Tag Archives: God

Doing it Daily – All Over Again

There’s this beautiful song by Train called “Marry Me.”  Perhaps you’ve heard it.  Although it was released in 2009, it was 2013 before I heard it for the first time.

I love the line, “Marry me, today and every day.”  We get married (hopefully just once), and we have that one wedding where we make promises to each other in front of an officiant, God, family, and friends.  There’s music, there are flowers, there’s cake, maybe dancing, and it’s a glorious affair with people looking tres belle and tres beau.  Afterwards comes the honeymoon, a delightful period of romance and spending time together as husband and wife in a great location.

But what happens after the couple comes home, unpacks, and gets back to the day-to-day business of being a married couple every single day in the real world – a world without the flowers, the music, the cake, the honeymoon?  Unlike the pink-edged cream rose I have growing in front of my house, marriages don’t thrive on neglect.  They need daily attention and devotion, as do spouses.

This has to be intentional, though.  We can’t give our marriages our attention today and come back to it in a week-and-a-half.  My husband and I have a routine.  I don’t mind drinking day-old coffee.  Sure, I prefer it fresh, but I’d rather not waste it.  On Saturdays, I pour myself the day-old cup and make fresh for him; on Sundays, he gives himself the old cup and makes fresh for me.  This weekend, though, he did something different for me.  I woke up yesterday and poured the old coffee into my cup before making the fresh pot.  When I went back to the kitchen a little while later, my coffee was missing.  The cup was still there, but it was empty.  My husband had poured the day-old coffee into his cup.  He did that this morning, too.  It’s a tiny little act of service (my love language), but it made a huge impact.  Likewise, each day, I tell him something great I’ve observed about him or something perhaps that the girls have remarked on.  The key isn’t about being flashy or loud in the affirmations, it’s simply about being consistent.  As a result of these little acts – just small little things – we have grown closer and we have become more solid as a couple.

Discipleship requires just as much intentional daily attention.  Jesus says in Luke that if we’re going to follow him, we must take up our crosses daily and follow him.  As this call to the spiritual discipline of evangelism fell on my ears, as we read the corporate prayer of confession in church this morning, it hit me that I really don’t do as much as I’m supposed to.  I don’t  enter into a time of confession of my sins on a daily basis.  I also take the Gospel for granted.  I know it.  I’ve read it (multiple times), studied it, taught it, and preached it.  In fact, because I know it so well, the story isn’t fresh and new, this Good News more something I might meet with the excitement of my tax refund showing up than with joy that rivals fireworks, because, people, this is GOOD NEWS!  The BEST news!  It’s not exclusive, judgemental, or condemning.  This gift is for EVERYone, and I’ll open my arms wide and share it with absolutely everyone.

God loves us, has loved us from the beginning of time.  In fact, God loves us so much that God became incarnate in Jesus Christ and came down to earth to suffer the just punishment for our sins.  And when we accept this free gift of grace, we have eternal life.  No, it’s not physical immortality; our flesh will still age and die.  It’s spiritual immortality – our souls uniting with God in Heaven.  This is the good news.

And each and every day, I need to remember this good news, remember how it’s impacted my life, remember what it has called me to do with it, remember to share it.  Every day, I need to be intentional about devoting myself anew to the Lord, just as I do my husband, and publicly sharing my love for God, just as I publicly share my love for my husband.

Share your story.  Share the good news this week – how God has worked in your life.

 

My Two Cents’ Worth

Sunday and Monday, I was pounding the pavement, rocking my almost-three miles each day, getting the heart pumping happily.  Both days as I walked, I found two pennies on the street.  Finding these on Sunday was remarkable, but I shrugged it off:  I’ve been walking those streets 3-4 days a week since October and had never found money before.  Finding these coins two days in a row, though, seemed to be a sign that needed attention.

As I walked Monday, those two pennies clinking softly in the pocket of my running pants, I thought about two cents.  What good, of what value, is a mere two cents?  It depends on your frame of mind, I guess.

To a millionaire, a couple of cents would be dispensable.  What’s two cents out of hundreds of millions?  To most of us, we can take them or leave them.  Maybe we wouldn’t want to touch dirty pennies.  Or, if you’re like me, you toss them in a jar until you have enough to roll – or save them to use as math manipulatives.

English: Large amount of pennies

English: Large amount of pennies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For one woman in the Bible, though, two cents was absolutely everything she had.  Mark relates the story of Jesus and his disciples standing in the narthex of the Temple, watching people placing their tithes and offerings in the offering box.  Most placed their ten percent, the Pharisees making a production of such.  One poor woman put in a whopping two mites – two small coins, probably worth a cent each.  What are those worth compared to the tithe of a rich person?  Jesus commended her offering to his disciples, for she had put in far more than anyone else; she had put in everything she had.

Those two cents made me remember, we need to give everything we have.  Some have the sheer faith literally to turn over everything they have to the Lord and trust God for all their provisions.  Others (I fall into this camp) recognize their blessedness in all they have, however much it is, and strive to honor God in how they use and treat it.  In doing this, I have come to see the blessings even in the clutter (God did give me those children who make it), but I have also taken it as a discipline to put the stuff in its proper perspective.

Our church has been doing a study the past few weeks on living generously, and we spent an easy two weeks talking about how we can live more generously if we don’t think we always need more.  I pretty much mentally checked out of the study at that point, because I don’t want more, I don’t need more, and I don’t think I need more.  In fact, we are steadily getting rid of stuff, putting perfectly good furniture we were storing at the curb for others to take and selling and donating clothes (with monies going towards the girls’ soccer this season).

We also need to dedicate our work and play to the Lord.  We need to play in a way that points people to the Lord, and how we go about our work needs to be a witness to God.  This means working with integrity and not trying to get by with less-than-responsible behavior.  It means not trying to get by with stuff.  My older daughter and I discussed how I could do something and no one would ever know.  I could get by with it, technically it wouldn’t harm anyone, but it still wouldn’t be right.  Integrity – doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

In our play, we also need to give all we have to God.  This manifests itself in good sportsmanlike conduct in team sports, discipline in practice, and, for those of us crazy fortunate enough to coach, modeling the right behaviors.  Coaching soccer is like ministry to me, and I am constantly aware of how I can show the love of God to my players, both on and off the field.  Giving our play to God also shows up in how we treat others, even in our casual pick-up games.

As you go through your days, give you all to God.  Our offering is more than just 10% of our paychecks; it’s time, talents, and gifts – all which come from God and all which we can use to glorify him and lift others up.  As for those four pennies…?  They’re going in the offering plate.  I’m trying not to denigrate them as “just four cents.”  I’m going to trust God will multiply them as the Lord has done before, and those four pennies will end up being far, far more valuable than four cents.

Reflections on #NCCPilgrimage16

This week, my 13-year-old, Mary, shares her thoughts and reflections on this year’s Pilgrimage, a weekend-long worship extravaganza for United Methodist youths. 

I had been looking forward to Pilgrimage 2016 since last year, when I went to Pilgrimage 2015.  The youth conference was only for United Methodist youth and was located in Fayetteville, North Carolina at Crown Coliseum.  The youth could bring friends, which almost all the youth in my small church youth group did happily last year.  We arrived in high spirits and had a joyous time singing and worshipping together with 5,000+ United Methodist youth from all over North Carolina in one place, youth of different colors, languages, and pasts.  I learned that we all made “Pilgrimage clothespins,” which were plain, wooden clothespins with inspirational messages on the sides.  We would then clip them onto the clothing of other people and merge into the crowd, knowing later they would read it and it would make them smile.  Getting clipped was an amazing thing, reading at night encouraging and uplifting messages of hope, love, and God.

This year, I began to count down the days until Pilgrimage 2016.  I was excited, as was my entire youth group.  This year, we didn’t bring friends and instead of a hotel we stayed in a camp.  We were looking forward to arriving at the coliseum for a life-changing experience, as we had last year.  I spent half the summer making Pilgrimage clips, painting them in bright colors and putting brilliant life quotes and Bible verses on the sides.  My buddy and I passed out a few of our clips Friday night, feeling grand knowing we made people smile.

Saturday morning, again, my buddy and I passed out clips, giving away my remaining twelve.  We sat down, ready for the hope of an amazing second session of Pilgrimage.  Instead, we were told that if we had a Pilgrimage clip on our being we would be immediately sent home.  The speaker of this year’s Pilgrimage sessions dished out hate at the clips.  Everyone was told to throw away their clips at the trashcans near the entrances; whether or not everyone did and instead risked their time pocketing the clips, I don’t know.

That evening, when we arrived at the coliseum, the cheerful atmosphere was missing from the entire building.  Everyone was more subdued than normal, not much chattering was going on, everyone in almost a thoughtful silence.  Passing out those clips was tradition, and in fact, taking that away angered many adults.  The knowledge of not being able to do that anymore took out half the joy in Pilgrimage, because with those clips, you knew you’d make someone smile.  We all took our seats half an hour before the third session started.  Once it had begun, one of the Pilgrimage coordinators went onstage and explained why we couldn’t have the clothespins.  A few Hispanic, Latino, and Asian youth groups had gotten bullying pins that said, “I love Trump!” on one side and “Build that wall!” on the other.  One of the chaperones from a Hispanic youth group – Stacy – got up and took the stage.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpastorjlvillasenor%2Fvideos%2F10211430020285673%2F&show_text=0&width=400

The beginning of Stacy’s speech was good, explaining how she felt unwanted because of harassing clips her youth group had received and stares that greeted her the day before.  She made mention of how she’d grown up being bullied and understanding how it felt to be an outsider.  In school, she had to teach herself English, because her family didn’t know the language.  During recess, when everyone was playing dodgeball, people would say, “Get out that Mexican girl!  Get her out so she could return to where she came from!”

She explained how hurt she felt as she walked into the coliseum when people were looking at them as if to say, What are you doing here?  You don’t belong here.  However, then she started to make comments, such as how “the message of the red hat and the message of the wall is not the message of the gospel.”  A few youth that greeted her were wearing red Make America Great Again hats, which she found offensive.  “The message of the red hat was not a message of inclusion and welcome; it was a message of disinclusion (sic) and discrimination.”  More of the speech told us that the hat represented a person whose message was unwelcome and discriminatory toward women, Latino, African American, and Hispanic people as well as others.  “And this is not the message of the gospel,” Stacy told the many thousand youth listening.  “So today, we wanted to tell you, if you really believe that the Holy Spirit is here, if you really want to welcome the Holy Spirit, then take off your red hats.”

Being a true American citizen, she had a right to say that.  The freedom of speech is still true, no matter where you are.  But many of us believe that she was speaking to the wrong people.  Here we were, in a place supposed to be a destination to learn more about God and worship together, only the chaperones able to vote, getting politics in our faces.  It seemed as if all us Caucasians were labeled as Trump supporters and racists, even though there were only a few people at fault.  We were labeled as haters towards anyone who is darker colored, and I know that that is not the truth about most of the youth present that night.

See, as Christians, we are supposed to be loving towards everyone, not just people with the same skin tone as us.  Stacy judged us in her own stereotypes, taking the little she knew from the few minutes they stayed the first night and running and accusing all of us of being like that, when I know that loads of youth groups there would’ve welcomed her in.  She tried to blame us all for something only a few people did.  You don’t know the past of the youth who wore those hats.  No one in our youth group saw them.  They might have been using them as warmth, given that inside the coliseum was still really cold.  They might not have had much money, so since it was cold around the coliseum and outside, that one hat may have been the only one in their family.  We never know what the inside story about people are until we get to know them, but we often don’t take time to and instead make snap decisions.  Stacy was willing to tell us about her back story, but she didn’t take time to know the stories of others.  We as people have our own opinions, and if we want to wear a hat with our opinions on it, why should we be stopped?  What Stacy did was right in the respect that she did have freedom of speech, but wrong in many respects.

1) Wrong place, wrong time.  She should not have thrown politics into the matter.  She started off strong, but she quickly fell.

2) How many of us youth could vote?  That’s right, next to none.  Again, she shouldn’t have put in politics.

3) She didn’t respect the fact that we all have our own opinions.  Instead, she made a bigger issue out of it all.

4) She labeled us all incorrectly instead of just the people with the hats.  She labeled us all as haters and Trump supporters, not Christian people who would welcome everyone gladly.

I was grateful when our livid youth leader said that we were leaving after the speech was over.  We decided that since the Pilgrimage pins were taken from us, we would make up some and return to church the next day where we knew we’d be accepted lovingly so we could clip these pins on people.  We were up bright and early Sunday morning to get on the road, and we had fun clipping others.  I have made up my mind that every time I visit that church, I’m going to clip a handful of people.  I can also do it at general places such as grocery stores, restaurants, and gatherings.  I can spread love easily through a simple clip.

On a closing note, I believe that our image of what the weekend was going to be was different from God’s plan.  I was really grateful that we returned to church early, because we made many people smile with the joy we shared and the enthusiasm we brought with us at the sheer idea of returning.  Our pastor was absolutely livid, something I’ve never seen before in my life, and she explained that what happened should not have and that there was no place for it in a church setting.  Everyone went out of their way to show us some extra love after the horrible time we’d just had.  We all learned things from that experience, but the most important of them all was just how it feels to be labeled as one thing when only a few people were the cause.  Such as how Hispanic people are all being labeled as illegal, lazy, and/or drug dealers, when I know many who are perfectly legal, have great jobs, and hate the idea of drugs.  We think that Muslims are in support of ISIS, and that Blacks are associated with gangs and ‘hoods.  But really, it’s not true.  There are White gangs as well, and yet we never want to look at them.  What we don’t want to realize is that there are actually only a few immigrants who are illegal, and yet we want to say that every one of them is here illegally and subject to deportation.

 

The Compassion of a Child

I’m sitting in my home along the SE US coast, waiting for Hurricane Matthew to pay us a visit.  Am I worried?  Not particularly, though I did feel a strong sense that we needed to do more to prepare for this storm than we typically do for others.  We’re prepared to this point, though we’ll have a bit more to do come Thursday and Friday.  Worst case scenario, we pack the kids and the cats into two cars and head west; the cars are fueled sufficiently.

This morning as the girls and I tracked the storm, we saw that some people weren’t so lucky.  As we pulled up the tracking map online, we saw that at that moment, the storm was right over Haiti and eastern Cuba, with a course dead-straight to the Bahamas.  While this is devastating for all these island peoples in the Caribbean, our hearts really went out to the Haitians.  It’s like they can’t catch a break!

So we prayed.  Then H, my seven-year-old who’s diligently saving up for a pink sparkly boat about the size of a massive cruise ship, started outlining her plan for rescuing people in such situations.  This plan involves using her boat to take them to safety on her own private island, complete with three hospitals, just to make sure everyone gets the care they need.  (I guess she’d need more than one island, so she’d have options depending on which direction the storms are going.)

As the pink sparkly boat is still quite a ways off, H spontaneously thought about what she could do now.  Her solution?  She wants to donate some of her shoes and clothes to children in Haiti who’ll lose everything in this storm.  I immediately grabbed my phone and texted the children’s minister at church, asking if there’s any reception for those sorts of donations.  No, but there are organizations, like Hope Changes Everything, who already have boots on the ground and need money to supply the Haitians with exactly what they need, be it clothes, food, or housing.  (That link will take you right to their site, and you can donate there.)

Our minister suggested a yard sale.  Truthfully, I don’t relish the idea of putting together a yard sale, but the weather will be good again, and there are a lot of things we can get rid of for this cause.  While I don’t look forward to the work and administration of doing this, I’m excited, because this is something H can lead off on.

I am understandably so proud of my daughter for having a heart that wants to reach out to people who have been so devastated by this storm.  More, though, is how she’s overcoming her own fears of the storm in thinking about others.  All morning, we talked together about what we need to do to make sure our home and property are ready for the storm.  I presented it as, “We need to be prepared, but we’re gonna be OK.  Worrying won’t change the storm at all.”  Still, though…  She is seven, and she’s not so thrilled with regular ol’ thunderstorms, let alone a hurricane due for a direct hit.  Once she started thinking about how to help others, she forgot to be afraid.

H is such a good teacher, even reminding her pastor momma about some truths that are easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

  • We need a change in perspective sometimes.  Things look challenging for us this coming weekend, but they’re much worse for thousands upon thousands of other people who have no evacuation routes and limited resources.
  • When we’re afraid, it helps to think about others and become unafraid.  I find it also helps remembering who controls the storm.
  • What we have can be used to serve other people.  This girl has plans for her life, plans that involve a good deal of education and helping vulnerable creatures.  Yet, her heart remains for people and desiring to help them.

The Bible tells us so many things about children.  “A little child shall lead them.”  “You must have the faith of a child.”  And the Psalmist writes, “From the lips of infants and children, You have ordained praise.”  We oh, so busy adults need to stop sometimes and listen.  The still small voice of God I’m hearing this week isn’t coming from a gentle breath of wind, but from the lips of a little girl.

God, Give Me Faith!

God, give me more faith!” I prayed in the shower this morning.  Yet, even as I prayed that, I thanked God for God’s provisions and affirmation the previous night.

As I did my rehab and exercises this morning, I reflected on that prayer.  Uh oh, I thought.  What if praying for more faith is like praying for more patience, where you don’t actually get it, but you get opportunities to practice and cultivate it?

We’re a two-entrepreneur family now, and I told my husband last night in the midst of frustration and discouragement, “I know you’re doing everything you can.  No question.  And I still believe this is what God has led us to.”  There were no buts, no “if onlys,” just a simple assurance that we’re still on the right track.  Within half an hour, I received an order from a customer from whom I wasn’t expecting another order.  Yeah, I see it as a God thing.

“God, give me more faith!”  The story of the man with the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9 came to me.  The father wants to believe.  In fact, I believe he truly does.  Yet, the doubts creep in; after all, his son had been possessed by this evil spirit for years, and it’d tried to kill the boy numerous times.  So the father cries out, anguished, “I believe!  Help me to believe more!”  Some translations have that as, “I have faith!  Help me have more faith!”  That’s me this morning.

It’s a pure, selfless request, the request of the striving, growing believer.  Those moments when our faith slips can lead in two directions:  One, we can say that God obviously doesn’t care and turn away completely; or two, we can pray for more faith.  Pray for it.  Ask for it.  We can’t do anything more than this to get it.  We can’t put our good works into some vending machine to get what we want back out.  All we can do is humbly, sincerely ask.  It is in humbling ourselves that we are most receptive to receiving greater faith.

In the Mark 9 account of this demon-possessed boy, there’s a request, there’s a faith lesson, then there’s healing, followed by God granting exactly what the father needed.  Both father and son needed something on this day.  This morning, I prayed a request, the Spirit led my meditations, there was a revelation (not so much a healing for us), then God gave me what I needed.  While I was doing my rehab, I’d heard my husband come back in after having left for work before leaving again.  I texted to ask if everything was OK.  He’d gotten two voicemail messages, both for estimates, one for a subcontract job with growth potential.  God gave us an opportunity to increase our income (always vital in the new stages of entrepreneurship), and God had affirmed that we were still on the right path.

God gave me more faith!

The Sacred God-Moment

This week has been insane for our family.  Last Saturday, my husband’s mentor, friend, and supervisor, Lenny, died after a brief battle with cancer.  Sunday night, I got the call that my grandmother had died.  Lenny’s funeral was an hour-and-a-half away on Tuesday, and Grandmother’s was 3 hours away today.  I feel like I’ve spent most of the week on the interstate.  Naps were missed, the emotional energy was high, we didn’t sleep great.  We’re completely wiped out by this point and savoring the idea of a weekend of rest.

As we came home from Lenny’s funeral Tuesday night, this amazing vertical rainbow appeared in the sky.

Fascinating vertical rainbow in the sky Tuesday night

Fascinating vertical rainbow in the sky Tuesday night

We were awed, as we’d never seen a vertical rainbow before.  Taking a look in the rear view mirror revealed a gorgeous sunset (sorry, no picture of that).  It felt like God was hugging us.

Then, this evening we were returning home from my Grandmother’s memorial service.  I was driving, and I was tired.  Traffic for the first 25 miles had been hellacious, with normal Friday-summer-afternoon-eastbound-traffic meeting the Construction Zone from Hell for 8.5 miles.  I was sustaining on a frappe and determination, watching cars, attending to the light traffic and the road, enjoying my Jim Brickman play list.  My eyes rose to the sky ahead, and there right in front of me was a rainbow.  I pointed it out to my family so they could enjoy it, too.  It was faint, but there, and we eventually were able to make out the other end of it.

Around this time, I took a peek at my phone to see which selection was playing.  It was “Sacred Moment,” and I recognized the tune as “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”  Wow.  Just…  Wow.  The rainbow.  That symbol of God’s promise never again to destroy the world by flood.  And God has kept this promise.  If God keeps this promise, would not God also keep the other promises he’s given us?  My cousin Mark read the words of Jesus from John 14 today:  “I go to prepare a place for you.”  I looked at that rainbow and listened to that tune and thought, This is God’s promise, fulfilled for us in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.  This rainbow served as a reminder that God keeps God’s promises – all of them.  I seized the holy teachable moment and took the opportunity to talk to my girls about it.  My younger one said, “It’s like the promise for Great-Grandmother.”  Yes!  Yes, it is.  And that promise is for us, too.

I haven’t cried for Grandmother.  She’d been sick since February and psychologically ready to die for over a year.  But I could cry over the magnitude of God’s promises and how they have been fulfilled for her.  She’s with Grandpa again, turning 67 years of marriage on Earth into an eternity of marriage in Heaven.

My Thoughts About Bathrooms, Hate, and Transgender People

I tried to stay silent about this as long as possible, but my “as long as possible” didn’t last very long.  At the end of March, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a special legislative session to push through a law, HB2.  That law was passed in both chambers and signed off by the governor before the 11:00 news.  It went into effect on 1 April 2016, and things have gone downhill since.

HB2, aka, “the Bathroom Bill,” says, among other things, that people must go into the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.  This means that, a transgender male – imagine someone 5’8″ tall, buff, bearded, and visibly male – who has not had gender reassignment surgery or had their birth certificate changed, must go into the ladies’ restroom.  Am I the only woman and mother of young daughters who’s not comfortable with this?  I have nothing against people who are transgender; as I’ve said before, I have friends who are transgender.  My problem is, now I don’t know if that man described above is a transgender male obeying a civil law, or if he’s a sex offender taking advantage of the ease of going into the ladies’ room this law provides in order to attack my daughters or me.  Should I wait and see if he’ll go into a stall, or if he’ll pull out a knife or gun, by which point, it’ll be too late?  So, thank you, NCGA, for creating the very opposite situation of what you claimed to be after and putting ALL us women and our children at risk for sexual violence – not at the hands of people who are transgender who are just in the bathroom to do their business, but at the hands of violent sex offenders who don’t care about laws and never have who can now walk into public bathrooms claiming to be transgender.

As a result of HB2, my state stands to lose federal funding for education.  So much for our General Assembly and governor being “about the children.”  My state has lost businesses.  My state has lost wonderful, tax-paying citizens who no longer felt safe living here who have moved to other states.  North Carolina has already lost a significant amount of revenue and stands to lose billions – yes BILLIONS, with a B! – more.  My state no longer allows people who get discriminated against at work based on religion, gender, age, race, or orientation sue for discrimination at the state level; those suits now have to go to the federal courts to decide, a process which takes an easy three years, far longer than the 180 days the state gives for resolution in such matters.  HB2 prohibits teachers from going into students’ bathrooms in schools.  Hopefully that mean, nasty bully isn’t beating your child to a pulp in the bathroom between classes, since the law is so about “keeping children safe.”

And in the most ironic element of this law of all…  In HB2, the state prohibits individual cities from passing their own anti-discrimination laws and their own minimum wage laws.  In case you haven’t figured it out, yet, the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor are all far right conservatives.  You know, smaller government?  I’m sure they thought it was an abomination when the US Supreme Court decided that gays and lesbians have equal rights and made this federal law the law of the land, totally overstepping states’ rights to govern themselves in this matter.  Yet, the North Carolina government is doing the exact same thing in our state to our counties and cities!

Obviously, when this law came out, there was talk everywhere.  To be honest, I finally had to step away from Facebook for a while, because the plethora of “Pat McCrory saved our children!” posts were going to cost some friendships, and I try to respect my friends’ views, even if I disagree with them.  Over against that was the continued hate speech against transgender people, mostly the result of manufactured fear by the media and ignorance.  Here’s the thing – transgender people are so much like you and me.  They get up in the mornings, go to work, fulfill their responsibilities to their bosses, come home, spend time with family, go to bed.  They pretty much live under the radar, just like the rest of us do.  And they’re fine with that.  In fact, they feel safer under the radar.

The transgender people I know (that I know are transgender) – both women – are smart, attractive, bad-ass, loving people.  One is married; I went to her wedding 3 1/2 years ago.  There, incidentally, is where I met the other, who is engaged.  In fact, I just found out the married woman is transgender about five weeks ago, and the latter, last year.  These women live their lives, do their things, take care of their loved ones.  The fact that I’d known them both so long before knowing their backstories should tell you something:  Neither of them flamboyantly advertised the fact they’re transgender.

And I think that J and S are typical of almost all transgender people in America – and the world.  Caitlyn Jenner is not the face of and spokesperson for people who are transgender, and, personally, I don’t consider her brave or admirable.  Bruce probably went to some extremely private hospital in another country with the top gender reassignment specialists in the world, took a six-month “vacation,” and came back as Caitlyn.  Now, Caitlyn claims she wants to “be just like everyone else.”  Maybe she should give up her cadre of body guards and come hang out in a state where transgender people face police harassment, threats, government-sanctioned discrimination, and threats of and actualized bodily harm – all because her physical, outer self didn’t mesh up with her mental/emotional inner self.

Pediatricians and geneticists are now recognizing that people who are transgender could have genitalia, brains, and chromosomes that don’t match up.  For example, a person could have male genitalia (“look” male), but have female chromosomes and female brains.  Brain science research is now providing us with a reason why transgender people, even from an early age, may “feel” like they’re the wrong gender.  At birth, doctors determine gender only by outer genitalia, not chromosomal testing.

For those of us in the church, this presents something of a theological conundrum:  Did God make a mistake?  Short answer – No.  Do we look at a child with Down’s Syndrome and think that God made a mistake?  Of course not!  Do we think God messed up when a child is born with a deformed arm?  Never!  God doesn’t make mistakes in how God makes us.  Each and every one of us is created in the image of God.  The Psalmist says, “I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  This goes for all of us.  Sometimes, we face challenges in how we’re made – life challenges – and those challenges will either break us if we try to rely purely on ourselves; they’ll give us a source of strength and determination; or through our uniqueness, we will allow God’s love to appear to others.

If I may borrow from my younger daughter’s favorite Disney movie to wrap this up…  “Love is stronger than fear.”  As we are made in the image of God, and God is love, then we also are called on to love our neighbors who are transgender.  You may see them differently than I do, and that’s OK.  But for heaven’s sake, get to know someone who’s transgender.  If you’re going to profess Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Savior, then (literally) by all that is holy, act like it and love even those who you feel are unlovable.  And you know what’ll happen?  (This is great!)  You won’t be afraid of them anymore, and you won’t hate them anymore, and you’ll begin to recognize all the bull crap the mainstream media and social media outlets are spewing for what it is.  And you will please God.  I’m thinking that’s a win all the way around.

Let me take a moment to direct you to this great article I drew some from, written by a fellow Baptist: https://baptistnews.com/2016/05/13/seven-things-im-learning-about-transgender-persons/#.VzgsSsiznvB.facebook.

Why Do People Hate People who are Transgender?

I realize that, by posing this question, I’m likely opening myself up to being exposed to a large amount of hate and vitriol, but I am genuinely curious.  I have at least one transsexual friend who I share with other friends.  There’s so much hate and violent sentiment directed towards this segment of the population, and I really, truly don’t know why that is.  I’ve heard them referred to as “freaks.”  Really?  That doubly appalls me; while transgender is listed as a psychological disorder in the DSM-5 (which I can see necessary in some cases), still, calling people who are transgender “freaks” is about as sensitive as calling the following “freaks”:

  • An Army vet with PTSD
  • A little girl on the Autism spectrum
  • A woman with schizophrenia
  • A man with depression

Get my point there?

So, please, tell me why people (maybe you, even) hate people who are transgender and wish serious harm or death to come to them.  If you’re going to site scripture, please do so in a way that honors God and respects the Bible (or other holy book, dependent on your faith) with faithful use of scripture.  This includes using the scripture in its context within scripture, but also with respect to historical context.  And for those of you who would dare to say that God hates people who are transgender, please read your Bible all the way through before commenting; there’s only ONE “I hate” statement attributed to God in the WHOLE Bible, and it has nothing to do with the LGBT community.

From the End to the Beginning and Back

It’s the Advent season, and I’m sure many Christian home educating families are sharing stories and lessons about the first Christmas.  We have our own traditions surrounding those lessons, but for school, we stick to our schedule, and our Bible study schedule has us finishing the Gospel of John tomorrow, our last day before break.  It seems strange to be reading and studying about the death and resurrection of Jesus when it’s that time of year to celebrate his birth.  Yet, it feels right somehow.

As my daughters and I have read these familiar words, the circular nature of the story of Christ emerges.  The story starts with a girl named Mary who is willing to be the vessel that carries, nourishes, and bears the Christ-child.  She sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  At the story’s dramatic break, that same teenage girl is grown up and watching her son being crucified.  Another Mary, Mary of Magdala, goes to the tomb to take care of the body of Jesus, only to discover it’s gone.  As the narrative unfolds, the risen Jesus gives her instructions to share this amazing revelation to his disciples:  “I have seen the Lord!”  Yes, the very first witness to the pivotal event in Christian history was a woman.

Mary & Baby Jesus

Mary & Baby Jesus

At the end of the story, the bleeding body of Christ is laid in a tomb, a place of uncleanliness.  At the beginning of the story, the weak and vulnerable newborn Christ is laid in an animal’s feeding trough.

Early in John, Jesus tells Nicodemus during Jesus’s first trip to Jerusalem for Passover after beginning his earthly ministry (of which we have record), “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  After Jesus appears to the disciples the second time, John states that he’s written this whole account so that the reader will believe that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore have real and eternal life.

Jesus’s life ends as a king subjected to the peccadilloes of political maneuverings.  Jesus’s life begins as an infant king threatened by the political maneuverings of a megalomaniacal king.

As we read the resurrection story, we remember that it begins here at Advent.  This Christmas story is the account of God breaking into history in order to send the most perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.  The story is a new kind of history, one where a deity becomes the very thing deserving of condemnation to take that condemnation upon Itself.  God did that for us.  God did not desire to destroy His own creation, so God became a part of that creation in order to die for it.  In doing so, God saved us from our sins.  Jesus was born to die, and died that we might be born again.

Yes! On the Right Track!

Events of the weekend brought to mind this passage from Acts 5*:

33 When they [the members of the Sanhedrin] heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

When someone who is “religious” tells you that speaking the truth is wrong and that preaching the Word of God is wrong, then that tells me I am totally on the right track.  Satan used someone this weekend to try to undermine the message of love that fills the entire Bible; that came to completeness in the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and that, paired with “don’t judge others, ’cause your life is just as messy,” exemplifies how we Christians should live.  It’s small in the realm of persecutions, but it lets me know I’m on the right track, that Satan doesn’t like that message.  So I’m gonna just rock on with preaching this word of God’s love and acceptance for all people; it’s beautifully inclusive.

“I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people…” (Luke 2:10)

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

 

 

*Scripture references are from the New International Version of the Holy Bible.