Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Those Times When It Actually Sticks

I'm having some fun writing over at A Deeper Family today. Head over and check it out. Check out the Deeper Story and Deeper Church channels while you're at it. There's a whole heap of incredible storytellers over there.

Here's a snippet of my contribution"
"Regardless of how the day starts though, one thing is clear: the whole "stay in bed until your light turns green" thing just isn't really sticking. This, however, is not a unique phenomenon. Parenting is full of these intellectual impasses, and while the conversations can be maddening when you're in the middle of them (for the eleventy-billionth time), they're actually pretty funny. For us, they usually follow the same pattern: 
I say something. 
He looks at me like that's the craziest thing he's ever heard in his life, which might actually be true, since his life only consists of three years so far. 
But then, one day, I'll hear him talking to one of his little friends (and adults as well), and he'll just drop some knowledge on them like it's no big deal. I had a friend in town not too long ago who got the full treatment on what geologists were, how vulcanologists were a subset of geologists that study volcanoes and lava and magma, and what paleontologists do as well. 
Click through to the Deeper Family page to read the rest.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On Modesty and Male Privilege

My virtual friend Emily wrote a great piece for the "Church Leaders" website yesterday about the problems with modesty rules in Christian culture, and rightly pointed out how these rules unfairly shame women into particular behavior patterns, often resulting in lasting emotional and psychological damage. It was an honest, personal story of one woman's struggle with reconciling her freedom in Christ with the rigid behavioral codes often handed down to women from the pulpit or from Christian culture in general.

It was a great article.

And then there were the comments.

Sweet. Jumping. Jehoshaphat. The comments.

(The comments are the reason that I put "Church Leaders" in scare quotes in the opening sentence. Admit it, you went back and looked.)

I defintely suggest that you give the article a read, but I actually recommend you don't read the comments. It got a little cray-cray in there for a minute or two, and it will probably just destroy your faith in humanity no matter which side of the argument that you're on (though I'll admit, there actually were some really bright spots of honest dialogue that I genuinely enjoyed).  **But especially don't read if you're easily triggered by things like spiritual abuse or rape apologists.**

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Thanksgiving and Privilege

So, let's be honest, Thanksgiving is a holiday for the privileged.

We (and yes, I'm certainly speaking as a member of the privileged class) take a day to thank God for our blessing and that we're not one of those others. OK, maybe we don't actually say that last part, but come on, we're all thinking it. From our privileged position of relative plenty, it's easy to say things like "Be grateful for what you have" and as Christians, "Thank God for the blessings that He's given us," but I can't help but wonder if we would be so thankful if things were reversed and we were stripped of our privilege.

Would we still be so gracious in our giving of thanks? Would we still be so certain that the way in which God had chosen to distribute His blessing to the world was "fair" and "just"?

I'm guessing no, but I've been wrong before. A lot. The interesting thing though, is that I might get to see the answer to this question in my lifetime, as demographic realities in the West begin to dismantle and rebuild our societies. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On Purpose Driven Pancakes

I know, it's been a little heavy over here lately, so I thought I'd lighten things up a bit. :)

I'm over at A Deeper Family today writing about pancakes.

On Saturday mornings, we have an established routine. Mom sleeps in (as best she can in a townhouse with paper thin walls and, well, two wild animals running around 10 feet below her) and the boys and I make breakfast.Specifically, we make pancakes. 
Real pancakes. 
Not those weak-sauce “just add water” pancakes. I’m talking about the real deal here. We make ‘em from scratch, double sift the dry ingredients, refrigerate the batter – we know all the good tricks. Ethan and I take our pancake-making (well, him more so the pancake-eating) very seriously, so much so that I’m constantly experimenting with my pancake recipe, searching for the perfect pancake. Lately I’ve been experimenting with how I combine the ingredients. I even have seasonal variants. Last week, I made my fall pancakes, and I’ve been brainstorming a Christmas recipe lately as well. (Stop judging me.)

Click through to A Deeper Family to read the rest.

Monday, November 12, 2012

On Remembrance: The Greatest Honor

I'm guest posting today over at A Deeper Story, and talking Veteran's Day. For those of you who've read much of this blog, you know that this is a topic that I am somewhat...shall we say...conflicted on. So, in order to give people a better idea where I'm coming from, I decided to tell a part of my story.  Here's a bit of it:

Our guard shift was just ending as they brought the casualties back. The common area of an old bombed out building had been transformed into a triage station. It reeked of blood and bile and shit and sounded like what I used to imagine when I’d hear a fire and brimstone preacher really bringing his best stuff. The screams and sobs, the calls for God and long-dead loved ones, and the pleas for medicine to dull the pain all seemed to weave themselves together into a deafening chorus whose only song was that of the most exquisite agony.
What I remember most, though, are his eyes.
He was dead, and the medics knew it. There were others they could save, and they had dutifully moved on to help where they could. In the confusion, no one had closed his eyes or covered him up, and from where I was standing frozen in stunned silence, he seemed to be looking right through me. His eyes were somehow a more piercing blue in death than they had been in life, somehow more engaging than they’d been in the tent the night before, when we’d joked about being woefully unprepared for how downright cold it was in the desert. The absurd serenity on his face stood in stark contrast to the chaotic scene unfolding around him. I am haunted by those eyes.
He was 24. His wife was 21. Their baby boy was 6 months old.

Head over to A Deeper Story to read the rest.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fridays on Faith and Politics: Your Kingdom Come.

Yes, I realize that it's not Friday, but it is the day before the election so let’s just say “Better late than never” and call it good.

This is the 6th and final (oh thank sweet baby Jesus!) installment in this series on faith and politics.  If you care to, you can read the other installments here:  Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

There's only one appropriate way that I can think to end a series like this one, and that is with a prayer.

Photo Credit
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

  No man or woman. No party or philosophy. No country or creed. May none other be held in the place of honor in our hearts.  May the allegiance we pledge be first and foremost to Your name. May the tribute we pay be to Your Kingdom and to the love, grace and peace that are its foundations.

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

  Not just ever after but now, at this time, in this place, may your Kingdom be established in our hearts and in our communities. May we be a people who walk humbly, who act justly, but who love mercy.  May we, your Church, preach the gospel of food to the hungry, the gospel of clothing to the naked, the gospel of healing to the sick, the gospel of comfort to the brokenhearted and the gospel of peace to a world at war with itself. 

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

Forgive us for our greed and indulgence.  Forgive us for our pride and arrogance.  Forgive us for placing our desire to be right above our desire to be loving. Forgive us for placing our desire to be safe above our obligation to love our enemies.  Forgive us for placing our wants above others’ needs.

Forgive us for being impatient and unkind in our politics, for that is not love.
Forgive us for having haughty, boastful attitudes in our politics, for that is not love.
Forgive us for keeping detailed records of wrongs, for that is not love.
Forgive us for delighting in the evil of our enemies’ demise, for that is not love.

Show mercy on us and forgive our debts despite our white-knuckled clenched fists that refuse to let go of the debts of others.  May that mercy spread like a weed, choking out our sense of entitlement and our notions of what we are owed. May jubilee burst forth in our lives and our communities.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

Shore up our hearts that we might not be seduced by the siren’s song of power and influence.  Save us from our privilege and from the sense of apathy toward our fellow human beings that it so often engenders.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Fridays on Faith and Politics: What's the Point?

This is like, the 94th installment of this series on faith and politics. OK, it's actually only the fifth, but it feels like the 94th, so it's a short one. You can read the other installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

We've covered a good bit of ground so far. I'm not sure that we've really come to any conclusions, but I think we've generated some interesting questions.  And, speaking of interesting questions (awesome segue, right?), I have another one this week:

Photo Credit
 What's the point?

Now, I don't mean this in the kind of fatalistic "there's nothing we can do about it anyway" kind of way that it's most often used, but I'm really genuinely asking is, as Christians:

What is the actual point/purpose/reason for our participation in electoral politics?

Why do we do the things that we do in the political sphere? What motivates us to check a particular box for a particular candidate or initiative? What ends are we hoping to bring about through these particular political means?

But perhaps most importantly, do those ends include helping people experience the Love of God? Do they include helping to bring people into loving relationship with God? 

Or is there something else driving us?
A desire to be right, maybe?
A need for security?
Power? Vindication?

Why do we do the things we do? 

I caught a lot of flack during the Chick-fil-a fiasco earlier this year for asking similar questions. I was wondering aloud, both here and elsewhere, how the mess was in any way advancing the Kingdom of God. What I observed was that most of the people giving the flack didn't have friends in the LGBT community that were deeply hurt by the way many Christians were speaking and acting. In a way, I suppose that's informative about the answer to the question of motivation as well, because when you put a face on an issue, whether it's sexuality or poverty or war or whatever, your motivations tend to change. When you think about politics in terms of people instead of abstract principles, things can look very different.

Jesus had some ideas, I think, about the way we should approach the world (which, I think, is inclusive of our political activity).
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
So here's a challenge. Let's think about why we (I say we, because I'm challenging myself here too) make the political decisions we make. Let's take a look at who we are in community with, and how that affects our political decisions. Let's try to see the outcomes of our political decisions in terms of how they affect actual people with actual feelings and actual dreams.

Let's try to Love God and Love others the best we can in our politics.

Let's try to seek first the Kingdom, and worry about all the other stuff being added later.

So talk to me. What motivates you in your politics? How do you work the notion of loving God and loving others into your political calculus? Or do you see them as separate issue maybe? If so, how do you reconcile the two when they seem to conflict? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Peacemaking: Keeping the Darkness at Bay

I'm guest-posting over at The Smitten Word today. Folks, Suzannah Paul is one of the good ones, and one of my very favorite bloggers.  I'm really honored to be a part of what she's doing this month as she's publishing a post a day about practicing peace. I highly recommend you read the whole series.

Here's a bit of my contribution for today:

"What kind of person does that?" and "Who wants a murderer for a father?"

I threw the questions like stones. She sat and listened while the darkness washed over me.

She had seen me at my darkest before. I was fully in it, and she could tell. Eyes dead and lifeless, voice cold and distant, this wasn't me, it was that cold, deep darkness. This was every terrible thing I had seen and every terrible thing I had done wrapping itself around me and choking the life out of me. I could not see, feel, hear or remember anything but this darkness that had become my constant companion.

But she was ready.

She stayed. And she listened. She saw me. She heard me. And when she opened her mouth to speak, the Holy Dove came to rest on her shoulder as she said,

"You. Are. More."

She went on, and her words were light and life and comfort and healing and all of the things that I hadn't felt in nearly a decade, and in that moment, in pushing back that darkness and making room for the light of redemption to shine in and reclaim what had been lost to darkness, as the One himself said,

she was a peacemaker.
she was a Child of God...

Head over to The Smitten Word to read the rest.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday's on Faith and Politics: Lives Matter.

This is the fourth installment in this series on faith and politics. You can read the previous installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5

I realize that the title of this post might have misled some of you into thinking this post was about abortion. That one still may come, but this isn't it. The debate this week is supposed to focus on US national security and foreign policy, so I thought it might be a good idea to tackle that in this week's post. Fair warning, I'm pretty passionate about this topic, and I'm not going to beat around the bush: this post is going to be a little different than the others.

Me in Iskanderiyah, Iraq circa 2004

Lives. Matter.

All of them.

The fact that I was lucky enough to be born here in the United States does not make my life more valuable than someone born elsewhere. Nothing about the United States makes protecting innocent life at home worth shedding innocent blood abroad. When we deny this fact, we are denying the very essence of personhood that the Imageo Dei, the image of God, imparts to each and every one of us.

If I had to pick one policy arena that I thought best exemplified how Constantinian Christianity has served to silence the prophetic voice of the Bride, it is this one.

If there ever were a place where the idols of Nationalism, Patriotism, and Exceptionalism have supplanted the person of Christ on the altar of our hearts, it is here. 

If there ever were a time when Christianity had so fundamentally lost her way that her politics wholly replaced her faith, it is now.

There is very little in US foreign and national security policy that reflects the self-sacrificing, other-exalting cruciform way of Christ. Unsatisfied with the Lamb of God and Prince of Peace, we've placed our faith in that earthly surrogate whose name is "conquering king."

We have traded the truth of God for a lie, that our lives matter more than those in other countries, of other races, of different faiths, cultures, and tongues are somehow less human than we are. In our dehumanization of the Other, the lie is made complete, and the Gospel of radical, enemy-loving grace is lost to the false gospel of fear and vengeance.

Drone your enemies. Bomb those who persecute you.

The Nation is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?

Blessed are the warfighters, for they will be called heroes.

Hundreds of thousands have died at the hands of the United States in the last decade. I was so invested in the lie, that I enthusiastically volunteered to participate. But when you've heard the screams of a little girl caught in the middle of an artillery barrage, or smelled the burnt flesh of a little boy whose house was bombed for belonging to a "combatant," or when you've watched the remnants of what moments before was a man's body attempt to crawl away from the aftermath of a drone strike, you start to understand that, perhaps, things aren't as they seem.

If there is one area where our faith should absolutely influence our politics, it is this one, yet this is the area where we seem to work hardest to suppress and ignore the implications and obligations of our faith.

Lives matter.

All of them.

Including those of the soldiers you so willingly send in your stead.

Monday, October 15, 2012

On Love and Legacies

I'm posting over at A Deeper Family today about how, even when our loved ones pass on, their legacies can live on for generations.

It was cold. 
I remember that. 
I think unseasonably cold…or maybe it wasn’t cold at all; maybe what I remember as cold was just the bitter reality that I’d be burying my grandpa the next day. 
The family came to the church for the visitation first, and in spite of the cold, we loitered outside the church, perhaps believing that as long as we didn’t step through that threshold, it wouldn’t be true. On the other side of those church doors existed a world where my grandpa wasn’t alive, and as long as we stayed outside, it was like time itself was paying its respects by graciously standing still, letting us live in this world, the one my grandpa inhabited, for just a moment longer. 
But this world wasn’t real anymore. What were real were those doors, the smell of oak and incense in the church, and there in the front, the casket. That was real. So I mustered all of the stoic resolve my early-20's self had, and stepped through the door.
It gets better, I promise. Click through to read the rest. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fridays on Faith and Politics - The Inner Dialogue of a Political Basket Case

This is the third installment in this series on faith and politics. You can read the other installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 4 and Part 5.

So, the first couple of weeks were pretty general philosophical questions about the nature of our role as Christians in the political sphere.  I'm not sure that we really settled anything except perhaps that what we do in the realm of electoral politics matters, but perhaps not as much as the rest of our lives. As my friend Aaron pointed out in his comment last week, politics is more than voting, it is the sum total of our engagement with the polis. So in that sense, perhaps it is who we are on a day to day basis that matters much more than our actions in a voting booth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On Faith, Fire, and the Kingdom of God

I'm honored to be guest-posting for my friend Brandon Andress over at Outside the Walls today. I'm talking through my own personal struggle with having the life that I lead line up with the words that I speak.

For me, [talk is] especially cheap. Words and ideas are my job, my hobby, my life, but you know what? They don’t cost me anything. I can talk myself into a corner and talk myself right back out again without ever putting any real skin into the game.
There’s a story in 2 Samuel where God directs David to build an altar and make a sacrifice. A citizen offers to give David wood and oxen for his sacrifice, but David replies with what has become another (unfortunately) common cliché:
   “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God offerings that cost me nothing.”
These words, these ideas, these silver-tongued pleas for justice spoken from the comfortable confines of the high hill of privilege, are the sacrifices that cost me nothing, and they seem to burn hottest when fueled by my own righteous indignation.

Click through to read the rest here, and be sure to explore the rest of Brandon's writing if you haven't before.  You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fridays on Faith and Politics - Trolley Car Politics

Photo Credit
It’s time for another installment of Friday on Faith and Politics! I know, you’ve been waiting with baited breath, right?  Right??  So let’s get right into it, shall we?  (You can read the other installments here: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5)
This week, I’ve had quite a few conversations about politics, and there seem to be a few themes that run consistently through all of them, namely picking the lesser of evils, single-issue voting, and completely abstaining. Being the insufferable deconstructionist/analyst that I am, I couldn’t help but see a common ethical thread running through all of these. In each case, we’re treating voting for a political candidate as a singular, discrete action, and we’re looking for absolution for whatever decision it is that we make in that moment.
I’m sorry, but I just don’t think we get off that easy. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Pastor Appreciation Month (though probably an a-typical approach)

Just a short one today. I'm tired. Cut me some slack.

So, lots of bloggers are doing the whole "31 days" thing, where they write about one topic every day for the 31 days of October.  Well, kudos to them, but in the immortal words of Bob Dylan,

"It ain't me, babe."

I am jealous of this cat. It is sleeping and
looks supremely comfortable. Photo Credit.

One could say that I have a lot going on. One could say that I, perhaps at times, take on a bit too much. One could say that, but then one might get one of my infamous cold, blank stares.  Seriously though, I wish I could commit to something like that, but a full-time job, full-time school and all-the-time parenting of Things 1&2 make a commitment like that one...well, let's just say difficult.  I think that if I were to try to write every day for a month, the amount of sleep I would lose would probably shave a couple of years off of my life, and let's be honest, I like being alive, so it's really not worth it.


It is also pastor appreciation month.  Now, one post about a specific topic for the month?  That's something I can get behind. So this post, now that we're finally getting around to it, is about pastors. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fridays on Faith and Politics - An Introduction and a Question

So, as if there wasn't enough chatter around the interwebs about politics and religion (and, might I add, their in-many-cases-unholy alliance) I decided to do this little series on faith and politics in the run-up to the election. (The subsequent installments can be found here: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5)

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Now, if you know me (or have ever met me...or possibly glanced at my twitter account...or talked to me in the line at the grocery store), you know that I am...ahem...a passionate person when it comes to politics.  Really though, I'm less passionate about politics itself as a discipline, and much more passionate about the values that inform both political conversation and political action. So, it would be a bit silly, if not a bit disingenuous, to completely ignore the giant elephant (and donkey) in the room and avoid any political discussion at all on the blog here. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Love, Forgiveness and Continuing to Give Up on "Being Right"

The whole notion that I wrote about last week of choosing to be loving over choosing to be right has, unfortunately (OK, it’s fortunate, but still terribly inconvenient) started to work its way into every compartment of my life, most recently rearing its devastatingly convicting head in interactions with my boys.

So, there is a certain amount of reflection and introspection involved with being a parent.  OK, let's be honest, being a parent lays waste to your best perceptions of yourself, completely reorganizes your priorities, and fundamentally reshapes your worldview.  Having two beautiful little boys has certainly done that for me.  They've taught me volumes in their short little lives. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On Politics, Polemy and the Prophetic Imagination, or A Mea Culpa of Sorts.

My name is Luke, and I love to argue. What's more, I love to be right.

It's really a problem.

Nowhere is this problem more evident than in the quadrennial failure that is my attempt to not get sucked into the hateful rhetoric of US electoral politics.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An announcement and a link-up and a cross-post and...this post is a mess.

So, a couple of things:
  • I'm super-excited to let you know that I'm going to be a regular contributor over at the Family channel of A Deeper Story.  For anybody who's unfamiliar with the Deeper Story crew, their focus is on storyelling at the intersections of faith and life.  The family channel, as you can imagine, focuses on telling stories about what it means to live a life of faith in the context of family.  The groups of contributors over there is incredible, and they represent virtually every conception of "family" that you can imagine.  You should definitely head over and hang out some time.  It's a great little community of folks - one of those rare, nice corners of the interwebz.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Love Versus the Law (Advisory: Some Chick-Fil-A content)

So, in the spirit of the last post, I purposefully waited a while to post anything about Chicken-Gate so I could have a clear head about what I wanted to say to all three of you.

I'm still not totally sure about this, but here goes.

I have one honest question for those who would participate in and be vocal about supporting Chick-Fil-A as an expression of their Christian faith:

How does this particular action serve to bring those you've labelled as sinners (somehow worse than the rest of us, mind you) into loving relationship with Christ? 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Finding Something to Hold On To and a Plea for a Ceasefire.

Fair warning: this is going to be a little rant-y.

As the culture wars flare up once again (don't worry, this post has nothing to do with chicken sandwiches), I find myself forced to take stock of my continued commitment to a cultural phenomenon (because let's face it, that's what Christianity has been reduced to in a lot of ways) that feels increasingly foreign to me.  If this is what Christianity has become, a yelling match between two sides that seem increasingly less interested in dialogue and more interested in demonizing one another, then I'm just not sure how effective it can be in doing the things that its namesake (you know, Christ) taught. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

On Bike Riding, Bullies and Blowing it.

Nothing deep here really, just a fun story. I'm trying to lighten the mood around here a little...all part of my "easing" back into things.

So I rode my bike to work this morning...yeah, the kind you propel with your legs.  Incidentally, there are a lot of hills in Charlottesville, VA.  Imagine that: a town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge has lots of hills.  Most wonderfully, the entrance to my work is also a large hill, so I finished my ride struggling to make it up the last hill, in the lowest gear, feet flying as I pedaled with all my might as the bike went absolutely nowhere.  I was actually going so slow that I was having a hard time keeping the bike steady, and all the while the parade of my co-workers passed by and, at least in my head, laughed at the moron who couldn't get up the hill.

But I digress.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On Holy Rolling and Social Justice

First, an admin note.  To all three of you (I'm assuming there are only three of you left at this point since I haven't written in three months), I'm sorry I've been gone for so long.  In the last three months, I got a house ready for sale, put it on the market, sold it, went on vacation, found a new job, lived like a nomad, quit my old job and moved across country, got a new place, and started the new job...roughly in that order and all while dragging my poor wife and boys around behind me. 

So please, forgive my absence, things have been, in a word, insane.

I'm going to ease back into this blogging thing by asking a fairly straightforward question that I asked the social networking world today: What would happen if Pentecostals were as passionate about seeking justice as we were about seeking "God's presence" in a worship service?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Love in Action or "Running the race...literally"

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the darkness we see all around us.  It often even easier to get lulled into a trance by the mind-numbing monotony of life.  But every once in a while, life presents us with opportunities to be a part of something very real, to put all of our lofty ambitions of love and peace into action, and to do our small part in beating back the darkness and shaking up the monotony.  What better week than Holy Week to write about such an opportunity.

Meet Scott and Stephanie Zibell. You can go say hello on the twitter, if you'd like.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On Reaping My Rewards or "It's not ever about me."

[Linking up with Joy from Joy in This Journey for her #lifeunmasked series.  If you haven't read her before, you should.  Her post today about postmodernism is wonderful.]

Sorry it's been so long...and I started off this month with such gusto, but alas, it couldn't last.  I know all six of you (that's right, I think we added a couple) are disappointed. It's just that...

I'm just so very tired.

My life is busy, my heart is heavy, the future is uncertain, and the words just don't come anymore.  I could make a thousand excuses about school, about work, about the responsibilities of parenthood, and they would be good excuses. Strong excuses.  Excuses that would have you nodding your head and wrinkling your face in one of those sympathetic pouty-frowny smiles with your eyebrows raised in pity.

Friday, March 2, 2012

On God's Love: Does it really "work" the way we think it does?

Wednesday's post sparked a couple of great questions from old friends about the nature of God's love, and what motivation we have for pursuing some kind of relationship with God absent the whole eternal damnation thing, so I thought I'd carry the conversation over here.

Throughout my life I've desperately wanted one these amazing experiences of God's love that I’ve heard so many people talk about. You know the ones I'm talking about: the warmth that fills the room, the inexplicable peace, the assurance, the feeling of the arms wrapping you up.

I wouldn’t have minded a ladder to heaven either, but that might’ve been a bit much.

Finding myself dissatisfied with my view of God as a loving being because I had never had one of these tangible experiences, I felt like I had to question my expectations of God. So I did, and it was at that point, I stumbled across one those most oft-quoted-yet-just-as-oft-misunderstood verses: 
1 John 4:8. “Whoever does not know love, does not know God, because God is love.”
I read this verse that I’d read a million times, and I came to a pretty drastic conclusion.

God doesn’t love us. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On Evangelism as Coercion or "Love God...OR ELSE"

I've been struggling quite a bit with what it means to be an "evangelical" lately, or more importantly, what  evangelism even means. So, I decided to write a post (or seven, or thirty-seven, I haven't quite figured that part out yet) on my trying to figure it out.  I thought it might be helpful first to look at what evangelism it not. So, here goes.

Evangelism is NOT coercion.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On Tension, and What it Means to Me

I've been asked why I named this blog as I did, so I thought this would be a fitting place to address this question.

Here goes.

Tension. [ten-shuh'n] From the Latin tensio - a stretching.

  1. The act of stretching or straining
  2. The state of being stretched or strained 
  3. Mental or emotional strain; intense, suppressed suspense, anxiety or excitement
  4. A strained relationship between individuals, groups, nations, etc

  1. To subject (a cable, belt, tendon or the like) to tension, especially for a specific purpose

Friday, February 24, 2012

On My Tryst w/ Neo-Reformed Theology, or "It's not you, it's me"

{Admin note: This is not an attack in any way, it's just my thought process/experience}

I'll admit, when I was in the process of re-examining everything I believed, I flirted with the neo-reformed movement.  I think what appealed to me most was the certainty so many of them had. They were so sure, and so grateful for the Grace they'd received.

I envied it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On Babies, Bathwater, and Getting Past A Rigid Evangelical Identity (A Lent Post)

The more I reflect on my formative years in an evangelical, pentecostal church in the heart of the corn belt, the more it seems like that particular flavor of evangelicalism suffers from the legacy of early Protestantism's penchant for disposing of the baby along with the bathwater.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

On Love Winning (By Standing With the Hated and Loving the Haters)

It's late, I'm tired, and pretty out of it, but it has been too long since I've written and my folks are coming for a visit tomorrow, so I know if I don't knock this out now, it will never happen, so here goes:

I went to the same church for the first 18 years of my life, and there was one overriding theme that seemed to run through every sermon & every Bible study.

And it wasn't the Gospel.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On Fighting, Fundamentalism, and Forgetting Where I Came From.

I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian environment, so I have a rather peculiar relationship with fundamentalism. 

I think it's similar to the relationship I had with my brothers growing up.  There were times we were thick as thieves and times where we wanted to (and often tried to) murder each other. 

There was one interesting dynamic in the relationship, though, that always persisted, regardless of what else was going on: my brothers could pick on me, beat me up, make fun of me or whatever, but if someone else tried?  It was on.  We would combine our powers like Voltron and defend each other against these outsiders until the threat abated, at which point we would commence kicking the crap out of each other.

Friday, January 20, 2012

On the Importance of Telling Our Stories

I never thought I had much of a story to tell, or that my story mattered much to anyone else.  As I've begun to tell parts of it though, here and recently at the "Something Beautiful" podcast as well, the reaction I've seen has been, well, surprising to say the least.  The level of engagement I've seen has made me realize one simple fact: we never know when our story is exactly what someone else needs to hear.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Survivors'-Survivor's Guilt, or "Mostly I just want my friends to stop killing themselves..."

There is a kind of survivor's guilt that you expect to encounter when you survive through a war (or two).  It's the kind of guilt that says, "Why did that person die and I didn't?" or "Why am I still here and they're not?"  It's an almost universal experience amongst other veterans that I've spent time with.  I had a healthy dose of it myself.  There were at least three times in Iraq in '04 where I probably should've died.  I didn't.  Others did.  That was tough to process.

Friday, January 6, 2012

On The Grace That Pursues

Yes, this is a year-in-review post...kind of.  If you're already tired of 2011 retrospectives (I don't blame you), but I promise you, this one's different.  It's not a list, or a compendium of likes and dislikes, but a story (but it does have a theme song).

There are a lot of reasons why last year was important.  We moved back to the midwest, had another beautiful baby boy, bought a new house, etc.  But most importantly, it was the year I stopped making God chase me. 

[Cue Musical Interlude]

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To Our Mothers, Our Sisters, Our Wives and Our Daughters: We Ask Your Forgiveness.

To our mothers, our sisters, our wives and our daughters:

Forgive us for not speaking up, speaking out, and speaking life.
Forgive us for keeping you down, keeping you captive, and keeping you silent.
Forgive us for defining you by your bodies.
Forgive us for turning you into commodities.
Forgive us for trading in your dignity for our pleasure and profit.
Forgive us for ignoring the injustice that brought us privilege at your expense.

To our mothers, whose selfless love shapes the very core of our character, we thank you.
To our sisters, whose loving voices speak wisdom and truth to us even when we'd rather not hear it, we are grateful.
To our wives, whose unending grace so often leads us to our proper, redemptive place of loving servanthood, we owe you our hearts and you have them fully.
To our daughters, whose tender innocence cries out for justice, we promise you this: we will do better.

We will inevitably fail along the way.
We will forget these promises.
We will let you down, again.
We will not be perfect.


We. Will. Be. Better.

Forgive us,

Your sons, your brothers, your husbands and your fathers.
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