The Hardest Blog Post Ever

Selfie!

Selfie!

This has been the hardest blog post I have ever tried to write. I have written it over and over and over again. Most recently, I’ve been struggling with how do I communicate with people I love who don’t understand where I’m coming from? How do I put into words the turmoil within my heart, mind and conscience? How do I express that I might disagree with them about politics and religion but that I still love them very much? How do I help them understand why this is so important to me?

I could go on with the questions forever. But, here goes. This is my 1,819,816,116th time of trying to put into words where I’m coming from.

It’s been a complex process, so that is what makes it so tough to boil down into a few paragraphs. Where do I even start? How about here?

Change is painful, but it is always necessary. Change is growth. Comfort is the enemy. Lies are comfortable. Truth is not.

Time to unpack these statements. I hate change with a passion. I love comfort even if I have to live in a fantasy world to achieve it. Sometimes, I don’t want to know the truth. Change is a constant part of life. Not only have I changed, but my world has changed over and over again. Everyone I know has changed in one way or another. We have no control over the advance of time, but, we do have control over whether or not (and how) we let our minds grow and change. Knowledge is change, and knowledge is good. Ignorance kills. Just think of how we’ve advanced in medicine, for instance. Before we knew about germs (when we were ignorant), people died of infections and had all sorts of strange procedures done to them in hopes of curing them. Think leeches here people.

In my own life, I once thought one way, but since experiencing more life, and more pain, I have changed and grown. It’s because I have been forced from my comfort zone that I’ve seen and heard things that have changed me. I think I’m changed for the better. Some might argue, but, that’s not my problem. I want to please everyone. That’s a bad habit I deal with. But, I can’t – so I won’t bother.

The thing is, I have seen, and continue to see, that this election – the election of Donald Trump – threatens the safety and happiness of people I love and care about.

So, what does the election of Donald Trump say to me? It says this — a lot of people are comfortable with racism being a part of the fabric of the United States’ government. This candidate, soon to be president, was the most openly racist candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime (besides George Wallace), and still Christians voted for him. That tells me that they don’t care about racism very much. But, I think Jesus cares.

My Jesus was dark skinned, from the Middle East for starters. I wonder if Jesus were around today, what he might say about Donald Trump? I don’t think that I could look Jesus in the face and explain to him why I voted for Trump, if I had. And, I certainly don’t think I could look him in the face after I’ve elected this man and then gloated about it all over social media and called other people names who are understandably worried.

But, since I’m not Jesus, I have some explaining to do now anyway. You see, up until this election, I had always voted Republican too. I thought just the same way as many of my friends and family do. If things hadn’t changed in my heart and life, I too might very well have voted for DJT. So, I shouldn’t be too hard on anyone else.

I used to think Fox News was a prophetic voice, in line with godliness and right thinking. I used to think that gay people chose to be gay and that they were dishonoring God. I used to think that’s what the Bible said, so there was no arguing with that. I used to think one could love the sinner and hate the sin. I really did. I bought it all, hook, line and sinker. I couldn’t even imagine a Christian voting Democrat. What about all of those unborn babies?

I get it. I do. I still care about unborn babies – in spite of the fact my stance on abortion has changed. I still don’t want to see abortions happen, but I don’t want to outlaw it either. I want to create a society where the need for it would be rare. That is a discussion for a later day, however.

The reason I brought it up is because I want to explain that I do understand where people are coming from, to an extent. But, I have changed. Dramatically.

When you’ve lost your only child, the one you cared for 24-7, day in and day out, and you know what it feels like to have your sunshine go dark, then you will understand the kind of authentic reality you need from God. I can’t follow the same God I once did. I am barely clinging to life as it is – at least that is how it feels. At any moment, I could be swept away into darkness and despair. It’s ever looming over me. That’s why I need a God who is light. I need a God who brings me love, who is real. The God of hate is not real.

I refuse to believe in a God who would teach us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies and care for the least of these, and then turn around and support Donald Trump. Some have even suggested that God chose Trump! I can never believe that. That is not the God I serve.

Jesus is my lord – and I will follow him even if it means I go a different path than every single person I know and love. He is my life raft on this stormy sea. And, I will not close myself off from other people based on who they love, what color their skin is, what religion (if any) they follow. My God loves everyone, and has grace for them all. He is not petty in the least. My God is the one who holds me when I cry myself to sleep and feel that I have nothing to live for. My God is the one who tells me I do still have things to give. My God is also the one who is there in the darkness as a young gay teen cries himself to sleep and wonders if he has anything to live for. We have to be the ones who reach out in Jesus’ name and tell him that he still has things to give, and he is beautiful just the way God made him. My Jesus is also there when a young black man wastes away in prison for the same crime a white man did no time for, and he’s weeping over that situation because it is so unjust. And, we have to be the ones who stand against mass incarceration and throwing people away.

I have overcome a lot of pain in my life by following the Jesus that loves me enough to push me out of my comfort zone into new horizons. I devote my life to following that Jesus, wherever he leads me – to eating with (and loving) gay and atheist friends. I also follow the Jesus who shows up at protests against the systemic racism that threatens the lives of innocent people. My Jesus doesn’t think that black folks are less than white folks and he doesn’t ignore the pain of his children of color when they are threatened. My Jesus will come to their defense, and I will be there with him every step of the way.

(None of these sentiments make me noble. My gay friends and atheist friends honor ME by accepting me the way that I am. I am doing nobody any favors by standing against racism either. That is only common decency. I am still stumbling through life like a lot of people. But, I have to start somewhere.)

A True Example at Standing Rock

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Like many of you, I’ve been following developments in the struggle of Native Americans protestors, also known as Water Protectors, to peacefully resist the building of the North Dakota Access Pipeline through their lands. They have been trying to protect the water from the contamination that pipeline spills bring with them, and to keep the pipeline from desecrating their sacred burial sites and lands.

They have been met with violence, though they have committed no violent acts. They have been seeking help from the government, and people in their struggle. And, they have received help. Most recently, 2000+ veterans of the Armed Forces in our nation have made their way out to Standing Rock, the site of the protests, to help protect the vulnerable Native Water Protectors. I am a veteran, and know one person who was going to go out to participate. After getting information from her, I was privileged to be able to round up some donations and meet with someone so that these supplies could go out to Standing Rock. Being able to do just that one small thing brought me a great amount of joy. It was a significant act for me, because I felt compelled, as I was praying about this situation, to donate my late daughter’s wool poncho to the cause. This is an item that my girl, Amber, wore most of her life because she was wheelchair bound and it was a good way to add warmth since traditional coats were often too bulky to fit her in her chair. My mom got it for her in Mexico. She was wearing it when we took her into the ER the night/day that she passed away. I held onto it for these few years since her death because it felt like I was holding on to her. It was a sacred reminder of Amber’s presence in my life. But, it was now time to let it go, and let it be used for something better than sitting on a shelf. I know that Amber would approve.

Just a few moments ago, I read a story about the veterans at Standing Rock, kneeling before an officer of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and asking for forgiveness for war crimes and genocide committed against native tribes by the U.S. military. What a moment! What a moment of pure godliness. To me, it is a glimpse at what the Kingdom of God should look like – repentance, as John the Baptist preached in the wilderness. The kingdom of God is near, when there is this sort of humble spirit, asking for forgiveness and bearing the fruit of real involvement to try to change the world for the better. The offer of forgiveness was accepted by the tribes there, and then the tribes asked for forgiveness for any hurt caused by the Great Sioux Nation’s victory over the 7th Cavalry.

The entire article can be found here, and it is amazing.
Veterans at Standing rock shock tribe members

Out of the struggle, out of the ugliness that has been thrown at people who just want to protect their homes, comes beauty. The pinnacle of this event came, IMO, when all who were there, veterans and tribe members, joined in crying out for “World Peace!” Yes, Lord, we cry for peace in this world.

Sometimes, the people who claim they stand for the Kingdom of God look a lot less like Jesus than the people who don’t claim it, but show by their actions that they understand what the kingdom should look like. It should look like this – a place where people are brothers and sisters even though they may have different ethnic, religious or national backgrounds. We are all one in God’s kingdom, where there is neither man nor woman, Jew nor Greek nor slave or free. In the kingdom of God, nobody is an illegal immigrant. All are welcome. In the kingdom, nobody wants to take away another’s right to life or happiness even if it means lining their own pockets. In the kingdom of God, the Earth is respected and cared for. In the Kingdom, there are no political parties and no jockeying for power over others. Because in the kingdom, the last shall be first, the master is the servant, and Jesus’ face is found in the least of these. There are no enemies in the kingdom, only people who are loved.

Thank you, veterans, for your fine example of what true heroism looks like. Thank you, for showing the world what America should stand for (or kneel for)- for righteousness, for justice and a quest for peace. I have never been more proud to be a veteran than I am now. God bless this nation, in the face of what many (and I am one) see as an impending federal government focused on money, power and self protection. May we work together to show those who have lost their way, that there is a better road to travel. We travel the road of peace toward the kingdom of Heaven. We travel with the Prince of Peace, whose grace rains down upon all people, even the ones we might not approve of. Let’s work to make this kingdom of God shine brighter than any nation ruled by greed, or corruption. May we stand, with love in our hearts, hand in hand with our brothers and sisters, to stand up for their rights, peacefully, but, truly. Let us not grow weary in doing GOOD. Let us remember what goodness really is, by looking at the life of Christ, and his death. Make a way for him this Christmas, by throwing off the dead works of darkness and shining together for something better.

Thankful for Perspective

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Recently, I’ve struggled with sadness. Holidays always bring some sadness as I miss my daughter. But, this year, there’s something else that has been weighing me down. Someone I love and admire is moving away. Yeah, I am a mushy person and this has been bumming me out. I’m going to miss her.

Last night, however, as the sad thoughts of my friend and Amber move in on my emotions, I pray for help. Within a moment, I am given a new perspective and wonder why I didn’t think of it before. Instead of being sad because a special time is ending, I should be thankful that I had the special time in the first place. The reason I have the sorrow about something ending (or seeming to end), is because previously, I had been blessed so greatly with such love, such goodness and awesome fellowship. Now, change is coming and you know what? If nothing had ever changed in my life, I would have never had my awesome daughter, and I’d never have met the wonderful person whose presence I will miss for a time.

I came to the realization that I had to ask for forgiveness from God for looking at things from a negative perspective, when in reality, I had been blessed. All of life is a journey and a transition. Instead of bemoaning what is in the past, I really need to embrace what is ahead. What is now my past was once my future.

This isn’t to say that I won’t still miss Amber. I will. But, looking at things through the lens of thankfulness, I have a weight lifted. One of the greatest things in my life has been the joy of discovery, and of having my mind expand and my experiences grow.

I feel so blessed to have had a daughter with a smile like the sun and a laugh like music. And that hasn’t ended, it’s just gone somewhere else for awhile. Amber is safe. Amber is free. That’s a great thing.

I have been blessed with having known such special people in my life, but when life changes and I, or they, move on, I have to see it as a chance for rejoicing, not sorrow. I rejoice that I’ve known them closely, and that even if there is distance between us now, love does not die, or diminish.

I thank God for helping me gain a new perspective this year. Maybe this will be the year that I can finally put up that Christmas tree again.

I Am Thankful for Myself

meKYes, that sounds quite arrogant. Have I gone over the edge? Perhaps.

On Facebook, I’ve been trying to focus on what I am thankful for as a way of fighting the fearful and depressing feelings I could fall into given the state of our world. I’ve shared the typical things – thankful for family, friends and nature.

But, today, I’ve gone off the deep end and am sharing that I am thankful for myself. To people who don’t know me, that might sound haughty. But, to people who do know me, it’s a step I have not taken in life before. So, bear with me.

I have never been able to say this, growing up in a world that places little, if any, value on female life.

But, through the support and leadership of other women, through counseling and being open (or maybe desperate) enough to look for reasons to love myself, I am starting to see that I do have value. I have been given talents, a disposition, and uniqueness that make me someone who brings good things into the world. And, I have chosen to use what I’ve been given to try to make the world better. I have survived a lot of sadness and trauma, and I have not given up. I have been blessed with the ability to see the injustices others suffer, and to care about them.

This is not to say I don’t have flaws. I do, like everyone.

But, in this life, where I’ve been taught to hate myself, I realize that this is a sin. For, if I am to love my neighbor as I love myself, then what will happen to my neighbor if I hate myself? Nothing good, that’s for sure. At the very least, I will feel disempowered to help my neighbor and at the worst, I might even harm my neighbor. So, loving myself and being thankful for my life and my being is not the same thing as pride. It is, in fact, a God-given ability, for you see, God loves me. So, why shouldn’t I love myself?

This year, as I’m thinking of the things I am thankful for, I will have to add “myself” to that list. Thank you, God for making me the capable, loving, strong, kind, creative person that I am, and thank you that you are constantly working to help me not only recover from the harms dealt me by the past (and a society of patriarchy), but you are helping me find ways that I can stand up against the sorts of things that condition others to devalue themselves. That is something to be thankful for.

Lords and Masters — or Servants?

washing-feetThis is what seems evident to me — Donald Trump’s rise to power is the result of Christians wanting to be masters instead of servants. For so long now, the church of the United States has wanted to run the country and make sure it runs by their rules. But, is this quest for power really what God wants for his church?

When I read the Bible, and I get to the teachings of Jesus, they look nothing like the church of today, at least a major portion of the church that seems intent on clinging to political power. I see no love in this church at all. I don’t see people making sure they have taken the logs out of their own eyes while trying to get a speck out of the eyes of “sinners.”

Oh, they will accept sinners within their doors (or how else would they get in?). But, only certain kinds of sinners (ones with church-approved sins like gossip or gluttony). They will even let greedy people in without so much as batting an eye at them. In fact, many follow the greedy, preachers who build up wealth for themselves on Earth and teach others that all they have to do is name and claim wealth and they’ll have it because God wants them all to have big houses and fancy cars.

But, they will by no means accept those they deem to be beneath them – ones who don’t follow the spoken and unspoken laws like those who are gay, transgender, questioning who they are, those who aren’t sure what they really think about God, those with doubts, those who are poor and on welfare (because those folks are lazy) or liberals.

I don’t remember Jesus ever turning people away. I don’t remember reading that Jesus had any condemning words for anyone, except for the self-righteous who claimed to know the truth of God but cared nothing for others. So, when God judges our nation, our church, just what sin do you think he’ll judge it for? Sex sins? Abortion? Or, do you think it just might be he’ll judge the nation for being vengeful, corrupt, unjust, and unloving? Will he judge the church for completely ignoring the teachings of Christ about loving enemies, loving neighbors (and that’s everyone), ignoring the “least of these” and becoming completely irrelevant?

What did Jesus tell his disciples to do? Didn’t he want them to proclaim that the Kingdom is at hand? Didn’t he want them to fish for people? Didn’t he tell them to follow him? Making disciples doesn’t mean forcing people to believe, it means teaching them, like Christ taught his disciples, about what God really requires of us, what God really offers the world, and what love really looks like.

Why are we so focused on gaining power in this world? Why are we trying to force man-made rules that we say are God’s rules, and not caring about the souls or hearts of people who need God’s love? Why are we known for who we don’t love rather than for loving all people? Things have gotten so twisted, it seems. Our focus has become so narrow. You say it’s loving to be honest and call sin what it is. It’s not our job to convict people of sin (that’s the Holy Spirit’s job). How loved do you feel when someone constantly points out what they think you are doing wrong? Is it such a terrible thing to let go of the reins of the world and let God have them? I never will forget the day I wanted to argue with someone about God, thinking I was doing God some big favor by “defending” him and I felt him put a hand over my mouth and say, “I don’t need you to argue for me. I’m big enough to take care of myself. This person needs a friend.”

I’ve been told that I pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe – by the very same people who are picking and choosing to somehow focus on a few verses in scripture that seem to condemn homosexuality, to the exclusion of the teachings of Christ, the teachings about love from Corinthians and the letters of John, among other numerous passages about loving others, not seeking revenge, being content, and being humble. I admit I pick and choose. I choose the words, teachings and example of Jesus, and I try to use that as a lens to view the rest of scripture. I follow Jesus who broke the rules about the Sabbath, and taught that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. I follow the Jesus who washes feet and eats with sinners. Focusing on rule-keeping is not abundant life. It offers no light to the world. Why do we sing about a loving God on Sundays, and then turn around and condemn people on Mondays?

Think about it, pray about it, and ask yourself, “Am I wanting to control and be a master over people? Or, do I seek to serve God and love my neighbor as I love myself? Whose feet would I wash?”

Fear is the Beginning…

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Fear has been one of my most-suffered, longest-lived companions over the course of my life. It’s a weight that has made everything more difficult. I feel it so constantly that I am not sure what it feels like to not have it. I would love to know.

(Be warned, my friends who are not believers — this is another post about God. I can’t help it. That’s where my thoughts go. Please do not be offended by what you read. I mean no disrespect to you or your ideas.)

But, as I was unloading the dishwasher (the best ideas come while doing chores it seems), it hit me.
I can be free of fear, and fear is not something God wants me to have. As I stood there, stacking plates, I remembered how the Bible says that the only one anyone should fear is God, because nobody else can mess with, or change, your eternal life or destiny. And, then, my mind remembered how it says in Proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7). And, then I remembered all of the times some supernatural being (either Jesus or angels) said, “Fear not…” I remember Jesus saying “Peace be with you” and I remember how 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear. I puzzled for a few moments over what seems to be an inconsistency. Does God want me to fear or not?

Then it hit me that the verse in Proverbs says that fear of God is the BEGINNING of Wisdom. The BEGINNING. I realized that it is right to be in fear, or in awe of God, and it is wise. It’s wise to recognize his holiness, majesty, mystery, might, power and awesomeness. But then, as you journey on, you see that even though he has ultimate power and authority, his purpose in interacting with us (unless we are being total evil monsters who need scaring) is not to terrify us, but to bring us peace and love.

Now, there are people who should fear (as I alluded to up there ^^).

John 3:19-21 Common English Bible (CEB)

19 “This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. 20 All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. 21 Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.”

James 2:19

It’s good that you believe that God is one. Ha! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble with fear.

But, for people who love God, there is no reason to fear. Faith is what we use to drive it away because we know God has made us his children.

Romans 8:15

You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Remembering all of this gives me peace, re-ignites my faith and helps me stand and face things that would make me tremble otherwise. I was once told, years ago, by a dear lady who worked at my Army Public Affairs Office, that I was the strongest person she knew. I remember being so shocked because I do not feel strong at all. And there is where I realized that God is bigger than my fears, and he shines through me as strong, even when I am feeling so very weak and afraid. I trust that God will continue to do this – and that I will someday feel what it is like to have a day free from the feeling of fear. No matter what I feel, though, I KNOW that I am not a slave to fear. I am God’s child. Fear should be afraid of me.

Do These Politicians REALLY Believe?

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I have been so upset by what I see happening around me in the news, and even more by the responses of people to the tragedies. I’ve argued, raged, cried and begged people to see another view, to consider the feelings of others, to listen, but I feel like it’s useless. Maybe it is. Maybe the only thing that will rescue a people from an oppressive government are laws to make people be decent.

My mind keeps going back to the fact that politicians LOVE to use God in election campaigns. They love God, God loves them and what they stand for, God, God, God. This is a Christian nation they say. It was founded on Christian principles. But, I really do not know what God they are talking about, because so many of their positions look NOTHING like the ones that Jesus espoused while walking the Earth, as recorded in Scripture. It’s almost as if they think Jesus is just too naive when it comes to running things. But, if you are a Christian then aren’t you supposed to believe that Jesus is God? Who better to know how to run things than God? If you believe in God then you realize God has been running things forever.

But, no. They claim God so they can have some sort of “holy” stamp of approval on the terrible, vicious things they believe. They don’t believe in loving enemies, as Jesus taught. They believe in killing them. They don’t believe in turning the other cheek, they believe in the annihilation of all opposition. Forgiveness? They haven’t got a clue what that means. Caring for the poor, the least of these, love for all, that kind of talk just gives them fits. When Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan as an example of who is our neighbor (the ones we are supposed to love like we love ourselves), these “godly” seekers of power choke on their caviar. Jesus taught the parable about the rich man and Lazarus, where Lazarus, the poor man with sores all over him, lays outside of the gates of the rich man’s estate, begging for crumbs. The rich man eats and is satisfied, giving no thought to the suffering poor man outside his gates. After they both die, the poor man is taken to the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man goes to a place of torment. Abraham tells the suffering rich man that he had his good things in mortal life, while Lazarus suffered. Now, Lazarus has comfort, and the rich man is begging for a drip of water. Wonder how that story goes over at some high-powered political prayer breakfasts.

But, no, this is a Christian nation. This nation, which is seriously thinking of electing a man who encourages violence against enemies, talks about destroying even the families of suspected terrorists, wants to kick Muslims out of the country (when I was a stranger, you welcomed me?) just looks the other way and acts as if this politician is somehow holy because he’s Republican.

And, then there is the little (or rather HUGE) problem of racism in this country. How, in our wildest dreams, do we think we can look Jesus in the eye while people of color are being terrorized and killed by police with no repercussions while the white people (the people of privilege and power in this nation) sit back and refuse to even consider that the powerful police forces might be wrong?

I sound angry. Yeah. I am. I suppose I’m angry at myself at the bottom of all of this. I’m angry that for so long I didn’t see how blind and privileged I was. When I’m holding the baby of a black Army colleague and he tells me to be careful who sees me, I am surprised that it would be an issue. He knows better. He lives it day by day. When I hear that another Army friend, a man of darker skin, is heckled and assaulted with beer bottles just for having the audacity to take his Army camera to take pictures at Darlington Speedway, I can’t believe my ears at the tale. Sad thing is, he wasn’t surprised but he was hurt. He had a right to be there, same as anyone else.

And, as I hear story after story from my good friends of color (who, by the way, are not thugs, lowlifes, or disposable) I get angrier and angrier because I am seeing things that they live with daily. And, it is not right. And, what is worse than that is seeing the denial and deflection done by white Americans when faced with even the clearest of facts. This is a racist country. We need to change that. Just because black people are not slaves anymore doesn’t mean they are treated equally. Just because we have a black president doesn’t mean that all racial injustice has disappeared. Far from it. It feels like it has intensified because there has been a black president that people of racist inklings cannot endure.

We are a Christian nation? We were founded on Christian principles? Do you know that many white supremacist groups claim to be Christian? But, this nation was founded on people of white skin proclaiming they are godly, while all the while enslaving, brutalizing, and destroying the lives of black people and natives. People used the Bible to justify that slavery, in spite of the fact that Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves. Our forefathers must have really HATED themselves based on their treatment of non-white folks as they built their empires on the sweat, blood and tears of oppressed people.

This country has never looked like the kingdom of heaven that we, who are Christians, pray about constantly – “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” So, in heaven, we’re going to have racism? In heaven, we are going to kill people we fear? In heaven, it’s okay to rob the poor and get richer and richer, ignoring the cries of the needy? Hmmmm. That’s not my idea of heaven. So, when are we going to start being an answer to the prayers we pray – because as it is, our words are empty and meaningless.

Perhaps it is time for people to just admit that they don’t really think Jesus had such great ideas after all. Or, maybe, hopefully, they can actually think about what it means to live in step with Christ’s teachings in the real world. I believe Jesus was the ultimate authority and expert on how a government should be run, and I think the world would be better if we followed those teachings. As it is now, I would much rather spend time and put faith in people who are atheists and who live the teachings of Jesus anyway by their service to others and their common decency, than I want to spend time with people who claim Jesus with their lips but deny him with their lives.

If you’re a Christian, then act like it. Vote like it. Live in step with Christ’s teachings. Otherwise, maybe you need to examine your lives – because when I think of anti-Christ, this is what comes to mind – those who claim Jesus, but live completely opposite of what Jesus stands for. I’ve had enough of that stuff. How about you?

Do You Realize?

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Do you realize, Christians, how hypocritical we look when we support Donald Trump for president? Do you really think this tells the world that Jesus is Lord of our lives? Do you really think it is shedding light in the world and testifying to the love of Jesus?

That Christians would overlook the many offensive things Donald Trump has said, his sinful lifestyle, his unapologetic love of violence, and actual praise of torture and attacks against innocent family members of supposed terrorists, is nothing short of scandalous. Do you really believe Jesus condones the leadership of Donald Trump? Do you really feel as if Jesus approves of your hypocrisy? How can we ever expect non-Christians to take anything we have to say seriously when we condemn others for the same, exact things Donald Trump does?

Or have we forgotten who Jesus is and what he stands for? Do we really feel the Sermon on the Mount is just a nice suggestion? Do we think that loving enemies means we torture them and bomb their families?

When we pray “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” how can we do that if we support a political despot like Donald Trump? God’s kingdom is not about being a bully. It’s not about building a wall to keep people out. It is about building bridges to help people cross, and opening doors so they can come inside and find the love of Christ that they need.

How can you say you are the light of the world when you embrace such darkness? If Hitler were a Republican, would you support and vote for him? Would you call it your Christian duty? How many Christians supported Hitler? How many Christians support torture, the annihilation of Muslims, the hatred of the “other?” How many of us embrace a philosophy that the other is not fully human and therefore disposable?

Why are Christians so concerned with protecting themselves, via a bully president, a huge military, a big old wall on the border (like the Berlin Wall?), and being armed to the teeth? Is that what Jesus told us to be concerned about? Did he not become our example and lay down his life for those he loved? Did he not forgive the very ones who were torturing and executing him and blaming him for all of their own wrongs?

How are we reaching out to the least of these? Why isn’t this our priority? Why is hate and being “right” and “protecting our freedom” more important than actually following the example of Jesus? When we exclude the least of these, we are excluding Christ. When we bomb the least of these, are we bombing Jesus? Ask him that question and be prepared for the answer. Are we actually torturing our Lord and Savior when we do it to people we think are our enemies?

Do we even know what the Bible says anymore? Do we think the entire thing says, “thou shalt not be gay? thou shalt not be Muslim? Thou shalt not be un-American?”

It breaks my heart to see how Christianity is drenching the name of God in the slime of anger, fear and self-righteousness. Ask yourself, if Jesus came back today would he even know you? If you say to him, Lord, Lord, and he says, “Away from me, I never knew you?” would you unfriend him? Would you even understand why?

I pray our hearts will break with the heart of Jesus. I pray we can remember the Jesus who ate with sinners, had deep conversation with and about Samaritans, healed unclean lepers, and whose harshest condemnation was for those who thought they were so righteous they didn’t need him. Is that what our church has become? So righteous we don’t need Jesus, the friend of sinners?

You do realize that Jesus made himself nothing, took on our sin and became one of us, right? He didn’t hold himself separately apart and point fingers. He touched people. He loved people. He washed feet. Can we justify our self-righteous condemnation of other people we won’t let near us and call that love? Can we really look Jesus in the face and explain why we felt we were superior to other people to the point of driving them away from Him?

Philippians 2 (CEB) Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, 2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.

Tell me — when was the last time you emptied yourself and laid your privilege down on the ground and took up your cross? It’s not too late to do it now.

My Prayer

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I’ve written about this before — I have changed a LOT since the days of my youth, even from a few years ago. Something that had been stirring in me for a long time was released after Amber died. I stopped caring what other people thought of the choices I made. I needed to find choices I could live with. I will always have faith in God. That will never, ever change. But, I had to make peace with the fact that I need God to be someone I can like and love. I realized that nobody knows everything about God. We all interpret God the way we want to. We all accept or reject ideas that we choose to. I feel God every day in my heart. I feel strength, power, love, and encouragement, among other things. But, using my mind is not something that threatens God or my faith. It enhances it. When I am free to love people without worrying that God doesn’t approve of who I care about, then I rejoice. Then, I realize God loves those same people. So, I’ve turned to a way of life that seeks to break down walls, to embrace love, to turn from fear, to turn from pride, and to humbly walk with God and others.

This has caused me to embrace and support the following: Equal rights for LGBTQ people, Black Lives Matter, examination of our justice system in regards to race and profiling, examination of our prison system and unfair sentencing that has created basically a new form of slavery for black people, more racial and gender diversity in media, breaking down stereotypes of blacks and women, feminism, the tearing down of our rape culture, anti-bullying measures, compassion for the poor, compassion for all immigrants, the rejection of hatred toward Muslims, blacks, gay, transgender or any other marginalized group and a rejection of the notion that Christians are in any way persecuted in our country, especially over something as trivial as holiday greetings.

I also reject the notion that it is an infringement of the rights of Christians that our society also allows freedoms for people who do not agree with Christianity, or some peoples’ brand of Christianity. I also reject the blind acceptance of gun culture, the NRA and the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that encourages people to fearfully collect as many, and as powerful of weaponry as possible. I reject the idea that I am supposed to trust these “good” people with guns just because they say they are good. I reject the notion that white people can open carry and black people cannot without risking their lives. I do not think anyone should be able to open carry – or concealed carry – weapons in public, unless they are on designated hunting lands, are law enforcement or military, work in security, and/or have some other legitimate professional need to have these weapons. I support gun laws identical to those in Australia. I reject all arguments that say we cannot implement these measures.

I also believe that there has been too much violence and bloodshed in the world. I believe that police, in far too many instances, have become judge, jury and executioner and get away with it simply because they “feared” for their lives, when in fact, they are paid to protect and put their lives at risk. They are supposed to be the heroes, not the villains. I have heard the stories of too many wonderful black friends to hide my eyes to the truth of racial profiling and rampant racism that exists in this country. Some would say I’ve become a flaming liberal. But, I have to follow my conscience, and listen to people – people who know. Black people know what they are going through and no white person should try to tell them differently. Women know what they go through and no man should try to tell them differently. I have lost a child. Nobody except someone else who has lost a child can really understand that, nor should they try to tell me how I should feel or what is true about a situation that they have not been in.

I believe that the answer to seeking justice is not to become violent, so I reject any retaliation against police that isn’t done in the courts. But, by that same token, there is something very wrong with our judicial system that allows police such leniency in situations where they have wrongfully killed, detained, injured, or humiliated citizens. There needs to be better accountability.

I called this post My Prayer, and I have rambled on about so many things. But, I wanted to build a foundation for what I’m about to pray in writing. And here it is:

Lord, My Father and Mother, My Friend and Savior, Spirit Divine,

I pray that you would tear down anything in my heart that causes division between me and another person. I pray that you take away any pride or feelings of superiority that might dwell in my heart unwittingly. I pray that you cleanse me of the culturally, socially, historically built-in privilege that might cause me to treat another person unfairly, and to turn my back on the sufferings and injustices that others face.

My dear, loving God, I pray that you would help me love as you do. I pray that you will take away all fear and anything that would have me turn to a weapon, a political party, a cultural icon, a friend, a way of life, a flag, for refuge, before I turn to you. I pray that you will guide my steps as I interact with people who do not agree with me, and who may find my ideas challenging or even offensive. Help us to find ways to communicate and understand that will honor you and build bridges between us.

Help me to honor the least of these as if they were you, Jesus, my friend and savior. Help me to be willing to lay down my life, not just for a friend, but for a neighbor, even if that neighbor happens to be gay, or a Samaritan, or black, or Muslim, or Republican. Help me find joy in serving others.

Lord, save me from any smug self assurance in my own goodness. But, at the same time, help me to appreciate who you made me to be. Help me to value my own uniqueness. Help me to not feel shame. Help me to not be bullied into silence. Help me to stand up for myself, and for those I feel who are wrongfully misused. Help me not to be my own worst enemy. Help me to stop talking to myself with insults that I would never say to someone else. Help me to embrace the fact that I am not perfect, and that is okay. Help me not to see failure or mistakes as mortal, unforgivable sins, but as stepping stones to growth.

Lord, help me learn more, and overcome the nagging anxiety and fear that is my constant companion. Help me to wrap myself in the refuge that is you, and to tell myself the good things about myself, and about you, that will build me up and heal me.

Lord, heal the pain of the past, past trauma, past abuse, past shame. Heal me and help me to be an agent of healing in the world. Help me to love others without feeling the driving need to please everyone. Help me to not apologize for having thoughts of my own, or for disagreeing with someone.

Lord – thank you. Thank you for giving me all of the wonderful experiences I have had in life. Thank you for the good and bad – that have taught me, and molded me into me. Thank you for all of the wonderfully unique individuals you have put in my life and I pray that they will see themselves honestly, as unique, wonderful masterpieces, who are also works in progress just like me. I thank you for the beauty of diversity. I thank you for the spectacular wonder of our various shades of skin, textures of hair, facial features, and cultures. I thank you that you have given us the chance to get to know one another and to love each other. I pray we will take every opportunity to lay aside prejudices, learned bigotry and fear, and just look into the eyes of one another with appreciation and honesty.

Lord, I pray we can one day have a world where we can all celebrate the differences, and build a society that is built on love, mutual cooperation, and a knowledge of truth that is not threatened by questions, disagreements or varied life experiences.

Thank you for giving me the chance to serve my country in the Army, for letting me be an Army journalist and letting me see the world. I thank you for giving me a creative, sweet husband, who is humble enough to also believe in equal rights for all people, and thank you for my daughter Amber. Thank you for giving me 23 years with her, for teaching me so much through her spirit that shone brighter than her disability (or maybe because of it) and that still is teaching me and others even after she has gone on to be with you.

Thank you for creativity, for letting us be a part of the joy of creation. What joy you must have felt, and still feel, as you create, and to think that you allow us to know what that feels like. Help me to use whatever talent, energy, skill and knowledge to glorify you and to help make the world better in whatever small way I can. Thank you for the creative people you have put in my life, because I never feel more alive than when I am with people who are creating.

Now, I pray that anyone reading this will be blessed and not turned away by the fact that I am different than they are. Some who read may not believe in you, and that is all right. I respect that choice and I know you do too. Some may believe in you in a different way. Some may think my stance on social issues is wrong and misguided. Lord, that is okay. I love them. And, I know you do too. Only let us respect one another.

In the name of Jesus I pray – Amen.