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by Jim Gordon

When thinking about all that is going on today about gay rights and transgender rights, I have found that most of the time both groups are majorly discriminated against. Often it is christian people who do a lot of the discriminating.

Many christians seem to think it is best to come against these two groups as a way of showing that we are in favor of christian values and we take a stand for God. Personally, as a christian I think this is completely wrong and so against what Jesus taught and showed us in regard to how to treat people. He accepted and spent time with all kinds of people, mostly people who the religious crowd would not even talk to let alone spend time.

Why is it we think taking a stand against someone or something is the way to show true christian love and acceptance? Why is it in a world with so many diverse people and beliefs we feel the need to openly defend our way as if it is the only way?

As a christian I do believe in living for God and showing His love to everyone. That does not mean everything I do and believe is right. That does not mean other people and beliefs are wrong. No matter what we choose to believe or how we choose to live, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and accepted as is.

A good friend of mine is a firefighter and he shared a paragraph from an ethics class he recently attended. It reads: ‘Equal Services for All. Always ensure that the services you and your crew are providing are equal for everyone on the scene. Never discriminate because of race, color, religion, age, sex, or disability. If you become aware of another firefighter discriminating against someone, rectify the situation immediately and report it to your chief. Discrimination should never be tolerated’. To me this sounds more like it came from Jesus telling his followers how to treat others.

I believe that taking a stand for christian values should be positive not negative. It is not showing what we are against, being mean, condemning, unaccepting and discriminating. It is showing what we are for in Christ, being caring, kind, showing love and acceptance to everyone.

We certainly are not all going to agree on everything. We are all going to make our choices on what to believe and how to live based on what we feel is right or best for us. Yet in those differences there is no reason we cannot respect, accept and love each other knowing that God loves each and every one of us.

It is time to set aside our differences, set aside discrimination, set aside prejudices and doctrinal beliefs and show the love of God to everyone we meet.

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by Cindy Felkel, Guest Blogger

I see your beautiful heart. Every time I talk to you, I am amazed at the resilience and bravery I see in you. I know that I have only seen a glimpse into the hurt that you have experienced. I know that life has been harder on you than on many people. I see the jaded parts of you and I see the defiant spirit too; that refuses to give in and rises stronger every day.

I know when you hear me say that I am a Christian, it causes you to cringe. You expect me to judge you. You think that if I saw half of what you have done, I’d run away in fear and disgust. But that’s not the kind of Christian I am. That’s not the way a lot of us who really know Jesus are.

I am a Christian who has dealt with abuse and I have seen its power to cause people to run from light and hide in corners of hurt and self-protection.  I have  been afraid of being seen because of all the secrets I  was hiding. I know what it is like to lay on the floor sobbing until I couldn’t move because the hurt was so deep that I couldn’t think of a reason to get up and go on.

My story may be mild compared to what you have seen. My story may not relate to you at all.  When you hear my story, you may see me as a spoiled clueless middle-class  white woman living in a bubble or a weak woman who let religious people shame me for the lamest things. I don’t know if anything I’ve ever experienced really relates to you. But what I do know is God’s healing heart that longs to embrace you and show you just how treasured and adored you are.

That  may not be what you’ve heard from religious people who have judged you, but it is completely what Jesus taught.

I imagine that you have experienced religion telling you that your mistakes keep you from God and that you have to get your act together before you can come to him. But that’s not what Jesus taught or modeled with his life. Jesus taught about God loving us and grieving over our sins because they hurt us and keep us from seeing him.

People misuse the Greek word “wrath”  when they talk about God.  The word actually means “the strong emotion we feel when someone is doing something that hurts themselves or our relationship with them.” It is more how a mom feels when her child is playing in the street and not at all about an angry vindictive God wanting to squish us when we disappoint him. He cares about the sin in our lives because it hurts you and it keeps us from accepting his love for us.

It’s a love that none of us can fully comprehend.

It’s a love that Jesus describes in the book of Luke, when he told us three stories about missing things. In each of these stories, the missing thing represents people who don’t know God and aren’t following him. Each of these stories builds on the other and gives us more insight into God’s incredible heart for you my friend and how he longs to bring healing and hope to your story.

In the first story, Jesus tells of a shepherd who has one hundred sheep but loses one of them. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep who are together and goes after the one sheep who has wandered away. When he finds the missing sheep, he doesn’t scold her and say, “Why did you wander away, I should have let you get eaten by wolves.” He joyfully picks her up and puts her on his shoulders and carries her back home. Then he calls all of his friends and celebrates with them, because he is so happy that he has found her. Jesus says this is the same way the father feels about you, my friend.

He continues to tell another story of a woman who has ten silver coins (which were much more valuable in Jesus’ culture than silver coins today). When the woman lost one of the coins, she lit a lamp and searched feverishly until she finds the missing coin. When she finds it, she calls all of her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her because she is so thrilled that she has found the coin that was missing. This is another amazing glimpse into how much God misses you when you aren’t walking through life with him.

Then, in the final and most beautiful story, Jesus develops a picture of a young man who does everything imaginable in ancient Jewish culture to insult his father. The young man defies convention and asks his father to give him his inheritance while the father is still alive. This was an unheard-of slap in the face to the father. It was if the son were saying, “I wish you were dead because I’d be better off and I can handle things better than you do.”

Then the young man takes his inheritance, which was supposed to be used to further his family’s estate and heritage in Israel, and he takes it to a foreign land where he wastes it all on “wild living”: sinning, breaking the religious rules of his people.

The young man finds himself so bad off that he takes a job feeding pigs (which is a disgusting job in any culture, but for an ancient Jew, it was as rock bottom as you could get. Pigs were unclean animals that Jews were forbidden to eat. Association with them made a Jewish person ceremonially unclean).

This young man was so desperate that he longed to eat the slop that he was feeding to the pigs.

When he finally came to his senses, he realized that even the lowest servants in his father’s house were better off than him. He decided to return home, apologize for all the mistakes he had made, admit that he was no longer worthy to be called a son, and beg his father to take him back as a servant.

For the people in Jesus’ day, the story would have been shocking and the expectation would have been for the son to be punished extremely. Before Roman occupation, a son could be killed for such defiance.

But Jesus tells a different story. I think perhaps the most beautiful words in all of the Bible are “while the son was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son…”

Jesus painted a completely different picture of God’s heart for people who aren’t following him. He gave us a beautiful picture of God longing to have a relationship with us.  The son was still a long way off! He hadn’t made amends. He was simply on his way home and the father ran to him!!!!

This is the true picture of how God feels about you, my friend! It’s so hard to fathom that those of us who believe it constantly struggle to live it out for ourselves and towards others, but it is what Jesus taught!

The story continues and to say that the father embraced the young man and kissed him.

The young man was fully aware of all the wrong things he had done and he said to the father, “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

But, the father completely restored the son to the position he was meant to be in. The father had his servants honor the son by putting the best robe on him. He gave his son a ring that showed his position of authority in the family and he put sandals on him which showed that he was not a servant.

Then the father had a huge celebration with his friends and neighbors to rejoice over his son coming home.

And that is how God sees you! Yes, he is hurt over the sin in your life because he loves you and wants the best for you. When he looks at you, he sees his beloved daughter. He wants you to know who you are. He wants to restore you to your position as his child with the full authority and honor that comes along with that.

That is the God I follow and he misses you.

Blessings my friend!

https://www.rumandcolaforthesoul.com/blog/2019/3/26/to-my-survivor-friends-who-hate-religion

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by Jim Gordon

Continuing on the subject of church and abuse, we know many people have been abused and treated wrong within the system. Some more severe that others, but none of it is good.

I think one of the groups that seem to be affected most by this are those who are LGBTQ. I have seen this group of people treated rudely and like second class citizens in the church where they should find love and acceptance more than anywhere else. God said to love our neighbors, he did not say to love only those we agree with.

Even in the churches that are actually accepting, LGBTQ people are often not allowed to participate fully within the organization or hold certain positions.

GodsDoorsAreOpentoAll

Christian people will deny rights and services to LGBTQ people based on their christian beliefs and that even includes fellow christians who are LGBTQ. Even government office holders can refuse certain services and basically get away with it because they say it goes against their christian morals. As as christian I say these things should not be.

Labels are placed on many people, gay/straight, black/white, male/female, christian/atheist, American/foreign. Yet behind those labels are human beings who were created in the image of God. They are loved and accepted by God and we are told as followers of Christ we are to be known for our love for one another also.

I feel for those who are LGBTQ. It hurts to see people who were created and loved by God be rejected and abused by his followers. I think it is time to look past the labels, look past your personal feelings and accept people just the way they are….created and loved by God.

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by Jordan Hathcock
Guest Blogger

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

When it comes to the chaos in life, it’s hard to determine the best course of action. I mean, the “technology driven, non-stop on the go” culture we find ourselves in, who can blame us? It’s almost as if we arrived in a whole new terrain that only functions at warped speed. Where do we find the tools to assist us through the path that will lead us to healthy and liberating results?

Well, research is showing that this new technology-driven on the go lifestyle is having some unhealthy results. As, psychologist Dr. Stephanie Brown keenly points out:

Researchers note that this push for speed is changing the way people think. The need to be efficient and instant leads to a dumbing down of information intake so that people become scanners and “decoders” of information, cruising horizontally across the screen to pick up bytes, rather than delving towards a deeper understanding.

Maybe the biggest cost we’ve encountered already is the harm to human relationships. Instead of enhancing close bonds, technology has facilitated avoidance of direct person-to-person contact, which takes too much time. We maintain the illusion that we’re connected more closely than ever by the number of Facebook “likes” we accumulate. But it’s all fast, now, this instant. Everything is impulse. Our sense of connection exists in the action, not an accumulated, deepening experience.

Yikes! So, our relationships are unhealthily inauthentic and our capacity of obtaining information is declining! What are we to do? This mode of being is becoming more and more prevalent the more we succumb to the status quo. Does there need to be some type of revolt to end the madness?! Well, I think we have to really step back and ask ourselves “what really is important”? I know, to simple right? But I think this mind of contemplation is really key to getting us grounded back to a more healthy social atmosphere.

Look, we all have access to so much information at the tip of our fingers. It’s hard not to be addicted (yes I said it) to this extraordinary power! The thing we need to come to grasp with is that to really “connect”, we have to encounter flesh and blood relationships. This goes from the snip-its of information we obtain on Wikipedia–to our most avid “like” sessions on Facebook. There is nothing like the real McCoy.  True connection comes into full fruition when we stand face to face with either a real book (yes, try it sometimes) or a real person (I know it can be hard for us introverts). Actual contact matters! Lets get spiritual (within the material) here for a minute. When we understand that the true reality–Logos, the Christ–works through a “gathering” of people (Mat 18:20), we come to recognize the need for community.

Here is the paradox of this all.  I truly believe for us to come back to a more interrelated social structure, we first have to step back and center ourselves in the quietness of life.  The ever-present moment is calling us a species back to her folding arms. This reminds me of how surfers ride waves. Let’s see if this analogy works for you as it did for me (haha). As a rider of the waves myself (I just don’t like labels), I am constantly battling the on slot of the never-ending tide push of waves, when out paddling in the salty seas.  It is always seems that to really be present and ready for the ability to finally catch a wave, I first need to understand that this constant ripple of waves can be used as a very enjoyable ride of bliss.

It is a matter of practice and technique to finally find the perfect set, pass the break, to surf. See, there is a moment in all things of life where within the chaos, we can find a moment of mercy to go with it. In this, we discover a way that deeply matters and shapes us for the better. I can tell you first hand that there is nothing like starting your day off by catching an amazing wave of nature (yeah, I know, so cliché but I can give two shits hehe).

It reminds of this verse in Psalms:

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

Deep calls to deep! We have to awake to the things that matter in life. When the constant push of waves come over us, we have to learn to center ourselves back into the Divine Balance of the universe. When all else is spinning out of control, let us be reminded of Love and how it never fails to bring us home. Let us paddle with the waves of chaos and be energized by the ride that brings us to shore with mercy. Where we find people laying on the shores, enjoying the Sun of everlasting warmth, and laughing with others who are experiencing the stillness of life…

A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living.

https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com/2019/04/19/waves-of-mercy/

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by Cindy Felkel, Guest Blogger

A friend sent me a picture (of a little boy praying in front of pictures of missing children) this past Sunday morning. When I saw the picture, I burst into tears.

See, all week, I’ve been processing information I heard at a seminar put on by the Underground of Ct., where they talked about the realities of domestic minor sex trafficking.

In this seminar, they covered statistics about how much it happens in Connecticut. One of the speakers drove home the point that the men who are paying tons of money to abuse youth in our neighborhoods are mostly middle class white married men with good jobs. They are our neighbors and leaders in our communities. They are hiding in plain sight because no one is suspicious of them.

Another speaker at this seminar was a survivor of sex trafficking. She spoke about the importance of being seen. She said that when she was trafficked, she only thought of herself as a body, an object to be used. It was being seen as a whole person of value that led her out of the abuse.

This beautiful young survivor sells t-shirts which say, “You are seen”.

With each t-shirt, she gives people a postcard which says, “Whether you got this t-shirt to remind yourself you are not alone, or to remind others, both are equally important. Darkness thrives in its ability to hide, but you have the ability to acknowledge that it has been seen and the power to not walk away. As a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking, I wear this shirt in remembrance of one simple healing truth:

If there is only one thing you could offer someone in need, let it be your willingness to stay.

The glaring message that I walked away from this seminar with was the need to really see the people around me.

praying for missing children facebook

I also left with a nagging sense of the reality of how much the two biggest so- called Christian institutions in our country, the Catholic church and the Southern Baptist convention, have perpetuated systems of covering up abuse*.

The very next day, I read this quote from Brené Brown’s book Dare to LeadPerhaps the most devastating sign of a shame infestation is a cover-up. Cover-ups are perpetrated not only by the original actors, but by a culture of complicity and shame… When the culture of a corporation, nonprofit, university, government, CHURCH, sports program, school or family mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of that system and those in power than it is to protect the human dignity of individuals or communities, you be certain of the following problems:

Shame is systemic
Complicity is part of the culture
Money and power trump ethics
Accountability is dead
Control and fear are management tools
And there’s a trail of devastation and pain”
pg 135

Sadly, this describes much of what has been happening in American church culture a little too well. I know so many of the stories of people who have been hurt. As sickening and devastating as those stories are, I also know that they represent only the tip of the iceberg.

It is no wonder we have a culture of middle-class white men committing unspeakable abuse against our children and supporting a $10.5 billion industry. When our church culture became about building the individual kingdoms of dynamic leaders, the religious culture of America made shame so much the norm that I doubt there is any life in America right not that has not been negatively impacted by it.

And those perpetrators? That’s totally a result of shame and inadequacy in their own lives. No one abuses others without dehumanizing them and without a need to use others to fill voids in their own lives. It’s a shame cycle that is devastating our country.

As I processed all of these things, I felt like I was almost in a state of shock. The reality of what was happening in our country,

Then, on Sunday, when my friend sent me that picture, I was also listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley where he said, “When what’s best for people is no longer what’s most important to you, you are at odds with God.”

As I sat there crying, ridiculously, it all came together for me.

If we don’t care about the healing of the individuals who have been abused by and because of church culture, and the shame culture so prevalent in America, I completely believe that we are at odds with God.

Our young people don’t need us to get better at sharing our theology or making sermons more attractive. They don’t even need us to pass more government programs or less or whatever politics you fool yourself into believing is going to change things. Nothing can bring people out of the darkness except seeing them.

They need to be seen. They need to be cared for.

That is the job of people who are following Jesus. That is what Jesus taught.

Forgive me for all the times I don’t see.

Blessings,

Cindy (rumandcolaforthesoul.com)

*I’m aware that there is abuse happening in other denominations and religions. I have only witnessed the abuse and heard the stories from these two cultures. I grew up going to Southern Baptist churches and I live in a predominately Catholic area. My adamant belief is based on anecdotal evidence and informal research into what others have written. However, I stand firm in that is obvious when leaders cover up abuse and allow victims to be shamed, the influence of the shame culture they model extends far beyond the incidents we hear about in the news. It impacts every person in that church and all the people the religious elite have labeled less important than their vision.

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by Jim Gordon

It seems we hear a lot about change and becoming a better person in the way we live and believe. We often hear from some christian people about judgment and condemnation of others because they do not live the way they think the bible says.

I think it is time we accept people for who they are beginning with ourselves. We need to remember that we are all made in the image of God. The bible says God saw all that he had made and it was good!

BeYourself for 3-13-19

Rather than judge someone and tell them they need to change, why not do what Jesus said to do. Love God and love one another. We do not always agree but it is not up to us to tell people what they need to do or how they should live. Accept one another for who they are.

Rather than worry about what everyone else thinks just be yourself, accept yourself. Do not let anyone say you do not matter or make you feel like you need to be someone you are not.

You are not a mistake. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God created you and loves you just as you are.

Of course, we all want to better ourselves in this life but as far as the real you, whether gay or straight, white or black, male or female we are unconditionally loved and accepted by God.

There are a good many of his followers out there that feel the same way. Ignore those who judge and condemn, they will only bring you down. Move on and seek out those who will love you with the unconditional love of God and who will accept you just as you are.

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by Jim Gordon

Kindness is something you do not find much in our world today.

The Bible speaks about kindness many times. Kindness is one of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22.

The dictionary says kindness is being considerate or helpful. I think the world would be a better place if everyone treated each other with kindness.

It usually does not take much to be kind. Sometimes I think we make it harder than it should be. Something as simple and easy as a genuine smile can brighten the day of a person who is not expecting it.

bekindtooneanother

Being polite and kind to others can sometimes be just what they need to make their day. Holding the door for someone, letting them go ahead of you in line, smiling and saying hello, treating them with respect, things like that can go a long way to lift someone up.

In his book ‘It Worked for Me In Life and Leadership‘, Colin Powell said “Kindness connects you with other human beings in a bond of mutual respect. If you care for your followers and show them kindness, they will reciprocate and care for you”. Showing kindness can be beneficial not only to those you show kindness to, but to yourself as well.

We also need to remember that truly showing kindness goes beyond just the basic acts of being nice. Here is another quote from Colin Powell’s book “Don’t just show kindness in passing or to be courteous. Show it in depth, show in with passion, and expect nothing in return. Kindness is not just about being nice; it’s about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect”. I personally think that when the love of God flows from within us, we can show kindness out of general concern and interest for others.

It is sad that so often it seems that even Christians have a hard time treating each other with kindness. There is so much disagreement, fighting and arguing over views and interpretations. We seem to forget that as Christians we all have the common ground of faith in Christ and we are all children of God. Even when we do not agree there is no reason why we cannot be kind and respectful to one another.

Be ready to show acts of kindness each day. See others as just as important as yourself. Let the love of God flow from you to genuinely touch the lives of others. You never know who it may affect and where it may lead.

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