Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful + Broken = Real Life and Real Grace.

I look at my hands, covered in flour, the Avett Brothers playing in the back ground, and a small single tear slides down my cheek. I miss her. My grandma. She made the best pies. I’ve been feeling heavy hearted all day, remembering her. A minor cuss word slipped past my lips as I chatted on the phone with my mom today.  She told me I sounded like Gran. I look at my hands, starting to show the signs of age and I remember her own thin, elegant fingers as they are reflected in mine.  She is in so many places of my home and my heart and it seems her presence, or rather her absence,  is most palpable during the holidays for me. 

Everyone is putting on brave faces, posting thankful lists, mustering jolliness for the season, but my brokenness still streaks through the careful cracks in my soul that I try so hard to mask. I think of all the people I miss. All the ones that should be here, but they aren’t. Not just my Granny, but my dad, my uncles, Mark & Gus.; my cousin Daniel; Norse’s grandparents, Art & Lila, Marge & John. I think of the sweet friends who are mourning children who aren’t at the kids’ table this year, Jaron & Kimble, Keira, Hannah.  The list could go on. These losses have forever marred our hearts and broken us in ways that we will never recover fully.

In a season that pressures us to feel only thankful, it’s okay to be solemn. In our thankfulness, there can also be sorrow. While the memories we have remain, for that I am so very thankful, there is also hurt . I can’t remember anymore what my Dad’s voice sounded like or his laugh and I miss it.  While the pain of the grief fades, so does the crispness of the memories. Until something as silly as a Budweiser in a beer coozie reminds you of them and you smile. Sometimes in the thankfulness, there is brokenness. 

The tension remains. It will always remain, no matter the season. The tension of gratitude and joy intermixed with heartache and lament. For those of you navigating this season, in the depths of that tension, you have permission to feel. Keep your tender-heart. The world needs it now more than ever. Feel free to cry and fight to laugh. Smile at everyone you see and care for your soul when your smile has gotten lost.

For though I sometimes lose myself in the grief, it is this grief that has taught me to feel so deeply and love so fiercely.  For it is this constant heartache that I have that bears witness to how well those I’ve lost have loved me. For this, I will ever be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.   

Friday, November 11, 2016

Post Election Thoughts from a Christian Misfit

I’m not here to debate who was a better candidate, Trump or Hillary. Frankly, the results of this election have only confirmed how terrible the general public thinks they both are. This is not a challenge to the results of the election. That is over and done. This is merely my way of trying to process through my disillusionment with the marriage of church and state and my grief for the way evangelicalism has morphed into something that doesn’t represent me and many others. I’m not even sure this type of evangelicalism represents the gospel any longer.

It is being said that 81% of white evangelical voters, voted for Trump. I was not part of that 81%. Frankly, I am flabbergasted and saddened. I am confused. I’m not confused as to why they didn’t vote for Hillary. That isn’t why I am writing this. I didn’t vote for her either.

I AM confused by the fact that so many evangelicals shrugged off Trumps moral failings and instead endorsed him.

I have asked Trump voters, these past few days, for answers to a few questions, and I have tried to not offer any sort of rebuttal. I was not interested in a debate; it was merely an exercise for me to gain empathy, understanding, and to hone my listening skills. It’s something James (1:19) keeps reminding me of every time I read these words, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

Most people I know that voted for Trump are kind. They are generous. They love their families. They are respectful. They are hardworking. They love Jesus. I would like to make broad generalizations about them, but that isn’t fair.

So here I sit, so confused and a little jaded that all these people that I love and respect have weighed the issues and voted for Trump anyway. I hear their reasons - the nomination of Supreme Court justices, abortion issues, immigration. Some of these reasons are easy to empathize with, they have personal stories – a sister who was caught up with the wrong people, drug trafficking across the border, a friend who had an abortion as a teenager and regrets it – these are real reasons that matter. They should not be minimized.

It helps me understand their vote, but it does not help me agree that he is what is best for our country.


When I weighed the issues, I thought about the common good. I am a follower of Jesus. I think Russell Moore coined the phrase “Gospel Christian”, since evangelical has been redefined. I look at Jesus and I consider how he lived in a culture that had little regard for modern Christian morals. I notice he wasn’t real concerned with governmental systems. He aimed his righteous anger at the religious.  I notice he wasn’t worried about defending his “rights”, but instead, as the holiest man to ever walk the earth, he spoke with compassion and love to those that didn’t align with his code of conduct. For it is His “kindness that leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4). The bible speaks of helping the outsider (Samaritan) and the laying down of our lives for one another (1 John 3:16).

Christianity is a religion that is built upon a Savior that gave up his life for others. He gave up His life for a humanity that is undeserving of such love. He represented a life of putting others before ourselves. He was humility and deference to others personified. Yet, we elect a man who has time and time again elevated himself for his own personal gain, mocked the disabled, assaulted and demeaned women, and has said he doesn’t ask for forgiveness because he doesn’t really need it?

I worry that the church has sold its soul for the white house, and in doing so is losing the hallmarks of its faith.

In Matthew (5) we read, “
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”  I’m worried we’ve lost our saltiness.

When the church has prided itself on moral integrity, it does not reflect well on our collective character, when we elect someone who is perceived as racist, misogynistic, demeaning, bully, possible (child) rapist, and liar. 

Many Christians I have inquired of have shrugged off some of his comments and actions. We wouldn’t want to be judged for our pasts, now would we? And they have placed their hope in the idea that Trump has changed and that he will deliver what he promised them throughout his campaign. Maybe he will, though, I have a tough time believing him.  It is especially difficult when we filter Donald Trump’s words through Jesus’ teaching in Matthew (12), “
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I suppose time will tell. I’ve been wrong before, and I hope, for the sake of the church and the sake of our nation, that I am wrong again.

Let me reiterate, that I understand the why’s and how’s that paved the way for Trump to become the president-elect, I am just sad that it was evangelicals that helped get him there.

The early church was built on a small movement of people, living out the gospel. It was a grass-roots campaign. The people of “the Way” were the minority. So, why are evangelicals so afraid of giving up their spot as the majority? Power hasn’t always done the cause well. Historically, we kind of suck at handling power. I think in our desire to be the moral majority, we’ve cut our own wrists by embracing a candidate that defies the moral integrity we say we want to uphold.

 I find myself wondering often in the aftermath of this election, what would have happened if evangelicals would have united with one voice to say no, to both of the candidates? I suppose in my idealism, that is what I wanted to happen. To start a new movement that said we are pro-life, from the womb to the grave, so we want to protect all lives and care for the poor.  We want a party that cries out for the safety and justice of our friends that are minorities. We want a party that will fight to keep families together, even if that means that a child is being raised in a same-sex household or if a dad is an illegal immigrant. We want a party to fight for religious liberty and that means making sure ALL religions have the same freedom that I want mine to have. We had the chance to start something amazing, but I’m afraid we missed it. I hope we get another chance.

Church, if you still want to have a voice, please rise up and speak out. Hold your candidate accountable. When he says something racist – denounce it. When he speaks poorly of someone – call him out. If he assaults someone – you better jump all over that the way you did when Clinton was in office. When people are protesting because they are frustrated that Trump was elected, remember how much you whined the last eight years and show a little grace. When Franklin Graham says that he “
believe(s) that at this election, God showed up.” Be quick to point out that God has shown up at every election – even Obama’s, because there are Christians on every side of the aisle and everywhere in-between. Finally, please show a little empathy to those of us struggling with a church that we don’t feel we fit in anymore, even though we love God and we love others so much that our hearts are broken to pieces right now.

You can have your vote; maybe the election came out just as you’d hoped. That’s fine. You had your reasons. I had mine, but as my smart friend Sean pointed out, let’s all stop pretending that Jesus would have supported someone like Trump, because we both know, he would not.