Fear and Love in an Ever-Changing America

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Justin Barringer is a guest writer who’s voice we’re honored to share. You can read more about Justin in his bio at the end of the piece.

Today as I was frantically trying to finish up some writing for a major project I had the TV on the in the background and Facebook open in another window. I was switching among the coverage of the American presidential inauguration, the commentary of my social media friends, and the document I needed to complete. I felt like I needed to say something because I have seen so many well-meaning Christian friends (and perhaps a few with less beneficent intentions) offer up words of apparent comfort but that have come across as mere aphorisms at best and as disdainful toward marginalized and frightened people at worst. Here is what I wrote.

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The Embrace

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I have a regular walking route around the city where I live. I particularly like taking a stroll in autumn when the trees are at their peak.

A few years ago, the trees lining the street were especially beautiful—that stunning gold, yellow that steals the breath. During one walk, however, I turned a corner to witness a scene even more arresting than the trees around me: a young man stepped up on the curb to embrace a young woman in the most tender of ways. He reached out slowly, gently and she leaned into him in trust. It was a snapshot of love and beauty that has remained with me. I remember thinking at the time that I shouldn’t have seen it. That the moment wasn’t meant for me. Yet, that is where my eyes fell—at the precise instance of their embrace.

And then a strange thing happened: I felt feelings. As a gay kid growing up on the church, I have worked hard to not feel anything—to keep everything at the level of my intellect. This, of course, was a coping mechanism to deal with too many feelings most of which seemed to run counter to my growing faith. I just couldn’t figure out how to sync my desire for other guys with what I was learning about Jesus.

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A LOVEboldly Thanksgiving

loveboldlythanksgivingThe previous few weeks have been difficult and heavy. I’m sure that, like me, many of you have been bombarded with story after story of injustices, hate-crimes and hate-groups, and fear, sorrow, and outrage in the wake of the election.Right now, it’s harder than ever to have real, honest, productive, civil conversations about topics that divide us. However you voted, or didn’t vote, perhaps your heart, like mine, has been heavy as you’ve watched folks around you respond in ways that don’t seem much like Jesus. Right now, it’s harder than ever to have real, honest, productive, civil conversations about topics that divide us. And now this week we prepare to gather to give thanks around a table with family and friends, who perhaps have wildly different viewpoints than we ascribe to, or who have hurt us with their words, or worse – have disinvited us from the table altogether.

The importance of creating spaces to have meaningful conversations on divisive topics is felt more profoundly today than what most of us can ever remember. I am reminded how vitally important our work is. God is still at work with us. He is transforming lives with these dialogues. I’m convinced the path ahead, while tough at times, is all the more necessary for us to navigate.

The importance of creating spaces to have meaningful conversations on divisive topics is felt more profoundly today than what most of us can ever remember. On Friday, we held a public dialogue on faith, sexuality, and gender identity. The presenters held vastly different viewpoints – from conservative/traditional to progressive/liberal. But we all came together, as Christian brothers and sisters, to turn our hearts and minds towards how we can find ways to move forward together. The experience left me reminded of the great hope that we have in a Savior that moved into our neighborhood when we were still his enemies. I pray that we might find ways to move toward one another in the midst of conflict, rather than away. If you need some encouragement this week that this sort of relationship-building and sustaining is possible, you can watch the recording of the event here.

There is much for us to be thankful for this year, but most of all I am encouraged by each of you who remain in conversation with us. As we quickly approach the close of this year, I hope you will consider a year-end gift to support our work. We need your support in these conversations now, perhaps more than ever.
Grace and Peace,
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Heidi Weaver-Smith
President & Founder