“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”
– G.K. Chesterton
Here’s to letting God mold our souls in areas we thought we were doing pretty good in but really it was just pride.
….to smelling not only the roses of our own backyards but the smell of things less familiar and even undesirable because we are stepping down roads less traveled and meeting neighbors less served and loving people less loved.
….to not just singing about God taking our feet deeper than we’d ever wander but to welcome and anticipate suffering and not fear things like cancer, disability, poverty, and giving our lives away for the sake of the weak, poor and voiceless. Knowing it’s our weaknesses that perfects His strength.
….to stand up and say the hard things about justice even when it doesn’t impact us, to speak up for the voiceless or oppressed when it may cost us friendships or our job.
….to listen more than we speak. To listen to our enemies…to those who have broken our hearts…to those who we want to hate….to those who live in countries being bombed…to those who need an interpreter… to sit in the tensions and uncomfortability of it because in doing so we truly hear.
….to open our eyes to the sovereignty and goodness of God in All things. To see people in the way He sees them. To see the Kingdom as one where our voice, our wealth, our possessions, our connections, our time are to be poured out to those who may never give us anything in return but who might see in our love a God who took on flesh!!!
The days between Christmas and New years can be delightfully restful but they can also be a week that feels like you don’t know what day it is, who you are or what you’re supposed to be doing!! This year was like that for me…. it was such a strange feeling week. BUT if you’re like Abel and me and tend to wander aimlessly about with your shirt up when you’re missing routine… 😉
Here are SIX things you can do in this in between time after Christmas and before The New Year!!
- Start a photo folder/account at Walmart/Costco/Shutterfly/wherever… Go ahead a print a few from Christmas (I pack them in my holiday bins to be displayed next year) and upload all your photos this coming year to it…even if you don’t print them they will still be safe on their server and ready to print!! #printyourphotospeople
- Get a notebook and either follow along with @laracasey goals for cultivating with matters or if you want something you can do in an afternoon take a notebook and just write out 1. What DID work for you and your family/business in 2016 and 2. What did NOT work in 2016. Those two things alone have been SO helpful in going into the next year better prepared!!
- Dump out your makeup bag. Wash that thing!! Take a makeup remover cloth/wipe and go over all your makeup. Sharpen the pencils. Wash your brushes. If it’s almost gone or you rarely ever wear it Toss it out and feel NO guilt buying a new one or getting more room in your bag. *you can do the same thing with your bathroom cabinet too. If you don’t love it…toss it.
- If you have a calendar you’re using this coming year go ahead and write things in December 2017 that you think of this month that you wish you had done or that you know you need a head start reminder for. Or to remind yourself of a tradition you started this year or one you want to start next year. Set yourself up for a better advent season next year!
- Pull up those recipes you found online and tried and loved this holiday season. Get some real recipe cards and write them out. This preserves them for next year and every recipe is better when it’s in a loved ones handwriting!!
- Ask God to give you a word or phrase for this coming year. There is nothing magical or fateful about choosing one but I’ve found it helps me be more intentional as well as heighten my awareness where God is at work in my life in that area especially.
A lot of us will be seeing relatives and church friends and neighbors and their relatives and undoubtedly come in contact with people of all abilities and backgrounds…. So I wanted to share about something that I have learned and have come to really find very helpful in loving people well.
When it comes to individuals who have diff-abilities or different situations… It’s VERY loving to use People First Language. People First Language seeks to put the person first and the disability second! People with disabilities are people, first and foremost!
When we speak differently, we’ll think differently, and then we’ll act differently!
Instead of: Normal or healthy kids. Say: Typical developing kids
Instead of: The handicapped or disabled. Say: People with disabilities.
Instead of: He’s Down’s or Down’s baby Say: He has Down syndrome (or my favorite has the “Love” or “Extra” chromosome)
Instead of: Brain damaged, or He’s mentally retarded. Say: He has a cognitive disability or brain injury
Instead of: Birth defect Say: Congenital disability
Instead of: She’s Autistic or that Autistic girl. Say: She has autism (or a diagnosis of…)
Instead of: Is non-verbal Say: Communicates with her eyes/device/etc.
Instead of: She’s confined to/is wheelchair bound. Say: She uses a wheelchair/walker
Instead of: Handicapped parking, hotel room, etc. Say: Accessible parking, hotel room, etc.
Instead of: What’s wrong with him/her? Say: Why or How does his/her____ work differently? A disability simply represents a body part that works differently!
THIS is a great Article on Changing the way we use the term “Wrong” when describing someone or their actions. (I’m going to be really honest… I cried reading it because I myself have been tempted to say this regarding behaviors of my out-of-the-box acting son.) Read it!! It’s well worth your time.
You can apply this also to other people. Such as…..
Instead of: Homeless person Say: a family/person experiencing homelessness right now.
Instead of Foster Kid/Child : Say: Boy/Girl/Child/Their name who receive foster care services.” Referring to a child’s status in foster care should be used ONLY when it’s truly relevant. Are they foster kids when at dance class or during sports or at school? No, they’re ballerinas, hockey players, and students.
Instead of Adopted Kids. Say: Children you’ve adopted
Instead of “Where are they from?” Say: What is their heritage? And while you’re at it… find out your own heritage! It may surprise you! And it gives you a fun conversation piece to share with whoever you start that conversation topic with.
Instead of Real Children or your Own Children: Say: Biological Children.
Most of you know my husband blogs regularly on the topic of sexuality, culture and Christ over at Patheos. HERE is the link to his blog. Lots of great resources over there. I wanted to highlight one post he wrote recently though because I think it’s something so many of us who hold to an orthodox view of biblical sexuality wrestle with at times.
I hope it encourages you and your family!
Christmas has always been an amazing season in my home. Growing up, I remember waiting for Christmas with intense excitement. Sure, much of that had to do with the latest gift I was anticipating, but as I have grown and have a family of my own, I realize that a deep sense of family and togetherness was fostered in our home. Rituals like Christmas eve candlelight service, Handel’s Messiah with my mom, Advent candles, watching the classic Rudolph, and baking together all served as just part of the many reasons I am so nostalgic this time of year.
I am even more thankful because I see now how hard my parents fought for togetherness even when it was hard. When differences of life between them and their children pushed into the family and threatened the peace, they fought hard to keep it. They didn’t always win, but it was not without sincere effort.
The years I embraced my identity as a gay man were some of the hardest for me during the holidays. Some might expect that to be the case because it is this way for so many LGBT individuals. However, for me, it was not because my parents pushed me away, quite the opposite really. For me, I lacked peace with Christ, and that reality pressed into me deeper during times of deep reflection, like Christmas.
Yet, as I look back, my parent’s home was a place I always could call home and, on a smaller level it demonstrated to me the peace I wanted on a much larger and deeper level. My parents might not have characterized it this way but their home and their fight for their family became a tool that would one day serve the goal of the gospel in my life.
Many families and many LGBT individuals do not look forward to the holidays. This time of year is a reminder of division. Sadly, too many are alone because they are not welcome in the home of their Christian family. Too many parents and siblings will not get to see their LGBT family because they are choosing a new family, one that reflects their life more. This is not the case for everyone, but it is the case for far too many.
As I reflect on these families and individuals my heart wants to love you and serve you. We started the Identify Network to serve the church and this includes families. So I want to take this space to offer you five ways to pursue the posture and love of the gospel with your LGBT family during the Christmas holidays.
Bless Them/ Invite Them Home: It may sound obvious to invite them home, but quite honestly it isn’t. Too many LGBT individuals either are not welcome or do not feel welcome in the one place they always should be! Change that! Judgment or shame is often expected, but you can change that by offering a blessing. To bless someone is to offer relief and encouragement from their burden, to bear the burden, to encourage them. Nothing will do this more during Christmas than to offer your home and your life to the vulnerable and marginalized and this is often so true for your LGBT family. It is important to remember you are not doing them a favor from a place of moral superiority but rather from a place of sincere humility towards the family you love. This may require a heart change for you and if so, I encourage you to spend time asking God to help you bless and not curse, bless from a place of genuine gospel humility.
Demonstrate Gospel Hospitality: The Biblical idea behind hospitality is to welcome the stranger. Your LGBT family are not necessarily a stranger to you, but those they love or those significant to them may be. I have talked with countless parents and families who feel they have to choose between faithfulness to Biblical ethics and loving their gay son or daughter. Often, this choice includes what to say or do about significant others (friends, partners, spouse). I believe, with all Gospel assurance, this to be a false choice! I am thankful the pattern off hospitality in the scriptures didn’t include invitations to those who were deemed worthy. Jesus, again and again, gave honor and demonstrated hospitality to those society deemed unworthy or unfit. When you love this way, you are not promoting over and against your sincere convictions but you recognize what is and choose to love deeply from a deep motivation of the gospel, with a posture that reflects the love of Christ.
Celebrate with Them: The various areas of tensions in our lives do not need to prevent us from celebrating family and the season together. Too many feel that being faithful means turning every conversation into a referendum on the moral choices of their family and this all too true when we consider issues of sexuality that have moral and political dimensions to them. However, when we choose to focus on Jesus and celebrate the incarnation we communicate a greater message. I never failed to see that when I was home. As my family ate together, prayed together, lit the advent candles, and worshiped Christ for his coming, I reflected time and time again on the gospel message. We can intentionally celebrate all that Christ’s coming makes right without having to lament all that we feel is wrong. After all, this is the message of Christmas. “Behold, I bring to you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10). What could be more celebratory than that! This isn’t a missed opportunity, instead, it is a focus on celebrating all God does to bring his reconciling love into all our lives.
Go Deeper by Listening and Learning: One of the problems that exist between the Christian community and the LGBT community is an unwillingness to listen. Yes, this goes both ways, but all too often, the church has talked at and to the LGBT community and given families a model to do the same in their home. Love your LGBT family, by listening to them and learning from them. Deeper conversations may happen over the holidays and if they do, it is important to take the posture of a listener and a learner if we want to receive the same respect. Genuinely listening is a habit of humility modeled in the scriptures. If we desire to offer true biblical wisdom to our family it cannot be divorced from knowing and understanding. If we listen and learn we not only know how to help our LGBT family we have the opportunity to correct misunderstandings, assumptions, or hurtful/unhelpful language used by other family members.
Send Them off with a Longing to Return: Following Christ is a lifelong journey and the road to reconciliation looks different for everyone. My parents loved me deeply and never once did I question being welcome in their home. they took the opportunity to have harder conversations with me if the opportunity came. But, they were always committed to the long road of life and reconciliation with me. When we model this, we model a truth about God. God is long suffering and committed to pursuing us. How can we do any less? Our homes should be places of peace, where we bless, encourage, listen, learn, love and humbly speak truth. This is the home that your LGBT family will want to be in regardless of deeply held convictions about life and sexuality. You can be faithful to the gospel while communicating that your life and your home are for them. When I left my parents home, I always wanted to return, but I never mistook that for their agreement with my identity choices, I knew it was rooted in a deep and abiding love for me that wanted the best for me. Years later, I would see the same thing in my savior! Let your life and your home foster a longing to return!
1. Anker iPhone charge cord (amazon) (cheap + good quality)
2. Benefit Yes, they’re Real Travel size Mascara (ulta)
3. Mini Glass Jar Candle Moss/Thyme (target)
4. OPI nail polish (“It’s a Girl” is my very favorite pale pink shade that’s great for every girl!) (ulta or sally’s beauty supply)
5. Kuhn Rikon Nonstick Paring Knife (amazon… in SO many colors)
6. Cute Recipe cards WITH your handwritten favorite recipes on them! These are priceless and will be treasured more than you think. (I like ordering Recipe cards from amazon… or I often can find cute ones at Home goods or Anthropologie.
7. “The Word in Color”: Biblical Inspiration Coloring Book (amazon)
8. EccoTools Makeup brushes (ulta or really any store)
9. Moleskine Cahier Journal (Set of 3) (amazon)
10. Cloth Buffet Napkins set of 6 – comes in various colors (World Market) * love their cute dish towels too!
11. A subscription to Birchbox (okay, so it’s $10 a month.. but it’s so fun to get each month)
12. Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen Soft, (anything by Tombow really for your lettering ladies) (amazon)
13. Chalk Ink brand Chalk Marker – if you have chalkboards all over your home like I do. (amazon)
14. Copper / Rose Gold Colored Ice Cream Scoop – perfect for your late night ice cream lover (amazon)
15. Square prints from Parabo Press (with this $5 coupon code = CQPOTI ) I really LOVE this company.
16. Washi Tape : Trust me.. every girl can use some! (craft store or amazon)
17. Maybelline Eye Studio ColorTattoo Eyeshadow (target) I use the shade Barely Branded for a great stay all day eye shadow base!
18. Natural Bamboo Salt Box (I include a bag of pink salt w/ it) (amazon)
19. a bottle of Simi Sauvignon Blanc (total wine, target, etc..)
20. Tweezers that you find at the checkout register at Sally’s beauty supply. (comes in red, pink, blue, purple) BEST tweezers EVER!
At the end of this month we will be packing up, loading up a Uhaul and heading East! Well… East side of America… but the West side of Florida. We are moving to the Tampa Bay area!
We have lived here in DFW area of Texas for over 7 years now and when we look back at all the incredible work He’s done in us in that time it’s breathtaking, and it makes me exhausted just thinking about it. Texas has brought us through a journey where we lived in 4 different houses and welcomed children into our family in each one of them. Dan taught high school for 6 of those years and has cultivated the lives of countless teenagers (and he STILL is excited for our kids to get to the teen years!). He’s finished his Masters in Theology and almost finished with his corse work for his PhD in Organizational Leadership and Christian Ministry at Dallas Baptist University. I’ve been so blessed to have been able to be close by to welcome sister/brother-in-laws and 13 nieces and nephews into my family… with more coming! #bringonthebabies
However, for a few years now we have sensed God’s pulling us back to the East coast for several reasons and yet each time we got serious God said No… wait! and so we did. But when the need to establish a southeastern hub for The Identify Network came up and we knew we needed to expand we took it to the Lord and He has given us the green light!!! We could pretty much live anywhere seeing as how we serve churches all over America. We considered several cities on the East coast but there were aspects of them all that kept us continuing to look for the right place to call home for this next season of our lives.
This led us to the Tampa Bay area in Florida. Neither of us have really ever thought we would become Florida residents but we kept coming back to this area. 1. It has a large fairly diverse population 2. The cost of living isn’t out of this world, thus it is a place we could consider just being in our second year of non-profit work. 3. We will have access to many cities and churches on the east coast that we will be able to serve and equip through Identify Network and we will be able to drive to in a matter of hours. 4. It’s a place where Dan’s parents will be able to thrive and would love to call home too. They are going with us and they are such a special and crucial part of our lives. 5. It’s near an ocean. I think when you spend a lot of time researching and speaking into difficult situations and dive into the messes that are worth making in order to love deeply then having a place to retreat to and recharge is important. For us, the ocean tends to be a place where that can happen. And having it pretty much available all the time… sounds perfect! and the kids made me add one more. 6. Winter and Hope, the dolphins from the Dolphin Tale movies, live there. 😉
Dan and I took a long weekend trip down to Tampa/St. Pete a few weeks ago and quickly fell in love with it’s charming neighborhoods, eclectic styles, bright colors, long bridges and blue oceans. We also felt drawn to the areas of poverty, the number of struggling public schools, and the work of God’s people there.
So, baring God shutting doors, which we have asked Him to if this is not where He desires us to be, we (AND Dan’s parents) are moving to Tampa/St.Pete come the end of November….as in a little over 2 weeks from now. Our hopes is that God is drawing us there to rejuvenate us but to also to keep stretching us to love deeper, to risk more, to have less, to seek out the hurting and marginalized, to change lives and to change schools. We pray it will be a place of retreat for friends and family and perhaps even strangers, to be in a place often where we need Him in greater ways than we have yet to. I cringe a little writing that even because it’s so hard…. but we’ve tasted and seen that it’s so GOOD!!
We’ve been asked if we are getting jobs there and honestly, we have considered it but we have decided not to because we feel that’s not what God has asked us to do. It’s tempting though mainly because the work we have been doing through our ministry is HARD…. and it’s HARD raising funding and awareness for such a controversial subject within and outside the church. Faith and sexuality can be so difficult to navigate for a lot of people and if it feels simple to you then I pray that God will put those into your life that help you wade out deeper, where it sometimes feels very muddy and so it forces you to search long and hard for solid ground that is big and secure enough for everyone who is searching for truth. Each time we consider other forms of employment we realize that God has put PLENTY of opportunities on our plate to serve in this area that we feel so passionately about and has give us SO much Joy in doing it. And whenever we are struggling because it’s HARD, we go back to what we know He’s asked us to do…. and trust that He will be sufficient and meet our needs as He sees fit. So we are ALL in!
Be praying for us…. we still don’t know where exactly we will be living once we get there. But we are asking God to place us in the area, neighborhood and school that HE wants us to be in!
We will keep you posted as the adventure unfolds. If you want to sign up to get our monthly updates on family and ministry news and also encouragement in how to engage our culture with our faith….. sign up HERE!
And we will be serving ALL of the East coast through our Southeastern hub of The Identify Network… so if you’re a part of a Church who wants access to our training or to have us come speak to your staff or church body please contact us. We’d love to serve you!!
I think most of us live in families, go to churches, and work in places where if you took a poll about the current election you might find that between all of you it’s like your vote doesn’t matter because you just cancel each other out. HOW can those in the same family, the same church, in the the same FAITH be SO divided? It feels so crystal clear what is and definitely what is NOT most representative of the Kingdom of God.
It’s tempting to want to wonder how in the world your parents, your relatives, your best friends, those in your small group at church, your neighbors, your co-workers, can at the same time LOVE JESUS and at the same time could EVER SUPPORT ________ .
If you’re anything like me you might find yourself wanting to back away from those individuals who not only possibly nullify your vote come November, but whose vote is a vote against what you feel like best honors Jesus. How can the person who shares your faith differ so and be so seemingly indifferent to the things the Lord has put on your heart, but the guy next door who doesn’t really understand or care about the Kingdom of God, but his politics supports and progresses your understanding of what will be best for our faith and families.
Just remember that Jesus continually surrounded himself and dearly loved those who came from various backgrounds. Even though they loved Him they still didn’t “get it” when it came to the kingdom and his purposes. They argued with each other, they misrepresented Him, They were vocal and eager for their idea of what “Christ’s kingdom coming to earth” should look like, but kept getting rebuked because it wasn’t what Jesus had in mind at all. At times the disciples represented polar opposites; a disciple who worked FOR the government (tax collector) and a disciple who HATED the government (zealot)… don’t you wish we had some of those fire side conversations recorded for us. Yet… these are the people He loved with all His heart, and He asked them to do the same for each other.
I think they ALL wanted Jesus to DO something when it came to their broken society/government/culture. I think they ALL wanted CHANGE! They ALL wanted the kingdom of God to reign…..And I’m sure they had various ideas of what that would look like. But, they knew it didn’t look like what they were living in currently.
None of them could predict or make sense of what His plan actually entailed or would require of them.
That was probably a grace given to them.
Maybe they would have tucked tail and ran had they known ahead of time.
God doesn’t look at America with any extra fondness or disgust than He did on Rome. He is still calling those to Himself who hold vastly different views on life and culture. And more often than we think we would get rebuked for our many stances on what the “kingdom should or shouldn’t” look like in our times. But again, He offers so much grace and places His love upon us and makes us brothers and sisters in one heck of a messy family. And over and over in His word calls us to love each other in the midst of the mess.
Trust me, I can relate with the desperate desire of the disciples for Him to CHANGE things in my country!
But I’m reminded that MORE powerful than the dominance of politics, the influence of the media, and the monopoly of the wealthy, IS the humble out pouring of His people’s lives, the countercultural acts of love and justice, the way we love our enemy ( AND our brothers and sisters who feel like enemies because they drive us crazy with their beliefs and convictions) even to the point of having less, losing the argument, being misunderstood and judged, laying down our rights, and overlooking a multitude of sins.
Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35
If the disciples taught us anything, it’s hard to prioritize the Kingdom of God over the kingdom of our current situations and circumstances, but it’s what we have been called to. One is a greater Kingdom and a much more joy giving goal. It is not with out challenges and it might even cost us our life. It will definitely cost us our comfort, our time, our desire for those around us to see things the same way.
BUT, it is worth it!
This election will be but a teeny tiny blip on the scale of eternity and God is fully in charge of the happenings within.
Vote knowing it’s a privilege God’s allowed us to have,
Speak up and speak out with conviction knowing that He desires us to cultivate and change our cities.
Share what God is laying on your heart with confidence knowing it’s Him that you’re called to please.
but also LOVE (also read as a patient, kind, long-suffering, bearing all things, believing all things, and never failing) your brothers and sisters in the faith who might also possibly, in the name of God, be voting and speaking and sharing for the “other guy” knowing that He’s commanded us to and HIs commands are ALWAYS for our JOY!!!
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:21
A few years ago, Gabe Lyons published a moving piece in the Huffington Post about his oldest son, Cade. He said the following:
It’s no secret. People with Down syndrome have been targeted for extinction. In November, the New York Post heralded “The End of Down Syndrome“ and profiled a new, safer test for pre-natal detection. Before this test was available, 92 percent of Down syndrome diagnoses (and many times false diagnoses) resulted in the mothers choosing to terminate their pregnancies. With these new tests, some experts foretell the end of Downs.
Why the rush to rid the world of people like Cade?
Certainly, it isn’t because his disability physically threatens anyone. Rather, Down syndrome children pose a different kind of threat to society — the in-your-face reminder that our aspirations for “perfection” may be flawed. People like Cade disrupt normal. Whether it’s his insistence that everyone he says “hello” to on the busy streets of Manhattan respond in-kind or his unfiltered ability to hug a lonely, wheelchair-bound, homeless man without hesitation: people like Cade bring new dimension to what normal ought to be……
Cade’s life, and those like his, offers an alternative view of the good life.