Email subscriptions fixed

I became aware earlier today that the email subscription feature on my site has not been working. Apparently it broke when my domain name changed a couple weeks ago. I am sorry for the inconvenience. That problem and the problems I have been having with CommentLuv are both fixed, and my e-book The Spiritual Journey has received some editing and freshening up.

I am sorry for the inconvenience. Please let me know of any problems you run into on my site and I will attend to them as quickly as possible. Thank you.

Learning to Love

love

Image courtesy of Live Life Happy, licensed under Creative Commons

Here are core assumptions I am working under for this post:

  1. The church has generally done a pretty lousy job being a force of love in the world (not that there are not some exceptions, thank God).
  2. Though some individuals are unloving on purpose, most individuals are doing the best they can.
  3. Christian leaders are the cause of much of the problem with not loving. They can also be the solution.

The church’s history as a witness of love in the world is not good. Millions of Christians who have ended up being on the wrong side of history — big time — were sincere in their beliefs, no matter how toxic. I believe that we Christian leaders are the cause of many of the church’s problems with not loving. If church congregations today are full of people who are hateful, or even simply dismissive, toward gays, for example, it is almost certainly either because their leaders are the same way, or at least do not aggressively teach that lack of love is unacceptable, and fundamentally incompatible with the Lord we claim to serve.

My title stems from centuries of inexcusable failure of those who call themselves “the people of God” to love, or even to simply refrain from committing and supporting atrocities — things that directly and dramatically contradict the teachings of our Lord. This failure continues to this day, when we are genuinely, sincerely confused over whether or not we should refrain from openly wounding the gay community further, after they have told us for a least a generation that we are deeply hurting and alienating even those gays who would like to pursue a connection with God through a local Christian church. It continues when Christians defend people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who consistently say idiotic and hurtful things. It continues when our Christian leaders teach that yes, God is loving BUT…(and then whatever comes after).

If you are feeling defensive and upset because of what you have heard so far, I invite you to stop reading. Because,  

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Our Missed Opportunity with Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A-protesters

People supporting Chick-fil-A

Well, support-Chick-fil-A-day has come and gone. It is being reported as a huge success. I view it as a huge missed opportunity.

We talk so much about sacrificial love in the church, but when the biggest moments come to do it — the ones that would make the biggest impact and go the furthest towards healing the wounds between the Christian and LGBT communities — we lose the love talk and lapse into political cliches about free speech.

This reminds me so much of what I wrote in my last post about how men and women are constantly missing opportunities to love each other, and then complaining that their spouse does not really love them.

The whole post is here, but the point is that both say they want to be loved, but actually only want to be loved when it’s convenient for them.

When the man is up late at night on the computer and she asks, “Are you coming to bed?” it’s very easy for him to say, “Nah — I’m doing this thing right now.” She invited him to bed, and he missed the invitation — the opportunity to love her and be loved by her.

She does the same thing, ignoring him in favor of cleaning or laundry or whatever else she has going on.

At Chick-fil-A this week, millions of Christians had a chance to love the LGBT community in a way that mattered hugely to them, and instead many of us said, “No thanks — I’m doing this other thing right now.”  

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Why Divorce Must Be An Option, Christian or Not

divorce

Image courtesy of JCOterhal, used under Creative Commons

The power of choice

Years ago I came to what felt like a dead-end in a job I had previously loved. As the months passed I grew more and more frustrated and would occasionally call a friend and complain to him about how miserable I was and how trapped I felt. I would go on about how I could be making more money in certain other jobs. One evening he replied, “Then you are there because you choose to be. If you know you could get another job making more money, then you have simply chosen not to do that.” This reinvigorated me. I realized he was right. I was choosing. I was not trapped, and I was not a victim.

I still hated my job, but I felt emboldened when I realized that, for specific reasons, it was better for me to stay in that job than to leave at that time in my life. Instead of seeing the job as a trap someone had laid for me, I was able to start seeing it as a choice I had made for specific reasons, and that although I didn’t like the job, it was in my best interests to stay a while longer.

Marriage is a terrible place to be trapped

I used to tell couples that divorce must never be an option. I felt couples would run to divorce too soon if they saw divorce as even a remote possibility. I don’t give this counsel anymore. Though it’s still a good idea not to use the D word flippantly, I now believe that in order for a marriage to be healthy, divorce actually must be an option.

After all, the likelihood that you will face times of major frustration and discouragement in your marriage is extremely high. If you don’t consider divorce an option and choose to stay in the marriage, what will your attitude be? I assure you that you will feel as trapped in your marriage as I felt in my job. Maybe more. It stinks to feel trapped in a job, but you get to leave a job and go home. However, marriage is 24/7. Marriage is not something you want to feel trapped in.

On your wedding day, you made a promise to your spouse. Of course promises should be kept, but that does not mean you are trapped. You could leave if you really wanted to. Of course it would be inconvenient in many ways, but you could do it if you wanted to. Remember that you are married because you choose to be. Probably no one made you get married, and no one is making you stay married. You are where you are either because a) is it what you have chosen and what you really want for reasons only you can know; b) you are afraid of change, and divorce always means change. Of course, so does becoming the person you need to be to fix your marriage, which is why people will sometimes stay in bad marriages for decades. They are trapped not by their marriage vow, and almost certainly not by their honor (as such people will often believe), but by their fear.

Embrace that it’s your choice to divorce OR to stay married

Embracing your option to divorce helps you see that marriage is always a choice, and that choice is yours. Only when you fully realize this will you have an opportunity to feel like you are married not because you have to be but because you want to be. When you realize you are married because you want to be, you might get around to finding out why you want to be. When you discover that, you’re really onto something.

The Frustrated Leader

Wolfman -- Frustrated Leader

Public Domain

Background

I have been a leader in the church for almost eighteen years. When I was growing up in the church, the environment in most churches was one of considerable, and fairly extreme, legalism. It is so refreshing to see that beginning to change. I believe one of the main reasons it is changing is because people who grew up in the church in the 60’s-80’s sensed that something was wrong and decided that as soon as it was up to us, we were going to make some changes. That is exactly what we have done. The emerging church movement has come largely, I believe, from frustrated X-gen leaders (with a few baby boomers around the fringes helping to light the fire!), and now bridger-generation leaders, who are for the most part reacting to anti-intellectualism, unnecessary restrictions, judgmentalism, self-absorption, and huddle mentalities with which we grew up.

All this is great. As a middle schooler I was always attracted to the kind of speakers who were so passionate that when you listened to them you felt like your face was melted off. The passion and conviction were so motivating, and I could hear in those voices the prophesying power of John the Baptist, of Jesus, of early disciples in the faith. These were the Tony Campolo‘s, the Mike Yaconelli‘s on the national stage and, more locally for me, Ron Kopicko and Jon Kulaga. These were people of insight, honesty, power, and conviction, people who weren’t afraid to tell it like it was. Of course today Tony is as fiery as ever, Mike is too-long gone, but there are so many more! In fact it seems the vast majority of Christian teachers on the national stage today are calling the church to service, to openness and authenticity, and to what it means to walk in humility and quietness with God.

The Problem — The Frustrated Leader

I am so grateful that things are changing. It was way too long in coming. But I am also concerned. I am concerned because as I read blogs, books and articles, and listen to sermons, frequently what comes across to me is a sense of frustration. I identify it because I know I have too often come across to my congregation that way. Leaders, if we are not careful, we can easily come across like our primary message, underlying all the good things we say, is, “What’s the matter with you people? Why are you so selfish? Why aren’t you more committed? Why aren’t you more on board with your church? Why don’t you give more, serve more, follow better, think harder, and pray more often for your pastor?”

There is an answer to that question.

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