The Givenness of Our Lives

All of you are gifted.

All.

There are so many things you do, and virtues you have, that I do not possess.

How about we admire the good and giftedness that we bring without pummeling ourselves for not possessing a gift that another has? And realize that there is the possibility that we too can grow in whatever area we seek.

I didn’t know I could write well until I went to seminary. I didn’t know that people wanted to hear and read what I had to say until I went public with it on my radio show. I had to step out no matter how afraid I was, and no matter how I suffered from imposter’s syndrome. I still have to step out.

Some of you play the piano and violin well. Other instruments. Sing. Others of you can cook or organize a house or are running businesses or are an oasis of peace and stability for a child or adult who desperately need an oasis. You’re gregarious and people love you. Or you are quiet and detailed. Or a mix.

Some of you are counselors or coaches or politicians or can fix most anything – maintenance. In law enforcement. Or a school bus driver that makes the world happy and keeps children safe. Some of you work retail and are so good at it. Others are salespeople. Nurses. Military. Physicians. Lawyers for good. Some of you are so hospitable. Some of you are fundraisers or social workers. Teachers. Stay at home parents who do what so many of us cannot do as well as you. Wonderful homemakers. Pastors to whom we bow because you are faithful, not in it for the money, and give it all for your flock even if it be small. Some of you are marketers.

Some of you are older and your energy might be faltering but you volunteer or pray or quilt or are an anchor for us all. Or you bear your pain and sickness with a strength most of us can only imagine. Some of you are caregivers for family members. I could go on.

I only have a few gifts, I imagine a couple of virtues (and plenty of sins and vices). There are so many things I wish I could do.

But, I cannot do and be everything. As Jesus taught, whatever money or talents I have, I have to be a good steward – stop wishing I were someone else. That sops energy and is a recipe for misery. I am to the point where I accept who I am for good or for ill. I hope you can too – it will reduce misery.

And we will all be good when you accept who you are because I can’t be you. No one else can be.

And you can’t be me.

Our flourishing is intertwined though. We can only go forward together. We cannot make it alone or with our gifts alone.

Let us accept the givenness of who we are and of things and peace will anchor in our souls and society. That doesn’t mean we accept abusive situations or shoddiness. Evil. I only mean that we don’t wish our lives away.

We have one short, fragile life that is precious to God and others.

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How Should We Live? This Posture:

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. ~ C.S. Lewis

Or as Jesus said it, Love God with everything you are and your neighbor as yourself.

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We’re Worshiping the Counterfeit Trinity

My Twitter acquaintance, Christie Love, reminded me of these words from C.S. Lewis, “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

You know what I see and hear? An anti-Christ theology and practice among professing evangelicals revealed over the last year. As my friend Preston Yancey and others have rightly pointed out, we are living in an apocalypse, a time of revealing.

What has been revealed? The apocalypse, or revealing, is this: evangelicals are bowing to the counterfeit trinity of money, power, and influence. We’ve learned that some of our so-called evangelical leaders can get away with anything, idolatry, sexual assault, greed, oppressing the poor and more, as long as they are in power. Power is the precious ring from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Love of money, power, and prestige have become our gods.

Gollum (Wax Muserm Mexico City)

My friend and writer, Michelle Van Loon,  recently pointed out that, “Access to power is like crack. It has made addicts of too many people who claim the name of Jesus.” Boy, is she right. I’ve seen too many people throw Jesus under the bus this last year in exchange for political and religious gain. They’ve sold their souls.

The Moral Majority is immoral. Then again, some have known that for a while. Evangelicals as a collective group have lost all credibility. No longer can we collectively speak with any measure of integrity about family values or about being pro-life. We have lost the right to be heard. Only repentance and living like Jesus will allow us to ever be heard again.

I am throwing up in my mouth.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us.

May we repent.

 

 

 

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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. 

 

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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.

Tulips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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? 

 

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