Added value 1/3photo © 2008 alessandro isnotaurelio √ | more info (via: Wylio)If you have no inclination to hear punk music or to consider the realities of a screwed up nation, then I cannot recommend against NOFX’s The Decline EP strongly enough– it would be far too jolting. But should you hazard a listen, you will be rocked hard for 18 minutes and 20 seconds.  And what may rock you hardest is hearing this: We are the Queer. We are the Whore.

I don’t know that I could be more religiously misaligned with this band that I so enjoy, and yet these words of theirs pierce me. No matter how many times I listen, I cannot help but break this line out of its political context with a Christ-imprinted grip: We are the Queer. We are the Whore.

I have friends who identify themselves as “queer,” and what they mean is, first, to strip the word and its wielders of lashing power, and, also, to say, I am different, perhaps peculiar; I am not ashamed.

But that’s not all it means to be queer. It often means not to be accepted, not to be “gotten.” Not to be welcomed by the mainstream; worse, not to be loved by the Church. To be berated, defamed, accused. Rejected by the ones most dearly loved. 

Jesus knew what it was to be the Queer. If I am in Him, then I know it, too. We are the Queer.

And having followed after Him all these years, so desperate, so broken, so full of hurt and shame, I know what it is to be the Whore.

I once heard a man share that he had happened to ride in an elevator with a prostitute. He said he knew the types of looks she was used to getting from men, and out of his love for Jesus, he was determined not to look at her that way. So he looked up to the floor numbers. He did not look at her at all.

And my heart broke hearing this story, because even though the man said the woman in the elevator thanked him, my own whore heart guesses at what she really craved. She didn’t want averted eyes. She wanted eyes that looked at her and shone compassion. The opposite of lust isn’t abstinence; it’s love. We are the Whore.

I think the man who told the story loved the best way he knew how, and truly, it may have been enough for that woman. But I am grateful, soul deep, that Jesus doesn’t avert His eyes from me. We are the Queer. We are the Whore– He looks me straight on and His eyes shine compassion.

And, so blessed with that love, I am different, perhaps peculiar; I am not ashamed.

72 comments

  1. I am the queer. I am the whore. and I’m desperate for someone with eyes and arms of grace to truly see me and to hold me into a second chance. and a third, and a fourth, and a fifteenth chance. and I want to be the scandalous grace-giver of eleventy-two chances to others who also need them. like me.

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    • Tamara

      Amen. Bless you, new friend.

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    • Alece,

      This is a fabulous statement. I’m definitely going to pass it on.

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    • Wow, Alece! What a punctuation mark on this post. Mercy … “and I want to be the scandulous grace-giver of eleventy-two chances to others who also need them. Like me.” Oh, me, too. Me, too.

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  2. This article is really an eye-opener. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

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  3. I am the queer, I am the whore. I am different, I am broken, I am hurt. And I need His eyes full of grace upon me and His arms around me.

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  4. I’m finally coming to grips with the truth that as badly as I want to clean up the outside, blend in, or stand out in only acceptable ways, I am a Queer and a Whore inside. And he sees that inside of me. And he loves me. And his love is *enough,* even if the rest of the world sees and labels and shuns.

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    • Tamara

      Your last sentence: Amen. And thank you.

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  5. Just beautiful, my friend.

    This reminds me of the song by The Violet Burning, Song of the Harlot.

    In my life, sorrw has kissed my lonely heart
    Fear of man tears me apart
    And I try, but many times I’ve loved the world
    So many times I’ve been the whore
    And I cried a million tears, or maybe more
    So many times I have been the whore
    I will fall down on my knees
    And I will sing “I love you”

    Anyway, it’s a delight seeing your face over here. Love you.

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  6. There’s no way, in light of what our sin cost our Savior, that we could ever have the right to look down on another person. The cost of my own sin weighs heavy on my heart when I think of what my Lord had to endure to wash me clean. Thank you for encouraging us to really “see” people and love on them! Let us not forget the price paid for us, and that none of us is worthy, but we are “saved by grace.”

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  7. “the opposite of lust isnt abstinence; its love”

    i love that. and i wish someone had told me that as a young person.

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    • I agree. what a powerful statement.

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      • Adding my voice to the agreement. This sentence is going to play on repeat in my mind all day, and hopefully beyond today.

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    • This really touched me. I have to remember to tell my children this.

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  8. Oh, Tamara, my lovely new friend. Beautiful.

    A genuine awareness of God can only come from an earnest awareness of self. Which I am still learning. Haphazardly. But you do it better.

    Because then we know just how severe the break was, how impossible reconciliation was, and how desperate God must have been to win our queer, whorish hearts back.

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  9. tamara, i love your post and perspective. love.

    i organized a multi-station worship experience at my church for good friday, and picking songs, i knew enough about my audience to know that derek webb’s “wedding dress” (i am a whore/ i do confess) could not go on the playlist–even though is is beautiful, worshipful, and lifted from hosea and scripture. if the Church can’t own up to being the whore, we’ve got a ways to go before seeing ourselves as queer (stranger/alien, anyone?), but i think this conversation should happen. thank you for broaching it.

    i also think maybe i need to check out NOFX. i do like me some bad religion, social distortion, rancid, anti-flag, and, um, a whole bunch of sleepy singer songwriters and indie rockers;)

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  10. Carey

    In our church, we have a saying: “Everyone is everything to God.” Think about it. Everyone. Not just those who are not gay, or prostitutes, or dirty, or homeless, or drunk, or whatever else your particular prejudice might be. Every. One. We are called to love as God loved. If we are excluding anyone from that love, we have taken one giant step away from walking in the light of Christianity. Because every single one of us desperately needs to be loved in that way ourselves.

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  11. beautiful. poignant. so very true. i am the whore. metaphoricly and practically. i am the queer one, hiding behind pink hair, tattoos, & piercngs. i am the abused; the feel of too many naked men pressed up against me. i am the brokenhearted; shifting and averting my gaze from the eyes of others. i am the terrified; walking passed believers who are unsure of how to love me. but the best thing of all: i am the saved; free of shame and guilt. i am the redeemed; loved and cherished, called beloved. it is the last two that i must focus on.

    i am the saved.
    i am the redeemed.
    i am beloved.

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    • Brittany, your words pierce my heart. I am so glad you know your beauty and your value in the eyes of the Lord. You are, indeed, beloved. There’s so much hurt in the church, in how we are treating people, and I hope you always remember the Source of your worth is in Christ alone. God bless you today!

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      • shannon- i’m glad you felt something in reading my words. often when writing i find that the words i wrote are more of a reminder for me rather than words written for others. i must first remember that i am His beloved so i can tell others. sending blessings your way.

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        • brittany, this touched me deeply. your rawness, your realness, your courage and bravery … thank you for lingering here.
          so much love.

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          • rain- thank you for your kind words. sometimes it’s easier to write on here than speak my thoughts aloud.

  12. Your words had beat-rhythm and I could hear it while I read.

    I loved this Tamara.

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  13. This was a beautiful piece of writing.

    Thank you in particular for writing about the prostitute in the elevator. I think most of the Christians I know just avert their eyes. Not just from the prostitute, but from every difficult, abnormal, unclean situation. If they simply ignore, they don’t need to show compassion. If they pretend it’s not happening, they don’t have to get themselves involved and associated with it.

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    • “if they pretend it’s not happening, they don’t have to get themselves involved and associated with it.” truth. sometimes i think we are called to place our hands against the gaping bleeding heart of the world. we pray prayers of rescue, but shouldn’t we be willing to play the part of the rescuers? too long have we not gotten involved. it doesn’t work. it’s time to get our hands dirty.

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    • Reminds me of this quote from MLKJ, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

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  14. Wonderful article, Tamara! Beautiful and poignant.

    Thank you.

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  15. Beautiful, T. And wise too.

    A story:
    When I was in my second year teaching (at a Christian school), I started each class with current events discussions. One day, we were discussing a human rights case where a man had been sent to work at the back of the store because he was gay.

    A week later, at 10 p.m., I got a phone call from a father (who was a pastor), very concerned that I had been promoting gay rights and didn’t I know that the Bible said blah blah blah. My 24-year-old self was scared and nervous. He went on and on, judging me, “teaching me.”

    I mentioned compassion. He went on. Then I said, “Jesus talked to a prostitute at the well without championing prostitution.” He got that. He cleared his voice and said, “Thank you for your time, Ms. Shirtliffe.”

    And that was further “proof” to me that there is a compassionate God and that we all are children of God. Because those words were given to me.

    Yes, We are the Queer and We are the Whore.

    We are the loved. And we are called to love.

    Amen, sister.

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  16. Tamara –
    Thank you for this post today. It was just what I needed. To be reminded that Christ doesn’t avert His eyes from me in all my brokenness of my life. But it also touched me deeply to think of the times I, too, have averted my eyes. Not because I wanted to so much, but because I didn’t know how to respond. A desire to respond to those Christ calls us to love, but feeling inadequate. I forget that if I just love and lean in to Him that He will lead me with my heart open and my eyes full of His love and mercy.
    Thank you. Godspeed, Elizabeth

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  17. A beautiful and humble piece.
    And concerning the elevator story–geez! Just because you’re not being a jerk to someone, aka, oggling or judging her, does not mean you’re being loving. That’s the least you can do…we’re called to a much deeper and more radical love. It reminds me of when I’m talking to people about Muslims, and is essence, they say, “I don’t HATE them, so I’m okay,” when it actuality we’re called to love the bejeezus out of them. But hey, this is coming from a queer whore so I’m just so thankful that, as you said, God looks on me with love even when I’m in my cheap stilettos and faux leather jacket.
    Thanks for this. It helped me think a lot of thunks…I mean, thunk a few thinks..or whatever. ;)

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  18. I want so badly to have eloquent words of praise for what you wrote, but all I could say, after I read the last line of this beautiful post was,

    “BOOM!”

    Awesome.

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    • Mom

      “Boom” is right! Fabulous article, Tamara!

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  19. Debbie

    Thank you! YES WE ARE! Love you for speaking words I don’t have.

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    • Tamara

      Humbled to be given a gift.

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  20. Wow. Thank you for your vulnerability and the challenge.

    “The opposite of lust isn’t abstinence; it’s love.” Why do we feel just looking away will solve the hurt, instead of looking deep into it?

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    • oh, yes, “looking deeply into it” and seeing the whole person/community who is there, not just the stereotypes and prejudices that we bring to the story.

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  21. “The opposite of lust isn’t abstinence; it’s love.”
    Love. Although I still strongly believe in abstinence I couldn’t agree more with having love too. Often I judge. More often than not. I’m not as accepting as I should be. I don’t have to accept the sin but I should love the person just as they are – just like Jesus does.

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  22. I was the queer, the whore. And Jesus never, ever looked away! He kept calling to me. And now I am the husband, the father, the beloved. But I’m still different, peculiar. And still beloved!

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  23. I love the message of this post; ie. that Jesus doesn’t look away from us, doesn’t avert His eyes or His love for us.

    But I will say that something about this post troubled me. Analogizing Jesus’ rejection to “being the Queer” and “being the Whore” strikes me as irreverent to the Person of our Lord.

    Jesus was rejected for claiming to be God. He was not rejected for sexual sin. Comparing the two sorta stuns me.

    Am I reading this wrong? Maybe I need some clarification? Thanks for understanding.
    EE

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    • KatR

      I guess for me reading the words “queer” and “whore” in this context does not so much bring up the sexual connotations of the words, but more the total rejection that a person who wears those labels receives from “polite” society. I can definitely relate that to what Jesus went through on earth.

      I’m not sure if that helps any. :)

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    • there is a significant aspect of queer identity that has little to do with sex or sin–think of the children and teens who are tormented for being different. since jesus ministered to (identified with?) oppressed outsiders and was himself put to death by reigning political and religious authorities, the metaphor resonates with me.

      i can see where one might find the label disrespectful–i wouldn’t print bumper stickers yet;)–but i think our discomfort begs hard questions about the nature and scope of grace and creates a good kind of tension.

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      • Yes, this makes sense insofar as the label and outsider label is dehumanizing and is used–even by Christians–as justification for rejection.

        The part that I object to is applying this label to the Person of Christ Himself–even as a metaphor. Yes, He ministered to sinners. But I think we need to be absolutely unequivocal about the fact that Jesus Himself was sinless. When a metaphor like “Jesus knew what it was to be the queer” is used, there are several layers of meaning. Could someone read this and think: “Is she saying Jesus knew what it was to be the queer because he knew what it was to sexually desire men”? Or is this strictly a case of Jesus knew rejection, therefore He understands ALL rejection? My point is, certain metaphors can be tricky. I think this one qualifies.

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        • “Is she saying Jesus knew what it was to be the queer because he knew what it was to sexually desire men”?
          I think that’s actually an interesting question because Paul says Christ was tempted in “all ways.” I know the RC church teaches that Christ was only tempted in non-passionate sins, but as Catholic as I am I disagree with the church on that. I’ve always assumed that Christ was tempted by sexual sin. But I’ve always assumed it was heterosexual sin. This makes me wonder if he was tempted by homosexual sin as well.

          You’re right, this metaphor can be tricky, but I think it’s one to definitely look at.

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    • Being Queer has nothing to do with “sexual sin”, it means that you don’t fit into the box of orientation/presentation that your gender is typically put in, and that you are not sure how to categorize yourself. Nothing sinful about it.

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      • @Young Mom: Sure, that’s one definition of being queer. There are many other definitions of being queer which are widely used and understood today. This, in fact, proves my point because when we use a word like queer in the same sentence as the name of Jesus, we better be pretty clear about what we mean. The name of Jesus deserves more respect than that.

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    • I don’t see that Tamara ever referred to Jesus as “being the whore.”

      I think the word queer to define Christ is actually really clever. It generally represents someone who rejects any kind of label. Rejecting normal gender roles seems like something that Jesus embraced (speaking to the woman at the well was a massive rejection of gender roles, as was allowing the woman of ill-repute to wash his feet with her tears & hair).

      When here, Jesus didn’t seem too concerned with His reputation. Whether he was defending a woman caught in adultery, picking wheat on the Sabbath, spending time with tax collectors or hanging around with the riffraff of society, Jesus never saw the need to defend his own reputation. As a Christian, I find that exceedingly liberating. And perhaps a little queer.

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      • Good points, Alise! Your perspective makes sense to me insofar as we’re saying: “I’m queer because I’m different/reject labels/a-stereotypical.”

        But that’s really not the only definition of queer and especially when used with the word “whore” in this post–I see an obvious sexual connotation, here.

        So, yes. I AM uncomfortable with using sexual language to (as you said yourself) to “define Christ.”

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        • One of my very best friends defined his thesis today on the Eucharist being transgender. I’m excited/nervous/scared to read it because of the idea of using sexual language in this context.

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          • The Eucharist as transgendered? Wow. I really did not see that coming.

            Yikes.

    • Tamara

      I’m glad you felt the message; thanks for saying so.

      I explained in the paragraph right before I said “Jesus knew what it was to be the Queer” what I meant by the metaphor, and I’m hopeful that my writing is strong enough that not many would take away a sexual inference.

      I also never called Him “the Whore.” I think I was pretty clear that that’s all me.

      I used the two words together because those are the song lyrics that stir me, and rather than make any sort of sexual or sinful statement about Jesus, I think they show all the more His beauty and grace. He is unafraid to enter into our lives no matter what – no matter WHAT.

      I am irreverent about most things in life, but if you knew how my heart loves this Jesus, you would be assured I would never flippantly misname Him. And if, in spite of my best intentions, my words in this post are wrong, His grace is shown all the stronger because He sees them and He still assures me I am His.

      Blessed to call Him “Savior” alongside you, EE.

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      • Thanks for the clarification, Tamara. I sincerely appreciate it. My apologies for combining the two statements in my original comment. Thank you for your grace. EE.

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  24. I don’t know why I’m not already acquainted with NOFX but I will have to remedy that soon. While reading your words, Derek Webb’s “Wedding Dress” came to mind.
    “i am a whore i do confess
    but i put you on just like a wedding dress
    and i run down the aisle
    i’m a prodigal with no way home
    but i put you on just like a ring of gold
    and i run down the aisle to you”
    His lyrics have been circulating in my heart for a few months now and this post captures why. Prone to wander, don’t we all feel it?

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    • That’s exactly what I was thinking when I was reading her post. I love that song. I love the truth in it. I love the fact that Jesus loves us so absolutely that he rejoices to see us running (or limping) towards him.

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  25. Tiffany

    From a girl who recently made the bold statement that I will NOT be back into a church until I find one that would welcome the whore – and not just welcome her, but love her, like Jesus loves her; I appreciate this post so much.

    Thank you for saying this. Thank you for bringing this point to light.

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    • {{hugs}}
      much love to you this evening…

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  26. My son & I just read about when Jesus called Matthew for our homeschool curriculum today. Jesus always sought after, accepted & loved the rejected, the outcast. Thank God! Because I am one of those too.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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  27. Allow me a moment to wipe my own eyes and examine the place within my deepest heart that fairly exploded, reading this and all that came after.

    Powerful, beautiful words from all of you. My fellow whores, my fellow queers.

    Beloveds. Be loved. Be love.

    I am speechless to find my own soul, bared here.

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  28. “To whom much is given, much is requred”. As believers we have been given a gift of His lavish Grace. We MUST extend that grace to others.

    Blessings,

    Cindy

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  29. I’ve had some pretty hostile people come at me when they find out I’m a Christian. Of course, they feel the pinch of whatever that word has done to them. One objection I’ve often heard is that Christians are judgmental a-holes and some of the first examples are about how homosexuality is treated by the church. Of course they come up with plenty other examples of bad things done by people in the name of Christ.

    The truth of the message isn’t what screwed up people have done but what Christ did. He set the example. Not only did he hang out with people like that woman at the well, he went to the lepers, and no one had as much of a social stigma as lepers. No fear. No judgment. Just love in those moments. That’s the example. That’s all that matters.

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  30. “But I am grateful, soul deep, that Jesus doesn’t avert His eyes from me. We are the Queer. We are the Whore– He looks me straight on and His eyes shine compassion.”

    This is such a mind-blowing thing! What’s crazy is that even when we ARE ashamed and don’t want him to, he still looks us straight on. Thanks for calling us to be unashamed in the love lavished upon us.

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  31. tamara …
    WOW. this stuns in all the right places.

    I am grateful, soul deep, that Jesus doesn’t avert His eyes from me. We are the Queer. We are the Whore– He looks me straight on and His eyes shine compassion.

    soul-deep grateful with you, sister. XO.

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  32. Been thinking about this post all day. Lots to chew. Lots to digest and bring before the Lord. I’ll admit the words were a bit shocking at this stage in my life, but I have been those labels and breathe His grace and tender mercy daily … washed white as snow and made free. He is not just good, but amazing and teaching me to always extend His grace because He died for all and all are beautiful.

    Not sure about love being the opposite of lust. Maybe it’s the way this world defines “love” and sex, which is so far removed from what is Jesus’ love. But, a beautiful thought-provoking post none-the-less.

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  33. Marquis Crocker

    Good post, it made me think. I need to reevaluate my view of some things.

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  34. Beautiful post! I read it this morning … thought about it off and on all day, came back to read it again and like it even better now.

    Thank you!

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  35. Sarah Hamersma

    This post makes me think about the way the “Jesus Storybook Bible” characterizes the source of our lostness:
    ***
    “Does God really love you?” the serpent whispered…
    The snake’s words hissed into [Eve's] ears and sunk down deep into her heart, like poison. Does God love me? Eve wondered. Suddenly she didn’t know anymore.
    ***
    Your post is a reminder that we still struggle with what’s so fundamentally true and yet so hard to believe. Thanks.

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  36. This is so beautiful. I love what you said about the woman in the elevator, and I agree that what she wanted was to be looked at with eyes full of compassion.

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  37. Tamara, i LOVED this! your title was certainly jarring…but so challenging. thanks for the challenge i would have never put all those thoughts together like you did. great:)

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  38. Thanks for the courage of your words, Tamara! So, so appreciated.
    Your comment that the man in the elevator loved the best he knew how had me asking myself how can I push the limits of my love capabilities to keep getting bigger and bigger… how can I look toward when I want to look away… how can I balance the need to give myself grace with the conviction to really live the love of Jesus…

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  39. Very well written, Tamara. Thank you so much for sharing this and congratulations on the post! I look forward to seeing more of your work.

    I’m not a deeply religious person myself, but I can certainly understand what you’re saying and it bolsters my own belief. Thank you for that.

    :)

    Reply

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