May your heart be moved also…

YesallwomenYears ago, I began struggling with the theological and practical teachings of male authority and female submission that was championed in the church of my upbringing and modeled in my home. Once I hit my young adult years, there was no looking back as I abandoned the traditional Bible interpretation of male “headship” and embraced (for me), the more loving and Christlike Bible interpretation of mutual submission in all of my relationships with womenespecially with Wanda.

I owe much to the generous, wise, and prophetic teaching of women like Naomi Krueger.  My heart was moved tonight, as I read this prayer she wrote:

A Prayer of Lament for #YesAllWomen

O Lord, how long must we wait for you? Will you forget us forever?

We are your children, daughters of Eve. Co-heirs with Christ.  And yet, we are tormented. Day and night, sons of Adam exert their power over us.

The Curse on Eden rings raw and loud in our ears as we witness the unspeakable against our sisters.

And he shall rule over you. And he shall rule over you.

We followers of The Way know this curse is empty now, and yet…

The wails of women echo throughout millennia from the injustice heaped on their backs, their bosoms rocking with sorrow for stones thrown, futures decided, innocence shattered, lives stolen.

Have you forgotten us God? How long must we wait for you? Would it take wearing sackcloth and kneeling in ashes for you to hear my prayer?

Hundreds of schoolgirls are snatched from their Nigerian village by brutal men, threatening forced marriages and violence. We grieve the national and international inaction. We balk at the horror of stealing daughters from the safe space of school.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Tens of millions of women are sold into sexual slavery, meeting an insatiable demand from our police chiefs, brothers, football fans, hunters, bachelor parties, average-men-down-the-street.

I thought the curse was lifted, God. Why can I still hear it?

Your daughter Meriam Ibrahim, cries out in the pains of childbirth behind prison bars in Sudan for standing firm in her faith in Jesus, for marrying a follower of Christ. Her enemies surround her, eager to flog her. To kill her. Thirsty for her martyrdom.

Come, Lord Jesus.

A Pakistani family murders their daughter with stones outside a courthouse, punishing her for an unapproved marriage. Her blood wails from the ground, pleading for freedom.

There are no words. Holy Spirit, groan with us. Holy Spirit intercede.

A man in California goes on a murderous rampage, blaming his anger on women who neglected his advances. Violently responding to female indifference, he takes six lives and then his own.

Will you forget us forever, Oh Lord?

Millions of women around the world take to Twitter to share stories of abuse, rape, mistreatment by men.   #YesAllWomen  affects us all.

 Oh, God. It’s just too much.

You proclaimed a kingdom where the lowly are blessed, the weak are protected, where the lion lays down with the lamb, but it’s not here yet. Where is it? When will it come?

Come, Lord Jesus. Let your Kingdom Come. On Earth as it is in Heaven.

How long must we wait?

May your life be enriched and your theology be challenged by these words.  

Mine is.

May your heart be moved also…

YesallwomenYears ago, I began struggling with the theological and practical teachings of male authority and female submission that was championed in the church of my upbringing and modeled in my home. Once I hit my young adult years, there was no looking back as I abandoned the traditional Bible interpretation of male “headship” and embraced (for me), the more loving and Christlike Bible interpretation of mutual submission in all of my relationships with womenespecially with Wanda.

I owe much to the generous, wise, and prophetic teaching of women like Naomi Krueger.  My heart was moved tonight, as I read this prayer she wrote:

A Prayer of Lament for #YesAllWomen

O Lord, how long must we wait for you? Will you forget us forever?

We are your children, daughters of Eve. Co-heirs with Christ.  And yet, we are tormented. Day and night, sons of Adam exert their power over us.

The Curse on Eden rings raw and loud in our ears as we witness the unspeakable against our sisters.

And he shall rule over you. And he shall rule over you.

We followers of The Way know this curse is empty now, and yet…

The wails of women echo throughout millennia from the injustice heaped on their backs, their bosoms rocking with sorrow for stones thrown, futures decided, innocence shattered, lives stolen.

Have you forgotten us God? How long must we wait for you? Would it take wearing sackcloth and kneeling in ashes for you to hear my prayer?

Hundreds of schoolgirls are snatched from their Nigerian village by brutal men, threatening forced marriages and violence. We grieve the national and international inaction. We balk at the horror of stealing daughters from the safe space of school.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Tens of millions of women are sold into sexual slavery, meeting an insatiable demand from our police chiefs, brothers, football fans, hunters, bachelor parties, average-men-down-the-street.

I thought the curse was lifted, God. Why can I still hear it?

Your daughter Meriam Ibrahim, cries out in the pains of childbirth behind prison bars in Sudan for standing firm in her faith in Jesus, for marrying a follower of Christ. Her enemies surround her, eager to flog her. To kill her. Thirsty for her martyrdom.

Come, Lord Jesus.

A Pakistani family murders their daughter with stones outside a courthouse, punishing her for an unapproved marriage. Her blood wails from the ground, pleading for freedom.

There are no words. Holy Spirit, groan with us. Holy Spirit intercede.

A man in California goes on a murderous rampage, blaming his anger on women who neglected his advances. Violently responding to female indifference, he takes six lives and then his own.

Will you forget us forever, Oh Lord?

Millions of women around the world take to Twitter to share stories of abuse, rape, mistreatment by men.   #YesAllWomen  affects us all.

 Oh, God. It’s just too much.

You proclaimed a kingdom where the lowly are blessed, the weak are protected, where the lion lays down with the lamb, but it’s not here yet. Where is it? When will it come?

Come, Lord Jesus. Let your Kingdom Come. On Earth as it is in Heaven.

How long must we wait?

May your life be enriched and your theology be challenged by these words.  

Mine is.

An unexpected lesson on prayer…

prayerThe following is a post on prayer I found on another blog.  It’s definitely worth your sixty seconds.

I think sometimes our prayers seem to be ineffectual because we don’t really specify what it is we’re asking for. We remember people in prayer, but it’s more like reciting a list than it is standing in the gap on their behalf or interceding, that is, coming between them and God. I picture God wishing we would engage him more on the particulars.

“So Lord, please be with Mike and Darla.”

“I’m always with them; I will never leave them or forsake them.”

“But Lord, just be in their marriage.”

“Their marriage is wholly committed to me.”

“Yes, Lord, but help them to reach out to you.”

“They speak to me as a couple each morning and evening and throughout the day.”

“Well, just be with them this week.”

“What would you like me to do?”

“Well, they’re going through a rough time right now.”

“Yes, what things specifically are you wanting to bring forward.”

“Mike’s job at the warehouse is looking unsure, and Darla’s job ends next week.”

“Okay, that’s a specific.”

“And the kids are really stressing them out.”

“Yes, parenting is like that.”

“And they need to fix the roof this spring and the money’s not there.”

“Yes, and there’s a section over the end that’s going to get worse really soon.”

“Wait, you know that?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then Lord, I pray you’ll send them the money, or someone willing to repair the roof.”

“Isn’t your brother-in-law a roofing contractor?”

“Yes, but he lives three states away and he doesn’t know these people.”

“Well, you’ve ruled out that possibility. Which part of the prayer request do you think I should deal with first?”

“Isn’t that your job?”

“Yes, but what would you do if you were me?”

“I guess I would…”

Yes?”

“I guess I pray you’ll help them both realize that there aren’t really any jobs in their field anymore, that technology is shifting and they need to look for a different kind of work.”

“Now that’s a really specific prayer request I can work with.”

“How are you going to answer that one?”

“I’m going to send you to talk to them about the job market.”

“Oh.”

“Anything else?”

“No, I guess I’ve got some work to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Any thoughts?

Bejeezus?

Lord have mercyThe other morning at North Point Men’s Whataburger, one of the dudes said something had “scared the bejeezus” out of him.  It’s not the first time I had ever heard that phrase, but it just sort of cracked me up for some reason.  So I went around Whataburger and asked some of the local manhood if they had ever used the phraseand did they know what it meant.

Not a lot of collective smarts at Whataburger at 8:00am on a Thursday morningexcept for the one guy who decided to google it.

Bejeezus is an old english euphemism for “by Jesus”.  It still doesn’t make any sense.

Tonight, Wanda and I cruised to our local Ghetto Braums and I realize Wanda has her radio tuned to a local young country station.  I’m not really paying much attention to the song (something about country roads, a red solo cup, and his girlfriend who dumped him), but I do hear a recurring line: “Lord have mercy…”.

There are a lot of popular expressions that have “religious” references here in the country fried nation.  Maybe they are used on the beaches of SoCal and the urban jungles of America’s inner citiesI don’t remember.  But I definitely hear them here:

“Jesus Christ!”  (an expression of surprise, disgust, or amusement)

“For Christ’s sake…”  (an expression of frustration over something that just happened)

“Holy crap!”  (heyat least most people I hang around don’t use the SH word!)

“I wish to God…”  (something you really want to happen)

“Sweet Jesus!”  (could be a good or bad expression of surprise)

“What the hell?”  (total surprise)

Jeeezus!”  

“Holy Hell!”

“Jesus freakin‘ Christ!”

“God damn it or God damn you”

There are others I have heardall variations on the same theme.  They are part of everyday, common conversation.  Most of the time, they are uttered without thought or consequence.  I am neither naive, nor prudish.  I’m not on a crusade to clean up cultureor your daily vocab.

But I would like to give you who claim to be followers of Christ a quick refresher course in definitions:

Jesus Christ:  Savior, Lord, Master, Messiah, Salvation, Anointed, Son of God

For Christ’s sake:  For Christ’s purposefor his designfor his good

Holy:  Sanctified, set apart for God’s noble purposes, the essence of the character of God

Hell:  The antithesis of the presence of Godtotal separation from the goodness of God

Mercy:  God graciously witholding what I really deserve

God damn:  Calling on God to inflict his righteous judgment on a person or situation

The name of Jesus is higher and greater than any other name that has ever been given.  It is at his name that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.  The name G_D was thought to be so holy and so revered, the Jews would not even say it.

So I would simply say, if you’re gonna use it, you better mean it.  The way it was intended.

Marriage Tuesday

marriage 2I performed my first wedding ceremony when I was 25.   That means almost 35 years of doing these babies.   I don’t know how many I’ve done, but if I’ve averaged seven per year (a pretty conservative estimate), that’s nearly 250 weddings. Wow.

Every one of them have been different.  Different people.  Different personalities.  Different styles.  Different words.  Each one has some similarities, but they are all unique.

I started doing the pastor thing back in the day when they gave new ministers a little black leather “minister’s handbook” that had two standard wedding ceremonies and two or three standard funeral services.  The wedding ceremonies were the traditional ones that started like this:

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God – and in the face of this company – to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all men; and therefore – is not by any – to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly – but reverently, discreetly, advisedly and solemnly. Into this holy estate these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together – let them speak now or forever hold their peace…

I can honestly say I have never uttered those words in a wedding.  Just couldn’t do it.  If you know me, you know why.

Although the words and order and rituals were all unique to each wedding ceremony, there is one thing I have done in every service…without exception.  I have prayed.  I have asked the Father to be the focus of attention.  I have called on the God to be honored and blessed by the occasion and the vows that were exchanged.  I have requested that the Holy Spirit give energy and power to the promises the two were making to each other.  I have pleaded, with passion, that God would give each one the heart and compassion to love and serve each other like Jesus would.  Every time…in every ceremony.

The reality?  I would say about one-third of the couples I have married honestly and sincerely identified with the words of my prayers…deeply desiring God to honor my requests…and fully intending to have a marriage that reflected the heart and priorities of God and the pattern of relationship revealed in Scripture.

Those weddings were…and are… easy to do and a joy to be a part of.

Sadly, about two-thirds of the couples simply wanted to get married because they loved each other (at the time) and wanted a church wedding with a minister officiating, instead of a justice of the peace or the captain of the Love Boat… either because of tradition or because that’s what their parents wanted or because of some mystical belief that a church wedding had a better divorce insurance policy.  Some made it.  Some didn’t.

The challenge for me has always been to get the two-thirds to be open to becoming part of the one-thirds.

Way easier said than done.

Terror, fear, and faith. Part 2

fear_and_faith

here are some more thoughts on living in a dark world…

when there is danger…whether it’s the presence of potential harm…or a frontal assault on our personal safety…we always have options for our responses.  there is no script.  it’s entirely ad-lib for all of us.

some buy an extra box of ammo.  some move to the suburbs.  some turn into doomsday preppers.  some become political activists.  others join the army.  some join the neighborhood watch.  some simply cower in fear and paranoia.  like i said yesterday,  it’s personal.

here’s my reality… as a follower of christ, i am bound by his word and his lifestyle.  for me, there is no legit wiggle room.

no matter what my “practical response” to violence and terror may be (and i have never really been confronted by either),  first and foremost, my response must always be controlled by what  god commands me to do.  and in those cases where god’s word has not spoken, my actions must conform to how i think jesus would act if he were in my shoes.

here’s what it looks like…and don’t mistake this for some kind of rant on gun control!  even though i’m not a gun guy, some of my best friends and some of the finest followers of christ i have ever met are gun owners!  so check it out:

i am to pray for victims.  it is truly the very least…and the very best…that i can do.

i am to pray for my enemies.  i don’t get it, most of the time.  sometimes this feels like an impossible task.  but i am commanded to do this.   But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44

i am to help those in need.  money, blood, supplies, relief, food, comfort…whatever i can reasonably and practically give.  both near and far.  i don’t believe that jesus puts border restrictions on compassion.   Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.  Matthew 25:40

i am to grieve for the loss and suffering of others.  acts of terror and violence need to remind me of how sacred life really is.  when i cease to feel for the pain of others,  i am no longer walking in the footsteps of jesus.  and it should not take a bomb or a tornado to awaken this “pain” in me.  it needs to be present all the time.

i am to forgive.  when innocent people are subjected to tragedy, our “natural” response is to boil with anger, harden our hearts, or even seek revenge.  but even though it goes against everything i think or feel, i must do what jesus would do.  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

i cannot let anger or fear control me or my decisions.  saying i trust god has to mean something.  it is not just a spiritual platitude.  “trusting god” does not cancel out my responsibility to be wise and safe…but it does mean there are things i cannot, and will not, take into my own hands.  Vengeance is mine; I will repay”, says the Lord.  Romans 12:19.  do i really believe that?

images of violence, chaos, hate, blood, retaliation and panic explode on our computer and television screens every day.  it’s easy for fear to strangle confidence.  it’s understandable why, to me,  people are reduced to paranoia.  but i either need to believe the word of god, or not.  i do.  For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.  1 Timothy 1:7

i am a peacemaker.  when the angry crowd came to take jesus away by force, peter raised his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest…in an act of defiance, to protect what was his.   Jesus said, “Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords.” Matthew 26:52  

now i know people interpret this teaching in different ways.   i am not ignorant of the sociopolitical issues.  (the role of the military and the police for our protection is clearly set out in scripture.)   but i am consumed with the awareness that jesus has called me to be a peacemaker.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9   it would have been easy, and vastly preferred by his disciples, for jesus to take his kingdom by force.   but no matter how hard i look, i just can’t see defending and defeating evil through physical violence being the way of jesus.  his way was different.  he was different. i must be different.

 like i said yesterday, coexisting in a world of darkness…as people of light…is no simple task.

love is the better way.  to be honest, in a world of brokenness, sin, perversion, evil and fear…this is a totally ridiculous statement.  it goes against my nature.  at my core, i am self-centered.  treating others the way they deserve to be treated just makes more sense.  and it’s easier.  it takes no discipline.  it satisfies my basic craving.

terror and fear can turn to hate and anger in a heartbeat.  and they can make us do some crazy things.

faith…trust…belief…hope…obedience…love?

yeah.  a much better way.

Prayers and Condolences

this is not the first time i’ve ever written about this issue.  but it needs to be stated again.

i’m not sure why this affected me the way it did this evening.  maybe because it seems like a lot of people near me are getting their fair share of tragedy these days.  or maybe because i’ve been preparing for my christmas season sermons on dealing with pain and suffering.

or maybe just because i’ve been thinking a lot about my life as a dad when my boys were younger…something i’ve been doing quite a bit the past couple of months.

no matter the reason, here’s what grabbed my heart this evening:

i turned on the tnt basketball pre-game show and it was obvious there was something wrong.  the announcers were not speaking with their usual joviality.  yup.  something was seriously wrong.  each of the four announcers were taking their turn offering their sympathy to kevin mchale, the head coach of the houston rockets.

his 23 year-old daughter, sasha, died saturday of complications from lupus, a chronic and sometimes-deadly auto immune disease.

it was obvious the four announcers knew kevin personally…as a player, a coach, and a friend.  they each spoke of their love for him and the deep sadness they were feeling because of his loss.  each one spoke “directly” to mchale and promised that their deepest thoughts and prayers would be with him.

after charles barkley, kenny smith and shag had shared their sincere condolences (“our thoughts and prayers go out to you…”), ernie johnson, the white guy who’s the studio host of the program, said some words on live television that shocked me.

“kevin, i am praying that you and your family will experience the peace that passes understanding.”  what?

i know that ernie johnson is a believer.  he’s active with the fellowship of christian athletes and the missionary organization, athletes in action.  but his words to kevin mchale were not the words of a high-profile celebrity christian.  they were the words of a brother.

i am so grateful to know that i have real words of comfort during times of unspeakable tragedy and sadness.  i’m so glad that i have more to say than “i’ll be thinking of you”, or “sending good thoughts your way” or “passing some positivity in your direction”, when what people need is truth and real hope to hold on to.

in a world full of suffering and fears that come with sickness and deep disappointment, my heart truly breaks for people who don’t believe in the reality of a living, personal, interactive and compassionate creator-god.

do you have words of life to pass on to others?  i’m sure you will have plenty of opportunities to share them in the future.