Archives For authenticity

Last weekend Amy and I attended a fantastic marriage retreat weekend sponsored by FamilyLife Ministries. One of the main presenters for the weekend, a Family and Marriage Counselor and former Baptist Pastor, asked us the following question:  “Do you know why Baptists are opposed to premarital sex?”

Answer:  “It might lead to dancing.”

With apologies to my Baptist brothers and sisters in the Lord –  that right there is funny.  And believe me, as a Lutheran Seminary student, I laugh just as hard at a good Lutheran joke.  We all have our denominational and generational and locational (is that a word?) idiosyncrasies that set us apart. 

This joke obviously has nothing to do with dancing as an act of worship, but it still reminded me of the differences between us as evangelicals.  With all of our differences in emphasis and practice, we do have one thing in common, regardless of denomination, age, or locale…  the tension in our corporate worship experiences of balancing reverence and celebration, dignity and joy, obedience and freedom.

In our churches, we are inviting human beings into the presence of God.  We are witnesses in our worship gatherings of a beautiful and powerful collision of the hearts of men and the holiness of God.  There is confrontation, brokenness, proclamation of what is true, forgiveness of sins, reverence and FREEDOM.

We are witnesses of the supernatural when we experience the relational presence of God. The fact that we can stand in the presence of the Holy Creator God – all powerful and righteous King of Kings – and yet be honest before Him about our sin and our deep need for His grace – THAT is FREEDOM.

And sometimes, it makes me want to dance.

Yesterday in our Historical Books class, my Seminary brothers and I were walking through 2 Samuel, and the story of David, the new King of Israel.  There is a great story in chapter 6, verses 12-23, about David dancing before the Lord and before all the people of Israel.  The Ark of the Covenant is being returned to Israel from the Philistines.  It was a powerful symbol of God’s presence and blessing.  This was a moment in history of profound meaning for God’s people.  And as the Ark was being brought into David’s city, verse 14 says:

“David danced before the Lord with all His might.  And David was wearing a linen ephod.”

Think of a linen ephod as the official loincloth of the priests.  Instead of dressing in His royal attire, representing his position of authority, David was dressed and functioning as a priest – a mediator between God’s people and the Almighty.  He was unashamedly celebrating the return of God’s presence and favor with wild abandon… and he didn’t care who was watching.  The dance was “before the Lord.”  It was for Him.

As he danced wildly below, his wife Michal looked at the window, and saw his undignified behavior, and she despised him for it.  Her husband was making a fool of himself, and it reflected badly on her.  When she confronted him, David said:

“It was before the Lord…  I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”

From that day forward, verse 23 says, Michal was barren.  God’s judgment rested not on David for his lack of religious decorum, but on his wife Michal for her concern with outward appearances.

I have no idea what your Sunday morning experience looks like.  You might be arm raisers, victory shouters, hand clappers, and dancers for all I know.  Or, you may attend a church where clapping never happens, and the order of service is structured and reverent in a quieter, more “dignified” style.  To both camps and the many variations inbetween, I say God bless you!  Engage your heart with Lord’s truth and respond appropriately with obedience and thanksgiving.  It’s not about the form, but about the substance of our worship.  I’m a drummer, and I lead worship with a contemporary rhythm section almost every week in our church.  But my roots are more traditional, and singing hymns with an organ allows me great freedom to express my love to God too.  It’s not about the form.

And in the end, that’s the point of this post.  It is OK to have a prefered style.  I think God is reminding us here that what matters is not what our worship looks like, but whether it springs from an honest heart in response to the truth.  Worship happens “before the Lord.”  Sure, I believe there are posers in every church – trying to make it look right.  But for those who are celebrating, crying out, or humbly remaining silent before Him… it is before the Lord.  It is not meant for you.  Every sacrifice is the Lord’s to judge, and the Lord looks at the heart.

If you belive that your prefered style of worship is the “correct” way to worship, I’m challenging you to rethink that belief. 

“David Danced – Michal Watched” by David Steele

 Michal was loyal
To everything royal
For she was the daughter of Saul.
But her husband was boorish
So awfully boorish
With simply no manners at all.

 

It was her fate
To marry a mate
Who had grown up with chickens and sheep
How to bring charm
To this boy from the farm
Was causing his queen to lose sleep.

 

Oh, she had to confess
He was a success,
In the eyes of the world, Dave was famous
But of how kings comport
Themselves when in court
He remained a complete ignoramus.

 

David’s heart soared
And he danced to the Lord
In a manner more free than refined.
And his poor little wife
Got the shock of her life
So she gave him a piece of her mind.

 

“I don’t care a smidgen
About your religion
As long as it’s solemn and chaste
But the way you’re behaving
With arms wildly waving
Is shockingly lacking in taste.”

 

“If you must raise
Your spirit in praise,
Please see that it’s soothing and calm.
The Lord I am sure
Would really prefer
Something more like the 23rd Psalm.”

 

Then God’s anointed
Became disappointed
He knew he had nary a chance
Of ever persuadin’
This prim, regal maiden
That the Lord is a lover of dance.

 

Churches these days
Talk a lot about praise
And the Joy that accomp’nies Good News
But don’t tap your feet
Or get out of the seat
For Michal still lurks in the pews.

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“with apologies to my baptist brothers… :: david danced, michal watched” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

If you don’t go to church and you don’t want to go to church, I want to talk to you.

I’m in Seminary right now, working towards becoming a Pastor. And I’ve been a part of church staff and leadership teams for alomst 17 years now. That makes it hard for me to see Christianity from an outside perspective. I’m about as inside as they come.  I’m asking for help from some of you outside the “church crowd.”

I’m not going to make you my personal evangelism project if you comment here.  I’m just looking to understand people well, so I can serve them well when the time comes.  Can you help me out?

So here’s my question: what keeps you away from church? If anything might make you reconsider, what would it be?

I recently stumbled across a list of the Top 20 Dwight Schrute (from “The Office”) quotes of all time. Or least the last seven seasons. Here’s number one…

“When my mother was pregnant with me, they did an ultrasound and found she was having twins. When they did another ultrasound a few weeks later, they discovered that I had adsorbed the other fetus. Do I regret this? No, I believe his tissue has made me stronger. I now have the strength of a grown man and a little baby.”

So good. And a ripe metaphor for the picking. Win win.

I am really uncomfortable right now. It has nothing to do with the hastily consumed lunch I ploughed through on the way to work. This is a soul-deep intellectual wrestling match… with myself. I have run headlong into a theological discovery/problem/question that doesn’t seem to square up nicely with what I’ve been taught… my whole life. And now I’m a Seminary student in a conservative Lutheran Seminary. And there’s this thing. This problem.

It’s like a little baby. In my brain. Growing, forming, stretching my mind. Kicking. Elbowing me in the brain. Taking shape. But not yet ready to be born.

I’m really uncomfortable. And that’s so good.

I know… you want me to let the cat out of the bag… or the baby out of my brain… or the idea out of my face. But this post isn’t about the idea/problem/question itself. It’s about having an idea/problem/question at all.

Frankly, I’m a little scared that I might believe something here that most of the people I’m in class with don’t believe. I’m a little afraid I might need to change my theological presuppositions. I’m afraid of the birthing process. It might be messy.

And yet, I LOVE THIS. I am energized and fueled by the reality that I’m growing, and thinking, and interacting with a living God… and all the while this idea is nudging me and kicking inside my head, wanting to be let loose. Do you know this feeling? The seasons in life when a really big piece of your philosophical or even theological grid is in the process of being formed, and you just know that at the end of the struggle, something new will be birthed in you?

So someday (before too long, I hope, because man… I am REALLY uncomfortable here) this idea/problem/question will make its way out of my face, out of my brain, and onto this blog, I’m sure. But it’s not fully cooked yet. It’s not fully formed. Still premature.

Whatever it is… this question I have for Him… He’s big enough for it. He knows me already, and he knows that kicking baby of a thought in my brain. I think maybe He planted it there, after all.

And this kind of uncomfortable lets me know that I’m ALIVE. I thank God I’m disturbed.  My faith is strong, not the weaker for my questions. I hope I never stop thinking, pressing in, birthing new ideas and deeper understanding. I don’t mean inventing new ways of understanding the Bible… I mean plumbing the depths of what He’s already given us all the more. Because a mature faith isn’t one in which we stop asking questions. On the contrary.

Ask your questions. Dig in. Press hard. Sweat. Lose sleep. God loves you. He allows His children to ask. He’s letting me be uncomfortable right now for my own good. He’s reminding me of His sovereignty and goodness, and birthing new ideas in me… painfully, slowly, both carefully and recklessly. But these uncomfortable times are so, so good. They mean growth. They mean my faith life has the strength of a grown man… (wait for it…)

…and a little baby.

What ideas/problems/questions are keeping you up at night? Kicking you in the brain?

 

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“the strength of a grown man… and a little baby :: uncomfortable is good” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

WOW! You can see forever up here. Looking down on all the little people. I love it up here.

Man, this seat of scoffers is comfy, too, the way it cradles my hind end. Like it was built just for me. I had it custom fitted here on top of this high horse. Which is awesome. I love getting up on this baby, and then we stand up here… on top of this pedestal. Good times. So glad I hardly ever sin anymore. That makes it way easier to judge all of you without feeling guilty. This works out great, too, because from up on this here high horse, on top of the pedestal I’ve erected, my very vantage point makes it impossible to even see you people without looking down on you. So that’s working out sweet.

* insert prolonged barfing here *

To my non-Christian friends, can I just say that if I’m ever up on my high horse, hair blowing in the breeze (like Fabio), pecs bulging and loose fitted oxford unbuttoned to mid-sterum (like Fabio), you have permission to hit me in the face with a goose (like Fabio). This is all going to tie together into one glorious metaphorical union in a few paragraphs. I promise.

I’m not afraid of heights, per se. It’s more like a fear of falling from high places. And honestly, it’s really more about the landing than the falling, to be specific. But even with my weebers about falling from high places, I DO enjoy the occasional adrenaline rush of a good rollercoaster. Oh man. The higher, the faster, the gut-wrenching-er the better, baby. There’s nothing like the crushing g-force shift of being perched on top of the world, taking a leisurly perusal of the neighboring states, and then hurling over the drop at 90 mph into the abyss.  Adrenaline junkies, can I get an AMEN?!

And as much as I love a great rollercoaster ride, it is possible that I love the ironic happenings of March 27, 1999, even more.  There sat Fabio. Front row.  Hands alternately behind the safety bar, waving to fans, and flipping that cascading golden mane.  In all of his pectoral glory.  It’s the inaugural run of the new “Apollo’s Chariot” roller coaster in Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  During the first drop over the 210 foot descent, Fabio Lanzoni killed a goose.  With his face.

I’ll never forget hearing the news later that night.  Picture me eating pizza with friends…  “So.  Did you hear Fabio killed a goose with his face on a rollercoaster today?” Now picture me with Diet Dr. Pepper shooting out of my nose.  That’s pretty much how it went down.

Might be my favorite news item of the 90’s.  I mean, it probably would have killed a regular guy – probably would have taken my head clean off.  Thank goodness that goose connected with the regal countenace of the iron-necked wonder.

But all of this reminiscing has a point, after all. And I mean to say this for both my non-believing friends who are sick of feeling the judgment of the church folks you rub shoulders with, and for my fellow Christians who have gotten comfy up here, looking down on the little people from our lofty vantage point…

The truth is…  WE ARE JUST LIKE YOU. I’m not talking to sinners and non-sinners, here.  I’m talking to sinners… and other sinners.  We’re all just sinners. NO ONE is entitled to a comfy ride on the their high horse.  NO ONE has earned the right to look down on the regular people…  we’re all regular people.

Psalm 32 (written by David, one of my heroes) starts like this…

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Thank goodness he didn’t start with, “Blessed is the one who has never sinned before,” or, “blessed is the one who will never sin again.”  I’d be OFF that list. And so would you.  In fact, Jesus is the only man who would make the cut.  But it doesn’t say that.

Martin Luther writes about this Psalm and notes that even the saints are sinners.  They can’t become holy, forgiven, and reconnected with God without acknowledging that fact before the Lord.  Apart from our best efforts (which can’t get us anywhere with God), Jesus alone covers our sin. Luther writes…

“In short, our righteousness is called (in plain language) the forgiveness of our sins…  All the saints are sinners and remain sinners.  But they are holy because God in His grace neither sees nor counts these sins, but forgets, forgives, and covers them.  There is thus no distinction between the saints and the non-saints.”

Did you catch that last little bit?  NO DISTINCTION. We’re all sinners.  We’re all regular people.

“They are sinners alike and all sin daily, only that the sins of the holy are covered not counted; and the sins of the unholy are counted not covered…  both of them are truly wounded, truly sinners…”

So, um, I’m gonna just get out of this comfy seat up here, and climb down off this here high horse and, um, take the zip line down from this here pedestal.  Because the only difference between me and my non-believing friends is JESUS.  Still sinning.  Don’t want to.  But when it comes to my relationship with God, and he look at me, JESUS has covered my sins, and the Father doesn’t see them at all.

To my unbelieving friends… please give me a smack if I ever come across as if I’m on some higher plane than you.  I’m not.  You and I BOTH need Jesus. And this isn’t to say that sin doesn’t matter.  Quite the opposite.  But we can’t fix it. Only Jesus can cover, remove, clean up, and remake us.  From this eye-ball-to-eyeball vantage point, I’m asking you to talk to me about why Jesus matters.  But it’s not because I’m any better than you, or that my sins are any less significant than yours.  I’m just forgiven.

And to my fellow Christians… If you survey your surroundings and realize you’ve been looking down on all the little people below you, surveying your surroundings from the top of the coaster… the High Horse Express… it’s time to come on down.  And if you’ve gotten a little bit too cozy in that custum made seat of scoffers, God has a way of humbling the proud.  I’ve seen the forecast.  It’s going to be thick with geese all week.

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“Lord, please hit some Christians in the face with a goose like you did to Fabio. Amen.” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I remember the moment Seth was born, and I heard “It’s a boy…”  With crystal clarity.  In high definition.

I remember my first kiss with Amy.  Had trouble walking after that.  My legs were rubber.

I remember the day my mom started losing her hair because of the chemo.  She was brushing her hair in the bathroom, and I heard her kind of yelp-laugh.  She came out of the bathroom with the brush in her hand… and a clump of hair in the brush… and not on the side of her head.  She seemed particularly more OK with it than I was.  She was prepared, as much as you can be, I suppose.

These were not normal days.  These days stand out.

When Michael Phelps won his fourteenth Olympic Gold medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay in 2008 in Beijing , people noticed.

In January 2007, when Now York resident Wesley Autry jumped onto the tracks and laid on top of a 19 year old having a seizure (and UNDER the oncoming subway train) to save his life, people noticed.

When Lady Gaga decided to wear a dress made out of meat to the Video Music Awards this year, people noticed.

What is it about Michael, about Wesley, about… um.. do I call her “Lady” or “Gaga”?

These are the aberrations.  People don’t notice the universal norm.  We may not remember our fourth day of seventh grade, or the name of the guy who drove past us this moring at the second stoplight on our way to work, or the last time we ate a peanut butter sandwich.  Too everyday.  Too commonplace.  Not surprising.  Not overtly horrifying, ridiculous, or exhillarating.  Normal.

People don’t ever stop to think, “Man, that guy is so much like all the other people I know… I really want to get inside his head.”  People notice the aberrations.

Jesus tells his followers we are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).  To stand out.  Not just to blend into the normal.  Salt and light have a profound influence on their surroundings.  They change the state of their surroundings.

People don’t notice normal.  But they are intensely interested in the aberrations.  They remember aberrations.  And they want to know what makes a thing, a day, an environment, a person the way that it is.  If I can live in such a way that people wonder what makes me tick – if they see something radically different than normal in me, I’ll have a chance to tell them about Jesus.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  (1 Peter 3:15)

I want to be an aberration.  But I’m not wearing my meat suit to Hermeneutics class…

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“iwant to be an aberration :: and i’d like that dress medium rare” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

Over the last three days I’ve been engaged in a fascinating and heart-churning discussion with an old friend.  We use to lead worship together.  Now, he’s abandoned faith for reason, and considers God worse than a fairy tale.  I’m deeply glad we’ve connected again.

And here’s the deal… I’m not responsible for his relationship to God.

Christians reading this, I’ve reaffirmed some truths about evangelism and the process of the gospel over the last few days.  Namely, I can’t save anybody.  And neither can you.  I’m not trying to throw cold water on your zeal for Jesus or the good news.  But unless your first name is “Holy” and your last name is “Spirit,” your job isn’t to actually do any saving.

Jesus saves.  We communicate.  We listen.  We build friendships.  But JESUS saves.

Now the atheists among us *I hope* can breathe a sigh of relief.  And to my Christian friends, I want to tell some of you to back off.

[This is the point where some of my believing friends are starting to question my spiritual maturity.  Good times… keep your wheels turning.  Keep reading.]

Why are so many Christians convinced that since they have been enlightened to the truth they have a license to become judgmental jerks?  Where is that in the Bible?  And how, for the love of God (literally), are we ever going to have meaningful conversation with the atheists we rub shoulders with if we start by swinging the judgement stick?  Didn’t God give us common sense for a reason?  This blindness to the sin of pride has cost the Kingdom souls, I’m convinced.  It breaks me.

So what should we do?  Atheists have taken that next step.  Past agnosticism (which is simply an apathetic or “I don’t know either way” attitude toward God) to the “God is a reckless fantasy” position.  It is often accompanied with a strong sense that theism of any kind does far more harm than good.  My atheist friend fully believes that the fruit of Christianity has been ignorance, bigotry, hate, superstition, violence, tyrany, and a stubborn refusal to examine reality through a rational grid.

To put it plainly, he is an enemy of God.  And I’m pretty sure he would agree (although he would qualify that statement with “your idea of God”).

So again, what should we do?  What should I do?  Because yes, I believe that hell is real.  A real place where souls will spend eternity in agony without any hope.  How can I deal with that… if I really believe it?

And I really do believe it.  I believe my atheist friend is headed there unless he surrenders his heart to Jesus.  And he knows I think that.  I’ve asked him to help me – as my atheist buddy sounding board – to figure out how to maintain connection with him, and people like him, and be alive in my faith without… being a jerk.  Consistent, but not pushy.  Honest, but not annoying.

There’s something I’ve always wondered about Jesus.  How could he possible walk through the streets of Jerusalem, Capernum, anywhere, and not weep for the fate of so many lost souls around him?  And then I think about myself.  Why can I get through a day, with joy of any kind, believing that unrepentant sinners like my friend (and since he’ll surely be reading this, I say that knowing he thinks I’m full of bologna) surround me all the time?

The answer isn’t apathy, if that’s what you’re thinking.  I’m not advocating a stony disregard of your atheist co-worker.  Let yourself feel deeply, and allow your discomfort to motivate you to pray and build relationships.  But brothers and sisters, do not think you are the answer.  That is a burden too heavy to bear.  And it’s not yours to carry.

We get ourselves into all kinds of trouble emotionally, and relationally, when we wrongly assume that anyone’s eternal destiny rests in our hands.  As I said in my last post, you can’t argue anyone into -or out of – faith.  You do not have the right words.  You have not studied enough to win them over with your logic.  Faith is a choice that you cannot make for anyone else.

So let yourselves off the hook.  If you don’t live under the self-induced pressure of trying to do Jesus’ job, building an actual relationship that matters might stand a chance.  You’ll be free to apologize more often.  Admit you’re wrong on occasion.  Like, every time you’re wrong.  Be willing to say “I don’t know,” or even “I think you’re right.”  You know, the way normal friends would talk to each other.  With honesty and respect.

My dialog with my atheist buddy continues.  I expect it will for a long time.  That’s good.  I can’t save him, so I’m not going to try.  The power of the Holy Spirit, and the truth of the Word that pierces the heart and does not return void… THAT is a basket I can put my eggs in.  So I’ll stand for what I believe, with humility and confidence and good humor, share scripture when it seems appropriate, and I’ll peruse his endless links and videos from other people hostile to the idea that God may actually be real and may actually love them.  But I’m not going to beat him up for his choices.  He’s a grown up.  He’s responsible.

Christians would do well, I think, to stop trying to save people.  Yes!  Share the gospel with passion, when you have permission and freedom to do so!  But build a bridge first, and earn the right to have that conversation.  Then let the One who does the saving carry the burden. 

When God said His name was “I AM,” it was also a reminder to me that “I AM NOT.”

Oops.

I bet she wishes she could get a do-over.  Not so much.  As of yesterday afternoon, CNN Middle East news correspondant Octavia Nasr is out of a job because of one tweet.  In a moment she now says she deeply regrets, Ms. Nasr expressed her respect for the recently deceased Hezbollah leader (and terrorist) Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.  Apparently, the masses were paying attention, and they were not impressed.  Octavia Nasr and CNN were deluged with angry feedback questioning her judgement.  In the end, less than 140 characters brought down her career.

I’m not focused on the politics of this story.  What arrested me was the fact that this woman actually lost her job because of a moment of transparency online.  Oops.  The moral of the story?  Tweeting life can be dangerous.  It requires a careful blend of honesty and discernment, but done well, I believe it is tightrope worth walking.

I’m continually amazed at what is possible with smart-phones today.   Instant connection.  Moment by moment play by play, complete with GPS tagging, TwitPics, and streaming video.  I’ve even programmed my phone to sing me to sleep at night and cook me breakfast in the morning.  Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and all of the world’s newspaper headlines are available right now – wherever I am.  A complete interactive community of “friends” and “followers” ever-present to connect with and stroke my ego.  It’s amazing, and seductive, and powerful, and dangerous.

The new world – plugged in, social media fueled, web 2.0, YouTwitFace world – allows us to live our story transparently.  We can post a stream of details.  Where we are, what we’re doing, and what has captured our interest in the moment.  We can share resources and encouragement, or cut people and their ideas down.  We can refine our thinking, and we can fritter hours away with an unlimited flow of distraction-on-demand.

Healthy life-streaming requires healthy boundaries.  There are amazing opportunities and overwhelming advantages to tweeting life in real time.  And there are distict and profound dangers.  Just ask Octavia Nasr.

And the problem is, once a post or tweet has gone public, it’s a living piece of history that can NEVER be put back in the bottle.  Everything we post – EVERYTHING – is available.  It’s searchable.  It’s eternal.

“Don’t you dare put that on Facebook.”  This is a phrase that is ALWAYS welcome in our house.  And while I almost always follow it up with an enthusiastic, “OF COURSE I wouldn’t post THAT” following one of our family squabbles or a particularly embarrassing child-rearing incident, I make it clear that setting boundaries out loud is welcome.  Boundaries do not restrict – they give freedom.  Like a fenced-in back yard for the kids to play in, boundaries define the “safe area” where there is room to play.  Thankfully, Amy lets me know what is safe, and what is out of bounds.

So I tweet life with this in mind:  I want to live a good story.  And good stories are fraught with conflict and growing and pain and triumph.  I am a child of the One King, and He’s put me here to enjoy His company and tell the world about His sovereignty and His grace.  If our family is willing to hear His voice and GO when He calls us, life will be a faith adventure.  If we can live out a great story, and do it transparently with joy, I hope it can encourage others to trust Jesus, too.

But it must also be true.  Land mines.  I want to share my REAL life.  Danger.  I am acutely aware every time I hit “send” that this could (and probably will) be seen by many sets of eyes, and it could live on (and on… and on…) for years.  So I walk the tightrope of living transparently while protecting the privacy of my friends and family.

At the end of the day, I want to reflect a life lived well.  Healthy faith, thriving family, and joyful service to my God and the people I rub shoulders with.  I want the people in my life to get in on my thoughts – to be a real community – and to refine and enjoy each other in the process.  But I won’t tell you everything.  I can’t be a totally open book.  I saw the land mine Octavia Nasr stepped on.  I know what Amy is OK with and where she has staked out the “do not cross” barrier.  And if you step out onto the YouTwitFace technological tightrope with me, remember that every step – every post – every tweet – every status update – will be permanent.  You can’t take it back.  It’s a living part of history.

Step carefully.

 

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“tweeting LIFE :: thoughts on strategic transparency, storytelling, and landmines” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I am conflicted.  And I’m conflicted about being conflicted.

On June 2, 2010, fallen pastor and former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, announced his plan to launch and pastor a new church in the Colorado Springs area this upcoming Sunday, June 6.  Here is the video of his public announcement…

Thanks to Mike Foster and the profoundly inspiring People of the Second Chance blog for bringing this to my attention.  UPDATE:  For a clear and simple timeline on the history of Ted Haggard’s ministry from author Jason Boyett, click here.

This news spawned some significant cognitive dissonance in me.  On one hand, I actually feel some anger at Ted Haggard.  We’ve never met.  But his public fall from grace – and his profoundly hypocritical public stand against homosexuality while (at least) dabbling with it (if not much more) behind closed doors – hurt the reputation of the faith I love.  Pastor Ted was a public representative of Jesus – both to those inside and outside of the Church.  How many souls turned away from Jesus in disgust, seeing such reckless hypocrisy?  Every human being is weak and sinful, yes.  But another evangelical leader?  Really?  Satan must have revelled in the fallout.

That’s on the one hand.

On the other hand, I believe to my core heart of hearts that when God forgives, the sin is gone.  He is in the business of REDEMPTION.  And I love to see Christian leaders brought beyond discipline to RESTORATION.  I love it.  It is the power of the Gospel on display.  It is the story of Christ’s victory lived out in the local congregation.  Restoration of the fallen is unique in the Church – and it brings me deep joy.

I can’t give names, times, or details, but I can say this…  I have personally witnessed this process, in all of its beauty and power, with two close friends and ministry leaders I know well.  They owned their sin.  Confessed it.  Repented to church leaders and to their congregations.  They were removed from ministry for a season.  They sought out forgiveness.  They remained in humble submission to authority.  And in the right time, after an appropriate season away, they were restored to ministry positions where their gifts were used to honor God and build up the church.

Every time I hear that kind of story, I want to cheer.  Redemption on display!  Isn’t it AWESOME?

So what is it about Ted Haggard’s return to ministry that has me conflicted?  Am I still holding him in judgement?  That’s not my job.  Do I feel that he hasn’t had an appropriate time away from ministry?  Who am I to say?  I have decided to forgive Ted Haggard for the insult he represented to my Jesus and His Bride.  And yet I know that just because God can forgive completely and forget sin forever, and even other believers can forgive in our limited way, consequences of our choices remain.  Often for years.  Often for the rest of our life on earth.  Is that what I expect for Ted Haggard?

I’m starting to believe that Mike from POTSC is right.  I’m starting to believe that the most God-honoring stand to take in a redemption story like this is on the side of the sinner being restored.  I’m still conflicted.  But I suspect that my struggle with this has more to do with my own sin of judgement than it does with Ted Haggard’s readiness to minister.

What do you think?

  

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“do i really believe in redemption? :: ted haggard’s return to church leadership” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Facepalm.

Sometimes that’s the best word I have to describe my feeble attempts at husbandry.  Almost 16 years ago now I married the ONE girl God crafted and wired just for me.  Amy is the one girl I’ve ever loved.  She’s the mom of my crazy amazing boys.  She is quick-witted, faith-filled, and beautiful.  Deadly combination.

Amy deserves a white horse.  So why do I schlump around on this donkey so often?

Guys, self-centeredness is like gravity.  Husbands, and soon-to-be-husbands, and someday-to-be-husbands, you have to fight self-centeredness like the tide coming in.  Of course, Christ followers, this process is life-long – the process of sanctification – and it is a Spiritual work that God does in us as we submit to His sovereignty.  So really, I could write about the fight against our self-aggrandizing nature independent of the context of marriage.  But in marriage, the process has highlighter all over it.  It’s “Husbandry 101.”  The starting point, and the primary ongoing battle.  It is more poignant in this place, because the consequences of our choices are exponentially multiplied.

Why?  Because in marriage, you are not “you” anymore… you are “us.”  Every choice, every action, every word, every inaction effects “us.”  The two are ONE.

A close friend of mine has said that marriage is God’s primary tool of sanctification on earth.  I buy that.  And to clarify my theology, I believe fully that the refining work on our hearts that leads to selfless living is God’s work in us, not our struggle and striving to be better.  Husbands, you are not personally called to be the refining tool, chipping away at the parts of your wife that you would like to see changed.  That is God’s job, not yours.  But the point remains strong:  when two individuals become ONE, each individual must submit their will to the “us.”  Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church – whom He died for.  Wives, submit to your husbands.  Both positions require deference, grace, and sacrifice.

So, back to me on the donkey.  If this blog is going to matter, and I write from my life experience, then I have to choose a degree of transparency that may be uncomfortable once in awhile.  This is that kind of day.  Because I love my wife, but I have not been very good at living it out.  Gravity has overtaken me.  So today, I’m rising up again.  Asking for strength from the Holy Spirit to fight my self-centered nature and to be truly transformed again.  Because I love my wife.  So deeply.

It is time for a return to Husdandry 101 for me.  Where I have allowed the gravitational pull of self to weaken my leadership in this home and marriage, I am making a fresh start.  God grants forgiveness, and Amy extends grace to me in the process, so there is no need to stay “stuck” in my failings.  God writes redemption stories, after all.  So I’m moving forward.  Here are three things (of several) that I am committed to.  And in this forum, I am now publicly accountable:

(1) Praying together more.  Prayer is intimate.  Amy and I pray together – yes.  But I am committed to inviting those moments more and more frequently.  In those minutes our hearts are thinking the same God-thoughts, making the same requests, praising Him for the same people and gifts and moments.  I will pray more with Amy.

(2) Date nights.  No longer a luxury.  An imperative I will fight hard for.  Yes, we have five boys.  Yes, we often take care of four or five more children at a time.  Yes, it seems logistically challenging to carve out time away for just us.  These are all reasons FOR a regular romantic escape together.  So “us” remains “us” and doesn’t drift into “me” and “her.”

(3) Accountability.  By that I mean I am recommitting to be accountable, in a hundred small ways, to my commitments.  Pastor Andy Stanley from Northpoint Church in Atlanta, GA, talks about what it means to be “trustworthy.”  Simply put, that means being WORTHY of trust.  Not that we won’t make an occasional mistake – but that our track record of follow-through is consistent and dependable.

Those who know me best (tip of the cap to my dear friends on the Living Hope Praise Team) know that I tend to run 10 minutes late.  WAY too often.  This has been true in my home, as well, and I know it frustrates my bride.

Andy Stanley talks about a key step in building trustworthiness.  He says we must “address the gaps.”  Accountability.  When there is a gap between our stated expectation and the outcome of our actions, we must address the gap that is created between the two.  Own it.  Be accountable.  I intend to erase these gaps between my words and my life.  And when I still run late, I will be accountable for the gap.

There are many other ways in which I am making a fresh start as a husband right now.  But those commitments and goals are between me, and Amy, and God.  I just wanted to pull the curtain back a little…  to inspire God-thoughts in other husbands out there.  My tangible steps toward being a better Josh for Amy can be summed up like this:  MORE PDA.  Prayer.  Dates.  Accountability.

Guys, what’s one thing you can do to fight the gravitational pull of SELF?

 

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“this time i really mean it :: husbandry 101” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

This guy has some serious guts.  Or a social disorder.  Either way, he’s kind of my hero right now.

Kenny Strasser (who sometimes goes by Kevin Strassberg) is a mystery.  One thing is certain… a yo-yo master he ain’t.  However, through a fake website, some fallacious “testimonials,” and a phone call from his “agent,” Kenny/Kevin  “K-Strass” was able to dupe his way onto at least six morning news showsin the last month.  Claiming to work for a non-profit organization raising environmental awareness, K-Strass was billed as a yo-yo master, warming the hearts of children and adults alike with his amazing yo-yo spledasticality.

I love it. “K-Strass” is a total fabrication.  And a total genius.

I think the video above is probably enough food for thought on this beautiful Memorial Day weekend, but it did spark this reminder in me… What you see of someone on the internet is what they want you to see.

When asked how the Programming Directors of all of these news organizations could be taken so hard, several of them mentioned the Zim-Zam Yo-Yo website.  Yep.  Seems legit to me.  That’s some hard core investigative fact checking there, boy.

Here’s where it hits home…  The other day I updated my status to say something about taking a bunch of extra kids to Isaac’s soccer practice “just for fun” so mom could get a break.  In no time at all, I was getting digital back-pats on Facebook and Twitter.  Just as I had planned it.

The truth is, I was tired out from a day at work.  I had my one-year-old with me.  If I took the extra kids with to soccer practice, I could bum him off on the older brothers and sit in a chair on the sidelines at practice.  THAT was maybe my primary motivation for bringing them with.  Laziness.  So the “what a great dad” comments rang a little hollow.  I had to come clean.

Anyway, all this to say that we now live in this fishbowl (by choice, and it’s not all bad) of social media.  I actually embrace the opportunity to live transparently (to a degree) through on-line tweets, posts, pictures, and status updates.  But I recognize how easy it is to “tweak” the truth to my advantage.  I mean, who wouldn’t, right?  The temptation to glaze over the worst of our character and put highlighter on our good side is always there.  If you have an online presence, it’s there for you, too.  The choice.  To be as real as possible.  Or to create a new you.  A shinier you.  Photoshopped life.

Well, Kenny… or Kevin… my bright yellow hat’s off to you.  While you first may have  fudged the details JUUUUUST a bit regarding your yo-yo prowess in order to get a booking, you have shown us the reality of your “skills” in all of their splendor.  You have been transparent.  Kinda.  For that, we laugh at you.  Or with you.  Or at least near you.

As for me, I’ll try to be as real as I can be, so that I don’t have to worry when you meet me in person whether I can keep up the facade in real life.  While I sincerely appreciate the genius that is “K-Strass,”  I could never pull it off.  Hopefully, all ye who know me best will hear my real voice on these here interwebs.  Truthfully, the people that have had the deepest impact on me through their online presence have been the ones willing to reveal their not-so-shiny, not-so-polished, not-so-skilled side once in awhile.  I want to have the courage to follow their lead.

Bloggers, tweeters, Facebookers, friends… who’s with me?

 

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“of yo-yos and chicanery :: what i learned from ‘K-Strass'” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.