Category Archives: Christianity

Where I admit to suicidal thoughts- AND A GIVEAWAY (read to the bottom, it’s not all doom and gloom)

“Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself. Shoot yourself.”

Those two words were on a repeating loop in my mind as I drove to the small-town grocery store to get ingredients for the sides and dessert I was charged with preparing for the family Thanksgiving dinner. It’s pretty hard to give a crap about pound cake when your own brain is trying to convince you to off yourself but I’ve always been bound by duty and guilt.

I had to drive by a bar to get to the grocery store. Okay, I didn’t have to. I could’ve taken a different route but I didn’t because I thought if it got bad enough in that ten-mile stretch between me and the green beans I had to buy, I could go in and just get drunk. If I really started to panic, I could go in and chug even just two or three beers really quickly and I knew I would calm right down. I made a list in my head of all the reasons why it would be okay if I did stop at the bar on the way. I really, really wanted to. But I didn’t. Which was kind of the theme of this new job I had called “being a mom,” it seemed. It didn’t matter what I wanted to do. I had a baby at home and a husband who was also in his own period of adjustment and I doubted, though he is a merciful man, that I would be greeted with much sympathy if I arrived home smelling like a roadside honky tonk.

When I got home, I told my husband about the voice in my head. He looked after me and when my body adjusted to the meds, I was better off than before. I don’t want to seem dramatic and I need to be 100% genuine and tell you that even though I literally had the “shoot yourself” refrain playing in my head, I knew I wasn’t going to do it. I don’t know how or why but I knew I wouldn’t. If you ever feel uncertain about whether you will or won’t, call someone IMMEDIATELY.

It’s hard to know where to start talking about depression. I’ve had a post or two in the past, when I felt like I just had to spit something out. And each time I’ve done those, I’ve received private messages from women who want to know more. Because of that, I’ve always wanted to do a series or an e-book on my personal experience and the resources I’ve found and information I’ve gathered through it. But, it’s hard to find the time to figure out how to organize and encapsulate, in any kind of comprehensive way, an experience with so much nuance. (And honestly, it’s hard to want to when I know that focusing on it again will probably bring an attack or two back to the battleground.)

Each person is unique and each story is different. I want to be able to share my journey in a way that encourages others without suggesting that their journey would be anything like mine. When we face depression, we desperately want to feel that someone understands but I would bristle at any implication that someone did. Because I’m different and they don’t know.

But, until I ever get around to that series or e-book, here is what I can tell you. I did not ever know I struggled with depression or anxiety until I was 28 years old. I thought I was the opposite of someone who had those challenges as did most people who knew me. Turns out that I had just always slept or drank myself out of my bouts. Because for me, it always comes in waves. Maybe not for you. Sometimes I can pinpoint a trigger, like when we set the clocks back in November or when I hear about something sad and then everything after that seems sad and then I’m wondering why we even have to suffer through life on this Earth where people do horrible things. I did not ever understand spiritual warfare and I had no concept of the connection between the physiological things that play into depression such as our hormones or brain chemicals and pathways and the demonic lies our spirits can be vulnerable to. So, depression can be sneaky. 

There’s so much more I could ramble on about from my own perspective but instead, let me tell you about Hope Prevails. This is a new book from neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson about her own walk through depression. So, here we have an opportunity to learn from someone who understands the scientific and the human aspects of a trip down Struggle Street. Here’s what she says:

“My greatest shock came when I tried the same treatment suggestions I typically offered my patients- and they didn’t work. I tried medication, I participated in therapy, I ate right and exercised dutifully, and I even prayed and claimed healing. For me those things weren’t enough. Only when I started to understand what depression does to us spiritually, as well as what it cannot do, and then started cooperating with God did I finally begin to experience the chains of depression falling off. I wrote this book to share what worked for me and what can help you.”

And because she did and because I am so passionate about trying to throw life preservers out to a drowning world, I have a copy to give away. I know when I am depressed, the last thing I want to do is anything constructive that might actually help. (Think about that for a minute. Think about your urges or thoughts to do self-destructive things when you’re stressed out. Why would that be? When we know the healthy things but it’s the unhealthy things we are drawn to in a hard stretch, we have to think about why. It’s the enemy of your soul pouncing on an opportunity to hurt you, my friend.) So, if you aren’t currently depressed, now might be a great time to read this book! If you care about someone who may be depressed, this is the perfect time to read this book! If you are depressed and you want to read the book, by all means, enter the giveaway but if you don’t win, holler at me. We will figure something out to get you some help. Judgement free. For real.

As much as it almost makes me shiver to think about those darkest times, I am telling you the 100% truth that it was those times that caused my whole life to change. And by life I don’t mean circumstantial things, I mean my inner self because it was suddenly a fact that I had nothing but Jesus to help me. If that didn’t “work,” I was sunk. Nothing was “wrong”- I had a good life. I had meds and a supportive husband and good physical health and enough money and access to whatever else might help a person. And those things certainly made a difference, but they couldn’t accomplish the job on their own. Sometimes we don’t really get to know God until we have nowhere else to turn. Do you know that we have a promise from Him that says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:)?” I am a new, deeper, more compassionate person because of what I went through with depression. And I am not fooled, I live knowing that I am probably not “all done” with depression for good. But it is okay now. I don’t struggle to breathe with that knowledge anymore. And I don’t want you to, either.

Dr. Bengston said, “I don’t ever want to go through anything that painful again. Honestly, I wouldn’t voluntarily choose to endure such pain, nor would I wish it on anyone. But now that I’m on the other side, I can see how even in the midst of such pain God was there. And truly, he used even pain for my good. For that I am thankful.”

You don’t have to answer this but I would love for you to think about it, no matter if you are currently on a mountain top or deep in a valley. Has there been something hard you have gone through that you can see God has used your pain for good somehow? If not, He will- in His own timing- if you give it over to Him and trust Him with it.

So, friend, enter this here giveaway. Here’s what you win:

  • Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson
  • A “hope” bracelet
  • A Hope Prevails scarf
  • An 8×10 encouraging print from Jenn Jett
  • A pretty 5×7 print
  • A journal from Sole Hope
  • Scripture memory bookmarks
  • There was a special Hope Prevails Hershey bar but I’m not going to lie to you- I ate it. Sorry.

Click here to enter and I’ll announce the winner next Monday (July 10, 2017)!

Thanks for being here with me. Love you as much as that Hershey bar I stole from the giveaway box (which is a lot).

God didn’t tell you to get an abortion

Recently, Oklahoma state Rep. Doug Cox, a doctor, expressed his support for abortion in an interview. This isn’t really new news since the republican lawmaker has told us before that he is pro-life but also pro-abortion (I know). And I don’t take the time to write about every pro-choice legislator’s comments.

 It was something specific that Rep. Cox said in this particular interview that I haven’t been able to get off my mind for days. One reason is because it’s completely illogical but another reason is that it is something I am positive that many Christians (or at least churchians) have thought or said.

“Behind the closed door of an exam room, when I have that parent with that daughter there saying, ‘I’ve never viewed myself as pro-choice. I’ve never supported abortion. But my daughter’s 14 years old and she’s pregnant. We talked about it, we prayed about it, and we think she wants to have the pregnancy terminated. Where can I go?” (bold, underline and italics are mine)

 And Dr. Cox wants to be able to tell them where to go to kill the baby. I mean terminate the pregnancy (That sounds better, right?). Now, keep in mind that he is pro-life and continually states that he would never actually perform an abortion (you know, because he thinks it’s wrong and he doesn’t want to kill a baby or anything).

So even though that’s pretty illogical, it’s still not the worst part. The worst part is that I know he’s telling the truth about that conversation. I bet he’s had it a whole bunch of times. And it doesn’t make ANY sense.

I just want EVERYONE to really think through what they believe about abortion and why.

 Since the parent says they prayed about it, then we can assume they believe in God (because we are in Oklahoma and that is what it means for the vast majority of us) (unless they were just saying that which is also probably pretty common). Since they believe in God, we can assume they believe He is their Creator. So, what I’m wondering is, when do they think He created them? When they were born? Well, surely not. Everyone knows there’s a baby in there long before it presents itself to the outside world. Do they think that God doesn’t get involved with the creating part until a certain magical week of pregnancy? Maybe, but there’s no reason to think that other than it’s convenient.

 So, then, these people realize their daughter is pregnant with a person created by God, in His image, and they are concluding that because it will make their lives harder, He wants them to kill the baby He has created. He must not have realized how much this would disrupt their plans. Or, they know they shouldn’t do it but tell themselves “grace covers me and I’ll be forgiven,” not taking into consideration potential consequences.

 Come on, Christians. Don’t be like that. Don’t use “we prayed about it” as a scapegoat (for anything). And please, please don’t ever think that God wants you to have an easy life. That kind of Osteenian theology will ruin your life.

“Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don’t stand back and let them die.”   Prov 24:11 NLT

***As always, let me remind you that I am not judging anyone who has had an abortion, who has performed an abortion or who has coerced their daughter (or girlfriend/wife/one-night-stand) into an abortion. I am saying that abortion is wrong. (I also realize if you don’t believe in God then each person gets to decide their own right and wrong- I’m directing this conversation toward Christians.) If you have had an abortion and are suffering because of it, please know that help is available to you! You can google places in your area or email me theheatherbrownproject(at)gmail(dot)com and I would consider it an honor to help you find healing.

Respectful and civilized comments are always welcome and will be responded to. If anyone has questions or would like to keep their comments between us, just email me.

A way to love somebody

For awhile now, I’ve been planning to do a post about Stand in the Gap Ministries and in particular, their Life Launch program. Well, today is the day.

So often, we really do want to connect with and help other people in the name of Jesus but it’s not always easy to know where to start or what to do. Well, let me tell ya. Okies, this is for you (To out-of-state friends, I am always happy to do some internet searching to help you find a way to serve, too! Just holla atcha girl!).

You can get a great introduction to the programs SITGM offers just by visiting their website so I’m not going to get too in-depth here but I wanted to let you all know who and what they are.

As the name suggests, SITGM is a faith-based organization and exists to follow the commands of the Bible to care for widows, orphans and prisoners. So, they have developed three programs.

Kindred Community is a program that empowers churches to help widows come together in order to support one another.

Women in Transition is a program for women coming out of prison so that they have not only training before they leave but also a group of friends to help them once they do!

Life Launch is the program that Spencer and I have been looking into and the one I know the most about. It is a program that matches a group of 2-5 adult volunteers with one student aging out of foster care. It is a one-year commitment and they ask that you meet every week or every other week. For the first six months, you spend your time together just getting to know one another. The second six months you work on goal-setting, planning and implementation. For instance, if a young person was interested in going to vo-tech, you might just take them for a visit there to get more information or help them open a checking account.

It’s not hard! You don’t have to do anything but be a friend! It requires no special skills! We went through the training and it was very simple and we did it over a meal with the OKC director. We couldn’t find any friends to do it with us so she said she could either put us together with other volunteers or we could just have a small group. The next step is to submit a background check (which is free to you if they go through DHS- we paid for ours so it wouldn’t take so long but it was only $17) and then they match you up with a youth.

Can you imagine being 18 and left all on your own with no support, no guidance and no reliable adults in your life at all? I can’t. I was a hot mess and an idiot when I was 18. No surprise that many of these kids end up in jail, human trafficking or dead. But, sometimes it’s just knowing that someone does care and is there for them that makes all the difference.

SITGM is in Tulsa and OKC but you don’t have to live in one of the two big cities to be involved! Just contact them (918-585-6112)and they’ll help you find your spot. And, of course, if you’re looking for your end-of-year charities, they do have a donate button.

Just do it.

 

Don’t judge me!

For quite awhile, the word “judge” has been haunting me. As a person who believes the whole Bible, I’ve been disturbed by the fact that the Bible seems to contradict itself in places when we are told not to judge, yet it seems clear that we must exercise judgement to understand anything, doesn’t it? And, we are told to “judge rightly.” (John 7:24) So, how can we judge rightly if we aren’t allowed to judge? I felt confident that there was a logical answer but it bothered me that I didn’t know what it was.

Probably the smart thing to do would have been to ask someone knowledgeable (like a pastor who went to seminary or something) but I didn’t. I just got real worried that people were hearing “don’t judge” like there is no right or wrong. And they were calling other people judgemental and I’m over here thinking, “aren’t you judging someone if you say they are judging someone?” Or, are we judging child molesters by saying they are wrong to molest children? Yes, we are but that seems okay to people. So. You can understand why I was a lil mixed up.

Thankfully, the Lord led me to find my answer.

Without making this post five days long, I want to just summarize my findings but feel free to ask for clarification if I make it too succint.

Okay, turns out, different Greek words were used for places that were translated as “judge.”

  • One word, “krino” means to judge in a judicial sense. (used in Matt 7:1-2 and James 4:12, for example) It is a word that describes judging in a condemning way. We are commanded not to condemn others (to assume they are going to hell or to be unforgiving) or to judge their hearts and minds.
  • Another version of the word, “diakrino,” means to discriminate or make a determination. It is used in 1 Cor 6:5 and 1 Cor 14:29, for example.
  • Another version is “anakrino,” which means to examine, investigate and “sift.” I like that it said “sift” and I think gives an accurate picture of how we should go through each issue deciding what is what, based on the Bible. It’s used in 1 Cor 2:15 and Acts 17:11, for example.

So. There ya have it. We are actually called to judge between right and wrong without condemning people and now I have some proof. I sure did feel better when I found this information, so I hope it will help someone else, too.

Here is my usual disclaimer: I am not a Bible teacher, scholar or theologian. I am a person who has access to Google. So, you can agree with me or not and I am open to hearing your thoughts. In fact, I have published posts before that now, looking back, I can see that I did not have the whole picture and I am wondering why none of my more knowledgeable friends pointed out my errors. By errors, I mean I read a part of the Bible and took it to mean one thing before considering it in context or understanding other relevant verses. So, if you are thinking that you can see I’m trying but you know something about the Bible that I have missed, please tell me! I won’t get mad.

 

Holding it in

I have been struggling lately. When something is on my mind or I don’t know what to do, I long to talk about it with someone. But sometimes it’s best not to say anything (because it involves other people and you don’t know if you should be talking about them or not). And that’s when I would normally write about it in some vague blog and hope that would relieve the pressure to share without putting anybody on the spot. But sometimes it’s best not to.

And I know that what I’m supposed to do is pray about it. But sometimes that’s not very satisfying because I want to know what to do NOW. I get anxiety about uncertainty. I have trouble just being and waiting. I need to take some action!

Today, as I thought about the things I long to say, I vacillated between emotions and approaches and perspectives. I am so afraid of letting myself hold these things in and continue to be hurt by them but I am so afraid of hurting someone else by talking about them because we all know I can really let fly with the wrong words and the wrong tone when I get going. So as I prayed today I kept remembering to “wait on the Lord.” (Ps 27:14) Just wait, Heather.

The world is not going to fall apart if I don’t fix everything today. I think I will just wait on Him to do something or to show me what to do because “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Cor 14:33). If I am confused, then I have not heard from Him. Right?

Thanks for letting me talk this out in a vague blog post. I had no idea what was in my head until I read it.

ALSO: This is important and I came back to a finished yet unpublished post just to add it. I have written here and elsewhere about the daily devotional I’ve been doing, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I wrote that I was skeptical of it before I began because from what little I had seen, the entries seemed to be her putting words in God’s mouth. You can read my post about that here.

But, today I saw this link. The question we are discussing starts right around minute 6. I have a lot of trust in what Hank has to say because of his vast, amazing knowledge of the Bible. He may possibly have the entire thing memorized. It seems Hank’s concern with Jesus Calling is 1. that people use devotionals as a replacement for the Bible 2. that people will read Sarah’s words and believe they are God’s and 3. that Sarah makes things up sometimes. I totally agree on #1 and I want to explain my point of view on #2. As I read the devotionals, in my mind, it is like I am reading Sarah’s prayer journal and she is just sharing what she felt lead to write down, NOT that these are God’s words. As far as #3, I have no idea about that but I would hate to think that I need to research the personal history of every author whose works I read. But maybe I do?

Anyway, I wanted everyone to have the chance to hear Hank’s thoughts lest I recommend something crazy to everybody. I take his concerns very seriously.

Beware deadly acorns

Well, everyone, fall has arrived full force in central Oklahoma along the I-40 corridor (most likely in the rest of Oklahoma, too). This morning the wind was ripping acorns from the blackjacks and spitting them across the yard like a shotgun. I got pelted and when I reacted in a completely appropriate way by screaming and covering my head, Jack copied me and now the neighbors probably think he has PTSD or something because he won’t quit it.

Anyway, once I had recovered, I got back to calmly drinking my coffee with Spencer while we leaned against the shed. Jack was playing in the yard and turned around to smile and wave once , then resumed his activities. So sweet. He thought of us in the middle of his concentration and effort to find the perfect rock. He wanted to stop what he was doing just to connect with us for a moment.

And I remembered that while I was doing my morning quiet time (I did it late today). I wonder if it delights God’s heart for us to take a moment out of our busy work and just say, “Hi, God” the way it does a mama’s heart when her baby does it? “I just want to connect with you for a minute, God. I want to remember you.” Don’t you think he loves that? I do.050edit

Hope Spoken link-up

Hey, everybody! Today’s post is a link-up with the other attendees of the Hope Spoken conference so that we can get to know each other a little online before we meet in March.

The leading ladies (Casey, Danielle and Emily) have provided some guidelines for our link-up posts and one of the things they asked for was a picture. Luckily I already had my mom’s good DSLR here because I was trying to take some fall pictures of Jack. But he is too crazy for photo shoots. So, I got Spencer to take a pic for me so that I could post a high quality and extremely recent one. It was pretty awkward but we did it.

Heeeeeeyy

Heeeeeeyy

As for an introduction, it all began on a beautiful day in April, 1984…Just kidding. I have no idea what the weather was like the day I was born. Anyway, I’m 29 years old and a homemaking mama to a fifteen-month-old crazy lunatic boy and wife to a tall, smart, compassionate man. I’ve lived in Oklahoma all my life except for that one summer when I did an internship in D.C. for a US Senator. That’s how I know the big city isn’t my speed. I graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Agricultural communications (yes, we talk to cows) and a minor in political science and then I got to work as a lobbyist here in Oklahoma for a couple years before Jack was born. I’m pretty much a redneck and I try to embrace that without crossing over to white trash. I am passionate and adamant about the fact that God loves every person created in his image including the pre-born and therefore we should love them too. I don’t think loving people means agreeing with them so that they don’t get mad at you. Originality moves me. So does ice cream.

Now I’m supposed to say something I’m feeling timid or nervous about for the weekend of Hope Spoken. I have a few. The main thing I’m feeling nervous about is that I may not get to go! I already bought a ticket and everything but my husband may have a work trip come up at the same time in Florida and he invited me to go with him. So, I’m really hoping they don’t fall on the same weekend. I’m also a little worried about the money. I feel kind of nervous about spending money for the ticket and a hotel room when our savings account is overdrawn (it literally is).

Something I’m hoping to take away from the conference is inspiration. And new friendships. And maybe some swag. But mainly inspiration.

Now something fun/random about myself…hmmm…but I’m so normal…this is like when you have to say a special talent and you can’t think of one…

Edited to add: I forgot to add something fun/random about myself before I published! I hate being scared and so I stay far away from creepy movies and roller coasters. I’ve tried so many times to see the fun in it but it’s not for me! I’m a party pooper!

Can’t adopt but want to help the least of these?

Good morning, Friends! I hope you are enjoying your day. I have some things I need to share with EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE.

Last night I listened to a talk given by Lindsy Wallace through the Influence Network. The class was on caring for orphans outside of adoption. So, it was basically about how to follow God’s command to care for orphans when you are in a place where you don’t feel like you can adopt. I’m sure anyone who knows me knows that I consider pre-born children who are unwanted by their parents to be orphans just like older children. Many of the verses Lindsy referenced on caring for orphans are ones that I use to understand why we must defend the pre-born (loving your neighbor, caring for orphans, caring for the least of these) and I feel like I can sense something being built, something about to come full-circle for me.

Lindsy’s talk was so helpful and I would encourage everyone to check it out because it will be available in the Influence Network shop at some point for only $10. But, in case you don’t check it out, I’ll share some things I learned from her.

First of all, I really agreed with her on basically everything she said. I think we would “get” each other. So many people have this either/or mentality about the sanctity of human life and, really, we need to have an all-encompassing, holistic approach. When you have the worldview that Jesus loves and cares for every single person, you realize it doesn’t matter if they are pre-born, older, American or African. We should be defending life AND caring for children in orphanages (group homes). We should be helping children at home AND abroad.

Lindsy also pointed out that orphans do not exist in a vacuum. Something happens in a child’s family that leads to them becoming an orphan. If we can begin to look at supporting families and specifically moms, (crisis pregnancy centers do this well for pre-born children) we can help to keep children from becoming orphans in the first place.

She opened my eyes to some issues I had no idea about. Did you know that there are ministries to help refugees all over the US? I had no idea that there was a need to help refugees- or even that there were refugees- in Oklahoma City! For information on that, check out The Spero Project or just Google “refugee ministry” in your local area.

Another thing I noted was that you can become a mentor to an older child in foster care who is getting close to aging out of the system. Often, when these kids turn 18, they are sent out on their own and they literally have no one in life. You could become a friend to them and give them somewhere to go on Thanksgiving! (Edited to add: Each state offers its own services and I suggest searching online or calling your own state’s offices. In Oklahoma, you can follow this link to go to the volunteer page of Oklahoma DHS.)

My favorite thing I learned from Lindsy was that there are actually programs where you can sponsor families just like you can sponsor individual kids. There are moms who want to parent their children but they don’t have the resources they need. We can help them. Have you heard about microfinancing? It’s a loan program to help vulnerable families get on their feet. While we are on the subject of moms who want to keep their kids, awhile back I learned about adoption ethics. I think it’s an important issue for everyone to think about. I’m not telling you what to think, I’m just saying everyone should be aware.

Lindsy suggested two books: “Orphan Justice” and “Orphanology.”

Orphan Sunday is the first Sunday of November. Go here for resources on that.

Fellow bloggers: Look into blogger programs with Worldhelp, Compassion or Lifesong  to help raise awareness in your circle of influence.

I know that a lot of times we aren’t even aware of the needs around us. And sometimes when we are, it just seems so overwhelming and we don’t know what we can do. I hope you will look into some of the links here.

Everyone can do something. And Christians are commanded to. 

The last thing I want to say on this topic is that we all need to be praying for orphans and their families. We need to be asking God to show us and help us to do our part. And the devil isn’t going to like it so we better cover it all in prayer.

God can even use 31-day writing challenges

I know this sounds so crazy but God is using this 31-day writing challenge in my life. I don’t always post about how because I am still trying to process things for myself but it’s getting weird, y’all. Because of participating in this challenge, I started following some other blogs which led me to other blogs which led me to seeing things on Instagram and websites that I would have never seen otherwise. But what is happening over and over again is that I’m having these thoughts pop into my head and then literally that day I will see something that specifically affirms what I was thinking maybe I should be doing. That sounds a little confusing but here’s an example.

Yesterday morning Spencer and I woke up before Jack and these are some of the exact words I said to him: “I’ve been thinking lately that I could get up earlier and do a few things before Jack wakes up since he sleeps so late now (7:30-8am) but he’s such a light sleeper in the mornings I would probably wake him up.” Which led me to thinking that I could start doing my Bible and prayer time before Jack gets up rather than during his nap time and then I could do something else during naps. Then, later that day, I saw this interview with Kat Lee  where she was talking about her e-book, Maximize your Mornings. Which I haven’t read yet (but I did order it) (because it was free) but I’m pretty sure is the result of her feeling like God was telling her to get up and spend time with Him before her kids were up.

So. Seems like I should probably look into that.

Churches: where everyone should feel welcome

The other day, a friend of mine posted a link to this article. I have noticed a lot of chatter on this topic lately and it’s really all over the place. So, this post is not a post about the issue of why millennials are leaving the church. But, there is one sentence in the piece that struck me and stuck with me for a few days. It’s one of those things that I think about when I’m vacuuming or taking a shower. And usually I have to write about and discuss these things with others before my brain will leave them alone and move on. It works and works and works on ideas against my will. I’d rather be thinking about ice cream. Anyway, let’s get into it.

The line that keeps replaying in my mind is this one: “We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.” Of course! We want EVERYONE to feel truly welcome in our faith communities, especially our friends!  This is such a difficult issue. Here are some things that I think make it sticky.

1. Homosexual activity is clearly called a sin in Scripture (yes, even in the new Testament). So, many are waiting on churches to say something like “We do not think there is anything wrong with homosexual behavior anymore.” And, in a Biblically-based faith, that will not ever happen.

2. People are human, including those within whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Sometimes they will not handle things the right way.

3. Churches are full of people who really aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit- Churchians rather than Christians, if you will. Churches are also filled with people who are true servants of Christ so I don’t want anyone to think I’m down on churches. It’s just that there is a mixture of people there and we need to realize that so that we don’t meet one bad apple and assume the rest are bad too. Everyone there is a work in progress so don’t get mad if people aren’t perfect.

4. Many people think that if it doesn’t affect you, then it is none of your business and you shouldn’t say anything about it. This causes division because those who have studied the Bible know that we are supposed to admonish one another. (Which, btw, most people really don’t want to admonish their brothers and sisters. It’s very uncomfortable.)

I think what we have going on is a whole bunch of defensiveness and emotionalness (I feel like that should be a word). If straight people and gay people could talk openly about these issues without automatically assuming the other person is going to hate them or be disrespectful towards them and actually really listen and consider what the other person says, I think we could all feel a lot more comfortable with each other. When you get mad because someone disagrees with you, the opportunity to learn anything from the differences ends.

So, I think it’s important to think about what would truly make a gay person feel welcomed by a faith community, as the author put it.  (Side bar: This could probably apply to anyone who is OPENLY and continually engaged in a certain sin. Secret sins obviously don’t make the sinner feel unwelcome because no one knows about them. But, take a known drug user or someone living with their partner outside of marriage and apply the same ideas about being welcoming.) I think to make someone feel loved, it is important to tell them you love them. And, I think it is important to explain that God loves them. Where we run into confusion is that God’s love is not like the world’s love. So, Christians know that engaging in unrepentant sin is always harmful to people. And we want to help each other. And we are supposed to help each other. We just don’t always know how to. We are commanded to rebuke one another, exhort one another, speak the truth in love, etc. but we are also commanded to do it with gentleness. But, it’s hard to be gentle when you have the world telling you that you are not allowed to believe any offensive parts of the Bible and you are certainly not supposed to tell anyone else about them. We push back. Because we are people. It’s an impossible balance for the human mind to figure out, I think. How can we be gentle and loving AND speak the truth when the world tells us that it is hateful and in fact, not the truth?

So, while this post is mainly meant for me to organize my thoughts and clear out my head, I also wanted it to be about Christians needing to realize that some people might want to come to church but they think they aren’t welcome. And we really do want them to feel welcome (Seriously, if you have been wanting to go to church but you feel anxious about it, just go. The majority of people will be really nice to you.) But, now I think I also want to ask my gay friends to  extend some grace to the straight Christians who love you because maybe they just don’t always know the perfect thing to say. It’s hard to communicate to someone that even though you do judge their sexual behavior as wrong behavior (because you believe the Bible), you do also love them, they are still welcome with you, you do not think it is your job to force them to stop, and you are not denying that you yourself have also engaged in behavior the Bible says is wrong. Though eloquent it is not, maybe we should just say that? I don’t know.

For instance, Spencer and I lived together before we were married. So, clearly everyone knew I was in open, continual, unrepentant sin. Did I feel a little awkward when people at a new church asked if we were married? Um, yeah. Because then they were going to know. But no one was mean to me about it. And I didn’t feel unwelcome even though I knew that they knew I was sinning. But, I realize that heterosexual premarital sex is often not treated the same way as homosexual activity so I realize there may be more anxiety for the gay person  than there is for the shacking-up person. And church members need to recognize that and check their hearts to make sure they are not putting up walls sub-consciously. BTW, the author cited the church’s obsession with sex and I think that the reason for any obsession, if there is one, is that sexual sin is so common and so difficult to escape from. Therefore, I would say an obsession, if the obsession is to help those struggling with sexual sin, is totally appropriate.

Note: I do agree with some things and disagree with others in the article referenced above. For one thing, if she’s right, then how would she explain the explosion of churches that do offer the things she’s saying millennials don’t care about (think LifeChurch and those like it: coffee shops, light shows, concert atmosphere, etc.)?

Another note: We are still looking for our church home and trying to figure out how to attend both Sunday school and church right in the middle of Jack’s nap time. I am not an active member anywhere. We have been attending worship services randomly but I’ve been doing most of my learning through online communities and independent Bible study lately.

An additional note: I’m not a teacher, a theologian or an expert on anything. I am just a woman trying to do what is pleasing to God and to speak the truth in love. I like to discuss because it helps me learn. I know that every topic I write about has been discussed to death by others. But this is my way to open the dialogue with people I know rather than just the whole world-at-large.

A further note: This post is really not directed towards people who hate God or think Christians are stupid bigots. So, we don’t really have to argue about that. I understand that those people do not have regenerated hearts and to them I absolutely sound dumb. And, that’s fine. It’s just pointless to argue about.

A note in addition to the other notes: I really hate that “welcome and greet each other” time at the beginning of worship services. It’s super awkward.