Tag: listen

Conservative Christian, If You Really Loved Me, Would You Please Just Listen?

I know you disagree with me and so many aspects of my life—that’s one thing that seems to be overflowing with clarity.

That’s o.k, it really is, you are welcome to your own perspective.

To you, my nonconservative choices, values, beliefs, and even the very essence of who I am as a person are deemed to be suspicious at best, certainly inferior, and likely in desperate need of repair and a strong dose of repentance. In step with the marching orders of your creed, you pace back and forth, waiting for opportunity to put my faith and life through your conservative curling iron in hopes of straightening me out. You say you love me and it’s all from a heart of genuine concern—I want nothing more than to believe you, I truly do. Yet, it feels like everywhere you touch upon the fabric of my life, you’re insisting on your own way while claiming it to be God’s—desperately trying to unravel and pull apart what I’ve actually come to believe and cherish as the divine tapestry of my life.

You want all the Scriptures you so confidently quote, the stern warnings about hell, and your passionate lectures on all the ways that I’m desperately misguided to feverishly call my soul to attention. You want your guilt trips, silent treatments, and glares of disapproval to magically solicit an urgency within me to wake up and change. You want all the articles, books, and sermon videos barking the bullet points of your faith to bring me to my knees, surrendering in agreement and tearful repentance. Yet, deep down inside I have this ancient, Jesus-embedded sense within me that I just can’t ignore—if you really loved me and were truly being used by the Spirit, you’d simply listen.

No, I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s nothing more than the inconvenient duration of time you’ve silenced your lips while reluctantly waiting your turn to speak. I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s merely the sum of the moments you’re rushing ahead in your mind to all the ways you’re going to correct me. I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s nothing more than the pause you give in your rebuttals to humor me with a moment to interject my wayward thinking—licking your chops, poised and ready to shoot it all down. No, I’m not talking about the awkward silence that ensues while your arms are folded and your chin is lifted in obvious disgust. Maybe you call that listening or discerning, or whatever faith term that fits your brand of religious conservatism, but I call it—hate. For nothing is perhaps more antiJesus, demeaning, and drooling with shame and condemnation than a Christian who refuses to listen.

You want me to believe that you love me—I greatly appreciate that. You want me to consider that you were sent by God to guide me—I understand that. Yet, with all due respect, I’m finding it very hard to convince my conscience to open the door of trust when every alarm in my Spirit is sounding to the clear and ever present reality, you aren’t even listening.

You speak, you judge, you correct, you assume, you admonish, you lecture—perhaps all with the most wonderful of noble intentions. Yet, all the while, it feels so reckless, like a sheep being dragged to the slaughter, as you don’t even glimpse beyond the surface to the intricate fabric of my being and the complicated walk upon which I have been traveling. At best, you’re shooting in the dark because you don’t take the time, extend the grace, and embrace the humility required to remove the blinders and truly see me and my story. In fact, at times, it feels like I’m just another sitting duck, traveling across your spiritual arcade, bracing for the impact of your prepackaged conservative bullets. Cocked and loaded, you’ll never hear nor encounter the story behind my eyes—a story that if I told you, would break your heart, humble your faith, and perhaps even cause you to put down your weapons. Maybe, when it’s all said and done, that’s what you truly fear the most and the reason why you refuse to truly listen—it’s all too risky, your entire faith-construct might come crashing down.

The one thing that’s missing is that one thing you seem to be so adverse to giving. It’s all I’ve ever truly wanted—so I’m begging you, would you please just listen?

Listen—with the reverence that completely stops and deeply considers that chances are you have something to learn, change, or reconsider first before ever being granted the green light from God to speak to my Christ-imaged humanity.

Listen—with the humility that, though you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, you certainly aren’t entitled to your own facts, nor the claim that you hold the one-and-only divinely-sanctioned interpretation of Scripture.

Listen—with the self-control that renders the noise of your stubborn insistence to a prison of silence in order to create the openness and freedom required to hear a true revelation from God.

Listen—with the determination to never lean on your own understanding, project your bias, and pepper me with labels.

Listen—with the level of compassion that no matter what you had to say, all I would ultimately hear is that you love me.

For if we aren’t listening deep enough to where we understand with fullness, empathy, education, and humility the very journey, perspectives, beliefs, and values to which we disagree or disapprove in another human being, we aren’t truly listening. For when Jesus left the halls of heaven and became a human being, it wasn’t just an act of becoming human flesh, it was an act of ultimate, divine listening.

So now, when you wonder why I don’t call, why I don’t respond, and why I’ve resigned to love you from a distance. When you wonder why I’m deeply hesitant to visit your church, come to family gatherings, grant you influence, and see you and your conservative faith-understanding as credible. When you wonder why I ignore you on Facebook or de-friend you altogether. When you wonder why the world is increasingly concluding that yours is a brand of Christianity that is filled with self-righteousness, selfishness, and hate. Perhaps you would consider this perspective, it may just be because I, and many others, can’t ignore the screeching reality—you’re not listening.

Say what you want, debate all you like, curl up in the fetal position of your guilt trips, and trumpet your Scriptural proof-texts—my heart breaks at all that we are missing, the time that’s being wasted, the hurt that’s being experienced, and the relationships that never will be. Largely because, like Martha in the Scriptures, it seems you’re insistent on making religious sandwiches of debate, correction, and condemnation that Jesus never ordered, while Mary was learning the true heart of Jesus—to sit down, be quiet, and simply listen.

No, I’m not perfect, I certainly have my faults. But right now, I can’t trust you nor give your voice credibility, not because you aren’t speaking, but because I can’t hear you listening.

Conservative Christian, if you really loved me, would you please just listen?

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19

Grace is brave. Be brave.

5 Ways To Love The Anti-LGBT People In Your Life

Loving people is a deep ocean, as treacherous as it is beautiful. Navigating through the peril of those who stand against us, a daunting task of great proportions.  Between sunset skies, there are those who would drown us, silence our voices, and abandon our cry. The people who should care the most, are at times the ones who care the least.  It’s everything we can do, keeping our head above water, to not lose ourselves in the wake of hate. Love is as dangerous as the seas are blue.

It’s ok to want to give up, as long as you don’t do it. The love that is supposed to win, often feels like it’s losing—people determined to misunderstand, as much as they refuse to listen. The riptides of rejection, pulling us from everything that feels secure, something inside of us is slowing dying, we sense it—hope, faith, love, a struggle to remain human. Walls going up, the shades closing, curling up in the fetal position as we pray for the world to go away.

The day we give up on loving, the purpose of our living, that will be the day they win. It’s a fight, it truly is, but I still believe, with the anti-LGBT people in our lives, love still wins.

I’m not perfect, I have a long way to go, but here’s what I am learning. Five ways to win at loving the anti-LGBT people in our life.

Choose Relationship over Debate.  As an affirming, advocating pastor, people want to debate me. Having spent exhausting hours on this endless treadmill, I’ve learned to press the pause button and point to relationship—pushing out a chair, inviting them to the table. Not for a circular argument-fest, but for what could be a transforming conversation. Each of us growing, if in nothing less than our understanding. I can tell you, nobody has a heart-change through debating, it’s only through relating.

Find me a person who is anti-LGBT, and I will have found you a person who likely lacks true, humble, authentic connection with this community. Freedom from bigotry doesn’t comes from knowing a new idea, but from knowing a person, newly. Information, creeds, and beliefs find their heart changing power, only in relationship. It’s the face to face, soul to soul interaction that causes one to truly ask the question and seek an honest answer, “did I get this wrong?” It’s a daunting task to influence a heart to which you aren’t connected. Know your stuff, but where you can, choose relationship over debate.

Love from a Distance.  Caring for ourselves, protecting the well-spring of life within us, all deeply critical to our capacity to give loveIn the face of those who are against us, sometimes, the best we can do is to survive another day in order to love again on another. Nothing can be more toxic, more skin melting than the fallout from those in our lives who are anti-LGBT. Pulling the pin of “coming out” as a person, pastor, advocate, or a parent can be met with huge explosions. In all things, give yourself the permission to love as you can—a little, or even in moments, not at all. At times, giving grace isn’t measured in the love we give, but in our stopping short of expressing the opposite. If that means creating space, create it. Turning off the phone, a vacation from social media—there is a difference between freedom from love, and freedom for it. Don’t stop loving, rather find sanctuary in loving from a distance. Doing so, is completely acceptable and honoring, even if it doesn’t feel right, and leaves others disappointed. We can only do the best we can. What measure of goodness or sharing of self we have to bring at any given moment, should sit in our hearts as being sufficient.

Grieve the Loss of Expectations.  You thought they would “get it” but they didn’t—thought they would listen, but they aren’t. You thought they would love you anyways, but they won’t—thought they would come for the wedding, but they aren’t. You thought your ministry would survive, but it couldn’t—thought they would still value your friendship, but they don’t. You thought you could still go to church, still serve in ministry, but you can’t. Family visits, dinners at the table—so much will never be the same—never ever, again. These are the dreams, the hopes, the inner expectations we hug that are so hard to release. If only things were different, if only they would reconsider, if only they could see.

Letting go is different than giving up. It’s emotionally freeing yourself from the pain of expecting from someone what is fairly owed to you that they cannot or refuse to give—going to the well, over and over, only to come up dry. The decency that humans should be, is the decency we often don’t receive. It’s a process, a tiresome journey that doesn’t find resolve overnight. Accepting their rejection is the hardest—surrendering the impossible quest to change their mind, perhaps even more difficult. Yet, love finds its apex of fruition, its most challenging expression, when we love people where they are at, not where we wish they would be. Don’t give up hope, but let love emancipate your heart from being ruled by expectation.

Eat First.  The psalmist discovered that the power to love our enemies comes from first sitting at God’s table and eating—feeding off His delight, affirmation, and pure love for our lives. It’s only there that we find enough soul supply to never hunger or thirst again—to have a sure sense of self that our enemies can’t suck dry. Accepting His acceptance is the bullet proofing of our hearts from all rejection. Don’t you dare pull up a chair to anyone’s opinion in an effort to feed your identity, value, worth, or affirmation. Taste and see that God is good, and His goodness is in all that His hands have made, you included.

We help people to win in response to our lives when we remove from them the burden to be the source of our self-love and worth. To be connected to the tubes that feed our self-talk is a sure foothold all our enemies desire. The truth is, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, a plan, or a scripture to justify. We are who we are, by God’s exclusive design, and the haters can simply take it or leave it—what we believe or how we choose to live it. It would be great, it’s what we deserve, but their lack of approval, respect, and fairness doesn’t define us, nor should it leave our souls in a state of starving. We are whole and complete, apart from those who say we aren’t. This is the power of the table, from which we sit to face our enemies—full, quenched, sufficient, worthy, fully loved and fully alive, and therefore capable of even loving those who stand against us—not looking to be fed, or vulnerable to their leeching, but to contribute love where we can.

Keep the Light On.  We live in a dark world, blanketed by darkness. Ignorance abounds. Hate, the breakfast of many Christians and the religious. Even still, never give up.  Remove that card from the deck of possibilities. Keep the light on. “Motel-6” people, even if it hurts.

If God can change my mind and heart about all that is LGBTQ, anything is possible. Maybe, just one day, they will reconsider.

It’s not easy. Refuse to write people off, be brave enough to hope—to spend time in the land of the waiting. You will surely become a better person in the process, even if they never do.

Homophobic people who say stupid, horrific things… love them anyways.

Anti-LGBT people who are determined to misunderstand… love them anyways.

Bigoted people who want their cake and eat it too, keeping you from enjoying any… love them anyways.

Rejectors who kill with their eyes and destroy with their head turns… love them anyways.

People who should listen, but refuse to even hear… love them anyways.

Christians who completely malign the heart of Jesus and fail to manifest Him… love them anyways.

Family whose job it is to love you the most, but resign to caring the least… love them anyways.

Friends who once declared to forever walk by your side, but now have left the building… love them anyways.

For if the world is going to change, love will have been the reason—not just love, but your love and my love, specifically.

Be brave, love bravely.

The Light is still on, love still wins.

An Unstoppable Force : The Heart Of A Parent Of An LGBTQ Child

I have met some astounding people over the course of my ministry and life. People who have prevailed against seemingly insurmountable odds. Simply being around them charges the atmosphere with hope, energy, and strength. They inspire and fill the heart with a desire to abandon all fear.

Yet, nothing compares to encountering the force that is a parent of a LGBTQ child.

Quite honestly, I thought I knew what passion-of-heart looked like. But then a gaze into the soul of parent of an LGBTQ child. It only took a glimpse. That was enough to be forever convinced. Never underestimate the heart of a parent of an LGBTQ child. It’s an unstoppable force.

You might assume that upon their child coming out as LGBTQ, they automatically flip their theological switches to fit this newly revealed reality. Not a chance. No one studies the scriptures, searches the soul, and presses into their faith more than the parent of an LGBTQ child. These are smart, informed, wise people who do their homework. They take no shortcuts in the journey of walking through these issues, faith step by faith step— tirelessly seeking God’s heart and looking through all the windows. Traveling down a path of deep discernment, revelation, and spiritual investigation, a road that only few are willing to shadow. For many, theirs is the prize, the discovery of truth rarely discovered— the God affirmation of all of His creation… including, especially LGBTQ.

Don’t think for a moment these are unraveled people; frail, misguided, pushovers. Playing some kind of victim card as if their lot is to be pitied. Strength finds itself in a willingness to cry, to shake, to toss and turn through sleepless nights and yet press on anyways. No one who is weak, wrestles and beats the chest of God— stands there and takes it; insult, ignorance, bullets of bigotry. Chasing down the question, what does the future bring? Will this ever get any better? Walk a mile in their shoes. While the trees fall in front of them, the road buckles underneath them, you will find pure resolve. An inner strength, a beauty amidst the ashes, wings defying the gravity of oppression—all the while declaring, lifting out the ways they are blessed.

Yet nothing compares to the loyalty locked onto their LGBTQ child. No one who is human handles anything perfect. The journey of an LGBTQ parent… it’s a maze, filled with highs and lows, twists and turns— clouds of denial, reoccurring doubts, even for some, the rejecting of one’s own. This is a complicated issue with many strings attached. The set of dominoes that falls from the moment the closet door opens “Mom, dad, I’m…” not to mention, the second door opening, “Yes, my child is…”— each family experience a bit different, all difficult at best. Yet at the end of the day, much more so than not, there remains a loyalty, of love beyond love that wraps around their LGBTQ child refusing to let go. Try and break the seal, the bond— you cannot.

These are men and women, walking through sinking sand, climbing over barbed wires, fist to cuff with demons— doing the best they can. Willing to risk it all; to stand with, to stand for, what’s most important… truth, life, justice… their children.

I say to you, if you are looking for hope, for a clear sign of humanity’s splendor.

If you are looking for what God is doing in this world, a quaking of His movement.

If you are looking for a strength, the bursting forth of light, able to break through steel clouds of darkness.

If you looking for modern day Mary’s and Joseph’s, an advent of where God is with us.

Look no further than the parent of an LBGTQ child.

A star is shining upon a place, a people not expected, birthing new revelations of the Father, awakening the world to the Spirit’s movement.

The heart of a parent of an LGBTQ child is a beautiful, strong, human, divine, unstoppable force.

If you are ever honored to know them, I beg you, sit at their feet. Listen.

Listen closely to their stories. Dine intimately with their children. Take off you sandals, for where you stand is holy ground— where you sit, the presence of nothing less than the Divine. You are among a people, a manifestation of heaven.

Love them and love them well.

Because sadly, they rarely find room in the hearts of those who should most receive them— living lives outwitting the forces, the religious, the Herod’s that seek to destroy them. Hoping and praying for those willing to simply listen.

Their deepest desire… is there any room in your heart, to simply listen?

May they find rest, sanctuary, friendship, and affirmation in you.

The heart of a parent of an LGBTQ child is an unstoppable force.

If you are willing to listen, to love, to learn… your heart might become unstoppable too.

Christian, Shut Up And Listen Already

I get it, there are a lot of high-volume issues at play in the jukebox of our culture.

Sexuality, immigration, terrorism, politics, economics, war, racism, poverty, abortion. All, filling the airwaves with their sound. Complex voices, ringing around our heads. Stirring our thoughts, twisting our emotions. Reverberating straight to the bottom, rattling the very essence of our souls, forcing the ultimate question…

What does it mean to be Christian?

You want it to calm down, turn down, settle down, make it all go away. What you don’t understand you label as noise. What doesn’t fit your theological playlists, you quickly eject. Cupping your ears, you crank up the volume of familiar hymns. Drowning out, discrediting what doesn’t align. The voices God wants so desperately to speak to your faith, you simply want to subtract.

What you call static, Jesus calls sacred…humanity crying out, if only to be heard.

So much to learn, so much to understand, so much to be gained. This is what learners of Jesus are supposed to do… learn.

Our culture is a concert hall of instruments, each in their own way, crying out with the same longing. A beautiful song. What does it truly look like to be human? To be pleasing to our Maker. Is it being more like this, or more like that. Living this way or living that. Believing more over here, or believing more over there. Each having a melody. If only to be heard.

What you call unconscionable, even unlovable, Jesus calls undeniable, even in-condemnable…humanity crying out, if only to be affirmed.

At the core of every soul is an ancient desire fashioned from the eternal, to love and be loved. To have value, to have worth. Meaning, purpose… beating the beats of our heart. To be alive in our living.  Just… to be… frigging… affirmed.

But you don’t hear it, and you won’t hear it.

Sadly, we Christians suck at learning, even more at listening. We think it’s all about the concluding and the speaking. In our arrogance, we assume we already have what needs to be said, believe it’s our job to say it, and people need to hear it.

Spoiler alert. Christian, nobody gives a damn! You’ve lost your credibility. You’re all talk, no listen.

Licking your chops, unfolding your talking points, “this is what the Bible says.” We play in bands of like-mindedness, creating walls of sound to out-sound opponents. Walled in spiritual neighborhoods of little pink theologies. We Christians are experts at volume; speaking over, drowning out… ideas, creeds, viewpoints… even people.

This is who we have become. Noisy. Mute-button, Christians.

Can you just shut up already? For Christ’s sake… shut up?

You are speaking to be heard rather then listening to become a voice. And therefore, you have no voice that our culture is willing to hear.

When is the last time you sat down, and just listened?

Listened to the journey of a homosexual. The path of one who is transgender. A Muslim’s story. Or that of a mother who had an abortion. Broke bread with one who believes differently. Sat at the feet of a black man, an hispanic women. Dare I ask, maybe even an enemy.

When was the last time, you frigging just listened?

Give me the day, the hour, the minute.

I’m not talking about listening to tolerate, with spiritual eyes rolling in the back of your head. Going through mission-statement motions.

I’m talking about sitting to be transformed. To see Jesus where you believe you will see none.

Is your faith system so weak that you can’t think, reflect, listen, question… even learn, possibly come to a new perspective?

Within the sound of everything you label as noise, are the cries of real people, longing to be heard.

Our culture is listening for our listening, not for our words.

There should never be a voice that needs to force to be heard. Never a person questioning, desperately desperate to be affirmed.

Yet this is what we Christians have created. Hell on earth. A culture, a world, that has to cry, beg, plead… just to be heard, just to be loved, just to be affirmed.

That is the last thing that should be happening where we Christians are near.

Folks, this isn’t a game where the loudest voice wins. In fact, it’s where we listen, and only where we listen, that Jesus begins.

For the every cry of every person has already been heard and answered by Grace. We simply listen and point to the beauty of His face.

It’s that simple.

He is our voice, His Gospel is this… that in Christ, all are unconditionally loved, affirmed, valued, and desired. None are better, only different. Adored, delighted, saved, made whole, in Him.

This is our faith. This is the Kingdom.

It only begins however, when we shut up, and listen.

Christian…

for Christ’s sake…

shhhh, shhh, shh,

shut up…

and listen.

Get Off My Back and Open your Ears, You Bible Thumping Jerk Weed

Ain’t going to lie, I have grown so tired of people getting all up in their Bibles in order to get all up in my face.

Pushers and pimps of their packaged prescriptions on what “the Bible says.” Facebook pics with font abusing, clever little sayings touting their position on what they are against, fresh off the leather-bound, name engraved, coffee table press. For Christ’s sake, clip art and sun ray scenes are so 80’s. Enough already, people. Enough.

Rubber hammer them in the knee cap with a theological thought outside the black and white… and bam… there goes another knee jerk, Christian shoe up in your crotch. Their Apollo 13 wired spiritual capacitors can’t compute, overrun with revelation that doesn’t fit their denominationally predefined algorithms. Brain sparks fly, neck veins flare, alarms sound, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Yes, we do have a problem, damn straight we do, starting with the fact that exhibit “a,” the Bible doesn’t “say” jack squat. Hello, hello, is this microphone on?  I think I recall Jesus saying repeatedly regarding the “Bible” of His time, “You have heard it was said, but I say unto you.”  Notice, He doesn’t declare,”it” said, he says, you “heard” it was said.

Why? Because the Bible doesn’t “say,” … it reads. The mistake being made (the only mistake being made) Jesus pointed out to those gathered, was in their hearing. Oh snap, I hate it when Jesus rounds third base.

So let’s get real Christian. In fact, here’s an example.

Throughout the New Testament, new experiences with people are the driving force that led key Christians to ask the question, “have I read this right?”  No, it’s not some scholarly, exegetical orgy of dissecting a text that leads to the reexamination of a life issue, but rather new experiences with life, relationships, and flesh and blood that lead people like Peter and Paul to deep, theology altering questions of understanding regarding “what the Bible says.”

It was a sad state of affairs that the Jews, who experienced Pentecost and were the first Christians, did not believe the Gentiles could even receive the Gospel. Talk about inclusion issues. In fact, the growth of the first church was exclusively of Jewish people.  So much that Peter had to have an experience with God where He was led to begin to reevaluate his reading of a Biblical text about clean and unclean foods, a metaphoric communication of deeper issues regarding Jews and Gentiles that was about to play out.

Enter Cornelius.

Cornelius, a Gentile, was led to Peter because of his rumored spiritual experiences. Peter could not begin to fathom, it was so way beyond his window of perspective, that Cornelius could experience God. But once their bumpers were in the same parking lot, face to face, relationship to relationship, Peter was blown away by Cornelius’ receptiveness and spiritually capacity. After picking his jaw up off the ground, Peter, going against his original reading of the Biblical text, shared the Gospel and “boom, there it is,” new life for Cornelius.

Let’s just make sure you are getting the picture here, until that experience, Peter adamantly believed, along with the Jews, because of the way they “read” the scriptures, that the Gentiles had no access to Jesus and the Gospel, and even withheld the waters of Baptism because so.

Oh and by the way, the Gentiles, comprised of like 99% of the rest of the world. Yes, the Gentiles are you and me. Thankfully, Peter, Paul, and others, had the kahunas to ask the question, based on new experiences, “have we read this right?”

Truth be told, the more time spent on your high horse riding people like mules, using the Bible to try to kick and whip them onto your agenda… the more your ears are closed, your heart is hardened and life experiences lose their Spirit-led capacity to hold you over the text, demanding you ask one of most important questions… “have I read this right?”

So, get off my back (and everybody else’s) and open your ears. Cause right now, you got “jerk weed” written all over your forehead.  Your ignorance is making a circus out of this Christian thing and missing the heart and the spirit of Jesus and His Gospel. Come down from your pride, get outside your “church world” fence, and actually sit at the table of the people you hate, and the issues they harbor that you are so against.

Maybe then, you can hear the megaphone of Jesus trying to break in and penetrate over the noise of your evangelical earphones… “you have heard it was said, but I say unto you.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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