Same Love (God at the Grammy’s)

27 01 2014

The Grammy Awards; one of several nights in late winter when many (particularly fundamentalist/evangelical) Christians act surprised, disgusted and dismayed that there is a world outside the four walls of the church that behaves differently than they do.

Via Facebook & Twitter, I watched my brothers and sisters open their mouths in shock last night as mine dropped open in awe. Love is a powerful gift, a God-given gift which I personally believe is divinely inspired in all of us.

As thirty-three couples joined in matrimony in front of millions of viewers, I made a comment to my wife, Veronica, “there’s a lot of love, a lot of light in that room,” as we continued to watch, amazed.

Like my fellow Christians, I was completely shocked, but from the other side of the spectrum. What a beautiful moment. A demonstration of the limitless love of our Father, beyond comprehension. Where love is, there He is. I pray that the couples married in that public forum, regardless of race, faith or sexual orientation will discover the love of God as lived through the parable of their own unions.

I happen to be one of Jesus’ followers in a more awkward position than many. I’m one of the accepting, loving, non-judgmental followers of Christ. I have friends who are gay that I know I don’t love enough. I know my timid silence is wrong when it comes to helping turn hearts from casting stones of judgement.

To clarify even further, I’m not talking about agenda-driven love. I’m not talking about loving the sinner so that they can change and turn from their wicked ways. In the words of the Macklemore song that undergirded this controversial wedding ceremony last night:

And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up

Ben Haggerty, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert

These words are easily reconciled with my Christian faith, because as I’ve put my trust and faith into the teachings of Jesus, there is no other way than that of love. He taught us to love, abundantly and unconditionally.

The level of disconnection with culture has become increasingly disconcerting to me. I’ve watched the “in-the-world-but-not-of-it” divide grow further apart, making Christians who see a bold line separating sacred from secular seem even more irrelevant to the world than they already are.

If we truly believe that we are called to affect culture, do we really think the best way to do that is by separating from in? I think we’re missing the “in” part of in but not of.

Personally, not all of the music performed last night during the Grammy awards ceremony was to my taste, but that doesn’t mean I would rather disconnect from the culture in which I exist.

Public spectacle-type wedding ceremonies, even public marriage proposals aren’t really my thing, but love…love definitely is. In the words of John, one Jesus’ closest followers among the original disciples:

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
The apostle John, son of Zebedee (from 1 John 4)

God was honoured in the Staples Centre last night, present with every tear of joy that fell and loving on every broken heart healed of hate.

I hope that, as we each provide our own perspective and commentary on our culture, we respond with the same love of God, rather than a knee-jerk religious reaction.

Love is patient, love is kind…

tumblr_mj5ov5B9C11ra6xnio1_500





Blaming the Victim

27 07 2013

Part of the ‘conversation’ on modesty rules, purity culture and virginity always has to come around to blame & responsibility. While I intend to write more on beauty & modesty soon, today’s piece addresses the darker side of the debate, rape culture.

Trigger Warning: This blog post addresses rape. If you or someone you know has been hurt or abused, please seek support. http://www.rainn.org/get-help

First,  a couple basic thoughts:

Women aren’t objects. You can’t own a woman. You can’t control a woman. You can’t rule a woman.

Of course, the same are true for men. In the interest of gender equality, every time I reference women I should consistently include men in the equation. In the interests of clarity, I won’t do that throughout this piece, but please understand that I am always writing from a perspective of equality.

Unfortunately, people who obsess about modesty and purity culture, idolizing these ideals and equating with them with the basic tenets of faith, don’t represent gender equality very well. Women are objectified for their own protection, in spite of themselves, and for the protection of men. There is a general consensus in the Christian church that women can cause men to think & act inappropriately, even illegally, by wearing immodest clothing or behaving inappropriately that entices or attracts trouble.

This. Is. Wrong.

I spoke to a man the other day who’d been raised and indoctrinated with the flawed, albeit well-intentioned perspective of the religious, evangelical traditions of modesty and virginity. We conversed about the problems with a Christian culture that worships purity and virginity.

He was telling a story about a crazy party that happened across the street from his rural home a few nights earlier. There was loud music all night, with people yelling and running around, crazy drunk.

As he drove to work in the morning he saw a young woman, naked save for a thin robe, rise from where she was laying in the middle of a field and make her way back into the house, appearing to have slept where she lay.

He wondered aloud to me, “Had this girl just ruined her life? Had she made a mistake that she’d never recover from?”

My heart sunk when I heard him speak this way. My mind wondered all the same things he had. Was she hurt? Had she been drugged? Raped? My first thought wasn’t a thought as much as an intense feeling of dread and heartbreak. Is she okay? His first thought assumed she’d done something wrong. Our lines of thought divided when he began to inadvertently blame her for any of the terrible things that may have happened to her.

He continued to question, “Didn’t she know this could happen? These girls are running around in skimpy little dresses. Why do they (young people?) think this is fun? She should have known better than to go to a party like that, with all that alcohol something bad is bound to happen.”

All of this conversation was based on speculation. Neither he nor I knew her story, it’s quite possible we were imagining the worst. While he showed some empathy for a girl who may or may not have been abused, he also put the responsibility solely on her.

No. No. NO!

I’m not saying she shouldn’t have been more responsible, but I don’t know her story or why she was there. All I know is this: IF someone took advantage of her, abused her or raped her, it is not her fault!

Furthermore and after the fact, had something terrible been done to this girl, this is where the Evangelical Christian culture of virgin-worship really starts to pour salt in her wounds.

Questions like “was she ‘asking’ for it?”, “did she just ruin her life?” or “did she make a mistake she’d never recover from?” place all the emphasis on future implications of the situation and none on her emotional state, her immediate needs or her heart.

In addition, all the responsibility for what may have happened to her is left with her, with nearly no consideration of the people who took advantage of her & hurt her.

This is the very definition of what we call rape-culture and the problem with placing such a high value on purity. Once purity is tainted, virginity ‘lost’, the Christian-value of a woman plunges.

Again. It’s time to stop blaming women! This is wrong and there are a lot of us who follow Jesus and working to change the paradigm when it comes to women, purity, modesty, beauty & sexuality.

To the woman reading this who has been victimized, abused, raped and finally blamed, please know that your value hasn’t diminished. Please know that no matter what mistakes you may or may not have made, if you’ve been hurt or taken advantage of, it is NOT your fault.

You do not need to hide in shame. Talk to someone who will offer nothing but love and support. Don’t listen to anyone who blames you for being used. You did not make a mistake you will not recover from. Your life is not ruined.

You are valued. You are loved. You are whole. You are worth it. You are amazing. You are strong.

Peace.

PS – I cried in Starbucks while writing this one.

 This piece was originally posted at by other blog, Modesty Misunderstood. http://www.modestymisunderstood.com/blaming-the-victim/ Please leave any comments over there. Thanks!

Playlist while writing:

Beyonce – Listen (on repeat)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4gimHC7fKs

P!nk – Glitter in the Air http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3stsDXki__U

Bethel Live – Healer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tayKy0GtQTg





Modesty Misunderstood

5 07 2013

modesty

I went to the beach today with my wife and daughters. I’m happy to report that Jessica Rey’s viral marketing video for her line of one-piece swimsuits hasn’t changed the way most women dress for the beach.

In the several hours we were on the beach next to the Santa Monica pier, we saw men and women of all shapes & sizes, in speedos and swim trunks, one-piece swim suits and of course, bikinis.

I’d say the most memorable beach attire we saw was a plus-sized woman wearing a leopard-print one piece, with a green, extra large tee-shirt underneath the swimsuit, the ensemble completed by a black pair of shorts or maybe it was a ‘skort,’ I’m not sure… Wow. Now that definitely distracted me. It even caused me to stumble as I let my gaze linger too long and I wasn’t watching where I was walking.

Needless to say, she was wearing what she wanted to wear, as we all were.

The majority of the people we saw today would likely be considered average or normal, which means they are at least slightly overweight and probably comfortable eating Cheezies on the beach. Only a small minority of the men could be considered fit or ‘built’, and an even smaller sampling of the women would be described as extraordinarily beautiful.

Even the most stunning of the women we saw, whose ruched, red bikini bottoms kept slipping ‘dangerously’ downwards as she played in the water, didn’t cause me to want to handle her or mumble sentences like “I want…” or “I take…” or whatever that video claims my reaction would be.

Laying on a towel in the sand next to my beautiful wife, her own ‘double d’s’ covered by a black and gold bikini, that, like most bikini’s left little to the imagination… if I was to decide to use my imagination to picture what was hidden by those triangles of fabric.

In her case, of course, I know the answer to what lies beneath the fabric. And I like it.

In the case of of the girl whose bottoms kept slipping down, I now know, without imagining, what the upper part of her bum looks like. Oh no. Scandal.

If I were to use the memory of her image in lust, that is to want her, to desire her…if I were to do that it would not be her fault, but mine. It would be my choice to use her for my own gratification and pleasure. It is my responsibility to respect her not my right  to use her.

Appreciating beauty is another thing altogether. There were several women I noticed as beautiful that caught my eye. Observing these pretty, God-created beings brought a smile to my face as I imagined my own daughters grown up, laughing and strutting down a beach such as this, blissfully enjoying the beauty they’ve been blessed with.

As Christians, in the evangelical tradition, we’ve handcuffed our men by telling them beauty is bad and that the temptation of the two-piece is too great to overcome.

By teaching men to avoid and avert, we’ve created a culture where curiosity is ‘carnal’ and thus it must be sinful. This culture objectifies women more than ‘the world’ ever could. It’s almost afraid of women, it’s definitely fearful of the female form.

Open your eyes! Look, but don’t leer. Respect women. God made us, men and women, in his image. Appreciate the artistry of us all.

Choose to love and not lust. Appreciate beauty. It’s everywhere. It’s where you’ve been told not to look. Trust each other and treat each other with dignity and respect. Men, you are not animals. You were created to enjoy the beauty of woman. She is a powerful force. She is your equal, but carved in a more curvaceous way.

Men and women were made to notice each other, don’t be afraid when you notice someone that causes you to take a second glance.

Modesty has been misunderstood..it has been misused as a means to control, probably to ‘prevent’ lust. Instead of strengthening men, instead of promoting respectful, mature relationships between men & women – we’ve developed a culture of taboos.

We’ve gone from “look, but don’t touch” to “look once, never twice” to “don’t look” to “don’t look good.” That last one is directed at the ‘christian’ woman unfortunately, because we blame women for all the troubles men have with lust. It’s easier make women cover up then it is to make men grow up.

Objectification is not initiated by women being beautiful or even sexy. Women are made into objects in the minds of men who choose to take these living, breathing humans, beautiful in the eyes of their Creator, and turn them into objects to be used in the self-gratification of lust.

Modesty is important. The misunderstanding is that we really not talking about modesty. This one is a matter of the heart. We’re talking modesty, but we should be talking about self-control and respect.





Afterglow: The Day After Valentine’s Day

15 02 2012

I love observing men on the day after Valentine’s day. In the trucking company that I manage, I have a unique opportunity to have several conversations with our drivers in the morning while their trucks warm up. Likewise, I get to converse with these drivers at the end of their work day as well.

All week I’ve been hearing the guys gripe about having to pick up flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s day, but to hear them speak the morning after, you’d think that it was their favorite holiday of the year (secretly, it probably is).

Some went out and some stayed in, but each of the men I talked to this morning had a mischievous grin – proud to keep secret (most of) the details of the night before, a treasure to protect and cherish.

What other annual event is geared to bring you close to the one you love? Birthday’s are selfish, Christmas is a gong show (even though it shouldn’t be) and every other special event is just about having a good time. Nothing against all that, but Valentine’s day, commercial as it may be (what holiday or event isn’t), is about bringing us into oneness with our lover, the one person who knows us and is known by us like no other.

From her shoes to her hair to her dress and her underwear, everything that she put on was chosen to make her man stare. Even as we sat in a restaurant by the beach, there were a hundred beautiful women dressed to attract the attention of their lovers, and yet each man really only saw one. His.

I greatly enjoyed being in the middle of a room full of people tending to fires of love, starting with paper, kindling, and slowly adding fuel to the fire until it was blazing hot. Some were rekindling old flames some were igniting something new, but all were lost in the eyes of one.

Every provocative gesture, every double entendre, every cheesy rhyme; every touch, every kiss, every longing glance – all part of an elaborate dance that draws lovers together for one special night.

And oh, what a night!

 Love.





Adopting Hope

18 01 2012

Hope is an expectation, an inventive vision, a dream. Hope is a desire.

Hope imagines what faith can create and build. Hope is the designer, the architect, the plans on paper; faith is the carpenter that constructs something tangible, something that you can see and touch from what was once only a dream.

When hope is dashed by doubt and fear, love perseveres…and love always has hope!

Faith, hope and love, a partnership of pursuable, learnable virtue.

As a visionary, a dreamer, hope is where I live. I wake up in the morning with hope at my side, having dreamt together all night. I try to spend time with faith and love, but hope I know.

One of my most vivid experiences with hope occurred while standing on the most eastern point of Mexico, on a tiny island called Isla Mujeres. It was September 2009, and my soulmate Brandee and I were celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary.

If God is love, and love always hopes, than God hopes. So I believe that standing at the edge of the ocean, in the warmth of the sun and of God’s love, he was inspiring me with His hope. Inspiring me to open my heart, our home, and live out our love. He was whispering hope to my soul on the rhythm of the waves.

Adoption. This was the message of hope that He was nudging into my thoughts. He was making His hope become mine. Somewhere a little girl is hoping for a forever home, and He was bringing her hope to me.

Up until this time, I’d never considered adding another child to our family, especially not by adoption. I fully supported the concept of adoption of course, but felt it just wasn’t for us. Everything changed on that beautiful beach in Mexico. Hope was sparked. I remember hearing children laughing, looking back at the boardwalk and seeing two little girls playing together, one American and one Mexican. I looked back at the ocean, contemplating the message God was entrancing me with before looking back to the boardwalk, finding that the two little girls from two different cultures had disappeared, their laughter only memory etched in my mind.

Teary-eyed, I looked back to the waves and watched them slowly roll in and I was amazed at the peace, the vision, the hope that God was filling me with. My wife asked what I was thinking about, and I said, “You wouldn’t believe it…” but went on to share what was happening in my heart. That afternoon, nearly two years ago, we began our hopeful journey of adoption.

It hasn’t been an easy journey, and on occasion it feels like we’re in the middle of the ocean with no idea which way to go, but our God is faithful, and He ignites hope when we have none. In Romans 5, we read about how suffering produces perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope.

Sometimes the dark clouds roll in and it becomes difficult to see our destination on the horizon; but it is in those stormy times that we cling to hope. Our daughter is out there, we pray for her to be held safe in the arms of God until we hold her in ours.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

* * * *

January is often a space to create new dreams and so we’re leaving the topic open and to your imagination. We believe the power of voice has tremendous capacity to inspire and give hope to people. A Synchroblog is a collective response to a particular topic. Every one of our writers writes about the same issue and then links to each other’s post. Here is the link list so far for January’s Synchroblog, a partnership with Provoketive Magazine centered around the theme of Hope. 

 * * * *

Below is a list of all the posts and participants in this month’s synchroblog:

The Trouble With Hope: John Ptacek

Hope = Possibility x Imagination: Wayne Rumsby

Little Reminders: Mike Victorino

Where Is My Hope: Jonathan Brink

Hope for Hypocrites: Jeremy Myers

Now These Three Remain: Sonny Lemmons

Perplexed, But Still Hopeful: Carol Kuniholm

A Hope that Lives: Amy Mitchell

Generations Come and Generations Go: Adam Gonnerman

Demystifying Hope: Glenn Hager

God in the Dark: On Hope: Renee Ronika Klug

Keeping Hope Alive: Maurice Broaddus

Are We Afraid to Hope?: Christine Sine

On Wobbly Wheels, Split Churches and Fear: Laura Droege

Adopting Hope: Travis Klassen

Hope is Held Between Us: Ellen Haroutunian

Hope: In the Hands of the Creatively Maladjusted: Mihee Kim-Kort

Paradox, Hope and Revival: City Safari

Good Theology Saves: Reverend Robyn

Linear: Never Was, Never Will Be: Kathy Escobar

Better Than Hope: Liz Dyer

Caroline for Congress: Hope for the Future: Wendy McCaig

Fumbling the Ball on Hope: KW Leslie

Content to Hope: Alise Wright

Hope: Oh, the Humanity!: Deanna Ogle





Beautifully Broken

19 11 2011

I haven’t posted anything to this blog for a while, as I’ve been spending every free waking moment (and more than a few half awake moments) writing my new book, which is nearly finished! For the past four months I have lived and breathed this work, and I am so excited to share it with you! I’ve sent the manuscript out for review to a very select number of trusted advisors, close friends and family members. Once I get their feedback, it’s time for another round of revisions, and then it gets sent off to my editor. So exciting!

All the while, I am doing preliminary research work for my second book, a fresh look at the arts, faith, culture and the church, and the relationship between each. So, another awesome year ahead.

Hold it. As I wrote that last sentence, I almost lost my breath. Another awesome year? If you took a close look at the year that Brandee and I just had to go through, you might ask what I’m trying to pull. Who am I trying to fool? It’s okay, I just asked myself that same question. Over this last year we faced several very complicated and very painful life situations that caused us to loose friends, family members and sometimes our faith.

Along the way we’ve learned that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s alright to hurt, it’s alright to cry. Sometimes you just can’t put on that brave face and pretend like nothing is wrong. Today I went back for listen to a song that feels like it has become like an old friend to me:

“Beautifully Broken” Ashlee Simpson

It seems like yesterday that my world fell from the sky
It seems like yesterday I didn’t know how hard I could cry
It feels like tomorrow I may not get by
But I will try
I will try wipe the tears from my eyes

I’m beautifully broken and I don’t mind if you know it
I’m beautifully broken and I don’t care if I show it

Every day is a new day I’m reminded of my past
Every time theres another storm I know that it wont last
Every moment I’m filled with hope
cause i get another chance
But I will try I will try
Got nothing left to hide

Without the highs and the lows
Where will we go?
Where will we go?

I am beautifully broken, I am beautifully broken
I am beautifully broken and I don’t care if I show it

Everybody hurts. To be human is to feel. To be human is to be real. To be human is to hurt. To be human is to heal. When we are wounded, we bleed, but our bodies are designed to heal themselves. If we are healthy, our bodies will tighten the blood vessels in and around the injured area and send platelets to the torn vessel, effectively plugging the hole. Then, clotting proteins form a net (a scab) that keep the platelet plug in place, permanently stopping the bleeding. Next, the blood vessels that were constricted now dilate, bringing white blood cells to fight infection by destroying any germs that may have entered via the open wound. Finally, fibroblast cells gather at the site of the injury and produce collagen, and skin begins to migrate across the wound, under the scab.

It’s an amazing process, but one that is very dependent on the overall health of our bodies as a whole. If our body is unhealthy, for example it’s fighting a virus or disease or it is being contaminated by an unhealthy outside substance (i.e. smoking), then it is much less effective at healing itself.

We have to maintain our physical, spiritual and emotional health to be whole. I am convinced that to be whole we must be broken. It’s one of those paradoxes that I don’t understand yet, but I am working through. Our wholeness encompasses the scars of our brokenness.

Once the body heals, a scar almost always remains, a reminder of the painful wound but also of the miracle of healing. A balance, celebrating the healing and yet acknowledging the memory of the pain. Remembering painful situations, and not just “moving on,” helps us to calculate risk and avoid serious injury in the future. Of course, sometimes the risk of pain is worth the reward.

Above all this, we are all beloved children of God. When the hurt is too great and the pain too intense, He is all we need. This song tells of the hope we have in these desperate situations, and is always on mind during those tough times:

“Healer” Michael Guglielmucci

You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease

I trust in You
I trust in You

I believe You’re my Healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You’re my Portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me

Jesus You’re all I need
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

I am healed and whole and yet beautifully broken. Some who read this will understand. You know. You feel it. Embrace it and just love. May our hearts love and be loved, full of God’s love and the love of the people around us.





Chasing Inspiration

10 02 2011

A sound.

An image.

A smell.

A feeling.

A taste.

It’s that sudden feeling of passion, that flood of raw emotion, it’s that moment when Jack stands at the bow of the Titanic and yells, “I’m the king of the world!”

Inspiration.

Like a beautiful woman, eluding her suitor, evasive with her emotion, it makes you pursue her, desire her, chase her. While her actions may be misunderstood, her heart says come find me.

Inspiration.

Where does it come from? Where does it go? How do you find it?

Are you inspired?

By what, by whom?

Do you inspire?








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