Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sin and the Sinner... What Do We Do With That?

We say that we 'love the sinner, and hate the sin,' but what does that mean?

Why do we hate the sin? For the sake of hating sin? I think if that's the case, we're missing the point.

Does God hate sin for the sake of hating sin? Is he holy for the sake of making a bunch of rules and judgments?

I don't think so. I think he hates anything that hurts us, that has the potential to cause us harm. I think he wants us 'to be holy as he is holy' for our sake, to keep us from harmful activities, thought processes, etc.  I think he hates whatever hurts us. Why? Because he loves us that much.

Is this our motivation for hating sin? Because our love for others causes us to hate anything that could cause another person harm or keep them from being whole, happy, healthy? Or do we hate sin because 'the Bible says so,' yet we never stop to wonder why it might say that. I believe God has a very practical side to him, and I don't think we consider that as much as we should.

Personally, I think a lot of people who say, 'love the sinner, hate the sin,' don't know what the crap they mean by that. I think too many people abuse that, use it as a cop-out. Some, if they were honest, would have to admit that what they're really interested in is hating the sin and berating the sinner. I think sometimes we do that out of our own insecurities. We feel we don't measure up so we deflect and put the spotlight on others' shortcomings so maybe people won't notice our own.

If we really love, if our motivation is love, we need to demonstrate that love. That's not always easy. It's not always a clear path either. It can be messy. It can be confusing. It can be frustrating to live in the tension, in the gray. I say gray because as I get older, I realize life is not as black and white as I was taught it was. There is a lot of gray in the world. I can also say that it seems easy to 'hate a sin,' but the moment you put a face to it...well, it gets a little harder. At least it should. You realize that the sin is attached to a person, and that person needs love, understanding and mercy, not judgement. That's when it gets really messy. And it should. We should have to wrestle with that. It shouldn't be easy.

So why do you really hate the sin? And in what ways do you show the sinner love? And here's another question...is it really a sin or is it just something you don't like or participate in? I've come to realize that some of the things I grew up being taught were sins weren't really sins at all according to Scriptures but were personal convictions that someone placed on everyone else and labeled as sins.

Actually this post is not new. I've had it in my draft folder for quite some time, but I realized that it's a recurring theme in my unpublished posts. Guess it's time to get it out there. I've said this a lot...and been criticized a lot for what I'm about to say, but here it is nonetheless: We struggle with the balance between mercy and judgement; but if we must err, let us err on the side of mercy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hope Discovers The Action of Non-Action

My husband is not a complicated man, yet he perplexes me and has done so for years.

I am a woman of action in most circumstances. If something needs to be said, I say it. Since I don't have much of a filter, that gets me into trouble sometimes, but at least the elephant in the room gets a 'shout out.' If something needs to be done, I don't wait for permission. I get to work. Sometimes I get bogged down because I see so many things that need my attention, but at least someone is doing something.

And then there's that laid-back, go-with-the-flow husband of mine who sometimes seems blissfully ignorant of the stress and problems that surrounds us. He's calm. He's patient. He smiles. He's content. He listens. He considers.

He doesn't react. And that has driven me crazy for years! To say that I have been befuddled is quite the understatement. I am animated enough for the both of us I suppose, but in some of the circumstances we've been in, I just could not understand for the life of me how he could just NOT react!

And then I met a Hindu and a Buddhist while in college in my religious studies courses. And I began to understand. Now I am no expert on these religions. Not even close. But over the course of a couple of semesters, I came to understand a little bit about the action of non-action. In Christianity, we have a similar teaching for this. James 1:19 says, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

It's not non-action. It doesn't mean you don't do anything because you're lazy and apathetic. It's more like the 'action of non-action.' It takes discipline. It takes practice...for some of us, more than others. It takes a conscious decision. And it can be powerful.

My husband and I actually put this into practice together a while back. We had a situation arise, and we both made the decision to not engage. We chose to take the course of non-action. He took the lead because he is the more experienced one in this area. And I was simply astounded! I watched as situations unfolded and worked themselves out. There were times I wanted to intervene, but I chose not to. I did vent to some trusted friends, though. The weight of the world did not rest on my shoulders, and my stress level was minimal. It worked itself out before my very eyes! Now I prayed like crazy during this time, but chose not to act because it wasn't the right thing to do here.

Now is this how things normally happen when you choose the action of non-action? I don't know. I am new to this. Does this mean you should never react? I don't think so. I think there is a balance. I think discernment is needed.

As I look back on my parenting style, I realize I kind of did this with my kids. There were many times, I didn't react. I stepped back and let them learn on their own. I let them realize there were consequences to their actions. I let them learn responsibility. I let them learn social skills. But there were times I had to intervene. It took some practice, but I eventually learned when to act and when not to. My kids have turned out pretty good. I can't complain. I really can't.

So maybe I'm not too bad at this action of non-action after all, but I still don't hold a candle to my husband. There is hope for me, though I don't see myself choosing the action of non-action when I witness the injustices of referees on a basketball court. Baby steps. One thing photography has taught me is that I don't have to know everything or be perfect at everything, I just have to be better than last week. I think I might can manage that.

To actively act or to non-actively act...yes, that is the question. God, grant me the wisdom to know when to apply each in my life.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meet Hoyt

This is Hoyt. He is a member of my church, New Beginning Worship Center of Macon, Georgia. I love this man! And he is one of my favorite people to photograph.

He loves to tell stories. He often talks about the two loves of his life. He was married to one woman a little over 20 years and another for 25. Hoyt is in his 80s from what I can gather, and he cherishes his independence.

Hoyt prays for this church. He prays during the week, and he comes early every Sunday evening to pray. He prays for specific needs, he prays for my husband and our family, and he prays that God will send people to our church. He also acts on those prayers.

Last week, Hoyt showed up early as usual for church, but this time he had a basketball with him. He was at Walmart and saw the aisle with basketballs and decided to buy one for my kids and all the others that God is going to send us. "Kids need something to play with. That's why I bought it. When they come, I want them to stay and play."

He then proceeded to put me to shame in a quick game of basketball. I bricked three shots in a row before making my first one. He made his first three. I quit. Apparently, my kids did not get their affinity for basketball from their mother.

Here are two more of my favorites. The black and white photo was taken at our church Christmas party. Hoyt was sporting his Christmas tie.

I took the other photo at our church New Year's party. I had already put away my camera, and I was playing a game with some of the women. I turned around to see Hoyt pushing this little cutie around, and I ran and grabbed my camera. You should have heard them both laughing and having a good time. Hoyt loves kids. He just wanted to make this little guy happy, so he put down his cane and pushed this toy car around in circles for probably 10 minutes. It was one of the sweetest things!

Hoyt is very thoughtful and caring. I mentioned that he prays for my hubby and our family. It's true. I've heard him during Sunday evening prayer ask God to bless us and protect us. He talks to my kids. He brought boxes of chocolates for everyone the Sunday after Valentine's Day. He bought that basketball for my kids and those who are yet to come. He opens doors and greets people as they enter the church. He's taken my hubby and me out for Sunday lunch. He calls me 'baby' when hugs me and tells me he loves me. This is a precious man. The world needs more like him. He just loves people. It doesn't matter who they are or what they've done. He loves us all.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A New Journey

It's been over a year since I quit blogging. That was interesting and strange for me. I've been sharing my life online for quite some time, and then I just...quit. Part of me didn't really feel like sharing anymore. The other part wanted to try something different.

When I first started my journey to wholeness, I turned to writing songs. Words were not enough. I also needed music to make sense of the turmoil that was going on inside me. A few years later, I felt trapped by rhyme and meter. I turned to blogging. And a few months ago, during my year or so away from blogging, I switched to photography.

I guess I've felt whole, comfortable in my own skin, at peace, totally ok with myself. I'm a little spunkier, a little more aware, a little more inquisitive about life and religion and philosophy, and a lot more curious about God and how he and I fit together. I think I chose photography (or maybe it chose me) because I began seeing the world differently. I saw beauty in what others might consider unsightly. I saw conquering spirit when others saw pain. Everything fascinated me, and I just got this urge to capture it all with my camera. My favorites are the little moments between the poses when people show a glimpse of their true selves.

I love photography, and I am not giving that up any time soon. I feel amazing when I'm behind a camera!

However, I think I'm back to blogging again. This time though it's not because I'm trying to release the pain and anguish churning inside me. It's because I've started another journey...the rest of my life.

My hubby and I are back into ministry. If you've read some of my blogs, then you know that organized religion had a lot to do with the mess I was in, so it seems crazy that I'd return to ministry. Yeah, it was easy just attending church for a while, but something happened. I don't even know when really. I'm sure I'll get blindsided and sucker-punched again before it's all said and done, but this time it's different. I am different.

So I'm a 'pastor's wife.' Not sure about that label, but that's a post for another day. I just couldn't get away from ministry because as much as 'the church' drives me crazy, I love it dearly and want to see it made whole and live up to its potential.

I've updated my skill set. I got a degree in public relations. And while I was at college, I got to know a lot of different people there. God opened my eyes to many things. And he opened my heart.

Here I am again. Ready to share again. And now I begin my new journey. Not a journey of trying to get out of a deficit to living at par, but a journey of discovery and living beyond.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Be Great, Crusaders!

Crusaders are GISA AA Region Champs

We’ve all wondered at one time or another how one team with standout talent can lose to another team with lesser talent. And though there may be a number of reasons for a loss here or there like injuries, off-nights or poor officiating, more than likely if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s a matter of teamwork.

Teamwork means that each person puts aside egos and agendas, puts aside the thought of game stats, puts aside the desire for personal glory, puts aside the turnover or missed shot on the last play.

Teamwork means going to practice with the mentality that “what I do in practice is what I’ll do in the game, so I’m going to practice doing it right.” Teamwork means learning the plays, flowing together, and getting the ball into the hands of the open player for an easy basket. Teamwork means digging deep when you feel like you can’t run the length of the court one more time. Teamwork means giving the ball up or even sitting out because someone else is playing a better game that night. Teamwork means practicing some more even after the official practice has ended.

I believe in the power of teamwork. And although teamwork is about working together as a team, it’s also very much about each individual playing to the best of his ability and demonstrating character both on and off the court.

Each person has to be at his best so that the team can be at its best.

So here we are, Crusaders. We made it to the state Final Four again, and we’re about to face the biggest games of our 2012-2013 season. We’re down a player, but we’ve already proven we have the heart and talent to fight through it for the win.  That’s why we’re still standing.

It takes good coaching and good playing to be a championship team. But in order to earn the title and the right to cut down the net, you each have to be great.

You see, a good player makes himself look good, but a great player makes the team look good.

So as you step out onto the court this week whether in practice or in game, in every shot, in every play, in every pass, in every run down the court, in every thought you think, in every word you speak, be great. And not just in basketball. In a few days, win or lose, the games will end and the season will be over. But don’t forget to apply the lessons learned on the court to your life and to your future. No matter what you do or where you go, wherever God and this life take you, always remember to be great.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Whatcha Carrying?

Pic borrowed from ivyleagueinsecurities.com
I've come to realize that in every circumstance there is both good and bad. The good I always try to take with me. The bad? Well, I do my best to leave the bad behind while taking with me the lessons learned, the things that make me a better person.

We carry stuff everywhere we go. This stuff can be a help or a hindrance.

Take for instance when we go on a trip. We bring along our luggage. We carry the things we need, things to make that trip easy, enjoyable and relaxing. This is good stuff to carry.

In life, we carry luggage like this, too. It aids us in making the most of life. It is good. It is a help and not a hindrance.

But so much of the time I tend to focus on baggage, the negative stuff that weighs me down and keeps me from living life.

It's like this. When we leave a situation, especially in a hurry, we tend to pack up everything. As we get settled into our new surroundings, we start going through the packages and determine what can stay and what needs to go.

Sometimes it takes a while to leave behind the things that need to stay in the past. It does for me.

I've decided that while addressing the stuff that needs to go is good and necessary, I also need to pay more attention to the stuff that needs to go with me into my new situations. I have a lot of good, a lot of lessons, a lot of experiences I can share with others.

Both the good and the bad have made me into the person that I am, but I feel like I need to start focusing more on the good luggage. I've ignored it for too long, and focusing on ridding myself of the bad baggage quite honestly hasn't made it go away any faster.

These are my thoughts based on the book Pause by Chris Maxwell. I hope you check it out!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Authenticity is a Gift

picture from thegospelcoalition.org

In the chapter about balancing in Chris Maxwell's book Pause, Chris talks about being challenged by a favorite author of his to live in a spiritual family, a community where reconciliation, forgiveness, encouragement and companionship are common. 'A gathering of the forgiven choosing to forgive. Of those who've been hurt refusing to remain angry. Of the abused becoming healed. Of the bitter becoming nice.'

I'm not going to lie. I had a tough time with this chapter. Here's why. Most of my hurt and bitterness have come at the hands of 'church.' For a time, I left 'church.' My family gathered in our home for our time with God. It was a safe place, and I took more responsibility for my spiritual health which was a good thing. And our spiritual fellowship changed.

But we grew up in the Bible belt, and you're supposed to go to a church for church. Eventually, we found a church home again. I am very cautious and slow to get involved and open up. It's not that I expect church to be perfect, but I do expect it to be authentic.

We all screw up. Nobody's perfect. Perfection is a myth.

But being authentic whether for good or for bad makes me feel at ease. I know where I stand. And I think authenticity is a sign of love, honor and trust bestowed to others.  It's a gift.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not perfect. I have a little crazy in me. I have shortcomings and quirks. And sometimes a not-so-nice word flies passed my lips. I know...GASP!!!  It's true. Just giving the gift of authenticity because I love you!

I'm trying to be the person God wants me to be. And I just try to be real about it. And I want people to feel like they can be real around me. I'd rather be around someone who lets a nasty little four-letter word fly than be around someone spouting religious platitudes because nine times out of ten, I've found the platitude thing to be disingenuous.

I would love to go to a church like the one described above, but I think the only way to accomplish that is for people to just be authentic. No pretenses. No masks. Just people being people. Wonderful yet flawed. And okay with it, yet desiring and working towards being whole. Being better. Oh, and you need a lot, a lot of grace. A lot.

The question I have to ask myself is if I am willing to do that.

And to be honest, I'm still working on it. It's a leap of faith these days, so it's a little scary. I need to get in touch with my adventurous side and learn to jump again. The good thing is that I have just enough crazy to take a running start and go for it.