A Handy-Guide to Telling Others Off

Lighthouse orientation

Dear Bronwyn,

I know what the bible says about homosexuality and believe it. I have family and friends that are gay, and some of them are married.I am so careful at this point to just show the love of God to them by not judging, but some Christian friends believe I should be telling them it is sin (but if they were to get divorced, wouldn’t that be sin, too?) What should I do? 

Help please,

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

 

Dear SBRHP,

I love that you are working so hard to show God’s love to your gay friends and family. I think showing God’s love means more than refraining from judgement. Positively, it also means that no matter who we are dealing with, we show the fruit of the Spirit in our interactions, we live lives of holiness and service, we tell others about Jesus, and extend his invitation for people to come to him.
However, your letter does raise the specific question of when it is appropriate to point out other people’s sin to them, and should you be doing this specifically with your gay friends and family? After all, no one thinks it would be okay for us to go around telling others that they should eat less (because, GLUTTONY) or not stay up so late (because the Bible says REST!) or to delete pirated movies from their computer (because THEFT!). I have not observed lobbyists hounding all the Christian dating couples who are sleeping together, and questioning whether they should be welcomed (or what it says about our own morality if we do!) We are not kicking young men struggling with pornography out of the church. No: we love them and keep them close and hope to win them with faith, love, and our example. Nor do we take up our mantle as a church to right these wrongs, even though we believe the bible’s teaching to be clear in this regard. It is increasingly a mystery to me that we live with such a bifurcated ethic, thinking that for some, the gospel message is “you are saved by coming to Jesus”, but for others (the LGBTQ population), we seem to say “you are saved by straightness. And also Jesus.”
So I say this: keep loving your friends and family as best as you can. It is TOTALLY okay to be in a warm and welcoming relationship with “sinners”. Jesus did it all the time, and the “righteous” gave him a torrid time about it, questioning his own righteousness and allegiance to the law as a result. Besides which, its not as if your gay friends and family don’t *know* that God’s sexual design is laid out by the bible. It’s not as if your telling them would be new information and they would say “oh! I didn’t know that! Now that you mention it, I’ll turn my life around!”
For what it’s worth, I say keep telling them about Jesus. Keep showing them Jesus. And be patient with the others who want you to speak out against them: I’m sure they want what is best, too, but honestly I think we need to tread carefully when we go about the business of pointing out one another’s sins.
Here are the guidelines that come to mind when approaching others:
* It makes a difference whether the person is a believer or not. 1 Corinthians 5:12 ˚ says we have no business judging those outside of our fellowship. The modern Christian habit we have of huddling together to point fingers at the “world” but neglecting a rigorous pursuit of holiness ourselves reflects a disordered view of where our responsibilities lie.
* It is ultimately the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, not mine (John 16:8-11). To give one example: I used to meet with a woman who had come to faith while she was living with her fiancé. I really wrestled with how much (if anything) to say about her living situation, but felt nudged that this was one of just a number of things God was working through with her at the time, and I should trust his timing. In a couple of weeks, she came to me with a bunch of questions about what God said about premarital sex, I answered them as best I could, and still she kept living as she was. It was nearly a year later that she broke off her engagement, and that in itself was part of a much bigger story of what God was doing in her life that included shaping her sexual choices, but was not limited to it. God worked to change her in His timing.
* Sometimes we do need to say something, but whether that word “sticks” and is acted on is not our responsibility. The passage in Ezekiel 33 comes to mind, where Ezekiel is told that he must warn Israel (if he doesn’t, he is responsible), but if he does warn them, he isn’t responsible for how they respond.
* If I do play a role in helping someone along the road, the key word is to do so gently. I do believe there is a place for church discipline.
* And of course, we need to be Oh-So-Careful of our motives if we approach a fellow believer: making sure we come with a clear conscience, with their own welfare in mind (rather than our own wanting-to-be-right-ness), and being painfully aware that we are just as susceptible to trickery ourselves. Jesus was very clear that we have no business clearing out other people’s “specks” if we haven’t paid attention to the logs in our own eyes. Again: we are supposed to help other people get rid of the specks in their eyes – but we must pay rigorous attention to our own spiritual “vision” first if we are to help.
* The closer we are, the more place we have to speak into one another’ lives. I think close accountability and friendship gives space for both giving and receiving this kind of input. I know I am less likely to pay careful attention to someone who I feel is criticizing me from afar (and it makes me wary of being the person who then attempts to rebuke from a distance.) I for one, am deeply appreciative to the people who have humbly come along side me and helped me to identify and deal with sin.
Your letter doesn’t say whether your friends and family are believers. If they aren’t, I think leave it be on the sexuality issues and do your best to find ways to include God in your friendship with them. If they are believers, I would say walk this road very carefully and prayerfully because while the Bible does have MUCH to say about our sexuality and holiness, it has so much to say about other issues too (how do we handle money? how proud are we?) I think we do Christ’s body egregious harm if we go around seeking to address one thing, but are so terribly imbalanced at seeking holistic holiness in all areas of our corporate life.
When all is said and done, I still believe that the orientation we should care most about is someone’s orientation to Jesus.
All the best,
Bronwyn

Photo Credit: David Yu / Point Montana Light house (Flickr Creative Commons), edited by Bronwyn Lea using canva.com.

Pick of the Clicks 2/6/2016

mailboxes

I think of this as a public service. In joy-bringing.

Yesterday was a MOST exciting day. Two of the projects I worked on in January both went up, and if you didn’t see them on social media, here are the links:

storyofgodsloveforyouFirst, an absolutely highlight was getting to interview Sally Lloyd-Jones for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. Sally is the author of the beloved Jesus Storybook Bible (which we absolutely LOVE and which, just this week, sold its two millionth copy!) The book is now available in a version for grownups called The Story of God’s Love For You. It was delightful talking with Sally, and I particularly loved her thoughts on discovering joy, and our vulnerability to stories as adults. You can read it here: Q&A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible.

I also have a very tender post up at SheLoves this week about marriage: I knew I loved him when I Did Not Run.

I also want to introduce you to the Redbud Post, which is the monthly new online magazine put out by my awesome writers’ guild: Redbud. February’s edition is about relationships, and is titled “beyond chocolates” (fantastic, right!?) I have a piece in there about dating well (should we date at all? and if so, who? and how?) , and then stick around to check out some of the other fabulous pieces there. Or better yet, subscribe to the email and get one email a month chock-filled with fabulous content.

Then, here are some links I loved from around the web this week:

  • Then, I (along with many evangelicals) have expressed my dismay at the groundswell of support for Donald Trump. As much as I hate to link to yet another article about this guy, this piece from Alastair Roberts is really worth reading for its insight: Trumped Up? Is the Donald’s Support Really Driven by Racist Xenophobia? In it, he points out some really thought-provoking reasons why Trump might have the support he does (and no, it’s not that all his supporters are idiotic bigots). I think he correctly identifies that there are a community of people who are not feeling heard, who have legitimate questions and concerns, and even if Trump is the wrong solution to their problem – we do the system no service if we just dismiss them rather than listening well. I, for one, am chastened.
  • Daniel Darling’s advice on How to be a Prolific Writer was deeply encouraging to me. If you’re trying to write amidst a zillion other commitments, maybe it will be to you, too.

Then, this was my absolute favorite two minutes on the internet this week: Dr Tofurkey dubsmashing with his baby son. #winstheinternet

And this was a close second (because seriously: Ylvis meets Pentatonix? How can that be anything less than awesome…)

On the blog:

What God Really Wants from You – If you had to summarize what God wants from you in one sentence, what would you say?

That’s all for this week, friends. Happy reading and watching!

What God Wants From You

He is carving new words into the contours of my soul_ %22Come.%22

A few friends have chosen a theme word for their year: thrive. rest. courage. knock. I chose one last year: anchor, and given the horrendously stormy start last year had, an anchor was just what I needed.

I’m not usually a person who limits herself to one, or even a handful, of words – but I do see the value in sometimes boiling something down to one essential truth to meditate and mull over. This morning I was thinking about some specific words to try and nail down what was on my heart for a couple people, so I could pray for them.

For one, the word striving came to mind: always reaching, working, on the go-go-go, and as I prayed, I found myself asking for rest for her, and that she would hear God’s invitation to sit with him and just be.

For another, the word lonely was there, and I found myself praying that she’d know God as Emmanuel: the one who is with us

For another, even though I’ve prayed for this person for years, it was a completely unexpected thing to find the word Fatherless coming to mind, and so I prayed that they would know God as their Father, even though I’d never seen them as an orphan-in-need-of-a-parent before.

And, as I thought about these (and more), it struck me how much my understanding of what God really wants from us, and for us, has changed. My one-word prayers were no longer “help them to do better”, but “help them to draw near.”

I don’t know if I would have put it quite like this, but I think for the longest time I thought God’s message to us—in a nutshell—was this: “Repent and toe the line.” Yes, he loved us enough to make a way to forgive our sin; and yes, he was gracious and all that… but I think I had absorbed a belief that unless I was making an effort to toe that proverbial line, the love and grace was out of reach.

It takes waves a long time to carve contours into rock; and I think the contours of my soul have had to have God’s truth wash over me again, and again, and again (sometimes crashing! sometimes just rinsing out debris with a gentle tide), but I see a new contour, and I see God’s handiwork in this. For these days, if I had to summarize God’s message to us—in a nutshell—I think it would be this: “Come.”

He is a Father waiting with open arms. A Lover who can’t wait to see the face of his beloved. A Shepherd who sees us when we are harassed and helpless, and has compassion.

Come, he says.

More than anything, I believe that’s what he wants from us, and what he wants for us, because he knows that rest, and joy, and life-to-the-full, and meaning, and purpose are all found in him.

Image credit: Bill Richards/Azure Window (Flickr Creative Commons), edited by Bronwyn Lea using Canva.

Pick of the Clicks 1/30/2016

Hold on to your britches, folks, because here comes a truckload of fabulousness in this week’s Pick of the Clicks…

First, my favorite meme of the week (even though IKEA was actually founded in 1943 – BY A 17-YEAR OLD!! – it’s still funny)

happybirthdayIKEA

So beautiful from Em Erickson: if my child marries yours – a poignant letter from the mom of a baby girl to the woman out there w whom she will share grand babies.

I LOVE this from Jennifer Grant over at the lovely new site ForHer.aleteia.org: In praise of the tenacity of marriage:

“We all think our marriages will heal our childhood injuries,” he said, leaning forward in his chair. “In every marriage husbands and wives must learn that instead of healing us, issues with our spouses actually open up our old wounds. The couples who last are the ones who work through that pain to a new place, a place of gratitude for what they really have together.”

KLEENEX ALERT – this was my favorite news story of the past few weeks: How one mom’s extraordinary love transforms the short lives of hospice babies. sniff

This is a wonderful piece from Linda Crowe reflecting on the first time she was able to donate blood, and all that had come before: This is My Blood

This is from a while ago, but new to me and SO IMPORTANT: From Lisa McCrohan, Raising girls who are “includes” instead of “mean girls”.

This was really good from Kim Gaines Eckert: Why Christian Women Need to Talk about Sex.

“But if we indeed believe that sex is a good gift created by God, our silence on sex—or more likely, our limited and often negative conversations about sex—do not reflect the full goodness of this gift.”

This was helpful and clear from Gina Crosley-Corcoran: Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person.

And this, from Gina Dalfonzo, is disturbingly insightful (on seeing Donald Trump through the prophetic voice of C.S. Lewis): Nikabrik’s Candidate.

From me on the blog:

Excuse me, your book is too long (and your movie is too short)… Please tell me I’m not the only one who abandons books half-way through?

And, What being a special needs parent teaches me about #blacklivesmatter.

 

Excuse me, but your book is too long (and your movie is too short)

I'm sorry I didn't finish your book. It was too long.

I’m half way through reading David Brook’s excellent book The Road to Character. I was telling a friend about it yesterday and she commented “oh, it must be good if you’re planning to finish it.”

Hmmm.

Apparently my flakiness in not being able to finish non-fiction books is becoming well known. But it made me wonder: why is it that I gobble fiction books (most recently, Christa Parrish’s Still Life—on sale on kindle til Feb 1st!—and Lianne’s Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot), but very seldom finish non-fiction works?

Is it because I lack commitment? Or intellectual rigor? That is definitely a possibility as I become lazier with age… but I think there’s more to it than that. My theory is this: I’m becoming more selective with age, and many non-fiction books are just too long. Or at least, they’re longer than they need to be to say what they have to say. There are some books that really should have just been essays—GREAT essays!—but then someone thought “oh, you should turn that into a book…” And I find, as a reader, that sometimes I’m half way through a non-fiction book and start to feel antsy. I think “hm. I think I know where they’re going with this.” Then I read a chapter more, just to see if anything new comes up, but often it’s just variations on a theme. And at that point, it gets tossed into the teetering tower of Great Books I Didn’t Finish Reading next to my bed.

I then promptly pick up a new fiction book, which keeps me going to the end because I want to know what happens next. For example, The Count of Monte Cristo, which weighs in at over 1000 pages in length, was a page turner par excellence. It was long, but EVERY PAGE mattered (after the first 130 pages, that is, which were so heartbreaking I wanted to die. But pages 130-1130 turned me into a social recluse. Just ask my family about the Christmas of 2014 when I curled into a futon for three days.)

The rare non-fiction book that I read from beginning to end usually have two properties:

  • It continues to introduce new ideas throughout the book, while maintaining its overall thematic consistency, and
  • It contains some good storytelling throughout. True fact: I like books about interesting people. Non-fiction books which are peppered with a human element (especially if they’re well told stories), will keep me reading.

Brooks’ The Road to Character meets these criteria. And so did Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love (which was a book I really, really didn’t want to read). So does Stephanie Rische’s I was blind (dating), but now I see – which read like a novel even though it was memoir mixed with devotional insight, and best of all was laugh out loud funny at times.

I have a crazy smart friend who comes up with great theories about life. He has a theory about why television series are better than movies: because a movie is too short to develop a satisfying narrative arc. In other words: it is a lot to expect two hours of cinema to develop deep characters (and have us identify with them) as well as set up a credible story in which we have context, some kind of crisis, and a satisfying resolution. Very few movies do this well. But a mini-series on TV has some time to develop its characters as well as create multiple small mini-crises to keep us watching from week to week. Think of The Office (the weekly installment of Dwight). Or Parenthood (yay Bravermans!) Or Sherlock (need I say more, BC?) But when movies try to drag the story (Hunger Games 3 and LOTR movies, I’m looking at you), I find it hard to keep paying attention. It’s not moving fast enough.

I think he’s on to something, whether it comes to stories told in literature or on the screen. The medium must be the right length for the message.

What do you think? What’s the sweet spot for you when it comes to the length of books and movies? Or am I the only one who quits books or movies because they’re just taking too much time already?

What being a Special Needs Parent teaches me about #BlackLivesMatter

all lives matter. and all kids are special.  and what that means is sometimes we need to pay special attention.

all lives matter. and all kids are special.
and what that means is sometimes we need to pay special attention.

I have three children. They are all special. They each have needs. But I have one child who, according to Official Assessments, classifies as being a kid with “Special Needs”. I am amazed and so very grateful for the slew of resources and assistance that we receive for this kiddo. Both at home and in school, we have helpers and people-with-masters-degrees-and-clipboards, paying special attention to give extra support where it might be needed.

The goal of this all is not to give this child special treatment for the sake of special treatment. The goal of the special treatment is, actually, to smooth the way for all the kids in our family, and all the kids in our class, to be able to relate as healthily and equally as possible. There is an inequality of input (one kid gets extra support) to try and move our little home-and-school community towards equality of output: extra support for one so that the parents and teachers can try to give equal attention and time to all.

I mention this because I sometimes struggle with the label “special needs”, since it seems that by implication it might be suggesting that children without this label are neither special nor have needs. This is obviously not the case. To say I have a child with special needs doesn’t mean my other children—or any other children, for that matter—are any less special or have less important needs. To say I have a child with special needs is merely to identify that we need to pay attention differently to that kid because, without intentional acts of listening, observing, and intervening, they would flounder in the system, and both they and their classmates would suffer as a result.

I’ve been wondering whether the same should not be said about the #BlackLivesMatter conversation. To say that black lives matter is not to say that other lives do not. All lives matter, a truth deeply vested in our being made in the image of God and each person being uniquely imbued with dignity and strength. To say that black lives matter is to identify that we need to pay attention differently because, without intentional acts of listening, observing, and intervening, they flounder in a system which privileges whites, and both people of color and the world at large suffer as a result. 

Of course, there will be an angry reader who will write and accuse me of equating blackness with disability…. so before you send me that hate mail, let me say this clearly: that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is this: those of us privileged enough to not have to think about privilege (be it because of our whiteness, or being physically or mentally “typical” in the school system), may not appreciate how the system might work against you if you weren’t white, or weren’t able-bodied or neutrotypical.

And so to go the extra mile for “Special needs” kids doesn’t mean other kids aren’t special – it means they need special support so they can flourish alongside other kids, because all kids are special. And to say “black lives matter” doesn’t mean that all lives don’t matter, or that black lives matter more – it means we need to affirm something that has been lacking in people’s awareness and actions, to be active listeners and responders where we hear others’ stories – so that we all can flourish alongside one another, because all people matter.

Pick of the Clicks

Pick of the Clicks

Hello from a deliciously rainy California. After more than three years of severe drought, I can’t even begin to describe my joy at waking up to another morning of rain. We’ve been making fires in the fireplace, and doing lots of reading. Here are some of my favorite reads from around the internet this week:

Laughing at the Future, from Cara Strickland, is a gorgeous, generous and self-aware piece about viewing our past days with generosity, and our future with hope. What a beautiful way to approach 2016, no matter how hard the past year has been.

Andrea Palpant Dilley hit this one out of the park (dang, I wish I’d written this): It’s time to honor the hard work of raising children.

We women are generally considered fit for parenthood, but in this role we often feel like disenfranchised day care workers whose jobs are loathed and feared by many men. It’s up to us to foster an internal sense of self-worth that’s independent of what others think, but we also need the Christian community and the church at large to express deep, sustained respect for the work we do at home — not as baby sitters but as leaders.

Preston Yancey has a book releasing soon: Out of the House of Bread – Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines. He is supposed to be promoting this book, but he can’t… because he is caring for his stable-but-could-die-any-minute precious newborn, Jack. So let me commend and promote PReston’s book to you, and if you need persuading about the quality of his words, read this: where i’ve been. This, friends, is what it looks like to walk with God in the dark.

Helen Pidd, a single, heathen woman (her own self-description), took in a Refugee. Both she and Yasser wrote about their experience here: “Would he disapprove of my single heathen lifestyle?”: me and my Syrian refugee lodger. This is a FABULOUS read.

I so appreciate these words from Jen Pollock Michel as she contemplated the Powerball madness this week: I don’t want to win the lottery.

“Jesus doesn’t incriminate the rich simply for being rich. He doesn’t make income—but patterns of spending—the barometer of spiritual health (cf. Matt. 6:21).”

For those who love to read and who are also fans of Podcasts, here’s something new and fun: Anne Bogel (of the Modern Mrs Darcy blog and whose reading recommendations I take very seriously) has started a new podcast called What Should I Read Next? Check it out :)

 

Things that made me laugh out loud:

This May Be the Best “Acknowledgements” Section of All Time – what a find, John Fea! It makes me think twice about reading the preface and acknowledgements sections of books :)

Winning at SOTU: Miss Edith Childs. Losing: Kim Davis’ Mullet from Awesomely Luvvie:

“The moment I saw her on my screen looking like her outfit was sponsored by God’s favor, I HOLLERED. The sequins hat was what got my attention first, sitting on her scalp perched like a crown because she is a QUEEN. Miss Edith is my patronus. If dementors ever came around me, she’d just stop them with the shine of being saved, then the shine from her outfit. I know she got a glitter brooch that says “Jesus” like my Granny did.

She is everything I aspire to be. Cranky, bedazzled and judging everyone.”

So funny. And then this is a post from a while back, but was new to me and it made me laugh til I wheezed: from Allie at Hypoerbole and a Half: The Alot is better than you at everything.

 

From me this week?

For Fun: I wrote some funny song lyrics – I would walk 10,000 steps (A Fitbit parody)

Some thoughts on parenting: Let’s Take it Down a Notice: Teaching our Awesome! Amazing! kids there’s always room for improvement.