My Dad’s Sweet, Strong Heart

I was recently asked, “Where do you get your understanding of God?” Because I desire everything in my life: my worldview, my relationships, my actions and reactions, even what I think about myself to be based on who I understand God to be, this is an important question. While both my own study of the Bible and sound teaching from others have shaped my awareness of God, my immediate answer was, “from my father.” I am by nature a picture person and things come to life when I see them. My dad was a picture of a good father. I see God as a Good Father and everything I read and hear about Him verifies that picture.

Before and especially since my dad passed away on August 2, 2013 my thoughts have lingered on this question and my answer. My earthly father gave me the gift of understanding what it’s like to be in relationship with my Heavenly Father. Because of who my dad was and how he treated me, I rest in the unconditional and gracious love of God. I know that’s not the case for everyone. There are some fathers who have abused and/or abandoned their children causing them to feel ashamed, unworthy, and insecure. For you dear ones, I am sorry and I long to help. Hopefully, sharing a bit about my dad will help paint a better picture of a good father and more importantly the Good Father.

Forever. For Always and No Matter What.

Leslie croppedOn the morning of January 3rd, 1998 I repeated the prayer that had been mine for nine months for the very last time. I woke up early and began getting ready for what I knew would be a full day. I needed to be dressed and at the church by 7:30a.m. for pictures. It was my wedding day. I was 31 years old and knew that the fulfillment of this day’s plan would change my life on this earth.

Long before I started dating Alan, I made a mental list of what I wanted in a spouse. My list was short. It didn’t include the things I was attracted to but rather those qualities I thought important in the man I’d share my life with. As a believer in God I knew I would be attracted to another believer. As a person who loves to laugh, I knew I would be attracted to someone who was at least fun if not funny. As someone who is average looking, I didn’t expect to get anyone who was more than average looking. There were only two things I wanted from my husband.

  1. I wanted him to like me first.
  2. I wanted him to be someone who could tell me “no.”

In other words, I wanted him to be interested in and pursue me first. I wanted him to see me, to know me, to want me, and to love me. I didn’t want to be responsible for pursuing him or catching him. I didn’t want to change his mind. I wanted us to be his idea! As a person who has some strength of opinion, I also wanted someone I could follow. I wanted someone I could trust to not only lead me to where I wanted to go, but more importantly to places I didn’t want to go.

Alan is the only person to ever meet those two qualifications. Subsequently on our first date, when he leaned over the table and looked me straight in the eye and asked, “So when are we getting married?” without reservation or hesitation I answered, “January 3rd is a Saturday.” That was March 10th, 1997, the day I began my 9-month prayer. With as much honesty as I could muster, I acknowledged that I loved Alan and thought that marrying him was the purpose God was leading me towards. I admitted I could be wrong and asked God to please interfere if He knew better. On our wedding day, as I put on my make-up I asked God to stop the whole thing if I had missed the mark. I thought it would have to be a sizeable obstruction at that point, like some horrible car accident, but I was willing. Because the day proceeded with only minor hiccups (like our hired Roles Royce not showing up to take us from the church to the reception and a lit candle flying out of a candelabra), I married Alan and have never doubted whether it was the right thing to do. I trusted God and my relationship with God.

After a year of wedded bliss, I had another lesson to learn. Alan and I got into a bit of a squabble. Nothing earth shattering. It was simply about money. So typical. After a short exchange of unpleasant words, Alan left to run errands and I was left vacuuming. In my heart I heard a gentle whisper that could have only been God. “Do you trust ME?” I answered, “Yes.” He asked a second time and I responded the same. He asked a third time. I turned off the vacuum and sat down and said, “Of course I trust You.” “Then trust the ME that is in Alan.”

It was a new level of trust. I trusted Alan and wouldn’t have married him if I hadn’t. The reality is though that humans make mistakes and disappoint people. I needed to trust the God in Alan and their relationship even more than I trusted Alan himself. In that moment I learned to rest. It isn’t my job to be his accountability or his teacher or his savior in any way, neither are those jobs his to perform for me. I run the same risk of being wrong as he does. Only in God’s hands are we secure enough to be trustworthy. Only in His hands can we rest securely, peacefully, and thoroughly.

In the New Testament of the Bible, we are shown a picture of Jesus as our bridegroom. Those who believe in Him are called His bride. I am so thankful that He liked me first. He saw me, knew me, wanted me, loved me, and made a way for me to be in relationship with Him and His Good Father. I did nothing to make Him love me. He pursued me. He keeps me. I am so thankful that He is my guide and counselor and friend. He leads me to where He wants me to go whether it is beside still waters or through the valley of the shadow of death. I can and do follow Him.

One last thought, as a bride of Christ, we get so much more than we think or imagine we deserve. It’s like me ending up spending my life with someone who is incredibly handsome (especially with the beard, rrr!), exhaustingly funny, and who not only believes but also lives his faith.

Forever. For Always and No Matter What.

Leslie Chambers Tackles Heterosexuality, Hyper-Grace, and Offers Hope

Leslie croppedCross-posted from the Exodus Blog.

Have you ever wondered what people think of you? As my husband is Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International, I have. At present, he is somewhat of a conundrum for a lot of people. There seems to be some confusion about who he is, what he is saying and what he stands for. Here it is in a nutshell: while he has repeatedly stated his biblically orthodox view of sexuality, he has also stated his belief that one particular sin is not some how more offensive to God than another. As his wife, I have stayed out of most of the chaos but there are a few things that I cannot be silent about any longer. So here it goes…

The Art of Japanese Kintsugi

We’ve all broken dishes at one time or another.  Leslie and I are avid collectors of family artifacts and have inherited hundreds of pieces of china and other breakable mementos.  Because we display these rare treasures rather than store them, some have been broken.  Because of their sentimental worth we try to fix these pieces.  In some cases we simply put them in a box with other broken wears in hopes that we can do a mosaic with them later.

You see, even broken heirlooms are of high value to me.  Yet, until today I hadn’t considered the deep value of the actual fracture.  I have long preferred fixing these items in such a way that their brokenness is masked, which is how so many of us treat our own personal struggles, weaknesses and failures.  We go to counseling or support groups to “fix” ourselves and then try to pretend nothing ever happened.  Like that’s even possible.

Should Exodus International Fire Alan Chambers?

Written by Exodus International board member John Warren and cross-posted from the Exodus website:

Should Exodus International Fire Alan Chambers? by John Warren

Robert Gagnon made the unfortunate decision to attack a key ministry leader for unfounded reasons on June 30, 2012, in his article, “Time for a Change of Leadership at Exodus.”   He claims to know Alan Chambers, but then he attacks him for espousing doctrinal positions that aren’t those of Mr. Chambers at all.  Dr. Gagnon knows full well the difference between speaking extemporaneously as Mr. Chambers is called upon to do, and writing a scholarly work that is researched, edited and very carefully written.   Alan Chambers is President of Exodus International.  Exodus is the leading global outreach ministry to churches, individuals and families offering a biblical message about same-sex attraction.   Dr. Gagnon also knows that Mr. Chambers’ role places him in a position of constant scrutiny from parties on multi-faceted sides of issues which are complex and have diverse implications.  Mr. Chambers would be the first to acknowledge, as he has done a number of times of late; that a “mulligan” or the opportunity to expound on a particular response or comment would have certainly been preferred in some of the cases cited in Dr. Gagnon’s article.  However, Mr. Chambers, as well thought out and prepared as he is for each of his public speaking opportunities on these complex and sensitive matters, does not enjoy the luxury of writing 35 page articles which are researched, edited, and strategically circulated in an effort to discredit the subject.  Mr. Chambers is a minister of the Gospel of our Lord, and he is in the trenches day after day and week after week serving a diverse and complex constituency to that end.   Surely Dr. Gagnon must be able to see the heart of this man and this ministry.

Made for More – Letter from Alan Chambers for May 2012

This letter is cross-posted from the Exodus Blog

Made for More

Dear Friends:

As we approach the 37th annual Freedom Conference, I am filled with great expectancy of what God is going to do in and through each one of us. Year after year, in our weakness and humility, Jesus shows up mightily in both our personal and corporate time. Who among us doesn’t leave changed?

Our theme this year is Made for More I think most people would admit that at some point in time in their lives they have wondered if there is anything more to the life they are experiencing.  For many, something seems to be missing.  Often there is a deep void in our hearts that goes unfilled and unsatisfied.

During the early days of trying to figure out my struggle with SSA I remember thinking that what I truly needed was the love and affirmation of a man to fill that need.  I was consumed by a need to heal the ache inside because the ache was all I paid attention to. The focus and direction of my desires was also in direct conflict with my biblical beliefs.  But what I perceived as my deepest and most overwhelming need suppressed those feelings of conflict and I chose to act on my SSA.

NECK DEEP!

The Jordan River

One of the ways I get to participate in my kids schooling is that I do all of their Bible homework with them. I eagerly agreed to this when they started school last year because I knew it would force me to learn with them and through their young hearts. I love going over the old familiar stories that I learned as a child but more than that I have loved the new things God has begun teaching me through these old stories and scriptures that specifically relate to the journey I am on today.

For instance, we have been reading about the Israelites “Exodus” from Egypt. Most recently we arrived in the book of Joshua at the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership after the death of Moses. About the time we got to that portion of the story my pastor spoke on this historic event and added a wealth of information to the story that I had never heard or considered. It’s remarkable how often I am guilty of simply reading scripture rather than studying and meditating on it! So, I have been camped out in Joshua reading and rereading that particular story, researching it online and reading up on “the rest of the story”. It’s fascinating especially as I think about how specifically it applies to our modern day struggles to persevere in Christ in the midst of sin and suffering.

The Day After

I woke up this morning in a world that had changed
overnight.  But, that was going to be the
case anyway regardless of who won or lost in the election.  My wife and I went to bed hoping for a
political miracle, but expecting nothing of the sort.  We were restless, but able to fall asleep
because at the end of the day our ultimate hope, trust and faith is in only
One: The True Living God.  And, as was
the case when we went to bed, He and only He was still, always has been always
will be, on the Throne.

It was nice to have a Christian President over the last 8
years who shared my values, whom I believe wholeheartedly means it every-time he
says, “God Bless You and God Bless America”. 
Despite his unpopularity on issues related to the war and the economy, I
believe that President George W. Bush and his family restored honor to the
highest office in our land and to the White House.  He might not have been a perfect President,
but he was trustworthy and moral and like Ronald Reagan, the President of my
youth, he kept America safe.

I confess that this morning I do not feel as hopeful as I
have when it comes to the leadership of this country and the pending
administration.  I do not trust in the
promises that I have heard or the heart behind the promises. I am skeptical,
fighting against worry and planning for the worst economically and
socially.  I am angry that the American
people chose a President who does not seem to understand that life begins at
conception and doesn’t seem to want to understand it because it’s above his
pay-grade.  I am ashamed that the majority
voted economy and race over human life. 
But, it’s done and I am praying that God will use my anger for His purposes
and to bring about real change.

Despite my anger, disappointment, worry and uncertainty
about the future, I am resolute in my belief that God is God and that I am
not.  I am galvanized in my determination
to pray for the very best for President Elect Barack Obama, our other elected
officials and all of their families.  My
wife and kids and I started a new ritual this morning, praying for all of the
above and especially for the hearts of the Obama family to be submitted and
surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 
NOTHING will change the fate of the unborn or the immoral policy
positions except a man submitted and surrendered to Christ.  It may seem an impossible feat, but I know real change is possible.

As I watched the election coverage last night, into the wee
hours and again this morning I began thinking beyond the surface of what was
happening.  Take for instance the two
conservative Congressional incumbents in my area that I have supported and had
the opportunity to vote for once or twice respectively; both lost to their
rookie opponents.  The margins were
narrow, but I believe those conservatives, along with others elsewhere, were
voted out because they were connected to scandal and disappointment. One of
them was connected to the Jack Abramhoff lobbyist scandal and the other a man
who, as the attack ads pointed out, went to Washington to change Washington and
Washington ended up changing him.  When
this particular leader was elected he was a married family man and today he
isn’t.  There’s no judgment in that
statement, but the facts are the facts and people are tired of hypocrisy. 

Interestingly, our country voted overwhelmingly for a
liberal Democratic president and for some liberal congressional leaders—ousting
conservative Republicans in the process. 
But, in three key states, one of which is arguably one of the most, if
not the most
, liberal in our nation, the people voted in favor of keeping
marriage the union between one man and one woman.  That, to me, further underscores my belief
that we aren’t a liberal nation moving quickly towards liberalism more than we
are one trying to do the right thing.  I
think there is some misguidedness in there, but the fundamentals of the
American hearts are good.

Related to the wins for marriage as we know it, though, must
come the realization that 18,000 marriage licenses are this morning deemed
invalid in the state of California.  Translated: 36,000 hearts that have to be absolutely broken.  And, while I am thrilled with the vote in
support of keeping marriage the way God intends it, I am truly heavy in
heart for the men and women who saw same-sex marriage as an answer to their
struggle for acceptance
.  I
do not take any joy in seeing people’s dreams or hearts crushed even if I
disagree with them
.  I pray this
morning that the proponents of Arizona’s Prop 102, California’s Prop 8 and
Florida’s Amendment 2 celebrate with these broken hearts in mind and with a
desire to comfort those who need comfort in the wake of what has to be bitter
disappointment.  Truly this is
what Jesus would do
!

Finally, and again, I am choosing to see the outcome of this
election in a non-hopeless light and with the absolute belief that America is,
though possibly hanging by a thread, still a nation guided by Christian values
and moral goodness.  The silver lining in
all of this is that we elected a black president—skip our differences in
beliefs and policy for a moment and think about that with me.  Once one of the most prejudice countries on
earth, guilty of horrific crimes against black people, we are now a nation with
a black president elect. 

I watched two months ago when Michelle Obama spoke at the
Democratic National Convention and my heart lept thinking of her as a young
black school girl who probably never dreamed she would be the wife of a
presidential hopeful let alone the First Lady of the United States of
America.  I watched that same week as
Barack Obama accepted his parties nomination for President and was truly
thrilled to watch as our nation was ushered into a new day beyond the evil legacy
of racism that overshadowed us.  Then, I
watched last night as the Obama family waved to their supporters and hugged one
another—as Michelle Obama said to her newly elected husband, “I Love You.”  Politics aside, those are moments that melted
my heart and the moments I am choosing to hold onto today as I pray that God
changes their hearts on issues related
to the moral values of this nation. 

Maybe in God’s grand plan for this great nation, regardless
of the politics of it all, He destined the election of this man.  After all, it does say in the middle portion
of Daniel 2:21:  He removes kings and establishes kings. What if
this black President is God’s line drawn in the sand that says definitively
once and for all, “A Godly nation cannot be a racist nation.”?  What if President Barack Obama is just a step
towards an nation repenting for it’s past sins? 
I’m not God, but I have to believe He has a purpose in allowing this leader
to be elected and I am going to trust Him in it and pray that Barack Obama is
the most successful President we have ever known. 

What’s the alternative?