community and their friends, how do we ensure the news of the kingdom is still told? How do we make sure the story of redemption is one they will carry on, one they will seek Jesus for, one they will submit their lives to? If we do not accept them in the church, how will they learn the story?

On top of that – who will the larger LGBTQ community let speak into their lives? My guess is, they are more willing and able to hear the message of faith and God’s deliverance and freedom from someone who is in the community and can still bind themselves to Jesus. 

So… can we let Jesus be their Messiah?

Each one of us rises or falls to our own Master. Do we really think that since God knit them together in their mother’s womb (as Psalm 139 teaches), He didn’t know that when their pituitary glad kicked in and puberty started, those rush of hormones was going to make them realize they liked someone of the same sex, or be attracted to both? Yes they probably tried to hide it because its not acceptable to say that in church or their family. Even if they do mention it for prayer, there’s often a sense of shame with it because they cannot make these unwanted attractions go away. Why would they choose to feel this way? So they hide them until they move away from home, and because 20 year olds naturally go through times of questioning their parents faith to make it their own, the two collide and they feel they must choose between faith or being honest with themselves.

I’m not saying that happens to everyone. Some go their whole lives and never mention it to anyone.  Yet if what matters is kingdom living and lives that reflect the forgiveness and love of Christ, the justice and mercy God calls for all throughout the old testament (Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God) – why do we tend to forget to look at this side, and only focus on the attraction/sexuality side? Can we risk saying “I don’t understand, it doesn’t make sense to me, but I will love you, I will learn, and I will trust God enough with your walk in this”?

Even within the LGBTQ Christian community, there is disagreement on how to walk in the freedom of your identity and remain faithful as a disciple, yet the conversation is respectful. In many ways it is reflective for me of a similar conversation Paul had in Corinthians when the church there was arguing over whether or not they should eat meat sacrificed to an idol. What matters is the power of the Spirit in the life of a believer, and whether or not they are obedient to the voice of the Lord.

Folks, I’ll be honest – this is still an ongoing dialogue for me. It’s still complex and nuanced and hard, and not everyone is willing to listen or walk this road. I get that. But I have to wrestle, for the sake of my kids and the community they are part of. I have to because of the heart of Jesus is to meet people where they are and invite them into relationship.

So let’s love with abandon, die to self in showing grace when it might be hard, be willing to learn, and show them they are acceptable to the Lord by how we invite them in.

Blessings!

Tama

Book recommendations

Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin

Torn by Justin Lee

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

Unclobber by Colby Martin

Walking the Bridgeless Canyon by Kathy Baldock

Two views on Homesexuality, the Bible, and the Church by Zondervan publishers

 (Counterpoints Bible & Theology series)

A Change of Affection by Becket Cook

And if you are looking for resources to further understand or know how to love this community better, check out QChristian.

Me & Peter have more in common than I’d like to admit

What comes to mind for you when you think of Peter in the Bible?

His denial of Jesus after he swore he would never leave, even after Jesus predicted it?

Jesus forgiving and calling Peter to take care of and feed his sheep, after his resurrection?

His first “sermon” proclaiming God’s fulfillment to his people, and the falling of the Holy Spirit on many people, in the book of Acts?

Or maybe it’s the vision God gave him where he showed him all sorts of animals that were unclean according to Jewish law, and yet God told him it was ok to eat them (which shortly thereafter Peter understood God was showing him He was no longer calling non-Jews “unclean” and that everyone should have a chance to hear the news of Jesus, follow him, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

There’s a passage in the Bible that you might be less familiar with. It’s found later, in one of Paul’s letters to the Galatians, and its an example of how even in the early days of the church, leaders had to be called out for their fear.

You see, after his vision, Peter understood that God fully accepted non-Jews. Whereas Jewish law prohibited Jews from eating with non-Jews, Peter no longer held to that law because of what God had showed him. He fully accepted the non-Jews in fellowship and celebrated their inclusion in the community of God. Yet at some point, Jews who followed Jesus came to visit Peter in Antioch – and, fearful of their judgement, Peter began to follow that old law again, separating himself from the Gentiles. Paul confronted him publicly about it (Galatians 2:11-16), because he believed Peter was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. People are justified by faith in Jesus, not following the law, Paul reminded him.

Ouch. How many of us would like to be called out in front of a crowd by another believer (or even a non-believer?) for not acting in a way that is consistent with the gospel?

I recently experienced that in a heart to heart conversation with my oldest the other night. Without her knowing, the Lord used the conversation to challenge me in a few things that only I would understand. I walked away convicted, finally feeling what Peter must have felt.

You see, growing up what we had modeled to her and all her friends was unconditional acceptance of anyone who identified in the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the kids’ friends who were coming out were being rejected by their families and we felt the best way to reflect the love of Jesus was to create a safe space for them and treat them no differently than before they had come out. I have never stopped doing that.

That being said, my question had shifted some as I worked through the theology side of it. My question was no longer “should we love them” (of course), but it became research on both sides of the coin regarding the question of “how does God really see LGBTQ relationships – specifically faithful monogamous ones.

I found myself in some really gray space, not because of what scripture says (yes I know the few specific scriptures used to condemn LGBTQ relationships) – but because of equally convincing evidence on both sides in the scholarly realm as well as some more recent personal experiences. Note: The scholarly discussion is too lengthy to include here, but I have listed it as a book reference at the bottom of this post.

In the gray space, I had been guarding my words carefully, yet she perceived them (and some silence on my part as well) as judgement, and thought I had moved away from a position of grace and mercy…. Just like Peter had done.

Ouch.

Now in saying all this, I know that I can’t be responsible for everyone’s perception of me. I have to make sure I am being obedient to the Lord in my actions and walking out His love and grace above all. But this was convicting, because maybe there was some truth of it. Maybe in some way I had stopped having such a graceful heart about things, and I needed that reminder. I needed to go back and read what God had already taught me, just like Peter..

There are so many layers to this whole question for those of us in the church. I don’t think any of us would deny that Jesus has called us to love and show grace to our neighbors, no matter who they are. Where I think we go next is that we know he has called us to holiness as disciples, and we know his constant challenge once he has healed someone in the gospels is to “leave your life of sin” and follow him – so there is the expectation of a changed life in response to the forgiveness and love of Jesus. I think we are guilty of thus assuming that someone who is LGBTQ should then trust God for working through their attractions to others and to submit their desires to him.

Interesting. I would tell someone who is not LGBTQ the same thing. Why do we think we know exactly whether or not Jesus wants this to be addressed in their life? How do we know its not him setting them free to know who they really are?

As you consider whether someone can identify as belonging to the LGBTQ+ crowd and also be a faithful Christian, I would offer up a few thoughts and questions, especially if your first response is “of course it’s wrong”:

1. Do you actually know any people that are gay, lesbian or trans, and have you ever tried to really get to know them and hear their story?

2. If they are Christian, are you able to see them as followers of Jesus, or do you only see that they are LGBTQ? If so, have you done any self inventory to figure out why that is the first thing you see?

3. Are you willing to recognize there are some things that you might not understand about their experience?

4. Are you willing to take a journey of discovery in this, and not just settle for “but there are 6 verses that say this is a sin”? To do that is to fail to consider cultural considerations when those verses were penned, as well as to potentially ignore understanding that has come over time around gender and attraction.

I have had a few experiences with folks in the LGBTQ community that I have had to take into my process in forming a view of how God might see this. They have left me saying “If I am going to say relationships are wrong…. what the heck do I do with all this evidence that God is not asking them to change?” They are like puzzle pieces and I can’t see how to fit them together. Maybe that’s not my job.

For example: I have had a lesbian friend who has been married for many years message me out of the blue on a day that was very hard for me and say “The Lord put you on my heart today in my prayer time. Everything ok?”. I have seen how the Holy Spirit has filled and begun to change a young woman AFTER she could finally be honest with herself that she is bi-sexual. The transformation from death to life over the next year was amazing to watch. I was speechless. I have had conversations with a gay couple down the street from me who, although they never felt comfortable in church, listened to church podcasts faithfully so they could grow in their walk with Jesus. I have been served communion by a gay couple and worshipped with others in the LGBTQ community, hands held high, celebrating the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus on their lives.

Yes, I have also read the very public stories of how others who were in gay or lesbian relationships have left them and found Jesus calling them to either celibacy or marriage with someone of the opposite sex. They are beautiful stories too.

Hence, for me, both sides of this only show me the mystery of some things I cannot understand. God is moving in all of their lives.

Please understand that there is so much more around this topic that can be explored, this is not near doing it justice. There are so many books and blogs and stories that add much more to the questions I am asking here. But this is what God is teaching ME. I could still be wrong about my conclusions. I realize each of us who follow Jesus must seek Him on this and come to our own conclusions… so I share to peak your curiosity, that you might also say, with Peter:

“So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)T

Thanks for stopping by, and blessings my friends!

Tama

Book reference: Two views on Homesexuality, the Bible, and the Church by Zondervan publishers (Counterpoints Bible & Theology series)

Pride month gets personal

June is pride month, and I realize its been two years since I posted anything specifically on this topic. Granted, this time last year I was getting ready for my own wedding so my mind was just a BIT pre-occupied….

This year though, I’ve been a bit more thoughtful of what I wanted to post. I will start with my usual disclaimer that this might be harder for some of you to read because we have opposing views, and I can respect that. But write it must, because… my love for Jesus and how far he will go to reach people compels me. I am hoping this and the next few posts will explain.

This year, its more personal than ever before. Re-reading the posts from a few years ago that outlined some of my journey in this space

HERE and HERE

I realize I lost my way a little over the past three years. If I’m honest, it has a lot to do with my fear of what others think getting in the way. I thought I was past that… but I guess not. Time for me to fess up and deal with it, which is not easy because the track that runs in my head goes something like this:

“what-if-people-really-knew-what-I-though-and-then-they-disagree-and-reject-me-then-who-am-I-and-can-they-really-still-want-to-be-in-relationship-with-me-and-disagree-on-one-or-two-things-or-will-they-dismiss-me-completely?”

Yes, yes I know its ridiculous. Maybe some of you do this, maybe some of you don’t. But if we are honest, a lot of us have a default track that runs in our own heads, right? Maybe it comes from your childhood, maybe its your own inner critic. I’m sure your track runs differently, but if you have one, you can understand how compelling they can be – and how paralyzing sometimes. Or maybe you are one of those people like my husband who doesn’t have an “inner voice” track that plays in your head (I would really like to ask God one day why some people are blessed with that ability to NOT have one.. LOL).

I am just starting to make some really good friends here in my new life, and I am pretty dang sure that is why this is so frightening for me. I flat out do not want to be rejected. There. I said it. So, I fight the inner critic of mine (and the voice of the enemy which sounds strangely like my inner critic), and press forward.

Part of why this is so personal for me is that over the course of the past year, both of my kids have come out and identify now with the LGBTQ+ community. Although they are no longer dating, my oldest dated a woman for a year, and my youngest is now identifying as non-binary (meaning not female, not male, using they/them pronouns, has changed their name, and has begun to share some of what it’s been like for them the past few years.

NOTE: All of this is public knowledge as they posted it themselves on social media, so I am not violating their privacy in sharing.

Even with my heart for the LGBTQ+ community and how I have tried to advocate for them quietly in my corner of the world, I have to be honest that this was MUCH harder than I expected. You would think I would celebrate them coming into their own identities. Instead, all it did was push to the front that maybe I had some unanswered questions and concerns of my own. It put me back into a huge gray space theologically, ground that I thought I’d covered. I hate admitting that – and will cover more of that in the next post.

As a mom, I remained committed to LOVE my kids no matter what, no matter how much internally I might have struggled. It has been a “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” kind of thing before God for me. I’m grateful that some close friends have been really gracious and been loving both me and my kids, getting to know both of them for who they are. I am not sure I could do this without them.

That being said, I have a lot to say and its going to take a few posts this year, so consider this Part 1.

I am by NO MEANS a scholar on this, but I’d like to share some of the scriptures that have been guiding scriptures for me in this journey.

Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”. Pretty sure I don’t have to explain that one

Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere”. To me, to show love and then harbor internal judgement on how someone is living their life isn’t sincere

1 Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all, believes all, hopes, and endures all”. To me, this has meant I have to bear the burden of working through the theology I need to work through, because the relationship with my kids depended on it. It wasn’t something I could lightly explain publicly and then feel differently at home.

Psalm 33:15 “He who forms the hearts of all, who understand, has insight to all they do”

Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” -these challenged me both that maybe God was thinking differently about all this than I was. (I realize the verse in Isaiah is taken out of context, but it has still been something the Holy Spirit has used to speak to me so … I have to let it speak to me about this.)

All that being said, I’m not here just because of my kids. Or my relationship with my ex-husband. I am not here because of being convinced by some “fine sounding arguments saying what I want to hear” that Timothy warned about, or because I have ignored scripture. In fact, over the past year I have delved deeper into study of the text, reading from accredited biblical scholars on both sides of the discussion, and have spent much time in prayer knowing very specifically what the Lord wants me to walk out.

I am still at the place knowing that the LGBTQ+ community is welcome at the table of Jesus, they are loved by God and are worthy of the grace of Jesus, and that to exclude them means we are missing part of the body of Christ. And I’m facing the fear of saying that publicly.

So I guess I want to ask: Are you willing to recognize there might be some mystery to this that we do not understand?

My next few posts will delve into some questions I think we all could be asking, if we are willing to listen. The next generation and their willingness to hear the gospel may very well depend on it.

Blessings my friends!

Tama

When figurative language fails

A section of the Arkansas river in Buena Vista, CO

Any time I am near a river, the verse that John wrote in his gospel where Jesus said “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, for as the scripture says ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38) comes to mind. How can it not? It’s an easy visual: If I seek Jesus, my heart should look like this stream. Right? Full of faith, confidence, joy in God. I am sure for all of us there are days where this might be easier to grasp, and others where it seems near impossible given all that is going on around you.

I wonder if this is even something people think about today.

Are we “thirsty” for something other than what’s trending on the social media platforms, the news feeds, political debates, or any other of the many, many things we can feast on when we are bored, tired, or trying to find something to fill our minds? Even as believers its easy to think that if we can feast on enough of these things, know how to prove ourselves “right” in a debate, or if we ingest enough instagram or blog “tidbits” of scripture that we have drunken living water and had our fill. My tendency is to read, read, bike, read (and snack) and read and bike some more (and snack more). I have to remind myself that even if I am reading books about God, this is not drinking living water either.

Those in Jesus day had heard of God as being “living water” from the prophet Jeremiah. They had heard that one day, living water would flow out from Jerusalem from Zechariah. They had been challenged by Isaiah to come to the waters of God to satisfy their soul. For an agrarian people who desperately needed rain to survive, the reality that God was the one that provided that the water that allowed them to live, I can only imagine this figurative language made sense to them.

What is interesting to me is that this statement is only made in the book of John. No other gospel records this, but let me reassure you: its not because Jesus didn’t really say it, or because the other gospel writers didn’t think it was important. The author of the gospel of John had a completely different core message than the other three (who focused on kingdom, repentance, and God’s fulfillment of his promise). Not that John’s gospel doesn’t address those things, but based on the stories and teachings of Jesus he included, his purpose was more to show the person of Jesus and his existence before time, as well as how he was the same YAHWEH who had been speaking to them all along.

What is even MORE interesting to me is that this claim was made on the last day of the festival of Sukkot, often titled as the “Feast of Tabernacles” in our bibles. The significance of this is crazy. This feast was held in fall after the harvest, and it was one of great celebration that lasted a full week. People came from all over to Jerusalem and built temporary huts to live in, as commanded in Leviticus 23:33-43. They celebrated God’s goodness to them, and sought His blessing on next year’s harvest.

Every day people would come and offer gifts to the Lord, then go back to sleep in their hut. On the last day, traditionally the priest would take a pitcher, march from the temple to the Pool of Siloam (which was fed from the Spring of Gihon), get some fresh water, and then return to the temple. He would stand near the altar and pour out the water as the people would cry and chant “Oh Lord, save us!” Symbolically, it was a cry for deliverance and saving by His provision in the next year of another good harvest.

Imagine for a moment having travelled with your entire family for a few days to get to Jerusalem. You are standing in a crowd of thousands, as you have since your childhood, celebrating the harvest that was harder than usual to reap this year. Yet you come to thank God and honor Him. You join with others, praying for rain for the next years crop and crying out for God to save you as a people, since you were living under an oppressive regime. Imagine watching this water being poured out…. and then a man you do not know stands up and says these words:

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, for as the scripture says ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’”

I wonder if I would have been curious as to what he meant, or brushed it over and ignored it? It helps sometimes to listen to how the original language draws a picture for us.

_____________________________________________________________________________

In Greek, the word for thirst, when used figuratively means “those who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened”

Likewise, the word for drink, when used figuratively, means “to receive into the soul what serves to refresh, strengthen, nourish it unto life” (Blueletterbible.org)

_____________________________________________________________________________

In other words, what Jesus was saying is this: Those who need support and strength. Those who long for life giving stuff in their innermost being (often translated ‘heart’)… come and get it. I am the one that can deliver what you are looking for.

This is text we have to wrestle with today, my friends, because it’s just as applicable for us as it was the day it was spoken.

Do we recognize the thirst in our own lives, so that we can see the thirst of others? Are we letting OUR thirst be quenched by the very Spirit of God that was promised, or are we letting ourselves be dulled by the things of life that distract, or perhaps things in our past that tell us this water isn’t enough, it’s too low, it’s unpredictable, it’s unsafe?

I suspect that many of you who have been believers for a while have a complicated relationship with an understanding of the Holy Spirit, perhaps due to church stuff. But when we look back at scripture, it is this very Spirit that is to breathe on us, into us, just like the disciples, to BE the people of God. We need this living water just as much as people did when Jesus first spoke those words.

It is the Spirit that enables us to press on in loving our kids and families and neighbors …. that wound us, reject us, misunderstand us.

It is the Spirit that enables us to believe that God exists and moreover, He hasn’t stopped pursuing the broken people of this world…..including us.

It is the Spirit that will continue to lead us into truth – about ourselves, our world, and the church. It is the Spirit that will show us how to move forward so that we are aligned to Jesus and His mission, not ours – regardless of the political landscape.

It is the Spirit that will expose our motives, our weaknesses, our obsession with self, until we understand that only in being broken and poured out is the life of Christ revealed in us to a world that needs to know there is hope for them as well.

So as the summer starts and (hopefully) we can all get outside more and do the things we have been missing for a while – don’t forget to take time to drink in the Spirit of God and let Him refresh you… so that rivers of living water will pour out of YOU.

Blessing, my friends!

Breadcrumbs of Hope in the Old Testament

Sure, there are some great verses that always get pulled out and posted somewhere (or made into a sign at Hobby Lobby), but if you try to read one of the books from start to finish, unless you have been taught about their structure, it can feel like you are being thrust into a movie filled with battle scenes, destruction, mythic creatures, judgements, legal proceedings, and declarations of love, switching from one scene to another without a predictable pattern.

Reading through the prophetic books of the Old Testament can be a daunting task. 

Part of the issue is simply that we are expecting one type of writing style when in reality there are many styles represented, and they aren’t in chronological order.  The literary elements that you learned back in high school are very much in play – and when you read it like that .. some of it makes more sense. Or at least it helps you realize that when Jeremiah says something like “Every head is shaved, and every beard cut off; every hand is slashed and every waist is covered with sackcloth” (Jer 48:37) – it doesn’t mean this is true of every single person. You are able to understand that he’s exaggerating – but for sure, people are mourning, they are devastated, and it’s not just a family. It’s an entire people group he is talking about (in this case, the Moabites)

One book I’d recommend that will give you a good overview of the types of writing styles you see across the prophetic books is “Plowshares & Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic” by D. Brent Sandy. 

I know some trains of thought hold that since we are living in New Testament times, we don’t have to pay THAT much attention to the Old Testament. I do not agree with that at all.  It might seem that the Old Testament doesn’t have anything to do with our world today, and yes, many of the stories and prophetic words address historical issues with nations of bygone eras.  Yet there are also portions that, if you study them from a human failure/flourishing perspective,we can easily find ourselves and our world in the stories.The text can then also inform our understanding of what it should look like as God’s kingdom works itself out in our world.

Trust me….the frustration with leaders, the pain of national struggle and moral failure, the injustice…. It’s there in the text just like it is here in our world today. 

Yet what I am fascinated with again, after studying John 10, is something from my final paper in a class a year ago.

The prophetic books are full of passages scattered throughout that look forward to “one day” when all things are made right. Taken together, they yield a prophetic hope of what God would do and how it would look…and let me tell you.. it was a good picture. Like really good… for EVERYONE. 

It’s this prophetic hope that the Israelites clung to when they were refugees returning to their homeland with nothing. They were discouraged, because they suffered due to choices of those that had gone before them, and now they were left with the rubble and difficult work of rebuilding. They were trying to remember who they were, and who their God was, and what He had said of them. There was discord between those that left and those that stayed, so you had some disagreements even within the community as it was being rebuilt. 

Read that again – slowly – and think of it in global terms, not just a western-American-first-world mindset. Especially if you have never had to worry about a place to live (like me).  People experience this today all the time.

So they remembered. They remembered the promise of God to their ancestors, words collected over the past generations, and the promise of something better. One day, God would come for them – and when He did:  

  • They would have a good king, one that would rule them well, like David (and in his family line of course)
  • Their enemies would be conquered!
  • They would once again be a shining example that would draw the world to Yahweh!
  • Everyone would sit under their own vine and fig tree (prosperity and blessing for the land)
  • The old would live a long time and kids wouldn’t die young (good health)
  • Justice and righteous living would run down like water from the mountains (no one taking advantage of another, honest leaders, everything fair/equitable)
  • Peace all around in community. People caring for each other!
  • Laughter and dancing, celebrations galore!
  • Everyone would know the Lord, and he would teach them!
  • Everything would be holy and good again, not stained by sin!
  • Sin would be forgiven forever (release of burden and fear)

Pretty big list huh? Prosperity, health, peace, forgiveness and freedom. All the nations coming to Yahweh and living rightly in his ways. On top of that, there were all these other documents showing even more of what people thought it would look like when Yahweh returned (called extra biblical texts). These were written in the timeline between the last book of the Old Testament and the time when Jesus was born. What you end up with is this larger than life picture, one that I’m not sure I fully grasped until now.

Sure, I knew Jesus fulfilled prophecies. But I think there is a tendency to reduce the “bigness” of expectation to just a list, thus reducing the level of impact their fulfillment should have for us. Yet if you can take time to marinate a bit in the world into which the prophets spoke, it makes the things that Jesus says and does come to life in a way you never would have expected. It ceases to be an apologetic list of prophecies Jesus has fulfilled and becomes LIVING HOPE.

Here is what I mean:

Ezekiel is pretty much a scathing book of how wrong everything had gotten. He’s a bit more hardline and exacting than some of the other prophets when it comes to the temple, but very much in line with them on his critique of the leaders, teachers, and priests of Israel (three of the top things all the prophets spoke against). For example, in Ezkiel 34:4-6 we read:

“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves!……You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally… My sheep wandered over all the mountains… they were scattered… and no one searched or looked for them

What then follows is God’s plan to solve it in verses 11-16

I myself will search for my sheep and look after them… I myself will tend my sheep.. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays, I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice

We know the pattern of scripture is that when God decides to act, he acts. As good Jews, the Israelites of Jesus day were probably looking for God to act like he had before on their behalf: A just king, a non-corrupt priest, and battle plans where the Lord would go before them and do another exodus thing – free them from their oppressors!

So when Jesus shows up on the scene and claims to be the good shepherd, he’s like “remember when Ezekiel prophesied that God was going to come be a shepherd because the leader’s weren’t?”

Yeah, I’m here now doing just that. Finding the lost. Binding up the wounded

“Remember how Ezekiel also said God would come and live in your midst?” (Ezel 37:27)

Yep, I’m walking right here. Are you willing to believe this is how I want to do this?

“Remember how God told Moses no one could see him without dying? Remember Isaiah’s vision where he thought he would die after seeing the Lord?” (Isaiah 6)

Guess what. You are watching me RIGHT NOW and I’m not smiting anyone. I’m bringing them back to life. Did you catch that? 

THIS is why who Jesus is as Shepherd matters so dang much. It’s so much deeper than a list of prophesies he fulfilled. He was walking into the hope they had heard and dreamt about for YEARS.

Yet most of Israel couldn’t see it.

Our world hasn’t changed much in some ways. People are still wandering and longing for better.

Yet we live in the time of God walking with is people! We live in the time of God being shepherd, of God finding the lost and binding up the broken!

It can be tempting to long for “better” when a different leader is in power here in America. Some lived like that the past 4 years, some are longing for that now. But the “better” as believers we are to hope for is really God’s Shalom, and the picture is bigger than we can really understand. So let’s be careful to not confuse Jesus shepherd-leadership with the current mayor/governor/ senator/president. They will all come and go. What Jesus has done will not change.

Now, since the picture of shepherd today might not work well in a society that is largely unfamiliar with sheep-keeping, I have to ask myself: what is the parallel today?

It’s not a church, or a doctrine, or a theological answer.
It’s not an opinion or argument or political viewpoint.
None of that is shepherding.

People need to know there is a resting place for their weary lives and a salve for the pain of their past and present. They need someone to defend them from being attacked.

They need a place to find sustenance when they are on empty.  Something steady they can count on. Someone to help lead them when they don’t know what to do. Someone to step in and remind them who they are, so they walk with purpose, not wandering and aimless. Someone to lead them into life giving things.

People are going to have to see some of those qualities in us that know the Shepherd before they will be willing to trust that He’s really there and really able to be a shepherd for their lives.

So my question to you … do you KNOW Jesus as Shepherd, for your life, or do you just know the verses that talk about him as such?

Can you talk about Jesus as your shepherd as clear as you can articulate your political views? (sorry if I am stepping on some toes here). If not.. why not? Is that an area of growth for you perhaps?

One thing I know is that sheep are stubborn. I certainly know I am. Jesus as my shepherd has had to do quite a great deal of prodding me from time to time….. but I always know He’s leading me into places that he wants me. 

I’d encourage you to take some time to reflect on Jesus as your Shepherd this week… and recognize you are walking in partial fulfillment of the prophetic hope of the ages!

Blessings, my friends!

Lessons of a (late) newlywed, Part 4: Out of the Shadows

A good friend of mine recently sent me a copy of Sarah Bessey’s new book “A Rhythm of Prayer”, and have been reading it little by little. Today, I read the benediction even though I’m not even half way done. Why? because.. well because why read it in order?

It got me thinking.

There are these two huge canvas pictures that hang on the wall in our house. They hold a central spot really, visible when you sit at the dining room table – you can’t miss them. Both are from the rafting trip through the Grand Canyon Trung organized and led over a decade ago. At the start – 16 people, sitting on a raft with the oars and paddle boards, helmets and PFD’s (personal flotation devices .. aka lifejackets).. and in warm jackets. At the end, still 16 people, but some gone and some new ones, sitting around a cooler with the sun in the background, all a few shades darker from three weeks of having been on the river.

I have heard stories about this trip from nearly every person I have met since Trung came into my life a few years back…. enough to make me wonder if another trip can ever live up to it (but we’re hoping we can get a permit some day for another one-so we will see!) I can name and have met almost every single person on that trip as well. Of course by now, everyone is a bit older, some are more grey-haired…. and some have less hair. One no longer has her dreads, having traded them for a shorter cut that her (now 3) children won’t yank on.

If I’m honest, I have felt like I have had to walk in the shadow of this great life of adventure my husband has lived before he met me, hearing tales not only of this one rafting trip but of other grand adventures he has both done and invited others into. They make my meager family camping trips and races seems so small in comparison.

and yet

I am reminded of the following truth:

He and I have spent lifetimes investing in and becoming experts in our respective worlds: his, adventure; mine-family/relationships and ministry. They both have been deep and noble pursuits, and neither is greater than the other. They are just different.

It is easy for me to look at all he has done, and think I have nothing so exciting to speak of (which is crazy, it’s all a matter of perspective, I know)

So as I sit and think… a smile comes to my face, as my imagination and the (hardly) poetic side of me tries to put words to the picture that comes to mind.

He has lived a life of leading trips and preparing so there are no disasters, of gear packing and outfitting, of navigating rivers and rapids. He has camped in sub-zero weather, carried the heaviest of packs and walked for miles. He has rappelled down ravines and climbed up frozen waterfalls. He has done back-country skied and snow-shoed. I’m sure he has had some harrowing rescues in his day, stories yet to come out.

He has climbed mountains and seen the stars more brilliant than you can imagine. He has found solace in the silence of nature. He has taught so many the things he knows, calling them to lives of character and respect for the great outdoors. I could go on – and should you need proof, there’s a room in our house full of gear that can attest to any one of a thousand stories.

Me?

I too have lived a life of leading trips and preparing so there are not disasters, only mine included snacks and diapers, sunscreen and sun hats, pack -n-plays for nap-time and books for reading before bed. I have outfitted and gear packed, but it came in yearly cycles with the changing of school seasons and backpacks and new supplies, whether it was crayons, dry erase markers, or the newest graphical calculator. My miles were to and from the bus stop, along soccer field sidelines and in the green room or ticket booth at theater shows (along with the miles I ran for my own sake). I can’t say I did any rappelling, but I got pretty creative with a pulley system in a two story house to avoid running upstairs to get something small.. does that count?

I have navigated rivers of moody teenagers, more than I can count, waves of emotion that seemed endless, covered in prayer. The mountains I have climbed seemed more spiritual than physical many years, trusting God to move the ones that seemed to big and help me climb the ones I needed to see beyond. I think my rescues were more in the things you cannot see, victories won for my kids and the lives of those in our church that only God can see (and of course He was really the rescuer there, I just did my part). I challenged people to lives of integrity, to believe there was more to this life than they could see… and to place their trust in the One that created it all. I have photo albums and journals galore, should you need proof.

I think of all this, how our lives have parallelled in ways I never knew, and I have to laugh…

because true to form,

what he has done with his hands and in the natural for others

I have done with my heart and in the faith lives of others

Not that he hasn’t impacted the faith lives of others – for I KNOW he has.. and not that I haven’t invited others into adventures – for I have (just not the same kind).

The reality is that we have both been living a life of adventure really – his full of gear and the wildness of the outdoors, mine full of tears and prayers and the wildness of how watching how God moves in the world.

Now we get to see what it looks like when those things come together.

It’s pretty darn beautiful if you ask me.