Ashley Madison, Josh Duggar, & Becoming Like Jesus

It’s another day and another Christian public figure is embroiled in scandal. Lately it has been sexual scandals with more conservative Christian men scandalizing us. Which makes it even worse since these men are often most vocal about family values. Yet, being vocal about family values doesn’t entail that people endow their families with value. I’ve been around people who are vocal about family values but are complete jerks to their families and others. Two-faced: one way in public and another way at home. I don’t want to hear anymore talk about family values unless a person is valuing his or her family. We value our families by loving them in secret and in public. Talk is cheap. Unbelievers too have long been weary of our empty talk.

Also, these seemingly endless scandals whether very public or less public prove the point my gay friends have been making for years: our own heterosexual marriages and lives are messed up. Why then is the LGBTQ community the target of our ire? Again, talk is cheap.

I think what we need to do is talk less. We need to talk less about our politics and opinions and ask God to transform us into loving people. Maybe then others will listen.

First and foremost we need to learn what it means to be deeply loved by God. When we know the love of God, we can love others well. 

And I suppose that knowing we are loved by God means knowing that he loves us while knowing full well who we are. We need to confess that we’ve opened Ashley Madison accounts or struggle with pornography, have had affairs – whether emotional or physical. We need to confess our sexual perversions to trusted others and capable others, people who can handle it. Some of us have to begin by confessing to our spouses. Being honest about who we are is the first step toward wholeness. If we’re not honest with ourselves, God, or trusted others, we’ll never get better. 

But maybe we fear the consequences of our honesty. The consequences can be terrible. Consequences can range from loss of relationships, family, jobs, reputation, and maybe even our freedom (jail). Maybe some of us will need to spend time in prison to pay for our sins because of who we’ve raped or abused. We may need to atone for our sins here and now. But we don’t want to. It’s too embarrassing. There’s too much to lose. So we cover up and continue on being not well, not well at all. And we continue to hurt, damage, and abuse others.

You  know what though? As I said above, confessing is the first step to getting better. You don’t need to carry this weight around with you anymore. It’s too much to bear. Confess who you are and what you’ve been. Remember Jacob who was a liar and deceiver? When he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord, the Angel of the Lord asked him his name. ‘Jacob’ he said. Jacob meant ‘deceiver’. It was only after his wrestling match with the Angel of the Lord that he confessed his name. And when he confessed his name, God gave him a new name, ‘Israel’ which means (‘he strives with God’,  see Genesis 32). The name Jacob would no longer give him away as a deceiver. He had a new name, Israel – he fought with God and prevailed. Now he had to live into his new name. The old was gone. 

Do you need a new name?

God longs to give you a new name. Your sexual sin, immorality, and perversions no longer have to define you. When you repent, you change direction, you change your ways. You moved towards God, which means you move towards wholeness and shalom. You move towards flourishing instead of away from it. You move toward how things should be, how they were meant to be. You move towards what you were created to be. You don’t need to live in this pigsty anymore. There is hope for you. God will forgive you. And if God can forgive you, you can forgive yourself even if others don’t. You can start right now to become like Jesus. 

It won’t happen overnight and you can’t do it by yourself. But as you begin to live an honest and obedient life in a community of trusted and safe others, little by little you’ll become more like Jesus. 

Listen, it’s better to lose reputation and to be embarrassed than to cultivate the work of death in you. It’d be better to be honest and to get better than to be dishonest, eventually be found out, and possibly lose your soul. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who know who they are, who know they are broken, and who cry out for help. They will be heard by God. They will be made whole. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

May that be you. 

It can be you.

Jesus doesn’t kick you when you are down.

There’s grace and forgiveness and love for you.

You too can become like Jesus.

This goes for all the Christians whose names appear on Ashley Madison accounts, Josh Duggar, and others. Jesus calls us all, including those we’d rather not include. 


Change the Way You Seek Happiness

Thomas Keating writes that, repentance means “to change the way in which you are looking for happiness.” We are all, every one of us, looking for joy and peace – contentment. We want to rest from the rat race. We want to know that we are okay – known and loved for who we are. We want to feel at home in the life and in the eyes of another–safe, comfortable, and at rest. Not agitated. We desire to look into the eyes of another and see delight. We want to be the apple of another’s eye, of those closest to us. Those who encountered Jesus knew they were the apple of his eye.









We are weary with comparing ourselves to others, yet we do it anyway. I grew up poor and  isolated. I didn’t know what I didn’t have. Social media has changed all that. Sometimes, social media is a crystal ball beckoning me to enter vanity fair. My head swivels about, taking in sights and sounds I don’t encounter in daily life. These sights and sounds agitate my soul. Temptations call out, singing their alluring songs, telling me that my life won’t matter unless I succeed according the world’s standards, or even American Christian culture’s standards. These Christian culture standards often mirror our celebrity culture.

Bigger is better. More numbers are better: book sales, blog stats, church members, friends, followers. Higher numbers are better except when it comes to weight. The message I often hear when I gaze into the social media crystal ball that often acts as a window into vanity fair is : you are only someone if you chum around with the right people. You are who you know. You are your connections. 

That’s not always the case of course. But it is a dominant message. (We all know of the benefits of social media).

I think of Jesus and how he chummed around with all the wrong people. Jesus didn’t pick his friends based on their money or influence or followers. That’s good news for me and for the rest of the poor in the world. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

I’ve written elsewhere that I often fast from social media, Facebook and Twitter, for my well-being. Fasting from social media cleanses my soul. It reorients me to what is good and true and beautiful. It reorients me to what is important. I think for the Christian, fasting from social media is the modern-day equivalent of seeking silence and solitude in the wilderness. 

Many people I admire, those good at loving God and loving others, spend a lot of time in silence and solitude so that they can hear God and return to themselves, return to what they know is right.  They spend time in silence and solitude to they can learn to love God and others better. Wendell Berry advises staying away from screens, period. 

Fasting from social media allows me to repent. It allows me to change the way I am looking for happiness. It allows me to seek the Jesus way more fully. It allows me to go to Jesus, and get rest, to take his teachings, or yoke, upon me. Fasting from social media is a channel for Jesus’s peace.

What are some ways that you repent? What are some ways that allow you to change the way you are looking for happiness? 


God, are You Messin’ with Me?

I recently suffered a stunning disappointment. I mean, it was a heart-wrenching stunner. 

I thought God was pointing and moving in a certain direction. Guiding this way and not that.

I was wrong.

Dead wrong.

I was sorely disappointed especially since the movement in that direction was not initiated by me. Originally I thought it was initiated by God through others. Not now. When I heard the resounding ‘No’, I cupped my mouth. I had to swallow my anguish. I couldn’t allow the girls to hear my primordial scream. I didn’t want to move them to tears with mommy’s tears. They wouldn’t understand. 









Finally Lord, I thought, after all these years, you are moving me in this direction. And then this. Why God? Why would there be a resounding “No!”? Why wasn’t I left well enough alone? I was fine, on my way, following you, content-all before this possibility turned up.

God are you messing with me?

Why was this an exercise in futility?

Jesus, I thought you told me to cast my nets, the way you told Peter and the others to cast their nets (John 21). I cast my nets and they turned up empty. Is this some sort of cosmically cruel joke? 

It can’t be. God, you’re not that way.

Again, I didn’t understand this one. Not this one. The invitation to move in this direction came through several trusted others. And so I thought it came from God too since it was also a desire of my heart.  But then the door was slammed shut. Right in my face. In the eleventh hour. 

I know God is kind, loving, and generous. He’s not stingy. But it’s moments like these that I am tempted to think that he is tight-fisted. This disappointment stings like crazy. I have to go on, hide my disappointment from my three little girls. My husband Shawn and I just need a moment to grieve together. Maybe more than a moment. 

Right now I feel like so many who have been disappointed in God. Like Martha told Jesus, “If you would’ve been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” My Lazarus, my dream, is dead in a tomb. I also feel like Joseph left in prison after he helped the baker and the cup bearer. Forgotten.

I’m fighting to believe in my Lazarus’s resurrection and my Joseph-like vindication.

Today I had to flip to chapter 8 of my book, “The Death of a Dream”. I had to preach to myself yet again, take my own advice. 

Here are my own words to myself and to others who are looking in:

Much of our disappointment over unfulfilled dreams is due to our inability to see. We see so little now. We are looking at reality through a peephole. So when I witness the death of my dream, or the dreams of others, and I can’t figure out what God is doing, I have to remind myself that I am looking at reality through a peephole. I have to remind myself that God is doing so many things, that he is interweaving the story of our lives into his grand story. It’s not just my life and my dream. It’s about our lives and our dreams.  

p. 121-122 A Beautiful Disaster

The problem is that I can’t see. I only see a locked wooden door and feel the fresh sting of a door shut on my face-a door that had begun to swing open but not enough for me to go through.

Today I shot an e-mail off to a friend who was standing vigil with me. She was hoping and praying with me. I broke the bad news. She told me that she doesn’t believe it’s the end of the matter. I cling to her hope and her prayers and what I wrote in chapter 8. 

God has got this in a way I don’t yet understand. And I know that if you find yourself in a similar situation, that we can grieve together. Find someone else to grieve with. God has got this. And when he turns the situation around in a way you and I could’ve never imagined, we’ll rejoice together.



Self-Examination Questions For Lent


These questions come from the Wesleyan heritage. They are here for you to ponder during Lent.


  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am a better person than I really am ? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all acts or words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence? Can I be trusted?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give it time to speak to me each day?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to somebody else with the object of trying to win that person for Christ?
  10. Am I making contacts with other people and using them for the Master’s Glory?
  11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  13. Do I disobey God in anything?
  14. Do I insist upon doing something for which my conscience is uneasy?
  15. Am I delegated in any part of my life? Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  19. Is there anybody whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  20. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

 Taken from HQL-9826, p.24

Right Now.

Our family just welcomed tiny little Isabella into our lives. She was born 10/2. We love and adore her. God protected me through a difficult pregnancy and a scary delivery. Most of this pregnancy I’ve been sick and immobile. I haven’t been able to write as much.

In fact, my book came out when I became increasingly immobile and unable to talk much about it. But God has his hand on these things and in these things.

When I did get out, it was either to church, or to visit people as part of the pastoral care staff at my church. I couldn’t run and jump and play with my two daughters. My husband has for the last 10 months while also working full-time and trying to care for me. A neighbor he just met asked if he was a stay-at-home father (no shame in that). It’s because she never saw me-just him and the girls. That goes to show how absent I’ve been, physically isolated. It’s not because I’ve wanted to be, but because that’s what pregnancy does to me.

Since she was born, I’ve been out and about a little. People comment “You’re out so soon!” And I say “Yes, I’ve been in all year.” I am thankful I am alive and can walk. I am thankful for friends that helped/help out with the girls. I am thankful for social media so I can read about what others are doing and stay somewhat connected to those far away. When I was extremely nauseated, I could do very little. I moaned prayers. Then when I was more physically immobile, I found I couldn’t do too much more. But I could pray and I did pray. I believe James 5:16 – the prayer of a righteous person is effective.

I know many righteous friends have prayed for me.

My prayers are the loaves and fish I offer for my friends and for the world when I am immobile or up during the watches of the night. I think of the monastics who rise to pray throughout the night and of the prayers of brothers and sisters across the world whose day is my night and who are praying.

I like to join them.