Responding to the Culture- What We Can Learn from a Cartoon

Recently, writers for a popular kid’s cartoon married a male character to another male. Someone suggested that since I work with children and write, I should tackle this episode so others will be encouraged to respond. It is, after all, imperative that we do so.

I’ve thought and prayed about our response and this is what is on my heart: 

What a wonderful opportunity for the church to teach our children how to love people who live and love differently.  What a holy moment for those who love the Christ to be able to say to our neighbors, “I love you and I’m going to walk this road with you. Let’s be friends!” What a blessed anointing on those who proclaim Jesus to have the opportunity to make Him look good to those who may not yet know his love!  What a beautiful time to teach ourselves and others how to love well. (We all need to work on that, especially me.) What an exciting hour to be able to build new bridges in a broken world! 

We want to change people but Jesus calls us to love them. It’s messy, uncomfortable, and doesn’t always make sense but it’s the only thing that matters.

Love Them Through This

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27). Jesus looked at two people he dearly loved and said, “Friend, here’s someone who will love you through this. Sweet Woman, here’s someone to love you through this.”

Jesus is not only the Savior on a cross, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, the one who gave sight to the blind, and made a path for the lame but he was also the baby in the manger as the star shone above him, and the child of the mother who would treasure all these things in her heart.

As he looks down from the cross, I would venture to say the pain on his mother’s face hurt worse than the nails in his own body. Jesus shows us that even when we’re in the middle of our own pain, even when we’re in our darkest moments, even when we’re struggling and hurting, we are here to love others.

Maybe love came naturally to your parents. Maybe they were good at it. Maybe it didn’t and they weren’t. Maybe love comes naturally for you. Or not. The Apostle Paul tells us in Titus that we need to teach each other how to love our families (Titus 2:4). We need to do a better job at learning how to love. Thankfully, Calvary offers a place to lay down our frustrations, grief, and the cycle of not loving well, not only with the world and our daily struggles but the deep secret heartaches we may carry from childhood.

Children, love your parents. Love them regardless of their mistakes. Love them regardless of their brokenness. Love them in spite of the many things they got wrong while raising you. Love them even if you feel they didn’t love you well. Love them well.

Parents, love your children. Love your average children, your below average, and your above average children. Love your faithful child and your prodigal child. Love your easy child and your rebellious child. Love your straight children, your gay children, your loud fussy, temper tantrum, teenage children. Love your three year and your thirty-three year old. Love them regardless of what they look like or how they act. Love them even if you don’t agree with all of their choices. Jesus does.

Church, stop trying to love people into who we want them to be and start loving people for who they are. We have to start loving people the way Christ calls us to. Nobody else is going to do it.

In a few more days, Mary would begin to understand how much this cross matters. In a few more days she will see he didn’t die in vain. In a few more days, this will make a little more sense.

If you struggle with how to love those closest to you, look at the cross and see how Jesus loved those closest to him. Fearlessly. Fiercely. Faithfully.

For every grieving child and grieving parent who stands broken and weary in front of Jesus, just remember, he is returning in a few more days.

Let’s love each other through this while we wait.

When God Doesn’t


We were talking about God and the way he works on our behalf in a kid’s Bible class recently and one sweet kid sat on the edge of the seat. This child wants to go home but instead they go to someone else’s house everyday. It’s a good place but not what they want. The grief of what used to be is too much and leads us to pray each time we’re together for God to fix what’s broken in this young life. They just want to be with mom. Not the mom they are used to or the mom authorities had to remove them from. They want to be home with a healthy, happy, safe mom.

After we talked about the fact that God is for us and takes care of us, this sweet kid with teary eyes came to me quietly, took me by the arm, and asked, “But what if God doesn’t?”

I knew what those words meant. I remember losing my dad over Christmas break when I was in fourth grade and while my friends talked of their Christmas presents when we returned to school, my mind was on my father’s funeral. As a teen, I remember getting the phone call with the news of my mother’s death. The nights I spent asking why and finally accepting the fact that the why isn’t mine to know are countless. But I knew I needed something to say to the kid standing in front of me, so I silently prayed and offered a meager, “He wants to.” We hugged and the bell rang. And I was left alone with the reminder of how hurtful sin is, not only to adults but to the children around us.

What do we do when we feel as if God has forgotten us? And just as difficult, how do we deal with those in our lives who allow their brokenness to cause our own? It’s a difficult lesson when you’re an adult and nearly impossible for children but it’s happening all around us. Church, we have a responsibility to help those struggling.

Speak hope.

If God has gotten you through the dark valley, tell people! The church needs more God stories. People are starving to hear from Christians who have overcome trials by the power of God. Encourage sharing by creating avenues for people to talk about their journey. Take every opportunity to tell how God has rescued you.

Love the church.

We know the sad and frustrating stories of the many times Church has gotten love wrong. But the times she has gotten love right (and they outweigh the others) need to be celebrated. The church has enough critics. She needs more cheerleaders. Support her. Love her. Tell others about the good she has done and continues to do. Remember you’re an ambassador of the Christ. Your words and deeds should reflect your calling.

Serve.

We find healing from our past by the way we love and care for those in our present. Seek out those who are on the fringes of society. Reach out to the poor, oppressed, and unheard and love them. Listen to their stories. Make friends. Support your church’s outreach ministry and if you don’t have one, start one. Volunteer in the children’s ministry. Show them Jesus. Sit with those who sit alone. Service is not only a command, it is the key to our own healing.

Seek God’s face.

There’s a great verse in Colossians 3 that says to set your mind on things above. We tend to gloss over that verse but it is powerful. If we set our minds on the sadness, drama, darkness, and evil that permeates this world, we will be consumed by it. But if we resolve to see our Father through our struggles, we will have the strength to persevere. Spend time in the Gospels getting to know Jesus. Pray for the people around you. Practice loving your enemies and being for those you disagree with.

Fear has a way of telling us we’re alone but God is here, sitting with us in our grief, singing over us as we weep. Even if it seems he doesn’t care, he passionately does. God is for us. He wants the best for our lives and is working on our behalf. He did in the beginning. He did when we sabotaged ourselves in the garden. He did on the cross and he will when he wipes away every tear.

I have no doubt that God deeply loves that sweet kid as much as he dearly loves the child’s broken, addicted mother. Church, he expects us to go out of our way to show them both how much.

Luke 19

If you’re doing the December Reading Plan in Luke with me this month, then today you found yourself in Luke 19. One of my favorite stories is here. Zacchaeus the dreaded tax collector. If you were to ask the local church people, you would have been told he was he a crook, stole from the less fortunate, and used Roman guard to strong arm his own people. He was known as a trader and nuisance to the good Jewish people. And our Savior, who should have gone straight to the local synagogue to make the religious feel good about themselves, instead spent the day with the Chief Tax Collector.  

I love the Christmas story. I love the baby in the manger, the shepherds in the fields, the caravan of the wise, the animals, the weary, excited parents, and the star overhead. I love the joy, hope, and story of the Nativity. But I am in awe of the Savior who grew to love the unloveable, see the unseen, and defend the weak, hated, and oppressed.

This Christmas season as you’re beholding the baby in the manger, don’t forget who he grew up to be. Take hope and joy to those that most people refuse to see. Befriend the poor and marginalized. Call them by name, share a table with them, and let them know how loved they are. And don’t get too upset when you’re faced with opposition. Following Jesus has a tendency to upset the comfortable.

Continue to love, serve, and encourage those whom others refuse to see. That’s the true story of Christmas. Not a baby in the manger but a King who left the splendor of Heaven to walk our broken streets.  


Seeing Truth in the Silence

I received a surprising text message from someone I don’t know attacking my character the other morning. It was rude, unprofessional, and unchristian. I wasn’t hurt by it but I did think about it all day (so maybe I was a little hurt).

It arrived early and all day I stewed. I thought of clever responses. I thought of hostile responses. I wrote and deleted responses a thousand times. I kept those words on replay, sometimes talking about them with God but mostly with myself and my close circle of friends.

All day long I talked and thought about this message but late in the day, I found a few quiet moments with God and he placed a moment on my heart that had nothing to do with that message. Around lunch, I was in the school cafeteria. I was assisting kids when one of my special needs students grabbed me unexpectedly with a hug and told me he loved me. This kid who seldom talks. The same one who had never gotten very close to me at all did something remarkable and I was so caught up in the hateful words of someone I only knew of to appreciate it. Hours elapsed before the impact of that special moment settled on my heart. My frustrations had to grow quiet before God could get my attention.

Why do we focus more on the hate than we do the holy? Is it because it speaks louder and grabs our attention more? Is it because we’re more familiar with heartache and have no problem sitting in our pain? Why do we allow the God moments to pass by so quickly, sometimes refusing to see them, when they’re happening? I think it’s because we live in loudness. And whether we want to admit it or not, we know the chaos better. It’s familiar. It’s our uncomfortable comfort zone. Getting quiet with God allows him to have control of our life and giving up control is scary.

I have no problem talking to God. In fact, I’m so good at talking to him that I talk over him. Sometimes I do all the talking. I need to get better at being in the stillness.

If you’re spending too much time focusing on the ill intent of someone else, I invite you to delete it, shake it off, and start looking for the graceful voice of our Father. Quiet your life. Quiet your soul and listen to God. He’s always here, just waiting for us to get quiet enough to hear his truth.