Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do I Love in Deed or Just Words?

This question has been bothering me and has caused me to think through some issues and to give my love capacity a heart check.

A current social trend is causing me some concern. That trend is that it is becoming more acceptable for someone to identify oneself as preferring a same-sex partner. We have different labels for both men and women.

My concern is not about someone else's decision and choice; it is my problem with how I think and can I love that person without judgment.

I now know several people who have made this choice. Some are open about it, some hide it, and some fight about it.

In Christian circles, there seems to be an attitude of judgment, shame, and exclusion. I can even say that it seems to be one of hate. Isn't that an oxymoron? Christian people hating and not loving some who have made a choice that disagrees with their belief system.

I have interaction with many who are not in Christian circles. Some of the comments I hear them say are: Who cares? What business is it of mine what another person chooses in that area? That's not for me, but I respect someone who makes that choice. And other comments that don't seem to have a sense of judgment about them.

Someone asked me a few years ago if I still believed the Bible. What prompted that question was that I was not so judgmental any more and not so OCD about my interpretation of certain scriptures. My answer was that of course I do, but I have changed my opinion about what I believe the scriptures are saying. My emphasis now is on the person and showing grace and love while still holding truth in my beliefs.

I'm startled that same-sex preference people say that the group of people who are the most hateful and the least accepting of them are Christians. What an indictment against us! It makes me think of what the Pharisees said of Jesus that he associated with those who were not acceptable to them. The very righteous, judgmental people of Jesus' day were astonished that He would show love and acceptance to the ones who were living contrary to their religious beliefs.

I love the statement, "They will know we are Christians by our love." Isn't that the first thing we should be concerned about? Not a wishy-washy love that has no grace and truth, but a genuine love and acceptance of the person even if that person doesn't believe like I do.

I want to write about this in the next few posts on this blog.
I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Friend in Haiti

Our friends, Rex and Sherry Holt, pastor a church in Southern CA. In past years they were SBC missionaries to Togo West Africa, where they speak French. Rex was asked to go with a medical team to Haiti. The team left last Saturday morning. Yesterday, Tuesday, Rex called Sherry from Haiti and Sherry wrote about it in their daily church letter to members, to which I subscribe. It's an excellent recounting of what Rex is experiencing in Haiti.

January 26, 2010

About 6:30 p.m., I got a call from Rex. Joe Hall was standing in the kitchen with me so I put the phone on speaker. I wish so much that I had a recording of it. He talked fast to try to tell everything he could since he had borrowed the phone from his tent-mate. A Haitian by birth, his tent-mate Julio moved to Florida a number of years ago and has been pastoring a church there. Since this terrible disaster in his homeland, he has returned home to Haiti to stay, leaving behind the church he pastored in Florida and everything that he had accumulated materially. His wife Suzette will join him this weekend and they will begin life again in Haiti.

Rex loves him and said they both agree that the Lord meant for them to spend these days together. Most of the tents are large enough to accommodate 4 or 5 persons, but Rex and Julio got the smallest tent and there is only room for the two of them. They pray together--sometimes in English and sometimes in French or they sing together--sometimes in English, sometimes in French. Rex says that he feels so at home in Haiti, because there are so many similarities to living in West Africa.

He spoke of the devastation being hard to conceive, walking in a city, block after block where buildings are leveled on both sides of the street. As he walks around, he engages practically everyone he passes in conversation and they all speak of having lost loved ones. Their only requests are for water and food. He told of two examples of children asking for food at the orphanage where their tent is set up. The volunteers have been instructed not to give away food or water but to respond that they came with medical supplies. This is a tough thing to do, but necessary to keep a riot from breaking out because so many people are thirsty and hungry.

He told about a young man who came up to him and said, "I am hungry.” So Rex gave the pat response, “We came with medical supplies.” The boy turned away but another boy came up to Rex and asked, “Did you see him, did you really see him?” He assured this second young boy that certainly he had seen the boy and heard his request. But then the young boy challenged him again, “but didn't you see in his eyes…he is starving.”

Hidden in Rex's pocket was a protein bar that he had brought in his week's supply of food and he wanted to give the child food. However, there were many people around and he knew that it would be chaotic. People would stampede toward him to get food, and he only had that one protein bar. Later, he was happy to see the boy alone who had challenged him about seeing the boy who was starving, and he quietly gave him the protein bar and told him to divide it 2 ways and give that boy the other half. The young boy said, “No, I will give him all of it.” Rex was skeptical that would happen, but a short time later the starving boy approached Rex with the entire bar and humbly thanked him.

That wasn't the only time he saw the children act in this unselfish way. There was a young girl standing nearby when he started eating from his meal supply, a package of peanut butter and crackers. He took out one of the crackers and gave to the little girl. As soon as she had taken it, she called the name of a young boy. He came to her and she divided the peanut butter cracker in half and shared with him. At that point, Rex gave the little girl the entire package, knowing that she would share it.

He would interject from time to time that he was so glad that he was there or that it was just great being there, so I finally got a chance to talk and asked if he was even going to come home. To that he started telling a little about how difficult the living situation is. But, he didn't dwell on that long. There was so much to share. For instance, there was a team member in their group who prayed for a blind first he saw a bright light, they prayed again, he saw the shadows of people, they prayed again, he counted fingers of the man who held them up in front of him. Then Rex prayed for a deaf man. After the prayer he walked some distance behind the man so that he could not see him. He instructed the man to clap each time he heard a clap. He responded perfectly because the formerly deaf man HEARD Rex clapping his hands.

Finally he slowed down a little and explained that he had used too many of Julio's phone minutes and had to get off the phone. At that point I got the chance to say, “Happy Birthday Honey, or had you forgotten that it is your birthday?”

Well, he was quiet for a few seconds and he said with astonishment, “Is today the 26th?” And I assured him that it was. He had forgotten that today was his birthday. He closed out his conversation by saying with deep conviction, “We have to come back!!! Others from among us have to come and help.”

I wish everyone of you could have heard him...but you will soon. He won't be back at church on Sunday morning but should arrive back in S. California sometime later in the day on Sunday. Rex kept saying how he could feel so strongly the Lord's presence even amid the devastation and human suffering. Somehow, hearing about hungry children sharing, a blind man seeing, a deaf man hearing...affirmed why Rex feels so strongly the Lord's presence in Port au Prince and why even under such terrible conditions that he could be so joyful..."IN HIS PRESENCE IS FULLNESS OF JOY!!!"


Friday, January 8, 2010

Right or Wrong?

Beginning a new year causes me to reflect a lot. Lately I've been thinking about how much I've changed over the years.

I was raised close to my grandparents. They visited a lot and then lived on our property in a house back of us to help their daughter, my Mom, with raising her eleven children. My Dad traveled, and they apparently thought my Mom needed help. And they helped a lot. They raised chickens, milked cows, raised calves for beef, and pigs for meat. We also had a large garden we all worked in. My grandparents were very much a part of my growing up years.

My grandfather used to tell me that "blacks" did not have souls. That was my upbringing. Do you know how hard it is to change that thinking? I'm glad to report that I have made a total turnaround from that kind of terrible prejudicial old South thinking. Someone's nationality or race is to me now sort of like what color of eyes or hair does someone have. What does it matter? I look back now and shudder at how odd and full of hate that whole prejudice thing is and was. Totally wrong, totally bad.

Something else that's trivial compared to prejudice (which is horrible, especially when passed down) that I've changed about is that my parents taught us that it was wrong to dance. I took a strong "Christian" stand against dancing. I was a cheerleader and even, shock of all shocks, was voted Miss EHS (Edmond HS). It was hard to not dance when your sponsors and teachers would encourage you to at all the mixers and get-togethers. But I was a "good girl"!!

A few years ago I started clogging. I love it! Then as I reflected on things, I got a little angry (funny angry) at being taught that dancing was wrong. I'm not very good at it, but I love it!! Think of all the fun things I've missed over the years by thinking that dancing was wrong. I even tried to shame and guilt my own kids into not dancing. Can you believe it? Hard for me to believe now, but that's what happened.

Another odd no-no was that I should not go to movies. My Dad said to me one time, "What if Jesus returned while you were at the show?" When I started dating and going to drive-in movies, I would often look over my shoulder at the sky and hope that Jesus wouldn't return because I was sure He would be ashamed of my being at the movies. Huh? That is so funny to me now. I'm a "movie" person. I love movies, especially good movies, especially real-story movies. Think of all I missed thinking and being taught that it was "sin" to go to the movies. :-(

As I married and became a pastor's wife in the sixties, it was the teaching in our circles that it was definitely wrong for women to wear pants to church. I could even find some scriptures that seemed to say that. (Notice: seemed to say) Now, I wear pants all the time. It even feels funny to wear a dress, which I rarely do. Hmmm... I've really changed my thinking on this also.

I've been thinking recently about some of these things I've been pretty strong on in my beliefs in the past. Now I'm either changed or definitely questioning. It helps me to go back and realize how much my beliefs and thinking have changed over the years and where I am now.

I always want to be teachable and open and learning. It makes me wonder like the Cox commercial, "Wonder what else I don't know?" What other beliefs and thoughts do I have and hold to that need to be re-thought and considered in my understanding of grace as taught in the scriptures.

I'm on a quest! I want to know!!
I'll keep you posted.