Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pushing Pause...

There is an appointed time for everything. 

And there is a time for every event under heaven--

Ecclesiastes 3:1

I've been going through a season of angst the past two months as I had been pushing myself to finish the manuscript of Dandelion Winds and get it done for a mothers day launch. Until God got my attention.
Confession: since Thanksgiving when I "determined" to muscle through getting the thing finished before Dec 31.  I have been alternating between bouts of depression and anxiety that takes my breathe away and saps my strength.  I have literally fallen asleep as I type from mental and physical exhaustion.  It has not been joyful. His spirit has felt quenched and I have felt far from God. 

  First. I have learned that this "date" was not His idea. It was mine. I wanted so much to achieve this goal and be DONE with this book...honestly I have felt ashamed that it has taken me so long. But, writing to avoid shame, check a self imposed box on my to-do-list or even to keep up with my beloved and gifted writer friends should not be my "why" for writing. 

 God is showing me that He has his own time table for this book and I am not to try to force it into my own time frame. 

Several writer friends have asked why I haven't at least attempted to go the traditional publishing route with this book. (To at least discern IF God has opened any doors here) Here are my reasons...

 1. I assume a book contract is like finding a needle in a haystack.  (God has been dealing with me on my unbelief) 

2. I want it to be done NOW! (God has been speaking to me of the value of excellence and His timing...not speed and a "check the box" mentality. 

 3. Fear of failing. Which we might as well label correctly as PRIDE. Ugh!

  The other "sign" that I have been running ahead of God:  I have been feeling very uneasy as I rush to "get through" my first edit. I see so much that needs to be tweaked. So many "holes" that I believe God wants to fill. So much nuance that I missed as I rushed to finish the manuscript.  So many grey areas that I know He would speak to if I were still enough to listen. Had I been writing at the turtle pace that I had been, maybe I wouldn't have so many holes?

I recognize that somewhere along the line,  I got out of God's rhythm of grace. He is no slave driver yet I was pushing myself as if He was. This was not of Him.  I don't believe He is in the same rush as I am to "get-er-done"  

He is building up His platform and building my relationships with friends gay and straight who don't translate Gods word the same way I do.  I think He wants us to get to a point of truly trusting each other's hearts. Even as we choose to remain rooted to our respective faith convictions about God's design for sexuality. This type of trust doesn't happen overnight. 

So, I am taking a big breath and a big leap of faith and I am slowing down to listen to His voice. To "push pause" and see if I have missed anything He would say in this book. 

Next month,  I am going to the Writers Advance Boot Camp at the Cove in Asheville,NC.  I will become a better student of the craft of writing and continue to pursue this work with excellence. I will, with great fear and trembling, pitch my book to Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and see what they think.  I will learn, and grow into an even better writer. For Him.

That said, I Understand that a Mother's day launch will not happen unless God does a miracle.  For now,  I know I am to pitch it, as God directs, to the publishers he puts in my path and continue to write this story within the rhythms of His grace.

I so appreciate your prayers.

How about you?   Tell me about a time you needed to Push Pause ...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Come As You Are - Guest Blogger, Sonja Faith Lund

Since I have returned from the Gay Christian Network Conference I have been spending time both thinking/writing about my own experiences there and reading  those of my fellow attendees.  Today I want you to hear from Sonja Faith Lund, a beautiful soul and precious follower of Jesus.  I pray her message will inspire us to be mindful of the secret burdens that those sitting next to us in our church pews may be carrying...May the church, one day,  be a place where ALL are truly welcome to Come as You Are!    Read On...

On David Crowder's song; Come As You Are...Listen To 'Come As You Are'   

"Okay so let me talk about this song for a minute. It's gorgeous.

It's one of the first songs we sang in a general session at the GCN Conference, and I was tearing up (pretty sure everyone was) and for me, it wasn't just because it's a stunning song that had words which seemed to reach out to me personally and grab my attention:

"Oh wanderer, come home/you're not too far/so lay down your hurt/lay down your heart/come as you are”

No, the reason I'm still thinking about this song over a week later is related to a phrase that pops up in American Christian circles a fair bit:

 "Church (or Christianity) should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." 

Essentially, if your life is relatively stable, things are going good, church should encourage you to go outside of yourself and help others. If you're unstable, suffering, mourning, etc., church should be where you get respite from your pain and encouragement to keep going.

My whole time in Washington, so most of my life, my family attended a church in a wealthy part of the city. Because it could be safely assumed that most of us in the congregation were privileged and doing alright for ourselves, the sermons and such skewed much more toward the "afflicting the comfortable" approach. Which is fine, I suppose, until there's folks like me who quietly slide from "comfortable" to "afflicted". Folks like me who realize one day that their own church, and hundreds of millions of fellow Christians, don't want them just as they are, and have to deal with that exhausting emotional mess. 

 I'm finding myself surrounded--not just by the church where I grew up, but a lot of places--by the message that I should be Going Out There and Doing the Lord's Work when all I want is a community which will stand by me and assure me that everything is going to be okay. I don't need a push out the door, I need welcoming arms beckoning me inside.

So then here's this conference, and here's this song. This song which says nothing about preparing you to go be a missionary or join the Peace Corps or whatever, but instead just gently assures you that there is a home for you and you can go there and find rest. I needed this so much. So very, very much.”    
                                                          -Sonja Faith Lund


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wonder of Winter - Job 38:29

Photo by Kim Dent

“From whose womb has come the ice?

And the frost of heaven,

 who has given it birth?”
~Job 38:29

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Path of Love

This morning I woke up wondering what this morning would bring.  I wasn't uneasy or fearful...just expectant.  I am on the 3rd day of the amazing Gay Christian Network Conference  We have heard inspiring and courageous voices such as Danny Cortez and Jeff Chu and over 1400 people have worshipped God, shared meals and shared our stories.  It has been an amazing time of humility and growth and compassion.  God is moving and God has been honored here in beautiful ways.

So when I heard that some christian brothers and sisters from Westboro Baptist Church were planning on picketing our gathering this morning, I felt sad. Sad for them, that they have not experienced the community that comes from God's diverse and beloved children coming together to worship Him. Sad that they feel a need to be here. Sad that they have "missed it" in so many ways.

When they picket this morning, they will in essence be picketing the unconditional love and grace of God.  Oh if only they had God's eyes to truly see.  

But that is not the end of the story...  When local churches heard about the picket, they organized to come this morning to the convention center and form what they called a "Wall of Love" separating the attendees from the picketers and lovingly welcoming the attendees in. Providing them safe passage into God's "grace place."

Funny how this wall of love turned out to be also a Path of Peace as hundreds of local church members, moms and allies lined the sidewalks and provided a way in from the rain and the cold and hate.
local churches and GCN parents and allies form a path of love to shield attendees from westboro 

But wait, it gets even better!  After about 45 minutes of standing together in the rain as the ugly chants and songs from the westboro gang assaulted and wounded my LGBT brothers and sisters there arose a new song...coming from the community of peace that stood in defiant love for All Gods children...."We are one in the spirit. We are one in the Lord...and they'll know we are Christians by our love."   As our song rose to the heavens it began to drown out the obnoxious warbling of the westboro brethren... and then God showed up.

All at once, the sun peeked through the steel grey skies and slowly, like a sunrise, He gave his children...all of us, A beautiful rainbow and our eyes and hearts were lifted to heaven in a holy moment of awe and peace and wonder.

Here's a question to ponder....Is the love you are showing in your churches, communities and workplaces a wall or a path?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Elective Heart Surgery

Recently my Dad made the decision to have open heart surgery to repair multiple blockages he has endured for the past 20 years.  God has been graciously lenient as He has allowed my Dad free will to choose life with a defective, blocked heart rather than face the ominous unknown of open heart surgery. Truly God has protected his precious life awaiting Dad's "change of heart"

by vampiregirl66
My Dad could have chosen to live with his heart blockages for the rest of his days until a heart attack or stroke finally killed him,  crippled him or taken the choice out of his hands.  But, It became increasingly evident to Dad and to all of us that unless he had the surgery, he would likely not live out the year.   My Dad had to  face the fact that living with a serious heart blockage wasn't really living at all. 

My Dad's delayed heart surgery mimics the journey of faith many of us have been on... We can be content to  live a half life within our comfort zones. Stubbornly insisting we are FINE while the plaque of bitterness, pride, shame or fear slowly kills our joy and flatlines our faith.
I had lived years with a heart blockage of spiritual pride and a  judgmental spirit. Until my own daughter's face took the place of the faceless, nameless ones I had been unconsciously stoning from the comfort of my climate controlled pew.

When my daughter came out, God presented me with an opportunity for an elective heart surgery of my own.  Spiritual heart surgery.  I was afraid. I was way out of my comfort zone. I was bewildered and angry and  wasn't entirely sure I would survive the grief.  I put it off again and again, trying to figure it all out and "fix her"   But eventually I realized that the burden I carried for my precious one to "be straight" was like a heart blockage. I realized it would eventually kill my relationship with my precious daughter, kill my joy, my faith and eventually snuff out Kait's faith as well. This need to control and to fix my daughter had to be cut out. I am an incredibly poor substitute for the Holy Spirit!   I finally brought my own sins of spiritual pride and a judgmental spirit and checked in  to the throne room of my great Physician, Jesus.

He has relieved me of my burden, assuring me that He carries my beloved and he carries me.  He is Creator and He is in control. Not me.  He has not miraculously made my daughter straight but he, like a gifted surgeon, performed  the more urgent work and it happened to be on my own stubborn heart.  Jesus removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh.

I have been through some difficult rehab. I have had to confess and repent of the lies that I had believed about gay people as a whole.  It hasn't been easy or comfortable. but Oh, has it been worth it!

 I am living with a fully functioning heart! Joy and peace is restored and flowing  unencumbered.  I am finally free to embrace and love my daughter, her partner and all humanity with a love that chooses not to label anyone. For He, in His mercy, has not labeled me.   No longer living a half life, my spiritual heart blockage has been cleared.  Oh what a difference when our hearts work the way our Creator intended!

How about you?  Have you experienced a season where God needed to work on some issues in your own heart?  Is allowing Jesus to have access to your heart frightening to you? why or why not?  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Spread Some Unity!

Gearing up to head to Portland for the Gay Christian Network Conference!  I am excited, expectant and a little anxious as I will be sharing at a breakout session on Friday with some parents who are at various stages of having a child come out to them.  Here is a sneak peak at the breakout...

Parents Like UsPresented by Betsy & Tom Henning

Betsy & Tom Henning
This workshop is for parents who love God and their LGBT children. Our journeys are similar as we strive to reconcile our Christian faith with our children’s sexual orientations, but our individual situations differ. Come and hear from parents who have learned to love unconditionally and have found peace in Christ while supporting, encouraging, and parenting their LGBT children. Connect in small groups with parents whose paths may be similar to your own.
Tom and Betsy Henning live in Pennsylvania and have 4 grown sons. “Sixteen years ago our 24-year-old son came out to us; it rocked our conservative Christian world. It did not shake our faith, but it shook the traditions we held dear. Through this journey alongside our gay son, our faith has grown bigger, deeper, and stronger. We found solid spiritual footing with God’s help and the help and support of parents like us.”

 I  would sure appreciate your prayers for me and all the folks attending. For the love, peace and unity of Christ to be tangibly felt among all of us, even in our diversity.  #unity  #dandelionwinds  #TogetherAtTheTable

I will be trying to post when I can but if you want to catch some of the keynote speakers, and you should!  Go to  the Gay Christian link above and get info on live streaming! There will be so many amazing speakers and messages.  Don't miss it!

How will you spread some unity today?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Stark, raving honesty

The Lord detests lying lips, 

but he delights in those who are truthful.   
Proverbs 12:22

Today my daughter Kait and her partner, Heather were married in a small, businesslike courtroom on a sunny but cold day in the mountains of Asheville NC   The officiant, a bland, unsmiling man, read the vows from a sheet of computer paper like a drone. This was not what I imagined my firstborn's wedding would look like.  But when I stopped focusing on the drab surroundings and gazed at Kait and Heather, their faces told a different story. They radiated with their love, respect and affection for each other.  The room, the uninterested official and everything else faded in importance as my precious ones committed their lives and their love to each other.  I was honored to be a witness. I wouldn't have missed this once in a lifetime moment. I adore these two and know that the Lord loves them even more than I do... even as I continue to wrestle internally with this
question; Does God condone and bless same sex marriage?

 I remembered how, a mere two years ago, my daughter, Kait called to tell me she that she and her partner, Heather (whom I love dearly) had gotten engaged.  I was in such conflict that day. Every parent dreams of the day her child will become engaged but a same sex engagement and wedding was not what I had imagined.   Even so, I willed my heart to celebrate. If not for myself than for my daughter's happiness. 

 I tried to muster up some feelings of joy but my worried heart would not cooperate. Was God OK with this? What kind of life would my daughter live? Did this mean I was not to have grandchildren?  I knew I couldn't fake a happy reaction even though I wished I could. I hated the pain I caused my daughter and heather by my inability to be happy in the moment. I so longed to jump up and down and call everyone I knew to share the happy engagement news...But the joy simply wouldn't come.  My Mother's heart hung in anguish at the unwillingness of my soul to join the party. 

Instead, I came up heart and mind bursting with feelings of both love and loss, wonder and confusion. Joy and Pain.   My heart was paralyzed with so many mixed emotions the only honest words I could utter were; "Wow"  "I love you, Kait and I love Heather" It was the only true thing I had to say at the moment. 

Sometimes, Honesty can really hurt and Love can deeply wound.  I had gotten more used to the fact that Kait was gay but this new conversation about marriage was yet another hurdle for me to overcome.  My heart hurts for wounding my daughter.  She had previously shared that, since she has come out, she has felt only lukewarm love from her Dad and I.  She feels rejected by us...the ones who should love her best.  I was so grateful for her honesty even as it cut me to the core.

 I believe her reasoning is this;   "If  I am not "For" same sex marriage than I must be "Against" Her.  If I don't  "love" Homosexuality as a practice, than I don't love HER. She has mourned the fact that my reaction to her engagement was not a joyous outburst of glee, but more of a soft, gentle "I love you"....except it didn't feel anything like love to her. (sigh)  To my Kait it felt like rejection.

My friend, Amy, lent me Brennan Manning's book; Ruthless Trust (which I am devouring like a Krispy Kreme donut.) In it he cites Franciscan Richard Rohr's work:

"Humility and honesty are really the same thing. A humble person is simply a brutally honest person about the whole truth.  You and I came along a few years ago, and we're going to be gone in a few years.  The only honest response to life is a humble one."

Manning goes on to say; "Alcoholics Anonymous offers a classic definition of humility; "Stark, raving honesty."

Can I be stark raving honest for a minute?  I want you to know that  I am humbling myself before God, seeking His face, asking for His wisdom and His love and grace to transform me give me His insight and truth. In all sincerity and humility, I do not yet have the answers settled in my heart to give my beautiful daughter and new 'daughter in love' the response I know they desire.  So, until God transforms this hot mess into His likeness, all  I have to give is my very imperfect human love and my honesty.

So please forgive me for my stark, raving honesty.  I truly am not trying to be cantankerous or unloving.  It's just that I've spent too long being a poser and wearing people pleasing  masks so everyone would like me and I wouldn't make waves.  I've done all the "crowd following" I care to do. 

 I love my girl too much to be anything less than authentic with her.  I know she understands...even through the pain.   Thankfully, God created her to be compassionate and forgiving  and I am blessed and proud to be her Momma.  Just as she must  be true to herself...I cannot masquerade as someone I am not.

We come to you with all of our wounds, our questions and our shortcomings.  You alone know the depths of our human hearts, you alone know our heart's immense folly.  Send your Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to raise up a place of peace in our world. May we know Your unconditional, divine love each day of our lives, even as we fall short of exhibiting it in our own.   May your limitless grace spring up in our hearts for your glory. Help all of us to be truth tellers...always.
In Jesus name, we bring our requests to you.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Art of Making Friends

 Emily Freeman blogs beautiful thoughts at Chatting At The Sky.  A post called The Bench told a story of the beginnings of community.  She noticed women in her neighborhood would chat briefly at their mailboxes or exchange a wave while walking the dogs, but they never lingered. When a neighbor installed a park bench near the sidewalk in front of her home, Emily witnessed a transformation. Neighbors began sitting down to chat after collecting the mail.  people started conversations that lead to friendships which eventually lead to a new sense of community. What do you imagine it would be like to live in a neighborhood like that? 
Photo by Ben Martin

The neighborhood bench in Emily's neighborhood provided a neutral space for residents to engage and to dialogue.

Emily's blog inspired me for two reasons;  first, I remember what its like to be the new girl in an already established community.  It's hard to meet new friends when you don't share history. The park bench speaks of slowing down and taking time to pause and reflect.  What do you think of when you see a park bench? Rest? Peace? Contentment?   I can't help but wonder who may stop by to sit a minute if I added a bench in my own neighborhood. What if I made an intentional place for connection and conversation? What would we share together?

The second reason I was inspired was that I, like Emily, long for real relationship. I value conversation about deeper things than the weather or the latest sale at Macy's. (although I do love a good sale!) I desire to share my trials and triumphs and hear about yours. I want to meet people who bring a new viewpoint to my horizon.  I want to know what makes you happy, worried or angry.

 I want this year to be one in which I live outside of my relational comfort zone. There is so much to discover when we take the risk to meet new people. We grow in compassion.  I think that we were designed for connection. After all, God did say; It's not good for man to be alone.

 I don't know if my HOA will allow me to build a bench in my front yard but it dawned on me that this site can be our bench.  Let this be our neutral space to communicate, question, share, learn and connect.  A virtual "park bench" where we can enter into authentic conversations with love, respect, and grace.  We don't have to agree on everything to be friends. 

I would love to hear from you. More specifically, others need to hear from you. You have stories that can make a difference in another's life. Your voice matters!

So, if you are willing, sit beside me on this virtual park bench...let's talk.  How has a new friendship challenged you or enriched your life?

Share your thoughts by clicking on "add comment"

I'm listening my friend...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Connecting With Others

 I recently had dinner with an amazing young woman. Amy Rae is intelligent, compassionate, successful, beautiful, insightful, respectful, loving, serving, christian and gay. She and I have become friends because she was courageous enough to "enter the arena" and invite straight people and gay people to meet together to seek Jesus. I answered her meet-up group because this was exactly what I was seeking as well. Funny how God connects us.

She came with no agenda to "convince me" of my shortsightedness or judgmental spirit.  She did not shame me for my convictions.  I did not arrive with a list of scriptures to "convict her."  I didn't presume she wanted my prayers to "deliver her,"  Instead, we just met at a coffee shop with masks off and hearts open. We ate brownies, laughed and got to know each other as friends. The Holy Spirit took it from there.

I wonder why it seems so scary sometimes to simply dialogue with a stranger? Could it be that we often go not with the goal of simply getting to know another human being but we too often enter into dialogue with an agenda to push our own views at all costs. Sadly, I have done this. Though thankfully not with Amy Rae.

 As we talked over coffee, she shared that she had been seeking a faith community that looked more like "real lIfe". A blended community of straight people, gay people, young and old, rich and poor, sick and well, sinners and saints, black and white.  She had a vision of all of God's wildly different, imperfect, yet beloved children coming together to praise Him and learn from Him.  She had not found such a diverse gathering in the many churches she had visited so she sought to build it using the power of the internet and  Smart girl.

 She was looking for the authentic body of Christ.  Can anyone relate? Those who are willing to set aside, but not hide, our individual opinions about homosexuality, politics, church doctrine and traditions. Amy was calling out to people who were willing to present themselves transparently. No posing, no excuses. I immediately caught her vision and wondered what such a community would be like. Can you imagine the freedom of people humbly sharing their stories and willing to listen wholeheartedly as others told theirs?  A funny thing happens when we stop talking and start listening...we find connecting points. We discover that we are more the same than different. 

 As we both dropped our masks, I am finding it easier to have the heart level conversations that shame  prevents us from engaging in. (Brene's definition of shame is the "fear of disconnection" ) Disconnection is a people pleasers worst nightmare.  

Amy Rae has challenged me to ask my questions and has been gracious to respond honestly and without judgement.   Wise beyond her years, she has been courageously authentic with me about her own wonderings and questions.  I cannot begin to tell you what a refreshing place this is!  

 We have found a deep respect and friendship and unconditional love as we look beyond our differences and connect in the things that truly matter.  We love Jesus. We are human, we acknowledge that we fall short of His glory. we admit that we don't know it all and that God is far bigger than we ever imagined or can wrap our heads around. We know that, apart from Christ, we have nothing...we are nothing.  We are sisters in Christ and are both "Daring Greatly"  to be ambassadors of reconciliation.  We have tapped into the power of empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  Brene' Brown says this; "Empathy is the antidote to Shame"

I am honored to stand side by side with her in this arena of authenticity. We are keeping our sights on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He has not disappointed us.  

Amy Rae is another who helps me to "Dare Greatly".

The arena door stands open...will YOU step into the light?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Daring Greatly As a Mom

I heard Brene' Brown's talk "Listening to Shame" back in 2013. So many points resonated with me as I allowed myself to feel the weight of the words she shared.
In her talk she covers how stepping into the arena of authenticity and risk can open your world to so many possibilities.  Shortly after Kait came out, I was in this arena with my knees knocking together and my teeth chattering...I was so fearful of my own feelings and thoughts. I found myself clamming up rather than speaking my heart. I was so worried of how my words would affect others. Every thought I had was immediately judged by my inner critic as foolish, meaningless and wrong.  I still struggle with that critic sometimes but I am standing here in the arena of authenticity and risk with a new sense of courage and purpose. I stand now with the comfort of knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I stand knowing my voice matters and it's ok if everyone doesn't see things the same way I do. 

I may appear foolish and perhaps you will notice me stutter and stammer a bit as I learn how to find my voice. But, the fact that I am finally IN the arena and not hovering outside the gate has exposed in me a new sense of courage...even as my knees knock!  I have always been a people pleaser and was content to never "make waves" or say or do anything that would be in any way uncomfortable for myself or others.  Thanks to my daughter, Kait's courage to reveal her secret I too have been encouraged  to take more relational risks. To ask more gutsy, honest questions of myself, of others and of my LORD.  To just be who I am without worrying so much if the "real me" is OK or acceptable to others.  The risk of disconnection or of judgement  has been outweighed by the blessings I have found in this new place and the people I have met. 

How about you?  How are you daring greatly in your life?  How has stepping out and sharing your authentic voice shaped you? Changed the trajectory of your life and relationships?