March 2014 archive

Friday Favorites Week One

He is Making Everything New- Friday Favorites Week One
Favorite Blog Posts:

When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me by Benjamin Moberg

I’ve been sitting in a swell of sad for a couple hours, information pills because this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.

When World Vision Drops Me by Benjamin Moberg

And my rage isn’t wrong, because this isn’t right. And so I will channel it all into doing my job here as a blogger, as a believer, loving gay kids and talking about the Jesus that wouldn’t change them for the world.
And though a Christian nonprofit embracing me, if just for a moment, is quite an event of subversion, I know in my own little world, the most radical act I can take is to say this: Yes, I love Jesus, too, and you’re my brother, and the Love of God makes us both enough.  It might be offensive to you, infuriating perhaps, it might even tempt you into dropping a kid off the face of the earth and blame it on me, but here’s the truth:
My chains are gone. I’ve been set free. My God my savior, has ransomed me.
And like a flood, his mercy reigns, unending love, amazing grace. 
Favorite Scripture:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. -Colossians 1:15-20

Favorite TV Episode:

This week’s Modern Family was hilarious! I laughed throughout the entire show! The writing and acting is so excellent.

Favorite Movie:

Let’s be real, this will be a favorite for a long time! Last weekend I got to watch it with several of my friends, none of whom had seen it before. Frozen is SUCH a fun movie to watch with people who are seeing it for the first time. I will definitely be blogging about Frozen soon :)

Favorite Song:

And speaking of Frozen…

This song is The. Best. Ever.   :)

Favorite Funny:

The Pinterest board Pointlessly Gendered Product is so great! And I’m pretty sure I will not be able to resist writing a blog post at some point about this:

From Marginal Christianity


From this week on the Blog:
When Relapse Happens

My own personal journey is different from Macklemore’s. I’ve never struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, but I have struggled with an eating disorderdepression, and anxiety. I am very open with people about my journey and about the freedom I have now in the Lord. But, at least for me, it’s really easy to get into the mindset that because I have freedom from these things, I will never relapse. And if I do relapse, then that must mean that I have failed in my freedom, I’ve failed God, and I’ve messed up my testimony. And that thinking makes it so difficult to be open with and share struggles that I still have.

Why Jesus Cares About “I, too, am Harvard” and You Should, Too

We need to look at the places that we are still not living out that “oneness” in Christ Jesus. And we need to start bring the Holy Spirit into those places, into our conversations, into Sunday mornings and outreach ministries. The issue of how to include, listen to, and affirm the marginalized in society (which not only includes people of color but also the economically poor, gay people, women, drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless people, people of other religions, etc.) is what, I believe, should be the number one goal of the Church. Because, it seems to me, that this was one of Jesus’ main goals in His entire ministry…it’s certainly what He spent most of His time teaching and living out. We need to follow in His footsteps, to teach what He taught, to do what He did, because this is how we bring Shalom, this is how we call God’s Kingdom down.Dear Sponsored Child

Evangelicals, you sent the message loud and clear. Your hatred for gay people triumphs over the command of Christ to serve the least of these. You will stop at nothing to continue this culture war over an issue that Jesus did not say one word about. You will not hesitate to tell your gay brothers and sisters in Christ that the idea of working alongside them to bring God’s kingdom to earth is despicable. To you, the very existence of gay people is enough to stop providing for a sweet child of God.

What are your favorite things this week???

Dear Sponsored Child

Dear Sponsored Child- How do we respond to World Vision's announcements??

The past two days have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Yesterday, health care World Vision, purchase a very well-known and well respected Christian organization that is “dedicated to working with children, epilepsy families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice,” announced that they would no longer discriminate against married same-sex couples during their hiring process.

The president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, said, “We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us. This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church. This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more.”

Many of you probably know that I am a big supporter of gay marriage and believe that there is a strong Biblical argument in support of gay relationships and marriages (I will be blogging in the near future about this issue, including reviews of the books Torn by Justin Lee and God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, which is coming out in April). So for me, this announcement was really exciting. I knew that this announcement would be really hard for many evangelical Christians to handle and that many would be disappointed and upset. What I did not expect was that these Christians would stop sponsoring their children as a result of this announcement. World Vision reportedly lost at least 2,000 sponsors in one day. That means that 2,000 children are now left without financial support, leaving them without adequate food, clean water, health care, and education, and also without the emotional and spiritual support that the children gain from the relationship with their sponsor.

Evangelicals, you sent the message loud and clear. Your hatred for gay people triumphs over the command of Christ to serve the least of these. You will stop at nothing to continue this culture war over an issue that Jesus did not say one word about. You will not hesitate to tell your gay brothers and sisters in Christ that the idea of working alongside them to bring God’s kingdom to earth is despicable. To you, the very existence of gay people is enough to stop providing for a sweet child of God.

Many Christian leaders, such as Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition and Denny Burk, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made public statements against World Vision, announcing that they were ending their sponsorships. (Burk wrote a blog post talking about “The Collapse of Christianity at World Vision.” Seriously? The collapse?). The Assemblies of God denomination urged its members to drop financial support from World Vision.

And I sit here listening to Same Love by Macklemore.

“If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t annointed. That Holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”

Today, World Vision decided to reverse their decision. 

There are many amazing people who decided to sponsor children yesterday in support of World Vision’s announcement and to cover the children who were being dropped. Many of these people are gay. Many aren’t even believers.

I am so touched and encouraged to see that many of the people who sponsored kids yesterday will continue to sponsor them because they know that these kids are real people. They matter. They have hopes and dreams. They have the potential to live full and vibrant lives, they just need a little support to help them get there. And don’t we all?

I don’t sponsor a child through World Vision (although I regularly donate to various causes they support) but I do sponsor a child through Compassion International. Her name is Fresiah. She is 19, just like me. She lives in a rural village in Kenya, a country where much of the population is infected by HIV/AIDS and few girls finish high school. She loves basketball, her favorite book of the Bible is Ruth, she writes her letters to me in almost perfect English, she prays for my family and tells me about her day-to-day life. I am waiting to hear the results of her final exams, but I’m confident she did great. She wants to be a policewoman after she finishes high school. She is so beautiful and smart. I am so blessed to be a small part of her life and the idea of her sponsorship ending when she graduates breaks my heart. She is my friend. And no theological disagreement could stop me from sponsoring her.

When did it become Christ-like to use children as pawns in political, social, and cultural wars?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. -John 13:34-35

I can’t really put into words the depth of my sadness around this whole situation.

I want to honor Matthew Vines and his reaction to World Vision’s reversal. He shows a profound understanding of the love of Christ and God’s grace.

So I sit here with tears in my eyes and my hand over my tattoo. And I remember God’s promise.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Write these words down for they are trustworthy and true. -Revelation 21:5

Amen. They are trustworthy and true. God is making everything new. He will make everything new.

I pray for the release of His Kingdom on Earth.

I pray for the Holy Spirit to enter into the hearts of all followers of Christ.

I pray that the Church would be marked by love.

I repent of the anger and judgement in my heart and I pray, Holy Spirit, that you would help me love my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I pray for all the children around the world who are struggling to survive. I pray protection over them in the name of Jesus. I pray for provision for them, both emotionally and physically. Lord Jesus I pray they would known your unending love for them.

And Jesus, I pray that every single gay person who has been hurt by the Church, who has been hurt in the past few days, would know that You affirm them and love them.

Amen.

Many bloggers have written beautiful posts in the past few days. I encourage you to read them:

When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me by Benjamin Moberg

I’ve been sitting in a swell of sad for a couple hours, because this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.

These Are Real Kids, You Know by Nish Weiseth

I understand you may not agree with their employment standards as a Christian organization, but you know what? There’s a lot that we’re not all going to agree onBut, I think we can agree on one thing: Children should not have to suffer under the weight of poverty. And we can agree that World Vision is helping release kids from poverty through sponsorships. We can agree that your sponsorship dollars are doing an incredible amount of good in the life of a real, honest-to-goodness child. Someone’s baby is getting fed, educated and cared for because you have been generous in your sponsorship of that child. 
Please, I’m begging you, don’t make someone’s baby a pawn in the ongoing culture wars of American evangelicalism. Keep sponsoring. Keep praying for that kid. Keep giving.
Please, I’m begging you.
Choose love.

World Vision by Rachel Held Evans

When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong.
Finally, all this overdramatic “farewelling” over non-essential issues is getting tiresome. It’s shutting the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces. It’s tying up heavy burdens and placing them on people’s backs. It’s straining gnats and swallowing camels. It’s playing the gatekeeper with smug, self-righteous pride when it is God who decides who comes to the table, God who makes the guest list, God who opens the doors the Kingdom.

World Vision Update by Rachel Held Evans

A comment on this post:
“I sponsored a child because of their original decision. His name is also Daniel and he lives in the Dem Rep of the Congo, which co-incidentally, I am planning on traveling to in November (though I have no plans to see him.)
As a gay man, I am once again disappointed by the actions of some evangelical Christians. I have learned not to expect much from conservative Christianity and tend to give conservative Christians a wide berth. I want to reconcile. I am a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and remain a committed, Episcopalian, Christian. But I often feel like Charlie Brown when he tries to kick Lucy’s football when engaging evangelical Christians and this is no exception.
However, none of this is the the fault of the child I sponsored. I’m not going to unsponsor because they reversed their decision. It’s ultimately about the child’s welfare.”

Why Jesus Cares about “I, too, am Harvard” and you should, too

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Disclaimer: I am a white person of privilege. This privilege does not come from socioeconomic status but simply from the color of my skin. The reality is that in America, I have a higher chance of being hired for a job than an equally qualified black woman. Once I have that job, I will be paid substantially less than an equally qualified white man but I will still be paid more than a woman of color in my same job position. Statistically, I also have a smaller chance of being raped than a woman of color or of mixed race. These are the privileges that the color of my skin afford me and the fact that it makes me sad doesn’t change anything about the situation. My goal in this post is start the conversation about the incredible racial injustice that still exists in America. These are the lives of my sisters and brothers. And they matter.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The systematic racism that is prevalent in universities across the United States (and the world) have recently been brought to attention with campaigns such as “I, too, am Harvard.” The fact is that many white people in this country like to pretend that racism does not exist any more and yet for people of color, living in the midst of racism is just reality. As Ta-Nehisi Coates poignantly writes about America in this article, “Racism is just the wind, here. Racism is but the rain.”

The Church is not in any way exempt from or irrelevant in this conversation. How is it that the one place that is most supposed to affirm the beauty and identity of every single human being ends up being a place where people of color often end up feeling left out or misunderstood? Why is it that followers of Christ feel ok ignoring or even arguing against the reality of racism in our country and in our churches? Why is it that many white, wealthy, suburban churches who decide to start urban ministries don’t partner up with the pastors who have labored there for decades? The fact of the matter is that racism has infiltrated into the minds of many Christians and American churches. And yet racism is absolutely and completely opposed to Christ.

Every single human being on this earth is made in the image of God.

Racial segregation and prejudice have no place in our churches. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” –Galatians 3:28

We need to look at the places that we are still not living out that “oneness” in Christ Jesus. And we need to start bring the Holy Spirit into those places, into our conversations, into Sunday mornings and outreach ministries. The issue of how to include, listen to, and affirm the marginalized in society (which not only includes people of color but also the economically poor, gay people, women, drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless people, people of other religions, etc.) is what, I believe, should be the number one goal of the Church. Because, it seems to me, that this was one of Jesus’ main goals in His entire ministry…it’s certainly what He spent most of His time teaching and living out. We need to follow in His footsteps, to teach what He taught, to do what He did, because this is how we bring Shalom, this is how we call God’s Kingdom down.

Resources:

I, too, am Oxford

UCLA:

Langston Hughes: I, Too, Sing America

Bloggers who have authority on this topic:

Osheta Moore

Christena Cleveland

Rachel Held Evan’s Ask A Racial Reconciler, interview with Austin Channing Brown

When relapse happens

When Relapse Happens

Trigger warning: drugs, website addiction, decease relapse, herbal eating disorder, depression, anxiety

I was sitting in a cafe today, reading various theology essays for one of my classes while also listening to some music. I ended up turning on Macklemore, just needing to listen to something different. What I wasn’t expecting was to start tearing up right there in the coffee shop. I was listening to Starting Over off The Heist album and its honesty and vulnerability really struck me, as well as its connections to my own journey and story. Starting Over is, in a way, a follow up to his song Otherside, which Macklemore wrote about his journey to getting sober.

*Both of these songs have swear words*

Here is Otherside (this is the remix):

I’ve seen my people’s dreams die
I’ve seen what they can be denied
And “weeds not a drug” – that’s denial
Groundhog Day like repeat each time
I’ve seen Oxycontin take three lives
I grew up with them, we used to chief dimes
I’ve seen cocaine bring out the demons inside
Cheatin’ and lyin’
Friendship cease, no peace in the mind
Stealin’ and takin’ anything to fix the pieces inside
Broken, hopeless, headed nowhere
Only motivation for what the dealer’s supplying
That rush, that drug, that dope
Those pills, that crumb, that roach
Thinkin’ I would never do that, not that drug
And growing up nobody ever does
Until your stuck, lookin’ in the mirror like I can’t believe what I’ve become
Swore I was goin’ to be someone
And growing up everyone always does
We sell our dreams and our potential
To escape through that buzz
Just keep me up, keep me up
Hollywood here we come

And here is Starting Over:

Somebody stops me and says, “Are you Macklemore?
Maybe this isn’t the place or time
I just wanted to say that if it wasn’t for Otherside I wouldn’t have made it.”
I just look down at the ground and say thank you
She tells me she has 9 months and that she’s so grateful
Tears in her eyes, looking like she’s gonna cry. Fuck!
I barely got 48 hours, treated like I’m some wise monk
I wanna tell her I relapsed but I can’t
I just shake her hand and tell her congrats
Get back to my car and I think I’m tripping yea
Cuz God wrote Otherside, that pen was in my hand
Im just a flawed man, man I fucked up up
Like so many others I just never thought I would
I never thought I would, didn’t pick up the book
Doin it by myself, didn’t turn out that good

If I can be an example of getting sober
Then I can be an example of starting over
If I can be an example of getting sober
Then I can be an example of starting over

Whew that last line gets me every time. Otherside continues to help people get sober, and yet Starting Over is just as important because we all need reminders that our relapses are not the end of our stories.

My own personal journey is different from Macklemore’s. I’ve never struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, but I have struggled with an eating disorder, depression, and anxiety. I am very open with people about my journey and about the freedom I have now in the Lord. But, at least for me, it’s really easy to get into the mindset that because I have freedom from these things, I will never relapse. And if I do relapse, then that must mean that I have failed in my freedom, I’ve failed God, and I’ve messed up my testimony. And that thinking makes it so difficult to be open with and share struggles that I still have.

There are days that I look at my body and I don’t feel like a new creation. My mind starts going and I fall back into eating disorder thoughts. 

After months of being depression free I experience another depressive episode and then another and I don’t want to admit that it’s actually depression.

Then out of nowhere I find myself triggered and my anxiety rushes back and I don’t know how to respond except to shut down.

God has been teaching me a lot about what it means to live in freedom.

–I’m starting to understand that to live in freedom means to live free of the shame that accompanies struggling.

–He’s teaching me that the sooner I can lean in to community and let people know that I’m hurting, the faster I experience freedom again because Satan operates in secrecy and darkness.

–And I’m learning that relapsing doesn’t change the fact that I am a new creation and that I live in Christ’s freedom. I belong to Jesus and Satan has no authority over me. My identity is freedom and that cannot be shaken or taken away from me. My relapses do not define me or change the fact that my story is about God’s continual faithfulness to me.

We need more stories of freedom from addiction and eating disorders and depression and trauma. But we also need more stories of people bravely starting over again.

Let’s keep writing our stories together, armed with grace and love for ourselves and the power of Christ.

Where is God?

Where is God? Our response to suffering

It seems like this week has brought bad news to a lot of people. A few days ago, more about a well-loved Nashville photographer died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving behind his two young children. Another photographer I follow on facebook, a breast cancer survivor, is in the hospital right now waiting to have a biopsy to confirm what the scans are saying–that her cancer is back. Every day I feel like I see new facebook pages being created for kids in my town who have cancer. Or pages to support the families of those whose children didn’t make it. I get emails daily from activist groups asking me to sign petitions, often to support girls who have been raped and ignored, or young black men who have been murdered and their bodies forgotten.

As people of faith, it can be tempting to try to write off these tragedies with statements like, “God has a plan,” and “They’re in heaven now.” But somehow these sentences can’t meet the tremendous pain that we all feel in the face of tragedy. The only thing that truly brings me comfort in these times is the reality that God mourns with His children and that when we suffer, He suffers as well. He is the God of all compassion, a man of sorrow, familiar with pain (Isaiah 53:3). He promises that He will be victorious in the end, that He will defeat all death and pain and sorrow. And yet He still mourns with us now. Jesus, upon hearing of the death of Lazarus, says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” And yet He still wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11). Let us not forget to mourn with our brothers and sisters in times of immense sorrow–we are called to come along side them and weep, for that is what our Father is doing. For even though we know with our being that the Lord is victorious in the end, and we should hold firmly to this, the pain of this moment, of this world, deserves to be recognized. Elie Wiesel says it better than I ever could, so I’ll end with an excerpt from his book Night.

The SS hanged two Jewish men and a youth in front of the whole camp. The

men died quickly, but the death throes of the youth lasted for half an hour.

“Where is God? Where is he?” someone asked behind me. As the youth still

hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard the man call again,

“Where is God now?” And I heard a voice within myself answer, “Where is

he? He is here, he is hanging there on the gallows.” -Eli Wiesel, Night

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