The Lump Under the Rug

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It started small and undetectable. Just a few little things brushed under the rug to create peace. But as time went on a noticeable bump rose in the middle of the room. Everyone ignored it. Life continued. The bump grew into a lump. People had to walk around it to get from one side to the other. It was slightly awkward, but no one wanted to talk about it, so the lump stayed. It’s amazing what you can get used to, what you stop noticing after a while, and what starts to feel normal.

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Then one day someone new came along. They tripped over the lump under the rug. Picking themselves up, the newbie stared at the lump and started asking questions. People freaked out. “Don’t look at the lump! There is no lump. Stop talking about the lump.” They told the new person to stop gossiping. They scolded them for disrupting the peace and unity. The newbie was now the problem because they noticed the lump, but the lump itself went excused and ignored.

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It was easier to ignore the lump. The lump was frightening, and ugly, and messy. Getting rid of the lump would take a lot of work. It was easier to blame the person who tripped. “They should watch where they are going. I guess they just aren’t coordinated enough.” It was easier to condemn them for noticing and talking about the lump. “We are all used to it. It’s not really a problem any more. Stop gossiping and just walk around it.”

But there was still a huge lump under the carpet.

This is an example of a broken system. It could be a family, a marriage, a church, an organization, etc. Whatever the system, it’s not healthy. It’s dysfunctional and abusive. This kind of system happens in the secular world, but for some reason it is especially prevalent among Christians. Maybe because our religious version of Christianity is so often behavior based. We somehow think God is looking for good people, and when goodness fails we sweep it under the rug.

If you noticed the lump, you aren’t wrong no matter what they are telling you. They are probably afraid more than anything, and it’s coming out as anger and condemnation. It’s not necessarily gossip to talk about the lump under the rug, as long as you are talking with someone who can help you (such as a therapist) or someone who can help to get rid of the lump. Sometimes talking helps other people notice the lump too. It’s validating to find other people who also recognize it.

I think that people are often terrified of what they will find under the rug if they actually acknowledge it. It’s gross, rotten, moldy…it’s been there a long time. The ones condemning are afraid of condemnation themselves. They are afraid of being wrong. But it’s okay to be broken. We are all broken. And Jesus adores broken people!

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The best way to deal with that lump is for safe, loving people (people who have humbly faced their own mess) to join you and Jesus around the rug. Then carefully peel back a corner. Wow! Yup, that’s a pretty yucky lump. It’s gonna take a while to sift through and throw away. But that’s okay.

What if we just sat down with Jesus and other safe people and dealt with that lump? What if we discovered it wasn’t so scary after all? That Jesus wasn’t condemning us because He already knows? That He isn’t looking for pretend perfection but for a soft, broken heart? That other people will still love you? That they will understand because they are messed up too? That would be true healing and cleaning. It would bring life!

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If the other people refuse to move the rug and clean up the lump, if they insist that you are the problem for noticing it, it may be time to find new people. Easier if they are a church or an organization, much more difficult if they are family. You can only change you…but you can get help setting up boundaries and safety nets!

 

 

 

 

The Subtle Side of #metoo

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I was a sexually naive, college age, camp counselor. He was a 50-something volunteer. I didn’t know enough to be uncomfortable. He flattered me, told me how pretty I was, how amazing, how gifted, etc. Then the long, tight, full frontal hugs started. A hello hug, a good-bye hug, etc. Maybe he just liked me? One day he pulled me in close for a spontaneous dance.

And that’s as far as it went. Was it actually sexual harassment? I didn’t know enough then to complain…

It went on for a few summers.

Then I got married. As a now-sexually-aware woman, I looked back on those interactions and cringed. They disgusted me. I talked to my husband who had been at camp with me back when we were single. He acknowledged that at the time it made him uncomfortable. I talked to one of the full-time camp staff.  He also admitted that it seemed weird to him.

The question is, why didn’t these men step in? Why didn’t they say something to me? To the volunteer?

Our paths crossed again a few years ago. My “admirer” tried to start up the frontal hugs. He always wanted to touch me and put his arm around my shoulders. It was all supposed to be friendly and fatherly.

This time I stopped it.

I looked him in the eyes and told him that he made me uncomfortable. I told him that I didn’t want him to touch me any more. He blustered and made excuses, but I stood my ground. It was awkward, but it was worth it!

***

For every horrific story of abuse and harassment that has come out because of the #metoo campaign, hundreds of these subtle, uncomfortable stories simmer beneath the surface. It’s not just in the secular world. Horrific stories and subtle stories abound within the Christian community: within churches, and camps, and organizations. It’s not okay! 

  • It’s not okay that Christians keep young people so sexually naive that they don’t know when something crosses the line. Because I’m not the only one.
  • It’s not okay that Christians sweep things under the rug to “protect the name of God” or to “keep unity” or to “prevent the world from mocking us” or whatever other dumb excuse they conjure up. Stop hiding and deal with it!
  • It’s not okay that Christians choose to blame women for men’s actions.
  • It’s not okay that Christian men don’t stand up for women being harassed and/or assaulted.
  • It’s not okay that Christian women are terrified to tell the truth because of the shame and blame they know will come if they are honest.

The Christian community should be a place of safety. A place where women are valued, heard, and protected. We are equally made in God’s image. Sin is sin. Light is supposed to expose darkness. There shouldn’t be any excuses just because you are a man.

That’s not how Jesus acted. He valued women. He protected and supported them.

So, what do we do?

  • Stop making excuses.
  • Call sin what it is, SIN.
  • Stop sweeping things under the rug.
  • Blame the perpetrator and not the victims.
  • Teach people to stand up for themselves.
  • Stop avoiding hard topics.
  • Start acting like Jesus.

I know that me sharing this story is just scraping the very tip of the iceberg. Many of you have similar stories and worse stories. I am sorry! It’s not okay! You are loved, valued, and forgiven. It’s not your fault. Feel free to contact me if you want!

 

 

Rediscovering Jesus – On a Mountain

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Slowly the old man trudged up the trail, his feet weighed down more by dread than age. One hand clutched his staff, the other stroked a piece of flint he carried in his pocket. He could feel the knife on his belt bump against him with every step. Behind him strode a boy just stepping into manhood. Lean and agile, he hardly seemed to notice the weight of the wood strapped to his back. With eager eyes and sure feet, the hike up Mount Moriah was more adventure than effort for him. Suddenly, the boy stopped.

“Father! I am carrying the wood for the sacrifice, and you have the knife and flint. But, where is the lamb?”

The old man sighed, and a tear trickled down his leathery face. Little did his boy know what was about to happen. His heart threatened to break within him. Yet, the father held on to hope. It had been a long and sometimes difficult journey becoming a friend of the Most High God. There had been many failures along the way, but Abraham had learned one thing. El Elyon could be trusted; His promises were true. And so, the old man drew a deep breath and spoke from a heart of faith.

“God will provide the lamb for the offering, my son.”

And He did! Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his beloved only son, God stepped in and provided a substitution.

“So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided'” Genesis 22:14.

I have heard this beautiful story used over and over again in moralistic or formulaic ways, and maybe you have too.

“What are you holding back from God?”

“What is your Isaac that God wants you to sacrifice?”

“When you give things to God, He will give them back.”

Blah! I agree that we can learn things from the life of Abraham and that we can indeed apply this account to our own lives. However, I think we often miss the main point of this story.

The New Testament has this to say about Abraham.

“and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’ – and he was called a friend of God” James 2:23.

“Abraham believed God.” The funny thing is that he didn’t. At least not all the time. Abraham is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, but if you read his story in Genesis 12-22, you will see more instances of doubt than of faith. Twice Abraham pretended that his wife was his sister and allowed her to be taken into a harem. He fathered a child with his servant because he doubted God’s promise, and then abandoned them both in the desert. Abraham wasn’t some super spiritual giant of the faith. He was just a guy who became friends with God…and that’s the point.

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Years before the Law, before the sacrifices, before the temple, before Jesus died on the cross, there was a man who became friends with God. It wasn’t because of the rules he followed, or disciplines he undertook, or any of his outward actions. Abraham had a relationship with God through faith.

He talked with God, followed God, questioned God, doubted God, and saw God do miracles. Eventually, after a lifetime of this relationship, Abraham was at a place where he knew the Most High so well, and his faith was so strong, that he was willing to do the unthinkable.

But it didn’t happen, because the angel of the LORD stepped in.

“But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven… “Do not lay your hand on the boy…” Genesis 22:11-12.

The angel of the LORD is the one who shows up all throughout Abraham’s life. He is the one Abraham meets, feeds, talks to, argues with, and the one who stops his sacrifice. So, who is this angel of the LORD?

Are you ready for this? Most theologians believe that the angel of the LORD is pre-incarnate Jesus. Jesus!!! I love this! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this!!

It get’s better. 🙂

Roughly two thousand years later, Mount Moriah, the mountain where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, had been developed into a city. Jerusalem. One spring, on the outskirts of that city, a controversial rabbi was crucified.

“On the Mount of the LORD, it shall be provided.”

And it was.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

Whoever believe in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in condemned already, because he has not believed in the same of the only Son of God” John 3:16-18.

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Jesus has always been Jesus. 🙂 The God whose name is I AM does not change. The Jesus that we shake our heads at, and yet adore, in the New Testament, is the same in the Old. If you look closely, you will recognize Him: the God who pursues, forgives, loves, gives grace, and sacrifices Himself for the sins of the world. He is powerful, amazing, crazy, confusing, addicting, and beautiful. Will you seek Him with me? Let’s keep rediscovering!

For more info on the angle of the LORD, check out this link.

 

A Plane Ride, Politics, and Pharisees

 

Full Disclosure: This is a rant which may mention politics. But it’s more than politics.

I spent the entire flight home talking with a beautiful woman named Patricia. She was sweet, kind, passionate, friendly, and liberal. Listening to Patricia, I was reminded again where Christians and the Conservative Right went wrong.

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Patricia loves people, but she doesn’t sense that love from conservatives. She was raised in a church but struggles to link Jesus with the people and politics that claim His name. I feel her pain.

Too often, Christian and political conservatives have one thing in common. Obsessed with morals and outward actions, they forget about people.

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Since when did “proper behavior” become more valuable than human beings? Or why are people only valuable when they look and act like “us?” Maybe this isn’t the way we feel, but too often this is the way conservative Christians come across.

Who gave Christians the job of being the “moral enforcers?” I thought our job was to preach the good news of Jesus to the world. Our relationship with Jesus should affect every area of our lives including our politics. But our primary job is not to “save our culture through moralism!”

I didn’t tell Patricia where I stood politically because I was hoping to talk to her about Jesus.

Isn’t that sad?

It’s gotten to the point where people hear “conservative” and immediately think about obnoxious, hate filled, “morality police” who wear the name Christian. Seriously guys, we can do better.

Do you know who the “enforcers of morals” were in Jesus’ time? The Pharisees. Do we really want to imitate them? In their obsession with outward behavior, they sort of missed God…and He was right in front them.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have morals. Or that it’s bad to believe in right and wrong. Jesus had morals. Jesus was clear about right and wrong. But Jesus also loved people, passionately. If you were to simply observe Jesus as He “ate and drank with sinners,” it might even look like He approved of them. There was no condemnation. Truth, yes. Guilt and pointing fingers, not so much.

Morals by themselves are empty. There are plenty of “good,” lost people out there. Cleaning someone up on the outside, making them follow your rules and standards, this does nothing to change the heart.

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Back to the Pharisees again…Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs”…they looked clean on the outside but inside were full of rotting corpses. Do we really want to emulate the Pharisees? I sure don’t! I want to be a Jesus follower.

The answer is not to become more liberal or progressive. The answer is Jesus. If we really get to know Him and see His heart, He will change us. Whatever our political beliefs, we will love with more passion and truth…truly caring about the people we meet and not just their outward actions.

Progressives, Jen Hatmaker, and Grace & Truth

The Christian internet has once again exploded. On Tuesday, in an interview with religionnews.com, popular Christian author, speaker, and HGTV star, Jen Hatmaker, voiced her belief that gay marriage can be “holy”. Kaboom!

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On blogs, Facebook threads, and articles across the internet, progressive Christians are celebrating Jen while fundamental Christians are destroying her.  Both camps are also viciously tearing into each other. Sometimes I hate social media and the internet. I hate what it does to us and what it allows us to do to others.

I totally get why “progressive” Christians react against people they see as “fundy and stuck in the past”. I am right there with them, frustrated with tradition and religion and rules. But just because some people who believe the Bible literally are ignorant, stubborn, and judgmental, it doesn’t mean that we can pick and choose which parts of the Bible we like and which parts we throw away. That’s also an ignorant way of dealing with things…as though we, limited creations, are somehow capable of deciding which parts of the All-powerful God’s Word are true and which are worthy of the trash can.

Both parties are guilty of sweeping black and white assumptions and judgement.

Just because I believe that homosexuality is a sin (as is gossip, lying, pride, lust, etc.) and I’m not a supporter of gay marriage, does not mean that I am not a supporter of people who are gay. I love them because, just like me, they were created in the image of God and Jesus died for them and wants them to have a relationship with Him.

Guess what? I have can opinions and beliefs but keep them to myself while loving the people around me. I do not have to vocally attack homosexuality, but neither do I have to support it to be a loving, Jesus-like Christian.

If only Christians were as passionate about their love for and relationship with Jesus as we are about stupid issues…

I chose to stand on a literal belief that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. But that does not mean that I am obsessed with morals and getting people to do “the right thing”. It means that I am obsessed with the amazing, mind-blowing God who created us for one purpose – to know Him.

Yup, I’m crazy enough to believe that Genesis is the literal history of a huge, amazing, loving God who personally created the first people, joined them together as a married couple, made a beautiful garden for them to enjoy, and walked in that garden with them. Before they chose to disobey, God KNEW His children in a personal, real, intimate way. I think that has always been His goal.

I believe that the rest of the Bible, when you read it in context, shows the story of God pursuing the people He created, culminating in the death of Jesus, the God-man, for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death changed everything. The veil in the temple was torn, and humanity once again had access to their Creator. Knowing God through Jesus transforms us. He changes us. It’s not about people trying to earn something from God, behaving so that we can get His blessing or favor. It’s about Jesus doing everything for us, so that we can enter His Presence, delight in a real relationship with Him, and allow Him to make us into the person He created us to be. When we actually experience Jesus, we will be changed. As Jesus makes us like Himself, our behavior will change. This is good news! Why aren’t we yelling about this?

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We have no business condemning or judging other people. But neither can we rewrite God’s Word. There must be a balance of Grace and Truth. Jesus beautifully illustrates this perfect balance. I love this story from John 8.

The prideful, religious guys catch a woman “getting it on” with a man she isn’t married to. They drag her out of the house and down to Jesus where they want Him to stone her for her sin. Jesus puts the religious guys in their place by telling them to go ahead and stone her if they are sinless themselves. They all begin to leave. Finally it’s just Jesus and the woman sitting in the dirt. He doesn’t judge her or condemn her. And being God, the only perfect one, it would absolutely be okay if He did. But He doesn’t. Jesus affirms her, tells her he doesn’t condemn her, shows her radical grace, and then speaks truth “go and leave your life of sin”.

Friends, fellow believers in Jesus, and seekers of Him, we lose our power when we stop being like Jesus. We must have grace and truth. We do not condemn, we do not reject. We love like a tidal wave, overwhelming, all-consuming Jesus’ love. But we also speak truth. We do not shy away from uncomfortable truth, despite what our culture thinks or if it is politically correct. Our God is indescribably bigger than us and we don’t have to understand Him to believe Him. We must live like Jesus in this broken world, shinning like stars, pointing others to the incredible possibility of an actual relationship with the God of the Universe.

No Condemnation!

 

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I remember the exact moment when I realized that Jesus not only loved me, but He also liked me unconditionally. Somehow in my mind I had confused the two. Love seemed like something He had to do because He was God, but I was pretty sure He only liked me when I was performing correctly.

It makes sense, sort of… Parents and teachers like us better when we follow the rules, and we feel their dislike when we are making poor choices. It’s hard to imagine God being different.

We put God in such a tiny box, a box made out of our own human reasoning and logic. Silly us! He is only more, always more, than we could ever imagine!

I was in my early 20s, about four years out of my “cult”, looking pretty normal to the untrained eye, wearing jeans, having cut my waist length hair, dating my boyfriend (now husband), and going to college. In the past I’d always been the rule follower, the people pleaser, the “good” girl. I did the right things to make people and Jesus happy with me.

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I might have perfected the art of looking good, but on the inside I was a wreck. Worry and stress were consuming me. I was fighting with anger and resentment. Regular panic attacks  were freaking me out. And because I didn’t know what they were, I thought I might be dying (but wouldn’t tell anyone). To top it all off, I felt guilty for being so out of control. I knew that there was no way God could be happy with me.

In desperation, I went for a walk in the woods to talk to Jesus. My goal was to confess my sin, and get right with Him somehow. As I walked, and talked, and cried, I came to an opening in the woods. The trees thinned out, and sunbeams broke through the leaves in long, warm rays. A gentle breeze tickled my hair. I stopped. It was so beautiful and peaceful. As I stood there, it was as though God put His arms around me. I felt His Presence, and I could almost hear Him whisper, “I have never loved you more than I do right now.”

I wanted to believe that it was God speaking to me, but I couldn’t because I had memorized Romans 8:1.

The group I grew up in was a KJV or NKJV only kind of place. These were the words streaming through my mind as I stood there in those quiet woods. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Maybe I’d heard a sermon on it or maybe it was just my own interpretation, but I had always thought that this verse was telling me that if I was performing correctly, in the spirit, then there was no condemnation. However, if I was walking in sin, in the flesh, then I was definitely under condemnation.

I went home and got out my Bible so that I could prove Jesus wrong, but the second half of the verse was missing! As part of the recovery process, I’d gotten a different Bible version. My English Standard Version only said this, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

What? That couldn’t be right! I went to the Internet and started looking up various Bible versions to find the missing half of the verse. None of the other versions had it. There was just no condemnation to those who were in Christ Jesus, period.

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I was in Christ Jesus! I had trusted Him as my Savior. I was His child. This was something I had never doubted. That meant that God did not condemn me! I sat on the floor of my bedroom and let it sink in. He had never loved me more than He did right now, even though I felt like a complete and total failure.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I embraced this truth. I basked in it. I reveled. I let Jesus love me, and like me, even though it didn’t make sense. He was so crazy! And amazing! And wonderful! It was my first glimpse of the beauty of grace.

So, friend, are you under condemnation? If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then it’s not God’s condemnation! Let go, and live loved, and free, and forgiven! Embrace a God and His grace that doesn’t make sense. What would it take for you to believe this?