Thursday, March 20, 2014

God Loved Fred Phelps, and So Must I

Last Sunday afternoon I sat at my little "dining room" table eating lunch and scrolling through Facebook. I guess Facebook has decided to take after Twitter because now there are trending hashtags over on the right-hand corner. I noticed the name "Fred Phelps" trending, not realizing who he was. Then I saw a post about the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, being on his deathbed. Clicking on the trending name, I saw post after post about Fred Phelps and the WBC.

Many of the posts were negative, glad that he was getting "what he deserved," that someone who had said "God hates" to almost every people group would now experience God's hatred. Many posts wished him the opposite of resting in peace, and "thank goodness" this "scumbag" was off the earth.

I have to be completely honest, my very first reaction to seeing that he was dying was "oh good. Oh good, maybe now we can be free of this hatred."

I was promptly convicted.

I know it's not right to wish death on anyone, and a moment of reflection reminded me of that. Yet hatred in response to his hatred was my impulse reaction.

"I do not feel any pity for Gollum," said Frodo. 

"You have not seen him," Gandalf broke in.

"No, and I don't want to," said Frodo. "I can't understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death." 

"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."

How easy we are to deal out death in judgement. Yet we have not seen the people we judge, truly seen them. We have seen some part of them, felt their actions against us, heard their words and wept, experienced pain and suffering perhaps, but we have not seen them, have not seen why they act the way they act, why they hate the way they hate. 

And so, after praying about my own brokenness that wished death on another human being, I prayed for Fred Phelps as well. He passed away this morning, and I do not know what his last words or thoughts were, but I know what I hoped and prayed for. 

Instead of hating Fred Phelps, I honestly now feel, or felt, heartbroken for him. He was a man who dedicated his entire life to a wrong reading of the Bible, to a misinterpretation of what Jesus did for us. He was a man who had no understanding of grace, or Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. He had no experience of the freeing love of Jesus. And that is tragic. 

I imagine all those years he spent reading the Bible and instead of hearing God's words, he heard Satan's twisted version of the Bible's truth. 

If we hate him, if we are glad for his death and pray for God's vengeance upon him, hope he's "burning in Hell" (how misleading that phrase is in and of itself is an entirely different conversation. See Tim Keller's thoughts here), then we are acting no better than Fred Phelps. We are just as hateful. 

If we don't believe that God's grace covers Fred Phelps, that God looked down on him and was saddened by how lost Fred Phelps was, then we have succumbed to Satan's twisted truth just as much as the other man. If God's grace doesn't extend to every person on this earth, no matter what they have said, thought, or done, then how can that grace cover me? Cover you? What makes me deserve it more? What makes you deserve grace more than Fred Phelps? 

That's the beauty of grace. It is free! It is not something you or I or anyone else can ever earn. It is not something we can ever deserve. Unconditional love without price is not something that logically makes sense. We live in a world that earns everything it gets. It is incomprehensible to have a love that is simply because. Yet that is the love of Jesus, that is the grace of God. 

I truly, truly hope that before he died, Fred Phelps experienced the grace of God. That he finally saw the err in his ways, felt God's deep love, and realized it is by grace that we are saved. 

And if I don't believe that Fred Phelps is loved by God, then how can I believe God loves me? I cannot be the first to cast a stone, because I am not without guilt and sin. 

"He who is without sin can cast the first stone."

Jesus knelt down and traced the dust with his finger once more. After a moment he looked up, looking deep into the eyes of the woman before him. Trembling with fear, she tried desperately to shift around and cover her naked body. She tried to speak, but no words came. 

"Are they gone?" he asked. 

She barely managed to nod.

"Did not one of them condemn you?" he asked her.

"No, not one." her voice still trembled. She knew that while none of the men had been able to cast a stone, for they were not blameless, before her stood one who was without sin. Before her stood Jesus, the only one who could justly cast a stone. 

"Then neither do I," he responded with love. **

Jesus wouldn't cast a stone. Who am I to think I can? God loved Fred Phelps. I don't know what his experience was when he died and met his maker, but I do know God loves him, and so must I. And his family that remains behind, I must love them too.

Grace I have freely received, and grace I must freely give. 

**my summary of John 8:1-11

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I'm Still Peter

I run a lot, for a lot of reasons. One of these reasons is that running is one of the times I connect with God best. I pray while I run, and I have heard the Lord speak to me the most while running.

As some of you may know, I am raising support for full-time missionary work with a non-profit mission organization called Cru (you can learn a little more about my heart for this here). My heart is for serving Denver college students, and that's what I'll be doing with Cru. However, while raising support, I can't be involved in on-campus (I'll be at a few college campuses in Denver) ministry, as 100% of my time really has to be devoted to support raising. This results in me living in a state of tension. I have to raise support in order to be on campus and do the ministry my heart is called to, yet while raising support I cannot be doing what I long to be doing.

In a time like this, it is easy to dwell in the future. To live for the next thing, not fully exist in the moment because my eyes are always forward, always on the goal.

I was chatting with God about this, praying for this support-raising process to be done soon, for Him to raise up people to contribute financially to me quickly, so I could be on campus, where I want to be.

And I was praying about it with this mindset of looking forward, living for this future goal of being at 100%, being on-campus, all my focus being on these goals. I was just telling God how I was looking forward to being done with support raising, looking forward to being where I'm "supposed to be."

And God's gracious voice came through. He said,

"Keep your eyes on Me, Katy. Not the goal, or what you perceive it to be. Keep your eyes on Me, I am the goal."

Why am I always Peter? Trying to walk by faith, but my eyes keep glancing down at my feet. Seeing those waves instead of the true goal that is Jesus. The treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus Christ. 

I look up at Jesus walking towards me, which is a beautiful thing in and of itself - that Jesus comes towards me, meets me in my broken need for a Savior. But I look at Jesus walking on those waves and I want to do it too. I ask Him to call me to great things, ask Him to call my name, ask Him to call me to live by faith. 

And then I start looking at the waves, and the trials, and the support goals that seem too high to ever reach by August, and I start to look around in a panic and I start to focus on worldly goals instead of the ultimate goal standing in front of me saying, "Come. Come to Me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest." 

As if where I would put myself is better than where God would have me be, or like wherever I'm at right now isn't the best place for me to be. God reminded me of that as well. I am always so amazed by His graciousness to show me areas of brokenness before I've burned too many bridges or destroyed myself or others. He lets me stumble and fall a lot so I can learn to let Him pick me up, but He has stopped me from falling too hard or too far. Thank goodness for grace.

So as I kept running, God followed His previous statement with a reminder, 

"Katy, I have you right where I want you to be."

Oh snap. 

Raising support. That's where He wants me

He knows my heart for Denver college students, because He put that passion and desire to serve there! And ultimately He does want me on campus. But not right now. Because He has me exactly where He wants me to be. He has control over time, money, people, He could have my support raised by tomorrow morning when I wake up! I'll be fully funded when God wants me fully funded, because right now, raising support and learning to look to Him is where He wants me to be. 

Walking on the waves, eyes on Him. That's where He wants me to be. 

I can't focus on the "obstacle" of support raising, or make being on campus the goal I am living for and thus not learning and growing in the place God has me. He has me walking on the waves, eyes fixed firmly on Him as He says, "Come." 

Without my eyes on Him, I will sink. 

In a place where I cannot stand alone, that's where He wants me. With my eyes on Him, totally dependent on Him. Keeping my eyes on the Savior, because He is the one that matters and He has me right where He wants me.

Sunday, March 2, 2014




     Like I'd blink
     and nothing would be the same

     Like I'd blink
     and everything would be the same

     Like I'd blink
     and I don't know what I want

     When I wake up