Angels in the Background

Angels in the Background

  I’ve never had a true encounter with an angel.  At least not the cherubic icons who hover beautifully in ancient works of art.  My angels lack tiny wings and golden halos.  They do not walk to the accompaniment of harp strings and violins.  My angels fade into the background.  They’re God’s foot soldiers, working out His love and hope and grace without the expectation of acknowledgements or accolades or applause. My daddy, my angel:  Strength wrapped in gentleness.  Gone from this world but never forgotten.  You showed me I can overcome anything if I keep my eyes on Jesus.  Your actions a testimony stronger than any I’ve heard spoken.  You walked out God’s charity and love.  I remember stopping for a young woman sitting on the side of the busy road.  Car after car had passed her by. You stopped. You spoke to her with such kindness and familiarity, no stranger to you.  You saw her as a child of God, broken, tossed aside, lost from the fold.  You got her the physical help she needed, staying with her until the fire trucks arrived.  We prayed for her later, placing her name among those of our family and friends. Your faith simple, yet profound.  No long sermons. No self-promotion. No self-righteous judgment.  You simply walked it out, for your family, for your friends, for complete strangers. My mama, my angel: You’re not here now, but God used your life to shape mine.  Describing the impact of your love and self-sacrifice on my life is like attempting to capture the vastness of the universe in a single photograph.  Your life is a testimony of love and grace.  Your faith, pure and uncomplicated by the dogmas of religion.  You loved Jesus.  You believed.  You trusted. You walked with the blind faith of a true child of God.  There was never a moment when you were not there for me.  First words, first steps, first days of school, first sleep over, first basketball game, first crush, first date, first love, first college visit, first heartbreak, first child, first day without Daddy.  I take refuge in knowing you continue to watch over me from Heaven.  God has given you charge over my family and me.  You’ll continue to lift us up.  You’ll fly when our wings become broken.  You’ll sing gloriously when we soar. My sister, my angel: I call you my twin.  There’s not a memory from my childhood that is without you.  My partner in crime, my confidant, my best friend.  When my baby boy had an emergency surgery, you and Mama came.  You sat by his side all night so I could get some sleep.  I remember rousing several times in the night, lifting my head from the tiny hospital cot to see you sitting there.  Ever present.  Loving my baby because you love me.  As children, our hands worked together in play.  As adults, our hands worked together to care for our parents during their last days.  In you, I see God’s faithfulness.  You walked with me yesterday, you walk with me today, and I know you’ll be there should I need you tomorrow.    My friend, my angel:  God placed you in my life just before my perfectly constructed world imploded.  A fellow teacher, a good friend, your God-like love and acceptance helped me take that step away from myself and back to God.  You witnessed my fall.  You helped me back up.  Your friendship, your faith, your love for God, mirrored in your unconditional acceptance of me when I was at my worst: an agnostic, legally separated, waiting for a divorce, alone, unsure, and beginning to search.  You loved me where I was, without condemnation.  If a believer of God could do that, I knew God would as well.  You helped shine a light back to the path of faith from which I had strayed years before. My village, my angels: When Mike and I toured this house, we fell in love with its layout and the wooded, private backyard.  We chose this neighborhood for the house.  Now, we stay in the house for the neighborhood.  My fellow mamas, my neighbors, my friends, you each make this journey of motherhood, which at times can seem lonely and isolating, a cooperative adventure.  We are a true village.  Impromptu play days.  Birthday parties.  Pre-Halloween gathering at M&S’s.  Trick-or-treating the neighborhood loop.  New Year’s Eve at D&A’s.  Block parties.  Book club.  Emergency sitters. Sledding, snow angels, and snowball fights.  Fun, fun times with our kids and with each other.  Friends, each one of you. When Mama got sick, and I was only home for a...

Just Love

Just Love

Today I’m feeling heartbroken and angry.  Heartbroken that an 11 year old boy is in a hospital bed after attempting to take his own life.  Angry that the cruelty of other children put him there. Why are we still living in a society where differences are scrutinized, demeaned, and punished? Why are we not teaching our children to celebrate, embrace, and value the unique, special beings God has called each of us to be? While most focus on the boy’s affection for a harmless, children’s television show and identify his open loyalty to the program as the fuel for the bullies’ flames, I see a continued societal backlash against a male’s association with anything feminine as the real problem. An 11 year old boy enjoyed “My Little Pony.”  An 11 year old boy, full of energy and life, skipped and danced from place to place.  An 11 year old boy found innocent and harmless joy from a program typically watched by girls.  An 11 year old boy didn’t fit nicely and easily into the stereotypical masculine mold; he didn’t watch the right shows, play the right sports, or walk the right walk, so he became a target. An 11 year old boy chose to take his own life to avoid enduring one more day of torment and ridicule; he chose to hang himself from his bunk bed to escape the verbal arrows aimed directly at his heart. Yes, on the surface, this tragedy seems to be about a television show.  However, the complex layers of discrimination, fear, and hate which lurk beneath the surface of a simple fondness for “My Little Pony” is what we should be focusing on as parents and followers of Christ. How can there be such malice for another human being in a young child’s heart?  Why are we turning our children against others who express themselves in different ways, who walk to the beat of a different drummer?  Why is there still discomfort and unease when young boys express themselves in what is viewed to be a feminine way? Are we doing the right thing when we teach our children to love the sinner and hate the sin?  Are children cognitively capable of separating the sin, which they’ve been taught to hate, from the individual who they feel is living out that sin?  What happens when perceived signs of sexual sin, like homosexuality (for those {this author excluded} who view it as a sinful choice), manifest themselves in children? This is a problem in our society, and it’s a problem in our churches.  There is a negative association with any behavior believed to be indicative of homosexuality.  Love the sinner, hate the sin.  What’s happening is individuals who hate homosexuality come to hate and fear any sign of homosexuality, even if that sign is in a child’s innocent attachment to a cartoon.  Even if that sign is an expression of a child’s innate personality characteristics and mannerisms. Love the sinner, hate the sin.  Is this what millions of people in the country did when they stood behind Phil Robertson as he publicly compared homosexuals to people who have sex with animals?  A man who used his Christian faith and celebrity platform to defend his slanderous statements?  Slanderous statements such as the following about gay people in a video from 2010 : “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred.  They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters.  They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless.  They invent ways of doing evil.” It’s not just reality TV celebrities who are fueling the bully flames.  Pastor Mark Driscoll, lead pastor of one of our nation’s mega churches, posted the following on his Facebook page in 2011, “So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?”  Yes the question is appalling.  What’s more appalling is the number of people who responded, who participated, who got in on the fun of tearing others down, all while sending the message once again that it’s ok to bully men who do not fall into the testosterone model of masculinity. If Phil Robertson and Mark Driscoll are the examples of what it means to love the sinner, then the mystery behind bullying in this country has been solved. My Facebook news page erupted with people supporting Phil Robertson and his freedom to make erroneous, hate-filled comments like those above.  610 people responded to Mark Driscoll’s call to jump on the bully bandwagon. 610!! Men and women who defend Phil Robertson and Mark Driscoll should line up and shake hands with the children who bullied an 11 year...

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