Just a little discontent

So I’m going to be honest about something. There are days when I look back on my faith even a few years ago, and I wonder if I had a polly-anna view of life? I have always been someone who can see the bright side of things, have hope when all seems lost, and find joy in hidden places. I have struggled to understand why people walk away from God and faith when things get hard, or when prayers go unanswered.

It’s not that life has been easy for me. I have dealt with hard things, just like anyone: two miscarriages, lots of church hurt, moving and losing friends, feeling alone and hopeless. I have navigated life with an ex and a daughter with mental illness. Seasonal depression of my own. Loss of dreams and starting over. Sure, my stuff might not compare to yours or someone else’s, but we all have our own journey, right? Yet in all this, somehow I still never understood why people questioned God’s faithfulness or love. I just didn’t get it.

Now I do.

I put the house on the market three months ago. I figured it was the best way to be a good steward of my finances, seeing as how I didn’t need a huge house just for me. Maddie had moved out, Maia was up at school, and it was a chance to slim down and save money. I prayed, I trusted God would provide a buyer. My parents had finished their basement, so I had a small apartment I could move into until I figured out the next step. That never happened.

I had all sorts of conversations with God about how I needed Him to provide – not just in this but in other areas as well. Nothing. No offer… even after reducing the price. Oh – its not that the house isn’t beautiful. I got GREAT reviews. Then folks either decided to build their own (I should get commission for that from the builders I think.. LOL) – or had complaints about the parking or yard. Ugh. So, needless to say, the house is off the market now and I figure God must have something else planned.

But it was in this process that I began to understand why people question God when things don’t go the way they prayed, or how they wanted them to go. Mind you, I have heard a ton of sermons on this over the course of my life. How sometimes the answer is NO. Sometimes the answer is NOT YET. God always knows best.

None of this brought me any peace or change in my perspective. I know it should have, and I should have graciously said in faith “ok God I trust you, do whatever you want”. Don’t get me wrong: I could acknowledge this externally. I knew in my head this was true. It was my soul that wasn’t quite letting go, and I couldn’t figure out why. My guy (yes.. I know I haven’t told you much about him yet. Keep waiting) kept asking me if I was patient. I kept saying yes. Obviously all my verbal process/fretting/questioning betrayed that!

I finally realized it wasn’t an issue of patience for me.. it was that I had stopped being content with the way things were playing out.

Yes, yes …. I know the verse in Philippians where Paul says “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”. But I couldn’t just throw that verse at my life and then say “see Tama, you should be content”. I am a planner. I am a logical person. I am the kind of person that organizes for vacation. I schedule fun. Weeks out. (Yes I am a type “A”… go ahead and proceed with the mocking.. I can take it. … ). So when what seemed to be a really good plan wasn’t working, I struggled to understand why. All the praying in faith that the Lord taught me about years ago just felt like I was trying to manipulate God now. I finally had to just stop asking and pay attention to the reality, and accept that maybe MY plan wasn’t exactly what HE had in mind.

Wow. Imagine that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been at this place before.

I am also sure some of you are laughing or chuckling at this very moment.

But I get it now. Why, when for our best laid plans, sometimes people walk away from faith. God, you didn’t provide. God, you ignored my cries. God, you didn’t rescue me or save my child or my relationships or my job. God where are you? So we walk away out of our misunderstanding and frustration.

Do we realize we are not the only people in the world who have those questions? We are not the only generation that has asked that. Look at the Psalms. Look at stories of people whose countries are at war, who are in hiding for their lives because of their faith. We have it easy here folks. Our world is broken, we are weak in keeping promises and being faithful and we do a really good job of trying to make things go our way even when we don’t realize we do.

But GOD’s character never changes. He is good, He is faithful, He is near, even when we miss him, don’t get it, or are blind. Jesus gets it. Heck, look at how often his own disciples didn’t get what he was doing, didn’t understand God’s plan, and struggles to make sense of what was going on in life.

Is your faith strong enough to hold on? Can you remind others who are struggling, and help be their anchor when they can’t any more?

Around Christmas, I had blogged a bit about not seeing what God is doing until we look at our lives AND the lives of others around us, and only then sometimes it makes sense. I have a feeling that is what is going on here for me, and I’m finally starting to be curious about what that might look like.

Don’t give up friends, your faith is worth more than gold. There is so much more to know about our God, and your life has just begun!

The Gospel and the Sunrise

[Hi all… This weekend I am stuck inside with a bout of food poisoning (ugh) – so pulling one out of the archives that I never posted.]

When we first started visiting the church we went to in Illinois, our pastor would ask a question: What if the gospel was meant to be more like the sunrise than a religion?

I have to admit, I didn’t get it at first. It sounded beautiful, but you see, I am not the poetic type, so analogies often get lost on me. I am sure he explained it at some point, but I just always assumed he meant what if the gospel, the good news Jesus came to bring was meant to be beautiful and not one that laid a burden on our backs? After all, Jesus is the one that said “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

I’m not really sure how or when the gospel that started out so beautiful became a burden to me. Somehow over the years, my need for perfection, my fear of failure, and my incessant need to keep people happy, combined with teachings on leading holy lives and letting God reveal everything in you that wasn’t good led me down a road that made what was once a beautiful path into feeling like I was always missing the mark. I would read verses in the Psalms that talked about pure hands and pure hearts, and verses in Philippians about thinking only of good things, and all I remember feeling was that I would never measure up. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.”, Jesus said (Matt 5:48). I felt like I was failing miserably.

Slowly and subtly, the message I began to hear (not that this was always what was taught, but we hear things and take them in based on our own experiences and understandings, keep in mind) was that yes Jesus died for my sin. I was “saved” and my eternity secure, but no matter what I did – how much I served, loved, gave – I would never measure up to what He asked of us here. Rather than the bible being words of life, they became words of condemnation for me. Every time I read them, I would hear criticism of my own life and how I never measured up. I would find things I had never thought about and prayed God would help me try harder to remember that new truth I had to watch out for. Underlying guilt consumed me, guilt that I would never be good enough for what God had done, never be a good enough example, a bright enough star to “shine in this dark universe” and reflect what I was supposed to, showing people God was real.

What boggles my mind as I look back on who I was then is that it never occurred to me that underneath it all, a subtle shift began to occur. The sense that I could never meet God’s holy standard covered my life. I loved God with all my heart, and yet I lived with this deep sense that I could never, ever, ever do all that he asked of us to be his example on this earth.

I remember the first time I really heard about grace. Not that it hadn’t been talked about before – but the first time I got it. We lived in Ohio and were attending a huge Vineyard church known as the Dayton Vineyard at the time. The pastor that was preaching that morning was talking about God’s grace and how full and how covering it was over our lives. He put it this way (and I’m not sure of his exact words, but this is how I heard it): “Imagine if God had this huge paint roller, and he dipped it in a big 20 gallon bucket of paint, and then just slathered you with it. Thats how much God’s grace covers our lives.”

I cannot tell you what that started in me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I still have a picture of a paint roller in my journal, next to those two words.

I remember driving home that day from church in silence. I couldn’t explain how I was feeling. I remember standing there, hands on my kitchen counter getting ready to make lunch and realizing it was the FIRST time I had ever walked away from church without feeling guilty.

It blew my mind. You would think I had never heard of grace before. Little did I know that would only be the first of many steps towards finding freedom in who I really was in Christ. And this – this is what I love most about our God. You see, without warning, without my asking for it, my Jesus had come searching for this lost little sheep of his, to pick the burrs out of my coat, give me fresh water to drink, and to teach me for the first time what he really thought of me.

It was life-giving. I was finally able to believe in the deep love the Father had for me, and it began to shape me in a way I never expected. Gone was the fear, gone was the shame, all replaced with this glorious knowledge that I was loved. Finally I began to believe what Jesus said, that when I remained in Him, and he in me, that together we could do great things.

Whether you call it deconstruction, or a crisis of faith, or even just a season in your walk, letting the Lord shake off ways of thinking that push you away from the life He offers is critical. After all, that IS part of the transformation of our lives, our faith, isn’t it?

Now, I get the sunrise analogy. Waking up early in the midwest, watching the fluorescent pink and mango brilliance of the sun start small and spread across the whole breadth of the park near my house and the fields nearby, I get it. The goodness and love and grace of our God often starts small. But when it breaks into our lives – whether through tragedy, kindness, curiosity, or sundry other ways – it is meant to grow, to spread out and melt out over the entire expanse of our lives…. until all of it is swallowed up by His radiance.

My friends, wherever you are on your walk with the Lord, my prayer is that you, too, would know this grace, this love and light that longs to pour out over your life like the glory of a morning sunrise!

Finding Family

My family, we have this crazy tradition. Jon and I started it when we were dating, and it has only continued as the years went by. The general rule is this: If you spend Easter with us, you are going to end up having blue lips, and you are going to have your picture taken!

Who knew that malted milk ball easter eggs could be so fun??

This year, I flew back to see my family in Virginia, and Jon and the girls celebrated Easter together in Colorado. I must say, I went in stealth mode, because although we have tons of friends back in Richmond, I really needed family time. (So if you wonder why I didn’t call you…. please forgive me. I will catch you next time. I promise).

Coming back from that trip, I realized again how absolutely blessed I am to have such close family. I know not everyone does. I don’t take it for granted either. But given the time in life that have entered, things are changing for me too, and so is what my family looks like, especially with both girls going their own direction! That plus finding new friends out here, I have been doing a lot of thinking on what family means, and how we define family for ourselves.

If I am honest, because I have always had such a close nuclear family, I am not sure I really understood it when people said they created family out of whoever was close to them and they trusted. Not to sound shallow – we had friends that were like family back in Illinois – sure! But I mean – they all had core families too. So it was like a secondary family in some ways.

Out here, I have had the privilege of being invited into the world of some 20-somethings, and I watch them with wonder. They are away from their core family, starting out on their own, going through their own trials and hardships of getting started – and they are family for each other. It’s really quite beautiful. And yes I know this is what we do as people – right? We look for those we can trust, people we can be ourselves with and who will be there for us when we need them. We build relationships with others, and many times our friends can become closer to us than our biological family – sometimes due purely to time in life or geographical location – and sometimes due to broken places in family that make it too hard to be together.

This last part – this is where my mind wanders to a verse kind of stuck in the middle of a bunch of random throughts in Psalm 68:6

God sets the lonely in families” (NIV)

The actual Hebrew is ” God [yashab] sits down, dwells with, sets a [bayith] home, place, family with the [yachiyd] solitary ones (aka…lonely ones)”

Sit and think about that a minute.

That is HUGE.

Why? Because it says God is right there with you when you are lonely. It means his heart is to create a space for you when you are, a space that has people, a space that feels SAFE…. one that represents family for you: the good kind where you are loved for who you are, where you are wanted and welcomed. The way it should be.

Now, depending on whether or not you LIKE this idea – the desire God has to sit down with you in your loneliness and provide for you in it – may or may not sound good to you. I hope you can see it’s good. But even when He does, even when you see people around you welcoming you in, hanging out with you, pursuing you – it’s up to YOU to be willing to LET them be family for you.

That, my friend, can be a challenge, can’t it?

Sometimes its just easier to put up walls and circle the wagons and say you don’t need them, that you can do this life by yourself. Just you and God, you got this.

Are you so sure about that?

I know I’m learning a lot about that now. God was pretty clear with me that I needed to get connected out here, and I am still learning to lean on the people I have met that tell me to call them when I need something. I realize I am still hesitant to let them be my “family”.

But like I tell them, I don’t really have a choice. I need them. I plan on being here a long time, and yep, building from scratch is hard, but I need family out here. So I’m taking the risk to believe that for what I have seen of them, they are trustworthy. I’m choosing to believe that God is meeting me in my loneliness and providing people that will be a family to me.

How about you?

My challenge to you today is to take stock of who God has put around you. I know there are probably hurts from the past (or present) that seem too surmountable. Why risk relationship again when all they are going to do is let you down? Maybe you have been burned too many times, or maybe you have given up hope. It’s never too late.

Yes, its risky. I can’t promise anything about how people will react. We’re all imperfect and we all have our scars. But I can promise that if you take stock and find there aren’t many you can call family….. if you ask God to open your eyes to see who can be that for you…. and keep seeking… you will find the clarity you need. Then take the risk to believe that yes, you are worth bringing all that you are to your new “family” 🙂

A Unique Song

This past Tuesday I had the chance to see Rend Collective at a church about an hour from our house. I can confidently say I have never been invited by the lead singer to join the band in an Irish jigg – but something about a guy with an Irish accent that has a lot of energy makes you want to join in! So there I was, with easily a thousand other people, arm in arm, singing and laughing and having what he called “Irish church”! It was actually kind of fun! (but don’t expect me to be seen doing that on my own, mind you….)

After countless songs full of joy and celebration, confetti cannons and a bubble machine (I’m serious), he then did something I did not expect: a song of lament. I appreciate the story that led the group to write it. Yet I appreciate even more the statement the lead singer made, which is probably more true than we realize: There are often many people who come to concerts and may enjoy the music and honestly be trying to worship, but because of the weight of things they are carrying in their season of life, the music rarely expresses the honestly of their true feelings.

I am sure many of you have felt that way in church too, at some point or another, havent you? We are taught to offer a sacrifice of praise, we are taught that to worship when things are hard is beautiful and part of the essence of faith. I would not disagree with either statement. Yet to deny the reality that sometimes we feel more like the psalmist (or Jesus) in crying out “God where are you?” is to be disengenuous, to miss part of the humanity of faith, which is well represented not only in passages of scripture but also in the rich history of our faith.

I am reminded of when my friend Marnie spoke of lament a few years back at our women’s retreat. Lament, she said, was a lost element and something misunderstood. To lament is to mourn before the Lord over all the things that are not right in the world, to be honest about the pain they bring…. yet to thrust our hope on His ultimate promise that one day, He will make things right. When that hardship and pain become more personal and stretch into longsuffering, that promise can seem too far off, and we have the choice to either walk away or turn to God in a way that may take more than we think we have to give. Yet talk to anyone who has clung to Jesus in those times, and you will hear their faith grew in ways they never could have expected until they were there.

“Lord will you weep with me? I don’t need answers, all I need is to know that you care for me. Hear my plea. Are you even listening? Lord I will wrestle with your heart but I won’t let you go” ( lyrics copyright Rend Collective, “Weep with Me”)

Part of honest faith is to own up to these moments in our lives, and to wrestle with them until we find ourselves remembering that He is there, that He is for us, and to rest in the arms of our brothers and sisters when we need their strength. It’s easy to understand how we can be the fragrance of Christ when we are full of joy, or full of faith and positivity, but I know that in those moments when things are their hardest, when we can still cling to the One we know loves us deeply, that fragrance is still there.

So, my friend, if you are facing hard things right now, I would encourage you to find a way to put words to your lament. God is big enough to handle it, I promise.

If you know someone facing hard things….. Yes, pray, and bring them before the God who loves them and is walking beside them even if they cannot believe it. But know that your faithfulness to them will often speak louder than any bible verses sometimes, so don’t feel like you have know just the “right” thing to say. One of the best things you can do is just be there for them!

Part 2: Caught in the Middle

In my last post I shared some of my journey of how I went from being afraid to being affirming. Although I am not sure how many will be in this series, I still have a few trailing things I’d like to share, so I’m not quite done yet.

In many ways, where I have landed theologically leaves me feeling caught. Caught between two vastly different ideologies, which for the past few years left me afraid to step out and say where I stood. Yet I know I must enter into the fray of discussion. Not with irate posts and calling people out and debating in the public realm, but rather with grace and gentleness. In case you are just joining, I am talking about the discussion currently going on in the church about whether or not to “allow” gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people into their church. More than that – to not just say you love them and they are welcome, but to say that they are fully worthy of everything the church has to offer.

Why is that a problem, you ask? The world certainly doesn’t care, because they are all well beyond accepting to the point of celebrating and standing up for the LGBT community. I think the reason I feel caught is because I’m charismatic and evangelistic and I believe in prophecy and healing and speaking in tongues and visions and God speaking today just as loud and clear as He did in the Bible. I love to get lost in worship, sit in “soaking prayer”, and feel the very presence of the Holy Spirit. I know it is real. Yet it always seems that either you are progressive and social justice minded and for the LGBTQ community (and only sing hymns and have liturgy), or you are conservative/evangelical (and have contemporary songs and an electric guitar and drums in your church) and you are against it. If you are pentacostal, forget it. They’ll cast a demon out of you.

My problem is that I have the audacity to believe that the Holy Spirit and the worship that invites God’s physical presence to minister is not just for heterosexuals. God clearly said in the last days he would pour out his spirit on men and women alike. There were no qualifiers on that having anything to do with education, race, gender, walk of life, you name it.

I have the audacity to believe that God is for the LGBTQ Christian community, and that God speaks to people who are LBGTQ when they seek Him, just like He says He will. I believe He will reveal His grace and love and pour it out on them just he does on the heterosexual community. I believe they, as well as us, need healing for sexual brokenness – but not the “fix it to be straight” kind.

I am talking about healing for relationships we never wish we were in. Hearts that were broken by someone you loved and lost, or someone who gave up. Healing and deliverance from our struggles with lust and being infatuated with sex that is always blow your mind sex (like on TV) to the point that we are no longer satisfied with the partner God gave to us. Teens of all kind – straight or LGBTQ – need to know that they are not just their sexual identity. They are deep and made to love their creator as He created them, beautiful and wonderful. Adults – straight or LGBTQ – need to know they don’t have to be alone, that they are loved and accepted as they are, that they too can come out into the light no matter what secrets they hold.

Before you write me off (if you are still reading), hear me out. I started this journey being challenged first by my husband and second by the Holy Spirit. I have not come to this decision or place lightly… indeed no one does, when you start from the fundamental side of things. It has come with many tears, much prayer, much study, lots of reading, talking to people on both sides of the fence, and more prayer.

I have watched others in the public eye step out and make this same declaration, and my hope has fallen as I have read, with a sorrowful heart, the rejection they have faced. I have mourned that my own college fellowship, which helped me to find Jesus, essentially told anyone in leadership who was affirming that they no longer had a job.

Seems to me that loving the outcast – and loving people the way Jesus does – meant that you didn’t count anything against them. Anything. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” — Paul, Romans 13:8.

Sure, it’s hard. I know perfectly well that many of our close friends may be surprised by this statement even as I make it. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t fearful of their reaction. No one knows me, I’m not in the public eye, so what do I have to lose? If I’m honest, I am fearful that people that have valued my insight and teaching thus far will throw me to the curb, disavowing the call of God on my life and questioning my study of the Word of God. I am fearful of their opinions and judgements on my life and my teaching.

Yet for the sake of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, I know I can’t stop walking forward, for God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of love and sound mind. In Ephesians 4:1 Paul challenges us to “lead a life worthy of your calling”….. and more and more as my life is shaped, I cannot seem to let go that this is part of my calling. The next generation depends on it. How else will they learn to set their sights on God, to believe that He has called them too?

I guess I really don’t have much to lose when compared to those that are LGBTQ.

What about you? I have no idea who you are or what kind of church you are in, or if you are struggling to find acceptance as part of the LGBTQ community. But if you love Jesus and you know He is good, you MUST engage in this conversation, and not be willing to settle for what you have always heard just because it’s what everyone believes. It doesn’t mean you have to be ready to land on a different page at this very moment – but I want to challenge you to stop being afraid of the conversation. Your obedience to God, His love for you and calling on your life isn’t going to disappear because you begin to research and read and seek understanding.

You see, this isn’t an “issue” we are talking about. These are lives. These are teens you are raising, siblings who have lived in the closet or felt outcast for years. They are your worship leader, the person who prays for you and shares the love of God with you already. They may just be too fearful of rejection to say anything. Sadly, they too often walk away from even the idea of God because they cannot believe in a God who rejects their sexuality.

I don’t want to see that happen in this generation. The world brings too much condemnation already.

The few lesbian and gay couples that came to our little church in Illinois had always started with the same question: Will I be welcomed, or tolerated? Will you believe my faith is real, and will you help me and my partner grow in our faith in Christ? Or will you constantly doubt that we can move any further in God until we end our relationship?

Sisters and brothers – don’t shy away. Face your fears, tackle this tough discussion with people you can trust and who know your heart. This misunderstood part of the body is crying out for it.

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Note: If you are looking for some good books to dive in, I’d recommend the following:

Andrew Marin’s “Love is an Orientation”, Justin Lee’s “Torn”, Colby Martin’s “Unclobber” and Wesley Hill’s “Washed and Waiting” .

Part 1: From Afraid to Affirming – my journey

Deconstruction is a word that, whether read in someone’s story or mentioned in a conversation over a meal, there is a mental sigh that I sit into, thinking “ah… you too, huh?”

Although it takes on different forms and may land people in different places, it most always involves some sort of re-evaluating of the faith of one’s childhood and deciding what to keep, what to toss out, and what needs to change and grow as you wrestle with the harder questions of life and God and faith.

For some, larger questions loom:

Is this God thing really true? Or was it all just a myth and story?

How can I follow a God that (seemingly) condemns people to hell?

If Jesus called his followers to love, why is the church known more for what she hates?

Why does it seems like Christians have just built another holiness code?

It all can feel so empty when you are in that place… and I know some people never come out of it.

I am living proof (along with many others) – that you can. You can question the faith of your childhood and still come out with the belief that God is just as strong, just as present. Even if you feel you’ve gone through hell and back to get there.

I was recounting what deconstruction looked like for me not too long ago over breakfast with a new friend. I shared the “safe” version – and I was being honest of course, explaining how in my early 30’s I needed to stop reading the bible for a good solid two years. I was disillusioned with the church and how quickly people believe stories they are told without asking any questions. I didn’t know how to even begin to read the bible any more without hearing old voices and getting frustrated. I knew I still believed in God, and in Jesus, but I didn’t much like his followers for a while. They had hurt me too much. I needed to re-learn from a fresh pallet, when I didn’t have a fresh one to start with. So for two years I sat and just tried to maintain some semblance of listening for God, and asking Him to help me figure all this out. I wanted new. I wanted to see things HE saw and understand it the way HE intended. I needed new voices, not voices that told me only one side of the story,

After that breakfast, I realize I had forgotten a very large part of my own deconstruction story. Namely, the part where I, with fear and trembling, divorced myself from a belief that if I landed on a different place theologically than I had been taught my first decade of following Him, that he would reject me and hide His face from me forever. I remember the anguish of that recognition and that fear.

You see, I had been taught in church that to not follow God’s written word (and hold to the understanding exactly how it was taught to me) was to walk out from under God’s blessing. I was taught that if you do something without God specifically telling you to, you were walking in presumption and pride (and we all know pride comes before a fall). This always seemed in direct contradiction with Jesus telling us the greatest command was to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and strength. It seemed the mind part was always overlooked, except when it came to memorizing verses.

But there I was, one night at what I felt like a precipice of faith, a cliff, that I was about to jump off of, and I was scared. Because I could no longer accept some of the things I had been taught, as they seemed teachings that had put me in a cage of fear and doubt rather than given me the freedom I so desperately wanted as a child of God.

This wasn’t the first time either. One earlier cliff had been over whether or not we could move back to Virginia if God didn’t “tell” us to. I know, that might sound ridiculous to some of you, but again, I had been taught you needed to be LED in all things. But low and behold, when we decided not to move, we were not struck by lightning. (Although, I did have a dream I believe was from God where he poked a huge hole in that thinking of mine by showing me a map and saying “you could pick anywhere and I will still bless you”. Thank you, holy spirit)

For me, this next cliff was the one of condemning homosexuality. It was huge.

Before becoming a Christian, my only interaction with someone who was even possibly gay was a young man in my senior english class in high school. One day he whispered to me “Do you think it’s wrong to be gay?”. I had never even thought about it. “Well,” I said. “I am pretty sure its wrong for me but I guess you have to figure out if it’s right for you” I answered. After I became a Christian I was taught it was one of the worst sins possible, and that God hates homosexuality. For years I was caught between the concept of a God who loves deeply, a Savior who had dinner with people the religious wouldn’t be caught dead with, and the teaching of wrath for anyone who wasn’t straight. It just never sat right with me, but what was I to do?

Now let’s be honest here. Even as I explain this next part, I know some of you will write me off as having set aside the Word of God and counting it as nothing. Some of you will scoff and say “oh, she is just making scripture say what she wants it to say.” If you choose to read no further, I will understand. But I will tell you – that assumption could not be further from the truth. It is precisely because I love the scriptures that I take this so seriously.

I had been challenged by a friend, asking what if we were on the wrong side of this “issue”? Weren’t white Christians supportive of slavery because it was allowed in the bible? Weren’t white Christians supportive of segregation for some reason they believed was also scriptural (although for the life of me I cannot understand why). What if, when we are held accountable for all we have done and said, the Father asks why we kept the LGBTQ community at arms length and never welcomed them to the table?

What will our answer be then? Can we really say we have loved as Jesus did in that moment?

Those questions started me on a journey that took well over a year or two. I read everything I could get my hands on, whether stories, testimonies or historical documents, Greek studies, websites on both sides of the “issue”. You name it, I probably read it. It was exhausting, mentally and spiritually. After 7 months I had to set it all aside and take a break.

The weight of what I was finding was just too overwhelming.

After everything I had read, it seemed that it all boiled down to HOW you wanted to interpret the Greek in some passages, and WHAT you wanted to do with the historical explanations surrounding the passages and commands. On top of that, I had read stories of people who loved Jesus, grew up in good homes, were not abused, and yet knew they were attracted to the same sex from the time they were teens. What I thought could never live in tandem was right there in black and white.

In the light of the grace of Jesus, I realized I could no longer say I loved my brother and hold the LGBTQ community at a distance.

It scared the crap out of me to even be willing to admit that in my own head.

(For those of you who have read about the Enneagram…. I am a One. Which means I have a desperate desire to do things right before God. So you can imagine how huge this was, because for years I had been told there was only ONE way to view this.)

So there I was on my living room floor, having one of the most fearful conversations with the Lord I had ever had. After all I had read and studied, after months of prayer and consideration, I found myself landing in a place where I could no longer believe that God hated homosexuals. I was beginning to see it was very possible to be both gay (or LGBTQ) and Christian.

With great fear and trembling, I told the Lord that I was afraid of coming to this conclusion, but that it was the only way forward in love that I could see. I confessed that, because of earlier teaching, I was fearful that He would “release me from his cover of protection” and never speak to me again. It was devastating to me to even think about, but in the light of love I knew I had to change how I felt and acted, and my only choice was to ask for mercy.

The thought that I would never hear from God again was very real that night – and for someone for whom the voice of God is my very breath – it was a risk sown in tears. After years of being told what to think and believe, the thought of making this decision based on my own research left me full of fear, even though it landed in a place of love.

*****

Five years later, I am fully convinced that the ground I staked back then was holy ground. The leap of faith I took was in God’s character being ruled by love, and indeed He did not abandon me. He continued to speak and lead… even moreso than before.

I am still desperate as ever for the voice of God in my life, His leading, and studying the scriptures as diligently as before. Yet I cannot stay silent any longer on this, because I know that the lives of many hang in the balance. The burden of so many LGBTQ people leaving the church and walking away from God – never even once hearing that they too are created in God’s image, called to glory and also worthy of healing and restoration, weighs heavy on my heart.

I have much more to say, and so my next few posts will be on a similar subject. To my friends in the conservative camp, I know this path I am on may be too hard for you to hear right now, but please do not put your hands up and push me away. I am asking that you listen, for the sake of love. Do your own research, ask questions and listen to stories. When someone from the LGBTQ community becomes a friend, it’s no longer an “issue”, but a brother or sister with the same desperate need for a savior.

Til next time —

Tama

What is freedom?

My new routine in the morning has me up, pets fed and out, by about 5:15 in the morning. Still dark, and pretty cold in the lower level of the house, I then like to curl up in a really fuzzy blanket, hop on the couch, and pray for a bit to start my day. Now granted, not every morning starts like this (especially NOT the ones where I forget I have a 6am meeting and have decided to “sleep in” til 5:30. Those are a bit more rushed!)

Anyway.. this morning I grabbed my daughter’s old bible and flipped to Corinthians. The verse they had circled and highlighted to focus on was one that brought to mind an old worship song:

2 Cor 3:17 “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”

I thought… yes… how true I have found that to be.

But my next though was how I could say that only because I had experienced it in my own life. How would someone who had never experienced the freedom of God read this? Yet I know we do this sometimes, don’t we? Its easy to read a verse you have read before and maybe mentally acknowledge it, yet never really GET it.

Kind of like the treasure in the field that Jesus talked about. You have to dig. You have to want it and set out to find it, and when you do, its fully your choice to find yourself back at that place.

So what was Paul talking about when he said there is freedom where the Spirit of the Lord is? Freedom from what? I’m not sure he was talking about strictly salvation.

In this same passage Paul is talking about how people can often have veils over their eyes or their hearts to understand the message that God wants to share with them. He is specifically speaking about the Jews hearing the message of Jesus, but think about this in your own life: haven’t there been times when you have just felt blind to spiritual truths or things about God that you didn’t get, and then something happened or you went through an experience and all of a sudden you feel like your eyes were opened to understand something new?

So think about the idea of freedom in this context. Whether its a veil over our understanding of God, or a wall we put up holding him at arms length – it’s to this place I think what Paul said made the most sense:

When you are in a place where God’s Spirit is, there is freedom:

– freedom to admit you don’t have it all together, and let Him hold you and bring His peace

– freedom to let go of an image you feel you have to uphold for other people

– freedom to ask questions you are too afraid to put into words

– freedom to set down burdens and guilt you have been carrying, and receive His mercy

– freedom to not have to be the one in charge any more, and breathe in His strength

– freedom to be who you were called to be, without any competing voices

– freedom to laugh and find joy in the face of circumstances that shout “you can’t have that now!”

– freedom to climb up into the arms of One who loves you no matter how big your daddy/mommy/abandonment/identity issues are, and no matter who thinks you are nuts for still believing in a God that is able to love this deeply

The most beautiful truth about this? God’s spirit is ever present. Yes, there are times when it might be more evident, like in a time of worship or silent reverence, but its also found in those deep conversations between friends. Or in places of natural beauty that iPhones and cameras strain to capture.

This time of year, as all sorts of voices shout at you for all sorts of reasons, I hope that you take time to remember it was a pretty dark and ugly world that Jesus stepped into… kind of like ours today. I also hope you can believe that part of His purpose was to bring your heart and your soul out of the darkness that it might find itself in from time to time.

So let his light shine for you today, and welcome His Spirit, as much as you can grasp, that you might be able to find some places of freedom this season!