Saturday, July 4, 2015

Refuge

I grew up in Kansas. Which means tornadoes. I hate tornadoes.

One stormy night, my dad rushed into my bedroom and swooped me out of my bed. Our family made a mad dash to the neighbor's house - the only home in our community with a basement. Hunkered down in the dank dark basement, we waited. All the while the whipping howling wind ripped through our small town. The minutes seemed like hours and the hours like days. We waited for the darkness to pass, for the light to come.

That's how I feel sometimes. Waiting for it to be over. I go down. I stoop low. I cover my head and I tremble.

My heart pounds...

...waiting for it to end. Waiting for the sun to come out.

I am that petrified little girl cowering in the basement.

"Is it over", I squeak? "Can I come out now", I whisper?

The problem with being in the basement is that you can't see what's going on outside. There is no way to tell if the darkness has passed. Is it safe to come out? Ever so cautiously someone climbs the stairs to peer outside. Do you do that? I do. In the midst of a difficult time I'm hesitant to go outside. I want to be sure it's completely over before I venture out again. It's not safe out there I tell myself. I'll wait inside until I'm sure it's over.

When life smacks you in the face and you have to hunker down and wait, everything goes dark. Vision is hindered and fear creeps in. When will it end? When will it be safe?

But the thing about life is that the storm never really ends.

Spend some time on this earth and you begin to realize it's not about getting over the storms. It's about weathering them. 

I tend to hide, I'm not so good at weathering.

Back in the basement we notice the sirens have stopped. It's over. But, the crackling transistor radio warns caution even in the midst of the aftermath. It's a mess out there..be careful.

It never really goes away - the threats, the suffering, the fear, and imminent danger. You don't know what's around the corner, what's developing on the radar. Have you lost a loved one? Has your marriage fallen apart? Did you lose your job, your health, your savings?

I've come to know suffering and difficulty more than I care to. And the more I know about it the less I can explain it. More questions than answers.

My husband encourages me...

...trust God.


I say it a lot these days - it's not so much that I'm trusting God as it is God's loving me. He hangs on in the middle of life's storms - he knows my palms are sweaty and my hand is slipping.

In the midst I think I hear a sound.

It's hard to make out...

...but it sounds like refuge.




Friday, July 3, 2015

Help For When I Am Weak



We're all just walking each other home.” 
― Ram Dass


One of my favorite distractions while I'm running is people-watching. I love to see others out walking their dog, taking a stroll, or cycling. It's a human connection I guess.

I see them almost every evening. The sweetest elderly couple, side by side. They walk, and they talk...

...and they encourage.

Her with those neon shoes and him with his white v-neck tee. They don't stop, regardless of how they might be feeling. I am sure at their age there are more bones creaking and muscles aching, but they keep on going...

...and encouraging.
 
I notice their smiles first. When I get close enough they do things like fist pumps and thumbs up and cheer. All the while, they're smiling. Although they're probably in their eighties and weaker and more fragile than ever, they encourage me. I'm usually wearing headphones so it's hard to make out what they say each time, but I imagine them shouting "Good job! You're looking good! Go, go, go!" I always get a second wind after that, and wonder if their walk is just an opportunity to encourage others.

I have a friend. She's from Kansas too. 

She's a great teacher and it's no wonder her kids scored the highest this year. 

She is an incessant encourager. It doesn't matter what it is, she always has encouraging words for me. We were at the beach the other day and I felt like a swimsuit model. She said I looked "amaaazing." Of course, in my mind I am. 


She also encouraged my writing. She helped me gain some focus with exciting and energizing ideas. She challenged me to set a goal by offering tons of complimentary reassurances. She even volunteered to cheer me on (read: hold me accountable). She is officially my Chief Kickstarter...

I'm so grateful for all this fist pumping, and not just because I believe it's something we all need, but because I've felt weak this past year.

My bff and my running encouragers have both steadied me a bit...

...bolstered my wobbly legs.

I think God is like that. I imagine him at the finish line, towel around his neck, pumping his fists at me. With my ear buds on I make believe he's cheering and shouting, "Well done Lori, you are good and you've been faithful. I knew it all along!"

Come to think of it, I don't have to make believe it...

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 
- Matt. 25:21

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Silencing Others Is Anti-Gospel

****UPDATED****

Since publishing this post I have had a change of heart. I still stand by what I've written - whole-heatedly - and now more than ever because I have heard from so many of you who are experiencing what I've written about. What has changed is a reference I made regarding what another blogger wrote. Although I did not link to or name that person, they knew who the comment referred to and they were deeply hurt. For that I am truly sorry. It was not my intent to hurt anyone which is why I've removed the reference. I believe my post stands fine without it.

That fellow blogger and I have had good conversation since the post was published. Hurt was expressed and I'm glad because it gave me an opportunity to apologize, and ask for forgiveness. I was saddened by the hurt I caused. I appreciated the discussion we had in which we continued to disagree but pursued love in the midst. We may not have done it perfectly, but we pursued it. And that is enough.

I also apologize to those of you reading this. I am truly sorry if I hurt you with my reference. Please forgive me.

I have said before and I continue to beat this drum - disagreement and love are not mutually exclusive. As Christians especially, love can stand smack dab in the middle of disagreement. I wish I was better at it. I want to love more, shout less.

Thanks for reading.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I see a disturbing trend surfacing in light of the announcement regarding Tullian Tchividjian's adulterous relationship. Simply put, those who are of the grace and law/gospel camp are urging forgiveness and grace in the face of his sin. I hope everyone would agree it is an appropriate response. However, there are two points that seem to be at odds for the law/gospel believer.

No Condemnation

The first point argues that theologically, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Actually, it's not their argument, it's what the Bible says. And I agree. Paul declared that amazing truth in Romans 8 and it has served to set people free from that time until this day, and no doubt, will serve as the key to unlock prison doors until that day.

Does Forgiveness of Sin = Silence?

The second point, and this is where it gets sticky, says that on the basis of grace, only forgiveness and grace can be a valid response. This means that anyone who articulates anything other than a message of forgiveness is condemned to be self-righteous, anti-law/gospel, legalistic, unsupportive, judgmental, and unloving. The result? People get silenced. People get shouted down. The very gospel of freedom that's proclaimed is the very gospel used to intimidate and instill fear in those who have something else to say. I've personally experienced defensiveness and silencing as a result of simply urging caution in the absence of having all the facts. The misleading truth espoused is that forgiveness and grace cannot coexist with honesty and reflection. I say honesty because the truth is the truth. If you sin, you are a sinner (all of us). If you are dependent on alcohol, you are an alcoholic. If you committed adultery, you are an adulterer. Anyone who makes a truth-telling statement is not anti-anything necessarily, they are just telling the truth.

If the gospel we proclaim is used to silence people, it's not the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

It's a man-built religious prison used to incarcerate those who disagree with you.

Truth-Telling

If the gospel represents anything, it represents truth-telling. The gospel reminds us of our sin before God and man (the truth), and refreshes us with the good news of the forgiveness of sin as a result of a crucified Savior (also truth).

The gospel is the relief-giving antidote to the pressures of this life found in the very One who is Truth himself.

The list of those silenced by the church is long...very long. It may have happened to you - it's happened to me, and it goes like this. In order to dictate the world around me, I must silence anyone who is messing up whatever it is I'm clinging to that keeps my life going. Pride, power, control, reputation and even fear drive our need to silence others.

Image result for silencing people
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I believe this is very dangerous territory. When Christians call for silence from other Christians, or anyone for that matter, isn't that a form of bullying itself?

No one wants to be silenced. As far as I know, we still have freedom of speech. But for the Christian, it goes even farther than freedom of speech. Are we free? Yes. Free from the penalty and the guilt of sin. But free for what? The Bible says we are now free to love. But if our love extends only to those we agree with it's not love, it's favoritism. Love extended to all in the midst of disagreement is love.



Our Need To Silence Other Voices

I think that what troubles me most about this trend is the absolute need to silence. It reveals one telling truth.

We try to silence what we fear most.

And, what we fear most is anyone or anything that puts what we love at risk. It reveals idols. The need to silence is driven by the fear that what we idolize will be ripped from our lives.

Good News

So, here's some good news in the midst of all this talk of bullying. There has ever only been one person who is not a bully.

Friend of bullies, Lover of silencers, Voice of the silenced and oppressed, Jesus comes in the midst of our completely whacked-out intentions, messed up theologies, and all our defensive and offensive maneuverings to say, I love you. 

He calls to each of us to stand down, put down, and lay down all of our efforts to fight for what's "right" and to justify ourselves before mere men. We can end the defense of not just our own righteousness, but the righteousness of others too. It's not ours to keep, defend, or give, anyway.

We can rest knowing that we get to be the focus of the only One who truly protects, perfectly justifies, and sacrificially defends us all.



Friday, June 19, 2015

They Teach Me. And It's Good.


My bff's.

Neither one is white.

I remember someone saying we need to be color blind.

I disagree.

When I see my friends I'm not color blind...

...I see their color and I love it.

Here's what I want...

...to see in vivid technicolor."



read more...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Trauma Scene Calls For First Responders Equipped With Grace


Maybe we need to reassess what's going on in our churches. Maybe, if we looked at each dramatic situation as a need for triage we would respond differently. 

Instead of a problem to solve, a policy to be reinforced, or a behavior needing modification, maybe we can look and say - there are real people who need a real physician to bind up real wounds.

Emergency surgery is what's needed.

What if we had a team - a team of first responders. The ones who rush to the scene of the accident armed with nothing but grace...

...carrying loads of love and compassion

How different would the damage be? Instead of making things worse by withholding triage and pressing on wounds, we could stop the bleeding, bind up afflictions and ease suffering.

The recent headlines of The Village Church struck a cord with so many because abuse in the church has become commonplace - either because of the sheer reality of what's taking place or because we hear about it more thanks to social media. Either way, people have grown weary of the ugliness of it all. The leaders at TVC responded - but their response was not triage. It was more like an ambush. More explosions, more carnage, more destruction. A lot of people got hurt. Not just the ones involved, but the watching thousands and thousands who find that their faith has worn thin.

Since then, a miracle has happened. There have been apologies, sincere and tearful. There have been conversations, real listening and hearing. Time and sacrifice made to make things right.

An ambulance of grace responded and they set up triage and set out to bind up wounds. 

I applaud this response and I know it was not easy. [Read: Dear Church - Please Admit It When You're Wrong] How do you comprehend the change that took place in the hearts of all involved? We will never know the full and weighty impact of what happened as a result of TVC's apology and their admission of wrongdoing. In a world where defense is usually the first responder, grace is refreshing, breathtaking, and the only thing powerful enough to heal the broken.

Churches, pastors, and leaders are entrusted with authority and influence. People come to their hospital.

They're not OK people needing good advice. They're broken people desperate for grace.

They have come to the one place that should be dispensing it freely. They have looked to the world and the world doesn't have it to give.

TVC is not perfect. No church is. And personally, this does not get me any closer to going back to church for now. But, it does give hope. It is possible that change is in our midst.

The church needs to lose the image of the big powerful bully on the block and take back the picture of a shepherd carrying its sheep...going to find the lost one, washing the feet of the confused, dejected, sad and sinful, and, plunging beneath the cleansing stream as grace-needing, love-thirsting souls themselves.

 TVC has given us a picture of what love looks like and how grace operates.

There is hope.

*******I wrote those words this morning, and then I stopped. I stopped to listen to TVC sermon of May 31st*******

...and then I cried.

The pastor said,

I'm asking you on behalf of the elders, will you forgive us?

We've failed to walk in that with you, and you have borne the brunt of our foolishness.

I cried some more.

Will you forgive us where we've failed to recognize you as the victim and didn't empathize deeply with your situation?

More tears.

I realized I had been writing this post from my head - reporting on a story really. But what happened next surprised me. My heart was touched. I'm sorry, will you forgive me...well...it melted a little piece of my hardened heart. I imagined he was talking to me...and it changed me. For the first time in over a year I believe...a little...just a bit.

I don't think the hurting world needs to be diagnosed for law and gospel.

I think the hurting world needs a caravan of ambulances driving hard, fast, and headlong into hurt, pain, and wounds that need binding. 

The need is great for first responders who throw caution to the wind and react with love, compassion, and kindness not self-protection, public relations, and policy.

Maybe this ambulance of healing grace would bind a wound for you today:

I'm asking you on behalf of the elders, will you forgive us? There are some of you who are not just members, but you've borne the brunt of our lack of love, care, compassion, mercy. Those are acts that are built into the role of elder. We've failed to walk in that with you, and you have borne the brunt of our foolishness...
...For you, I'm not asking you to forgive us of mistakes. I'm asking you to forgive us of our sins...First, will you forgive us where our counsel turned into control? Second, will you forgive us where we've failed to recognize the limits and scope of our authority? Third, will you forgive us where we allowed our policies and processes to blind us to your pain, confusion, and frustration? Fourthly, will you forgive us where we acted transactionally rather than tenderly? Lastly, will you forgive us where we've failed to recognize you as the victim and didn't empathize deeply with your situation...
...As I've walked through these five specific statements of seeking forgiveness from you, if you find yourself, your situation, your story under one of those, will you come in and let us own that? I know that might sound like a terrifying proposition to you. Here's what I would lay before you. Whatever you need to do to feel comfortable, you set the rules...
...I have felt embarrassed and frustrated and brokenhearted because we have failed you, and we have wounded some of you, and we have not lived up to what God has called us to live up to in his Word. - Matt Chandler, Sr. Pastor The Village Church [full sermon transcript here]

peace.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Who's Minding The Shop Anyway?


Do You Have Room In Your Heart?

We could all agree there are some pretty lame Christian sayings out there. I sometimes wonder how in the world we fall for them. You've probably heard this popular quote, "God helps those who help themselves."

It's not in the bible.

In fact, it contradicts the entire storyline of the bible. 

Think about it, if you could help yourself you wouldn't need God. The truth is, God helps those who can't help themselves. Remember, you were dead? Dead in your sin until God raised you?

There are hundreds of sayings that we hear and take for granted, but they're just not true. And, they have nothing to do with the gospel. Here's another favorite of ours - we hear it a lot at Christmas. You have probably been asked this by many a preacher from the pulpit on Christmas eve. "Have you made room for Jesus?", or, "We're all innkeepers, will you let Jesus in?" The misleading teaching says that we are all innkeepers and we get to decide if there's room for Jesus.

While this thinking is quite popular,

it's not the storyline of the Bible either.

To put ourselves in the position of the innkeeper with the discernment and power to let Jesus in or keep him out, completely disregards God's sovereignty, his onewayness, and his ability to overpower our weak and petty motivations.

It reduces the gospel to a moralistic road map that any of us can follow if we so choose. 


Honestly, when given the choice would you have chosen Jesus?

Even now, do you choose Jesus? I'm not talking about desire. I'm talking about doing. Does the way you spend your time, resources and talents reflect choosing Jesus over the things of this world? Uh, yeah...me neither.

We are more like the innkeepers who respond, "There is no room in the inn, move along."

I heard these words this morning:

I'm not going to church.
I'm not praying.
I'm not reading the bible.

Not my words. Someone else out there...

I was grateful for the honesty. No mask. No pretense. No holier than thou blah blah blah. No yada yada yada about how they went through a painful time and now they're good to go.

Just gut-wrenching honesty...

...if you listen closely, you might hear something else...

...there is no vacancy.


Do you feel like that? I do. I feel like I don't have room for him or all of the religious baggage that comes along with the Jesus road trip.

But here's the deal. 

Jesus is not standing around waiting for me to post a vacancy sign on my heart. 

He's not anxious about whether I will let him in because the truth is, Jesus doesn't need a room. Jesus is the room. That is astounding good news. Especially from where I'm sitting these days.

But it gets better. All that religious baggage I think he moves in with? Not true. Jesus travels light. In fact, all by himself.

Jesus Didn't Need An RV 

One reason all of this matters is that I don't have to be anxious about whether or not Jesus will go find somewhere else more inviting to stay. In other words, If I'm not "making room for Jesus" he is not waiving good-bye and moving on. 

At some point this whole analogy breaks down, but the crucial point is, 

I belong to Jesus, 

and nothing I do or think or say can ever change that. 

His love for me and for you is bigger, more mysterious, and beyond anything we can understand right now. So, if you're going through a rough time, if you have doubts you just can't resolve for the moment, if you have questions no one can answer, it's o.k. Don't stress. Jesus isn't.

There's one more reason this is a big deal. The more we come to understand the truth that Jesus doesn't come with any baggage, the more we will grasp the true gospel. He had no home to welcome his birth. Jesus traveled with no place to lay his head. No donkeys loaded down with his belongings. He didn't show up with a bell man delivering trunks of wares. Jesus didn't have an RV. 

Nothing.

That's what Jesus travels with.

Which mean no rule books, no secret codes, no exams or homework, no court orders, no questionnaires, no membership guidelines, no entrance requirements, no clubs. There is no denomination, systematic theology, church discipline manual, or seminary ethics course needed.


He comes and He never leaves - regardless of your "youness."

peace.



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

We Are [NOT] All Josh Duggar


I understand the theology behind the statement, We are all the Duggars. It's the theology that maintains the biblical truth that we all fall short of the glory of God. We are all sinners.

I agree wholeheartedly that we are all sinners...

...sinners saved by grace.

That means we are simultaneously sinner and saint. We are clothed in Christ's righteousness, yet still living in a fallen world. Because I am sinner and saint I still struggle with sin on this earth, but because of Jesus and his death I am free from not only the penalty of sin but the guilt associated with sin. I am not free from the presence of sin, but on that day I will be free of sin fully, finally, and forever. I am thankful my sin has no bearing on my relationship with God because of what Christ has done for me.

I also agree that the church has, for far too long, had an us and them mentality which says sin is outside not inside the church.


It is high time we confess to a watching world the truth that the definition of a Christian is saved by God's grace, not saved by our goodness.

Here's what's nagging at me.

While the statement that lumps all of us into one big mosh-pit of child molesters may sound true, I don't believe it is true.

I am not a child molester. It's not self-righteousness to say that, it's just the truth. I have never had thoughts of molesting children. I would argue that there are many others like me who have never thought of repeatedly sexually assaulting children.

Janet Mefferd made this clear when she said,

"We all struggle with various sins, but we struggle with different sins, and one size does not fit all."

Like Josh Duggar, are we all sinners? Yes.

Are we all child molesters? No.

One last thought. Focusing on theology in situations where abuse has taken place - physical, mental, sexual or spiritual, can have its place in the conversation. However, I have seen that all too often it becomes an academic exercise to explain abuse with doctrinal principles. While that can be helpful, it can lack compassion and miss the point. Theology can sometimes talk past people, and as a result, become void of compassion and love.

The real point is the abuse and its victims. 

They are the point now.

I don't think we can err too much on the side of victims when it comes to abuse. How far would we go to restore a heart and soul ravaged at the hands of another? 

The gospel reminds us that Jesus went to the depths of hell and back again for each precious one.