September 04, 2009

Centerpeace The Conference, I am SO There, Let us be defined as lovers not haters.

If you are a long time reader of my blog you know that I am a seeker. I always know that God has more and more for me the farther I walk along in my journey with Him. I am tearful to think of where I have come from and what God has brought me to.

You might also remember my story of one of my good friends Cary. He came from a church going family, he grew up feeling shame and fear because he struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction. He sat in the church pew and knew very well that he would not be accepted there if those around him knew of his struggle. Cary didn't ask for this, he didn't even understand it. He wished that he could be in a relationship with a woman, or that he found women remotely attractive, but he didn't and he didn't know what to do. As there was no place for him to feel safe in confession in his little church in Wisconsin and then in our big church in Abilene, he listened to those secular voices in his life, this is how you were made, this is how you will always be, join us because we will accept you for who you are.

There were no voices of love for him from his church family, only words like abomination, freak, disgusting were heard when the subject of homos*xuality came up. He believed that his sin defined who he was and began a life away from God's people where he was given acceptance. Hear this loud and clear, OUR SINS DO NOT DEFINE WHO WE ARE, Cary was kind and had a servants heart. WE ARE DEFINED BY CHRIST ALONE, HE DIED FOR US AND LOVES EACH ONE OF US NO MATTER WHAT WE HAVE DONE OR HOW BROKEN WE ARE. He does want us to leave our sinful ways behind and follow Him, but that is a process, a journey and that takes supernatural transformation that comes from God when we seek Him with all our heart. As someone who has experienced supernatural transformation in so many areas in my life it is not something that happens overnight, God has a work to do in us and it can take years for us to be healed. Our timing is not God's timing. The more I fall in love with Christ, the less I struggle with walking outside His path for me. God says, "seek me with all your heart and I will make your path straight." As followers of Christ we need to look into people's eyes and see them as the cherished child of God they are, loving them and not allowing our own baggage or fears stop us from doing so.

As God's people we are to give those who struggle with unwanted same sex attraction a soft place to land. We are to love one another as Christ loves us. If someone came into our church and had a problem with gossip, or anger, would we even address it? Maybe so, but we wouldn't get in their face and quote scripture as our only means of communication to them. Change or you are not welcome. What if we accept this person into our church, and they don't change overnight, or say like in a month? then what do we do? If we allow ourselves to be the conduit of Christ's love for all those who are hurting and broken that God brings into our path then God will take care of the rest. I say if we don't accept people into our lives that are hurting and broken we will answer to the Lord for that, He says clearly "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." WE ARE TO LOVE.

HOW DO WE LOVE? Just like the person who allowed themselves to be defined by their same sex attraction because of the words they heard in the pew, most of us that grew up along side that person and were shaped by those words also. We have to overcome our fears, we have to unlearn the condemnation and the harshness that we have been taught. In order for God's people to be a safe place for people who struggle with this we have to conquer our own fears. How do we love those who are different than us? Most importantly through prayer and seeking the love of God, then we put a face with it. Are you afraid of poverty and homeless people? Go work in a shelter, put a face on it. Are you afraid of homosexuals? Educate yourself, put a face on it. How do we do that?
We have an amazing opportunity in Abilene, people are flying in from all over the U.S. to attend the first conference by Centerpeace. Here is the link. This conference is for those who struggle with unwanted same sex attraction, for their families, and for those of us who want to be a soft place for them to fall. We will learn how best to minister to a section of the population that has had no place in the churches as a whole. This is an exciting time to learn how to be the church, show the love of Christ, to be a part of a revolution of love and not condemnation.

This conference will be an excellent resource for all ministers, support staff, people who want to just be a friend to those in need and want to learn how best to do that.

Satan has long had the upper hand in those who have unwanted same sex attraction because they have felt there was no other option but to leave God or to hide in shame because his people would never welcome them, this is an opportunity to bring Christ back into that conversation, and to lift our eyes to Him and to be a part of the healing process. It is a divine honor.

There is some great info at the link about the conference when you click over, but if you don't take the time to click over, then just know this conference is about journeying with God to be who He created us to be, one who strives to be holy. Each one of us can benefit from that, it will be a safe place for all who attend. This conference is a large leap of faith and when people step out on faith God shows up big time. I hope you will consider being a part of a leap of faith, even if it is not the easy thing to do.

There even might be a feeling of, I am not struggling with same sex attraction, but I want to overcome my fears and know how to help those who are, but if I go to the conference people might think that it is my struggle. I say to that BE STRONG, BE OF GREAT COURAGE, DON'T ALLOW WHAT OTHERS THINK TO STOP YOU FROM COMING TO THE CONFERENCE. WE CAN NOT LET OTHERS IDEAS ABOUT US DEFINE US, BE BOLD IN YOUR FOLLOWING OF THE LORD, TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH. I say who cares what other people think, we should only care what God thinks. If He has put it on your heart to attend this conference then GO and don't let your own fears quench the Spirit. For those of us who are looking for the big God, the God who we know exists but we don't see Him very often because we stay safe in our perfect little lives, this will be a place to see the Big God, you will be a part of His great and mighty plan. To love when it is not easy, is to be a conduit of Christ's love. I am ALL about that. Rob and I are going, we will see you there if you decide to go.

As a side note: When I travel to speak with the Coffee Group this subject has come up numerous times. Not because we have spoken to this subject specifically but because God's healing of our brokenness is generally talked about. Each time there are women who are in tears because one of their children is living an alternative lifestyle. These moms are brokenhearted because they don't know what to do, they don't understand it, they themselves might even feel responsible. There is so much woundedness and shame that they are almost suffocating because of it. Let us gather together and not heap pain and shame on our fellow journey goers, let's be a soft place and let the love of Christ be our guide when we are given the opportunity. We do that by being authentic with our own struggles and just showing up to walk the path with them. We also do that by starting the conversation on this topic within the church walls, let us not be defined as haters but as lovers.

p.s. as I stood by my friend Cary's bedside about 45 minutes before he died of Aids, with his mother, and his companion, I was asked to pray over him, the presence of God was there and the love God offered to all of us very present. After Cary and I became friends, for whatever reason - he sought God like he hadn't in a long time, he read the bible, he asked me questions, he prayed, he was on a journey. He desired to be holy and to be loved by God, he wanted to do the right thing. I would be lying to say that I knew if he had ended his physical relationship with his companion but this I do know, that God allowed me to be His light and love in a place that He had not been welcomed for a very long time. Sometimes stories have messy endings and the corners don't look all in place, but as long as we show up with God's love we will be closer to Him and He will fill our hearts with love for others that we never knew possible.
Thank you God.


Leah said...

Thank you for being so proactive.

Anonymous said...

Your testimony will probably touch and challenge many who read it, including me. I have a loved one to whom I am trying to show God's love and acceptance. None of us become like Jesus overnight. It is just as you said, a journey. May God's blessing be on the conference.


Sharon Winkler