Equality. What’s all the FIGHT about?

I feel like my Facebook stream exploded this week with posts about “equality.”  I’m noticing a few things over and over.

I see a lot of people arguing for love and tolerance but spewing hate and intolerance.  I see a lot of people professing the love of Christ and damning others.

Both make me sick.  I think there are extremists on both sides of any debate that make their “respective group” look awful, and I’m smart enough to know that they likely don’t represent how the majority of that group feels.  At least I hope so.  I tend to be an optimist.

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It’s interesting to me that people are arguing from such different viewpoints.  Could they ever be on the exact same page?  Do they really even want the exact same thing?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Let’s explore, shall we?

Before I go any further, I should probably state two important facts: I am a Christ-follower.  I have family members and friends who are gay, AND I love them.

From what I have read and watched, the main issue at hand is an issue of “rights.”  It’s a legal issue.  Any two people in a long-term, committed relationship want to have the same legal rights that are currently available to men and women who are “married.”  These include both tax and legal benefits that today certainly put same-sex relationships at a disadvantage.

I’ve heard really compelling and often-times sad stories of gay couples who can’t be side-by-side while one is on a deathbed, or those that have paid huge tax bills that wouldn’t apply if they were “married.”  I’ve read about the difficulty sharing medical benefits, and I’ve seen first-hand how gay people are viewed as “different” and often times “wrong.”  It’s all sad to me, really.

On the flip side, I’m seeing Christians reference the biblical definition of “marriage.”  In every reference I can find, the Bible does talk about a man and a woman.  The Biblical definition is clear.

Here’s what I find interesting: I don’t think people are looking to re-define the Bible.  I think they’re looking to re-define the law.

Many Christians are so scared.  They’re afraid their whole belief system is being challenged.  I, personally don’t think so.

I am a Christ-following, Bible-believing person.  The Bible is my go-to source for how I lead my life, and I can very passionately and honestly say that I believe it provides me great direction and hope for the best possible life on earth.

I’ve been slow to learn this, but over time, I have found this to be completely true.  God wants the very best life for us.  He wants us to be happy.  He wants us to prosper and experience joy.  He wants us to enjoy companionship and community.  And He promises us that if we trust Him, follow Him and have a personal relationship with Him that He will give us a fullness of life that will extend beyond our time on Earth.  I believe all of this.

AND, I haven’t heard a single gay person ask me to renounce this, either.  I’ve heard more Christians use the Bible as a weapon, and I don’t think that’s what Christ would do.  (He spoke truth with LOVE!)

I’ve also seen people twist the Bible to try to fit their needs.  I don’t think anything taken out of context is fully accurate either.   I want to be fair, reasonable and a truth-teller.

I do know for certain that the Bible does clearly provide direction for both man and woman in the context of marriage.  And, I don’t see any other reference outside of that.  Equally as important, I also see that the Bible clearly and passionately states that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.

Is anyone asking that the Bible be re-defined?  I don’t think so.  I believe the passionate request is for the LAW to be redefined.

What are Christians so afraid of?  I can’t answer every question of faith, but one thing I know for certain is that I serve a big God.  One that is more than capable of handling everything.  One that is both loving and just.  One that sent His son to die for us.  Yes, He loves us that much.  ALL of us.  NOBODY is excluded from this love.

I do think the laws in our country are written as they are because the Bible used to be so much more a part of our daily lives than it is today.  Our country was founded on these principles, and they are evident through the inscriptions of government buildings, in our founding documents and on our dollar.

“In God We Trust.”  I know I do….even though our world looks so much different than He intended.  He created it perfectly, in the beginning.  That was His desire.  But man…man chose differently, and He allowed us that free will.  So life isn’t going to be perfect or all-together explainable.  But God is still God, and in God I trust.

For me personally, I look to the Bible for direction in my marriage.  I refer to it often, and when I follow what God directs, I find that my marriage improves.  This has been my experience.

I don’t know how to direct people in a same-sex marriage to this same comfort and direction I find.  He doesn’t provide directions for anyone other than a “husband” and “wife.”  He provides clarity to these roles and how each should behave.

How can people in a gay marriage find this same direction?  I don’t know.  Perhaps through prayer and relationship with Christ, if they so choose.  I know it’s not written in the Bible, but I believe all things are possible through Christ, so perhaps there’s another way to seek His guidance for this specific situation.  He is God, after all, and His greatest desire is for relationship with us.  If anyone seeks Him fully, I believe they will see His love in return.

The world is a funny place these days.  There’s a lot I don’t understand.  There’s a lot that scares me.  There’s a lot that I don’t agree with.

But allowing two people to be “married” by a legal definition, to get tax deductions, health and death benefits doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

Will things be “equal” then?

Is that even possible???

It would be great if our loved ones in nursing homes or with special needs were cared for as much as those in jail.  It would be reasonable for everyone – all citizens –  to pay an equal percentage of taxes.  It would be ideal if unborn babies were as protected as those that are born.  I’d love to see stronger laws against sex trafficking, and I wish people with mental health issues could get better care and attention before they could even consider taking another person’s life.  These are just some of the major issues in our country that currently cause much inequality and unfairness.

People, we have a LONG way to go on equality….let’s try to work together to solve all of these important issues.  In the meantime, let’s let stop the vitriol and show some respect along the way.

Real Christians are not “haters.” 

So, if you are one, please show the love of Christ.

And, if you’re not one, please don’t accuse all Christians of being judgmental and hateful of any people.

NONE of us is perfect, and Christ loves us anyway.  He loves us and calls us to Him.  Everyone.

New Year’s Perspective

It’s a cold and rainy day here in Dallas today; not too typical of Dallas weather, and kind of a downer on the last day of 2012.  It’s somewhat reflective of my mood, though.

I dropped my mom and brother off at the airport last night, after a thoroughly enjoyable stay with us.  They headed back to Cincinnati, where I’m from, and where I’ve spent most of my life and career.  I still miss so many friends, the mid-western warmth and simplicity, and mostly, having family close to enough to share life with regularly.  I hated saying goodbye, knowing it will be awhile before I see them in person again.  I’m able to gain perspective, though, because a dear friend of mine sadly lost her mother to cancer this week.  Her goodbye was exponentially harder, I’m certain.  For me, clear perspective.

I don’t take that for granted, and my heart grieves for my friend, who enjoyed a very close relationship with her beautiful mom.  I can only begin to understand, as I met her mother several times.  The first of those times, she optimistically and graciously offered to pray for my transition to Dallas, knowing how homesick I was.  She was a “put others first” kind of person; the kind you always feel good being around.  I imagine that Jesus is enjoying her company and beautiful spirit.  I believe he spoke to her the words she would’ve most wanted to hear, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”  Comforting perspective.

Today, as many people do, I reflect on the year.  Tomorrow is a new beginning, so it’s wise to consider what we want more of and what needs to change.

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2012 wasn’t my greatest year for a variety of reasons, but today that chapter comes to close.  Another dear friend and fellow coach went through the exercise of creating a “Top 13” list of her year’s highlights.  (I love how the thirteen flows right into 2013, don’t you?!)  I followed her lead, and suddenly the year seems to have been much better than my somber mood reflects.  Happy perspective.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary still feels like an open wound for me and lots of other parents and people in general, most especially the families directly affected.  Although it’s one of the most horrific tragedies of my lifetime, I’ve been lifted by the stories of various heroes, the generosity of people who care and the catalyst for positive change this event seems to be initiating.  Through the awful darkness, light is finding a way.  Healing perspective.

I’m frustrated by our elected officials.  I’m angry that “fiscal cliff” is even a term, never mind a terrible consequence our country faces.  I hate that greed, power and self all seem to come before people, country and God.  I was reminded recently that our country has shown a pattern since its existence.  That pattern shows an ebb and flow of what I would call our citizens’ arrogance and self-centeredness, versus faith, service and responsibility.  If history repeats itself, we’re due as a country to reel things in.  Hopeful perspective.

On this cold last day of the year, I watch the rain fall.  I can recall as a child imagining that rain was really the angels in heaven crying.  As an adult, I wonder if sometimes that could be true.  A good cry can help us all.  It’s a major release and often a necessary cleansing.  “Fitting,” I now think, as this year comes to a close.  Healthy perspective.

Cleanse and refresh.  Wash and renew.

For tomorrow is not only a new day, it’s a new year.

Rebirth.  Life anew.

Fresh, new perspective.

Father’s Love. Lasting Legacy.

Every little girl looks up to her father like a super-hero.  Fathers seemingly know almost everything.  They can do almost anything.  They can make their daughters believe they are special.  Extra special.  And, that makes fathers extra important.

There’s something about that father-daughter bond that builds into girls in a different way than mothers can.  While the best mothers can nurture and love the heck out of their girls, a father has a unique way of building their esteem and establishing “rules” for how they should be treated and loved.  Perhaps it’s the opposite sex and their “other” perspective. Perhaps it’s their example that teaches us about receiving love and being in relationship.

We know fathers make a significant difference.  How they impact their daughters leaves a legacy; a meaningful imprint on their lives.

I, personally, have not had the best luck in the dad category.  It started with my biological father, who abandoned us to search for the ways and means to a better socioeconomic status.  I was very young when that happened, and I’ve never seen him again.  As of late, it’s my adoptive father (truly, my “dad”), who has grown angry and cold to me after moving away from our hometown.

I remember, as a young child, finally realizing that my father was never going to come back.  It was a tough reality for a little girl who used to dance on the tops of his feet.  It could have been devastating and life-ruining, but it turned out not to be.

I always felt as if God was with me and helped me through.  Somehow, I just knew things would work out ok in the end.  My faith in my Heavenly Father saved me, literally.  Though, I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I can look back in hindsight now and see how God’s hand protected us and guided us to new beginnings.

I also believed that when my mother re-married, it was divine timing.  I was just entering high school, and like most teenage girls, I was butting heads with my mom.  Then she got married, and her new husband wanted us to be a family.  He wanted to adopt me.  He didn’t want to be a stepfather; he wanted to be “Dad.”  It couldn’t have come at a better time in my life.

We all make silly, immature mistakes as teenagers, but I’m convinced that mine would have been far worse than they were had it not been for an amazing relationship with my dad.  I can recall thanking God over and over for sending my dad into our lives.

Today, my dad is mad and hurt, and he’s making me pay a price for it.  Or at least that’s what I’ve thought for the past year since we moved from Cincinnati to Dallas.

Just this past week, though, I had an epiphany.  God is again using my dad for His work.

During this transitional time in my life, where I have (geographically) left behind family, great friends, a church that we loved, school where my kids thrived and a supportive and fun neighborhood, I would have loved additional support from my dad.  It would have been great to depend on him to help make me feel better, to remind me that I’m strong and smart and capable, to tell me that he loves me now more than ever, and to be proud of me and my family.

But you know what? My dad is human, and he’s hurting…and he’s human, so he will never be perfect.  Instead of mourning my dad’s reaction and feeling hurt, alone and unwanted, I should have been clinging to my Heavenly Father, who is perfect and unfailing in His love.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are! (1 John 3)

What I see now is that God may possibly be using my dad to show me how to make the most of this “year of change.”  He’s taking this situation to gently nudge and remind me to rely on Him.  Come closer to Him.  Take direction from Him.  Feel His unending love and support, because He has never left me.  Ever.  And, He never will.  And, His love is the only love that will always be perfect.  And enough.  Forever and ever.  I am His child, and He is my Father. And, I am enough too – worthy of His love.

Isn’t it funny how God speaks to us sometimes; how he uses people in our lives?  It can be easy to miss  if we’re not looking for it.  Sometimes it doesn’t smack us in the face; sometimes it’s just a whisper.

What I’ve learned, though, is that if we’re not seeking Him, we could miss what He has to say to us.

I’ve wasted so much time feeling sorry for myself; feeling like a victim; being angry back at my dad.  I could have used all this energy on something so much more positive.

And, so this week, with this epiphany and with God my Father, I’m able to move forward and free myself from the pain of the last year.  I’m able to fully experience the benefit and joy of God’s love, and I’m able to forgive my dad for his humanness.

In the end, my Father’s love will be my legacy.  Because I am his child, I can fully accept this gift, and it empowers me.  I am no longer a victim.  I am again a leader, and I will lead with love.  I believe it can change the world.  I believe it’s the greatest legacy we can leave behind in life, and I believe our Father wants this for us all — to know that we are fully, completely and consistently loved.

We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

What a profound ripple effect.  What an amazing legacy.

What an awesome Father we have!  Quite the superhero.  Quite the example of love.  Perfect in every way.