The Days

This was written for a dear friend who shared her thoughts with me…I heard you…I’m so sorry for the sorrow and struggles you are facing…Just know I heard you and I love you…I put some of your words into a poem:

The Days

 

The days pass by so quickly

Some without the joy

I thought I would always carry with me…

I try to recapture it

by hearing your voice call my name

as you did all through my childhood…

calling me for meals or church

or to remind me of a chore…

calling me to share news

or just to check in

You walk with me

even on days when we

are not together…

On days when I am closed

in an office with numbers

swirling around in a tornadic frenzy

until I gather them to their

cells on the spreadsheet before me…

You are with me when I worship…

Even when you are in a church miles away

or resting at home because

you can no longer make the trip…

You are with me on the drive to see you

in a home that will always fill my heart and soul

with thoughts of family and meals

and prayers and time that seemed to stop

for just a moment when we laughed…

I cannot slow time

I cannot heal

But I can love

I can remember

I can live out

all that I was taught

and hold on to

all that I cherish

and pass along

the stories to

all who will listen…

And I will remember…

And I will love…

–Chris Pepple ©2017

Love Heals

Thistle Farms in Nashville has a quote that they use a lot. “Love heals.” That is such a powerful statement even though it seems so simple. What does that mean? For me, yesterday brought two perfect examples.

First, my best friend in Nashville sent me a beautiful picture for my wall. She became my best friend because we loved each other enough to listen to the life story of the other. We are nothing alike and many times she confesses that my story is so hard for her to understand. She’s happily married-I was married to an abuser who still creates problems in my life. She lives comfortably. I struggle financially because of the past and because of current medical bills for my daughters. The list of our differences goes on. But when I am struggling the most, her “love heals” because she never gives up on me.

Second, when I sent out an announcement about my book, I had someone email back saying she had lost contact with me because she knew of some of the challenges in my life but had no idea what to say. It was awkward for her. But now the conversation is started. She told me what she knew, and I told her what would have helped. Silence hurt. Love heals.

I hope the characters in my novel, Without a Voice, help paint that picture of how love does heal. That includes loving ourselves enough to take the first steps to healing!

With Eyes Wide Open

With my eyes wide open, I saw your post about the overweight woman in the gym, about the “losers” on welfare, about the older woman with dry skin still wearing sandals with her cracked skin on her heels exposed, about the shoes a female political candidate was wearing, about the “riff raff” who can’t get insurance, about the fake news you were spreading without checking other sources, about the immigrants that you have never even talked to, about the gay people you think are trying to destroy your faith, about the transgender people you think are trying to harm people in bathrooms…

With my eyes wide open, I looked for your posts about trying to stop sexual abuse on college campuses, but I didn’t see one. I looked for your posts about ending domestic abuse, but I didn’t see one. I looked for your posts saying you were meeting with scared, pregnant young women to sit with them and talk with them about their options, but I only saw your post judging them because they considered abortion.

With my eyes wide open, I looked for your post that says you talked with many of us who are uninsured to discuss why we are insured and ways this nation may help families who are struggling. I just saw your posts about hoping you save money. I looked for your posts about stopping fake news and getting back to truth. I just saw your posts that repeated falsehoods that made you feel comfortable.

With my eyes wide open, I looked for your posts that said you sat with immigrants to hear their life stories. I only saw your posts about “radicals” who you think are trying to kill us all. I looked for your posts that said you sought out this nation’s hurting people so you could comfort them and spread love. I only saw your judgments.

With my eyes wide open, I looked for the invitation to the table you share with others…it never arrived…

Walking Together

I want to tell you a true story. Johnny was my cousin and my favorite person to hang out with as a kid. He was four years older than me, but never excluded me from what he was doing. We played in my grandmother’s attic for hours in the winter and on top of her flat-roofed garage every summer. During his teen years he turned to music. He could play anything. I loved to hear him on the piano. Once, when I was a teen, I told him that more than anything I wanted to play a song on the piano (I couldn’t read music). He numbered the keys in the order I would hit them, and I played The Entertainer!

He died when he was 30–January 1993. I lost someone very special. He died of AIDS. Yes, he was gay, but to me he was almost a big brother, a musician, an artist–he could turn any fabric into bedspreads, comforters, curtains…he died in Key West surrounded by friends and his parents. I flew down and conducted his funeral because, despite the fact that he had been a church musician before he contracted AIDS, no preacher would visit him. The church as a whole…all churches I knew of…turned away. It was that same year I met a woman in Georgia as she wept. When I asked her what was wrong, she answered, “I can’t tell my church that my son is dying of AIDS. They won’t let me return, or they won’t conduct his funeral.”

When I flew into Key West, a very kind gay young man picked me and fed me lunch. That night two gay men fed me dinner and invited me into their home as a friend. They rented a boat and a group of gay men went out onto the ocean (along with his parents) to scatter his ashes. They packed a lunch for us all. They never asked me to pay for my own meal.

The year before, I had been struggling with serious family issues. The only professor at Emory to reach out to me was a professor who also happened to be a lesbian. She helped me find a Christian counseling group that basically saved my life for the next two years.

During my lifetime, I have been friends with several people in the LGBTQ community. I haven’t thought of it much until lately, because I just thought of them as friends. I didn’t worry about their sexuality. But with all of the news about their rights being taken back away, I can’t help but want to speak up. No one in that community has ever harmed me, tried to have sexual relations with me, tried to “recruit” me, judged me for my faith or my struggles. They have just been friends.

As both a married and now a single woman, plenty of straight white Christian men have invited me to “sleep around,” let them “comfort” me, have a little fun that I didn’t ask for. Some of them were married and asked me to be discreet if I accepted their offer. I turned them down. That’s not who I am.

I get it that for some of you this is an issue of faith–you see a gay person as a sinner based on your theology. Please live out your faith! If that’s what you believe, never engage in a same-sex marriage. I live in a democracy that supports religious freedom. Many of my friends live out their faith differently. Many of my friends identify as Christians also and worship, serve on mission teams, teach, etc. I support their rights in this democracy also.

I will be hurt if my friends lose the right to love whom they choose to love after they fought for that right. They have stood by me when the church didn’t. I will stand by them out of the same friendship and love that they showed me. I am not going to try to define anyone’s theology. But I am going to speak up for someone who wants to grow old with a person they love. That’s beautiful, and it hurts no one!

This is not a theological debate on what defines sin. None of us would ever agree on that. When I was going through my divorce, I had plenty of people quoting Scripture to me and telling me how sinful I was. And for friends remarried, many Christians believe a second marriage is a sin. Divorce and remarriage are legal in this country (even though I wish divorce never had to happen–it hurts many people). I would not have survived my marriage if it had not ended.

But nowhere does Jesus tell me to legislate what I define as sin. And if I could, I would legislate most of his words that people forget to live by. Feed my sheep. And what if we legislate his words to the rich young ruler when he said the man had to give everything away? And what if we legislate turn the other cheek? Luke 14 telling us to bring in the poor? Matthew 20, lead by being a servant.

We can’t legislate our beliefs. We can only live them and in this nation we are blessed that we can share them. But this is about the secular world and democracy. I will not legislate away the rights of people I care about.

When I Say the Words

When I Say the Words

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

When I say the words

“I love you” to my neighbors,

to my friends,

to those I’ve known for years,

and to those I met

on the journey today,

I’m telling you that I see you—

The whole you…all of you.

I am not afraid of

the sight of your scars

or the sounds of your crying

or the knowledge of weaknesses…

I love the darkness of your

chocolate-colored skin

and the depth of brownness

in your soul-revealing eyes…

And I also love

the desert-kissed skin of

you, my friend, with

your deep black hair and

your chestnut-colored lips

that highlight the smile

that draws us all

into your joy…

And you with the

terra-cotta blush and

the laughter in your eyes…

And you with the

sand-colored hands

and green eyes

that disguise your mischief…

And you with the

ivory unblemished skin and blue eyes…

Or you—the one who wears your age

and shows your leathery arms

as you toil again through the day…

And you as you paint with the sunrise

or sing well past the sunset

or dance with the wind

or hum quietly as you write

or cook like your grandmother

the buttery-rich comfort food

or you—the one who adds

the spice that kicks in with each bite.

I love you

because you are like me—

You seek joy,

follow hopes,

love deeply,

daydream,

toil,

fear…

I love you

because you are different—

You sing a different song,

dance to a different beat,

create with a different style,

love in a different way,

toil using your unique gifts,

fear a different enemy…

I see you—the whole you…

And celebrate us all today…

 

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

What this is about…

What this is about…

By Chris Pepple ©2017

 

This is not about politics,

not parties, not platforms…

This is about people…

And possibilities…

Promises to keep…

Hope to hang on to…

This is about being loved…

And being love…

About the love that can’t

be defined or controlled

by one group alone…

This is about the justice

longed for since

the most ancient of days…

About peace dreamed of…

About faith that goes beyond

human logic and beyond

my own desires and wishes—

A faith that sees humanity as a whole…

A faith the tells me to open doors

and share hope

and build homes

and shatter abuse

and feed the hungry

and drive out hate

and speak truth

and take chances

and walk on water

and break bread

and shine light

and walk away from my comfort

in order to bring about

a safe place where

all can seek faith and hope

and love and light and joy and peace

and justice and mercy

Together…

For God so loved the world…

— Chris Pepple ©2017

Dear Christians…

Dear Christians, we have a long and complicated history of those of us claiming this name. I don’t think there has ever been a time when we all agreed. Even Paul and Barnabas had their disagreements. We all have to look to Scripture to find Truth, but that can be complicated because of the many ways to interpret some things. So we have to stay in community to discuss together what Truth looks like. And we look back to history and tradition to see when we have gotten it right and when we have gotten it wrong.

I keep reading posts quoting preachers like Franklin Graham that seem to justify seeking our own comfort and safety over the lives of others. I have a lot of respect for the Graham family. Don’t get me wrong on that—I am not calling them evil or intending disrespect to any of their ministries. But just like you and I are flawed, are sinners, so are ministers. They can get it wrong at times and history is very clear about that in the following examples that I think you will agree with:

First, look at who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote the Letter from the Birmingham Jail to—Christian ministers and leaders. It was his response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. They wanted to keep their churches safe and their white members out of harm’s way. Outside of that, these were respected ministers doing very good work in other areas. Look at the wording—the ministers were calling the Civil Rights Movement “unwise and untimely.” They were also calling for a ban of the “outsiders” (King and his colleagues) coming in to their communities. Sound familiar?

“Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea.” –Dr. Martin Luther King—History has proven this minister right and the other ministers of that day wrong.

And then there’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer—another minister like King who got it so right. He was a German minister and theologian who came to America to study. While here, Hitler began his rise to power. Bonhoeffer could have stayed safely in America and lived out the rest of his life here. Instead, he returned to Germany and spoke out against the injustices towards the Jews and eventually was executed for his stand. While alive, he begged Christian churches to hear the cries of the Jews and take a stand.

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.

Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.

There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture.—Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship

 Let’s be clear:  If you read the Bible from front to back as a whole, you will see that there is nothing logical or safe about Christianity. Every call to follow God’s will through the entire Bible calls for actions that don’t fall into line with human reason and logic. Nothing Jesus did was logical. Nothing tells us to worry about ourselves first. And if we put our nation above God’s will, that is idolatry. True Christians throughout history risked their lives for others in Jesus’s name–hiding Jews in their homes at great personal risk. The white Christians who finally stood with Dr. King.  Think of all of the heroes of our faith. Think of Corrie Ten Boom. Think of the people whose names we will never know. Read about Rahab who hid the spies in her house. Read about the wise men who refused to return to Herod and tell him the location of the child. Read about the people who brought Paul into their homes all of the times the authorities wanted him dead. Think of the person who hid the disciples in his upper room when everyone was sure Romans and Jews would kill any sympathizers. That is Biblical. Think of the displaced Americans on 9/11/01–their planes had to land in Canada when our airports closed. It’s a beautiful story of 7,000 stranded, unvetted travelers who landed and the people of a small town who took them in and fed them and cared for them not knowing if some of the travelers were ones who might cause harm.

Some people will confuse the facts about who is a refugee—a refugee has that name because he/she has proven to be persecuted because of faith, race or location of their home. They are wanted dead by those who hate them not because of the refugee’s actions but because of the hate in the heart of the hunter. These people undergo extensive vetting. These are not people seeking a visa to get a job. None have attacked us. None caused 9/11. These are people trying not to be killed just because of who they are. Tell me you don’t really think Jesus would say, “Now, you people over here be safe. Let somebody else help if they want to.” And Jesus never told us to just send money. He said go. He said heal. He said love above all else. He said put your life on the line, Peter, Paul, John…Christians. He said take up your cross. It may kill you, but I will reward you. That’s Biblical.

I love you and am glad we are on this journey together.