I remember when our current president was elected. I had fallen asleep on the couch, unable to stay up past 10:00pm (I’m a sucker). I woke up and the results were final. I was exasperated. My roommate heard me and walked into the living room, and she saw it on the TV. I said to her, “Oh my God, my country’s racist.” My roommate, a female woman scientist from Barbados who reminds me that she has every strike against her with this administration (scientist + female + black + immigrant), says to me, “This country’s been racist.”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment–the moment that I woke up and really recognized my privilege. I had encountered racism and recognition of my privilege countless times, especially having grown up in Ferguson and seeing my hometown all over the news. But it was the first time that I realized that I might be in the minority on my opinions. It was the first time that I realized that the majority might still not agree with me on something that I felt so deeply in my heart.

I’m having deja vu right now: As we watch our heroes in the form of politicians, actors, athletes, reporters, musicians, and food show hosts (that one hurt me the most), pop up every day with accusations of sexual misconduct, I hear many men surprised.

And the thing is… women aren’t.

For me, this hit when the #metoo hashtag trended, the same day that I was sexually harassed by someone who insisted on having me “model for him.” I have been driving for Lyft in my spare time to make some extra money (I have goals), and he wouldn’t get out of my car. I felt threatened. I posted on Facebook, “#MeToo. As in, today.” A few hours later, I saw MY MOM post #metoo. I was shocked! Until I realized…of course “her too.” The problem is: we all have been sexually harassed.

My boyfriend and I have been having some great conversations about this, and I’ve shared some of my personal experiences with him. He’s been very gracious. I told him about the time that a guy slipped his way into my bra on the first date. I told him about how another man put his penis in my face during a basic smooch session, with expectations for me. I told him about how I’ve been held up in the aisle in a grocery store, blocked off from leaving by a man looking me up and down and licking his lips.  I told him about the times men have threatened my safety when I’ve turned them down. I told him how a man at my church called me “ripe for the picking” and “ready” for a man.

And it surprises him. Probably because I have a genuinely good one. And probably because the media suggests that any woman who finds herself in those situations is “asking for it.” And I’m about as good as good girls come. But the crazy thing is, my response is “I’m sure you’ve done it too.” Because that’s our expectation and reality when it comes to men: they’re all treating us this way.

It made me laugh when I saw a friend post this:


Here’s the thing, fellas: You are correct. 

And: you should be the one staying away.

Because here’s my prediction: Women aren’t going to be silent about this crap any more. And you should be freaking out: because for so long we have been tolerating this. But not anymore.

You see, when we elected someone to the oval office with multiple sexual assault accusations, I think women everywhere broke. And yet, again–it wasn’t surprising.

My hope is that we can begin to have some real conversations about how we got here, and how we can move forward. I do think that both men and women need to be involved in this–as I believe we can both make steps to be kinder and value one another more.

But until then: scream #MeToo. Scream it from the rooftops. Tell your story. Make men listen and women brave enough to scream it too. Telling our stories is all we have.

When Students Ask About Trump

america, Evangelicalism, lessons, politics, social activism

The only thing Trump and I have in common is that we both cannot control our facial expressions.

One of my favorite parts of our 7th Grade Confirmation is the “Questions Jar” that students can put questions about anything in. It says on it “Write ANY question you have down on a piece of paper, and Heather may answer it on a Sunday morning! It can be about God, Confirmation, family, friends, a weird Bible verse, sports, the meaning of life, food, whatever you want! Think of this as a human Google machine.”

Students ask a variety of questions, and I kind of love it. I love answering their hardest questions on-the-spot (even if it makes me sweat and panic a little). We host three panels each Confirmation year and commit to answering all the questions.

At our last panel, I pulled out the question, “How does God feel about Donald Trump? What do you think about him?”

I handed it to my boss and said, “Do you want this one? Or do you want me to handle it?” I didn’t know what I wanted in that moment, whether I wanted to go for it or defer, but he told me I had it.

I read it out loud, took a deep breath as everyone giggled, and said something like this:

There’s a story in the Bible that goes something like this: A rich man came to Jesus and asked him, “What must I do to live eternally?” Jesus told him, “You must sell all your possessions and give them to the poor.” The rich man walked away from Jesus, and Jesus told the crowd “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19)

What does this have to do with politics?

Well, Donald Trump has a lot of money, like many other politicians. Many view running for president as a way to get more power and more possessions. And when you are fighting for power, often times you are forgetting the least-of-these that Jesus talked about. When you’re focused on getting more, you forget the people who have less.

We know that our purpose on earth is to take care of one another. Many politicians have lost sight of this. So what do I think that God thinks of Donald Trump? I think that God is very disappointed with him, because he could be using his money and power to help people. But I think God is disappointed with most politicians, because they all seem to be doing the same thing–taking advantage of others in order to gain more for themselves.

But the thing is–God still loves them a crazy amount. It can be hard to see at times, but they were also made in God’s image and God loves them very much. So as much as some politicians disappoint God and disgust us, they still deserve a certain degree of respect and honor. They are still our leaders, even if we don’t like them.

But let’s not forget that Jesus fought to change the political systems in place that oppressed people through his own actions, and that’s what infuriated people and got him killed.

So, don’t hate Trump or other politicians that aren’t taking care of the people. Be part of the solution by doing the things that Jesus asked of us, even if our government and president won’t.

I think that was about the best I could do on the spot. But the more I think about it, I think that the Holy Spirit guided what could be a really messy conversation (Trump literally makes me vomit and cry) into a conversation about our role in the world. We can’t rely on the president to fix our problems.

On a personal note, today in the primaries I voted for the one person in this crazy circus who I think resembles Jesus. But even if they were to make office, it doesn’t take away from my role on earth to take care of the least-0f-these.

No president will ever “trump” our role to take care of one another.

What are You Fishing For?

christianity, church, Culture, Evangelicalism, lessons, lgbtq, politics, Theology

When Jesus first called his disciples, they were fishing. Jesus performed the miracle of filling their nets, proving that he was able to provide for their physical (and even financial) needs. Then Jesus said, “Follow me, and I’ll make you a fisher of men.”

These men followed Jesus on a three-year long journey. During this journey, Jesus performed many more miracles and even equipped the disciples to perform miracles of their own. They fed crowds, healed the sick, partied with the poor, and ate with sinners. Slowly, they discovered that Jesus was the Son of God, and Jesus equipped them to truly be “fishers of men.”

But when Jesus died, what happened?

In John chapter 21, Peter says to the disciples, “I’m going fishing.” And the rest of the disciples go with him. Even though Jesus has appeared to them twice thus far after his resurrection, they go back to life as if the last three years didn’t happen. They go fishing. For fish.

And so Jesus does his classic “Jesus thing,” paralleling that first time he calls them. 100 yards from shore, the fog-hidden Jesus tells them to cast their nets out on the other side. The disciples miraculously fill their nets and are unable to haul it to shore.

And Peter does his classic “Peter thing,” and jumps into the sea because he knows that Jesus is alive indeed. Jesus makes Peter go grab the net (because of course Peter left the disciples to do it), and there are 153 fish inside this net. A net that didn’t break.

Scholars say that at the time, there were only 153 species of fish known in the world.

Biblical scholars say that this net–the net that didn’t break–is representative of the Church. The 153 fish represent the different types of people in the world. When the disciples were trying to go back to just “fishing for fish,” Jesus had bigger plans to show them why they are to continue “fishing for men.”

The net is big enough for everybody. No longer is the net confined to one type of person. Everybody is allowed.

What does this mean for the Church today?

Who are the fish that we are excluding from the net, that perhaps need the safety and comfort of the net? Why are we creating an “insiders vs outsiders” mentality in the church, when all of us were made in the precious image of God? We all deserve the net equally, and the fisherman shouldn’t discriminate from who he allows to be a part of the Church.

What is the baggage that we think will exclude us from the net? You see, the net can hold it all without breaking. It can hold all of your doubts, insecurities, sins, shortcomings, failures, successes, and anything else. Being a certain type of fish doesn’t get you tossed back into the sea.

Why are we not united like the net? One net, 153 fish. This is the Kingdom of God. This is the one net that can hold it all and won’t break. This is the one net that can hold you, me, your crazy uncle, and the person in the office next to you, the rude lady who flipped you off in traffic, your ex-boothang, that person on Facebook who has political views that make you want to hurl, your neighbor whose family looks different from yours, your landlord, and Taco Bell employees at 3am.

I’m so thankful to be a part of a congregation that acknowledges that we are all so incredibly different, but it’s one Kingdom that holds us all.

What are you fishing for? Are you freely fishing for men, all men? Or are you acting as if the resurrection never happened, and you’re back to exclusively fishing for fish?

Mixing Jesus, Palms, and Politics

Evangelicalism, politics

It’s Holy Week, the final week of Lent. The last 5 Sundays, we’ve taught our students about different places in life that a faith in Jesus takes us–places that are messy, unfamiliar, and scary. But we’ve also talked about how faith in Jesus means that He provides for us when we’re exhausted, intercedes in those scary places to restore peace in our lives, and provides redemption where it’s so desperately needed.

When I studied for my Palm Sunday lesson, I became really intrigued by the crowds. The crowds were really excited about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but why?  As I read Matthew, I realized that the crowd probably didn’t really know who Jesus was. But because a few amped the crowd up, the entire crowd joined in and laid down their coats and palm branches.

It’s kind of like March Madness–I could care less about basketball. But because everyone else is excited, I’m rubbing my winning bracket in everyone’s faces. I’m just counting down the days until baseball.

But those same crowds who were so for Jesus became so against him just a few days later. And why? Again, I think it was because a few energetically swayed the crowd.

It’s more than that, though–the Jewish believed that the savior of the world was to become a King and save the world through politics. The Messiah would end hatred, oppression, suffering, disease, and bring world peace. All the Jews would be gathered back in Israel, and all of humanity would be united as one with universal knowledge of God.

But Jesus wasn’t playing by those rules–he never became King, but told people it was their responsibility to bring the Kingdom of God. He didn’t bring world peace but told people to become the peacemakers. He didn’t bring universal knowledge of God, but brought the Holy Spirit so that they could have a more personal connection with God.

And because he didn’t fit the Jewish concept of Messiah, He was rejected. The Jews wanted to put the Messiah in a pretty political box, and Jesus wouldn’t fit.

Here’s the troubling part–Christians still do this today.

With many of our hot-button issues, including but not limited to Ferguson and Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” we put Jesus into a political box. We say that if Jesus was here today, he would say (fill in the blank). Both sides of the arguments use Scripture and rationalize how Jesus would defend their arguments. They simplify the issue into a definitive political stance from God. And I think that many tend to influence a crowd into believing the same–rallying against one another with God on their side.

And just like the Jews were split, causing to branch into what we call Christianity, we’re doing the same today.

I think that more than anything, the thing Jesus would take a stance on is using God’s name to oppress one another. Jesus had many words to say to the Pharisees for using God’s name to oppress the poor and brokenhearted.  Jesus lived in the trenches with people, helping them grasp a better understanding of God, rather than rallying against them or using God as a weapon. And as he died on the cross, he cried out to God, “Forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing…”

Now, I don’t think protesting or standing up against something is wrong. But I do think that saying, “If Jesus was here, he’d be a Republican/Democrat/LGBTQ Activist/Ferguson Rioter/Pro-Life/Anti-Guns/____” is a bold claim. Especially when there is so much going on in the world–where would Jesus actually be? And, does that mean that Jesus doesn’t care about the people who aren’t where he is?

I think it sets us up for disappointment later, when we realize that maybe Jesus doesn’t fit in that box like we hope. Jesus came to save the world in a way that was different than what generations and generations of Jews thought. What a dissapointment…so why do we assume that we have it right?

So I ask that we invite Jesus into these conversations not to defend our side of the argument, but to help us interact with one another in a way that reflects Him.

Because when I finally meet God, I know that he’s going to say to me, “Silly girl, you were so gung-ho about ____, but you were so wrong. But because you saught me above even that, you are so forgiven.”

The Jews killed Jesus because he didn’t fit into a political mold. Let’s not make the same mistake.