Gifts from Catholicism

A reflection by Sarah

Earlier this week, Lindsey wrote a post titled “Gifts from Orthodoxy.” It covered a sampling of spiritual and theological treasures that Lindsey came to love while in the Orthodox Church, and so much of it resonated with me. Every item that Lindsey named is an aspect of my time in Orthodoxy that I will always treasure. As I have made my return to the Catholic Church, I’ve been thinking about all the gifts that Catholicism has given me over the years. In today’s post, I’d like to reflect on some of those in no particular order.

Throughout the past week, several readers have been asking me why I chose to return to the Catholic Church. The most common question has been, “Why would you return to a tradition that is unlikely to be more supportive of your calling to celibate partnership with Lindsey?” I don’t agree with the premise of that question, primarily because of what I would consider support for my calling. If there is anything I have learned from my years of experience interacting with other Catholics, it is that we share a common commitment to helping each other during difficult times. Our Church has an extensive social teaching that spans a variety of life-in-the-world issues. We care about whether people are able to meet their basic needs. Though we hold diverse opinions about the best way to resolve the problem of ever-rising healthcare costs, we agree that when human beings are not able to receive healthcare without going bankrupt that is indeed a problem. If any kind of life situation places someone’s healthcare access or other basic needs in jeopardy, it is not difficult to find a Catholic priest (or brother, nun, or layperson for that matter) who is willing to help that person find solutions for meeting those needs. The Catholic faith teaches us that we are to stand in solidarity with all who suffer, and that we are to do what is possible to relieve the suffering of others. The bottom line is, we care for one another. And I consider that the most meaningful form of support for any person’s calling.

Speaking of callings, another gift from Catholicism that I cannot speak of highly enough is openness to certain variety within Christian vocation. We recognize marriage and religious life, but also a variety of pathways that are neither. Lay Catholics can commit their lives to secular institutes and other movements within the Church. Certain Catholic women choose to become consecrated virgins living in the world. Then, there’s the general category of “vocation to single life in the world” that has not yet been discussed thoroughly by the Church, but holds so much possibility for people who are called to give of themselves in a way that is different from both marriage and religious life. The idea of vocation outside of marriage and monasticism is not foreign to Catholicism. I’m eager to see how the idea of vocation for unmarried laypeople will continue to develop. Certainly those conversations will not be swift or easy, but they are important as more and more people remain single.

The ability to engage in these kinds of difficult conversations is a third gift I have received from Catholicism. Though scholasticism arose within the context of the western Christian tradition and I am quite fond of the eastern approach that is less academic, my time away from the Catholic Church has led me to value more highly the theological and philosophical approaches of the West. One disadvantage of the western approach is that western Christianity can appear more argumentative and less unified. But it’s impossible to ignore the advantages of engaging in reasoned conversation about hundreds of different life-in-the-world issues. The core truths of the faith will never change, but how we apply those to life may look slightly different as the world changes. Being part of a Church that values both tradition and continued learning from many academic disciplines is an incredible gift. Engaging deeply in the hard discussions is one of the most spiritually and intellectually rewarding aspects of being Catholic.

As someone who feels a deep connection to the spiritualities of both East and West, I consider the Church’s worldwide presence another of the greatest gifts Catholicism has given me. Most Latin rite Catholics I know will say this and follow it up with, “No matter where you go in the world, even if you don’t know the language, we can follow the Mass because it is always the same.” Fair enough. That’s true to an extent when one is speaking within the context of a particular rite. But it’s not what I’m talking about here. I am thankful for the presence of 24 autonomous particular Catholic Churches throughout the world, 23 of which are Eastern Churches that offer Divine Liturgy rather than Latin rite Mass. Some of these were formerly Orthodox, but others — the Maronite Catholic Church, Italo-Albanian Catholic Church, and Syro-Malabar Catholic Church — have always (or almost always) been in communion with Rome. The Maronites gave me my first experience with Eastern Catholicism, and I am grateful for every opportunity I had to learn from them when I lived in a different city. As a Latin rite Catholic who has returned to Catholicism from Orthodoxy, at present I find myself struggling to integrate what I love most about the western tradition with my most beloved aspects of eastern Christian spirituality. But on the bright side: I don’t have to attend services only within the Latin rite or only within an eastern rite. If it seems fitting, I can celebrate Advent within a Latin rite parish where English is the liturgical language, visit the Ukrainian Catholic parish down the street for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, see a deaf priest for confessions in American Sign Language, and go to vespers with the Maronites even though I can’t lip read Syriac. There is plentiful room in Catholicism for the spiritual treasures of both East and West.

I’m probably stating the obvious here when I say that these are not the only parts of Catholicism that I consider to be gifts. I love the way we do confession in the Catholic Church. There’s just something the immediate outpouring of grace that gets me every time. I can’t think of any place I would rather spend a lazy Friday afternoon than in a Eucharistic adoration chapel hanging out with Jesus, then attending a daily mass. The rosary, particularly praying the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays…no other prayer practice I have ever attempted has succeeded so thoroughly at getting my racing mind to slow down. And I have quite an emotional soft spot for the May Crowning ceremonies and First Communion Sundays that come in springtime.

I could continue naming gifts indefinitely, but getting to the point: when I left Catholicism for Orthodoxy, I was not running away from the difficult parts of being Catholic. I was not abandoning one Christian tradition for a different one that I thought would be utopia. I had my eyes open as widely as I could have at the time, and I made the decision that I had thought was best, going where I had thought God was leading. I may never know why God leads me in a particular direction. All I can do is listen and follow as best I’m able. But I believe that when transitioning from one Christian tradition into another (or back into another after having left previously), it is important to be running toward something rather than away from something. That is what I’m doing now. Catholics are no more sinless and no less judgmental than Orthodox Christians, and though some of our readers may be confused as to why I’m returning to Catholicism instead of looking for another Christian tradition, I do not find this matter confusing at all. My return to Catholicism is not a running away from problems in the Orthodox Church. Instead, it is my running back toward all of Catholicism’s gifts — these and so many more.

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Some Thoughts on Sympathy, Suffering, and the Paschal Mystery

A reflection by Sarah

In many of our past blog posts, Lindsey and I have discussed some of the different kinds of reactions other people have when they find out we are a celibate couple. Some folks are skeptical of us, others supportive, others cautiously optimistic about our claim that we really don’t care to discuss our sexual ethic in terms of, “Is gay sex a sin?” Lately, one of the most common reactions we’ve been receiving is sympathy. We have readers, friends, and family members who feel sorry for us because we are celibate. Occasionally people outside our Christian tradition tell us that we’re missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures because of blind obedience to authoritarian religion. During our series on sexual abuse last week, one person told me that she is sorry for what happened to me and will be praying I’ll heal completely from my history of sexual trauma so that Lindsey and I will finally be able to have sex. At the same time, plenty of people inside our Christian tradition believe that the kindest words they can possibly say to us are, “I’m sorry you’ve been given such a heavy cross to bear in life.”

I can’t help but make a connection to another circumstance in which I’ve received a great deal of sympathy lately. As I’ve become increasingly open in discussing my Ménière’s disease and the resulting hearing and vestibular loss, more and more people in my life have been telling me, “I’m sorry you’re stuck in such a bad situation. But good on you for making the best of it!” In truth, I do see my vestibular loss as a bad situation. Because I can no longer balance my body in the way most people can without even trying, my mobility is limited. I used to swim every day, and now I can’t do that anymore. I love socializing and getting out of our apartment to go on adventures by myself or with other people, and most of the time I can’t do that anymore either. I’ve gained lots of weight and have no endurance at all because most days, I can’t move very much. I can’t work right now either. But I’m not “making the best” of anything regarding this issue. I’m irritable all the time, I snap at Lindsey when I become frustrated with myself, and I try to do more than I’m able and end up hurting myself in the process. Nothing in that is making the best of a bad situation.

That said, I don’t see my hearing loss as negative in even the slightest way. Sure, I’ve gone through (and am still probably going through) a grieving process because it’s unsettling to lose one manner of interacting with the world that I’ve had access to for my whole life. Working on accepting myself as I am rather than trying to “fix” it has been painful in some ways, but pain is not always a bad thing. In the process, I’ve gained so many new ways of understanding the world around me — things I never would have experienced as a hearing person. When I’m participating in Liturgy by feeling the choir’s vibrations and noticing how those induce images of synthetic color, I’m not making the best of a bad situation; I am communing with God in a way I couldn’t have before my hearing loss. It’s common for members of my tradition to speak of monasteries as places that offer people a unique opportunity to encounter God in silence. Monasteries are indeed wonderful places, but my question is: how many monks, nuns, and monastery lovers truly know the experience of total silence? I’m talking about silence that is free from every possible distraction — no leaves rustling, no birds chirping and flapping their wings, no water running…not even the sound of one’s own breath. Assuming that there are no rock bands, gunshots, or jets around, when I take off my hearing aids I can experience the gift of total silence on some days. Even the best custom-designed earplugs will not give a hearing person that gift. I think that’s amazing.

I’m taking some online coursework this summer to help me keep my mind occupied until July when I’ll have my next ear surgery. Last week, the professor in one of those classes suggested that my Ménière’s is part of how I experience the paschal mystery. I’ve lost and I’ve grieved, but I’ve also seen the birth of many new and wonderful things. There are some days when, where my vestibular loss is concerned, I still find myself feeling much more connected to the crucifixion than to the resurrection. But is there anything wrong with that? There are also times when I feel deeply connected with the resurrection and other people tell me this isn’t theologically or emotionally right because I’m “romanticizing” my suffering. It has never made sense to me how someone else can claim to know better than I do when I am suffering and when I am not.

I’ve been thinking about how celibacy is also part of my paschal mystery. It hasn’t been easy for my to accept that I will never give birth to children. It’s definitely not easy to accept that I live in a society where marriage has become the default vocation for all people, and those who choose celibacy tend to be viewed as odd and repressed. It’s challenging to be so committed to a Christian tradition where there is little guidance for living celibacy outside a monastery. Nonetheless, I am joyous about continuing to cultivate a celibate vocation in the world alongside Lindsey. Celibacy is one of my callings. I didn’t ask for it any more than I asked God to make me deaf, but I’ve found both of these realities to be life-giving rather than limiting. There are days when I feel more connection with the binding of Isaac than I do with the Annunciation, but that’s how it is with any calling and any long-term state of being.

Sometimes, we don’t know what to say to another person except, “I’m sorry.” I include myself in that “we.” There are occasions when sympathy is a helpful response, and I don’t always know for sure how to differentiate between those occasions and others. But I do think that at times, sympathetic responses can miss the mark when it comes to understanding how callings and life experiences work differently for different people. What would it be like to spend more time discussing our callings and life experiences in terms of the paschal mystery? Several questions run through my mind. To name a few: what if we offered fewer condolences and made more effort to understand what we perceive to be another person’s cross? How might offering support look different if we could accept that what looks like a cross to one person can appear as a crown to another? Do we have to see crosses as negative in the first place?

What callings and experiences from your own life are part of your paschal mystery? If you feel led to share, the comments are open.

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Lent, a Time of Pilgrimage

Today, many Christians around the world are marking the start of Lent by observing Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is Western in its liturgical origins. Eastern rite Christians start Lent by observing Forgiveness Sunday. No matter your liturgical heritage, Lent is a time of pilgrimage.

Every year, we approach Lent by considering what it means for us to journey towards Easter. Where are we now? Where might God be calling us next? Is Lent this year a time of moving or a time of staying still? No two Lenten seasons are ever the same. Yet, the two of us always experience Lent as a fertile time for spiritual growth.

For us, Lent is about being in a community where we prepare ourselves to encounter Easter. We look for ways to strengthen our shared spiritual life and dive more deeply into a community’s spiritual life. Lent has a rhythm of prayer, fasting, and alms giving. We discuss how we want to pray together and whether we want to commit to attending additional church services during the Lenten season. We love how Lent affords us more opportunities to gather with our broader church family. Living and eating together means that we typically take on the same fasting rule as much as we are able. Additionally, our church observes a collective fasting rule for when we eat together. We’ve belonged to many churches that take time to eat together during Lent, and we cherish how eating food together creates atmospheres of fellowship. Alms giving means different things to various people. Typically we choose to take on elements of shared service together.

Lent is also a time where we pray prayers that almost seem too big to pray at other times of year. We are preparing to encounter Christ in his passion, death, and resurrection. Who can predict what God will do? We pray for the grace to see our own sinfulness clearly, to align our lives more fully with how God intends us to live, and to proclaim the good news of Christ joyously. The rhythm of Lent gives us time and space to encounter God glorified while simultaneously searching our hearts.

This year, we find ourselves approaching Lent feeling a bit overwhelmed by possibilities. We have committed to attending a new local parish. We have adopted an adorable chocolate lab, Gemma, in hopes of training her to be a balance dog for Sarah. We are sitting on a mountain of prayer requests known fully by God alone. And we’re listening, hoping, and pleading to see what comes next. Lent has arrived once again. Where will we be when we proclaim the joy of the Resurrection?

Lent has many of those “thin places” where God seems quicker to act than we could possibly imagine. While it is a season of penance and acknowledgement of our mortality, it is also a season that brings excitement in unusual ways. We enter into Lent not knowing what bits of mystery God will help us to see more clearly. Even when neither of us expects it, we learn that God enters into our lives quietly and softly. Undertaking our Lenten efforts in community means that we open ourselves to see other people and ourselves in new light. We find that we’re more ready to listen to other people’s spiritual journeys and perhaps even take on a spiritual discipline that first strikes as as the antithesis of our spirituality. God can use the Lenten season to teach us lessons that we didn’t even know we needed to learn. Our Lenten efforts can help us leave time behind and tread upon holy ground. Lent is a time where communal and personal practices blur. One mark of a good Lent is when everyone in the community can point to specific places of personal spiritual growth.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Lenten pilgrimage. No matter what Lent looks like for you this specific season, we’re happy to pray for you. May Christ go with you, guiding and directing your steps.

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“What do celibate gay Christians long for in this life? In the Eschaton?”

We had originally planned a different post for today, but yesterday we received a very thoughtful question that we wanted to address right away because of its timeliness:

“In thinking about Advent, what would you say that you and other gay Christians pray and long for with regard to your sexuality? What are you looking for in the eschaton? In this life?”

That’s a heavy question with a complicated answer, and the two of us spent a few hours yesterday discussing it. As with most questions of this sort, there is a variety of possible answers. How a celibate gay Christian would respond depends largely upon his/her reasons for choosing celibacy and whether he/she sees his/her sexuality as something to be excised or something to be integrated.

We know folks who would say, “In this life I hope to remain faithful to the scriptures and the teachings of my Christian tradition, and in the Eschaton I hope that I’ll finally have freedom from same-sex attraction.” People who hold this perspective tend to see being gay (or same-sex attracted, whichever type of language they prefer) as a painful cross to bear. Some face continual struggles with promiscuity or pornography. Some celibate gay Christians have experienced their sexual orientations exclusively in ways that cause distress. But this certainly isn’t everyone, and we would guess that it is not the majority. We know people who hope that everyone will be heterosexual in the Eschaton. We also know people who hope that they’ll come to understand sexuality as a gift in the way that married people have experienced it. Additionally, we know people who hope that all humans will become nonsexual beings in the Eschaton.

As for the two of us, these are our prayers and longings for this life with regard to our sexuality:

That God will continue to help us use our sexuality and vocation in ways that glorify him and bring forth his Kingdom. Traditionally, Christianity has considered celibacy to be a higher calling. That does not mean we are more virtuous or righteous than married people. It means that in certain ways, more is expected of us. This is not something to be prideful about: it’s intimidating and often frightening. We can only make feeble attempts at living into what God calls us to do and be, but we hope that with God’s help we will continue to improve.

That churches will see value in celibacy and support people in creating a positive vision of celibate vocations. Celibates have always been the minority in Christianity, and celibacy has been a countercultural way of life in nearly every Christian historical context. Living celibacy is often an attempt to meet a high spiritual expectation while existing in a culture that sees celibate people as freaks, and this is especially true for celibates who live in the world rather than monasteries or some form of religious life. In Orthodoxy, there are almost no discussions at this point about non-monastic celibacy. In Catholicism, there is a recognition that lay celibates in the world have a vocation, but there is almost no guidance about what this means or how one should live it out other than “don’t have sex.” In most Protestant denominations, celibacy has been dismissed as unfavorable at best, abnormal at worst. And there are many people in all three branches of Christianity who have made an idol of marriage. We hope to see these problems addressed, and we desire to be part of the solution.

That the language policing in both conservative and liberal churches will stop. Gay people who are intentionally celibate are often met with hostility simply because we use LGBT language. We know heterosexual Christians who behave as though celibacy means nothing if one also identifies as gay. Sometimes we think these folks would rather see us excise LGBT language from our vocabularies than see us grow into our vocations positively, and that is absolutely depressing. What’s even more depressing is that some seem to view preaching the message of celibacy as more important than preaching the Gospel. This has often been our experience of conservative churches, but liberal churches can also have unhelpful ways of language policing. If a celibate person in one of these contexts chooses to use the language of “same-sex attraction” rather than “LGBT,” more often than not it will be assumed that he or she is engaging in self-hatred and is perhaps delusional. We know heterosexual Christians and non-celibate LGBT Christians who refuse to discuss celibacy in any positive way and behave as though preaching the message of “it’s okay to identify as gay” is more important than preaching the Gospel. One of our greatest hopes for this lifetime is that people who are not gay and celibate (or insert whichever word you choose) will spend more time listening, less time language policing, and a lot less time presuming that they understand the gay celibate experience better than we do.

We also have these prayers and longings for the Eschaton:

That we will see our vocations perfected and experience the angelic life of celibacy more fully. We do not know much about how the ideal celibate life should manifest. We sense little glimpses and write about these ideas (which are only prayerfully considered guesses) on the blog at times, but it would be impossible for us to offer a comprehensive vision of what lay celibacy should or could be at its fullest. In the Eschaton, we hope to see completely what we have seen only faint glimmers of in this lifetime.

That we will understand fully how God redeems culture, language, ethnic heritage, class, ability, gender, and sexuality. All we know about the Eschaton is that we will be ourselves, but glorified. It’s impossible to know in this lifetime what “glorified” actually means. To what extent will all of us be the same, and to what extent will we maintain the differences that once formed our identities at incarnate beings? It doesn’t seem right to us to declare that because we’ll all be unified in the Eschaton, we’ll necessarily be the same in every possible way. To our way of thinking, it’s impossible to know whether redemption of ethnic heritage means that people who were Russian, Greek, Nigerian, etc. in earthly life will be stripped of all ethnic and cultural differences. Or an example that has hit home for us within the past year: will d/Deaf people become hearing people in the Eschaton, or do hearing people assume this will happen simply because they see hearing as a state superior to deafness? Right now we have more questions than answers about the Eschaton, and those questions include sexuality and gender identity. We do not think it is possible to know that in the Eschaton, all people will be nonsexual, or heterosexual, or whatever sexual orientation they experienced in their incarnate bodies. But we do hope that everything beautiful and God-honoring about all layers of our identities will carry over into our glorified state.

Whether you are a celibate gay Christian or not, what do you pray and long for in this life and in the Eschaton? This could make for a wonderful discussion in the comments.

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The Joy of Beginnings

In today’s world, there’s little room for gray area between obsessing over perfection and seeing any sort of half-baked effort as worthy of praise. Either we insist on stark separation between successes and failures or we give everyone a participation ribbon and say that quality doesn’t matter. We fixate on outcomes: what was our race time? What grade did we receive on the project? How did the band sound at the concert? When we will earn an annual salary that allows us to live comfortably? Amid the chaos, it’s easy to lose track of the beginning and the importance of beginning well.

It’s school concert season. We’re looking forward to attending the plethora concerts at the school where Lindsey teaches. Lindsey’s dad once remarked that the true measure of a parent’s devotion is the sixth grade orchestra concert. We’re sure that any parent who has heard the squeaks, creaks, screeches, squeals, and other indescribable utterances of new strings and brass players has some sympathy for Lindsey’s dad’s position. But beginning bands and orchestras everywhere have something to tell us about the joy of beginnings.

Making beginnings is hard. Taking first steps involves a lot of falling flat on your behind. Sitting with a 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old just learning how to read can try the patience of many people. Learning to tie your shoes is hard. Trying to figure out why math suddenly has letters in it when you get to 7th, 8th, or 9th grade has never been easy. Declaring a college major can be a major cause for existential crises. Beginnings are rarely glamorous.

Sizing beginning steps for another person is even harder than determining what you need when starting something for yourself. Do you throw new language learners into the deep end of an immersion experience? Do you risk picking repertoire so easy that a musician doesn’t have to practice at all? Do you seek objective measures of “talent” before indicating that a person has potential? Do you take the attitude that everyone is constantly beginning?

Beginning anything that’s positive, godly, or holy is a joyous experience. When you get started, you expect that it’s going to be hard. There’s something about knowing just enough to make an honest attempt, however falteringly. Beginnings can be fragile. What beginner wants to continue trying when he or she is being held to an impossible standard by someone unwilling to nurture the effort? Conversely, what happens when a person’s natural aptitude and circumstances make a particular beginning relatively easy and straightforward? What about the risk of developing an entitled, “I’m invincible!” attitude?” Trying to find the balance between recognizing the effort and fostering growth is hard.

In terms of fostering spiritual growth, it’s no surprise that churches and their clergy have trouble finding the sweet spot between giving everyone a pat on the head accompanied by, “God loves you. Don’t worry about your sins,” and praising an exalted ideal that is anything but obtainable. There are Christians who are terrified of saying the word sin because they don’t want to drive others away from the church. When this happens, churches can neglect serious conversations about important subjects in the interest of trying to get along. Conversely, there are Christians who are absolutely willing to play hard ball at all times lest they become complicit with someone else’s sin. Conversations happen in these circumstances, but they’re detached from any sense of lived experience. Exclusive use of either approach fails at providing appropriate spiritual guidance. With the first approach, any spiritual growth that occurs seems to be by happenstance rather than challenge toward spiritual maturity. With the second, people often feel so much pressure to put on their “perfect Christian” masks that they fail to share life together.

Remembering that we’re all beginners at Christlikeness can do a lot to help us grow closer to God. Preparatory seasons like Advent and Lent are a great time to think about making a beginning. Even though Lindsey’s faith journey started in a church with a liturgical calendar, it took Lindsey 7 years to have any sense of personal Advent devotion. During Lindsey’s senior year of college, Lindsey felt a strong need to observe the season and fashioned dorm-friendly candles from construction paper. Each Sunday leading up to Christmas, Lindsey would tape a flame in place. Lindsey has never quite figured out why observing Advent as Advent is so important, but something keeps gnawing a bit inside every year about why preparing for Christmas matters. If someone would have given Lindsey an extended lecture about the importance of using real candles, praying exclusively from one particular prayer book, or attending services at churches that use the right rubrics for Advent, then the joy of Lindsey’s effort with construction paper would have been lost.

Beginnings can also be broadenings. Sharing our life together has given the two of us opportunities to broaden our spiritual practices. Sarah has taught Lindsey a lot about how the rosary can foster devotion to God and understands that Lindsey does not have the same kinds of experiences in praying the rosary. Sometimes a beginning remains a beginning. Other times, a beginning fosters something new. Lindsey grew up praying whatever came to mind in freely-formed prayers. When we met, Sarah didn’t exactly know what to make of Lindsey’s prayerful outbursts. Sarah was hesitant about free-formed prayer and was cautious about praying aloud. Lindsey understood where Sarah was coming from, so we spent time together discerning how free-formed prayer would be a part of our shared spiritual life. There have been many times in our life together where we have wanted different ways to share Sarah’s health needs with God. Sarah has often used periods of illness to experiment with free-formed prayer. As a consequence of using free-form prayer more regularly, Sarah’s prayer discipline has broadened to include spontaneous prayers with traditional prayers. If we were not patient with each other regarding differences in spiritual practice, both of us would feel discouraged. At the same time, if we did not challenge each other to explore new ways of connecting with God, neither of us would experience much development in our prayer lives.

Advent and school concert seasons have some things in common. In Advent, we wait. We wait for Christ who is to be fully revealed to us in the fullness of time. We have the prophesies, and we hope with big expectant hopes. Our Advent efforts are feeble and often out of tune. By observing Advent each year, we hope to get just that much better. Marking Advent creates space for celebrating the joy of beginnings, even if we know that there’s far more to the story. Christ’s incarnation is a story of meeting people where we are while simultaneously inviting us to participate in a much larger story.

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.