Tag Archives: love

What if I don’t believe in Jesus?

I was 12 years old when I accepted Jesus into my heart. Choosing Jesus as my Lord had nothing to do with my salvation. At the time I wasn’t thinking about how sinful I was or staying out of eternal Hell. I was thinking about how lonely and awkward I felt in the midst of the peers and adults around me. It had finally come to my attention that who I was didn’t fit with the crowds in which I found myself at school or church or my neighborhood. The youth pastor at our family church retreat told a group of us kids that Jesus wanted to be our friend. That He loved us. If I wanted to know that love, that acceptance, that friendship, all I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart and follow Him. I chose Jesus because I wanted to be loved, not because I wanted to be saved.

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My relationship with Christ the last 24 years has never been about my salvation from Hell. I also have never worried about anyone else’s future in Heaven or Hell either. As I have grown in knowledge and experience with Jesus, there’s been confusion in my heart as to why so many Christians worry and argue and dictate over other people’s repentance and afterlife in Heaven or Hell.

A couple years ago when a dear loved one in our family passed away, a friend asked me if this loved one was a Believer (one who’s accepted Jesus as his Lord). No, he wasn’t a Believer. My friend, with a wince in her face and tension in her body, asked, “How do you feel about that? The Bible is clear about what happens to those who aren’t saved.” I bristled inside. I told my friend I had to believe my dear, sweet loved one was dancing in Heaven with his beloved wife who had passed before him.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized the general belief in current Christian culture about salvation and eternal Hell is completely and shockingly different than what I believe… what I have always considered to be true since I was 12 but never explored until now. Generally speaking, Christianity says if you don’t believe in God, then you’re going to Hell. If you want a place in Heaven, then you must be made right with God by repenting and choosing Jesus. If this is true then that means over half the world is going to burn in Hell for eternity and only a select few will enter the gates of Heaven.

Geez. God’s house must be pretty small.

It would also mean we have a cruel and exclusive God. I don’t believe this at all. This general theology doesn’t match the character of the God I have come to know and love.

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The moment Jesus died on that precious and wretched cross, everyone became saved. Whether you believe in God or not, Jesus died for you and you are welcome as a citizen in God’s kingdom. The death and Resurrection of Jesus is so significant that it was for every single person on this planet, regardless of religion, sin, sexual orientation, race, crimes, belief and unbelief. “For God so loved this world, He sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” I don’t see that second half–“that whoever believes in Him”–as a condition for the entry of Heaven. It’s an invitation to believe in a love so big and existential that our life becomes transformed and alive in a way that is supernatural here on Earth yet completely natural in the spiritual realm. If we don’t accept the invitation, we risk perishing in the consequences of our human nature, choices we make driven by natural human desire and selfishness.

The love of Jesus and the result of his sacrifice on the cross is 100% inclusive, all-encompassing and scandalous. His love and gift of salvation for all God’s children includes those whom I personally cannot even fathom loving–such as murderers, terrorists, sex traffickers, child abusers, animal abusers, (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump! 😛 )–and people who have hurt me so badly they aren’t even safe to be in my life anymore.  But every single person in this world is painstakingly and purposefully knitted into existence by the hand of God, making each one of us His child–loved and welcomed to the gift of life He has for us through Jesus.

I believe there is Heaven and Hell, and I believe there is justice and consequences for those who choose to live a life hurting others. I also believe in the power of repentance. However, my point here today is to say God does not toss into eternal Hell those who don’t believe in Jesus. I have heard it asked that if everyone is welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, if there is no eternal Hell, then what’s the point?  I say, take away both Heaven and Hell and God still matters. If all we’re left with is God, isn’t He enough? 

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If you’re feeling alone, cast aside, and awkward in a world where you don’t fit, please know that Jesus loves you and wants you. You’re already saved. He’s just waiting for you to take his hand and accept Him. Choose Jesus for love and watch how your life changes. A simple prayer grasps His hand, “Dear Jesus, I choose you to lead my life. Show me the way and I will follow You.” And if you’re an unBeliever in Christ–atheist or agnostic or a parishioner of another religion–that’s okay. I still believe Jesus loves you and welcomes you if you ever want to meet Him.

For my friends and family who are reading this, worried about my theology and/or think my belief is wildly misled and filled with lies of the enemy: If believing God’s love is so big that it allows for Jesus’ death to mean life for all His people, not just Believers, makes me ludicrous, then so be it. You can pray that God changes my mind, but what would it mean for your theology if He doesn’t?

 

 

What gangsta rap taught me about my husband

There’s this thing going around on Facebook called the “7-day love your spouse challenge” where, for seven days, people post pictures of themselves with their spouses along with loving commentary to help spread support for love and marriage as a whole. To keep the meme going and the love spreading, people tag friends as an invitation into the challenge.

I have been tagged several times but haven’t participated because, while I adore the idea of spreading the message of love, I’m questioning what message I’m really sending if I post my pictures. Frankly, love is hard and mine doesn’t look like those lovey pictures I see coming across my feed.

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I’ll give you an example. Hubz and I are celebrating our 12-year wedding anniversary this weekend, and we’ve been together for almost 15 years. For the last 15 years I have totally judged and even at times criticized Hubz for not being a very “deep” person. One of his greatest loves in life is old school gangsta rap followed closely by old school country songs. I’m talking N.W.A to Kieth Whitley; the more gangsta and more tragic the song the better. If I had a nickle for every time I rolled my eyes, “tsk”ed my tongue, and made a snarky comment about his music I’d be a bazillionaire in Tahiti right now. Never mind the fact that not only does Hubz listen to the songs of these artists, he knows everything there is to know about the artists themselves. He knows their stories inside and out.

Last weekend I suggested we watch the movie Straight Outta Compton, which was really weird given my absolute distaste and foul attitude for gangsta rap music and lifestyle. But Hubz has wanted to see that movie since it came out, and God had something to show me about my heart.

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I’ve been a judgmental ass. I’ve always viewed the “gangsta style” (life, music, culture, etc.) as boobs, booze, and violence. What Straight Outta Compton showed me was the deeper stories of struggle, danger, humiliation, racism, and cultural dissonance between blacks, whites and cops suffered by the black community. I was so fascinated by what I learned in the film that I watched every second of extras–interviews with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and the rest of N.W.A; behind the scenes footage and interviews with the director and movie crew; deleted scenes that never made the movie–all of it. I soaked in every ounce of perspective that film offered.

Then I looked over at my husband and realized what a jerk I’d been to him for the last 15 years. I associated his love for gangsta rap with boobs, booze, and violence and cut his character off at the surface. However, it’s the cultural and personal reality the music speaks of that touches my husband–something I never even bothered to hear let alone understand. It’s more than the beat and tune of the music that draws Hubz to these lyrics and artists; it’s the stories of struggles and triumphs and perspectives that move him. He values story.

And because I was so blinded by my haughty short-sightedness, I completely missed that Hubz and I have something very special and deep in common–the understanding of the importance of personal stories and the effect they have on us as individuals and as a culture. That’s why he spends so much time learning about the artists themselves–it makes the music that much more meaningful and inspiring for him.

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Love is admitting that I’ve been judgmental and unfair, confessing and apologizing to my husband’s face, and seeing/adoring my spouse in a completely new light. But on Facebook all you’ll see is this:20160812_195051

 

 

 

 

 

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True love cannot be captured in a snapshot because it’s a bigger picture made up of many moments of humility. Gangsta rap revealed a shortcoming in my own heart and a depth to my husband’s heart neither of which I knew existed. And in that humility of growth, love rooted deeper between us both. How do you post that on Facebook?

 

 

Rendered Silent

The world suffers loudly, enduring violence, injustice, fear, ridicule. People with names, faces, families–with purposes and reasons for living–suffer. There is injustice afflicted on black lives, Christian lives, LGBTQ lives, mentally ill lives, women’s lives, children’s lives… The discrimination, persecution, and exploitation of particular groups of humans is undeniable.

In the midst of the madness and loss, loathing arguments fling across social media, pelting the intelligence and opinions of well-intentioned people who try to speak up for what feels right in their hearts.

Me? I am rendered silent. Silence isn’t safe in our culture; is is almost as unsafe, or even more so, as shouting the wrong opinion. I see/hear the judgement from many who shake their cyber-fists at those of us who choose not to speak up.

I cannot stand up for all the issues and all the people. I cannot feel the hurt and advocate for the safety, recovery, equality of all who suffer. You see, when I think about all the people and all the issues and all the injustice and all the pain and all the inequality, I freeze. There is too much, and it all sits on my chest like a boulder. No injustice or forced pain is greater or less than another in my heart. The loss of black brothers is just as tragic as the thousands of children lost in the sex industry– is just as tragic as the thousands of Christians massacred across the world– is just as tragic as the transgender teen who dies by suicide– is just as tragic as the police shot during a protest– is just as tragic the father so weighed down by depression he can’t get out of bed– is just as tragic as the young girl who is blamed for her own rape…The list goes on dear reader.

I am rendered silent because screaming into a raging storm is hopeless. But reaching out my hand for someone seeking shelter from the storm–I am rendered empowered. Staying alert and sensitive and curious to the people and situations around me, that’s helpful. Teaching my children to be curious, compassionate, inclusive, sensitive, and loving toward all people–that’s helpful.  And when the Spirit leads me to take action, to get involved, to speak up and to stand up for someone who’s hurting, I do. And that is good. It is enough. The cyber-fist shakers won’t agree and that’s okay. I don’t answer to them. And if I did, I’d only be contributing to the widening chasm that keeps us from connecting in a way that makes a genuine difference to those who suffer. I answer to Love–to those who seek love in their suffering and the One who is Love.

 

 

Christians are not all the same

We’re not all the same, you know. Us Christians. About the only thing we have in common as a collective church is that we believe Jesus to be the Son of God and He’s our savior. When I say I am a Christian, that’s what I mean. Jesus is my savior, so I follow him. But each Christian is unique in living out what following Jesus means.

What I want you to understand is that I am not one of the Christians who will keep you at arm’s length with a Bible flapping in my outstretched hand showing you how you’re living your life wrong. (The only time I’ll keep you at a distance is if you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally harming me or my loved ones. And even then I am not going to stab you with Bible verses.)

I don’t believe you have to repent or “be right with God” before he’ll wrap you up in His arms to love you. If you want Him, if you need Him, if you desire your life to be different, then turn around right now–as you are–because He’s there with his arms outstretched waiting for you. If there’s repentance that needs to happen, it will happen and it will happen between you and God. Just the two of you. When it’s time, you’ll know because you’ll feel a conviction in your heart–a tug, a knowing, an understanding you can’t explain, a gut-wrench that pulses up your body and makes you a little bit dizzy–and you’ll want to be forgiven and healed from the wrongdoing. You’ll want to be made different.

God will never force you to be different, clean, or “good enough” the way some Christians will. I’m sorry if that has happened to you already. Truly sorry.

Personally, I’ve never seen nor experienced Jesus wait for repentance before he offers love, grace, and mercy. Some Christian’s believe grace isn’t free. I disagree. The best example I have is when Jesus was on the cross being tortured while literally hanging by nails, and he lifted a prayer to God on behalf of his torturers: “Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they are doing.” Call me crazy but I don’t think the lynch mob having their violent way with Jesus was “right with God” nor were they repented. Heck, they didn’t even believe Jesus was God. Yet, Jesus, went to bat for them with God anyway. Because he loved them.

He loves you the same. And I’m guessing you haven’t even lynched anybody lately. You don’t have to be a certain way to receive God’s love. Just be you. That’s enough.

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 Of course, you could say, “No way is this true. Dumb Bible speaks fantasy.” Wouldn’t it be great if it was true, though? If this God, this Jesus, this wacky Holy Spirit Christians talk about were the real deal?

Well, I believe 100%. I believe in that LOVE.

And because I believe, and because I love Jesus and I want to do my best to follow him, this is what it means for you and me as friends:

If you are labeled as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or some other sexually oriented specific gender/non-gender label, then I am going to be your friend. I will draw you in close and honor who you are without conditions. I’ll will support your fight for the right to love and live how you need to love and live. If you’re hurting then I will pray for you, hug you, and take you out for coffee.

If you are thinking about an abortion, then I am going to listen to your story, your pain and fear. We’ll wrestle through your options together. I am going to tell you that if you keep your baby, you’re going to be okay and God is going to love you and take care of you and that little baby through the hardships. I will tell you that if you abort your baby, God is going to love you and take care of you and that sweet little baby through the hardships. I’ll tell you that I hope and pray you choose life, but if you decide abortion is the only way, then I’ll help you find a clinic that is safe, help you find followup physical care and mental health support, and help you find healing for your heart.

If you struggle with mental illness and/or are thinking about suicide, then I am going to listen to your story and your pain. I am going to ask you directly if you’re safe and if you’re not, then I am going to find a way to get you help. We’ll wrestle through all your options together. Suicide is an option, but I promise there are better ones. I am going to tell you that you matter, and if no one else sees you, know God sees you and He loves you. And if you don’t believe it, that’s okay. I am going to help you find good mental health support, and I am going to pray for you anyway.

Pick a hot topic and I’ll keep going. My point is:  Right or wrong, sinful or not, I believe Jesus walks with you and God loves you. I don’t worry about nor require your repentance to accept you or hang out with you because that isn’t my concern. My concern lies solely with whether or not you feel loved by God.

Some Christians may argue that you have to repent and get right with God in order to truly earn the love and the grace Jesus offers. I am not one of those Christians. We aren’t all the same. He loves you as is. And so do I.

Body Love Manifesto

 

Body trust–letting go of control that forces my body to fit into the shape it wasn’t designed to be. Rather, a harmonious flow between my body and me; cues and responses passed back and forth on the tides of intuition.

Body love– relaxed joy at what I see in the mirror and how I feel in my skin. Genuine comfort in the size, shape, and strength that make up my unique physique. Choices I make that take care of me. Deep belief that I am a beautiful being.

The world doesn’t agree with these things. It doesn’t know or encourage body love. It shames if my body is too big; it favors if my body is small. Work harder, longer, sweatier, or I won’t be good enough. Valuable. Beautiful. No matter how favorable I am, I could be better, smaller, fitter, healthier. Larger bodies are no good; smaller bodies are not good enough.

What’s so bad about living in a larger body? Why is a smaller body better? It doesn’t make sense that size even matters.

Fit and fresh and fun in any size is how we’re designed. What does fit mean anyway? Culture demands “health” be a certain size. But for me, that size does not apply. I move and breathe and sleep and eat in the home I’ve been given–this body of mine doesn’t fit what culture demands. And that’s okay. The world doesn’t have a say in what my body wants for me–it doesn’t get to say what healthy is for me.

Healthy means I find what feels good, eat what sounds good, and listen when my body says ‘I’m good’.

I don’t force or slam my body into shape. I love my body in strong, gentle movements. I notice each stretch, each breath, each movement it makes. I notice pleasure when something tastes good, smells good, feels good. Pleasure is a natural gift, a healthy sign that I am alive; a symptom of body love.

I find balance, focus, strength in pace with my body.  I flex intention with each breath in, I smile in gratitude with each breath out.

When my body talks, I listen. When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m full, I stop. When I’m tired, I rest. When I’m sad, I cry. When I’m happy, I dance. When I’m stressed, I take a step back. When I’m angry, I choose my words wisely. When I’m injured, sick, or depressed, I slow down; I nourish my body, mind, and spirit gently and intuitively, trusting my body back to health.

No one knows my body better than me, except for the good Lord above, and He designed this body–my body–with intentional love. To be loved. To receive love. My body, so uniquely designed for me, thrives on food, grace, movement, and love. No one else gets to say what that looks like or feels like. There are no rules to follow. No lists of what I should and should not do. No foods that are allowed and not allowed. No physical regimes that I must or must not follow.

Body love is between my body and me, a harmonious trust inside of me.  Harmony honors health; health honors harmony.