My sun porch

My sun porch

Friday, February 28, 2014

A loving, open door conversation over coffee...

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. – 1 John 4:19-21

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

She sat across the small table from me, fidgeting with her coffee cup and letting me do all the talking. It had been a long time since we had last talked and I had a lot to catch her up on. One of my favorite things to do is reconnect with old friends! After a time of hearing only brief responses from my friend, I asked her if everything was okay with her. She stared at her coffee cup for a while and then looked up at me with such pain in her face that it startled me.

“What is wrong?” I asked as I took her hands and squeezed them gently, encouraging her to open up to me.

“You are going to hate me and run out the door if I tell you,” she replied with tears welling up in her eyes.

“I could never hate you and I am not done with my coffee yet, so I am not going anywhere,” I tried to lighten the mood and reassure her.

“Okay,” she began. “Here is the deal. I am gay…I met someone…I love her.” She said all this looking deeply into the light brown coffee and then looked up at me again, expecting to see disbelief and hate.

“Well…that is definitely NOT what I was expecting,” I said. “Let’s talk some more. And let me reassure you: I don’t hate you and I am NOT running out the door.”

“Oh, Linda! I’m an abomination! I AM AN ABOMINATION! What am I going to do?”

This was the beginning of a LONG conversation. Let me give you a little bit of information about my friend. She and I have known each other for a long time and she has always been a “church girl” like me. She was raised in church and has always been very active with her family in her church. She never married, so she got even more involved in the activities of her growing church and she loves the Lord with all her heart. Her quiet and contemplative personality made her the perfect “worker bee” and many people counted on her to work hard and get things done. She and I have had “God conversations” MANY times over the years, so I know she knows the Bible and has a good handle on what Jesus did for us on the cross.

During this conversation, I found out that this church life she has led has both cradled her in God’s love and frightened her to death. Since she was a young girl she realized she was different from other girls, in that boys didn’t seem to excite her as they did her girl friends. When she was a teenager, she realized what was going on inside of her and she was so ashamed. She hid who she was and what her body was telling her she wanted. She studied the Bible, searching and searching for God’s guidance. What she found there told her she was unnatural…she was a sinner and an abomination in God’s eyes. She buried those feelings of desire for other women down deep in her heart and soul. She got MORE involved in her church and lived a lie for more than 30 years. A year ago at an out of town conference for her work, she met a woman who she instantly connected with and one thing led to another and the feelings she had been hiding and squelching inside came pouring out. Her new friend had had a similar experience and my friend felt she had finally found someone who understood her. A relationship between the two grew over time. My friend now finds herself in love with this woman and feels so split. Part of her is awakening to a part of herself didn’t even know existed. At 45 years old, she is discovering what most of us discover much earlier in life. She found who she considers her soul mate. But, she is also in fear for her soul…in fear that the life she had once lived is gone. She is afraid of what her friends and family will now think of her…afraid of what her loving Savior now thinks of her. How would that feel to think you are an abomination?

She was afraid of what I would think of her. My heart broke for her. There were many tears shed over those coffee cups that morning. I did what Jesus taught me to do…I loved her. I didn’t judge her. I didn’t run away from her. I didn’t tell her that she disgusted me. I didn’t slam the door in her face. I LOVED her. I don’t have all the answers for her. I don’t understand what she is going through, but I could see that this poor woman needed to be loved at that moment.

If I reacted the way some Christians might have, the way she EXPECTED me to react, I might have pushed her FARTHER away from the God she loved so much. I would have affirmed what she believed about herself…that she was an abomination and not worthy of my love and not worthy of God’s love. I KNOW what the Bible says, but what God put in my heart at that moment was love.
So, as I watch the news and the Facebook posts about how we should support those Christian businesses who want the right to not serve and shut the door on people just like my friend…my heart hurts. Why would we shut the door on some of the people who need to be shown God’s love the most? We SAY that God is love and we SAY that whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God who gave his life for us will receive eternal life. But do we really believe what we say? Do we LIVE what we say?

If I opened a restaurant and I reserved the right to only serve the people who were without sin and lived a perfect life and believed as I do and lived their lives the way I think they should, my restaurant would go broke very quickly as NO ONE would be allowed to eat there! It would be a business without God’s love in it and the closed doors would keep out the very people who needed nourishment the most.

I realize that many will not agree with me and many would have walked away from my friend, letting her know that she was as unclean and unworthy as she believes she is. I am just not willing to let her lose faith in a loving and forgiving Father because of my actions!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Does it really have to be Faith VERSUS Knowledge???

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." -- Hebrews 11:1

"For wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul." -- Proverbs 2:10

Recently I have been hearing a lot of debate about faith and knowledge. I have friends of all types and friends of all different faiths, so I have seen many different sides to this debate. I don't mind debate, in fact, I rather enjoy it. I mean, I like to think about all sides of an issue. It helps me better understand my own opinions, and it also helps me to empathize with people who think differently than I do. It is when debate turns negative and hateful that upsets me. We humans tend to get our feelings hurt easily and feel like if someone disagrees with us, they are ignorant and we then move on to judging those who think and believe and live differently than we do. I try very hard NOT to do this.

One the topic of faith vs. knowledge, I say why can't they coexist in harmony with one another?

Many of you know that I spend a lot of time teaching KidsPraise at my church. The lessons I teach and the stories I tell are meant to give the children listening a background in God's word and create a strong foundation of Christian love. I have told many that I think these lessons benefit me even more than they do the kids! I learn something new about my God every time I teach. We focus on a different virtue each month. Guess what? Last month's virtue was knowledge and this month's is faith!

Our definition of knowledge is: discovering something new so you can be better at whatever you do. This encompasses Biblical knowledge as well as general knowledge.  I believe that we human beings are "wired" with a natural curiosity  to know what we do not know. We WANT to know and we WANT to find the answers to life's hidden secrets. Ever watched a magician and really want to know HOW he did that amazing trick? When we search for the answers, when we pursue those answers with all we have, we DISCOVER. Discovery helps us understand that God IS real because we see His work and His mastery in everything. Discovering who God is excites us! Many times, discovering some answers leads to more questions!

God wants us to know Him better. God wants us to WANT to know him better, so he doesn't give us all the answers. If we understood everything there is to understand, we would stop discovering who God is because we would stop looking. God would be no bigger than our understanding. This would lead to boredom and disinterest. God is bigger than we can EVER imagine, and He doesn't want us to be bored and disinterested in our lives. 

How do I KNOW this? I have SEEN God's handiwork in our creation and been excited enough to want to learn more about Him. AND I have also been on the other side. There was a time in my life that I doubted God and stopped searching for Him. I didn't look, so I didn't discover anything new. I became bored and disinterested in God. Was He even real? But, something sparked my interest again and I again found excitement in learning new things about my God and the more I discovered the more I believed. 

Our KidsPraise definition of Faith is believing in what you CAN'T see because of what you CAN see. Did you know that a great percentage of scientists and mathematicians truly believe in God? What??? I thought that science and belief in God can't possibly mix? One mathematician put it like this, "And it [algebra, geometry, analysis, etc.] all intertwines and works so perfectly, so beautifully, that you realize that Somebody or Something must have done this. It simply could not have happened by chance. It's a kind of revelation, I guess. And it's very convincing." (Why the mathematicians, more than other scientists, tend to believe there's a God Ted and Virginia Byfeld, British Columbia Report, June 2, 1997, p. 31.)

I have a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science, so it is evident that I value education and what learning new things can do for you. I had anthropology classes in school where I saw with my own eyes fossils and bones from creatures that I don't understand. Do I totally understand how the Biblical literal timeline fits in with what scientists have discovered from studying all they see? No. Does that make me believe less in the God I have discovered for myself? No. While I don't have all the answers, I have seen things in my life that HAD to be from God. What I HAVE seen helps me believe in a God that I can't see. I also know that there are many inconsistencies with our current culture and the Bible, which I believe is God's word. However, this doesn't make me believe God's word makes me want to study ALL of it so I better understand what it means for the people of today's world. 

Too many people give up on God too easily. When something happens to cause them to question or doubt, they just give up and say there must not be a God, or at least not the God they thought they knew. I have said this many times, and for me, it is still true: I believe God WANTS us to question Him and SEARCH for the answers to those questions. 

So, once again, I conclude that faith and knowledge CAN coexist in harmony in our minds, hearts and in our world. I thank God that my heart and mind are open enough to let the debate rage on and know that even though I learn new things, my Faith in my loving Father God will stand strong. I encourage my friends to keep open hearts and minds themselves and allow God to grow their faith while learning new things as well!