Confessions of a white evangelical woman

quote-there-is-no-reconciliation-until-you-recognize-the-dignity-of-the-other-until-you-see-john-m-perkins-73-5-0518

I guess the people that decide such things would categorize me as a white evangelical. Depending on what you read or who you ask, in our current social context, that might sound like I’m a Trump-voting, Religious-Right, conservative Republican.  I’m none of those.  But I am white, and I am a Christian- by the amazing grace of God in Christ! I guess I am evangelical in the sense that I believe the good news that Christ died for our sins and I love to tell others that good news in hopes that they might come to their senses like I did and follow Jesus. But in the social context that seems to connect the idea of being a white evangelical with being a bigoted, Christiandom, Culture Warrior  I want to be a light on a hill, driving out darkness and helping others see.  If I want to be a light, I first need Jesus to heal my blindness.

My pastor recently said something like, “Blind spots in a Christian’s life are not areas they struggle with.  Those are just usually areas where they don’t want to repent of sin.  Blind spots are just that. You’re blind to them. You don’t know they’re there.”

If I’m going to be aware of my blind spots I’m gonna need someone to point them out to me.  When it comes to being a white Christian in the U.S., I need my black, Latino, Asian, Indian and Native American friends to show me where I’m blind to my lack of love and burden-bearing with them.

MLK Day is one of those holidays where I feel haunted.  I feel a perpetually, present gnawing in my gut to get at what’s dividing me from the people of color (POC) in my life. Honestly didn’t think anything was.  But the more I hear the news and see the Twitter posts of Christian POC who are living with the history of the U.S.’s oppressiveness towards them, the more I realize I am not bearing this burden with them. I have no idea how they feel.  But I want to.

Dr. John M. Perkins said, “There is no reconciliation until you recognize the dignity of the other, until you see their view- you have to enter into the pain of the people. You’ve got to feel their need.

I wrote a post awhile back after hearing a radio broadcast on NPR about the African American wax museum in Baltimore, Maryland.  In that post I talk about my desire to listen to my black neighbors, co-workers and friends and to not be quick to say something to defend myself or make things sound better.  I just want to listen.  I want shut my mouth and enter into the pain of the people upon whose backs this country was built.

I never used to think about racism. I think about it a lot now.  I hear our President.  I see my elderly, white patient’s stand-off-ish reactions at work to the Nigerian doctors and Eritrean nurses who care for them.  I go to church, and I see mostly white people.  I go to the gym down the street and the grocery store and I see very few white people.  I drive through El Mirage, which is predominantly Hispanic and I see no grocery stores.  No kids playing outside.  No church.  I long to have personal relationships with POC where I can bear burdens with them.  I long for my church to be multiracial so we can be a more accurate sampling of the Kingdom of God which is made up of people from every tribe, tongue and nation.

So what am I doing about it?  I am blessed to work with doctors and nurses from all over the world.  There I have formed some professional relationships and early friendships.  But I want to go deeper.  I want to bear burdens.  I had coffee with a brilliant Nigerian nurse I work with a while back.  We talked about racism, being Christians, marriage, temptations we deal with… it was good.  But I know I need to go further. I’m praying about it.  Asking God to show me how I can be a minister of reconciliation to my Hispanic, African, Asian, and Native American neighbors.

On the way home from the gym I listened to this YouTube playing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon: Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool.  In his sermon he compared America to the fool Jesus spoke of in Luke 12:13-21. He was right.  And the spirit of America, where we build barns to store more of our wealth, has affected me too.  I have grown up in America as a white evangelical where the themes of being a conservative republican were preached as equally as the need to read my Bible and go to church.  I have never known oppression because of the color of my skin.  But I’m beginning to see the people around me who have grown strong under the oppression of America’s foolishness and I am emboldened by their strength to confess my blindness and follow their lead in speaking the truth in love- boldly, humbly, despising the shame of the fool.

 

 

Plans and dreams for 2018

IMG_5969The sun is setting and the air is thick with a smokey haze.  Probably from people burning who aren’t supposed to be.  I’m sitting out here in the cool, watching my teenage sons and their neighborhood friends chase each other around in the yard.  The daylight hours of 2018 fade quickly.

2017 ended with me beginning to do some things I want to continue doing, some things I want to stop doing, and some desires to do some things differently.

Things I plan To Continue Doing

Exercise

Since James and I both purchased obstacle course races for each other as Christmas gifts (the first one is the Spartan race, Feb.11th), I started a training program to attempt to get in shape and not die doing these races.  I plan to keep that up.

Spend Mondays With Grandma

When my Grandmother was diagnosed a few weeks before Thanksgiving with having cancer growing in her spinal fluid and her brain, I began spending time with her weekly.  This has been a treasure to me.  I started recording some of our conversations in hopes of writing a little biography on my grandmother to give to family members.  Spending time listening to another person’s story is always a good thing to do.  Spending time listening to the story of a person of an older generation is enriching!  I wish our culture did this more.  Spending Mondays listening to my 82 year old grandmother tell me her story is something I plan to continue to do as long as God gives her life.

Write

I discovered Realistic Poetry on Twitter a week or go and began writing small poems.  I also began writing poetry again on my blog.  I even submitted a couple poems to Realistic Poetry for a contest they had running in 2017.  I used to write poetry quite often as a teenager, and I’ve written some occasionally through the years.  I want to continue developing skill in writing, and writing poems is one way I want to do that.  I also plan to continue writing here consistently as well as submitting articles to various publications this year.  Last year I submitted a couple articles to Desiring God.  And I plan to submit to them again this year.  But I also plan to submit to a nursing publication, a poetry publication and some other online and print Christian publications.

Pray With My Neighbor

I’ve been getting together with my neighbor in 2017 to pray.  It’s become a treasured time for us both.  We pray for our families, our pastor, our newly forming local church, confess our sins, cry for help, pour out complaints and fears and praise… it’s wonderful!

 

Things I Want To Stop Doing- And What I Want To Do Instead

Reading my Bible on my phone

I’m really thankful for the Bible apps on my phone.  I’ve developed a habit in the past couple years of reading my Bible on my phone every morning.  I get up early, make coffee and curl up on the couch in the silence, my iPhone 6 plus glowing with scripture in hand. The reason I want to stop doing this is mostly because of my kids.  When they see me on my phone in the morning they don’t know what I’m doing.  As far as they know I’m on Facebook.  And that’s the other reason I want to stop using my phone to read my Bible in the mornings: social media and the relentless notifications.  I confess I’m WAY too in tune with Facebook and Twitter.  Especially Twitter.  I scroll it like a news paper article and use it as my go-to information source. Not good.  Especially when I’m trying to read my Bible and Twitter is notifying me that someone liked my tweet. So, starting this morning actually, I pulled out my paper and leather ESV Bible and sat down with printed reading plan in hand and put my phone away.  It was good.

Buying Groceries When I Wake Up On Payday

I get paid every couple weeks via automatic deposit.  Getting paid has just become a transfer of numbers for me.  I don’t manage my income.  I just spend it.  I don’t plan.  I don’t budget.  I know it’s bad.  I don’t use credit cards very often and when I do I pay them off quickly.  It’s not that I’m out spending my income on frivolous things either.  My problem is I just don’t manage what God has provided me very well and that’s the truth of it.  I’ve heard it from the preacher, I’ve heard it in my readings, I’ve heard it in my heart when I come to the end of my numbers in the account on my screen and realize I need to change the way I deal with what God has provided me in the form of an income. I’ve tried doing budgets before and really what happens is I write it out and then I don’t stick to it. So I’m not saying I’m going to write a budget, but I am saying I want to stop the habit of spending anything out my account before stopping to plan out how I’m going to use that paycheck. Instead of going to the grocery store on payday morning, I want to spend some time looking at the amount I have, giving first to my local church, then other ministries and charities I’ve been giving to, and then plan how I’m going to use what’s left.

Some Desires, Maybe Dreams

Unlike what I’ve already written about exercise, writing, Bible reading and money management goals and changes I plan to implement this year, these are some dreams and desires I’m thinking about, committing to the Lord and looking to take steps in the direction of those desires and dreams.

Ministering Nurse

Minister in my community… and maybe beyond as a nurse.  I don’t know where this will lead, but I’m planning to finish my BSN this year in the fall.  After that, I’m not sure.  But I’m prayerful asking God to lead me as I feel pulled to the marginalized in our society.  Especially the elderly, the foreigner and the disabled.  I’m dreaming of what God might do for his glory and the building of his kingdom if I humble myself and open my life up like a conduit of grace as a nurse.  In a profession where the oppressive system based on fear, liability and even greed is weighing on the nurse’s shoulders heavily, I pray God would help me to see that I am free of all that.  I’m free to serve him and others no matter what the government, insurance companies, hospitals and attorneys do.

Start A Bible Study

I’ve been dreaming about starting a Bible study using the simple guide my old pastor gave me.  He taught me to ask questions when studying the scriptures that help keep the study God-centered, not me-centered.  The Bible is practically helpful, no doubt.  But the Bible is practically helpful because it takes your eyes off yourself and puts them on the One who made and saved us.  That changes everything.  I’ve been trying to remember what those questions were specifically that he taught me.  I’m probably wording this wrong but what I recall is something like this:

  1. What does the passage tell you about God?
  2. What does it tell you about the person or situation?
  3. How can you apply the passage in your life?

Write A Book?

I’m not sure exactly what about. And maybe a book shouldn’t be my goal.  But I want to develop my skill in writing and take steps to develop a book if God wills.  I’m dreaming about it.

Light For My Path in 2018

However things go this year, I have two sections of scripture in mind:

  1. 1 Kings 19:4-15. Elijah was scared and tired of being opposed.  He felt like the only one.  He hid and prayed that God would just end his life.  But God didn’t.  Instead, he comforted and strengthened Elijah and told him to get going.  I need to remember that this year.  I get depressed.  I get tired of being resisted.  I feel sometimes like I’m the only one and I pout. And hide under stupid things like broom trees and beg God to make things different.  But instead of pulling me out of the situations I’m weary of he strengthens me with his word and tells me to get up and get going.
  2. Psalm 33:18-22. My hope this year is not in my ability to endure, not in my marriage getting better, not in my kids doing what I hope they’ll do, not in my job or my plans or my country.  My hope is in the steadfast love of the Lord.  2018 is his.  His eye is on me.  He is daily bearing me up and has delivered my soul from death. His love will keep me through 2018.  He’s a good place to put all my hope.

 

Sunday summary

Every Sunday when I get to go to church I leave with something from God’s word pressing on me.  Every time.  But I don’t always sit down and spend some time chewing on what struck me.  Being involved in a community group helps cause every Thursday our group talks about how the sermon impacted each of us.  I don’t want to wait till Thursday.

Today we heard from Psalm 32.  I’ve read this Psalm before but this time around I discovered treasure that’s been right there all along.

If I had to summarize the Psalm in a 140 character or less tweet it would be:

“Godly people sin, run to Christ, confess it and rejoice in his forgiveness. The time between sin and confession crushes. – Click to TWEET

Listening to my pastor Jason preach the truth out of Psalm 32 had me marveling at how we miss the gospel of Jesus Christ with our attempts at covering our own sin.  I shouldn’t say “we”.  I do that.  My human, broken heart and mind keep trying to avoid the reality of my sin.  And not just mine, I want to avoid the reality of other people’s sin too.  I don’t want to take up my cross and follow Jesus and suffer because of other people’s sins!  I mean, my natural self doesn’t want to.  But Jesus is in me. And he’s moving in me to will and to act like him.  God-like. Godly.  I’m one of his “godly” ones.  I had a hard time typing that.  But it’s true.  I’m one of his godly ones, not because I don’t sin, but because I do and I run to Jesus with it and call it what he calls it.  And when other people sin, I don’t hold it against them.  That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in justice or laws.  It just means I don’t make myself their personal judge.  I don’t compare my sin to their sin and condemn them according to my self-made version of righteousness. And when I do, I feel the conviction of being unforgiving and I run to Jesus and confess it.

And that space between sinning and running to Christ to confess it is crushing!  The longer I wait and the more I try to hide and cover what I know is sin, the more I feel the crushing weight of the guilt and shame Christ bore for me.  I can’t bear that.  And I can’t hide from it.  The only way to escape is through the covering of Christ.  He bore my guilt and shame in his body so that I could bear his righteousness and joy in mine!  What love!

This is what the Psalm says godly people do.  It doesn’t say they don’t drink and don’t smoke and don’t go with girls who do.  It doesn’t say they read their Bible a minimum of so many hours a day and wake up before dawn for “quiet time” with God.  Godly people run to Christ as the covering for their sin rather than trying to cover it themselves.

My pastor summed it up so well when he said, “We’re not meant to hide our sins from God.  We’re meant to hide ourselves in God.”

The wonder of what the God of the Bible has done for those who love Christ is what makes me run to him.

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
-Psalm 32:1-7

There’s no time for this! {Warning: I’m yelling in this post. At myself mostly.}

You know what keeps you locked in a cage of doing what you know is wrong when there’s a clear way out? A total ignorance, a total unawareness, a total blindness, a total denial of the times.

When a person knows their about to die you know what they don’t do? They don’t say, “You know what, I’m gonna die tomorrow so today I’m going to cheat on my husband, destroy my marriage, break trust with everyone I know, defame the name of Christ that I carry around in the title “Christian”, abandon my kids, rob a bank, and do every other vile and deplorable thing I can think of that for a fleeting period of time might give me some sense of pleasure, or freedom or vengeance because tomorrow I’m going to die and that’s the way I want to spend the rest of my life. That’s what I want people to remember me for when I go.  That’s what I want them to think of when they think of a Christian.

No one says that!

But many do it.

And the only reason we do it is because we’re in total denial. We refuse to believe there’s no time for such things. We refuse to believe the end of all things is at hand. We refuse to believe we’re going to die and leave a reputation behind and face the One who made us, the One we’ve been naming ourselves after so easily.

Christian. Really? Are you really? Am I really? Am I a Christ-ian? A “little Christ”?

I am. I say I am. I carry around His name. And One day I’ll meet him face to face.

The end of all things is at hand. I do not get to stay here this side of that day forever. I only get a time. A very short time.

So many of us in the Disneyland of America are in a tangled web- abandoning our vows to each other, indulging in sexual pleasures outside of marriage, consuming images for our pleasure, ignoring the needs of those around us- we toy with sin and wrestle with whether God will forgive us if we chose to keep toying, and we argue with each other about various doctrines… and we’re fools! There’s no time!

There’s no time to caress our pity party about our less than ideal marriage and feast ourselves on the cocaine of a forbidden relationship. There’s no time!! We carry the name of Christ. We will see him face to face one day. We won’t just live this life forever apart from a day of reckoning. We don’t have time to toy with sin. We have wasted enough of our lives on those lies and traps and temporary pleasures (that are really chains)!

We only have a short time here to pray and watch the God of all the earth do amazing things through us! Us!

You know, I hear the call from godly men and women to stand for the unborn and those enslaved in human trafficking.  I hear the call to be willing to stand out as “hateful” in a world that will hate you for loving them and unashamedly confessing that God designed marriage between a man and woman.  I hear a call for embracing all races and ethnic groups as equally bearing the image of God, and for pointing to the blood of Christ as the only hope for any man.  I hear the call to abandon comfort and ease to go to an unreached people group, bringing them the light and truth of Christ.  I hear their calls and I think we’re over here wasting our lives on sinful pleasures and desires, arguing amongst ourselves about what the Bible says and our seconds and minutes and hours and days and years tick by and we trample under our feet the blood of Christ, clinging to our sin, mocking God and declaring we can continue in sin because grace abounds.  All the while those who rightly call themselves Christians are spending their minutes and months and lives fighting to stand against the devil’s schemes, putting their own lives in the way of those marching to slaughter and giving up domestic life for a very uncomfortable life reaching people who’ve never heard of their Savior.  And it’s not just those “glamorous” calls that Christians are spending their lives on.  They’re bending their knees to raise up a child day in and day out with prayer and teaching and nurture in the Spirit of Christ  They’re denying themselves to love a world-weary man who doesn’t love them well.  They’re laying down their lives to tender-heartedly love a woman whose bitternesses are spreading.

So you’re not called to sell all your possessions and move to the Congo.  But, when those thoughts come, “He’s never going to change… I don’t deserve to be treated like this… I’m not loved like I long to be loved… No one cares what I want, what I desire… What about me?…” When those poisoned-laced darts of sweet lies penetrate my brain I need to declare: THERE’S NO TIME FOR THIS!!

I need to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and destroy that lying worm with 1 Peter 4.

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.

Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead. The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. – 1 Peter 4:1-5,7-11

You and I need to let the pain of the battle to stand in Christ free us when our husbands don’t love us like they should, and our children require us to constantly give our time and energy and life, and our bosses fire us because of our expressed beliefs when asked, and our neighbor rejects us because of our refusal to celebrate same-sex unions, and our friends cut us off because we won’t pat them on the back and join in with encouraging them in the sin that is destroying their lives.  When those things happen, you and I need to let those pains, those sufferings come so we can be one battle closer to being done with sinning! We need to let those trials come and hurt us so we can stop spending the rest of our lives chasing our own desires but rather wake up every day on edge to do the will of God! Instead of running away from the pain and suffering that comes with following Christ, we need to let it free us from the chains of sin and to a life abandoned to his will.

And if we find ourselves in the pit of the sinful mess we’ve made of our lives, right now, there is time to turn around, and stop denying the truth, and let the blood of Christ be enough for us to stop wasting our lives on our own desires and spend our lives on HIS!  There’s no time for anything else!

Sobered,
Sheila

What do you do when you don’t have her life?

Like I said, a reset happened last week. A turning around.  Sometimes you have to go back to where you started.  Do the things you did at first to rekindle the smoldering flame.  And thank God He doesn’t just put it out. 

I spilled messy feelings out to the Music Man yesterday.  I’m sure it all sounded worse than a thirteen year old’s first blows on a saxophone.  Probably more like clanging symbols.  I had to get it out… it was festering in me.  “Something’s got to change!”  I said.  “I can’t keep going like this!”

She’s right.  I don’t get to make him love me like I want to be loved.  I don’t get to make him listen or laugh or get it or just hold me.  I don’t get to make my life the life I thought I’d have.  

I read her grace-writings frequently, and today’s seemed to be the vessel through which He said, “I know you.  Let me love you the way I deem best.”

I had already been thinking about it since I clamored out my noisy thoughts and feelings yesterday.  Ever since he looked at me and I’m sure he was thinking, “She’ll never change,”  while I was looking at him realizing I had always come to him expecting him to change.  I realized I have wandered off.  I’ve got to return to that place where I fed on truth and grace and was infused with enthusiasm in serving my Lord.

So how can I serve Him when I don’t have that life I dreamed of?

I’ve probably read every Christian wife-help book out there.  The Excellent Wife.  The Power of a Praying Wife.  Created to be His Helpmeet.  Feminine Appeal.  And probably some others I don’t remember right now.  I’ve read these and have always been stumped as to how to take that mold and force my life into it.

I work full-time.  I have children in public school.  My music man and I are marching to different drummers.  The T.V. is on more than I want.  The dinner table is crank-your-neck-to-the-side-to-see-what’s-on-T.V.-and-shove-the-food-in-your-face-as-fast-as-you-can time. There is no ministering to others coming out of this house, nor is there inviting others in.  There’s too much YouTube and Internet browsing and video games.  There’s a hiding to practice spiritual disciplines.  And there’s a murmuring of hymns, lest they be sung out loud and call attention to differing drum beats… just to name some of my top I-don’t-have-a-life-that-fits-into-the-Christian-household’s-mold things.  And it’s not like I can just busy myself and children with nature… we live in a 80 by 100 foot block walled square.  And the view out the window is shades of brown concrete and stucco.  Our history is scarred from separations and near divorces.  The hurt keeps coming back.  Again.  And again.  So how do I do this?  How do I serve Him in THIS life?

The answer is so obvious.  So right in front of me.  So me.  Me and my closed fist.  Me and my tight grip.  Me and my trying to force it.

If I want to gain my life I’m gonna have to open my grip on this one and let go.  That’s the only way to follow Jesus no matter you’re circumstances.  The only one who I can squeeze into the mold of scripture is me.

“Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” -Romans 12:2

Maybe you don’t have a dream life.  Maybe you live in circumstances you wish were different.  Like Ann said, we don’t get to write our stories.  But we do get to take what we’ve been given and make the ending a giving.  A giving of thanks.

I went back and read some of those words I wrote years ago when I was thinking on hope-filled truth and not the devastation.  I am ashamed at how far my heart has wondered away from my house of bread in my famine.  Instead of holding my ground and trusting, because He always provides, instead I let the way all the fish mindlessly floating downstream think become the way I think.  Rights.  Self-Exaltation.  Rights.  Self-Preservation.  Rights.  Self-Pleasing.  Rights.  Self-Comfort.  Rights.  Self-Esteem.  Rights.  This is the beat of the current that I stopped swimming against in my mind. I let myself drift in its steady flow towards a dead sea.  I was taking on D.H. Lawrence’s poisonous motto, “with should and ought I shall have nothing to do!

But He’s got my attention.  He’s called me back.  I’ve heard again how He’s provided, as He always does, for His own.  I’ve returned to His table.  I’ve eaten of His bread.

You don’t get to change anyone Sheila.  You just get to be changed. 

“What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”?  What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?  What if God designed marriage to make us holy  more than to make us happy?  What if, as de Sales hints, we are to accept the ‘bitter juice’ because out of it we may learn to draw the resources we need with which to make the ‘honey of a holy life’?” – Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

55. my music man encouraging entrepreneurship
56. the orange sunset
57. the promise to use my mess to mold me into the image of the Son

Quieted,
Sheila