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Love Yo Self

Love Yo Self

There is an innate desire in everyone to prioritize his or her values. The things in which we attach most emotional worth to, it is in fact, what drives us. What we value is what our heart longs for in life. The flux of happiness is closely related to our values. People seem to be love’n life or hate’n life based on what they can achieve or experience.

For example, if someone values the ability to clean their house in under six minutes before their friends arrive (on short notice) and as they answer the door are able to shove the last of the living room junk into the closet, that person probably is happy. Self-image is preserved and values are achieved. So I’ve heard. My house is immaculate all the time (said no one ever).

Furthermore, if someone values winning a pizza eating contest in which they and two other friends set out on a quest to consume a ginormous pizza in under an hour, only then to fall short in doing so, (as a result of cramming so much into their intestines they end up throwing up pepperoni all over the restaurant bathroom) the opposite of happiness was experienced. The goal was not achieved. True story. My husband.

Do what makes you happy. Right?

The overall message of our culture is that there is a direct correlation between moving towards your values and the state of your happiness. In other words, many would define self-love or “loving yourself” as following their truest values. In our culture people are continually asking themselves, am I experiencing all my values have to offer? In this line of thinking, my self-image is thus my focus when I’m am truly “loving myself.”

– Carpe Diem

– Follow your bliss

– If you want to be happy, be.

– Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

– Happiness depends upon ourselves.

– Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.

– Always wear a cup

I see a growing trend in some church circles where 20, 30, and 40 something Christians offer and sell “coaching” to others in order to grow lacking self-love. This goal of self-love is believed to bring fulfillment in a Christian’s life. And by selling I mean they charge hundreds of dollars a session to tell you how to be popular in a constant state of self-accepted/loved bliss. These voices seem to argue that not loving yourself well, is indeed, your root problem. On a side note: let me just say if you go to school to become a doctor – then awesome sauce – you deserve your physician’s fee. If you have no training in the area in which you wish to give counsel, let alone “Godly” counsel, please don’t charge what a physician would charge. Perhaps begin by giving your advice away because it lacks discipline and experience. If you’re not willing to sit with the broken who can do nothing for your image , then this activity is not ministry and it’s surely not Jesus. Popularity is not an objective measure of Godliness. Ok, coming down off soapbox…

So, what did Jesus say about self-love?

When the Pharisees were attempting to trip Jesus up in Matthew 22:37:39 and probed Him with the question, “what is the greatest commandment?” he replied,

37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus refers to two Old Testament verses in His answer here: Deut. 6:5 and then Lev. 19:18. Deut 6:5 basically means to love God first with all of your thoughts, feelings, breath, spirit, imagination, and understanding. The heart is the epicenter of all that is able to commune with God. Jesus is saying love God with all of your being. Secondly, Jesus quotes Lev 10:18 which explains how to love your neighbor. Your neighbor being the one next to you, in closest proximity regardless of race, religion, etc.  The Israelites were to love their neighbors by providing for those who couldn’t provide for themselves and instructed them to steer clear of seeking revenge on those around them.

Loving yourself couples with loving your neighbor. Steward your life well and be concerned with the life of others. Jesus clearly says as you’ve established a strong and healthy outpouring of worship to your only creator, out of this place will flow identity. Out of this positioning you will naturally care for and love your neighbor. Jesus is saying care about the basic needs of others as much as you take care of your own. This is in contrast to the message of “self- actualize” enough to be confident in your self-image, then teach others how to be as awesome as you are.

Caring for others doesn’t begin once you’ve obtained self-esteem or self-worth, this is out of yourself now. This is not a “me” vacation first so that I can come back to the village and direct happiness into other’s lives because I’m the best me I can be.  Nope. Love is not a leader over another. Love is not a position of greatness over another. Love your neighbor as yourself is an equal opportunity. We come to the table as both dependents on one provider.

If stewarding your life is Jesus’ definition of self-love then self-confidence, assurance in your abilities and gifting, roles in family life, and titles have nothing to do with self-love. And if the pursuit of values, which are tied to achieving and experiencing, are not involved with self-love defined by Jesus, then loving yourself as you love your neighbor takes on new meaning. It means to the measure I put energy into seeking my own self-love is the measure in which I am required to love others. Jesus ties the two together after saying, “First and foremost, give God the core of you”.

Some of the most Christ like people I know do not esteem themselves very highly. It’s not like they walk around hating themselves or carrying around some false humility. They simply concern themselves with the welfare of others as much as their own.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

– C.S. Lewis

In ministering to those in the areas of hopelessness, depression, sexual brokenness, drug abuse, relational issues, etc, there are beliefs that greatly hinder individuals from experiencing freedom in Christ.

The notion that “I” must get better for myself is prevalent in our culture and cripples growth, let alone freedom. Freedom is a love relationship that cannot start with me.

As if breaking free of sin was ever possible by sheer willpower and that the prerequisite is solely based on loving yourself first. This leaves many people in the pattern of self-absorption that perpetuates these issues further.

We love because He first loved us.

Out of this love we see Him and His sacrificial love for us. We then love Him from becoming like Him, wanting to sacrificially love others.

The last time I watched pornography was about a year into my marriage. I’d gone through counseling and walking in a measure of freedom from pornography at that point, however, my marriage was falling apart for other reasons. This broken place left me with chaos and fear, and I’d returned to old coping mechanisms. Old methods of diseased self-care and self-love.

I remember going to the Lord and realizing that if I did not yield to God in that moment that I would be held accountable for allowing this sin to reign in my marriage and then ultimately in my children’s lives. I saw my children being bound by shame and addiction because I allowed it into our home. Honestly, it scared the crap out of me. So I let my love for God, my husband, and future children be the motivator of yielding my heart to Him. My desire to please God and to trust him won over my own distorted notion of self-love and self-preservation.

This leads to my final point, which is that many Christians are still bound because they are afraid of sacrificial love. They are afraid of pain and being without the familiar. They are afraid of losing the comfort and protection of self-centeredness. Who will take care of me if I stop focusing on my pain? I totally get that, especially when you truly have experienced a lot of trauma in your life. However, the way out of misery is not found in yourself. It will require you to lay down your life for another.

Why? Because it is the person of Jesus.

The greatest thing about Jesus’ definition of self-love is that it is given away – so no one loses. No one goes without. No one is abandoned. Self sacrificial love is embodied in a community that prefers each other over themselves and watches to see opportunities where we can support the Godly values each of us carry.

It’s messy and costly but this love is truly fulfilling and the target we all are called to aim for in life.

 


Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect, and honesty.

Sex & Marriage

Sex & Marriage

“Write what you know.” ― Mark Twain

Most of our friends know that my husband and I didn’t start our marriage off in a blissful state of romance. We most definitely weren’t “that couple” who spent their first years of marriage gazing into each other’s eyes while gushing over love notes and feeding each other chocolate on special love getaways. Well, maybe we ate a lot of chocolate back then, but it was more of a coping mechanism than a sign of affection.

So we get it. We get what it’s like to start off and continue in a very difficult marriage. We understand what it is like to strive to stay committed in a relationship that, at times, was not only disconnected but very toxic. Andy and I brought our own damaged viewpoints and perceptions of what marriage should be when we were married eleven years ago. The process in which God brought radical healing to our marriage is too lengthy to go into here, but I can say that we have complete faith for any marriage to experience restoration producing close connection.

The purpose of our lives is to experience a beautifully meshed communion with Jesus. This relationship is at the core of who we are and why we were created by Him. The lie that comes against this purpose is that we are obedient slaves living under the law and not sons and daughters of God. Furthermore, this lie states that, our actions dictate our right standing with God. That we can approach God because we behaviored our way into relationship with Him. Well, that’s religion. Religion puts demands on people that no one can perform. It leaves people without support, let alone transformation. It says you need to act and look a certain way before you are loved yet won’t be there in the process with you.

Religion is a distant God.

Religion is not Jesus.

Jesus is friendship, trust, and intimacy, everything religion is not.

What does this have to do with a healthy sex life?

As my husband and I work with those seeking God’s purpose in their identity, which often involves sexuality, we know first hand there is such a high percentage of Christians who have misconceptions about marriage and sex. Nothing is more upsetting than to see believers settling for religion, duty, and even out right abuse when it comes to sex. Often how people view their relationship with God plays out in their marriage, therefore, manifesting in their intimate times with their spouse.

When two hearts are disconnected, sex becomes an act instead of an expression. Sex becomes a religious duty instead of the deeply intimate connection God created it to be.

Am I saying that unless all moons align, your boss promoted you at work, and that special song comes on the radio (spotify…who listens to a radio anymore), then that’s when your supposed to have sex? Am I saying we only get down and boogie when the feelin is so so right? Absolutely not! However, as my husband and I learned early in this process, sex is the great barometer for our marriage. When we aren’t having sex we usually are disconnected. Currently, when we see we disconnections has settled into our lives, our goal is to face it together and no longer run from conflict. As we work out the disconnection, healthy sex follows. Our discipline is in the connection, which results in a healthy sex life. Discipline in sex without connection first results in religious, lifeless sex. Disconnected sex needs to have no place in our homes. It is the entry point of death. It is the entry point of the enemy who wants to destroy marriages. We see this repeatedly in the people we minister to.

Sexual disconnection and dysfunction in marriages runs rampant at various levels in our churches. It ranges from porn addictions, marriages that have little to no sex at all, infidelity, and abusive situations, just to name a few areas. Sex in marriage is such a broad subject but I’d like to address a few mindsets that are hindering Christian couples in intimacy.

Sex as a means to keep your spouse from sexual sin

All too often spouses believe the lie that their lack of sexual availability to their spouse leads to pornography usage. You’ll notice I’m saying spouse and not a husband, because we’ve seen pornography usage in both genders. I’ve said it a million times, sin has no gender preference. If your spouse seeks sexual fulfillment through sexual sin, it damages your marriage. God desires us to be in connected and safe marriages. I am not responsible for my husband sinning. He is not responsible for my character. You may be unavailable sexually for your spouse but that is a symptom of another issue. Should it stay that way? No, but the fix is not in a sexual act. Sex isn’t the heart of the issue. Nevertheless, regardless of the root issues, sin is never the fault of another person. Assuming blame for someone else’s sin pattern is pride. Effectively you are assuming the role of God in their life. You mistakenly think you can control their choices by engaging sexually with your spouse in order to keep him or her “out of trouble”.

As a spouse of someone who is sinning sexually, your responsibility is to love them. Loving them means knowing that the Lord cares for your heart. If you have an unresponsive or unrepentive spouse (one who’s actions are not changing) you may need to move out. Sometimes love means you don’t enable your spouse to treat you like you’re the reason they won’t allow the Lord to change them.

My husband and I both struggled with porn for many years in our lives and we understand that no one is responsible for our sin choices. The sooner someone realizes that, the sooner they can own the issue and change with God’s guidance. If your spouse blames you for their behavior then they aren’t owning it. I’m responsible for loving my spouse as they seek God’s freedom from the bondages of sin, however, this means that my spouse may have limited access to my heart for a season. This means for some men and women who are recovering from the betrayal of sexual sin in their spouse, it’s ok to say I’m not ready to be intimate until trust is rebuilt. If your spouse is repentive and no longer bound, then it is God’s heart to restore sexual intimacy, but that will take time. The key is to press through the pain and not to give up. You’re not going to be able to see God restore all things in your marriage when there’s been a betrayal in the past unless you take the risk of being vulnerable again after trust is rebuilt.

In a healthy relationship there are times when one spouse wants to be intimate and the other is tired. This is a common issue in homes. However, if you’re the tired spouse and decide to engage sexually it is out of sacrificial love that is yours to give away. It’s from a full heart. A heart that is cherished and respected and a heart that truly can trust their spouse. There’s a big difference between having sex when you’re tired and don’t really feel like it, to having sex when you’re tired and you’re afraid that if you don’t fulfill your “duty” it is license for your spouse to sin.

Sex when you’re afraid

Being connected means you feel valued and safe to respectfully share how you are experiencing your spouse. There’s been times when we have gone to be intimate and things surface emotionally that we didn’t realize were there dormant until we purposed to connect sexually. If you do not feel safe, valued, and respected in your marriage sex is not going to fix that or allow you to work through those issues that naturally come up in a marriage.

The God of the universe sent His son Jesus humbly on a donkey to die on a cross so that He could have a loving and approachable relationship with you. A relationship that was not forced or demanded, but one that invited you safely into his arms, why would you think He requires anything less in your marriage. Love is a sacrifice but not a sacrifice that is demanded. We all get to choose how we lay this down for each other but when someone demands or uses fear to get it – this is no sacrifice at all. It is fear driven. Fear and manipulation are not love. If it is taken, it is not given in love.

Sex is everything

We live in an over sexualized, youth driven society. It says the fitter, prettier, successful, and sexual you are the more you are living life.

Like I have said, sex is a gauge in a marriage, but it is not our identity. I don’t believe that on the day I meet Jesus He’s going to give me an account of how many times I had sex with my husband. “Well Liz, if you would have made it into this bracket [points to number chart] you could have had the bigger mansion. One with a pool…”

Nope. That is other religions.

You can’t quantify love. Religion wants you to quantify. My responsibility is to steward sex in my marriage as a means to love my husband. Sex in my marriage points to my relationship with God. It is a means to love through passionate connection.

It isn’t a competition or trophy as some sort of prize. Whenever I hear people bragging about their sex life with their spouse I pretty much know they probably don’t have a great sex life. When you are secure and honest about your marriage you understand it is a war to stay connected. That sex can be euphoric at times and mediocre other times. There are times when sex is a mountain top experience and times where you go, “well… that was awkward.” It varies as our lives shift and grow in Christ. The goal, however, is to fight for our marriages to stay connected. Great sex is connected sex. Hot sex is Christ centered sex where the Holy Spirit is invited to guide your marriage in all ways.

In all of these sexual areas, one belief seem to be prevalent that keeps Christian couples from experiencing all God has for them. This is the belief that things are hopeless, therefore, they settle. They stop engaging in the battle. They settle for less due to fear, rejection, passivity, etc. Our prayer is that we walk in all that the Lord has for us in our marriage.

If you’re married you need to have sex.

If you are continually afraid or adverse to sex you need to seek the Lord on bringing restoration in your life.

If you have an illness or condition where you are unable to have sex, then get creative. It’s all about the heart connection.

Be intimate and radically love your spouse.

Don’t settle for apathy. Ask Jesus to reveal His heart for your sex life with your spouse and trust that He will guide you as messy at it may feel when you begin to address the mindsets that have kept you bound.
Stay in the Word, stay connected and open to healthy people who can help bring strength to your marriage, say connected to a healthy church where leaders demonstrate healthy marriages, and most of all give the Lord access to your sex life.

2 Corinthians 3:17 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

 

 

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.

Orlando.

Orlando.

Unless you’ve been out of the country, on an introspective social media fast, or under a rock you’re well aware of the devastating nightclub shooting that took place on June 12th, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. A blood bath where fifty people suddenly were ripped away from their friends, family, and loved ones.

As a Christian, my motivation for this blog post is not to address gun issues, terrorism, gay rights, Muslims, and so on.  Today, I am writing about what I believe the justice and judgment of God to be and how we as Christian’s are mandated to represent Christ in situations where there is injustice.

As much as there were ministries and Christians who responded with care and aid, I honestly was sickened by seeing well meaning Christians using this opportunity of tragedy to chime in their political and religious opinions. There were many that used it as a soap box platform for gun rights, stricter anti-terrorism laws and bashing the president. The worst of these misguided rants, however, were those who called it God’s judgment against sin in the LGBT community.

John 3:17 NIV  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

This verse that comes after the famous John 3:16 – one of the few scriptures people memorize – sets the stage for Jesus and His plan of redemption. This plan was not to condemn the world but save it through Him. When we encounter the love of Christ we are adopted. We are no longer strangers or orphans, but we belong to a loving Father who cares for our heart. We love because we were first loved by Him.

Any need for justice is settled by the death and resurrection of Jesus. If someone is a believer and has fallen away from their faith we are expected to be in the process of restoring them through love. If someone does not know Christ we are expected to be a witness to them through the power of our own testimony. Our testimony that is how we overcame darkness through Jesus and His love for us. We are called to intercede and to cover those who don’t know the love of Christ. As Christ stood in the gap for us we are called to stand in the gap for those who live outside of the protection of God’s will.

Does God punish with those who sin?

Let’s look at an example in the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus, Pharaoh refuses to release God’s people from captivity and because of this, God sends plagues against Egypt.  Ten plagues are sent against the Egyptians. Well at first glance, it seems that way but after looking deeper, you see that all ten plagues are representations of the Egyptian gods. God is speaking a language the Egyptians can understand by destroying the gods they worship. He was saying “I’m the true God and here is your chance to worship me instead of those bullfrogs.” God gives many opportunities to change but Pharaoh continues to refuse and the Egyptians suffer at the hands of the gods they are attached to. God uses the language of the cultures in Old Testament times to say I’m the only true God. His desire then as is now, that none would perish without knowing Him.

Now in the New Testament everything changes when Jesus comes on the scene. The Old Law of how to satisfy justice and God’s law is fulfilled. Anyone on the planet can believe that Jesus is the Son of God which provides access to not only heaven but a rich spiritual life in Christ. We see God withdrawing His presence from situations, which cause sin to run it’s course, but we don’t see God sending catastrophes or death to punish those connected to other gods.

The death of Ananis and Sapphira is a good example. It doesn’t say that God killed them because of their sin. It says in Acts 5:3 that they allowed Satan to fill their heart. This wasn’t their first evil act and to establish the authority of the apostles, God withdrew from them. In withdrawing their own sin destroyed them. God did not kill them. The wages of sin are death and without the active and redeeming work of Christ, sin will destroy. It is the nature of sin.

Theologian Greg Boyd puts it this way, “The cross reveals, and a wealth of biblical material confirms, that the essence of God’s ‘wrath’ against sin is simply allowing evil to run its self-destructive course.”

If Jesus fulfilled the law and God no longer punishes by destroying idols attached to unbelievers, how then does the judgment of God work in the New Testament?

1 Timothy 1:12-15  12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

God didn’t withdraw from Paul which would have destroyed Paul’s life as he was persecuting and killing Christians. If God had a reason to withdraw from a person to let their own sin destroy them, it would be Paul. Yet, Paul says he did these things ignorantly and in unbelief. God meets Paul in a huge way on his way to persecute others.

My point is, we are not God and we must not judge the value of others based on their actions. Judgment separates us from valuing others, and with that we do not pursue. It’s hard to care for someone when you do not value them. It’s impossible to love someone who you’ve deemed judged by God. If we are not loving and connected to a culture then God’s presence is not manifested. In other words, how can God withdraw from someone when they didn’t have the opportunity to know Him in the first place since we are the hands and feet of the Lord?  This only comes through the love of other believers through the demonstrated power of the gospel.

God’s judgment looks like Jesus and His availability to all.

If we are not seeing a harvest in a particular community, it is because we are not loving and demonstrating the power of the Kingdom of God. That power is the sacrificial love of Christ that brings God’s authority into their lives. Jesus explained to the disciples in Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” If we are the harvesters why no harvest? Maybe we aren’t stepping into our roles as harvesters?

There is a lot of confusion and overall fear for some Christians when faced with the question “how do I love those who identify as LGBT without seeming to approve of their lives?” I’m actually asked this question often since people desire to do the right thing. My answer is firstly, ask God to ravish you with His love so much so that all bondages are broken in your life and secondly, remain thankful that He loved you first. If you do those things you’ll stay out of judgment. You’ll be salt and light to the world without the religious or political jargon. Angry people who use God’s judgment to try and punish sinners are often those who are bound themselves. They are attempting to control their own sin so they pour out anger towards others. Those who understand the work of the cross, forgiveness, and transformation address others with humility and love. They are aware of their own need for a savior all the while face to face with those who don’t know Him. They risk being brokenhearted in the process as Jesus did with us. True love is not love without the risk of rejection.

With all that being said,

God’s justice in Orlando would be that 50 people didn’t have to walk into a gay bar to find love and community.

God’s justice looks like the American church no longer tolerates religion, which only produces masked Christians who don’t know the true transformation of Jesus.

God’s justice looks like those who are so angry at a community for their sin take a step back to take the plank out of their own eye.

When you know the work of the cross in your own life and know the power of transformation by His love, you are last in line to throw stones. You understand that you’ve been forgiven much. You are not an entitled person who is angry at another’s faults because you know what Christ did for you.

Let your life tell the story of God’s redemptive work. Stay unbound to the world’s system of finding identity and worth. Live openly in love and others will follow.

That is God’s justice for all the earth…that people would know the transforming power of Jesus. He took care of all justice on His end by the work of the cross.

 

 

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.

Family Identity

Family Identity

The only way to truly watch the show Parenthood is with a pint of Cherry Garcia flavored Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. I’m just sayin. If you want the full experience, have comfort food nearby. You’re gonna have a good cry at least once an episode.

Last week I needed a bit of a break from it all. I found myself needing a show that I could watch for a bit of “zone out” time. I’m not one that’s prone to take a break. My breaks are usually completing projects that are lower on the priority list. Yeah I know, it drives my husband crazy. However, after a very busy month, and with a clearing in my schedule, I did the difficult task of doing nothing for part of the day while fully engaged with this show.

Maybe the fact that it takes place back in California where I grew up, or the fact that the characters remind me so much of the typical Northern Californian family (relational, down to earth, funny), but there is such an appeal to the flow of family that this show demonstrates. I think mostly I admire the characters being unconditionally present for each other through the good and bad times. The family connection of the Braverman family is the priority and it is protected at all costs. And although the family are not believers, there are some positive aspects found in it all.

As I watched it reminded me of the good God has done in my life regarding family and identity. Ultimately, however, as much as I love watching the Braverman family do life together, without Jesus, their family unit is pretty much an idol. As good as it is at the Braverman’s (yes I realize it is fictional) they worship their family. It’s why they get up in the morning and their purpose in life. With that being said, I don’t want to detract from the quality of connection this show is all about, but point out that without Jesus at the utmost center of it all, something that is great can become an idol. Something God created can replace Him in many Christian families.

As much as family is God’s idea it isn’t supposed to be where we find our identity.

Being without children and without immediate biological family that we do daily life with, there are many times that I know I’ve felt somewhat of a transient in life. When the generation before and the generation to come are simply not there, it can cause you to question what your identity truly rests in. Who am I and what am I to do with my life?

And the more I’ve taken these questions to God it is apparent that I don’t have to live wondering the streets of life without a purpose or knowing who I was created to be. That I am just as blessed and loved even though my role in life looks differently than others.

We all have specific roles that we fill. These change as our lives change but who Christ has made us to be never changes. How we reflect the character of God never changes. Regardless if I have biological children or biological parents that are in my life –  I reflect the nature of the Lord to others. I am a nurturer to others whether or not I am pushing a stroller of my own. And whenever and however God does bring children into our lives, we are as blessed now as we are in the future. Why? Because I reflect the nurturing nature of Christ regardless of my role here on earth. I am just as complete and whole a person now as I will be with whatever roles God brings into my life in the future.

Now we don’t just live as mini islands with God. As much as my introverted self would love that some days, we were made for fellowship with God and with others. In fact, fellowship with others is vital in walking out my identity in Christ.

Eph 2:17-22

18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

This is important because when you become a believer you become a part of a very large family. Before Jesus came, God’s presence in lineage was dependent on family blood line but after Jesus came it is dependent on individual transformations. In other words, as a Christian, you are more family with the those that share in your faith than that of your own blood family. If you are blessed with believing family members of course there is a close bond however, blood ties are not to supersede the call to being united with other believers.

This means that finding true identity in Christ involves not only knowing the Lord closely but also knowing God’s nature as it is reflected in others.

I look for Him in others, I don’t look at others for Him.

As much as my heart longs for family I know that I can fully walk in what God has for me now as a mother and daughter in my faith in Christ. Biological roles here on earth or not, nothing takes away from what God reflects through me to others.

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.

 

The Assault of Self-Absorption

The Assault of Self-Absorption

Hitting the six mile trail I put on my headphones and began praying crying. An array of negative emotions were assaulting me from all sides as I pressed into my time with the Lord. The previous weeks were filled with many good things in life. We were gifted with some really needed items, I met my nephew for the first time, along with other answers to prayer. With many blessings came a lot of pain that seemed to be coming to the surface. Legitimate areas God wanted to address. I began to press into time with the only one who can care and heal my heart.

It was two hours (yes those were 20min miles folks…lightning speed) where anger, fear, and confusion seemed to assault my mind as I tried everything I knew to combat it. About mid way through I reached out to a few friends by text to pray for me. All the tools I knew to use were pulled and I was hammering away with no relief. Usually, my walks with God are very uplifting and I leave feeling refreshed, but that day after my two hours were over, I was in no better place.

I felt like I was rode hard and put away wet.

Processing with my husband that night I knew that the Lord would be faithful to direct me and so I fell asleep. As I woke up the presence of the Lord was strong and opening my eyes I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me these words: self-absorption.

Self-absorption…um, like paper towels?

After a few moments of running down my list of cotton products, I knew the help I had cried out for was arriving. God was speaking to my storm.

Already poised to began to beat myself up for being self absorbed I sensed the Lord say, “I don’t call you self-absorbed. This is what you’re warring against. This is outside you, not within you.” Hearing this brought a lot of relief and clarity as I began to study more about self-absorption and what the Lord wanted to teach me about it.

My husband and I have a passion to see others walk in the freedom of Jesus. We know what it is like to be bound with no escape until Jesus sets you free. And we also know what it is like to fail big time and miss it, all the while getting back up and running after Him all the more. With that being said, we teach and model to others the process of Christ centered self-awareness. Not a self-awareness that centers on your pain but a self-awareness of a dependency on Him, knowing He’s the only one who can restore. That humility is required to truly bring your pain, failures, and needs into the light so that the Lord can break bondages.

This process, when it is Christ centered, produces complete honesty and vulnerability which results in knowing the Lord’s goodness. Christ centered self-awareness – my awareness that I need Him – is the opposite of self-absorption. Jesus can only move on your behalf when you humble yourself because that in itself is a reflection of HIm. He is humble. Coming to serve not be served.

As I wrestled to understand all of this I began to see that self-absorption comes in to derail the mission God has for us. Self-absorption is a preoccupation with one’s own emotions, interests, or situation. Thoughts like “I should just give up. I’m disqualified because I’m a hot mess. I should be over these insecurities. I’m not like so and so…they seem to have their act together. I’m not educated enough to do what I’m doing.” and so on are great indicators that you’re being assaulted with self-absorbed thoughts that are not from God.

As you step into the new places of authority God has for you, insecurity is natural. Your dependence for Him is amped up to eleven because it would be your own strength if it wasn’t. So self-absorption comes along and wants you to give up, stop, and lick your wounds instead of moving forward. There is no way around the pruning process if you want to fight the good fight.

Matthew 7:13-14 MSG  says 13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.”

New territory, new giants to battle, new people to love.

In all of this I now know more than ever that the Lord is faithful to meet us in our most broken places yet as we move forward we can trust Him. As we pour into others He is faithful to provide for us. We are a work in progress and He enjoys every step of it. It’s all important to Him.

Probably the most impactful thing I sensed from the Lord as I wrestled with this attack was that when we are pursuing Him with everything we have, He is not a critical father that needs to come down hard on us. It’s the opposite, He lovingly reminds us to keep going. That resistance is a sign that we are moving in the right direction, which is His heart to reach and love others.

Since the Lord cares just as much about your feet and hands as He does your heart – keep moving forward.

Keep pouring into others.

 

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.

Did I Choose to be Gay?

Did I Choose to be Gay?

That afternoon when I was seventeen still stands out as a marker in my mind so clearly. It was the day I finally spoke with my father about coming out as a lesbian.

Soberly, I walked into the room where he was sitting quietly on the couch. After our awkward interaction, in which I disclosed that I was a lesbian, he asked me if I wanted help. I had no confidence in his ability to help me and was completely disconnect from God, so I rejected the offer.

I go into depth further about my journey in my book The God of My Parents and other blog posts you can read here and here. However, in this blog, I’d like to talk about how certain verbiage that is thrown around by Christians in order to be effective in reaching the gay community is actually very damaging. I will be writing about the concept of choice.

To choose something you need to first see another option. During the time in my life when I came out to my dad, due to my disconnected and false understanding of God, I lived a desperately lonely and isolated existence. I was starving for affection and affirmation and had been for some time. I began to attempt to meet these needs, these deep longings for affirmation, validation and emotional safety through romantic relationships with women.

But did I choose to be gay?

This is a question I hear from many well meaning Christians when trying to communicate the truth of the gospel.

I experienced substantial deficits in my life but while I very much had a free will, I did not choose to be gay. Gay chose me. I believed what it had to say about me hook line and sinker. I did not chase Gay, tag it with a stun gun, nor did I wrestle Gay to the ground. Gay was pursuing my heart.

In my Christian upbringing I was taught homosexuality was a sin, but I didn’t know how a relationship with Jesus could bring truth to my brokenness in sexuality. The most transformative moments in understanding my attractions, longings, and needs were when I began to understand that Jesus chose me. He chose ALL of me. Yet, I didn’t understand the access that Christ’s love could have or the access that He wanted into my life.

Can I make a suggestion here? Perhaps conversations and statements about the gospel with others regarding sexuality should center on this proclamation: Jesus chooses you. This is more powerful than any other truth, because Jesus is truth and He is the one who can transform the heart.

When I began to walk in His truth and love for me the remorse over the cost of sin in my life was realized. In my opinion, you don’t understand needing a savior until you are saved. You don’t realize you have been sucking at the back end of a tail pipe, gasping for oxygen until you breath fresh air for the first time. The costs of our attempts to fill our hearts are something that time does not erase – even when Jesus wipes them from His books. However, God is a completely redemptive God that promises to restore me despite my own failures and insecurities.

It’s all to easy to dismiss people and express the opinion that their sin is a “choice”.

So for those who cannot see the heart of strugglers or unbelievers, I’d pose the question –  what areas of unbelief do you have about God’s love for you?

What areas did He pay for that you aren’t seeing in your own life?

The world needs to be told He chooses them.

And from there, transformation of the gospel can take place.

 

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.

 

Feminine Strength

Feminine Strength

One evening I was invited to watch the 2001 movie “Serendipity” with a group of ladies at my church. It was close to Valentine’s Day and the ladies, mostly single, wanted to indulge in desserts and snacks and cinematic romance.

Reportedly there would be chocolate involved, so I went.

Little did I know that in addition to chocolate we would be feasting on a boatload of cheese.  This movie is seriously so cheesy you could pour it on your nachos. Thing is though, I detest romance movies. I can stomach a romantic comedy here and there but would much rather watch a regular comedy (though clean ones are hard to find these days), a sci-fi adventure, a blow-’em-up suspense thriller, a “what’s making us fat now” documentary, or even just a good old-fashioned drama. Sitcoms are usually my go-to; my attention span can usually handle thirty minutes before I get up to do something else.

As this fondue party of a romantic movie played I spat out a series of criticisms and insults aimed at the characters, plot, writers, etc. Naturally the other girls were telling me to shut up and throwing pillows and popcorn at my face (no chocolate, though; I had that bowl). However my reserve was strong, and I did not–could not–remain silent. I was channeling Sophia Petrillo from “Golden Girls” with a pinch of “Everybody Loves Raymond’s” Frank Barone…

In this season of my life I feel as though God is quieting Frank and Sophia.

While spending some time with a friend this week the subject of what a strong Godly woman looks like came up. We discussed how there is a perceived strength when a woman seems to need no one–how lacking vulnerability or exuding brashness can give the appearance of strength. Yet when you boil those things down you most often find that there’s a lack underneath. Maybe independence is celebrated in our churches because it requires so much less intimacy, which can be scary and taxing. Truly heart-to-heart connections take risk and time, and those are two things many women especially  fear.

I like to take risks. I also deal with copious amounts of insecurity and fear when I do. However gut wrenching the process is to step out and jump it doesn’t compare to the heaviness felt when settling for less.

Choose not to settle.

Recently I’ve been learning so much from my friendships. Observing the power of kindness and nurturing is seriously impacting my heart. Finding time for others, giving them that expensive face-to-face time, being approachable, these being the rocks that make up the foundation they stand on… That is strength. That is a powerful woman.  That is the true Godly feminine beauty that I want to carry out in my life. It’s a true reflection of Christ.

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I reserve the right to keep my disdain of romantic movies. Nevertheless, I’m trying to climb down from the peanut gallery. I would like these hard places to soften and for my strength to come from a compassionate heart.

(As long as no one makes me watch “Serendipity” again.)

 

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.

Jesus & the Prostitute

Jesus & the Prostitute

As I begin to unpack my thoughts regarding how church leaders can best care for the hearts of those who may or may not consider themselves gay Christians or in the LGBTQ community, I have to admit that writing about the subject is weighty. I have friends in so many different arenas, people that I admire and care about, so I want to enter into the discussion with sensitivity.

Nevertheless, I write about this because of the increasing number of friends and acquaintances who are rallying behind the idea that the gospel tells us to support the gay community at any measure–that the gospel of love is to truly accept sexual orientation, regardless of what that looks like. In other words, many are believing that the church is evolving as the culture around it embraces a growing acceptance of the diverse LGBTQ community. And while I would agree that our methods of outreach towards a culture involving sexual identity are changing, I do not believe that the church is evolving into an age of “enlightenment” where there are no established safeguards or truth that are based in scripture.

For weeks now I’ve camped around the story of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The fact that this woman braves such a harsh religious culture to encounter Jesus is astounding to me.

Jesus is invited to dine with Pharisees because more than likely they’re looking to fault his teachings. Then a hooker walks into their religious mess and begins to weep over her conviction of sin and adoration of her all-embracing savior. Here’s a woman who is only identified as a prostitute. Whose sins are many. It’s like Jesus gets invited to Downton Abbey for a cup of tea and a porn star busts in and kisses his feet. He has every right in that setting to put up a strong boundary after she extravagantly begins to worship him. But Jesus the Christ brings conviction to this woman by loving her instead of having her thrown out. His goodness brings conviction to her heart, and she’s freed from the identity that she believed to be true and accepts the identity He gave her.

Simon of course whips out his sin measuring tool and begins to make snide remarks that if Jesus were a true prophet he would know the sins of this woman. And then we hear the parable of the two debtors and Simon gets served in royal Jesus-style. The great multitasker Jesus brings a rebuke to the religious pharisee who sees no need for salvation from his sin and projects some sort of nonsense of measurement onto this woman’s failures.

Both needed a savior.

Both sinned against God.

Jesus points to this woman’s worship and says that she was forgiven much, so she loves much. Jesus restores this woman’s dignity by forgiving her sins. The pharisees banter and scoff all the more, but He ignores them and says to the woman “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

The word saved in the Greek is sozo, which translates to, “to give new life” and “to cause to have a new heart.” To save, heal, cure, preserve, keep safe and sound, rescue from danger or destruction, to deliver. It saves from physical death by healing, and from spiritual death by forgiving sin and its effects.

So what does all this have to do with how church leaders love the LGBTQ community or those who identify themselves as gay Christians?

I think this example of Jesus loving someone that religious leaders had deemed an outcast, unworthy, and undeserving is very fitting in terms of how we’ve seen the public nature of many evangelical movements mark the gay community. One example being when the AIDS/HIV epidemic first hit the gay community in the 1980’s. Preachers publically condemned those who were infected by the virus to hell, stating that it was God’s judgment of their sin.

My question is, why weren’t we sitting with the dying?

If we truly want to follow the example of Christ then we must admit when we’ve allowed our own Simons to run the show as we watched in fear at what was taking place. That’s what happened in the 80’s, and it’s not hard to see that this lack of compassion and christlikeness led to a great disconnect between the church and the gay community. Our actions spoke even louder than our words.

So as church leaders face the ever-changing tide of American law and culture in the matters of gay rights, there is a tendency to respond with a lot of fear. Fear tells us to run from conflict or from what we don’t understand. When you aren’t sitting at the table with people, it’s difficult to love them and to listen. With that being said, leaders do have a responsibility to anchor in the truth of God’s word.

When Jesus saw the injustice of the pharisees’ reaction toward the prostitute he responded by forgiving her sins and setting her soul free from the things that bound it. Jesus didn’t dismiss her as the pharisees did, but he also didn’t see her social outcast status and respond by insisting that her life was actually fine. He didn’t see her sexual brokenness and think that to bring her to a place of dignity he would have to sleep with her. Her sin came from a need for intimacy, but her creator didn’t answer that need on her terms. Jesus embraced her AND set her free to sin no more. He addressed the perception that was holding her captive rather than accepting it and giving her what she needed in the way she thought she wanted it. This thing about Jesus not sleeping with her sounds a little weird, but there’s an important point I want to make here. Jesus responds to a prostitute by restoring her identity in Him, and freeing her to go and sin no more. He responds with His love and forgiveness–not with the law as the Pharisees did, and also not with an embrace alone.

He brought her into her identity amidst the scoffers.

In an attempt to defend the disenfranchised (which is very Christ-like) sometimes people operate in their God-given gift of compassion and need for justice over religious systems, but stop short of the transformative power of Jesus, which requires everything. Some desire so much to bring others into intimacy who have been rejected that they end up sleeping with prostitutes, so to speak. Intimacy untethered to truth is just as much a sin as operating in prideful religion. The truth of the gospel is the answer to social injustice, but there has to be light penetrating the darkness. You can’t serve two masters, and when we sacrifice the truth of what our sexuality is based in, we as believers begin to accept error in people’s lives. This pertains to all sexual expression outside of God’s boundaries. These are clearly laid out in the Word.

If you desire to lead in ministry or direct a movement, you are held to a higher standard in representing the Lord. If you’re not sure about that, read James 3. God is not the author of confusion. We do need to break this notion of fear over the church outcasts in the world; yet, I see many people my age who are responding to the injustice by abandoning the scripture that clearly guides us in these matters. With this often comes the mistrust and sometimes abandonment of fathers and mothers in the faith who have faithfully studied the Word and given themselves to the gospel. I believe doing this will lead to great error. We are made to be in relationship with those that have gone before us, even if God is calling us to a new battle. Without their covering, things get weird.

You hear so many times that we are not to judge others but to love them. Yes! Absolutely true. However, when you are in church leadership and lovingly laying your life down so others can grow, you are called to judge fruit. You are called and required by a higher standard when your hands are involved in the care of others’ hearts. This means that truth is spoken in the tension of love and that you don’t run from those who need care and direction. It’s the higher requirement of ministry and those who see transformed lives don’t take it lightly.

Truth and love is the person of Jesus.

Who is sitting at your table?

 

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.

Next Exit

Next Exit

Excited to see my sweet friend of over twenty years, we followed her two year old as she wandered into one of the spare rooms to play. Sitting down on the floor with May’s little girl we began to chat as if no time had passed. It was at least a year or so since the last time we were face to face. In that time apart, I had published my book. I was anxiously awaiting my friend’s feedback as we were watching her little one show mommy the teddy bear she found.

Getting feedback on your life story is an interesting experience. Usually, it’s a lot of “wow I didn’t know that” or a more common response from my friends is “you actually wrote a book”. I love hearing the perspective of all of my friends and acquaintances from all different walks of life. I asked most of my friends who I wrote about in the book to choose their own name so to keep their identity private. “May” was the name my friend chose which I felt was fitting of her being blonde and beautiful. Since May was featured in the book I was guaranteed at least one reader.

We visited for a while and then she studiously looked at me.

“Liz can I ask you a question?”

And without hesitation, perhaps knowing by some sort of divine revelation or maybe the fact that when you know your friends so well you know what they are going to say before they say it, I answered her before she asked.

I said “am I still attracted to women?”

Her eyes got sort of big.

“Yes” I said.

“But I understand and have a clarity about that now.”

I could see in her expression that she probably was thinking  “what the heck Liz! You’re still the same! This Christian transformation stuff is a huge load of…”

Doing my best to explain my worldview regarding the reality of temptations, I eventually just let the conversation drift to other things. It was going to take some time to unpack and a friendly reunion was probably not the best place for my intense biblical conversation. At least not that afternoon…

Am I a gay Christian?

That term may be new to some readers but it is a very real and hotly debated subject amongst the Christian and non Christian community. As leaders in the gay Christian movement search to define cultural questions about sexuality and faith in Christ. Without going into the volumes of information or limiting the discussion, there are two camps that have developed from this discussion.

Some have referred to them as Side A and Side B.

In short, Side A believes that homosexual activity is not sinful. Many in Side A believe that God blesses monogamous gay relationships and that they fall within biblical standards. Side B in contrast believe that any and all homosexual activity is not accepted by God and does not fall within biblical standards. Many in Side B believe that although God loves those who experience same sex attraction, acting upon it is not according to His desire. Some in Side B also ascribe celibacy as the only means of pleasing God in regards to those with same sex attraction.

Also within both camps (as well as within the very diverse LGBT community) some people believe that sexual orientation is fixed and others believe it is fluid. Confusingly, within this debate, both sides use the term “gay Christian” to identify as someone who believes their orientation is designed by God or the term “gay Christian” is used to identify someone who is only attracted to the same sex even if they don’t believe acting upon this attraction is God’s will.

So back to my previous statement, I do not identify as a gay Christian even though I have and still do face same sex attraction. One response that I appreciate from those who read this may be the question, am I suppressing my true self? That perhaps I may be some sort of pressure cooker ready to explode under the right conditions. Readers may be wondering if I am in some sort of agonizing self-denial. Like a chocolate addict in the middle of Willy Wonka’s factory, who is not permitted to jump into the river of pure chocolate milk. That God is standing there with a whistle waiting for me to be overcome by my chubby little passions, so he can pull me out and then angrily have to send in the Umpa Lumpas in to sterilize the whole thing. (These illustrations may be related to the healthy eating regimen I’m on so please bare with me).

I have written about the process of coming to understand my own journey regarding same sex attraction in my book “The God of My Parents” and in my previous blog which you can read here. I realize that there are many differing experiences of people in both camps Side A and Side B. Without demeaning or belittling those experiences I believe that not only is homosexual activity outside of God’s acceptance, but that the transformation of sexual identity is the mark of a spirit filled life with God. I do not subscribe to the idea of identifying myself as a gay Christian because I don’t attribute my temptations as being part of my new identity in Christ.

When I am faced with same sex attraction it is more of a road sign, that if followed would lead to another city, rather than dwelling in the city itself. For some who are seeking Jesus in their process the road sign of temptation says “next exit” and for some it says “forty four miles”. In life when my heart is warring to find rest in God’s perfect love sometimes my heart bumps up against that familiar road sign pointing. I can face that sign when I’m struggling for self value, for the acceptance of others, and even during those hard times in my marriage. Even though that distant city of my old identity seems to be farther and farther away as time passes, the road sign of temptation still exists. In spite of the present reality of temptation, even more present and real is the awareness of a loving God who is standing right beside me ready to care for my heart if I let Him.

In my next blog I will talk more about the gay Christian movement and where I believe church leadership can be most effective.

 

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.

Hello, This is heart speaking…

Hello, This is heart speaking…

In my 37 years of being on this planet I’ve found one thing to be especially true. If you don’t tend to and care for your heart, it will combust into a thousand pieces–all coming out of your face–at the most inopportune times.

This was me for the last few weeks, and God very kindly identified and pulled out some debri that unbeknownst to me had covered over some areas of need. Things that I had pushed off as unnecessary and unrealistic. Areas of my heart that were scratched up, bruised, and calloused over by life. Areas where I had stopped dreaming and risking.

One night we were at a worship service at our church, and I was humming along to the music and making life plans. But after a few minutes into the service I found myself sobbing as God began to show me His desire to heal me. Everyone was standing with their hands raised in praise and I sat sobbing into my kleenex.

Did I mention how much I dislike crying in public? It’s up there with having those airline X-rays scan you while they check your bags. They can see WAY too much of your nonsense. Remember those magazine ads for X-ray glasses you’d see as a kid? I thought they were totally real. Now they really do have machines that can see you in your undies. But anyways…

Why is it so much easier to give others permission to be a hot mess than to be vulnerable in our own processes? Perhaps we have that wonderful American independence that says “I can pull my bootstraps up and I’ll be fine.” However, what about the times someone steals your boots altogether and you’re left barefoot–stepping in cow poop?

Being cracked open is a beautiful thing. You tend to find those few people who can care for your heart. Those few who listen without judging and who don’t swat your broken dreams away as if they’re impossible or invalid. It’s in the ordinary daily life with friends that you find those gems that are truly compassionate people.

One friend of mine in particular has a knack for knowing when I’m putting up the “I’m totally fine–see me smiling?–this is me smiling–nothing wrong here” Christianese face. Then after a few minutes it comes spilling out. It’s an invisible button she pushes. We were talking about this the other day and I realized that I don’t like being vulnerable until AFTER I’ve walked something out. I have no problem being transparent and vulnerable after the fact–when I’ve gotten a new perspective, received healing in the area, and look all shiny on the other side of things.

One of my core values is to be a safe and disarming person for others to be vulnerable with. In order to be that for others I have to be willing to model it, not just to be some sort of example, but in order to receive all that God has for me. God can’t restore unless we risk and give Him the opportunity.

 

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Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.

Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.