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Friday, September 30, 2011

Baggage


Long before the "checked baggage wars" erupted a couple of years ago, I've been battling against some checked baggage fees of my own.

In the spring of 1995 I was asked by my best-friend-from-high-school to marry him.

No, not that way. I was soon-to-be ordained and he wanted me to officiate his wedding. I met with him and his fiance and we began to plan my part in their wedding.

I owe a lot to this man. He was my friend in high school when I really needed a friend. He shared with me his locker when I really needed one (my own locker's combination was known to some bullies and I had lost quite a bit of stuff). We shared a passion of computers at a time when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were just getting their start. He tutored me to a passing grade in math.

At first I was very happy that he was getting married and felt great that he asked me to do the wedding.
Soon after meeting him and his fiance, I received a note from them with some requests about the wedding itself.

Everything was fine until I reached the stipulation that I do not mention God or Jesus. The family he was marrying into were atheists and he didn't want me to offend them.

Here I was, about to be ordained. I was about to start serving a Lutheran church in Michigan. My best friend was getting married. I couldn't mention Jesus.

What was I going to do?

I am ashamed to tell you that I declined to do the wedding, sort of at the last minute. It was about a month before the wedding. I told them I had become unavailable. I was going to be visiting my new congregation for the first time the weekend of their wedding.

I could have changed the date of my visit. But I didn't know what to do about the stipulation. I panicked. I told them I couldn't do it.

And I haven't talked to him in 16 years.

I still wake up in the middle of the night, every now and then, thinking about this. About what I did to brake our relationship. How do I fix it?

I've written him a couple of times, apologizing to him. Seeking his forgiveness.
But I hurt him too much. I can't blame him for closing that part of his past and moving on with his life.
And for the most part, I can live my life in peace and joy, too.

For the most part.

Still, on occasion, I think about it. I get a sinking feeling in my gut. I shake make head. I spiritually palm-slap my forehead.

I carry this baggage around with me. Sometimes I set it aside, move it to the basement or the storage locker I keep in the back of my brain.

Then I'll see something or hear something and I'll drag that particular piece of baggage out.

I don't know how to stop paying this baggage handling fee. I know I'm forgiven by Christ. I live in that forgiveness every single day of my life.

Thankfully, I have a good friend who listens and prays with me about all of this and more.

Someday I'll talk to my friend again. I hope we'll be able to restore our relationship.

Someday.

Persecuted


"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. - Jesus (Matthew 5:11-2, ESV)

It is unclear what is going to happen to Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor living in Iran. What is clear is that he has been accused and convicted of abandoning the Islamic faith - which carries a death penalty in Iran. So far he has refused to renounce his Christian faith. His defense has been that he was never a Muslim as an adult and therefore, under Iranian law, has not committed a capital offense. Regardless, he says he will not renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.

He is facing persecution and execution.

Here in the United States, Christians face ridicule for having faith in Jesus. But rarely do we face execution for our faith today.

But it still happens in the world today, just as it did starting in the 1st Century AD.

The question I'm pondering today is: Would I be able to do what Yousef Nadarkhani is doing? Would I be able to publicly declare my faith in Jesus Christ, even to the point of death by execution?

Would you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wasteband of Brothers


I read this on the blog:  Some Wise Guy.
It was a guest post from Sonny Lemmons, who’s blog is Looking Through the Windshield.
Thanks to both Sonny – for writing it – and KC – for posting it.

Episode #23 of the Wise Guy Wednesday series features Sonny Lemmons (no, he’s not a bright citrus fruit).
Sonny is a stay-at-home dad, a writer of stuff, a receiver of grace, and a drinker of coffee. His wife Ashley loves him, but has been tempted to yank his boxer briefs straight up to his ears at times.
Disclaimer: I suggest you put down the coffee mug while you read this.

Wasteband of Brothers

We’ve all been there. We’ve seen it played out in a movie, bore witness during the glory that was middle-school gym class, or we may have been the unfortunate recipient of one ourselves (raises hand).
courtesy of Fox
That’s right: I’m talking about the bane of the existence of every prepubescent boy who was a band geek, A/V club member, or who ever played or talked about Magic: The Gathering while at school.
The wedgie.
That snag-and-tug maneuver that helps ensure high school choirs will always have a tenor section.
What’s interesting to note is that while the majority of physical wedgies may cease once all parties are old enough to have a learner’s permit, the spirit of the wedgie echoes on throughout many of our adult lives.
God knows if you put enough men in a closed environment, we will eventually revert to seventh-grade humor, ridiculing one another, throwing down “Yo momma” jokes – all in jest. Until. Until there comes the time when the waistband gets pulled a little too tight and gets looped over our heart.
I’ve been there and done that. I’ve crossed into that realm of Proverbs 26:18-19 where after offending or hurting someone, you try to cover it by saying “I was only joking.” I didn’t mean what I said. I didn’t mean for that to be as offensive as it came across. I didn’t mean to sound racist, sexist, homophobic, or to do or say something that could hurt you or make you stumble.
And certainly not to grieve the Spirit.
Now, this is not to say that we can’t sit around on the couch cracking wise to one another. But as believers, we are called to something more, something bigger. We are called to maintain a heart of Ephesians 5:4 and not get coarse in the course of our fun.
While many of us might not wish to literally greet one another with a hagios, that term for “holy kiss” found in Romans 16:16 refers to us acting to one another with our kiss (or, the administered wedgie) as being consecrated, as in devotion to service of our God. Kissing in spirit, not in actuality.
We can show the world – and make our moms proud – by demonstrating through our actions that our underwear is clean and holy, set apart.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a wedgie?
Boxers or briefs? Hanes or Fruit of the Loom?
For more from Sonny checkout his blog or follow him on Twitter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Perchance to Dream


Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I could do something else.

Don’t try to read into that some deep-rooted psychological flaw, please. What I mean is, I sometimes sit here listening to Brian Eno music (if you never heard of him, google him), and wonder how my life would be different if I had the time and cash to sit at the Chicago lakefront with an iPad and just contemplate life while scrolling through some interesting blogs and writing stuff of my own.

Or maybe what it would be like to spend a week in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains, getting up early and enjoying a cup of coffee in the crisp, autumn air.

It isn’t that I don’t like what I’m doing, and able to do, now. I really do. I get to sit in my office overlooking very quiet neighbors on crisp autumn mornings with pretty decent coffee (if I do say so myself). I have a wonderful house to live in with a great family (my wife and three sons).

I appreciate doing this, I really do. But I also spend some time daydreaming about doing other things.

I guess (well, really the word I should use is “hope” instead of “guess”) that it is a sign of maturity that while I still daydream like a 9-year-old, I don’t wish my life was different. I don’t want my life to be any different than it is now.  Ok, maybe a little more spending money would be nice. But really, my life is pretty wonderful the way it is right now. I’ve been married a good amount of time (twenty years) and have three sons I love very much. What’s more, I love being around them a whole lot, too.

As the song goes, “who could ask for anything more?”

But it isn’t a sin to actually ask for anything more. It isn’t that I’m not grateful. I really am. Thank you, God, for giving me such wonderful gifts! Your love for me in Jesus Christ has really blessed me in some pretty cool ways! And I’m not really asking for more. I’m content. Really, I am.

I’m just wondering what it might be like.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Image courtesy of photobucket.com
What comes to mind when you read the following words:
Evangelical
Religious person
Christian

I'm thinking that for most people the images conjured up by these titles is more negative than positive.

Brandon, who writes at the blog outside the walls recently posted this:
I asked a handful of my friends outside of mainstream Christianity to tell me what comes to mind when I say the word “evangelical.” Here is what they came up with:

An evangelical represents religious talking heads, slick televangelists, the religious right, the moral majority, picket signs, the health and wealth gospel, plastic and phoney hypocrites, judgmental, blind and hateful zealots, brainwashed and close-minded non-Christians, showy megaChurches, unreasonable and illogical Conservatives, unpersuadable Patriots, and preacher sex scandals.
I sit here and ask myself, "What do I do about this?"

I was once told by a principal in a church school that I served as pastor, "Perception is reality."

But I struggle with that. Reality is reality. It's real, and as such cannot be altered in the same what that the truth cannot be altered. At least that's how I felt 10 years ago.

But having 10 years of ministry flow under the bridge I'm on has changed my perception and the concept of reality, especially in 21st century America.

So, what do I do now? I'm tempted to try to salvage our titles.

For example, I consider myself an evangelical - "one who belongs to the Gospel" - and not any of the things in Brandon's research. I consider myself to be a religious person in the sense of following a true religion as put forth in the Epistle of James.  I serve others (James calls it visiting orphans and widows in their affliction) and I do my best to keep myself unstained from the world. (see James 1:27)

But here's where my faith walk has led me: the best way to change people's perception of these things is to live a life that gives glory to God and serves my neighbor.

But I've got my work cut out for me. For being an evangelical these days means more and more that you are affiliated with a particular political party. Being a religious person these days means more and more that you are someone who thinks they are somehow better than others. Being a Christian is more and more perceived to be a person who does not talk to non-Christians and shuts themselves off from the world.

How can I convince people that I'm none of these things? Is it important that I do?

I think it is. Because if I cannot convince them that I'm not what they think I am as an evangelical, religious person, a Christian (in their way of thinking of these things), then it will be very hard to share with them the Good News about Jesus.

And sharing the Good News about Jesus is what I've been called to do. It is my purpose in life. It is who I am.

That may strike some people as somewhat weird. After all, I'm married. I have children. Isn't my wife supposed to fulfill me? Isn't being a father supposed to be my purpose in life?

Well, yeah. But let's think about that for  a moment. My wife and I have been married for over twenty years. We met and were married while I was a student at a seminary. Our life together has husband and wife has been inextricably tied to our calling to share the Gospel of Jesus. That calling has also been at the core of who we both are as parents.

So, the bottom line is that I am proud to be an evangelical, religious Christian. I may not be an evangelical, religious Christian to a lot of people's way of thinking, but once they meet me (whether online or in person) I think (I hope and pray, actually) that they will realize that.

And that will change their perception of reality.
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