Friday, October 7, 2016

Sermon Series..."Living in the Mess"


I just listened to a very moving sermon on the church of the resurrection website…not by Adam Hamilton but by a woman named Penny Ellwood. I looked for the GPS (Grow, Pray and Study guide)…but there wasn't one for this sermon series. I loved what she had to say about how to “live in the mess.”
She talked about different life events, some hypothetical, some from her own life and some from the lives of people she knows. Her most moving story was the story of a young seminary student she worked with at one of the satellite campuses. While he was dating the woman he is now married to, her mother died. He went to the funeral out of state where he met her family for the first time. 
Her dad became distraught at the gravesite….so distraught he actually jumped into the open grave; on his knees, crying hysterically. Nobody knew what to do. The grave was deep and nobody could physically reach him. The young man....Joe....didn't know what to do either but he did the only thing he could think of; he jumped down into the muddy grave, in his new suit and simply embraced her father, wept with him and provided a shoulder to cry on. Like Job’s friends (before they became miserable comforters) Joe sat in the ashes with his girlfriend's father. 
When the grieving man finally calmed down, they were so deep in the muddy grave Joe wondered how they would ever get out….and then he looked up and saw many hands reaching down to help pull them out. The analogy is touching, poignant and inspiring.
It seems like an interesting series because we all….ALL….end up in the pit of despair at times in our lives. Although throughout the Bible we are assured that God is with us always…even in the “pits,” we are comforted when another human meets us in our pain, sits with us in our ashes and extends a hand up when we are ready to climb out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fire Starter Christians? What Spirit Are YOU of?


I came upon the following quote on the Charisma website the other day….spoken by Terry Bates, an Assemblies of God pastor.

'We need 'Fire Starters,' like Elijah, who will call fire down from heaven to confront the culture and false religions with undeniable, uncompromising truth and without political correctness. It was at this point that I began to see people getting up, walking out, shaking their heads." Terry Bates

Totally mirroring Jesus’ response when the disciples wanted to bring Elijah’s fire down on the Samaritan village for not welcoming them….

Samaritans Reject Jesus51 And it came to pass, in the completing of the days of his being taken up, that he fixed his face to go on to Jerusalem, 52 and he sent messengers before his face, and having gone on, they went into a village of Samaritans, to make ready for him, 53 and they did not receive him, because his face was going on to Jerusalem. 54 And his disciples James and John having seen, said, ‘Sir, wilt thou [that] we may command fire to come down from the heaven, and to consume them, as also Elijah did?’ 55 and having turned, he rebuked them, and said, ‘Ye have not known of what spirit ye are; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save;’ and they went on to another village.

And that just might be why people got up and walked out of his sermon. Jesus is our example, no? We need more peacemakers these days...not more firestarters.....

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Not Anti Cop. Not Anti Black.....


“You know, the hardest part of having a conversation surrounding police shootings in America, it always feels like in America, it’s like if you take a stand for something, you automatically are against something else. 

It’s either one or the other. With police shootings, it shouldn’t have to work that way. For instance, if you are pro black lives matter, you are assumed to be anti police. And if you are pro police, you surely hate black people.  

It seems like it's either pro-cop and anti-black, or pro-black and anti-cop, when in reality you can be pro-cop and pro-black, which is what we should all be. It is what we should be aiming for. You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect." Trevor Noah

Uh-huh, yes. That pretty much sums it up. I am not pro-black and anti-cop. I am not pro-cop and anti-black. I am anti perpetrators of violence.  I am pro black. I am pro cop.

To declare there is not an issue with the police abusing their power and authority….ever...or rarely..contradicts a shit load of evidence to the contrary. To declare all cops are corrupt and abusive equally misses the mark.

While I firmly believe that the majority of cops are good cops who deserve our support and admiration, there are bad ones too. And from what I’ve read, some of them are “swing votes.” Their behavior and ethics depend on their peers and the culture of their department.

On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with. Quote taken from a Vox article and attributed to K.L. Williams who trains police in the use of violence.

Does the problem stem from peer pressure, the desensitization of empathy caused by dealing with criminals and violence every day? I don’t know. There is a problem, though, and it seems that minorities get the brunt of it. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong color…wrong guy?

I’ve heard/read a lot of stuff about the shootings this past week or so. Conservatives vs liberals; both bandying about polar opposite views. Perhaps the single most impacting story of all for me emerged from the news conference with the medical team from Parkland Memorial Hospital. Particularly from an emotional Dr. Brian H. Williams. He was the trauma surgeon who tried to save the lives of the wounded Dallas police officers.



What makes his story unique is that he has one foot in both worlds. He is a respected doctor who deals with the police on a daily basis but also as an average everyday black guy in street clothes who fears the police.

"I will defend you and I will care for you," he said. "That doesn't mean that I do not fear you."



He's been stopped by police himself over the years and said he is mindful each time that he must act and speak in a way that doesn't seem threatening. He lives each time in fear that he could be killed. He sees the news about other black men killed by police.

In one traffic stop, he ended up "spread eagle" on the hood of the cruiser. In another, when he was stopped for speeding, he had to wait until a second officer arrived. Just a few years ago, he was stopped by an officer and questioned as he stood outside his apartment complex waiting for someone to pick him up and drive him to the airport.

He doesn't have such encounters every day but when he does, he's on his guard and, "I'm always just praying for the encounter to end."

He said this about the cops he couldn’t save…..

I think about it every day. That I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night," Williams said. "It weighs on my mind constantly. This killing. It has to stop. Black men dying and being forgotten. People retaliating against the people who were sworn to defend us. We have to come together and end all this.

Not anti cop. No anti black but rather anti perpetrators of violence.

Take a few minutes and watch the videos....HERE and HERE. They are very impacting.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Mirror or Window? You Decide.....


This morning I followed a link on FB that led to an article on the Charisma website about Perry Noble, a prominent pastor of a Baptist megachurch, and his recent downfall/firing. He was fired for alcohol abuse and his posture toward his marriage…..whatever that means.

The parishioners of the megachurch heard the news on Sunday via Executive Pastor Shane Duffey. He also read Noble’s written statement explaining, among other things, that there was no sexual sin in his marriage, no porn, no cheating and no domestic abuse. The details of the marriage posture allegation is left to the imagination.  

So...the post on FB included a quote attributed to Noble stating that homosexuality was the sin that hung Jesus on a cross. That immediately pissed me off. What a pompous jerk. I went looking for the source of that quote to include in this blog post. Except that I can’t find it anywhere online. Oh to be sure, he thought homosexuality was a sin...a sexual sin...but that the church's preoccupation with homosexuality was out of proportion and unkind.  On his blog, I came across what I think is a particularly ballsy post where he compares the sin of homosexuality to a sin the church is reluctant to talk about….obesity aka gluttony.

Bring that up to an overweight brother or sister in Christ at the next covered dish pot luck and see how graciously your "truth in love" concern is received.

I was not familiar with Perry Noble until this morning. I've never heard his name. What I know now is the result of about an hour of clicking and reading here and there on the internet. I really have no idea what kind of a person he is, his opinions on total reconciliation, divorce, complementarianism, free will, women in leadership roles, etc. I can assume things from what I’ve read but I am not familiar with his preaching or writing. He doesn’t really come off as a pompous jerk in anything I’ve read this morning.

And anyway, similar to a stopped clock that is actually right twice a day, even a pompous jerk can say things that are profound, wise and true now and then. The old eat the meat/hay, spit out the bones/sticks theory works well for me. Like the proverbial diamond in a dung heap, I am on the lookout for truth no matter where I find it. Even if I have to distance it somewhat from the character and behavior of the source.  Today the following quote by Noble struck me as profound, wise and true….

“And it is way easier to use the Bible as a window in order to judge the lives of others rather than a mirror to examine ourselves.” Perry Noble   

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I. WANT. MY. MOM!!!!


Last night I came upon an article with photographs of mothers helping their daughters give birth. These mothers….soon to be grandmothers... were not usurping the important role of husbands/partners.They were simply adding an element of support that can only come from a loving mother….especially one who has lived through the seemingly physically impossible task of pushing an 8 lb baby (or in my case…a 9.5 lb baby…thanks Matt) out of a small orifice.

I shared the article with Emily….who also thought it was touching. "You will be there, lol" she texted. And, indeed, I will if she wants me there even though it will be hard to watch her in pain. Let there be no mistake about it, labor and delivery is almost always long….hard…and involves pain. But I will be there.

The pictures...and our conversation...took me on a little trip down memory lane to a day about or so 18 years ago. It was spring and all three kids were at school. I was at work when I got a call from the school. Emily was hurt. She fell and cut her forehead. You could see the bone and they could not get the bleeding to stop. Did I want them to call an ambulance? Well….yes….and please don’t dilly dally!!

During an outdoor gym class, she tripped and hit her head on the sharp edge of a metal picnic table bench. It nicked a small artery in her temple so there was a lot of blood. The gym teacher…a young guy…have no idea what his name was….picked her up and ran inside with her...as she bled all over his leather jacket. He was so rattled he left the entire class of kindergarteners outside alone…..but not for long because they all followed after him.

The nurse tried to get the bleeding to stop but couldn't…and so they called me. An ambulance was summoned. Her sweet, kind, caring kindergarten teacher….Mrs. Cobb….went with her.

The hospital was 45 minutes from where I worked. It was a long 45 minutes with lots of traffic. I got there first….her dad arrived shortly afterwards. She was not as seriously injured as it had, at first, appeared. The cut only required 7 stitches (not the 14 stitches the paramedic estimated predicted) and she was the epitome of brave ….holding very still, without having to be strapped, motionless, on that dreadful thing they called a papoose board.

"Can we just give it a try?" I asked….without the board. They were skeptical but agreed to give it a try. We told her how very important it was that she didn't move AT ALL. No small feat for Emily...but she didn't. Wincing a little bit as the doctor stitched, she remained motionless….clutching my hand. No papoose board needed.

This re-memory is perfect for a mother's day post. (Yes, I’m aware this is three days late for a Mother’s DAY post...but ‘tis the season, still) Let me tell you why. Emily's sister, Beth, who was also a student at that same elementary school, was in art class at the time of the accident. And she heard her sister's screams as the gym teacher carried her at breakneck speed down the hall to the nurse's office. Emily was screaming over and over again…."I. WANT. MY. MOM…..!"

And most of us want our mom. When we are injured...or giving birth….when we’ve been jilted, cheated on, slighted. When we are nervous, defeated, sick....Moms make it better somehow.  

“A mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.” - Emily Dickinson


“The best place to cry is on a mother's arms.” ― Jodi Picoult, House Rules

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bathroom Privileges....for everyone.....


If not for privilege, we would not be discussing the bathroom thing….
In many countries around the world, the biggest bathroom issue is just finding someplace safe to go…. behind the nearest bush….or a pit dug in the ground. Even in countries that have indoor facilities, the conditions are far from sanitary or safe.  


Here’s a bathroom in Africa….




And another one in China.




If you want to be truly thankful for the bathrooms you have access to at home and in public places like, oh say, Target….google it. No, really….google it. Image search…..and just take a good look at some of the pictures. Since we live in a privileged, spoiled country like America, we can spend hours….and days...and resources squabbling about bathroom rules and who should and should not have access….and how our sincerely held beliefs are being eroded.


So the American Family Association’s latest boycott is Target. 700,000 people have signed the petition to boycott Target. Target is the bad guy because they think this bathroom of your birth gender rule is ridiculous and they said so. At Target, you can use the bathroom of the gender you associate with. They said it loud and clear….and it’s really not a policy change. What do you think trans men and women have been doing all along? They’ve been using the ladies room if they identify as a women….and the men’s room if they identify as a guy. They are doing it at Walmart, at the mall, at the movies, at your favorite restaurant and maybe even at your place of employment. Target just verbalized it. They are standing up for their sincerely held beliefs….but somehow that is not okay with the 700,000 people who’ve signed the petition.


I want you to google something else. Here….I’ll do it for you. Just click the link.


Trans Women - Guys, would you feel comfortable in the men’s room with one of these women. I read a quote somewhere from a trans women who said, "People like me die in ladies rooms."  


Trans men - Ladies, would you feel comfortable in the ladies room with one of these guys? How would you explain this to your daughter...that these people who so clearly look like men are really women?

Can’t we just let it alone? It’s been going on for years. There have been trans people for years and years and believe me, they’ve been peeing in the stall next to you all this time.
And anyone who is going to pose as a women so he can get a peek or a feel is not going to be deterred by an open door next to a sign that says “Ladies Room.”




Even though I strongly suspect many of the folks who signed the boycott Target petition really just want trans people to go away but they're not going to. They just aren't. They have to pee somewhere...really they do. I know Ted Cruz offered his oh so practical solution. That they need to use their own bathrooms at home. As if....

Some well known Christians like John Pavlovitz and Rachel Held Evans and probably many others have...or will have...reasonable responses.