Monthly Archives: May 2013

God at Work: Serving the World

“Everybody wants to change the world, nobody wants to do the dishes.” -Shane Claiborne

“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” -Yogi Berra

Jesus at the office

One of the most notable ways that humans have changed the world in the last hundred years is the way we talk about changing the world. In the 19th century nobody was really talking like this. In the 19th century there were only four books written with a mention of “changing the world.” In the last few decades we’ve written over a million!

Confidence Monitors

Andy Crouch in his book Culture Makers gives a few examples of these books, The Riddle of the Compass: The Invention that Changed the World. Twelve Lesbians Who Changed the World, Five Speeches That Changed the World , or my favorite  Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World.

When did we start letting this get by our editors? Does anybody really think Mauve changed the world?

But under these titles and over-used language is an idea that runs deep in our bones. The world is not right, and we can change it. 

But can we? Really? My generation has a lot of confidence. We grew up on Mr. Roger’s telling us we were special and we believed him. Often we forget that we are just one of seven billion people who are alive today. And that really our lives, at their best, are just a small drop in a ocean of God’s reality.

There are 1.5 Million books that in the Harvard Library that are about Changing the world.

And not one of them was written before 1900.

Andy Crouch has a great word of caution for all us world changers though. He points out that none of us know what we are really doing. We had no idea that inventing the Freeway would create the Fast-food phenomenon and the rise of obesity, or that the invention of the phone would make also lead to children moving away from families.change-the-world

We have not come to terms with the fact that for all our best intentions the world will change us, much more than we will change it. In the words of Andy Crouch:

“Beware of world Changers, they have not yet learned the true meaning of sin.”

In the Palace, Under The Cross

Growing up one of my favorite stories was Esther. It’s a story that can rival any Disney screenplay because it’s got everything: good vs. evil, powerful vs. weak, romance and humor, and a girl who is asked to risk everything to save the people she loves.

If you’ve never heard the story, go back and read it sometime, it is brilliant. But the part I want to emphasize today is when Ester finds out that her husband the King is going to kill the Jews (without knowing she is one of them). Her uncle talks her into telling the King that she is also a Jew. Even though she could die too.

But she does it, she leverages the little bit of influence she has to serve the few people she can. Even though it could cost her her life. In fact, this is what Ester says:

Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

If I perish, I perish.

Did you know that Ester is called Queen 14 times in this book, and 13 of those times come after she lays her life on the line!

Her initial instincts are for self-preservation and safety, but when she risks her own life in service to the greater good, she suddenly becomes known as the queen.

This is the theme of the Bible, it is the undoing of the original sin of pride and hubris. We don’t know the unintended consequences for what we do…and what starts with the greatest intentions can turn into a destructive force. Unless we are willing to change the way we think about changing the world.

Because Sacrificial Service is the way of Jesus, the way God is going to change the world is going to be through this way. It will be by men and women laying down their lives in service and sacrifice for the common good.

I love the way that N.T. Wright says this:

If we are to be kingdom-announceres, modeling the new way of being human, we are also to be cross bearers. This is a strange and dark theme that is also our birthright as followers of Jesus. Shaping our world is never for a Christian a matter of going out arrogantly thinking we can just get on with the job reorganizing the world according to some model we have in mind. It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point…Because as he himself said, following him involves taking up the cross, we should expect, as the New Testament tells us repeatedly, that to build on his foundation will be to find the cross etched into the patter of our life and work over and over again.

So stop trying to change the world, serve it.

When The Saints Go Marching In

130521083430-01-ok-tornado-0521-horizontal-galleryIt’s been a heavy week. Especially if you live in Oklahoma.

But It’s been a hard week for anyone with a heart, we’ve all seen the pictures and video, and most of us have gone home and hugged the people we love a little harder.

Maybe you heard about the theological and political debates that it immediately spawned, or maybe you didn’t. But let me tell you what I’ve learned: Whenever something tragic like this happens, we immediately see two things happen. People try to leverage the event for more power or influence, and some people run to it to serve the ones who are hurting.

Why Bad Things Happen

So there’s this one time where Jesus is walking toward Jerusalem and some religious people stop him and ask him a pretty pointed question. They ask Jesus about these current events where some Galillean Jews had gone to the Temple and Pilate, for some reason, had gone in and slaughtered them

And so they were wanting some commentary from Jesus on why this happened.

Now in asking Jesus this question about suffering they are conjuring up all kinds of images, and thoughts that were common in the 1st century.

Actually they are common in all centuries.

They’re asking why, why does this happen, what does God think about this, is God angry, is this God’s punishment? They’re just enunciating a question that has been around since time began.

And that’s why Jesus answers the way He does. He brings up a natural disaster, and he tells them that these people didn’t die because they were more guilty, that we are all broken.

Now I think what Jesus does here is pretty genius. He doesn’t let them draw a straight line from cause and effect for specific sin to specific punishment.

Which is what religious leaders sometimes do, it seems like every time there is a natural catastrophe someone will try to leverage others pain for their own temporary glory. It’s started within two hours of the Moore tornado, because it always does. But I’ve noticed when they say that a certain catastrophe was due to a specific sin they tend to say that it’s a sin that they don’t struggle with.

No religious leader ever says the reason God sent that earthquake is because they were being materialistic, or prideful.

But Jesus response to tragedies like this isn’t to name a specific sin, but to point that there is this deep brokenness in the world. And unless we forget it’s in us too.

That’s why Jesus says Repent, because we are part of the problem, but we can also be a part of the solution.

In fact, as soon as I hear about tragedies like this week, I immediately wonder how long it will take before the world sees the church show up.

Because It seems like we always do.

When the Saints Come Marching In265904e9a0dbb6758fffb87f7635fe87

A few chapters earlier in the same Gospel, Jesus starting getting people to help share in his ministry.  He sends out 72 of his followers to different villages to preach and to heal.

And when they get back, they say, “even the demons submit to us in your name.”And Jesus responds with something that I love. He says:

 “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

He saw Satan fall like Lightning.

The disciples has been walking over hot sand, knocking on doors, asking to see the sick, announcing the coming of Jesus. All their actions took place in the visible world, which they could touch, smell and see.

But Jesus sees more, he saw that those actions in the visible world were having a startling impact on the invisible world. What we do has both personal and cosmological implications.

When natural disasters happen, it always takes me to dark places for a bit. When Leslie and I were at the Hills Church we did Tsunami relief and it was incredibly beautiful and tragic to hear the stories. It all started because one of our members saw the Tsunami on television and flew directly to the worst hit part of Sri Lanka and started making large promises on behalf of the church. And they kept them!

Earlier this week I spent the afternoon with Jon and Joann Jones. A few years ago the Burmese people had a horrible cyclone hit their refuge camp and do great damage, and if you remember that, when you heard that story you had to wonder where is God in that? But while all that was going on my friend Jon Jones was over there.

He’s been going over there for many years, working with those people, trying to get them food. He once told me that he couldn’t see an American dollar anymore without thinking about how much rice it will buy.

But I started thinking about it, this whole time, I was seeing that picture and asking where is God?

This week as soon as heard the story about Oklahoma and the great tragedy of Moore joining the great tragedies of history. I started hearing stories about elementary school teachers protecting their children at great risk to themselves. I immediately started hearing stories about churches and first responders making sacrifices and opening homes for victims.

It’s easy to pontificate and theologize about why bad things like tornadoes and tsunamis happen. It’s easy to use them as a platform to further whatever particular axe you have to grind, but let me tell you who you want to listen to right now. Ask the first responders and those churches who have skin in the game.

Ask the saints who are marching in.

Because if you are wondering why God allowed this or what His plan might be, I think we are asking the wrong question.

You need to see what Jesus sees.

Because I’ll tell you were God is.

God runs to Sri Lanka and promises them millions of dollars of church money for relief effort.

God is running all around Burmese refuge camps trying to get money for the victims of the cyclone.

God is laying on top of elementary school kids protecting them with great risk to Himself, and He is with the churches digging through the rubble and planning to restore and rebuild it.

That’s where God is.

And I see Satan fall like Lightening.

*If you go to Highland and you would like to give toward the effort, we are partnering with Global Samaritan for all relief, and you can give directly to them here.

God at Work: The Work of the People

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” -John W. Gardner

Jesus at the office

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a successful business man and Highland Church member. We were talking about shared history and people that we both knew, and then we got on to the topic of vocation. And I asked my friend, does what we do on Sunday in worship connect to what you do in your job at all?

And my friend, being honest, said “No.”

Which is a shame…

In the day that Jesus was born, the wealthy Roman people had certain ideas about the universe. They Believed that the gods had made tiers or levels of people. Some were created to work in the trenches, some where created as peasants and tradespeople, and others were created for more “noble” tasks, like reading and thinking…Particularly thinking about philosophies that make thinking people more important than peasants and workers.

And into that world, Jesus is born. According to the Christian story, God enters the world, not through a school in Athens or a Senator’s tudor in Rome, but through a carpenter.

And Jesus spends 30 years learning how to make with his hands.

Idols and Work

The Jewish Scholar Nahum Sarma points out that the book of Genesis is doing so many things that we are unaware of. For example, in Genesis 4:19-22, Genesis lists off a number of random occupations and inventions. But this is more than just letting us know who invented the harp or camping. Back in the day that Genesis was written it was commonly assumed that the gods were the ones who came up with these ideas.

So the Egyptians thought that the god Thot invented the scales, and Osiris invented agriculture…but here right in the first few chapter of the Bible we read that God has given the gift of creation to people. And it appears that no matter how bad the world gets, God still wants to co-create with them.

The common way of viewing the world was that we were dependent on the gods for everything…but Genesis tacitly rejects this idea. Human history is not something we are passive in. It is something God wants to do with and through us.

One of the interesting things that I’ve learned about Christian culture over my last three decades is how much we fail to get this.

We don’t create culture, we consume it or parody it. And sometimes we say that we should engage it, but typically that just means we should “think about it” from a distance, or have a small group to talk about the movie/book/album and what ways we saw gospel undertones. Which is all well and good, but….

The one thing that I see missing today in most Christian circles is the one thing that the Scriptures are truing to give us.

A passion to create. Sometime new and fresh and innovative and good. Not just coping “American Idol” and calling it “Gifted” (an actual real thing that we did).

But the most toxic thing we did was turn our work from a way to worship to what we worship.  In his book Wisdom Meets Passion, Dan Miller points out:

“The new generations want to change the world. Nothing is more frightening than the prospect of mediocrity. Yes, they may appear narcissistic-self-centered rather than other-focused.But they are looking for redemption, a cause that validates their very existence.’

Now that sounds good, but it’s actually one of the biggest problems we face as humans. Because if your work or cause is what validates your existence, you can be sure that you will only hurt your work or cause. It can’t bear that kind of weight.

Coram Deo

There’s an old Latin saying “Coram Deo” that means before the Face of God. It basically means that everything we do is done in His presence, but it also means that God is working alongside us, and that one day our work will quality control tested by Him.

Not just preachers and bishops and priests, but retailers and artists and teachers. In fact, the word liturgy actually doesn’t mean worship the way you think it does. It really just means “The Work of the People” because you are working along side God, your work is worship.

Home page miracle

And this actually helps to explain history a bit better. Because for thousands of years this is exactly what Jews and Christians have done. We have been a compelling force for good in the world. Ethopians monks created Cappacino’s (the word comes from the Capuchin monks), We created hospitals and medicine, and explored and discovered the universe God made (in fact, now that we are understanding the Mideval ages better, we realize that Christians weren’t anti-science, if anything the reverse was true!)

You know what’s interested about Genesis? It’s that the snake temptation in the garden was to consume, but God’s calling for Adam and Eve was to produce and cultivate. This is the Christian position toward culture, we can co-create with God with the realization that He will one day check our work. (I’ll write more about that next week)

But for now, here’s the thing that I think we must realize. The Scriptures are deeply invested in how and why we work. This is why as long as I live, I will work to help church be a place that helps everyone else re-imagine their own work in light of the Gospel.

Our work is not what we worship, but it very much should be a way we worship. 

Before the Face of God we work. That’s liturgy.

The Work of the People.

Everyday Idolatry: The Religion of Control

“The ivory gods,

And the ebony gods,

And the gods of diamond and jade,

Sit silently on their temple shelves

While the people

Are afraid.

Yet the ivory gods,

And the ebony gods,

And the gods of diamond-jade,

Are only silly puppet gods

That the people themselves

Have made.”

–Langston Hughes

Temple in Chennai, India

We never really lose control, we only lose the illusion that we were ever in control in the first place.” – Barbara Brown Taylor

A few years ago I was reading a book on idolatry that was pretty eye-opening for me. Most of us think of idolatry as kind of a bizarre, primitive ritual that people in 3rd world countries used to struggle with. And even then we don’t understand what we don’t understand.

We make some huge assumptions that people today are smarter than people back then. But I don’t think that’s true. People knew back then that they were worshipping something made of wood and stone, they understood that they were making something and then praising it. But they just understood the universe a bit differently.

Richard Keyes points out that the Sumerian-Mesoptamian culture featured two levels of gods. They had this idea that gods come in pairs. So you’ve got your nearby idol, and your far away god. So idols were so popular because they offer humans a sense of well-being, the feeling that they can control their everyday lives. They relate to how to control this world.. the idols worked because they were thought to get the gods to aid people in the everyday realms of sexuality, relationships, finances and health.

So The Sumerians/Mesopotamian culture had as its close gods the Marduks and Baals, but it also had the faraway god El, who had created the world…he was a good God, but if you wanted to get the girl, or to get rich quick, you needed to buy an idol.

It’s basically the plot to the Little Mermaid.  Ursula-Little-Mermaid-disney-villains-1024501_720_480

Hocus Pocus

Have you ever noticed how rough the book of Leviticus is? For most of us, Leviticus is the graveyard that “reading through the Bible in a year plans” come to die. But if you pay attention, Leviticus is fascinating! It’s like a B-Grade Slasher film without a plot.

But the thing about this that we have just read over in the past…This is the first time that we know of that any god ever told anybody how to be at peace with them. Because that was the thing about the gods, you never knew where you stand with them.

And if you didn’t know where you stood, you would either try to offer them some kind of arbitrary sacrifice, or you would use magic to control them.

But that’s not just a problem those primitive people had, We moderns, with all our technology, still can’t help but feel a sense of out-of-controlness. I’ve been to several third world countries, I’ve seen people all over the place treat their religion as a kind of good-luck charm. They view God, as an impersonal force that controls fate. When I was in India, we saw people try and appease the gods with animal sacrifices.

Or what about Christians? We often treat prayer or church or our religious rituals the same way.

We have this sense that if I do my duty, then God ‘owes me.’ If I go to church or take communion or get baptized or whatever, then now God is somehow obligated to act accordingly. And it’s easy to see in other people, we recognize that when the batter at the plate does the sign of the cross, that’s not going to help improve his statistics.

But then we tell God we will go to church if he helps us get that date.

Because what we do is religion, what other people is “superstition.”

So we Worship as a kind of transaction: I’ve given God something, so it’s God’s turn to reciprocate. Or more common today, God’s people.

But don’t worry, we’re not the first Christians to do this.

In Latin, the words “Hoc Es Corpus” is This is the Body

And so we started using the language that they would use in Communion to manipulate the world in front of them.

But they got the words wrong, they started saying “Hocus Pocus”

That’s where we got that statement, not from the world of wizards and fairies, but from religious people who misunderstood God.

And we’ve been misunderstanding him ever since.

Jesus take the Wheel…Seriously.

A few weeks ago, I preached with Randy Harris at Highland, and Randy made the point that people who are afraid of Flying aren’t afriad of driving. Even though these same people know the statistics about driving fatalities being much more common than flying. These people aren’t stupid. They know they have a better chance of dying in a car than on a plane.

But in the car, at least they are the one with their hand on the wheel.

At least they are in control.

Magic and Legalism are just different symptoms of the same system.

Magic and Consumeristic approaches to Faith are too.

Underneath both is this idea that God can’t be trusted, that’s he’s capricious or fickle.

That His Church should look like and revolve around me.

Idolatry sounds like it’s ancient and primitive, but the way we approach church or God often is just the exact same system with a new face on it. It’s a desire to placate and please a God who says you can do anything to make me love you more. You can’t earn or buy his love or belonging.

The reason that God is so hard on magic in the Bible isn’t because he’s anti-Harry Potter. It’s because He knows what is really at the heart of magic.

It’s not just mystery and child games.

It’s a desire to bargain with the gods.

It’s an attempt to get him to control others around you.

And in the end it’s a Religion…that is an idol.

God At Work: A Day Off

“I took off 6 days between 1978-1984″ Bill Gates

Jesus at the office

 

For the past few months I’ve been writing about why work matters more than we think it does. I don’t hear churches or preachers talking very much about the other 6 days of the week, and I think that’s a shame. We’ve got to re-imagine what it looks like for a Christian to work in every sector of society.

But what do you do when work turns bad?

When the President Lyndon B. Johnson was on his deathbed he told his biographer that he had wasted his life.

Which is not what you would expect to hear a former President say.

He told his biographer that he realized that what he had really been searching for was immortality, and now that he was going to die, he watched the American people absorbed in a new President, and he realized that they would eventually forget him entirely. He told her that he wished he would have invested his life in his wife and children. Because he could have depended on them in a way he had just learned he couldn’t depend on the American people.

The Addiction of Work

One counselor who works with high ranking executives recently commented on the increasing burnout she’s seeing. She said that work is the newest addiction of choice.

There’s a guy named George Cloutier who specializes in maximizing productivity, he’s well respected in his circles, and this is what he says.

As far as birthdays and anniversaries. You should absolutely make note of them–but not by taking long visits to the country with your spouse or going off on weekend getaways. That’s what jewelry is for. Or treat everybody to a steak dinner. It takes less time, so you can get on with running your business. If you are not focused–if family, friends and loved ones fill up your busy weekly schedule–you are probably failing to deliver real profits for your company….Love your business more than your family–it’s not an easy or popular attitude to adopt. Often you will feel tremendous pressure to take time away from your business to devote to family matters. But in the end, the best thing you can do for them is to create the legacy of a business that is thriving and financially sound. When you’re retired, wealthy, and able to spend Valentine’s Day and other special occasions with your kids and grandkids at your winter home in Hilton Head, you’ll be glad you devoted so much of your time to your first love: your business.

And this guy is serious.

Do you know when God first mentions the Sabbath?

It’s right after the Israelites are delivered from Egypt. They were slaves for a jerk named Pharaoh, And God knows that embedded in their DNA is that they think they are slaves.

Sabbath was God’s answer to slavery.

It’s God’s way of saying you’re not in Egypt anymore.

Sabbath is God’s way of letting you know you are worth more than what you do.

So God’s command is to carve out a day when all work is done, even if it’s not.

See the truth is that Sabbath isn’t voluntary. You’re going to take a Sabbath one way or another, the only question is do you want it to be a happy Sabbath, or a sad Sabbath. Do we want it to be a Sabbath with you riding in a red car with a siren on top going very fast (that’s a Sad Sabbath), or one that you took voluntarily?

How many of us if we were honest feel like there is this weight that follow us around everywhere?

That we are tied to our Blackberry’s or our Iphones, as if our identities depended on them.

I’ve had times in my life when I’d wake up in a panic during the middle of the night because I missed an email or didn’t return a phone call.

Rabbi’s are fond of saying that more than Israel keeping Sabbath, Sabbath kept Israel.

When they were under siege in Masada, they kept it during famine, and in drought, some of them even kept it in Hitlers concentration camps. Because real Sabbath, comes from the confidence that God is able to take care of things,

That God is big enough to take be in charge of things while you take a nap.

Real rest can only come by recognizing that God is God and I am not.

But real work comes from that too.

Breaks and Bricks Building with bricks

There’s a guy named Nehemiah in the Old Testment, and when we first meet Nehemiah he is in Exile. But he’s got a good job. He’s the cupbearer for the King, which basically it means he drinks the King’s drink before the King does to make sure no one is gunning for his job.

And in the beginning of the book, Nehemiah is asking the King of Persia to let him go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. And the King, who seems like a nice guy (but has way too many x’s in his name) says yes.

So the rest of the book of Nehemiah is about men building a wall. To be honest it’s got some of the more boring chapters in the Bible. Entire chapters are just filled with these random names of guys who were just stacking bricks.

But I’d like to point out something…This job is the same as the Israelites had in Egypt, they were stacking bricks. But this is different isn’t it?

They don’t work as slaves now…instead they work as partners with God.

Look at what the text actually says

So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. –Nehemiah 6:15-16

They worked with the help of God. They did the same thing they used to do for Pharaoh but now it’s so very different isn’t it?

That’s why it matters so much that we rest! When we turn off the phone, when we stop checking email, we are teaching our soul who we work for and who we don’t.

Because we don’t work for Pharaoh.

We work for God.

And God is at work.

How (Not) To Preach On Mother’s Day

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”- Paul

Honoring Mom

All this week I’ve received emails and Facebook messages from friends and mothers sending me to this blog. It’s a great blog for anyone in ministry to read about the hard side of Mother’s Day.

Over the past few years I’ve learned to just circle the day after Mother’s Day on my calendar as the day that I will get an angry email from someone…I just need to pick who I will get it from.

And I totally understand why.

We often talk about the Bible characters like Sarah or Hannah, and say things like, “to not be able to have a child back in that day was seen as a curse. Back in that day a woman felt like a failure if she didn’t have a child.” And we pretend like that is just a problem people used to have, back in the Old Testament.

Leslie and I first started trying to have children more than a year before we first got pregnant with Eden, and while I know it was just a year, for us it was a tough year. We started quietly wondering if something was wrong with us, or if we would ever be able to have kids.

And for a lot of people in our churches, that doesn’t just last a year.

But Jesus has a word for them this Sunday.

Great With (or Without) Child

There’s a time in the Gospels where Jesus is teaching, and someone just hollers out in the middle of his sermon “Blessed is the woman who gave birth to you, and nursed you.” Which is kind of creepy if you think about it.

Right in the middle of Jesus’ sermon, someone hollers out about Jesus’ nursing.

And you might expect Jesus to say something back like, “Yeah! Mom’s Awesome!” But he doesn’t.

Instead, Jesus replies by saying this, “Blessed rather are those who hear God’s Word and obey it.”

Now what Jesus is doing here is huge. He’s actually disagreeing with this person. John Ortberg points out that Jesus is saying that no longer is the highest calling of a woman to bear a child. Being a parent is a noble calling, but it’s not the ultimate one. And if you don’t, or are unable, to have children, you still haven’t missed out on the blessing and presence of God.

And this verse also has a lot to say about those of us who have kids.

Because this Mother’s day (or Father’s day) we’re also not defined by our kids lives…their choices, or how they turn out.

The Blessing of God is for those who hear the word of the LORD and obey. That’s the ultimate calling.

Mother God

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something about God this Mother’s day.

I think most of us know that God transcends gender. He’s not male or female…in fact, there are many times in the Bible that God is described as a Mother…Like when Jesus says that he wishes he could protect Jerusalem like a Mother hen protects her chicks. In fact, one of the titles used for God in the Old Testament (specifically about his mercy) literally means “many breasted one”

Flannel-graph that.

This happens all throughout the Bible. In the book of Job, after Job has lost everything he’s mourning, and rightfully so, he’s questioning God, and rightfully so.

But then God shows up to answer a few of those questions. But the interesting thing is that God doesn’t really answer Job’s question. Instead God points Job toward Creation:

Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice?
 Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens.

So in the first section of this chapter he uses masculine metaphors to describe God and his creation. And then he switches to feminine metaphors. Like each part of creation shows a different part of what God was like.

As if each gender shows us a different aspect of God.

Last week, I heard Max Lucado talk about Mother’s Day at Pepperdine. He was talking about a family at his church, about a mother who showed the world a glimpse of what God was like.

And then he showed this video about that family. Watch the video before you read on…trust me, it’s worth it.

That’s a glimpse into the heart of God. That’s a Mother that will throw herself under a car to save her kids. She’s the bump.

That’s a Mother.

That’s what God is like.

So whatever place you find yourself in this coming Sunday. Whether it’s joy or sadness, nostalgia or hope…may you not get your identity from what you do or do not have. May the love of God define you and nothing else.

And since, chances are if you are reading this you were born of a woman, we are thankful that God gave you life.

So Happy Mother’s Day.

Loves God, Likes Girls

“Vulerability is the first thing I look for in others and the last thing I want others to see in me.” -Brene Brown

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I hadn’t planned on staying up until the middle of the night to finish Sally Gary’s new book “Loves God, Likes Girls” I had planned on reading just enough to encourage her and tell her how much I appreciated her. But that was before I started reading.

It’s been estimated that 85% of American young adults see Church and Christians an Homophobic and against Homosexual people. But that is not anywhere near the Christian story.

I’m not even talking about how such a disproportional amount of church conversation is on homosexuality (in comparison to the very small amount of times it is mentioned in Scripture). I’m talking about the fact that Christians are not seen as being opposed to homosexuality, or any kind of sexual immorality…we are largely seen as opposed to gay people.

And to be honest that’s kind of our own fault.

But the Christian story, if it trying to say anything, is saying that gay people…or any kind of person, is not the enemy. The enemy is the spiritual principalities and powers and sin in all the forms that it takes. And when we don’t get that we can really, really hurt people.

That’s why I stayed up all night reading Sally’s book.

The Best Stories Have But’s

It’s incredibly hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Because most of the time it’s so hard to get out of our own. But Sally’s disarming way of telling her own story makes you realize how much all of our stories have in common.

They say the best stories don’t use and as much as the word but, I think that’s right. The Godfather was evil but he did it for family. Steve Jobs changed the world but he was often a jerk. The best and the worst of us, are filled with the best and the worst. And Sally’s story is filled with but’s.

Her dad would go into fits of emotionally abusive rage but he also learned sign language to communicate to the deaf kid at church. Her mother was incredibly nurturing but often overprotective. Sally dated and liked some boys but….

Sally is incredibly honest and truthful about how great and hard life with her parents and church have been for her. She’s honest about her shortcomings and painfully honest about what life was like for a girl growing up sexually confused in a time when those kind of things weren’t spoken about.

But this book isn’t just about homosexuality and church, as the Father of two little girls I was convicted over and over again. She let me see how important being a daddy was for any little girl, and how important it was to be an intentional communicator to your kids.

She’s also honest about all her phobias and the quirky way she saw the world and learned how to cope with it (she’s actually afraid of the water) but as I read her book the same thought kept coming back to me…

For someone who talks about being afraid so much, she sure is brave.

Because Sally, for the past 15 years, has been willing to do what almost nobody else in the world will do. She’s being willing to be vulnerable to the entire world for the sake of the people who are out there like her.

Church and Gay People

That’s why she wrote the book, and it’s why she runs the ministry CenterPeace. Because she wants churches to know that there are people in our churches who are struggling with sexual orientation. They are our friends and our family and they’ve worked so hard to keep it secret because we’ve told them how we feel about their struggle…we just didn’t know we were talking about them.

Sally has been invited to speak to churches from all over the spectrum of Churches of Christ (and beyond). She’s spoken at our most conservative and our more progressive schools and churches because we’re waking up to the realization that this matters. And Sally’s gentle but brutally honest story helps you hear her wisdom:

Sexuality is complex and we haven’t fully explored all the possible variable that enter into this equation. Biology sets a foundation, but the impact of what we experience throughout life continues to shape and re-shape us. The dynamic interplay between chemistry, neurology and our perception of life experiences over the course of a lifetime remains to be investigated. Mix in individual temperaments, largely a biological construct, and you quickly realize there are no cut and dried explanations as to how sexuality takes shape in us. All we really know, is that we have much to learn. And at the very least, our lack of understanding should move us to greater compassion.

And that’s why everyone needs to read this book. Because Sally doesn’t try to make anyone feel guilty, she just lets you see through her eyes for a few hours. And what you see will change the way you love the people around you.

I’m proud to say that Sally is a member and leader at the Church that I work at, but I’m even more proud to say that she’s a part of our Restoration Vision. Centerpeace is one of the 3 non-profits that our campaign last year went to support…and after reading her book I’m incredibly grateful that we can play a very small role in what she’s doing in the world.

Sally’s dream is to help churches learn how to be a safe place for people to be honest. And she did that by going first.

So thanks Sally. You love God, and you’ve taught us how much he loves everyone.