The hard in the 'Yes'.

About a month ago my family said a big YES. We said yes to taking a little girl into our home via foster care. She's two and adorable and also kind of feisty. It's been a hard month with lots of adjusting for all of us. Moving rooms around, managing new therapy schedules, and collecting all the stuff a two year old needs but doesn't have. We are grateful for so many friends and family who eagerly stepped in to help with clothes, a crib, and lots of encouraging words. We are thrilled to be able to give this little girl a safe and loving home for however long she's with us.

Amongst all the beauty of this decision I'm learning that the initial YES was easy. I mean don't get me wrong, we took days and days to think and pray and talk about whether or not this is something we should do. We didn't take this decision lightly. We needed to be sure that we were sure before we took the leap, because once we took the leap we didn't want to turn back on the decision when things got too hard. Beacause we (I) knew they would get hard. This is our second run with having a foster child placed in our home and the first time was HARD. And it ended with that child being placed with another family (who are great people and eventually adopted him.)

We said yes and then we started living. Living out the day to day with more diaper changes, more crying, more giggles, more baths, more people to strap into car seats, more mouths to feed and one more broken soul in need of love and compassion.

There are so many things in life that we have the choice to YES to.

Significant others.
Ministry opportunities.

Whatever God wants.

We proclaim the big YES and it's exciting and fun but then there are a thousand more yes's we have to say day in and day out.

Yes to writing one more paper for a class you hate.
Yes to fighting for a friendship.
Yes to spending the rest of your life with one person.
Yes to raising children in this crazy world.
Yes to adopting from another family, culture, or country.
Yes to a job you feel like you're over-qualified for.
Yes to serving God in whatever capacity he desires.

Those are the hardest yeses. Because they take perseverance. And sometimes discipline. They take commitment when you don't want to and love when you don't feel it. They take compassion when your compassion is all dried up and grace when you've got none left to give. Saying yes to marrying your best friend is easy. Saying yes to picking up their dirty socks AGAIN or giving them grace when they're 20 minutes late... exhausting.

The big yes takes courage and risk. The little yeses take humility and sacrifice. Both are important. Both are good. Both will hopefully produce fruit in our lives.

Our work, the act of saying yes to God and then walking it out in our daily life, will never be perfect but that doesn't mean that it's not GOOD. We GET to do good work because the perfect work has already been accomplished on the cross. That takes the pressure off, doesn't it? His love for us fills in all of our gaps and that's a reminder I need on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis.

It starts with one big yes and then a thousand more yeses to follow.

Clean hearts or clean hands?

We bought a house back in February. It's a cute little place that suites our family well. It's in an older neighborhood with big trees and each modest little home looks different from it's neighbor. Some are kept, some are not. Ours currently might be considered to be a part of the 'unkept' category. At least on the outside. Weeds are overtaking our yard, the driveway is shot, and big mature trees are in need of some major trimming. But those things are going to have to wait because we're still working on the inside and I'd pick fresh paint colors and pictures hung, over the front yard being immaculately landscaped any day. So the weeds will have to wait.

I care more about the inside of our home than the outside because the inside is where life happens.

The inside is where people grow.

And learn.
And struggle.
And love.
And belong.
And fight.
And forgive.

The outside matters, a little. If the landscaping of my house is SO overgrown that no one can see my front door then that's kind of a problem. And maybe even a distraction. Who will want to come in if they have to wade through a jungle to get there? Only a few may be brave enough to attempt that. The people who REALLY love me. The people who KNOW me. The people who know that once they make it inside they'll find safety and a place where they'll feel at home.

But most of us know the INSIDE matters more. And sometimes we're too busy tending to the outside that we neglect the inside and it gets ugly. It gets selfish, and prideful, and bitter. I struggle with the outside stuff a lot. I struggle with wanting new clothes that make me feel good about myself, and having a nice car that's not dented (because ours is), and making sure my family looks "put together" when we are out in public. But what does all that matter if my heart looks like a dirty, empty, discarded coffee cup? Jesus says it so well in Matthew 23...

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy - full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too." 

We live in a world that values the outside over the inside. A world that values success over integrity and looks over character. But there's always a choice. We always have a choice.

May we clean our hearts before we clean our hands. And may God pour out His grace on us when we don't. 

Thoughts on the Gay Community // Part II

If you didn't read part one of this two-part series I'd highly recommend it. But I guess I'm a little bias. 

I shared the story about my friend because I think in a lot of ways the Christian church owes the gay community an apology. We've made some big mistakes and we continue to do so. I believe a lot of people who are either openly gay or who are struggling with it, are falling through the cracks of our Churches (or they simply refuse to step foot inside) because we just don't know how to care for them. Or, although we might be too afraid to actually admit this, we just don't want to. And this breaks my heart.

I'd like to share a few things but I should first tell you that I am NOT an expert in this arena. I'm sure you weren't assuming that but a little clarification is always helpful. I have much to learn and am in the process of doing that. Andrew Marin, founder of The Marin Foundation, has made great strides over the years when it comes to bridging the gap between the Church and the LGBT communities. I'm currently reading his book called Love Is An Orientation. If you want to learn more on this conversation Andrew's book is a great place to start.

How the Church has harmed the LGBT community //
  • Often we throw the 'sinner' out with the 'sin'. Of course, we're all sinners but aren't there some sins that make us more uncomfortable than others? Some we can't seem to take our eyes off of, while others we can't stand to look at. I think it's possible that some Christians won't engage in a conversation with a gay person because it makes them uncomfortable. They can't get past the sin to see the person. A person with a heart, and a soul, and who is loved deeply by the same God that loves them. 
  • We want them to 'fix' themselves before they come to church. We say things like "You have to stop being gay before you can be a Christian." Expecting people to clean themselves up before they can 'belong' with us has never worked and it never will. One of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker, often talks about how we expect people to behave and believe before they can feel like they belong with us. But Jesus just says, "Come. Bring your mess to me and put it at my feet." (My paraphrase, of course). If people feel like they belong WITH us, no matter what, then the behaving and believing will naturally follow.
  • We care more about their sexuality than we do about their spirituality. I realize there is some overlap here but I wanted to emphasize that we do a lot of damage when we choose to address the sin in a person's life before we even get to know them, before we listen, and before we seek to understand. If our first priority is to point out the sin, our chances of developing an authentic relationship with someone is slim. And that's the Holy Spirit's job anyway, isn't it?
What needs to change // In my opinion it's our approach. And maybe even our hearts.

  • Firstly, I think we need to admit that we don't get it. Because it's the truth. If same-sex attraction isn't something you struggle with, then you don't. And there's certainly no hope in helping if you don't first seek to understand. 
  • It's complex. There's no easy answer. For many people it can take years of counseling to sort out and process issues related to sexuality. If we love our gay friends then they need to know that we're in it for the long haul. That we'll support them and love them no matter what. 
  • It's not about our agenda. And it's not about US and THEM. The Church is not an exclusive team only for those who think the same way we do. And believe me, I'm not preaching "tolerance" here, just GRACE. Grace for those who are struggling with issues that require more attention then just "Jesus loves you". 
Finally, just to be clear, I'm primarily talking about those who have no interest in God or who are actively investigating faith and God. Gay & Christian is a separate conversation.  

So how does your church community do at loving the gay community? Anything you would add to this conversation?

Would love to hear your thoughts.