Do Good to… Everyone?

February 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

What does it mean to DO GOOD? To EVERYONE? Are we doing good to everyone, including the gay people around us, when we refuse to serve them because of our convictions about their lifestyle?

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Land of the Free?

February 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

When we Americans speak of freedom, I often wonder what do we really mean? I think what we often mean that others are free to do what we think they ought. But freedom must extend beyond my own convictions, or it is not freedom at all.

When U.S. soldiers are deployed, it is often expressed that they are fighting for freedom. Which freedoms are they fighting for? Only the freedoms we deem morally acceptable? What about freedoms that we find moral fault in? For example, when a young man makes the courageous choice to serve his country in the armed forces, is he deployed abroad to fight for the freedom of American women to have an elective abortion just as much as he is fighting for the freedom of the same American women to worship as their conscience dictates without interference from the state? Now, let’s slow down just a minute so I can make sure I’m clear. I am not equating abortion with the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion. Freedom of religion and the freedom to elective abortion are on completely different planes, the former being an ‘inalienable’ right and the latter not coming near that standard regardless of what some progressives may say or wish. I chose the issue of abortion precisely because it is, to my conscience, the most tragic and abhorrent freedom afforded to citizens by American law. But it is, nonetheless, a freedom that American law affords. Now, back to our soldier: Soldiers risk, and many give, their lives to defend ALL of our freedoms- including the freedom of some people to insult them and call them “baby killers” when they return- not just our inalienable rights and certainly not just the rights that they agree with morally.

Does this present a dilemma for the Christian? If a believer is aware that one result of participation in the armed services is that women in the U.S. will continue to have the freedom to have an abortion, must he conscientiously object to military service? If a believer is aware that one result of military service is that same-sex couples will continue have the freedom to marry (at least in some states), does this require conscientious objection to serving? Let me ask this in another way: when a man takes the oath of a soldier in the United States armed forces, does he thereby endorse every freedom he puts his life at risk to defend?

Now, what if the believer is not a soldier, but the ubiquitously cited wedding photographer or baker who holds the conviction that biblical marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life? Is the baking of a cake or photographing a ceremony an unmitigated endorsement of a union?

Is it possible to respect the freedom of others, even when we disagree with the choices they make with that freedom or even the fact that they have the freedom at all? Is it possible that we have an incomplete or skewed concept of freedom? Is it possible that neither the choice to bake the cake nor the choice to not bake the cake is sinful, but is an issue similar to the eating of meat sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8)? Is it possible that there is a better litmus test of our spiritual maturity than how firmly and vocally we oppose gay marriage? I think there may be.

To Love At All…

October 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

I came across this cartoon from Zen Pencils that beautifully illustrates one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes and wanted to share it [HT: ChurchMag]:

CS-Lewis-Love-Quote-Comic

Music has played an integral role in my contemplation of, and struggle to live, an authentic and connected life. Numerous songs by Mumford & Sons address this area with a refreshingly raw emotion. One of my favorites, “Timshel,” is a melancholy tune that leads me to consider the great necessity, and limitations, of community.

“Timshel” by Mumford & Sons

Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And I will tell the night
Whisper, “Lose your sight”
But I can’t move the mountains for you

Music has played an integral role in my contemplation of, and struggle to live, an authentic and connected life. Many artists have inspired and challenged me in this vital area, and none more than Derek Webb. Webb is as much a philosopher and theologian as he is a musician, and his deep thoughts on authenticity and community are woven throughout his music.  His song “I Want A Broken Heart” was the inspiration for the name of this blog and provides the quote displayed on the main banner. It is an anthem, a prayer, a heart cry of the one who longs to live authentically and connected.

I Want a Broken Heart (Derek Webb)

i’ve got faith in the bank and money in my heart
i’ve got a calloused place where your ring used to be, my love

i’ve traded naked and unashamed
for a better place to hide
for a righteous mask, a suit of fig leaves and lies

i thought the cattle on a thousand hills
was not enough to pay my bills
and i fell in love with those who proved me wrong
and now i want a broken heart

now there’s a great pad lock
on the place where i was free
and i’m feeling bad from swallowing that key
now i work real hard but i mostly call in sick
of a broken back from the ground fighting back at me

i cannot look you in the eye
so i check the knots on my disguise
‘cause i fell in love with fashion in the dark
and now i want a broken heart

i’ve got alibis for every crime
a substitute to do my time
‘cause Your heart breaks enough on both our parts
so now i want a broken heart
now i want a broken heart
now i want a broken heart

A Culture of Connection

September 6, 2013 — 2 Comments

This week my seven-year-old son learned about ancient Egypt at the classical school he attends. One of the topics discussed was hieroglyphics, and the students were encouraged to go home and create their own hieroglyphics. Being the enthusiastic kid that he is, my son created eight pages of “hieroglyphics,” with almost fifty unique symbols.  He asked if we could discuss his hieroglyphics at bedtime that night instead of reading books.  He spent about twenty minutes telling me what all the symbols meant and how he came up with each one. One symbol and it’s meaning was particularly moving to me:

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With a knowing smile and a glimmer in his eyes, he told me, “this one means ‘connection’.”  I was astonished at his ability to take an abstract concept such as “connection” and translate it into such a simple and clear image.  I was equally astonished that, of all the symbols he painted, he seemed to know that this one was the one that would impress or impact me the most. My first thought was, “My son’s a genius!” As I pondered the source of his genius (i.e., did he get it from me or from my wife), something occurred to me: my seven-year-old son understands the concept of connection and its importance to our family because he is immersed in it.

Although we seldom if ever use the term “connection” when talking to him or his sister, he consistently hears my wife and I talk about it with each other and with friends. If we had one of those word cloud thingies hanging off the side of our house, I’m fairly confident that “connection” would be shown to be at least one of the top-ten most used words in our family. Not only does he hear us talking about connection, he sees us making choices that enable our family to connect with others. He has observed me and his mother (okay, mostly his mother) making a priority of living in connection with key people in our lives. It is sometimes more of a desire or an ideal we reach for than a reality, but he has picked up on the fact that connection is a BIG deal in our family.

All of this helped me to answer a question, at least in part, that I’ve contemplated for quite some time: how do you create a culture of connection?  I tend to get hung up on the belief that until I master something in theory and in practice, I can’t even think about creating a culture. So to me, creating a culture of connection was as elusive as the holy grail was to Arthur and his knights. My son helped me to see, though, that you create a culture simply by talking about and doing what is important to you.  If sports are important to you, you will talk about sports and play or watch sports regularly, thus creating a culture of sports.  If achievement is important to you, you will talk about it and consistently encourage and reward achievement, thus creating a culture of achievement. Therefore, if you want to create a culture of connection, connection must be important to you. It must not be just one more thing on the list, but it must be one of the main things on the list. And that’s pretty much it. Once connection becomes a true priority to you, talking about it and doing it with greater consistency will follow. The question we need to ask is not “how can I talk about connection more effectively?” or “how can I encourage or facilitate connection better?” but “how important is connection to me?”

For Consideration & Conversation:

1. Based upon a reading of the culture of your home, what things are most important to you?

2. Where does connection fit in the list of what is important to you?

3. Are you content with the place of connection on your list of priorities?

If this blog is “about” anything, it’s about exposing and addressing our tendency to hide and make ourselves look better with false images, spin, and a plethora of other perception management techniques. This week I read two great blog posts that address this important issue from unique and helpful points of view.

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Rest creates open space in my life which provides an unavoidable opportunity for self-evaluation and awareness of God’s presence. Nothing is more necessary, or more terrifying, to a sinful man than self-evaluation and awareness of God’s presence.

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Wounded Heart, Tender Heart

January 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

If you are in relationship with people in any way, I know at least two things about you. First, I know that you have been deeply wounded by people you trust. Second, I am equally as certain that you have deeply wounded people who trust you. I know you’re probably wondering where I acquired this penetrating insight into your life experience. A phrase I’ve learned while in the City of Refuge ministry supplies the basis of my assertions: “Hurt people hurt people.” But that’s not all we do. Hurt people also go to extraordinary lengths to protect themselves. Continue Reading…

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“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

“I love you, but like a brother.” With these seven words, the hearts of untold multitudes of starry-eyed boys have been hurled from the cloudy heights of true-love-found onto the merciless ground of reality. We can recover from the crash and even go on to form solid, lasting friendship with our not-so-true-love.  After all, being loved like a brother is a not bad thing. But it still comes as a major letdown when your heart is set on more. It’s a bit like trying out for the varsity team and being told you’d be a perfect fit for the junior varsity team. Continue Reading…