This is Laura.
Her drink is a chai latte.
Laura was a fellow contributor to The Joyful Life Magazine when I met her. I really responded to her natural, unassuming prose, and I knew she was someone I was meant to be friends with. Our sweet mutual friend, Vicki, gathered four of us together on a bicoastal Zoom, and we took our friendship from there.
As for the topic of this Sips & Scripts, Laura just released her first book! The Missing Moved In: A Grief Journey hit the proverbial shelves on March 22nd of this year.
It’s strange to say a book about heart-wrenching loss is a “good read,” but honestly, when it comes to The Missing Moved In, it’s true. Laura’s writing feels effortless, and she weaves together memories and grief experiences with the skill of a veteran writer. Everyone will lose someone they love, and I hope they have a copy of this book when they do
So once again on Zoom (though we will meet someday in person!), Laura and I chatted for an hour about the origin of the book and her hopes for it.
“I always journaled, but I never considered myself a writer. That was until I read Ann Voskamp’s seminal work, One Thousand Gifts. Ann writes in a way in which her prose feels like it’s equal parts poetry. I thought, wait— writing like this is a thing? I can write like that.
That kind of writing permission coupled with my father’s passing is how the book came to be. When you get to a point of having intense grief, there has to be a channel for it. I decided to write. I would put my observations into Facebook posts or blog posts. I think I just needed witnesses to my pain.
People responded to my posts. They had been through something similar. And grief is just so deeply lonely, that it was wonderful to have other people affirm what I was feeling.”
“The book came to be via trauma. Truly, trauma. I lived through a season of losing my beloved father while also giving birth to a baby and becoming a military wife. So this book is a collection of observations about what I was experiencing during difficult times of change. But in writing about the loss of my father, this book is an offering of love to him.
This book is also an exploration of difficult questions. In life, we experience a lack of answers, but still asking the questions can be valuable.
This book wasn’t written from a particularly healthy place, but it’s honest. I was truly going through all of these raw experiences and feelings when I wrote it, and so it’s not necessarily an exact representation of who I am now. It is, however, authentic to that season.
My book is almost like a catalog of all of the different emotions that come with grief. We’re told that grief progresses through stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. For me, and I would say for most grieving people, it wasn’t linear. My experience was that my feelings were like the staircases at Hogwarts— constantly moving and shifting even after you thought you could count on them.
Although it can be violent and all-consuming at first, grief is something that you do learn how to carry. It becomes a part of who you are.”
“Grief is a prominent character in this book whom I call ‘The Missing.’ This is how I was able to frame my grieving experience. I would use phrases like ‘The Missing is really close today’ or ‘I haven’t had a visit from The Missing in awhile.’
My relationship with ‘The Missing’ is rather complicated. I wanted to get rid of the grief, but I also wanted to keep it close because it connected me with my father, the one I lost. Grief and love are made of the same thing.”
“I think Christians especially have a complicated relationship with death. Our whole faith is built on conquering death. Jesus conquered death, and we can be with him in heaven. All of this is true, but I also believe in the healing power of lament.
Jesus hated death as much as we do. When Lazarus died, Jesus had a visceral reaction, we know ‘he wept’ (John 11.35). Even though Jesus knew that he had the power to bring Lazarus back, grief still struck him. Jesus, our eternal model, is letting us know it’s okay to hate death. And if you’ve read the Psalms you know that we have full permission to feel the extent of our grief feelings no matter how ugly or deep they are.”
“People in grief want to be reassured that they are not alone. They want to know they can feel these deep hurts and that it does get better with time and intention.
If you are grieving, do not read this book until you are ready to feel. While my book does contain hope, I also do not hold back in describing some of the things I saw and experienced. Sometimes, grieved individuals are in survival mode and aren’t ready to dive into the difficult emotions fully.
If people take nothing else away from my book, I want them to know they are seen, and they are loved, and it’s okay to not be okay.”
Reader, the deep void you feel for that person that you’ve lost? Yeah, Laura’s with you. Her book will make you nod your head in agreement, cry empathetic tears (the scene in the recliner!), and laugh when she flexes her wit muscle.
You can find Laura’s book on Amazon— click here to check it out.
With His love,
This is Jenn.
Her drink is an iced green tea with no sweetener (because she is healthier than the rest of us).
I first met Jenn in a women’s Bible study and I was immediately drawn to her heart for the Lord, her knowledge about the Bible, and her willingness to speak openly and honestly on any subject. Those who know Jenn know the last one to be her superpower.
Jenn and I bonded quickly, and—always game for an adventure— she jumped into help me advertise His wear:
I love so much about this girl. I love that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I love the way she punctuates her brutal-truth statements with bursts of laughter. And, on brand for today’s topic, I love the way she loves foster children with all that she has.
I know you are going to love what she has to say about fostering children as a single mom.
I am a third-generation foster parent, but I never thought I would say that. My parents fostered, but I wanted to forge my own path. Of course, God started planting seeds for fostering along the way.
The first seed that was planted was running into my foster brother when he was a fully grown adult. He expressed gratitude for everything my parents did for him even though he didn’t recognize it at the time.
The second seed came with a hard swallow of humility. I was at Target, and a child was screaming and tantruming and causing a big scene. My gut reaction was to think “get ahold of your kid, lady.” When I finally laid eyes on the caretaker, I saw that she was an older woman. First dose of guilt— I had just judged a struggling grandma. I decided she needed a hand, so I went over to introduced myself and started helping her get to her car from the register.
The kid was really having a hard time. He was throwing things out of the cart, and at one point, he tried to dart off in the parking lot.
As we were walking to the car, I asked if these were her grandkids. She said “no, these are my foster children.” Oh my heart. God, I’m such a jerk. Please forgive me I prayed quickly.
She explained that the child had just had a visitation with his biological parents which of course means that he was struggling with very difficult emotions. I felt the need to pray with her on the spot.
As I was praying, my own mom came out of Target to join us, along with another stranger who joined in. Four women had our heads bowed and prayed for those kids. When we were praying, the little boy who had been tantruming was still and silent.
At the time God was planting seeds, I was running a singles ministry at my church. In my singles ministry, I crossed paths with some people who were fostering kids. I was starting to be curious about it, so I asked them a lot of questions and started touching base with some fostering agencies. Around the same time, I was applying for a seminary-level program at a local church (12-month residency). I wasn’t sure which path I should go down— residency or fostering— so I prayed.
And God made me sit tight for awhile about it. I was waiting and wasn’t receiving answers. Fed up, I decided to vent to a friend on the phone about not receiving God’s guidance.
Within 10 minutes of hanging up, I received a call from the church with the residency saying they lost my application. And then later the same day, I received a call from Valley Teen Ranch that I could become licensed to foster kids within three months. I hear ya, God! So my fostering journey began.
Now, I have a biological daughter who I have always prioritized with when entering into these decisions. In fact, there were some years when she needed my undivided attention and so I had to pause fostering to make sure her needs were met.
Nevertheless, I have had ten foster children since opening my home to children, and I have been unmarried for all of it. Now, I have a tribe of course. I couldn’t do it without my family and friends.
A have a few favorite memories from this journey. I had a little boy who loved to sing. When he was first placed with us, my daughter and I would hear him singing rap songs complete with wildly inappropriate lyrics. I remember the song “Bust Down Tatiana” as one in particular that I was shocked by.
But coming into my home meant being a part of a Christian way of life. We took him to church, played worship songs, and prayed with him. About three weeks into his placement, my daughter and I heard him singing in the bathroom again. But this time it was the Christian artist, Lecrae. I witnessed God change the song in his heart.
Another way I have watched God move during this journey is in a time I had to pass on a placement rather than accept it. To give context, I had a teen foster daughter in addition to my biological daughter. I was in a Genesis Bible study, diving deep into the story of Abram and Sarai and how they had to wait so long for the promise of a descendant. And as you probably know, they got tired of waiting on God to fulfill his promise and took matters into their own hands by using a handmaiden, Hagar, to have a son. But of course, God’s plan all along was to give them Isaac in their very old age.
Abram and Sarai’s story paralleled my own life at that moment in my desire to have a baby again, a boy, one that I could end up adopting after fostering. And in this season, right before COVID, I got a call for a baby boy. This baby was surrendered at the hospital meaning the parents would not be involved whatsoever and adoption was almost guaranteed.
I prayed “God, what do you want in this?” I felt tempted to take this little baby, but it wasn’t deeply in my prayers at that time to do so. I knew there were parents out there who had been praying, so I passed. The worker was surprised at my answer because he knew I wanted a baby. But I felt strongly that the timing was not right for this baby and I released that opportunity. Come to find out, a couple did adopt that little baby boy, and guess what they named him? Isaac. Only God!
And God is faithful. I currently have a 4-month-old baby boy who I have had since he was two days old. I wanted so badly for attachment with this baby, but I knew that I didn’t carry him in my body— he wouldn’t recognize my voice, he wouldn’t know my smell. I had to work hard to forge this attachment— lots of skin-to-skin and talking and singing to him. Now, the attachment is real. He looks at me the way I want my future husband to look at me.
Addie’s note: I’ve witnessed this little baby look at Jen. It’s absolutely precious. He lights up when he sees her face.
One of the hardest parts of fostering is knowing how much these children want to be with their biological parents when they can’t. And I know I can provide love and safety, but I can never fully take the place of a biological parent. Having to explain this to small children is absolutely devastating.
But the hardest part of it all? Trusting God in the process.
Having a little infant while I have my biological daughter 50% of the time is not easy. Again, I support myself by working part-time running my own business. And this little guy is considered somewhat “medically fragile,” so he has some additional needs each day.
God is revealing my limits to me, which is humbling to say the least. He is revealing to me what full surrender looks like.
He has also changed the desires of my heart a bit. I always thought that future children would be biological children with a new husband, and I prayed for that. But I also prayed “Your will be done,” and he gave me this baby boy. His biological parents are open to adoption, and it seems like that is where this is headed.
The verse that I automatically go to when thinking about fostering is “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1.27, NLT)
The first half of that verse is obvious— God wants us to care for orphans. Yet the second half of the verse applies to my journey as well. There are many people who could have corrupted my vision to foster. When I started my journey as a single foster parent, there were definitely narratives out there like “single parents shouldn’t foster. A baby needs a mom AND a dad.”
Yes, God’s ideal creation was for a child to be with his/her biological parents, but we live in a world broken from God’s ideal creation. There are many babies and children without their biological parents. Yet one safe person creates healthy attachment for that child. I can be that for an orphan. I could have let the world corrupt me in this journey if I listened to the naysayers.
And right before that verse, James also tells us to not just be hearers of the word, but doers of the word (1.22). Fostering is how I feel called to live out God’s commission in my daily life.
I would highly recommend this book to any Christian considering foster care:
In addition, the best resources for learning about foster care are foster parents themselves. Reach out to one and ask them about their experiences and recommendations. It is also not uncommon for certain churches to have strong relationships with foster organizations, so touch base with a local church like that.
If someone were to ask me to describe Jenn, I would absolutely call her a doer of the word. I have been witness to it in how she opens her heart and her home to these kids who need the love of Jesus.
Thank you, Jenn, for being a faithful servant in His name.
with His love,
To connect with Jenn, please visit her two Instagram accounts:
Click here for her business account (locals, she does amazing hair!)
This is Christine.
Her drink is bone broth (now there’s a first for Sips & Scripts!)
My favorite part of my talk with Christine was how many times she stopped to say, “All for you, heavenly father! All glory to you!” She just radiates the love and joy of the Lord.
If you aren’t familiar with Christine’s account on Instagram, The Four Four, let me just say that you won’t find anything else like it. And that is because Christine is not trying to copy or imitate any other account that is out there; she is–as she phrases it–“downloading” her content from the Holy Spirit.
Christine began The Four Four account as a response to God calling her to use Instagram as the vehicle for spreading the gospel. So she does, in her own way using multiple modes of artistic expression to spread the good news.
We chatted about the recent devaluation of art in American society and how there is no greater expression of who we are than when we embody our Creator and let ourselves create. I know you will love what she has to say.
“I was severely ill with the very first strain of COVID in March of 2020 and as I was struggling to reclaim my health, the enemy attacked me. These were the things he was telling me:
Your life, your ministry, everything is over. You’ll be lucky to get out of this. PTSD will await you.
Everything was stripped away. All I could do, through rivers of tears, was worship— just listen to music and sermons and worship; it was my life buoy.
I remember telling God that if He healed me, I would do anything he wanted me to do.
I felt Him speak to me very clearly one day: I want you to preach the gospel through social media.
I was full of hesitation because I was still so sick. I could barely get on top of my physical/mental health— on top of being a mother. I didn’t feel like myself or super functional. In addition, I had not had social media for 15 years and was intimidated and concerned about the negatives of social media.
Over the period of a month or two, I kept going back and forth with Him, but the message was clear: I needed to start an online ministry via Instagram.
I said, ‘Ok, Lord. I trust you.’ And that is how our art-filled account, The Four Four began.”
“My home life is the foundation for The Four Four.
As a family, we believe in working on missions for the Kingdom together. And that has looked different for us in different seasons; at one point, it meant serving together in children’s ministry for the church. At another, we were serving and evangelizing our neighborhood and hosting revival meetings in our home. So we always do life together, as homeschoolers, and Jesus is always there—in the midst of the messy.
So we jumped into this social media mission. I landed on the theme of God’s unity and the guiding verse was Ephesians 4:4:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (4-5).4-5
We made a homemade logo based on this verse:
I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t understand technology. But I thought— what do I have?
And so we started on Easter Sunday, 4-4-21, which felt like such a confirmation of the Ephesians 4:4 motto. We like to preach what I call the “organic gospel” which means the gospel stripped away from modern politics and religious pretenses and simply focused on God’s Kingdom.
I started by writing up a sermon series, and my 16-year-old daughter would read it over and use her tablet to create the accompanying art.
And to be totally transparent, she is no different than any other teenager in that she and I have differing opinions sometimes. I never pressure her to put out a product if she doesn’t feel inspired— that’s not how our artful worship is meant to be created. But as far as 16-year-olds go, I am incredibly blessed that she is willing to collaborate with me on Kingdom art.
And because I was called to create this account by God, He has provided for every single bit of content! Because it is His and it is my offering of worship to Him, I have never doubted what my voice was supposed to be.
With every step, God shows me the next one. It’s all for Him and from Him and by Him. And that is my greatest joy. This account will always be a testimony to Him! Not to me. It is a testimony to His provision.”
“I love when genres and modes of art cross-pollinate (visual, auditory, etc.) because it gives more depth and substance to the message. If we can mix artistic styles and collaborate with different artists, it gives the audience an opportunity to be reached in more than one way.
I met the main artist that I collaborate with, Santi, in the most divinely organized way! Santi is in London, UK, and I’m in California, USA, so we had no other bridges into our individual worlds. But somehow, we connected on Instagram. I looked at his art for Christ, and loved his passion for the Lord, even though his art wasn’t exactly the same style as mine. We both are raw, but my art tends to be lighter and his is more dark and edgy. But I was drawn by the Holy Spirit to his work, and he was drawn to my poetry.
I got the sense that Santi was a worshipper even more than an artist, and remember God highlighted this to me so strongly! I could’ve teamed up with any other artist, but God linked us for a reason.
On a whim, I said ‘when I write my next piece of poetry, do you want to draw the art to go with it?’
The Holy Spirit gave him this amazing visual image to go with my poem. We were blown away by what God had done through the two of us, with the outcome of the final project.
And a couple of days later, I realized just how powerful that particular image was for my own testimony. It directly related to my experience of coming out of severe illness and surviving brokenness, and from so many hard circumstances and struggles I’ve had to walk through, and the triumph of the enemy ultimately losing. These are things only God knew and could have impressed on Santi’s heart to depict, because he didn’t know my personal testimony yet.
Our collaborations have always been by the Spirit, with all glory going to God!”
“For anyone out there who might be reading this and thinking but I am not an artist— I want to emphasize that art is subjective, like beauty. No one can tell you that your art is wrong or bad. You can still creatively express yourself and get a message out there. And artists shouldn’t compare their art to others’—there is room for all expressions of art. Praise God!
Lately, I have been calling creative people to get their voice and art out there. We need to mobilize all the artists and creatives— without competition— to put the art out there. We need (and I believe are in) an art renaissance: a movement of beauty, light, truth, revelation and exploration that isn’t boxed, caged, or legalistically condemned.
We need to rally the artistic community right now. God will use a gospel-led renaissance in an incredible way. God will touch broken people with it— prodigals, too. We can help people fall in love with the Savior through art, because Spirit-led messages translated through the art will target individuals uniquely.
In light of tragedies like Uvalde (which occurred a few short days before this conversation took place), art can speak boldly, clearly and loudly into these dark situations, bringing reform, validation and expectancy of hope, because art appeals to love, passion, and inspiration– a language that everyone speaks.”
“We are made in our Creator’s image as creators. We are in our purest form when we are creating. We are not in a state of striving, we are in a state of being.
The whole point of creativity and the arts is that they are acts of worship to Him. It’s being with Him, and allowing the creative force that He is to flow through us for His glory and adoration which in turn, soothes us and connects us closer to him. Worship diverts attention away from distraction and puts the rightful focus back on Christ. On adoring Him. On trusting Him. On believing He is in control. and And when we get out of the way, we make space for Him to move and do what only He can do!
Art is a reflection of Him. A piece of Him. To be immersed in art and creativity is to be in his presence and be in that place of healing. Art can heal – our physical, mental, and emotional selves.
And last but not least, art brings heaven to earth. We are fulfilling the commission of “on earth as it is in heaven,” by engaging the creative storytelling realm. Art can penetrate the divide between earthly and divine!
In summation, The Four Four is leveraging arts as a vehicle for evangelism. We believe that every human being— believer, atheist, agnostic, etc. is impacted by love, passion, and inspiration, and the arts touch all of that in a powerfully deep way. This is why art is an effective vehicle for preaching the gospel. It’s a language that everybody speaks. Times are dark right now. But if people are open to love, passion, and inspiration, Jesus and the Spirit can get in there and enter through that door!
Everything that Christine says about art rings true in my own experience. Engaging with art has been cathartic for me in different periods of my life.
The first time anxiety was severely impacting my life, I met with a Christian counselor. We worked through my triggers and underlying beliefs in a variety of ways. We prayed, we dug into past trauma, and she also had me create a piece of art that reflected a positive emotion.
I bought a little canvas and created a painting of the bottom branches of my childhood Christmas tree and the tree skirt. I chose this scene because when I was young, I used to slide my upper body underneath the tree and look up at the lights from that perspective.
I absolutely loved the feeling of being encompassed by twinkle lights and Christmas tree branches. I felt safe and full of joy and awe.
I still consider the act of creating that little painting as a memorable part of my healing journey. It should come as no surprise that engaging in creativity accesses parts of our brains that can mitigate stress, anxiety, and depression. God made it so. And thank goodness for that.
Creativity will look different for each one of us, but we are never closer to piercing the veil between heaven and earth than when we create.
With His love,
To connect with Christine and The Four Four, click here.
To connect with Santi, click here.
Ok. Here it is. The issue that has plagued me for the entirety of my adult life as a Christian: how to approach the issue of LGBTQ+ individuals as a believer.
Every June, when the Pride flags are a-flyin’ the message boards light up with the firm divide of whether or not Christians can support gay marriage.
I’m not here to dig my heels into my standpoint. That’s not what God asks of me. As Brian McLaren puts it, “you have to admit that Jesus didn’t say ‘they’ll know you are my disciples by your firm stance on divisive social issues” (13).
But I, and all Christians, also can’t shy away from continuing the conversation with LGBTQIA+ supporters.
No stranger to divisive issues, Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous Letter to Birmingham Jail, discusses the difficult topic of racial injustices in America and concludes “There is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”
I’m here to lean into the tension regarding those who are proponents of LGBTQIA+ rights and marriage and determine where in fact there is common ground between the two groups.
Holy Spirit, help me uncover even a mustard seed of hope that we can bridge this ever-growing gap of hate and misunderstanding.
After all, Jesus did not say “blessed are the argument winners” but rather “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5.9).
Much of this blog post is informed by Andrew Marin’s book Love is An Orientation which will be linked at the end of the post.
The main point of contention between Christians who support gay marriage and those who don’t is whether homosexual marriages are considered a sin in the eyes of the Lord.
Proponents of gay marriage who identify as Christian maintain that the laws against homosexual relations are among the antiquated parts of the Bible that no longer need to be observed along with covering one’s head or separating certain foods on the plate. In a letter to her son, openly gay blogger Glennon Doyle Melton confirms this standpoint:
Recently there was some talk in my Bible study about homosexuality being sinful. I quoted Mother Teresa and said, ‘When we judge people we have no time to love them.’I was immediately reprimanded for my blasphemy by a woman who reminded me of 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. But I was confused because this woman was speaking. In church. And she was also wearing a necklace. And I could see her hair, baby. She had no head covering. All of which are sooooo totally against the New Testament Bible Rules. And so I assumed that she had decided not to follow the parts of the Bible that limited her particular freedoms, but to hold fast to the parts that limit the freedoms of others.“A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On”
Melton and others who identify as LGBTQIA+ Christians believe that Jesus would not condemn married homosexual couples who are not having sexual relations outside of that union.
Christians who oppose gay marriage assert that Jesus clearly states that marriage is a covenant between a man and woman and no consideration of context changes that statement.
They respond to the claim that the parts of the Bible that are considered antiquated and should be dismissed by asserting that there is a difference between moral, ceremonial, and civil laws.
Jonathan F. Bayers in his article “The Threefold Division of the Law” explains the following about these three categories of Biblical law:
Traditional Reformed theology has distinguished God’s law revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures into three parts, moral, ceremonial and civil (or judicial).“The Threefold Division of the Law”
He later explains why the moral laws of the Bible are still to be upheld unequivocally:
…the moral element in the law focused on the Ten Commandments is of permanent application, while the ceremonial and civil elements were for the duration of the Old Testament economy only (3).“The Threefold Division of the Law”
Bayers refers to an anecdote to support his argument of the moral law: the Pharisees challenge Jesus over his disciples’ failure to wash their hands as an infraction directly opposed to the commands in Exodus 30:19.
Jesus side-stepped the issue, and turned instead to the fifth commandment. He evidently had different priorities in legal interpretation from the Pharisese. In other words, his concern was moral where theirs was ceremonial (14).“The Threefold Division of the Law”
Traditional Christians maintain that sexual purity within the context of marriage is a moral law, not a civil or ceremonial law to be disregarded with the change of culture.
It is in the issue of sin in which complete agreement will never take place: one group claims it is not a sin and the other does. However, do we continue to spew hate in Instagram comment sections under the guise of defending our position which furthers the divide between LGBTQIA+ and traditional Christians? This would get us nowhere and it drives these individuals further from church.
Marin has a better solution: “I propose a new paradigm: it is possible to disagree and yet still peacefully listen, learn and dialogue so that something significant can happen for the kingdom.” (39). And if you get a chance to read his book, Marin demonstrates how he elevates the conversation with the gay community from vitriolic online comments to genuine listening and compassion.
And here, under the symbol of a holy handshake, let’s see where both factions have common ground to remind us that we are all children of God with a command to love one another.
We need to thwart the idea that homosexual relations are somehow a “special” or “worse” sin than the sins that you and I struggle with daily. The counter-argument given by traditional Christians is that the LGBTQIA+ individual is accepting a life of sin without repentance. I understand that, but I ask this: how is that different than a gossiper who repeatedly and consistently speaks ill of others for the entirety of her life?
We need to stop treating those who identify as homosexuals as something worse than the rest of the sinful congregation.
In Marin’s section on love, he reminds us that “love is being the first one to drop the stone because you know your life and sins are no less than any other” (110).
Let’s work on the logs in our own eyes before working on the planks (or specks!) in another’s (Matt. 7.3-5).
I feel absolutely sick when I hear stories about gay individuals committing suicide because they can’t reconcile their same-sex attraction with the church community and ultimately determine that they belong nowhere and are better off dead. If there’s one place that gay people should feel safe, it’s the church. You better believe that if Jesus were alive today, he would willingly share a meal with people who identify as gay.
Mark 2:16-17 reveals that Jesus accepted everyone in every state of sinfulness: “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
I will never forget what our late pastor, Dean Rutherford, used to say about sinners in the church; it has become my mantra when talking to those who are fearful to attend: “Church is not a hotel for saints. Church is a hospital for sinners.” Church is a body of people who fall victim to sin time and time again and need other people to love them as they work on turning from their sins.
In his article “How Christians Can Disagree in a Loving Way” Jonathan Merritt includes a testimony from a gay Christian and the response of her pastor.
I came out publicly when I was 17, and remember how horrible I felt leading up to the conversation I was going to have with my pastor, and ultimately my church. And because I live in a small town I knew I was coming out to my whole town at that point too. To my complete shock, the most memorable response I got actually came from my pastor. He said, ‘We are going to learn to overcome hate together. We aren’t going to hate each other. Then we’re going to help our congregation learn to not hate either.“On LGTBQ Issues, How Can Christians Disagree in a Loving Way?”
Hate does not get us anywhere.
I’m reminded of the oft-quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in one of his speeches: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Love has the ability to drive out hate. Let us not forget.
Being attracted to the same sex does not automatically cover heterosexuals from sin. Sin is very much still present in the heterosexual world.
Heterosexual people have sex before marriage– or outside of marriage in affairs. Heterosexual rape is just as horrifying as homosexual rape. Heterosexually-married individuals struggle with addictions to pornography. And perhaps most disturbing, some heterosexual individuals struggle with pedophilia.
The one unfortunate difference between LGBTQ+ who are “out” and heterosexual people who struggle from the heterosexual sins just listed– everyone can see and identify the LGBTQ+’s sexual choices far more than the latter group.
In church, you may be sitting next to a woman who struggles with pornography addicition or a man who is having an affair outside of his marriage. But because their sin is not readily apparent, they do not suffer the same fear of rejection from the church that LGBTQ+ people do.
But where is the very place that all of the above need to be? Church.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous modern example of a self-identified lesbian opposed to gay marriage is Jackie Hill Perry, Christian author and speaker, who renounced her same-sex relationships and is now married to Preston Perry with whom she has four children.
In the article, “Sexuality has Nothing to Do With Salvation” by Nicola Menzie, she reiterates Perry’s self-attested sexual identity: “[Perry] has previously explained that while she loves and enjoys her husband and considers herself ‘functionally heterosexual,’ she remains ‘very much attracted to women.’ […] But believing that God ‘makes us new people’ doesn’t mean Christians are then exempt from struggles and temptations.” Later in the article, Perry punctuates this ideal with the following statement
Yet I love God more than what I am tempted by.Jackie Hill Perry in “Sexuality Has Nothing To Do With Salvation”
In 2022, both sides mainly agree that antiquated “forced conversion therapies” are not a successful way to bring LGBTQIA+ individuals to Christ.
When Billy Graham was seen at a rally supporting Clinton in the middle of his sex scandal, a reporter asked him how he could support Clinton after everything he has done. Graham responded in a beautiful succinct statement: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”
We are asked to love, yes. We are asked to contend for the faith. But we have absolutely no responsibility to save anyone. That’s God’s job.
Common ground is a start, but how does it inform traditional Christians moving forward?
We don’t have to compromise our convictions to do any of the above things.
To bring this blog post full circle, I’ll nod to Martin Luther Jr. once again by using the closing statement form his famous letter to help me end my meditation on this subject:
If I have said anything in this [post] that is an understatement of the truth, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this [post] that is an overstatement of the truth, I beg God to forgive me.King Jr. from “Letter from Birmingham Jail
with His love,
Here is the link to Andrew Marin’s Love is An Orientation which (at the time of this post) is on sale for less than $5!
This is Jessica.
Her drink is coffee with caramel and cream.
Though the enemy tried to thwart this conversation a few times, Jessica and I were able to prevail and connect on Zoom one quiet spring morning to talk about step-parenting.
Jessica must get a lot of Brady Bunch jokes in her current situation: she and her husband both brought three children to their marriage making them parents of six. Collectively they have children aged 7 years to 19 years old. And five years ago, when they blended their families, Jessica found herself without guidance for navigating such a difficult life stage.
Though Jessica had started dental school, she recently made the weighty decision to step away from that and, as she termed it, “reset the tone” of the household. Having half of one’s children as step-children must present daily–if not hourly– challenges. She sat down with me in the throes of a busy life season to tell me all about it.
“We know that divorce isn’t God’s design. We have free will and made our own choices and now we have to deal with the results of those choices. It isn’t God’s design for us to have a split family engaging in co-parenting, but here we are and we need to do the best we can from here.
The biggest challenge in step-parenting is knowing my place when it comes to the relationship with my stepchildren. These kids have gone through the heartache of divorce, the confusion of accepting a new parent into their lives, and the sudden onset of new siblings. And stepkids are often stuck in the middle of mom and dad wondering can I like my stepmom? Should I not like her? It’s not that their biological mother is telling them not to like me, yet there is some sort of unspoken loyalty and taking to me may feel like a betrayal. I understand that. I also understand as a mother how it can hurt to give up a little bit of your child to someone else.
So my role is this: to help heal their hearts. My stepchildren have been through something really tough and they are likely still aching from these events. I am not their mom; they have a mom. I am not their dad; they have a dad. I am a guardian who can offer love and support as they navigate this new future.
And don’t get me wrong, parenting pre-teens and teens is not easy even in typical households. I frequently default to Proverbs 15:1 ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ I am here to build all of my children up with gentle dialogue, not to break them down by reacting out of my flesh.”
“If I were to offer advice to parents who are about to have step-children it would be this: bolster your marriage. A strong marriage is required to withstand some of the storms that occur with blended families. Put God first, then your spouse, and then your children.
God’s design is to have the spousal relationship before your parent-child relationship. I know this stance is not culturally popular, but if you are not strong in your marriage, how can you two be strong for your children? Pray together. Talk about the kids. Build that solid foundation for your kids that they may not have always had in the past.
Step-parents, accept that this situation is complicated. There are going to be hard times. You are going to make mistakes. You have to give yourself some grace.
Create healthy boundaries. It will be tempting to want your stepkids to like you and think you are cool and fun, but that’s not actually what you or they need. You need to develop firm relational boundaries from the start that indicate that you are going to make decisions that keep them as healthy and safe as possible.
When respect is established, the fondness will follow.
And lastly, getting to know your new extended family and building relationships is so important. When divorce happens, there is also a wider range of people stepping in. So you are parenting not only with your ex-spouse or your new spouse, but with grandparents and aunts and cousins who swoop in to help (for better or worse). The stronger you can make these kids’ tribe, the better.”
“When my three step-children moved in, I looked around for help and I wasn’t really finding it, so I had to just figure it out.
There are so many blended families in the church and yet they are never talked about. And ironically, If we really consider Jesus’ earthly family, we must recognize that Jesus was raised by a stepfather– Joseph. And yet there is still no conversation about it in our churches.
What we need is to hear the truth from other step-parents.
My goal is to write a book that is a collection of stories from step-parents–the good, the bad, and the ugly. We need to know that we are not alone.
Someday, it would be cool to see a ‘stepmother’ and ‘stepfather’ version of these books because men in particular have even fewer resources for this kind of thing.
Last but not least, churches could start a support group for blended families to come together and pray through some of these issues.”
Jessica concluded our discussion with the statement that a step-parent has the potential to have so much impact on a child’s life.
In fact, Jessica’s own father is technically her stepfather and she has had such a wonderful relationship with him. In fact, for her 37th birthday this year, she asked him to adopt her officially.
Christianity is nothing if it is not about redemption and second chances. Though blended families have had their share of hardship, it does not have to end there– that would be like the crucifixion without the resurrection.
I am so grateful to Jessica for sharing her heart and story about being a mother in a blended Christian household and trailblazing the way for future families to find Christian support in this situation.
With His love,
To connect with Jessica, click here to be taken to her Instagram profile.