16 August 2013

Modesty and Breast-Feeding

Danger, Will Robinson! This blog discusses female anatomy, dancing, lust, and babies. All at once. It's mildly provocative. If this offends you then you should probably leave now.

Apparently breastfeeding in public-- until the middle of last century pretty much how the entire human race survived-- is now one of the biggest crimes against humanity there is. And one of the reasons most often cited by Christians (mainly women Christians, at that) is that it involves a lack of modesty, causing every male within a thirty yard radius (except possibly, just possibly, any male infant under the age of, say, 72 hours, being breastfed) to lust. I mean full goose bozo, raging hormones, out of control lust.

I have to be honest. I think women need to be modest in breastfeeding. What does that mean? Well, speaking from the perspective of someone who tries to take the Bible as a whole instead of prooftexting, I'd say it means:

  1. Don't whip it out[1] and stick your nipple in my face. Oddly enough, no breast feeding mom has ever done that to me, to anyone I know, or to anyone I have even heard about. Their nipples usually go straight into their babies' mouths.
  2. Don't pop `em both out and then dance around while breastfeeding, gyrating the free boobie like some (deranged) exotic dancer.[2]
  3. Keep the rest of your clothes on; don't strip down and do a bump and grind show while you breastfeed.[3]

If you can pass these three basic tests, I'd say you are well within Biblical grounds for modesty, and frankly I don't see why anyone would get offended. I realize they do, but... SLAPPTM.[4]

And if a guy does lust because a woman is breastfeeding? Definitely SLAPPTM.[4]

My Mom was once asked to leave a theater for nursing me. On the back row. Under cover. I was an infant. I'm pretty sure the theater was not very crowded.

When I was around 20 I was admiring a friend's newborn up close for a good 15 seconds or more before I realized she was nursing him. I backed off so as not to seem creepy but she didn't care at all; she knew I was looking at her son, not her. According to some anti-breastfeeders, that's not even possible. But it happened!

There have been several excellent blogs lately about how silly the anti-breastfeeding arguments are (huge props to the lady who did the one on the evils of spoonfeeding in public!) but the one that prompted me to bare all (so to speak) was this one from The Leaky Boob.

[1] I have never in my life seen a woman whip a breast out. It seems they'd have to be pretty big to do that, that means it would likely be painful. That's probably why it's less prevalent than some people seem to think.
[2] Again, that has never happened to me or anyone I know, etc.
[3] See previous notes.
[4] Sounds Like A Personal Problem To Me

26 July 2013

Are You a Stripper?

Context matters.

One of the biggest mistakes the Church has fallen into is approaching the Bible verse by verse, stripping them of context. Jesus didn't tweet the Gospels a phrase or sentence at a time. He told stories, he had conversations, he painted vast panoramas on verbal canvases. He was God; if he wanted to communicate in one liners he would have. He mostly left that to others such as Groucho, Bob Hope, Jack Benny.

For example, a friend recently asked about Matthew 5/37: "But let your `Yes' be `Yes,' and your `No,' `No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." (NKJV). he wanted to know what it meant.

I understand; I learned to do this and did it for years. But eventually I rediscovered how much more sense the Bible makes when we read verses in context. In this case looking at just a few verses before helps immensely. Let's read Matthew 3/33-37 in two translations for even more depth:

"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.' But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply `Yes' or `No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (NIV)

"And don't say anything you don't mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, `I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, `God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say `yes' and `no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong." (The Message)

Now the meaning is more obvious. "Speak the truth. If you need an oath to back up your agreement or disagreement, something is wrong... and no one can trust what you say without an oath. Just be real." Studying verse 37 alone does not provide the whole picture, but it does lend itself quite well to legalism, the trap into which so many Pharisees had fallen in Jesus' day. God is always about relationship more than rules. Look at verses in relationship to the verses nearby. No verse is an island.


Various Jewish and Christian scholars added chapters and paragraph divisions for multiple reasons, but verses did not appear in the New testament until the 1500s. While useful as reference points they should otherwise be ignored. Once you can ignore them (The Message really drove this home for me and was just what I needed to move back to a holistic reading) you begin to see things you would otherwise miss.

Even Jesus, quoting brief verses to Satan, clearly had a broader context, or he would never have associated those passages with the topics at hand.

1 Do yourself a huge favor. Read the stories 2 in the Bible as stories, 3 not as a chopped up group of 4 sentences and fragments.

09 July 2013

Jethro Tull Recognized Our Folly

Much of the mystery, of the glory, of the joy, of being human is that we are made in God's image. Part of that was lost in the fall; certainly we were disconnected from that reality. Christ died to fully restore this in us not just for an eternity after we die, but right now, right here, on Earth.

There is a movement within the Church that recognizes and celebrates this image-of-Godness, and brings freedom, authority, and power.

But... sometimes instead of learning, or remembering, or focusing on who God is, and what that means about us, we tend to take things about us and project them onto God. We make God in our image.

God doesn't look like us, except in as much as we look like God. There's the source of your awesome, right there.

20 May 2013

Jesus Fails Various Tests

In John 4, we find Jesus talking, apparently alone, with a Samaritan woman at a well. Plenty of preachers and teachers have discussed the way Jesus failed some of the common "tests of faith" of his time:
  • He spoke with a woman,
  • alone,
  • a yucky old Samaritan at that,
  • and he asked her to get him a drink.
This all adds up to a pretty serious ritual impurity. And yet he remained pure.


The thing that struck me today was how he failed a major, modern, evangelical test (and abysmally flunked the equivalent fundamentalist test). What did he do about the fact she had gone through five husbands, and was living with yet another man?

  1. Admonish her to get busy with sacrifices?
  2. Reject her?
  3. Give her a tract?
  4. Wave a sign in her face and scream that she was going to Hell?
  5. Ask what church she was a member of so he could berate her pastor for letting her stay?
  6. Stone her?
  7. Offer her living water, grace, forgiveness, eternal life?
Ha ha ha! Of course, I am just kidding with number seven.

Oh, wait, I'm not. And by the end of the story, because her testimony brought them to Jesus, "many more became believers." This suggests that she had become a believer as well.

As far as we know, he never demanded she "reconcile with" (remarry) her first husband. [1]

He didn't take her through the Roman Road (Paul had yet to write that letter, but do you really think that would stop Jesus?).

No tracts.

Especially no John T. Chick tracts. Thank God.

He didn't make her say a prayer. He didn't even talk directly about repentance, just offered her grace.

We have no record of why she had five husbands. We have no record of who did what. Was she abused? An abuser? Was she cheating on them? Was she frigid? Was she barren? Was she mean? Was she boring? Did someone more enticing come along? Someone richer? Than who, her or her husband?

We have no idea. Jesus didn't go there.

So why do we?

Yes, I know God hates divorce. Yes, we should take marriage seriously. But it's not up to us to judge people or to demand (for instance) that a woman "reconcile" with an abuser and stay with him. You can proof text this one easily, but I guarantee you I can find a proof text to put you in the same boat with a divorcee, no matter how you live. If you consider context, consider Scripture as a whole, consider how Jesus dealt with people...

It turns out Jesus didn't fail the tests. The test givers failed.

Think about that long and hard before you try to beat someone into submission with a Scripture.

And think about another Scripture while you do. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Mt 7/1-2, NIV)

Grace. It's a good way to live.


[1] some people will argue that the words husband here means "gods" because there is a Hebrew variant of Baal that can be translated either "god' or "husband". While I am not technically a Bible scholar I have studied quite a bit and been taught by some of the best. The word that can be translated either way is limited to a very few passages in the Old Testament. It does not appear in the New testament at all. Only one word for Baal appears in the new Testament, in Romans, and it clearly refers to the false god Baal. The word used here for "husband" is a word used for a human husband (it is translated "man", not "god") throughout the NT. I have no idea where the idea came from that Jesus meant gods here; it seems at best poor scholarship.

02 May 2013

I Want to Hug the Westboro Baptist Church

I hope Westboro Baptist Church pickets my funeral.

No, really, I do.

I hope Jesus lets someone call me back, like Lazarus. I'd run over to hug the Westboro people first. They'd either get saved or run away and never picket another funeral.

But if not, I'm sure the revivalists, the community of people around me who are madly in love with the God of Love (and I don't mean Cupid), will show so much love that the Westboro folk will either get saved or flee in panic and confusion. I can hear the cops talking to them now. "No, sir, they were trying to hug you, not assault you. I know, because they hugged us all when we showed up."

Not long before going to the cross Jesus said, "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples-when they see the love you have for each other." (Jn 13/33-35, The Message)

Or how about this? When asked earlier on which of the commandments was the greatest, Jesus said, Jesus said, "`Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: `Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." (Mt 22/37-40, The Message) Many versions say "your neighbor" instead of "others". Jesus made it clear in his parable of the good Samaritan that everyone is our neighbor, including those we might tend to look down on, left to ourselves.

I'm sure that twisted logic would tell the WBCites that they are acting in love, but it's pretty obvious to the rest of the world that they aren't. I hope and pray that the people at Westboro Baptist Church come to know real Love, and are set free from their fears and hatred, as I pray that for all-- from world leaders to terrorists to people in third world hell hole slums to those caught up in sex trafficking. I want to hug you all. because God does.

There's an excellent booklet I recommend on the base topic here, The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaefer. It's a quick read, less than 10,000 words. I wish every Christian would read this. It's available online (with permission from the publisher!) at http://www.ccel.us/schaeffer.html .


Passages from The Message copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

20 April 2013

The Tsarnaev Legacy: We Get to Decide What it is

My friend Mitch Barnett posted today on Facebook:
"While everyone celebrates the fact that the two Boston Bomb suspects have been caught, I hope that everyone would remember the fact that another life has been lost to this incident (Tamerlan Tsarnaev) and now yet another life hangs in the balance. While these people were mistaken, and performed a terrible act of aggression on innocent people, they are human beings; they have families that loved and cared for them; they had friends. Keep your perspective in check before you begin to cast a message of hate at the two brothers. Violence and death solve nothing."
It's one thing to call for justice[1] but hatred is something else altogether. Hatred only leads to more hatred, misery and destruction-- if only in the hater. Seldom is it that limited.

Jesus spoke of justice but he also spoke of love. Everything he did was in the context of love. He went to the cross so that we need not face ultimate justice for our sins. The two greatest commandments do not mention justice:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt 22:35-40, NIV)

Justice goes hand in glove with the Law. So even justice must be defined by Love.

The best possible outcome at this point is healing for all involved. I pray for emotional healing in all who lost a loved one or whose loved ones were hurt in any way. I pray for emotional and physical healing of everyone hurt (though about two hundred were physically hurt, thousands-- perhaps millions-- were emotionally scarred). I pray for the monetary damage to be overcome, that nobody would ultimately lose from this. I pray for the peace and joy of Boston, for the runners and their families and friends, for the people whose jobs or businesses were impacted.

When I say "all" I mean "all". I pray for the Tsarnaev family-- including these two brothers-- and friends. I pray that Boston, and Massachusetts, and the USA, and the world, will realize the futility and foolishness of hate, and turn to love.

Love has the best chance of bringing out love in people (others and ourselves). Hate tends to bring only more hate. Which do you want coming your way? Then think about what you're living out.

I believe that love requires us to stop heinous acts. Often this comes at a high price. But we cannot let that price be hatred or we become part of the problem.

In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us every one"-- with love and mercy, peace and joy. We've already seen much too much hatred, death, fear and misery.

While we're at it, pray for those in West, Texas. More people died and were physically injured in this than in Boston. While far less people are involved overall, it's a much smaller community, so the devastation within the community is huge.


[1] I find restitution to be the best form of justice, but it is not always possible, especially in violent crimes. Obviously, the perpetrators here cannot bring people back to life, replace limbs, restore the lost days of peoples' lives or the many millions of dollars wasted, rewind the Boston Marathon to the explosion point and let it finish, or remove the fear, pain and anguish inflicted this week.

16 April 2013

A Shred of Testimony: Back to Basics

Throughout the new testament, we hear of the importance of testimony. In Revelation, we are told that the Saints overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. Your testimony is your story, that which you can personally "bear witness", swear is true on the witness stand. That encompasses a lot more than "I was bad. I had a one time conversion experience. Then I was saved."

This short piece is a part of my testimony. It was inspired by a blog by El Chupacabra.

For years I sweated to be like Jesus. Needless to say, I became somewhat of a nervous wreck. always falling waaaay short.

Finally I started over from scratch and went back to reread the Gospels like the first time I read them when God drug me out of hippiedom into a mad love affair[1] with Jesus. And lo and behold, everything I had tried to know was wrong, and a great deal of what I'd left behind in my quest to be A Good Christian was right.

So I gave up on the idea of What Would Jesus Do, and went back to What Did Jesus Do? He looked to Daddy God. He loved people-- tangibly, with everything from time to touch to revelation to conversation to miracles to meals. Life got a whooole lot better, and a whooole lot easier. Especially when I realized it wasn't my job to save people. I mean, I'd said that for years, but it was freaking TRUE.

Grace, love, and rest trump works, fear, and more works. Every time.


[1] A marriage should be the ultimate love affair.

08 April 2013

Whatever You Do to the Most of These...

We all know what Jesus said about how we are to treat "the least of these". But what about the people on the other end of the spectrum, "the most of these"? (I'm open to a better phrase!) He didn't directly address that question, but he gave us many clues. I find the best way to see how Jesus wants us to interact with people is to look at how he interacted with people. So... what did he do with these folk?

Mainly, he loved them, the rich and powerful as well as the poor and downtrodden. He treated them all the same. While he reserved most of his harshest words (as recorded in Scripture) for hypocritical religious leaders, he nevertheless hung out with some of these leaders as well. Nicodemus is an obvious example, but there were tax collectors, army officers, and (gasp) Pharisees and Sadducees.

He didn't pursue them to be seen with them or out of any lack on his part. The King of the Universe hardly needed their influence, blessing, or support. He just loved them, ate with them, spoke truth into their lives, and forgave them. Just as he did with the least.

We tend to have one of several reactions to the well off, powerful, and famous.

  • We envy them.
  • We judge them.
  • We hate them.
  • We idolize them.
But we are called to do just what Jesus did-- love, befriend, and serve them. Not for what we can get out of it but because they-- as we, as the poor, as the homeless, the destitute, the prostitute, the addict-- are made in God's image. God created them and saw that they were awesome. Jesus took on human form, lived and died and lived for them. The Holy Spirit longs to live in them.

So when the big deal minister shows up, don't just go to get a blessing. When the rich person shows up, don't scheme how to get in on the money game. When the political, business, military, media, or rock star shows up, don't just look for the photo op or the celebrity proximity effect or the inside scoop. Jesus for them.

You may be the only Jesus they ever see.

30 March 2013

Easter: Who Cares?

I've seen more people upset about Easter this year than usual-- from Christians upset about bunnies and eggs (or even the name Easter) to schools outlawing the use of the word Easter because it might offend someone. To ice the cake (not an Easter cake for anyone concerned) we got invited to have lunch with a group of friends from Church, and I wondered if family members would feel left out that we weren't having lunch at home with them.

Let's start with the icing (I am all about the icing; Sharon is the cake lover). Easter is not actually a family holiday. Not in the traditional sense of the word, "family". If you're a Christian, it's a family holiday in the sense of your family in God, whether related by birth or not. But if it's just an excuse to get with birth family, eat chocolate, hunt eggs, and dress up, any day is as good as another. If that were my goal I'd pick a day nobody else was likely to be doing anything. Maybe the Saturday before the Ides of March. (Afterward could run smack dab into spring break, a major holiday week.) Not a family holiday (what are? birthdays, mothers day, etc).

I also don't care what you call the holiday, or where that name came from. Some people are really into the whole debate about whether "Easter" came from "Ishtar" (there is "proof" both ways), and whether the Church redeemed the day by taking it over, or opened up a back door to the spirit of Antichrist by assuming that name.

Two other points of division and confusion [1] are the Easter Bunny Conspiracy and the Easter Egg Controversy. Is the Bunny really a symbol (or even a familiar) for the pagan goddess of love, war, sex and fertility? Or was it the natural association with Mary because it was mistakenly believed a hare could reproduce without losing virginity? Are Easter eggs likewise symbols of the empty tomb or a nefarious, demonic sneak attack by their association with (again) Ishtar?

I've spent way too much time over the years thinking, studying and praying about these. I have looked at them from all sides (at least, all the sides I'm aware of). I have finally settled firmly into the camp of I Don't Care. I don't care whether you call it Easter or Resurrection Day. I don't care whether you talk about the Easter Bunny or whether you celebrate with eggs (much less whether any such eggs are candy or hard boiled, organic or not). God would be a puny god, indeed, if he got his panties in a wad about such things. Puny god? That sounds more like Loki to me.

Today is the day we celebrate the day Jesus proved his power and authority. God forgave everything everyone ever had or would do... including (if they happened, and if they need forgiving):

  1. Naming the day after a pretty bizarre goddess (love, war, sex and fertility. OK!)
  2. Associating theoretically hermaphroditic bunny rabbits with Jesus' Mom.
  3. Using eggs (clearly a fertility symbol!!!!) to represent the empty tomb and new life.
  4. Promoting tooth decay with eggs and jelly beans made of almost solid sugar and HFCS.
  5. Using unnatural dye on eggs that are neither organic nor free range.
  6. Peeps
And just for the record, Jesus did all that without waiting for anyone to ask. You're loved and forgiven, and you look just like Daddy/Mommy God. I'd say that's worth celebrating, whatever you want to call it.

You're awesome and loved. Happy Easter / Resurrection Day / You Are Forgiven Day.

[1]Who's into dividing the Church? Who's the author of confusion? Yup, same old fish head.

23 March 2013

Innocence and Intimacy: She Was My Soul Sista

In my last blog I brought up how we have lost the real meaning of intimacy, and how we've abused it. Today I want to share an of intimacy between opposite sex friends, and how it was God's provision.

I don't recall exactly how Alice Gernazian danced into my life. We were both madly in love with Jesus, but still comfortable with our inner hippies (there was a lot of good in the hippie movement). For whatever reasons, we were instant soul mates-- not the sort who would want to kiss (much less get married) but more like Jonathan and David. Without sex, without drugs, without doing anything illegal, immoral or sinful, we had a serious case of the dreaded "soul tie".

Alice was definitely more mature in her faith and understanding of God in some ways. One night coming back from a concert we picked up a hitchhiking hippie. When I found out he was into numerology I started preaching. He asked to be let out early. After he was out, silence reigned for a minute. Finally I spoke. "I blew it, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did." And Alice loving, patiently, relentlessly walked me through my arrogance, my superiority, and my lack of love... back to where I needed to be. I so trusted Alice that she could go anywhere with me I needed to go.. Intimacy and openness made this possible. It worked both ways, though I never had to chastise her like that

A few months later we were discussing how everyone we knew seemed to be dating, and we were always kind of the extra people. We decided we would become a couple of a different sort. Since we were friends, with an intimate emotional, intellectual, and spiritual relationship, and did lots of things together anyway, and since neither of us was really interested in dating at that point, we decided that any time one of us wanted to go somewhere one might normally take a date, we would go together.

We were totally comfortable holding hands, putting our arms around each others' shoulders, and hugging. Neither of us had any desire to kiss the other (no aversion, simply no desire). We were about as close a brother and sister as there can be. I recall holding hands when we walked places, sitting with our arms around each other at concerts, days at the park, dinners, her head on my shoulder driving... and never a wrong desire. Seriously.

Eventually we both ended up in dating relationships. We each happily married and sadly lost touch (the internet was still in its infancy). But God gave Alice and me to one another in a special way. It nourished and nurtured us both, and provided for our needs. It was in no way a temptation. In fact, it provided a type of protection; neither of us was really interested in a dating relationship with anyone right then, and because we were always together, people tended to give us space. I know there were some people who wondered about us, but that wasn't our problem.

Ultimately, we were each part of God's cocoon for the other, a safe place to metamorph into someone even more beautiful, ready for the deeper relationships headed our way. The safe intimacy we experienced was just what we needed, made us both better people, and ultimately prepared us for the relationships that turned into marriage.

21 March 2013

I'm a Soul Man! (Will you Be My Soul Sista?)

(Thanks to Alise Wright (http://alise-write.com/) for sparking this.)

A term I've heard far too often over the past decade is "soul tie". For those who don't know, it's Modern Christianese for two people being very close. The term "soul tie" does not appear in any translation of the Bible I'm aware of.

The Bible sometimes refers to people as "knit together" or otherwise as one: man and wife (Gen 2/24); Jonathan and David (I Sam 20/17); the men of Israel (Jud 20/11); a local body of believers (Col 2/2). These would be examples of good soul ties.

While most people who "teach" (and I use this term loosely) on soul ties recognize that there are good ties (marriage, close same sex friendships) there are several problems with the whole concept.

  1. They focus almost exclusively on bad soul ties to the point most people don't even realize there are good ones.
  2. They tend to paint almost all friendships between opposite sexes as examples of negative soul ties.
  3. They tend to see close relationships between the sexes as inherently and inevitably dangerous... at best.
On top of these problems, there's a lot of doctrinal silliness contending that anything you do wrong creates a soul tie with someone and that any such ties are destructive, debilitating, demonic, and difficult to break.[1] This flies in the face of grace and the power of the finished work of the cross.


At its core, a soul tie is simply a relationship. Relationships are determined by intimacy; close relationships have more intimacy, more risk, more exposure, more openness, and ultimately more security. We are made for relationship-- not just with God, not just with a spouse, but with all those around us. We are made to be mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents and grandkids, and so on. Even best friends are intimate; how much more so family?

Therein lies a big part of the problem. We have become so sex-conscious that we tend to see everything in terms of sex. For most of us, the term "intimacy" primarily means "physical intimacy", which primarily means "sexual intimacy".

Except... those are not the primary meanings. Intimacy is a broad category. Physical intimacy is merely one subcategory of intimacy. Sexual intimacy is merely one subcategory of physical intimacy.

I am intimate (to varying degrees) with a fairly large number of people. I tend to be somewhat physically intimate with everyone around me, unless they simply can't cope with that. For me, handshakes are for business. I would far rather hug (I do respect others' boundaries). I have kissed quite a few people of both sexes-- family, extended family, and friends-- on the cheek or the head. There are any number of people I will put my arm around if we are in seats next to one another. There are at least a dozen young ladies who see me as a father or uncle with whom I sometimes hold hands while we walk, as well as women I see as sisters. I would have no problem holding hands with men. I am only sexually intimate with my wife.

Some of you need to read the preceding paragraph again. Maybe more than once. Every word is true. You read it right-- I have a lot of "soul ties". But these are good soul ties. These are the people I love, and who love me. There is nothing the least bit unhealthy about it. When we get to Heaven, I fully expect these soul ties to be stronger than ever. Or maybe we'll just see them more clearly.

Intimate relationships are what really make the world work-- whether between God and us, or between us humans. In the words of my oldest brother, "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt 22/37-40 NIV).

Since Jesus commanded soul ties, we'd best get busy with them. Does that scare you? Perfect love chases away fear. (I Jn 4/18) Once the fear is gone, you start enjoying love (and life!) a whole lot more. If you're not careful, you might even find yourself greeting people with a holy kiss.

And liking it.

And God will yet again say, "It is good."

And so will you.


[1] No sermon is complete without three or four points that start with the same letter.

17 February 2013

Hostage Situation

(Jamie, who has long billed herself as the Very Worst Missionary, blogged on how she felt realizing that she was now the Very Worst Pastor's Wife back in the states. This was my response.)

If you let them, they will hold you hostage. Who are "they"?


  • Your expectations.
  • Their expectations.
  • Your expectations of their expectations.
My wife never wanted to be a pastor's wife. God kind of snuck me in the pastoral back door. Because I didn't officially get a title from the local leadership, we didn't think of ourselves that way... but everyone else did. By the time we realized I really was a pastor we had just been ourselves for so long in the role it was easy to just stay there.

So, Rule #1: just be yourselves, and let your kids be your kids. I know that's your M.O., but there's this fear that we have to conform because we are in the United States of Christendom, and By God We had better Get It Right. Or Else.

I can't tell you what to do or not to do; that's between you and God. But I will say, "be true to God and yourselves." The Church needs leaders who aren't afraid of the people they're supposed to lead.

Actually, I guess that's rule #2. Rule #1 is let God be God.

Rule #3? Have fun. Like, seriously.

Rule #4: You need to come up with your own. Mine is hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

(Something I wish I had thought to add: Most pastor's wives are really pastors, just without the title.)

15 February 2013

Valentines Day Prayer

"God, we want to be your valentines."

That's what popped out of my mouth at the end of blessing the food at the Notta Valentines Party for the young adult group tonight.

And we meant it.

10 February 2013

Face to Face

A few years ago I was in the middle of a worship service, telling God how much I wanted to see his face.

"Open your eyes."

I did.

"Look around. See all these people? There I am."

This happened a few more times over the course of the next year. And each time, I could see it more clearly.

We are all made in God's image. Your brothers and sisters shine with it. The face of the most miserable of the lost shows at least a glimmer of it.

I do not seek to make the created the creator. Rather I seek the image of the creator in his work, an image the creator tells us is there. Seeing the beauty and majesty in a great work of art is not idolatry; it is honor for the artist.

Yes, seek to see God face to face. But seek to see God in all of creation, and especially in the only bits of creation we know are made in God's image... people.

The kingdom is here. What will we do with it?

Inspired by a conversation with Pamela Nishimoto when she quoted Les Miserables: "To love another person is to see the face of God."

09 February 2013

When Dreams Invade Your Waking Hours

One of the many verses Christians can't quite seem to agree on is Psalm37/4:

"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Does this mean he will give us what we already desire, or will he give us better desires?

As with many other things, the question is posed as an exclusive-or, and either-or. I think it's a both-and. We always want to box God in, come up with a finite answer we can easily comprehend, point to, apply and forget. But an infinite and infinitely complex God doesn't fit in a box, and neither does anything he says.

God made us in his/her/their image. It says so right at the beginning of the Bible, in Gen 1/26-27:

"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

We are created in God's image. yes, there was a fall, and yes, we were born in sin, but we are redeemed, set free, made pure and holy, in the image of Jesus, the sinless, perfect one. God has desires (s/he desired companionship with us, for instance). We have desires. Unless those desires are in direct conflict with God, they are good, because a good God made good things-- including us.

God wants to give you better desires in some cases, but God also wants to fulfill many of the desires you have. I really don't care whether they were directly planted in you by God, or are just a product of who you are and the life you've lived. If it matters to you, believe away! But in the meantime...

It's a time of fulfilled dreams, desires becoming reality. I have seen this in so many lives lately. I believe it's true all over, but I *know* it's true in central Texas, from San Marcos up through Waco. I see it daily. And I'm seeing it unfold in Round Rock.

These desires and dreams span the gamut. I've seen people I love set free. I fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting Carlsbad Caverns. I got to take my wife to see El Paso and so many of the things I loved about the west as a kid, and see the wonder and joy in her eyes as she experienced White Sands, the Painted Desert, El Paso, saguaro, and more for the very first time. I'm seeing marriages grow. I'm seeing men and women fulfill their destiny as pastors, prophets, teachers, and more. I'm seeing healings, giftings, you name it.

I'm living my dreams. Dreams that even a few years ago I had nearly given up on, until someone spoke life into them, and called me out of the dungeon I'd let myself live in.

I'm calling you out. There's light, and life, and power, and joy, and love, and peace, and much more out here. Unexpected treasure. Come dig with me, and let's see what we find. I promise you, Captain Jack Sparrow found nothing compared to what awaits us.