Red-Letter Story

In my past life, I was a Worship Pastor. A lot has changed since then, but my love for music hasn’t.

I just finished writing a song (video & lyrics below) about this journey, and I want to share it with you. I gave away all of my recording equipment when I started this journey, so please forgive its raw nature.

First, a little background…

I have had much to say on the subject of “my journey” I’ve been on for the last couple of years.

I’m convinced that the life of Jesus trumps whatever else we may concoct during our spiritual lifetimes. It’s learning that which brought me to the place I am now.

I no longer worry about the battles and struggles over “grace vs. truth,” “sin vs. mercy,” or “love vs. death.”

The “truth” is that Jesus was “Love,” “grace,” and “mercy.” Arguing over anything regarding the Bible is a waste of time, in my opinion, and I’m weary of it.

I don’t have the energy to “define sin,” or anything else along those lines.

“Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

If we all die and there isn’t anything beyond this life, I’ll die happy knowing that I wasted my life loving everyone. Honestly, that’s all that matters to me anymore.

Enduring the twists and turns of this journey caused me to question everything I’ve ever learned spiritually.

I don’t regret a bit of it.

In my “Deconstructing Faith” series, I elaborate more on that. The message I’m trying to convey in all of these posts is that it’s not worth getting bent on trivial conclusions about the Bible.

I think, as Jesus followers, if we were all really honest, we’d admit that we’d follow him anywhere — even if it were counter-biblical to do so.

That’s where I’m at. I feel that much of Jesus’ life is counter-biblical, and he’s more important in the end. But I can’t pretend that this is a happy, fun, or even crowded place to be.

Living out his life is a lonely place. It’s a painful place. But it’s the right place.

For those on a similar journey, I’m still here. I’ve loved being a part of your lives and having a window to your journey. If you’d like to share your story with me, please visit my “Contact Me” page, and shoot me an email. I’d love to get to know you more!

Red-Letter Story:

On this dark and lonely highway
My mind is fixed on you
You said come and do it my way
Walk a mile in my shoes

I’ve been walking it seems like forever
And I’m not making any ground
It’s getting cold out in this November
But I refuse to turn around

There’s graffiti all around me
With words resembling you
And the art is captivating
But the story isn’t true

I feel your love now burning inside me
Should I paint it on all these walls
Do I tell your red-letter story
Or not say anything at all

What do I say to the face of my enemy
Knowing that you would love them as you love me

I feel your love now burning inside me
Should I paint it on all these walls
Do I tell your red-letter story
Or not say anything at all

With your love now burning inside me
I’m gonna paint it on all these walls
Compelled to live your red-letter story
I can’t be silent anymore

Compelled to live your red-letter story
I can’t be silent anymore

BONUS! I just remembered this song I wrote about 3 years ago. It seemed even then that there was something in me about Jesus’ name being equated to “Love.” I didn’t realize at the time how much that would mean to me. At any rate, enjoy!

Line in The Sand

I’m grieving today. To be honest, I’ve been grieving for a while, but today and yesterday are different.

Jesus followers — especially American — are divided. It’s no longer a Baptist vs. Methodist, Catholic vs. Lutheran, or Assembly of God vs. Church of God rift.

It’s now Jesus vs. America.

As Jesus followers, we don’t have the luxury of getting to choose when we’re American and when we’re followers of Jesus. There’s a reason that Christianity isn’t a political side.

Jesus isn’t a right wing or left wing American citizen. He’s not part of any political party. I’ve become more and more convinced that as his followers, neither can we be.

We are set apart — part of another kingdom. If we are to be “Christlike,” then we don’t have an option of choosing when we are so, and when we aren’t.

Either we are Jesus to the world 100% of the time, or we aren’t 100%. It can’t be both. There’s not any gray area checkbox to check saying, “I like Jesus, but I’m only going to be like him when it’s convenient,” although I often wish there was.

Jesus didn’t say that we only have to love our enemies when they’re playing nicely in our sandbox.

He said, You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard of justice and punishment: take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say this, don’t fight against the one who is working evil against you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, you are to turn and offer him your left cheek. If someone connives to get your shirt, give him your jacket as well. If someone forces you to walk with him for a mile, walk with him for two instead. If someone asks you for something, give it to him. If someone wants to borrow something from you, do not turn away… But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you—in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven… It is easy to love those who love you—even a thief can love those who love him. And it is easy to greet your friends—even outsiders do that! But you are called to something higher: Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.

How is God perfect, and how can we be perfect like him? God is Love. Love is perfect. We can be made perfect by being Love to others.

Love isn’t a politician. Love isn’t an American citizen. Love is something higher. Love is perfect.

Derek Webb wrote a song called “Love Is Not Against The Law. (<– song)” His words are fitting:

Politics or love
Can make you blind or make you see
Make you a slave or make you free
But only one does it all

And it’s giving up your life
For the ones you hate the most
It’s giving them your gown
When they’ve taken your clothes

It’s learning to admit
When you’ve had a hand in setting them up
In knocking them down

Love is not against the law
Love is not against the law

Are we defending life
When we just pick and choose lives acceptable to lose
And which ones to defend

Because you cannot choose your friends
But you choose your enemies
And what if they were one
One and the same

Could you find a way
To love them both the same
To give them your name

Sure, we may be taxpaying American citizens, but Jesus drew a line in the sand 2000 years ago. Wind may have blown that line and caused it to fade, but I can assure you that it still exists.

He is either Love or he isn’t. You, likewise, are either Love or you aren’t.

American politicians are stating where they stand by choosing whether or not to acknowledge minorities (immigrants, refugees, the LGBT community, non-whites, etc.) as people. Many of them are choosing to go against Love’s way, and so many of you are cheering them on.

Friends, we’re either Jesus followers, or we aren’t.

I love you all so very much — so deeply! My heart is aching to hear your words of anger, hate, and fear! I’m broken knowing that I’m now separated from you.

I’m grieving today knowing that I’m choosing to walk away from you. I’m dropping stones and crossing to the other side like so many other Jesus followers have done.

I stand with Love. I cannot ignore the faces of the outcasts. I cannot ignore the face of Jesus. I’m saddened if you disagree.

“I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.” – Jesus

Inscription on the Statue of Liberty, by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Equality in Leadership

This is a topic that has gone through a complete transfiguration in my mind over the last few years — a change for the better. I can’t tell you how much sexism gets under my skin now. To me, it’s worse than having shards of wood shoved under my fingernails.

Even as a young boy, I defended girls. A buddy and I saw a boy picking on a group of girls once. They were screaming at him to leave them alone. He was a known bully on the playground, so my friend and I went over there and took care of the problem by kicking his ass — that wasn’t the best choice either. I should have let the teachers know what was going on.

We were brought into the Principal’s office and asked why we beat him up. We told the principal what happened, and he thanked us and sent us on our way. The bully was spanked and sent back to class.

Most of those girls are still good friends of mine to this day.

Fast forward to the present, and I’m still the same boy, just older and equipped with a fully developed frontal lobe. Don’t get me wrong, I’d happily step in and defend a woman at any given moment, but I wouldn’t likely default to “ass-whoopin’ mode” without trying words first.

So, here I am — using my words…

I’ve always been for equality where women are concerned, save church leadership; let’s be honest, what I really mean is the Senior Pastor title.

As far back as our human history goes, women have been subservient to men. There are a million reasons why, but I’ll focus on just a few.

Women are typically smaller and physically weaker than men. In early history, this fact placed men over women as leaders for reasons of wellbeing. Men were the caretakers of women — protectors. Men were bigger, stronger, faster; able to ward off danger.

Due to modernization, that changed. The world developed and strengthened through advances in shelters and dwellings, self defense, and technology. Today, women largely have nothing to fear that would require the presence of a male for security.

Men have also ruled because of knowledge and education. Women have historically been associated with inferiority in philosophical, medical and religious traditions primarily due to the unavailability of education to them. That’s changed in recent history.

Thankfully, most of the world has discovered that women are more than capable of learning and leading.

But I’d like to focus on a point I mentioned above — religious traditions. Only in this living generation’s time period have we seen women allowed into clergy roles, generally speaking.

I’m so grateful that there are many churches getting it right on this issue. My purpose in bringing this topic up isn’t to say “there aren’t any churches getting it right.” That’s not true, and I congratulate those doing so.

I do, however, think that all churches ought to continually evaluate their employment and opportunity policies regarding women.

To say that women can volunteer only in certain places of the church, be employed in the Children’s Department, Worship Ministry, or some place other than the Senior Pastor’s position is an injustice.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that men and women can work side-by-side in those areas of the church, and they should! I think this is one way that churches are getting it right!

But when it comes to women being elders, deacons, or the Senior Pastor, most churches are missing the mark.

 

History Lesson:

Paul wrote a couple of key letters that Christians often reference regarding women in church leadership. The first was the letter he wrote to the people of Corinth. The second was the first letter he wrote to Timothy.

To the Corinthians, he wrote, “Wives should be respectfully silent at the gatherings, as they are not allowed to speak; and they should yield themselves to those in authority just as it is written in the law. When they want to learn anything in particular, they should ask their husbands when they get home. It creates a shameful situation for them to speak at church.”

To Timothy, “Now, Timothy, it’s not my habit to allow women to teach in a way that wrenches authority from a man. As I said, it’s best if a woman learns quietly and orderly. This is because Adam was formed first by God, then Eve. Plus, it wasn’t Adam who was tricked; it was she—the woman was the one who was fooled and disobeyed God’s command first. Still, God, in His faithfulness, will deliver her through childbearing as long as she remains in faith and love and holiness with self-restraint.”

Paul wrote to the Corinthians in reply to a letter they’d written him. They wanted to know what to do when women interrupted their gatherings. Women hadn’t been allowed to worship inside the temple before as men had. Now they were playing catchup learning the elementary things that men had learned from childhood.

Paul’s reply was specifically to the Church at Corinth. He didn’t give this instruction to any other church he had established. In this reply, he wasn’t saying “women aren’t allowed in leadership.” Rather, he was instructing husbands to fill in the blanks with their wives at home so they were all on the same page when meeting together. In other words, teach the elementary things to your wives at home, so the rest of the time you can all be home in time to watch football.

There’s too much to cover here regarding the letter to Timothy, but I’ll send you here and here to read more.

For me, the portion written to Timothy boils down to poor interpretations and cultural perspective.

If Paul didn’t want women in leadership, he should have fully considered that before placing Junia, Euodia, Syntche and Priscilla in it.

 

Today’s culture doesn’t match the Corinthian, Ephesian, Roman, Colossian, or any other culture 2000 years ago. The likelihood of Paul writing the same instructions to us today as he wrote to those is nil.

Heck, he didn’t even give the same instructions to each of those cultures then!

I firmly believe that it’s time for women to lead!

If women can be doctors, lawyers, President, Prime Minister, CEOs, scientists, etc., it’s time they’re given the Senior Pastor role when applicable. There are so many women out there who are smarter, wiser, and better equipped to serve as the Senior Pastor of a church than many men are.

There are also women who could enhance elder boards and deacon ministries if given the opportunity to do so!

What if equality — not just gender equality — was something the Church took ownership of? What if it became a staple issue that was made a non-issue the world over?

What if equality was equated to loving others passionately, expressively, recklessly, completely, unconditionally — regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or gender? What if we got that part of the Gospel right?

Selfless Holidays

There’s an annual battle that takes place around this time of year. One that has the appearance of good but never actually accomplishes anything. The war waged is Christians versus The World — sometimes it’s really just Christians vs. Christians.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the battle, especially on social media.

The narrative is all too familiar: “keeping Christ in Christmas.”

It sounds great, but the problem is that he never left Christmas. Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Simple, period, end of story.

Digging a bit deeper, you’ll find other religions and nonreligious celebrating this season in their own ways, and that’s where the battlelines are blurred.

People celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanza, or perhaps those just celebrating joy, love, and peace, are often times found in the crosshairs of particular Christian groups.

These folks aren’t trying to “steal Christmas,” or even “remove Christ” from Christmas — as if that is something that could actually be achieved. They’re simply enjoying the holiday season just like the majority of Christians do — buying gifts for one another, spending time with close friends and family, and my favorite, gorging on ridiculous amounts of food!

As I’ve mentioned in my other posts, people of faith — no matter what faith they’ve chosen — are typically sold-out believers in it. Just as earnestly as Christians believe in Jesus, other religions and nonreligious have reached their own conclusions.

The last thing any of us need is to ruin this special time of year by forcing our beliefs on others. I feel we’d all be better served by focussing our energy in other ways.

According to my Googling, in the United States there are:
610,042 people homeless on any given night,
48,100,000 living in food-insecure homes,
and 400,000 children in our foster care system.

IN THE UNITED STATES (1)

There’s been a very particular chapter of Scripture on my mind in recent months. You’ve seen it in my other writings, but it applies here as well.

1 Corinthians 13:1, “What if I speak in the most elegant languages of people or in the exotic languages of the heavenly messengers, but I live without love? Well then, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or a crashing cymbal.”

The noise from crashing cymbals today is deafening!

I created the meme above when I learned of a person on Facebook “starting a movement to keep Christ in Christmas.” This person was offended that Starbucks’ new holiday cups were just plain red — void of snowflakes, reindeer, and trees. It’s precisely what I’m talking about when I referred to crashing cymbals, and it makes my skin crawl.

I never expected my meme to go viral, but it did, and I’m glad of it. Perhaps this post will go viral as well. I certainly hope so.

I propose that this holiday season we come up with some creative solutions to reduce the given statistics above.

I’ll start:

  1. Fill and give a purse or backpack with items helpful for homeless people. Here are some suggestions.
  2. Wear a coat that you can part with, and physically take it off and put it on a homeless person.
  3. Load your trunk with umbrellas to give to homeless people when you see them.
  4. Have your church “adopt” a homeless person (or homeless family), and make sure they have a roof over their heads and hot meals to eat.
  5. Much like #4, reach out to homes that you know won’t have a holiday meal, and provide them with one — or better yet, invite them to yours!
  6. Offer to buy someone’s groceries in the check-out line at your grocery store.
  7. Volunteer at a foster care group home.
  8. Become a foster care parent.
  9. Tip generously — when dining out, visiting a bar or coffee shop, getting your nails done, getting a tattoo or piercing, or getting a haircut. These folks could use all the help they can get! I know… I used to be one of them.
  10. Be Santa. Buy gifts for kids in need, and make this a holiday they won’t ever forget.

Instead of adding to the noise this season, I’m proposing we start a different movement. One that can forever change the way we view the holidays — a movement of loving our neighbors.

That’s one I can get behind, and it’s one that can go beyond the holiday season. Submit your ideas in the comment section below or on social media!

Share this post using: #SelflessHolidays, and let’s be the change we so desperately need.

YOU are not your body!

Unfortunately, links in this post will be classified as NSFW

Society has robbed you of who you are. They say you’re too fat, too skinny, too whatever…

Somehow you are your body.

Impressions of ourselves have been cheapened by the opinions of corporations marketing goods.

It’s still taboo in many cultures to be naked in public, but commonplace in so many other societies around the world. Those cultures (and some places stateside — I live in such a place now) view nonsexual nudity -without- using a sexual lens — rightly so.

The purpose of this post isn’t to debate nudity, generate “shock value,” or convince anyone that public nudity isn’t wrong, but I’ll briefly explain how my perspective has changed.

I honestly don’t take issue with public nudity; it isn’t offensive to me.

I’ve matured in my thinking and met people who’ve challenged me to think differently.

Growing up I viewed nudity with an “objectifying” eye. Seeing a naked person was a sexual thing for me. It’s why pornography found its place on my computer screen, like millions of other screens all over the world.

When a person is photographed, or painted in a sexually objectifying manner, a line is crossed; that’s pornography. That’s when a naked person has been dehumanized — many times against their own will or knowledge.

I absolutely believe that publically exposing yourself for the purpose of being seen by others in a sexual manner is wrong.

Discretion and knowing the company you’re with is a must.

A naked person in a traditional sauna, on a designated beach, in a Korean bathhouse, breastfeeding a baby, a nonsexual photograph or video, beautiful artwork, etc. shouldn’t be used for objectification or as a means to sexual fulfillment. Clothing on a person in this sense is irrelevant to the fact that they are a person; their naked body isn’t to provide you with a peep show.

— Moving On —

I’ve read a few articles of people — mostly women — who’ve had the courage to stand up for themselves — for real beauty!

This article is about 8 moms who visited a beach — going “mostly naked.” It’s a wonderful testimony of new moms rebutting the adage that “stretchmarks and muffin tops are nasty,” “big hips and thighs are unattractive,” and “only skinny is pretty.”

I love how these women not only shed their clothes in public — having found their true value and identity — but they also threw their inhibitions to the wind posing for a group picture!

Articles about someone learning to love their real self are inspiring!

These are exhilarating “I get it” moments; times when a person realizes that their body is just that, a body.

Celebrating that moment with a topless group picture on a beach tells me that something magical just happened within their minds! They’ve just learned a person is so much more than a body.

That’s incredible, they’re incredible, and I wish with everything in me that the rest of the breathing world would also “get it” by breaking the mental connection of nudity and sex.

In the appropriate moment, that connection is a wonderful thing, but in public, it’s certainly not an invitation for you to objectify anyone.

Recently I came across the fascinating story of Essena O’Neill (website). She also has a couple of Youtube videos on her website telling her story (this one is my fav).

From the age of 12, Essena idolized models. By the time she was 19, she had a full blown modelling career of her own.

She spent hours retaking hundreds of selfies for her Instagram just to “get the right one,” and “all of them were fake.”

She sucked in her tummy, wore push-up bras, and posed just the right way to get exactly what she and her sponsors wanted; a beautifully accentuated body.

She’s since deleted all of her social media pictures because “they aren’t real.” Now, in breach of contract, she’s quit modeling. Being a “real person” living a “real life in the real world” is more important to her.

From skinny models, to new moms —  poor self image is reeking havoc on people everywhere — especially on women. It’s wrong, it’s disgusting, and as a male feminist it really pisses me off!

The self-consciousness only exists because our minds have been warped to conform to society’s perception of what’s acceptable.

Why do ladies feel like they have to conform to the cookie cutter mold that society says they do?

It’s a massive grievance for companies to get rich making you feel like you don’t measure up.

Is it wrong for a mother to breastfeed her baby in public? Is it wrong for a woman to celebrate a breakthrough by realizing, as a person, she is more than a body?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Whether or not you celebrate by shedding your bikini (or even move from a sweatshirt to a bikini), hear my words: YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY! 

Your job isn’t to insure that others aren’t viewing your body in an objectifying manner. That error is on them to work out!

You are a wonderfully made, exquisite soul, complete with skin.

— You are beautiful exactly the way you are! —

Don’t waste your life being concerned how others view your skin — it’s not worth your time or stress.

Your skin is a trivial part of who you are!

Love your body, love yourself, be yourself — and celebrate those who have the courage to do the same!

Below are some articles related to this subject that I wanted to share (NSFW): 
1. http://aplus.com/a/megan-jayne-bodyposipanda

2. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-21182/how-8-new-moms-learned-to-love-their-bodies-photo.html

3. http://www.letsbegamechangers.com/

4. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/femail/video-1092814/Photographer-captures-beauty-mothers-stunning-series.html

5. http://metro.co.uk/2015/11/02/public-health-england-encourages-mums-to-break-down-barriers-and-breastfeed-in-public-5475815/

6. http://www.buzzfeed.com/southerndisposition/25-historical-images-that-normalize-breastfeeding-jlw6#.bqzk49Aar