Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

Remember that the feeling of failure keeps company with shame, regret, and fear. They are not the company you need to keep. Allow yourself an abundance of grace and hope and get a good night’s rest. Believe that the end of today is not your story for tomorrow.

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OICKH61DFK“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other 

so that you can live together whole and healed.” James 5:17 (Msg)

I am thankful that God’s grace is extended to bigotry and hypocrisy because over the years I’ve been a friend to both. The human experience is not stagnant; it is influenced by our experiences, knowledge, and by a Creator that relentlessly pursues us through all the great times but particularly in our blind spots and valleys. I’m on that journey. My hope is that you will read the following post through the lens of mercy. I tell this story, not to spark additional diversity to a controversial subject, but to find a place of connection beyond my own experience. I don’t see the point of writing if it doesn’t bring engagement to hearts and minds—a shared human experience— one that connects my dot to yours. I am committed to sharing my thoughts without pointing the finger of blame at another person or group. Although I may believe that there are things that should shift in our society, culture, religious settings, etc., at the end of the day the change I want to see must start with me. 

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This is a story of an almost friendship between me and my hairstylist; I’ll call him Chad. Chad rented his own booth at a professional salon and was an excellent stylist. I was only 24 years old at the time. No matter how my hair looked when he started; I would be completely transformed by the time he finished. “Beautiful!” he gushed. I beamed. Chad had a gift of simply making people feel better through the expertise of using hair gels, scissors, and a curling iron.

Although Chad and I never talked about his personal life, I was fairly certain he was gay by pictures he had in his booth, a gold band on his right hand, and an occasional mention of a roommate. This troubled me. He was a top-notch hair stylist, yet I had strong convictions regarding homosexuality. I was fearful of putting myself in a position of being confronted with someone who was openly gay. However, I decided that as long as he and I never talked about it, and I didn’t know for sure, then I could continue having him style my hair. I know. This reasoning is close to ridiculous and certainly childish and selfish, but it’s where I was at the time.

When my second child was born I needed Chad more than ever. Due to the hormones of back-to-back pregnancies, my hair started to thin. It was terrible. I would lose fists full of hair daily. I could see my scalp and as a consequence felt terrible about myself. I remember sitting in the chair crying and asking him to help me. He listened with empathy and kindness while expertly cutting and styling to minimize the appearance of thinning. It certainly wasn’t just about collecting money at the end of a hair cut. He was a professional, yet he seemed to care deeply for his clients. After nine months to a year the thinning stopped, my hair began to thicken, and all was well–thanks to Chad and the Lord Almighty! 🙂

One year later I arrived for my appointment. I was in tears—again! My husband had filed for divorce. My wrecked hair mirrored my life. I remember sitting in the chair sobbing the story to Chad. He listened with the sweetest concern. My heart was breaking, but he didn’t let me leave that day until he did everything he could to make me feel better. I smiled at his kindness. He was a ray of sunshine in my storm. As I moved through the next few months that mental health professionals refer to as the crazy time of divorce, Chad was part of my life. Every eight weeks I would arrive for my “therapy”. He encouraged me as I grew stronger.

Time went on. Chad took great care of my hair and heart. I would imagine there are many hair stylists that have become friend, therapist, pastor, etc. They are certainly underpaid professionals, or at least that’s true for Chad. The last time I had an appointment with him was 15 years ago. It was my wedding day. I had met someone, fell in love and, of course, wanted Chad to work his magic! He did not disappoint! I left happy, beautiful, and ready to walk down the aisle to a new life of discovery and love. As a wedding gift, Chad did not charge me for the hair cut. It was a sweet and surprising gift! He hugged me and told me to–GO GET MARRIED!!

After I married, money was tight so I didn’t go back to see Chad. It was five years later when I saw him again. I was waiting to be seated at a local restaurant. Sitting at the bar with Chad was a man. Chad’s arm was casually draped around the gentleman’s shoulder. So, it‘s true, I thought, he’s gay! As I mentally noted this, Chad’s eyes met mine, I glanced away as the hostess announced that my table was ready. During a moment of decision, I walked straight past Chad without any recognition of him—not a smile, a wave, or a sound…

The silence of that moment is a constant roar; it won’t be quiet.

***

I have changed my mind and do not view people who are gay through judgment and condemnation but through the lens of love. I pray they will view me the same way along with plenty of grace and mercy. I don’t live with fear any longer and am honored when God gives me new friendships. I’m sorry that I caved to my own insecurity of what a “good girl” looked like and acted passively-aggressively. Never mind that Chad had walked with me through good and bad times for five years of life experiences. If I was to continue in my “good girlness”, I felt I could not, at least openly, be his friend. So, I walked with the halo of Angela into a plastic world where gayness is kept where it should be…closed off to the world…to love…to friendships…and especially to “good girls” like me.

I realize that there will be those who read this with polarized opinions. My intention is not to stir up debate but to create a bridge of peace for anyone living in a closet … whether you are gay and fearful of how people will react or, like me, apprehensive of the consequences of loving others as your love yourself.

My confession is genuine. My heart is open, and while I don’t want my voice to be loud, I do want it be heard. Our earth time is too short to keep secrets. I confess my fear, pride, and selfishness to you in hopes that you will join me in this conversation as I voice my heart for those who are marginalized. I place no blame for my actions on society, culture, family systems, or church. It’s easy to want to shift the burden of responsibility, but in the end it was my decision to walk arrogantly past Chad and his partner. I may have been feeling “godly”, but my actions need not be confused with God. He is love.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:16-21.

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Posted: May 14, 2015 in Uncategorized
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I am thankful that God’s grace is extended to bigotry and hypocrisy because over the years I’ve been a friend to both. The human experience is not stagnant; it is influenced by our experiences, knowledge, and by a Creator that relentlessly pursues us through all the great times but particularly in our blind spots and valleys. I’m on that journey. My hope is that you will read this blog through the lens of mercy. I share my thoughts, not to spark additional diversity to controversial subjects, but to find a place of connection beyond my own experience. I don’t see the point of writing if it doesn’t bring engagement to hearts and minds—a shared human experience—one that connects my dot to yours. I am committed to sharing my thoughts without pointing the shameful finger of blame to another person or group. Although I may believe that there are things that should shift in our society, culture, religious settings, etc., at the end of the day the change I want to see must start with me. I can’t wait to get started and hear your thoughts!!

Stayed tuned for upcoming post: Confessions of a Good Girl 

***This blog is a work in progress! I’ll do better when I know better! Thank you for your help and  patience as I learn my way around. AB***

I’ve been putting together a list of resources that have been helpful to me as I awaken more and more to the unconditional love and grace of of God.  I’ll continue to update the list overtime.

Books

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

In His Grip of Grace by Max Lucado

Getting Past Guilt  by Joe Beam

Extra Virgin Grace by Ryan Rufus

Unmerited Favor by Joseph Prince

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans

Divine Embrace by Francois du Toit

God Believes in You by Francois du Toit

The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practice Series by Nora Gallagher

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles

Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

God’s Love For You Rudi Louw

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequest

Culture of Honor by Danny Silk

Powerful and Free by Danny Silk

When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson

Here Comes Heaven by Bill Johnson (for children but great for adults too).

Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs Christians by Justin Lee

Captivating by Stasi Eldredge

The Supernatural Ways of Royalty by Kris Kallooton

Romans …The Message

Audio

Any teachings from Stones River Church of Christ… http://stonesriverfamily.wordpress.com/

John King, Tony Woodall, Erwin Gunnells

Any teachings from Dan Mohler … here’s a link to one of my favorites … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfXoP9KBPGs

Teachings from His House Church … Chuck Crisco … http://www.hishousechurch.org

Come Home TV … http://comehome.tv/

Bethel Church: Redding, CA   http://www.ibethel.org/… Bill Johnson, Danny Silk, etc.

Heidi and Rolland Baker: https://www.irisglobal.org/ … podcasts, etc.

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I would love to hear your book recommendations!

 

 

 

 

The “Normal” Christian Life 

Part of the reason I started this particular blog was to explore the gift of eating and drinking at the Lord’s table as I continue to shed the ugly scales of religion and embrace God’s unconditional love for me and every other human being that has been invited to feast with Jesus.  I began to rummage through suitcases of memories to help me see the unique story God’s given me in unlocking the treasures surrounding my place at His table. Memories can be very sweet and others painful, but all are important. In an earlier post Following Jesus I wrote about the experience of baptism. It was a happy day anointed by the Holy Spirit and forever engraved into my mind and soul as I was surrounded by friends and family in celebration of everything I was experiencing on the inside and one of my first awakenings to heaven on earth. Baptism was a time of rejoicing and commitment in setting aside my life to follow King Jesus. Forever in the fold! Sealed by the Spirit! Cleansed and set free! It seemed so simple when I was ten years old. But…after some life experiences as well as listening to religious teachers, I had confused the Lord’s gift of righteousness with my own brand of righteousness. By the time I was twenty, I was riddled with anxiety-fueled nights and digestive issues that were so severe that I spent several years in therapy and on medications to lessen the symptoms I had adopted as the “normal” Christian life.

When I was nineteen, I started going to church with some friends and decided that I wanted to place membership at their church. The only way I could become a member of the new congregation was to be re-baptized. I was sad that my first baptism was not affirmed by the leadership at the new church, but it seemed like a small “price” to pay to be accepted by their fellowship. They rejoiced when I was immersed. I cried. I felt like I had placed a portion of my heart’s story on a shelf.

I tried so hard to be a “good” Christian, but no matter how desperately I tried, I was a failure. At night I would pray for forgiveness and by the next day I already knew that I had missed the mark. I would go to sleep fearful that if Jesus returned or if I suddenly died I would burn in hell for eternity. This kind of thinking does not yield to sweet dreams but intense worry and fear. So I made a decision to be baptized again and try one more time to get the “Christian” life right.

I slept great for one week.

Even though I had what seemed to be a fresh start, I could not live up to the high standards of the Lord.  No matter how much I washed the outside, I could not stay clean.  Weekly communion at church was a reminder of my failure and my unworthiness. I prayed for my children and others, but I was too far gone.

Three tries. Three strikes. I was out.

I might as well have been in hell.

New Beginnings

God’s mercies are new everyday! I began to worship with a church of Christ who believes in grace and freedom. The leadership has given me space to cry and heal and even more importantly—grow. No one tried to change my mind about what I believed. They just loved me exactly how they found me.

Their teachings have been simple but powerful …

God is love and he is full of kindness, mercy, and goodness. 

God’s ways are higher than man’s ways.  Isaiah 55:8

We have been given the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

I am the righteousness of God.  Romans 3:22

For years I had been trying to change God’s mind about me, but what I had not realized was that His mind was already made up about His creation. The Message beautifully states “Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you” 2 Cor. 5:20. And like a top that was wound too tight, I began to experience a release; healing, forgiveness, liberty, and joy, just to name a few. Over the next few years I began to change my mind about God.  I quit reading the bible as a rule book and began to experience scripture as humanity’s love story. I would stumble across sweet verses like Romans 2:4 , “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Baptized One More Time

There was such a change in my life that I wanted to do something to celebrate. So, I asked my husband, Chris, if he would baptize me to celebrate my commitment to trusting in the Lord’s gift of grace and righteousness.  We found some time during a couple’s retreat to hike to a beautiful waterfall. We were surrounded with the majesty of the Lord’s creation as we worshiped and celebrated our complete rest in His accomplishments, His righteousness, and His victory.  Chris poured water over my head as he reminded me of my kingdom identity and inheritance.

Rock Island State Park

Rock Island State Park

“Do you remember the first time you knew that God loved you?” Chris asked.

“I do.” I recalled the little girl that was baptized thirty years ago.

“Remember that love,” Chris said.

The moment was perfect.

It didn’t take away from anything else I had experienced. It was a moment that just said, this is where I am right now.

No pieces of the past needed to be shelved. I didn’t have to sort through events as right or wrong.

They just were.

***

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And that’s what happened …

The Lord’s kindness wooed me, pursued me, and convinced me that I am forever a daughter at His table. 🙂

“After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”  1 Corinthians 11:25 (KJV)

Sunday school lessons at the tiny church that I attended as a child taught me that there are two important acts of obedience after a profession of faith to Jesus Christ: baptism and communion. “As oft as ye drink it” is interpreted to mean that a church could decide the frequency. Our church, as most traditional Southern Baptist Churches, served communion on the first Sunday of the new quarter. Experiencing communion four times a year made each one a memorable celebration of love and grace even before I understood very much about about love or grace.

As a little girl, my eyes would fall immediately on the table directly in front of the pulpit. It was beautiful. The table was layered with two white tablecloths that were carefully washed and pressed for the special occasion. The first cloth covered the table. The silver communion trays were then carefully placed on the tablecloth and covered entirely with an additional white tablecloth. There was beauty, with a hint of mystery, surrounding the table.

The table was set! The guests had arrived! Even though I didn’t understand everything that was happening, I could sense the importance. There was a celebratory reverence to the day. Something that brought joy to the heart, a feeling of kinship to the gathering, and a deep longing and memorializing of the King of Kings. Now we waited. Communion would be shared at the end of service. For me, it was like waiting for a finale of epic proportions.

I hate to wait. There were announcements. More waiting. There was praise and worship. Again, more waiting. There was preaching, and FINALLY the wait was over. The deacons, dressed in their best, would come to the table in order to serve the bread and wine. My dad had a specific part of folding the table cloth. It was a tradition, a formality, and a cherished memory of mine. The care of each crease as he folded the cloth preached its own message from a man who was not the pastor. It was easy to “hear” a message of kindness, of promise, and of goodness. Although there was complete silence, his message rang with love. There was a cost being remembered and an unconditional value on everyone invited to the table. Although I do not celebrate communion the same way today, the love I experienced as a little girl around that table has traveled with me. Love has a way of getting in your head. Even when life is unyielding, love is still there.

These reflections aren’t just tremendous memories but stories of something true. It’s part of the mystery I mentioned earlier. Our eyes may be veiled, but love is completely real and alive. On communion days at our sweet little church, we did not have a closing prayer, but we held hands making a complete circle around the sanctuary singing Blest Be the Tie That Binds. We left in silence, bound to each other and the mystery under the cloth.

“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.” John Fawcett

 

I’ll be continuing to write reflections on communion as I try to understand my own place at the table today. 

 

I grew up in a small Southern Baptist church where communion was served each quarter on the first Sunday of the month. Preparation for the holy day began the night before as my mom pressed Daddy’s shirt and did a close inspection of his suit which was neatly hung on the hall tree for Sunday morning. Our family lived on a dairy farm, so Sunday morning was regularly a rush of activity as breakfast was served, 100+ cows were milked, calves were fed, and a frenzied pursuit of the bathroom as we all waited our turn. Daddy would come in at the last minute, looking and smelling as most farmers do, only to transform within minutes to a tall, dark, clean-shaven deacon ready to serve the Lord’s supper to the members at our little church. Our family of five loaded in the car and rode in anticipation of the beauty that surrounds the Table of the Lord. Even though it was not until I was eleven when I had my first communion, my little spirit was awakening to the sweetness and grace surrounding the invitation. Communion for our family started long before arriving at the building where we would join the greater community. It started with the smell of Love. Communion is becoming my favorite part of the church gathering. Lately I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of communion for the body of Christ. I decided to blog my reflections over the next few posts.