Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why I Hate Halloween.

Go ahead. Gasp. Roll your eyes.  Judge me as a condescending, judgmental, religious fanatic and fun-hater.  Go ahead...get it our of your system.  It's true.  I HATE Halloween.  I don't use that word much...almost never in fact. But in this case, it is entirely appropriate.

I've come to find out it's kinda crazy - and pretty unheard of,  but the truth is:  I have never celebrated Halloween.  I never went trick-or-treating as a kid. Not once.  AND I married a guy who never has either.  Weird right?  I guess weirdo's attract.  And here is the kicker... we've never taken our 4 kids out, OR handed out candy... We don't celebrate Halloween. (I think there was one time when some friends brought over their adorable costumed kiddos and I found some old tootsie rolls on top of the refrigerator to throw in their bucket. And another time that T1 had on his Incredibles jammies and I added black snow boots to it and he looked like Dash - and it was October 31. True confessions.)

Anywho... I know some of you might be wondering what life was like for a little girl growing up in suburbia who didn't celebrate Halloween.  Here's a peek:

Growing up there was this build up of anxiety as the beginning of school excitement wore off,  and changing of the fall leaves became common.  People started talking about "What are you going to be for Halloween?" Ugh.  I hated that question.  I hated the raised eyebrows and the looks of disgust when I simply and shyly said, "We don't celebrate Halloween." I hated going home early on the day of our class Halloween party (we still had those way back then) - or worse sitting in the library until it was over.  I hated beggars night, when my mom would post an out-of-context Bible verse on our door and we would sit in the dark in our basement until the doorbell stopped ringing. And I hated the morning after, when everyone was talking about the fun they had and the best candy loot.

But before you start feeling sorry for me and all the fun I missed and scorn I endured,  you need to know - this is not why I hate Halloween.

It's taken me many years to figure out the real reason I hate it so much.  You see, even in the midst of the struggles that battling it caused me growing up, deep down, it was something I wanted nothing to do with. There was an underdeveloped but persistent conviction that it wasn't just harmless costumes and candy.  While I wasn't ready to label it "devil worship" - as my mother explained it - there was a sense of evil and darkness - even in the princesses and cowboys.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist - or theologian - to look around and figure out what Halloween is about.  Whether you buy into the folklore about the spirits coming out on All Hallow's Eve the night before All Saints Day and people trying to scare them away with scary jack-o-lanterns and costumes or whether you just think kids in superhero costumes are adorable and want to feed America's obesity epidemic (just kidding) you cannot deny that Halloween - in its most basic form is about three things -

Fear. Death. and Darkness.

Mummies, zombies, ghosts, graveyards, jack-o-lanterns - just think about Halloween and you can fit most of its traditional markers into one of those categories. Why was my weekly Redbox promo email filled with horror movies this week? At this time of year, our culture is saturated with these things...its what Halloween is about. No matter how you try to sweeten it.

And I want nothing to do with it.  Nothing.

Here are three things I want to be about:  Love. Life. and Light.

Funny how these are the polar opposite of the three afore mentioned themes of this holiday.  How can I take a one night, or one season, break from my foundational beliefs in the name of what, fun? Here is why I hate Halloween.  It celebrates - glorifies - sensationalizes, whatever you want to call it - the complete opposite of what I want my life to stand for.   I so desperately want the world to know deep love, abundant life and true light that I can't see any circumstance to celebrate its nemesis. No amount of fun or cuteness or candy (well maybe Snickers...just kidding) could tempt me to give the opponent an open shot - at my heart, or my home, or the people I love.  I give Evil ground too often without knowing it, to pretend that treading knowingly in enemy territory isn't asking for trouble.

Growing up it was implied that people who did choose to celebrate Halloween were "celebrating Satan".  I have worked really hard to make sure my kids understand that, while I don't understand why, (because I really don't) there are really good people who choose to celebrate Halloween.  They don't see the harm in an innocent costume and candy. I want our kids to have soft, compassionate hearts towards everyone, whether we agree on everything or not.  I want to keep them from judgmental and self-righteous attitudes for as long as I can.  This is not a holier-than-thou soap box sermon.  It's one of those precious, real times when I can show them that being fully engaged in the messiness of this world provides us with an opportunity to stand strong and reminds everyone, maybe mostly ourselves, to whom we belong.

But, make no mistake,  I have worked equally as hard to help our kids understand why we don't celebrate.  I've taken the opportunity to help them understand that somethings I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole.  An opossum is one, and the dark realities of Halloween are another.  I don't scoff at a jack-o-lantern or make them burn the Halloween word search from their spelling lesson.  And there will come a time when I will let them make their own choices about their participation.  But when given the opportunity, when comforting them after they've had to utter the dreaded, "We don't celebrate Halloween." to a friend, I am sure to remind them, that we want to be about life, and light and love.  And that sometimes, what everybody else does and thinks is going to be different than what we think. And that it's hard.  And I think they are beginning to understand. I think they have that deep-down knowing too.

And just so we're clear...

There is no shortage of celebrating at our house house. We dress up all the time. (Do I need to tell you how dramatic we all are??!!) We throw big themed birthday parties every year where each of our kids can express what they are "into" that year. We eat candy (probably more often than we should).  Because there isn't anything wrong with those things.

But the lessons learned, about being in the light, and about being the light were not lost on this little girl.

"Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why I Don't Homeschool

We all make choices. What to wear, what to eat, how to discipline, what to read, where to shop, how fast to drive, what to say, what not to say.  We all make choices and we tend to think (whether we admit it or not) that our choices are better than those that choose otherwise.

Why would we make a choice we thought wasn't best?

Granted, there are times we wish we'd made a better choice.  But when it comes to the big things - how to raise your  kids, how to spend your money, where to live, etc; we often feel a need to justify and defend our decisions.  And it's really great if we can convince others that they should make the same decision we did - cause somehow that means we are right.  And we like to be right, don't we?

Right about the time I started this blog I had a post that vaguely talked about an issue I was wrestling with; something that was a really tough decision for me.  I couldn't see a clear leading either way...initially.

So here it is.  The issue was "Do I homeschool our kids? Or not?" It's always a question a I get when people find out I have an education degree.  I've always said that if it seemed like the best thing for  one of them I would, but that I didn't think that that meant I had to for all of them.  Furthermore, I work in and respect the public school system - especially here where our schools and teachers are outstanding.   Move me somewhere where that isn't true and I might change my tune.   This was always my stance: I am not saying I wouldn't, I just haven't felt called to it.

So here was the dilemma - I was starting to feel like I "should" homeschool - but not that I was necessarily "called" to homeschool.  Does that make sense?  Let me explain.  I have friends that homeschool, I have more friends that homeschool now... and sometimes it seemed that the "right" and "Christian" thing to do is to homeschool. This was the spoken and unspoken vibe I often got.  But as I wrestled...and I mean wrestled, with this decision it became more and more clear to me that there was much to consider in this decision. It was not black and white. For us.

I want to be respectful, because as many of you know, I am not one who is easily influenced by others. I speak MY mind and make MY own decisions, so you need to know that these influences where coming from people that I love and respect.  I do believe that some of them have made this decision out of a clear calling from the LORD and I bless them in that decision.  My difficulty comes with the instances of trying to convince others that their decision is the best...for everyone.  Often, this is accompanied by an implication that if they would really listen to God, they too would come to the conclusion that homeschooling is right, and other forms of education are wrong...or at least a mild form of neglectful parenting.

Let's remember what I said before - you make and act on decisions because you believe them to be best. I get that.

The longer I wrestled, the more uneasy I became about homeschooling.  And I felt horrible about it.  I felt guilty, because there had become this stern voice inside that said, "If you really love your kids, and want them to excel, and be good Christians, then you should homeschool them." Conversely, "If you are an incapable parent, who cares not about feeding your children to the droning machine of society and immorality you will choose the EASY option of institutional education."

I loved the idea of more time with my kids.  I love my kids, most of us do.  I loved the idea of expanded curriculum, more time to connect spiritual life with everyday learnings, creating a school room, more fluid schedules, and the list goes on and on. I even think it would be really fun. I really like the idea of having more control over my kids' influence. Stop the bus.  There it was. 'I' and 'control'.

I have a deep belief that as a parent my job is to make my kids independent, functioning, contributing, and influencing members of society.  That my job is to slowly and gently guide them as they become who God made them to be.  To give them the tools and experiences to be radical lovers of their neighbor and glorifiers of their Maker.  To slowly give over my control of them and teach them how to follow the Spirit in, sometimes difficult and dark places.  To love and engage with those who don't think they way they do.  To root and establish them in truth and love so that they can navigate the waters of diversion with courage, steadfastness and grace.  While some see this as a clear reason to increase my influence over them and their education, I realized it was a clear call to continue to send them to public school.

Over the next months God has continued to affirm our decision...for our family.

Here's how it played out.  I was subbing at the public school for the first time since this big battle in my heart started.  As I walked down the hallway it was as if the LORD was shining lights on certain kids; kids from great Christ-following families, great kids, who are influencing their friends in important ways. It was a clear message that 'Christian' does not equal 'homeschool'.  Not even close.  Something I knew, but needed to be reminded of.

Next was my struggle with having kids that are seemingly more capable than the grade level curriculum they are given.  I ran across a "First Day of School Letter" on Pinterest that really put my feelings into words.  It basically says "I don't send you to school to be the smartest, or best.  I send you to school to practice being kind." That resonated so deeply.  I don't really care if my kid is the smartest. GASP.  I don't.  Yes, I want him to be all God created him to be. I believe he can become that by moving at grade level pace with his peers.  I think all of my kids have the ability to do more than they are required, and I will continue to challenge their thinking here at home. (Because, I do still have time with them). But the fact that academics are easy will increase the time they have to practice loving.  If one of them proves to be an athletic type, well then we will encourage them to work hard, to lead well, to influence team members - to love well.  And if they win, great.  You see, I've adopted this montre that God isn't looking for superheros (or super smarties), He's looking for servants.  Public school is a great place for my kids to develop their love for their neighbor. So, yes, at home I could teach my nine year old algebra - but I can't teach him how to navigate the playground with his peers, how to pick out the kid in his class who bullies and encourage him to try to figure out his story.  He'll learn algebra with the others, and he'll still get to go to college, if that's what is in store, even though he didn't learn Latin.

My last and biggest hurdle was this idea that "good" parents homeschool.  That the sacrifice of time and sanity that it takes to homeschool is what "good" parents choose.  That somehow, sending your kids to school each fall, putting them on the bus each morning was easy.  That if I sent my kids to public school I somehow cared, even loved them less.  I love my kids. I miss them when they are at school.  I want to protect them from the evils of the world, from the names, and hurts they experience that I can't prevent.  Sending them to school is not easy.  It is a faith-filled, prayer covered, daily surrendered decision to let go of control.  An exercise in entrusting them to the one who loves them even more than I do.  This decision also makes it increasingly important to maximize the time I do have with them. To really engage with them in the waking hours they are home.  To spill my faith all over them while they are with me, and to intentionally parent beyond finishing homework and brushing teeth.  This, friends, is definitely not easy.

I recently finished Just Courage by Gary Haugen.  In the last few chapters came my latest confirmation, that our family's decision to stay in public school was right for us.  He talks about how you can't be brave and safe.  That Jesus calls us to risk, to give up security, to be brave.  Simply, I want to be brave.  I want brave kids that take risks for the kingdom.  For me homeschooling was safe, a way towards ensuring that I did whatever I could to produce skilled, successful, spiritual children. Public school is a courageous choice, for us.

Here comes the hard part, and I really want to be heard here.  I am not trying to convince anyone that public school is the "right" choice.  I don't want someone to ignore a call to homeschool.  I think there are certain families that are clearly called and follow in obedience into homeschooling.  I see great advantages to it.  However, I also see a lack of Christians offering their reasons for NOT homeschooling.  As I wrestled, it seemed that on one side were families that decide after careful consideration to homeschool, and on the other, families who don't consider how to educate their kids and, so, send them to public school as a default.  I wanted to speak on behalf of those who have carefully considered  and are following in obedience by choosing to send our kids to public school.

I also want you to hear this: How you choose to educate your children is highly specific to your family.  As I said before,  we make our choices based on what we believe to be best.  So, if you homeschool - you believe it's best. I choose to send my kids to public school, I think it's best.  We that take the time to consider would not choose something second rate.  Here is my request - that we not try to convince others of our "rightness".  That we not assume that our choice is best for everyone.

I also want to cover this whole post in grace.  I know there are a lot of controversial things in this discussion including the implication that things like 'loving your neighbor' cannot be practiced outside of a school setting.  I am not implying this.  I am only sharing part of the journey that I took in our decision.  I am not looking to defend my decision, or to put homeschooling families on the defensive.  I am simply, but apparently not briefly, sharing my experience.

Post Script - For inquiring minds, this is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons for our decision.  There are others, but as I have said, they are personal and specific to our situation. I also want to inform that before posting I had some homeschooling as well as public school parents read my post.  Their feedback was appreciated.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back from Africa!

Well, I have been utterly terrible at updating this lately, but I did want to share at least a few pictures and a brief overview of my time in Uganda earlier this month. The trip ended up being more of a work trip than we expected which was fine.  We learned that in Uganda, you just go with the flow and usually have a pretty great time. An example of this was that Craig was preaching and we were staying with the head pastor and yet we left for church 20 minutes after it started.  But no big deal!  We had to give up our American values of promptness and planning - it was a great lesson.

So while we did see the kids from the orphan bases it wasn't much time with them. However, after meeting them and seeing them, we realized they are so well adjusted and cared for - there wouldn't be much for us to do. So, we relinquished our time with them to a couple of afternoons of playing.

4 of our 6 days in country were spent building this widow home - actually a 'duplex':

Day 1 - carrying pans of dirt to fill the floors.
Day 2 - carrying bricks - 2 by 2 - and mortar in the pans.
Day 3 - finishing up walls and the latrine.
This is the day I learned to lay brick using a plumb line and string.
Day 4 - Here is Agnes (left) and Sarah and her kids (right) who will live in the house.
The house (paid for by funds raised by the students of Third Church) allowed us the opportunity to work with some of the staff from FDLM as well as a number of the kids.  After the kids graduate from high school they basically wait their turn to attend college - which comes whenever David can get the $2000/year it costs to send 1 student.  While they wait they act as support staff and help on the orphan bases and with ministry projects like this one.  We also enjoyed help and time with the local village kids and women.

Here is a picture of all of us who worked on the house.  You'll hear more specifically about some of their stories later.
The Crew
Despite their faces here - they are such a joyful and social people...they do not however, like to smile for pictures. :)

David Zijjan (above on the right by Mark and Craig - in jeans) - the founder of Father's Divine Love Ministries and pastor of the church - has great vision on how to provide for the nearly 100 kids he directly supports and the additional 200 he supports via the widow program.  (In a nut shell - when you provide a permanent home and food for a widow, she is able to keep and care for her own children - ensuring they do not become orphans.)

One of the ways David is trying to become more self sustaining is by farming.  on Wednesday we travelled about and hour and a half from Jinja to the 50 acres he has bought and is preparing for farming.  He employs 3 men from the church who work the field and also another who acts as land supervisor.  The youth of third raised the money for this tractor that is necessary for field work as also is rented out for additional money.

The "muzunga" (white guy) had to give it a shot...we are from Iowa after all:

I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts and experiences, but laundry calls, as I slip back into life here.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to worship and work along side my brothers and sisters in Jinjga, Uganda.  I am also ever grateful for the better understanding I have of God and his heart for justice and His desire for us to care for the widow and orphan; to battle injustice.  I am also, of course, thankful to so many who made it possible for me to go. What a blessing.

Until later, 


Friday, July 20, 2012

Birthday's are a Big Deal

I think birthday's are a big deal.  Not getting the perfect present, but taking a day to celebrate someone's existence on the earth.  That is why, and it comes as no surprise, that I make a big deal out of my kids' birthdays.  We talk about it and plan and make it a super celebration of them.  I secretly tuck away sweet memories of their favorite things from that year.  I don't let them choose the thing they are "into" that month. Oh no! We think about their year and what they have been really excited about, and make a  themed party and, my favorite part, the cake, to reflect it.

Two of my four have birthday's coming up in the next month.  I just sat talking with them about what kind of party and cakes they wanted.  I love to celebrate them on their birthdays. Each year while I work so carefully on that year's cake (this year is Little House On the Prairie for girlie), I take my time remembering the Barbie, and Princess, and tea party years, and store up all those times in my heart. I make their cakes my labor of love for them - really trying to capture their passions at that age. This was Tess' 5th b-day: a "Fancy Ladies" theme with a pink wedding cake.

Titus' cake last year.

Trace's most recent cake

My baby turns 4 this year and he is set on " 'Vengers" (the Avengers, but I don't correct him 'cause it's so cute!) and I can't help but remember how he's turned into a boy this year.  Last year's Curious George reminds me of his adventurous toddlerhood - and now, his fitting theme announces the fearless hero he's destined to be breaking through...even as he sits now at my feet dressed in his sister's black velvet skirt and white high heels, dressing a baby doll.

Just for fun, let's look back on my precious babies and their phases: (You can tell when I got my groove on in the cake decorating area - the earlier ones were years in training...or I was so tired from begin pregnant, cupcakes was all I could muster! :) )

1 - Cupcakes with FunFetti frosting (But I did put him in a Grover I wanted him to love Grover! )
2 - "T" for Trucks, Trains (Thomas, precisely), Two and Titus! (cupcakes again.)
3 - Lightning McQueen
4 - Checkered Flag (Racing)
5 - Lego Brick (and a Transformers)
6 - R2D2 (LEGO Star Wars)
7 - Mario (Nintendo)
8 - Comic Book

1 - A Luau Theme
2 - Chocolate cake with Daddy.
3 - Barbie (the classic doll with a cake bowl skirt - I even cut her off at the knees - YIKES!)
4 - Tea Party
5 - Fancy Ladies
6 - Baking (this year I let the girls decorate the cake and my labor of love was making aprons for them)
7 - (coming up!) Little House on the Prairie

1 - hmmm (I can't remember?! How Horrible is that??...And I can't find pictures?!)
2 - Tractor (John DEERE)
3 - Tractor (again...see I can now remember how long that phase was for our little worker man!)
4 - Angry Birds (40 cupcakes - individually decorated as birds...oh my, never again.)
5 - Phineas and Ferb

1 - A "1" filled with M&M's
2 - Tractor (A red one) I'm pretty good at tractors...
3 - Curious George
4 - (coming up!) The Avengers

I know I should put pics of them up...once I figure out what's up with my photo storage site, I will...if I remember!

Thanks for remembering with me. Dang, I like them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Africa or Bust!

I wanted to let you know about my upcoming trip to Uganda, Africa! If I was still on Facebook I might have created a status such as "Headed to Africa in August!!!" to announce.  But, I am excited to announce this way, and have a chance to tell you a little bit about the trip.

A small (5) group of us will travel to Jinja, Uganda from August 8 - 17.  We will be working with a man named Pastor David, the founder of Father's Divine Love Ministries.  His focus is on widow and orphan care.  The student ministries at our church, through the Heartwork organization,  has been supporting his work for about a year and has raised staggering amounts of money to fund wells, more homes, orphan care, and even a tractor.  This trip marks an advancement in our church's relationship with David and his ministry.

We will be spending as much time familiarizing ourselves with the multi-faceted workings of the ministry in the hopes of coming home and being advocates for the Ugandan people as well as for David and his ministry. He often has to pay the great price of leaving his family and the ministry for 2 - 3 week stints in America at times only to raise $5000.  To put it in perspective, every time he is able to build a new widow home his monthly operating costs rise approximately $1800/month. We also hope to document through photos and video the ways the students have impacted this community through their selfless and compassion-filled giving. 

As most of you know, justice and mercy have long been a mark on my life and heart, and I am excited to see what is in store for me as I very personally experience the plight of the widow and orphan in Uganda.  I have recently been in a stage of waiting and wondering what might be next for me and believe this may certainly be part of me discovering more about the plans for the next leg of my journey.  

I guess that is about it.  I would ask for your thoughts and prayers as I prepare to go, travel and experience Africa.  If you would like to be included in a group to receive updates and prayer requests email me or DM me on twitter: @brystalhopkins. 

Likewise, if you are led to help cover the costs (travel, specialized gear, shots, documents, etc.) of this adventure it is so appreciated. It looks to be around $2000 including airfare. 

You can send tax-deductible donations made out to Third Church to:

Third Church
708 E. 13th Street
Pella, IA 50219

check memo: Brystal Hopkins' Uganda Trip 

If the tax deduction isn't a factor you can feel free to use my home address.

Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers for me and for Dave and the kids as I prepare to be gone and so far away. We are confident that there are big things in store for us as a result of what I experience in Jinja.

With excitement and gratitude, 


Thursday, May 10, 2012

From the Front Room

Well, it's Thursday evening and I find myself sitting in the dimly lit front room waiting for Dave to get home so we can watch "Iron Man 2".  I have been chasing the movie down for four days.  Stopping daily at the 3 Redbox's in town, checking for it online, all to no avail...then in a flash of hope I found that it was due today at the library and I swooped in and nabbed it. PHEW! It was a close one.

We've decided to try to watch several of these recently released MARVEL hero flicks before heading out to see "The Avengers"...apparently many others have had the same idea.  I've got my name in on reserve for "Captain America" - due tomorrow. I'm sleek and stealth like that.

So here are some other things that I have been thinking about:

  • I had fruit snacks today. Sometimes they are so good! 
  • T2 told me she sees her teacher's face more than mine, so sometimes she thinks I am her teacher when she glances at me. Not sure how to feel about that. Glad summer is coming.
  • I prepped some frosting for T3's birthday cake.  The bakery assured me that the frosting would keep from my last March birthday cake - it tastes fine, but it stinks. I ordered fresh.
  • I have to keep hiking my pants up today.  Are they too big? (YAY!) Or are my muffin tops pushing them down? (BOO)
  • I made a nasty dinner tonight.  When the kids saw what I was making they were all, "sick! I am not eating that!" It's true I found myself trying to come up with excuses as to why I should have something else...all the while telling my whining kids they "should be thankful I am even making supper" and "you don't know you hate it until you try it.". We supplemented dinner with grilled brats...and drowned aforementioned nastiness in syrup. (Like Buddy the elf!)
  • I got very little accomplished today. But T3 and I did read 2 chapters of Zorba the Hutt's Revenge. It's third in a series of who knows how many.  We've already tackled The Glove of Darth Vader, and The Lost City of the Jedi. Riveting I assure you.  So wonderful in fact, the children's librarian laughs at me every time she sees me heading back to that section for the next installment.  She likes to remind me that checking them out ensures that they stay on the shelf! Oh how I wish they weren't on the shelf. The thing that really bugs me is, much like the 'Left Behind' series, they so slowly move through the plot that each book leads into the next and the story never have to read the next book! It's some sort of torture I'm sure. But T3 loves them...oh, the things we do for love.
  • I'm looking for a nice, cozy, off the beaten path place to go for dinner on our 10th anniversary. My original plan of a local inn that serves a 5 course seasonal meal with wine pairings for each course fell through and now I'm back to the drawing board. Any suggestions? 
Well, Dave still isn't home and I've run out of even moderately interesting musings. 

So, I'll sign off.

Sweet dreams. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

BLUE LIKE JAZZ : 2 - Awkward

One of the most impact-full scenes in Blue Like Jazz for me was at the end (SPOILER ALERT) when Don finally addresses the Pope (a brilliant atheist friend of Don's at Reed College) in the 'confessional' after he has passed the position of Pope on to Don for the next sounds weird and too hard to explain, but stay with me.

He has joined this friend in several offensive acts of vandalism and in the process has discovered that as a young boy he [the Pope] was very hurt by a leader of the church.  In this closing scene, Don puts his desire to be excepted by his friend on the line and apologizes (a bit on behalf of the church) for the hurt that was caused him...something the Pope didn't even realize Don had picked up on.  As Don, for seemingly the first time, dawns the door of a serious heart-to-heart the Pope comments, "This is about to get weird isn't it?" To which Don replies, "Probably."

Sometimes to take the step from buddies to friends we have to be willing to cross that threshold of "awkward". But I think often Christians invite themselves into these sacred of conversations with people they haven't earned the trust and respect of yet.  Often don't we see our not yet believing friends as projects?  Aren't we secretly waiting for that little comment that allows us to stick our foot in the door and leave it there even if the person inside has decided they'd rather shut it?

I am not saying that spiritual conversation has to be limited to deep friendships and that opportunities don't present themselves in less intimate settings and relationships, but I am saying that sometimes we rush these conversations to the point of not being as effective as they might be if we sat back and really listened, invested, loved and spoke out of a deep conviction and love for that person.  To wait until the conversation is less about conversion and more about restoration. (Not to imply that conversion is not important.)

It's just that in this scene it struck me that this character [the Pope] had spent a decade or more defaming the church, God, and anyone who was silly enough to believe - and yet without knowing befriended one of these sillies [Don] and in the end was deeply effected when that friend-who hadn't spent their relationship preaching, but listening and loving-finally took that step. The Pope opened the door and invited Don inside. You see, the 'awkward' conversation was atypical for their friendship, but it wasn't offensive or insensitive.  It was weird.  They put that out there and forged ahead into it together, and the result was beautiful.

Sometimes, I think it would be easier if I wasn't known as a Christian.  Is that horrible?  I don't know.  There is just so much hurt and preconceived notions about "Christians".  I would love it if I lived in such a way that I reflected Jesus and people like the Pope wanted to be around me, and in the end I would authentically love them enough to have that "weird", hope-filled, restorative, conversation. And that they would love me back enough to listen.