Monthly Archives: June 2014

Every Vote that Leaves is a Vote to Affirm

“Those defections [of Presbyterian churches leaving the denomination] — many to smaller and more conservative Presbyterian denominations — made it more likely that the General Assembly would approve a gay marriage resolution this year.”
Washington Post article, June 19, 2014

Explain that to God. Explain to God that you needed to break your vow to work for the peace and purity of the church. Explain to God that you’re now purer, cleaner, truer because you have walked away from friends, family, congregation members to whom you promised to dedicate your life and ministry.

A friend said to me the other day that people were just tired. I get tired. But you know what Scripture says, right? I mean, right? You know that Paul wrote,

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

Stand. Not leave. Not pick up your marbles and go home. Not sit down and weep. Not go off with your friends who can pat you on the back and say, “Well, at least we’re not doing THAT!”

The word of guidance by the Spirit was stand. In plain terms what that means is stand and let them have to walk over you to move ahead. It means stand and let them feel uncomfortable having to push through you or go around you. It means stand and create the kind of barrier that says, “We do not bow to anyone but Jesus.”

What is demonstrated by every penny not given when pledged, by every door that is shut on a congregation’s continuing history, by every minister who breaks his or her vows is that you believe the most important thing in life is power and not love.

You see this was a battle against flesh and blood. Someone told you that you had to fight to protect our denomination and then they told you, once you were tired of fighting, that the denomination had left you, that the culture was against you and that you had to circle the wagons, protect yourself, hunker down and save yourself. No one told you to follow Scripture, put on the armor of God and stand. Is there anyone who does that but the one who clothes himself in violence?

You decided to fight against men who love men and women who love women. Men have loved men since the beginning of civilization. Women going after women is not something new. You chose to defend God against people like this who have been your neighbors forever. You chose to defend God. Who is this measly god that needed your defense and could not defend himself?

We were given one weapon in our battle – love. It might require our lives, but we have eternal life and so nothing can separate us from that or God’s love. We are able to stand when we have nothing left to give because it is not our resources that we depend on. It is not our lives we are trying to save. We seek to save those who seek to make us captive to their cultural climate, these humans to whom we are to bring the good news of God’s love. The leaders of their cause have been shouting in their ears that the only part of the Bible to trust is the parts they approve.

And you have joined them… because you didn’t stand.

Explain that to God.

And may he bless you,

And then play

I tried a little experiment with a group of adults. I heard about this and thought I’d see how it worked. I handed out cards with directions to all of them. One group received these instructions – “You are seven years old and school has been cancelled. You have the day to yourself. Who would you see? Where would you go? What would you do?” The rest of the group got the same message without the first sentence. After they were finished writing out their ideas I said, “Before we share our answers I want you to do one more thing. Write down the kinds of things you might do with a brick.” And I showed them a brick.

The group that just had the day to themselves suggested things like using it to build a building, as a support for shelves, as a doorstop… and so on. The group that had been thinking of themselves as seven suggested using it to make a dam in a stream, to tie it to a rope, throw the rope over a branch and use it as a counterweight to send things flying into the air… and other fun things. By simply putting themselves back into a time when life included exploring, they thought in terms of

At least that’s what we call it… play. We don’t call it experimenting. We don’t call it study. We call it play.

Kids play. Adults study and experiment. What would happen if we continued to face life as playing? We would do this thing that both children and adults do. We would explore.

We wouldn’t take ourselves so seriously. We wouldn’t think of knowing as much as wondering. We wouldn’t have answers as much as seeking understanding. What would we do with such an attitude?

play1Think of the conversations we would have if each person we met were a new land of personal geography and we were explorers.

There are times when exploration requires patient, repeated attempts at understanding or gaining skill. We call that practice. But if don’t ever stop practicing or don’t bring all our practice back into playing, we lose the worth of the activity. We lose humility. We lose perspective. Then we become adult. And all we do is put things into practice.

Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. christ_with_childrenTherefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4


Can’t share these thoughts another way

Go Ahead
When your closest friends are hypochondriacs
Go ahead and take a walk
Get up from the table and see the world
Even it is just to go to the window
Go ahead
Take a walk around the room
Stroll down the hall
Go make a call
Without a phone
And let the anxious chairs
Fill their own space
And not your ears
Go ahead and take the space
Between your earsahead1
Into its outer limit

There is a voice that no one hears
Because it is unspoken
But weaves through all
The misheard words
Claims, lies, fanciful implorings
Taking them as fodder
For its own energies
Never proximate
Never hesitant
Never slow
The heart of all creation
Its shout can only be encountered
By fullness
And then its singing never stops


10 Reasons Men go to Church

One day I asked my Mom, why we went to the Presbyterian Church and she said, “Oh, your father said, ‘that’s where they preach the Gospel,’ so that’s where we were going.”

That’s the first reason a man goes to church.
They go to church to hear plain truth about living.
They go to find verbs that when acted out create worth.
They go to find one or two relationships on which they can count.
They go because they want to be in a community where others can depend on them.
They go because they believe that whatever they’re asked to participate in will make someone else’s life better.
They go to get stronger in making hard choices.
They go because they find things that make them laugh, that don’t make them embarrassed or ashamed at the same time.
They go because they don’t have all the answers and they believe they’re gathering with others who know the same thing.
They go because they feel a potency that draws them into a depth of living they desire to know, and because they believe it can bring about change they cannot achieve on their own.

Personally, if I didn’t find these kinds of things… I’d rather be camping.

The Importance of Getting Kicked Out

I’ve been thinking on the issues facing the PCUSA and it occurred to me that the point is the Gospel. The point is not church. It is not ordination. It is not the definition of “marriage” or “family.” Amazingly, the point is not even equal rights. The point is the Gospel. The point is the relationship between God and humanity.
The church is an institution that was created, organized and structured to assist the meeting of those who heard and received the Gospel. Leaders for the institution were selected and designated through procedure and ceremony for special responsibilities within the institution to guide and assist those who heard and received the Gospel. These responsibilities included a number of ceremonies to be led by these leaders alone in hopes of protecting, guiding and assisting those who heard and received the Gospel.
Those who heard and received the Gospel brought life and hope to those around them in the greater community. They sought to share the Gospel. Their primary motivational force was and has been to teach those who live near them that they are valued by their Creator in a manner that was far beyond their imaginations. This included, as they had experienced, a relationship with their Creator that was love best expressed in obedience. Sometimes sharing this Gospel to their neighbors cost them their possessions and sometimes it cost them their families and sometimes it cost them their own lives. They found within the Gospel a stalwart truth that taught them that any of this sacrifice was worth it, entirely.
One essential element within this Gospel was that they did not have within themselves any resource by which to achieve or through which to create purity or wholeness. This essential element included the truth that they must rely abjectly on the one who brought the Gospel initially. All power and wholeness was to be ascribed to this one still
We now come to a place within the life of the institution, as we have before, where there is a battle raging over the retaining or obtaining of power. We are at the place, again, where those designated haves and have-nots are at odds and each is confident of the rightness of their position. But this has nothing to do with the Gospel. It has to do with power. For those who point to the definition of words as battle sites at which to find defeat or victory, the issue remains power. For those who claim victimhood as an ally in the battle over rights, the issue remains power. The war for power within the institution does not alter or establish or have anything to do with the Gospel.
The Gospel is now and always will be expressed in the everyday life of individuals and their small communities. It will never be within the purview of institutions. It is its own authority and is obeyed by individuals who show this by treating others with kindness or dignity beyond their societal rights. Participating in any of the institutional battles would make those under the Gospel’s authority ashamed.
For individuals who live under the authority of the Gospel within the institution, there is one choice and that is to teach, celebrate and live out obedience to the Gospel. That work should be done until one is asked to leave by the institution that does not want them anymore. This is the example of Jesus, the disciples, the reformers and others in the life of the Gospel until we reached America, where we started the practice of leaving. Those before us did not leave. They got kicked out and that is the example to follow.kicked out We remain and share the Gospel until we are kicked out.
And this is important because we will then clearly learn and demonstrate that our dismissal doesn’t change us or what we do with our lives. Whether we are in the institution or not, we live this Good News in obedience to the one who brought it to us.