Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Speak Up!

Don't you just love the heart of a mother?  We will do anything to defend and support our kids.  When they make bad decisions, we give them advice (even when we know it won't be heeded), and then we give them a soft place to land when they stumble.  When they are wronged - we will fight for them!

I talked with a mom last night whose daughter recently dealt with a sexual harassment situation at work.  What advice would a mom give her daughter in that situation?  That's an obviously simple answer - FIGHT.  Of course we want our daughters to stand up for themselves, to speak out, to defend their own honor.

Not only does a young woman in that difficult situation deserve to fight for her dignity, but it's in the man's best interest for his victim to stand up to him and to stop him.  He's traveling down a dangerous road - one that could land him in jail.  

All of us are the sons or daughters of somebody, and if any of you find yourself being harassed in ANY way - whether it's at work, at home, in church, or in the neighborhood - you deserve more.  You MUST stand up for yourself.  You MUST preserve your dignity.  No one should be able to take your dignity and reputation without your permission!

I've been harassed for years by a small group of mean people.  In the past few months a brand new accusation against me has surfaced.  I've been told to keep my mouth shut and "let God be your defender".  

Can you IMAGINE my friend giving that advice to her daughter?  Can you imagine any mother telling her daughter to keep her mouth shut and just let the abuse continue?  

I am somebody's daughter.  I am a daughter of The King of kings!  I have a voice, and I deserve the opportunity to use it.

I believe that if the devil has a garden, he grows the choking weeds of gossip, lies, judgment, condemnation, harassment, and hatred.  He uses silence as his fertilizer.  When we silence truth, the void will be filled with a cacophony of lies. 

Speak.  SPEAK UP!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Bride?

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."  Ephesians 5:25-27 

The Church is called "The Bride of Christ", a "city on a hill", and "salt and light".  In fact in Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells his listeners, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."  We, The Church, cannot be hidden.

I have many unchurched, dechurched (they used to attend church), or unchristian friends.  They tell me the reason they don't go to church is simple; they see the way we treat one another (gossip, judge, lie, manipulate, etc…), and they want nothing to do with that environment.  Christians say, "Don't look to me, I'm only human.  Look to God."  But people ARE looking to us.

Imagine going to a wedding.  You are a guest of the groom, and you've never met the bride.  You love the groom and you respect and trust him.

The groom stands at the alter, awaiting his wife-to-be.  His groomsmen stand in support.  The bridesmaids wear matching purple gowns, adorned with gold cord and rhinestones; each one more beautiful than the next.  Their smiles outshine the sun's rays pouring in through stained glass church windows.  "This", you think, "is what Jesus envisioned when he called us 'The Bride'."

The music swells.  The groom's intended appears at the end of the flower-lined aisle.  

You're surprised.  No, you're shocked.  Her dress is tattered, her makeup is smeared, her unkempt hair has not been brushed in a month, and she's staggering and stammering.  She stops to flirt with every male guest in the room.  She even stops to touch a man - whose wife tugs on his arm.  Who is this woman?

Your friend never takes his eyes off the dirty, haggard bride.  He loves her.  He clearly thinks she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen.  

It's tough to not be unnerved by the woman's inappropriate behavior, but you trust the groom.  And so, you relax.

After the wedding, the new husband invites all his friends to come to his home.  "Come," he says, "you’re all welcome."  But his wife doesn't receive you into their home with acceptance.  She criticizes your clothes, your friends, the gift you brought to the wedding, how you spend your free time…even your work.  She drinks too much, flirts with every man she sees, judges her neighbors, and keeps a dirty house.  

Her husband loves her still.

I believe The Church was designed by God to be looked at and to be seen.  We are to be an example and reflection of who Jesus is.  We're a "city on a hill", the "light of the world"…the bride!  It's as if God expected all eyes to be on us.  He expected the world’s eyes to turn toward us.

People are watching us.  And, how will they know we are Christians?  It's very simple really.  John 13:35 gives us the easy answer: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  We can be so cruel to one another.  We, The Bride, mistreat the friends of The Groom.  But people are watching us, and I believe God designed it that way.  

In the scenario I've painted here, it's painfully obvious to see why the groom's friends stop going to his house.  They love him, they even miss him, but they just can't be around the bride.  She mistreats the friends AND the man she married.  His house is not a place of warmth and acceptance, love and joy.  It's a place of judgment, condemnation, jealousy, and pride.  

Christ will present us to God spotless and blameless, but how will we present Christ to the world?  We’re being watched, and they’ll know we’re his disciples if we love one another.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Long Ugly Goodbye

It is with a heavy heart that I must (once again) walk away from the church I chose - I CHOSE - to attend.  It wasn't my decision to leave 14 years ago, and I wish I didn't have to go now. 

I've written A LOT about the circumstances surrounding us leaving the church the first time, and about how that event changed the spiritual landscape of my family forever.  I always believed that one day there would be - surely there had to be - restoration and reconciliation.   I returned after 11 years, believing the time had come.

I was wrong.

Lest you judge me, please know that I've done everything to reconcile according to scripture.  I went to my offender one on one, then I took someone with me, and then I went to the leadership to help with the restoration process, but all to no avail.

Some people have told me I still haven't forgiven.  Not only have I forgiven, but I go home nearly every Sunday and have to go through the phases and steps that result in forgiveness all over again because of new offenses.  It's exhausting, demoralizing, heartbreaking - and completely unnecessary.  I've given it three years this time around.

I'm a good person.  It's ironic that I have been, and continue to be, highly respected, loved, admired, and embraced in my "secular" life.  I have a great reputation as a teacher, an actor, and a director.  My gifts and talents are recognized, my strengths are celebrated, and my weaknesses are made less weak because of the strong support of my unchurched friends.  The people with whom I work know me as a woman of integrity and heart.

I, however, am NOT embraced by the church (note the little "c") that I attend.  I've never been forgiven for accused offenses - misunderstood words that resulted in false assumptions.  And why do I care?  Because those I attend church with are the very same people who will be my neighbors for eternity in Heaven.  It'd be good to be reconciled here on earth first!

I returned to the church three years ago, believing that time had healed.  Since I've been back, I've been shunned, walked away from, told I could NOT serve, ignored, refused, and even denied communion!  One woman told me my children "deserved" to be kicked out of church and that I should give up on them as they "made their decision a long time ago".  I told her she missed out on having front row seats to miracles and that I felt sorry for her.

Yes, there are wonderful and loving people, but I do NOT deserve to be mistreated by the few.  I deserve to be seen for who I really am.  Even if the accusations of years ago were true, I deserve grace.  I'm a child of God.

I sincerely believed that I was back in the right place at the right time for the right reasons when I learned you - the church - would be reaching out to a community I love and have worked with for many years.  I adore the people that are The Tower District - the men and women, the vibe....the truth.

I ask you, dear church, to see The Tower population as I do.  Please don't run in with your sword and shield with the intention of changing them.  I ask that you spend time getting to know them, and allowing them to teach YOU.  Let them show you unconditional love, acceptance, authenticity, and art.  So many of the people down there are not only unchurched, but many have been de-churched.  They've been wounded by those they once trusted. They're not going to respond to being told they're bad.  They'll respond to a new kind of love - one they've never known before.

John 13:35 reminds us that the unbelievers will know we are Christians by our love for one another.  We need to be so accepting, loving, and warm toward our own body that the world is drawn to us, not repelled by us.  We can't win them over until we accept, love, support, and show grace toward one another.

It wasn't The Church (with a big "C") who held me in their arms and let me cry when my drug-addicted child was missing.  It wasn't The Church who walked the streets of Fresno at 7:am on a Saturday morning putting up "missing child" posters.  It wasn't The Church who said, "I believe in you" or "I forgive you" - it was those people - the very same who need God.  They weren't afraid to get messy.  They loved my family right where we were.

So, it is with sadness that I walk away.  It's with a broken heart that I accept - finally - that I cannot be a member of your family.

I don't know what else I could've done.  I wasn't good enough to be shown grace and my family wasn't good enough to be part of your club.  I'll say it again - you missed out on being part of the miracle of restoration and you've missed the miracle that is my children.

What could I have changed?  I was always honest, authentic, faithful, and dedicated to keeping my word.   I'm a good mom, a loving wife, and a loyal-to-a-fault friend.  I would NEVER have said the things I was accused of saying and I'll never understand all that was at play against me.  I loved serving the body. This has been a long, ugly chapter in our family, and I still don't know why it all had to happen.

All I know is....I've always loved you.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Will the pain ever end?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Facts vs. Truth

Poet Maya Angelou posted this on her Facebook page, "There's a world of difference between truth and facts.  Facts can obscure the truth."

Oh how many times we allow facts to obscure the truth.  Worse - we don't allow truth to shine through the facts!  Tragic.

I accept the fact that the truth of our family experience will never be accepted by those whose pride won't allow them to see past the facts they think they know.  The minds of those people were long ago made up, but I continue to pray that others will see our life as a cautionary tale and will do better.

As a single raindrop on a quiet pond sends ripples out to all the shores, so it is with spoken words - they send out ripples that can't be taken back.

I was the director of a project.  The leader/friend that I loved so much "heard" me say about another woman on the team, "If you decide to put (that woman) in charge, I won't do that." That's a fact.  He told his assistant, who told his wife, who told (that woman), and the ripples of discontent and anger tore away at the shoreline that was my life and my reputation!

Then there's truth.

The man I so deeply loved and respected had misheard me.  What I said was, "If you decide to put (that woman) in charge, I'll need to know that."  My statement had NOTHING to do with the woman, but everything to do with the man.  He was uncomfortable with confrontation and I'd watched him dismiss other people based on gossip or hearsay.  I just didn't want that to happen to me.  I wanted to believe I was more important and more valued.

Everything I said after that was heard through the Liz-doesn't-like-(that woman) filter.  Nothing could have been further from the truth. (That woman) was a friend for whom I had respect and love.  She did, however, drop the ball on a number of occasions and as the director of the team, I was frustrated by her lack of professionalism.  That didn't change the fact that I loved her.

From that one simple misheard statement, ripples became waves, and waves became tsunamis, and the spiritual and social landscape of our life was forever changed.  I was judged, condemned, fired, and eventually forced to leave the church and all our so-called friends.  Our kids rebelled and turned to drugs.  My children have all said the downward spiral of discouragement and bad choices began with that one tiny ripple that was a misheard word.  My kids lost every friend they'd ever had and we were all so sad and alone.

The assistant has his opinions about me. (That woman) hates me to this day.  My best friend knew the truth and failed to have my back.

This happens every day.  A married woman is seen coming out of another man's home in the middle of the night.  That might be a fact, but the truth is that her husband is still inside and they've been comforting a friend.  But the "fact" is seen by the wrong person, and a lie becomes truth.

Innocent men have gone to jail because facts obscure the truth.  A couple has sex, then he doesn't call her.  She gets angry.  She accuses him of rape.  Facts support her accusation, and he's condemned.  Tragic!

We do it all the time.  We gossip and lie and manipulate and we fail to see the truth for the facts.

Maya Angelou said, "I've lived 84 years and I've learned there's a world of difference between truth and facts."  I'm so glad I've learned this truth at my "young" age.