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!


Acting Christian

31 01 2012

This post was originally published for Provoketive Magazine on January 28, 2011.

Growing up in the church and in a Christian family, I remember hearing about a lot of different people in our community who weren’t acting very Christian.

How does one act Christian? It seems simple, but can be very complicated. Don’t Christians just follow the way of Jesus, choosing to live as he lived, engaging as he did?

Christian \ˈkris-chən, ˈkrish-\
noun : one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ
adjective : of to, or relating to, Christianity or being a Christian; based on or conforming with religion of Christianity

When people ask if I am a Christian, I usually say that I am “christian-ish.” This has nothing to do with being lukewarm, but is because of my desire to be viewed separately from the general Christian contingent. Though it boasts many good and desirable qualities, Christianity as a religion has been known to judge, to condemn and to look down upon, at times. There may be those who will judge me and even presume to know me, and in their condescending eyes I’ll seem to actmuch less Christian then they do.

And they’ll be right…because I’m not acting Christian at all.

It feels more honest to follow Jesus organically then to label myself Christian and become part of the club. I’d rather be found trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus then be found acting like a Christian. I’d rather risk it all, trip and fall while conquering mountains with Jesus than play it safe and just go through the motions, doing chair aerobics in the comfort of the church.

Whether I go to church or label myself “Christian,” does it really matter? It’s written in 1st Corinthians 13:1-3 that even if I were the most amazing “Christian,” doing all the church stuff, I am nothing without love!

I’d rather spend time with “non-Christians,” allowing them to notice something different about me that they can’t see and be attracted to the love of Jesus in me, than to be repelled by a “brother” or “sister” in the Lord because I am different than he or she.

I’d rather be good to the bad than blend in with the bland. I’d rather be loved by someone than be told that someone loves me. I’d rather feel and share the love of Jesus than just talk about it.

It’s important to me to be a part of my community and not pretend that it’s my “holy” segregation makes me a Jesus freak. The principle of “in the world, but not of it” doesn’t work unless it’s informed by Love.

Where I once bought into to the fear-based mentality of avoiding this world’s reality, I’m learning to embrace the beauty of a world created for me. I’m learning what it feels like to be free, I’m learning to taste, touch, hear, smell and see. I desire faith that lives, moves and breathes because I’m disgusted with a convenient, oppressive theology. A little less conversation and little more action please!

Keep it real. Follow Jesus.

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

When the singing stops…

5 12 2011

This post is from my other blog, Check it out.

For decades, canaries were used in coal mining as a warning system to alert miners to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. These little birds sing most of the time, so as long as the canary was singing, the miners knew it was still safe to work. If the bird was silenced, killed because of the presence of poisonous gas, the miners would evacuate the mine until it could be made safe.

The analogy of the canary in the coal mine is often used to describe the person or persons who attempt to warn others of a situation that is going awry. Yesterday I began applying this concept to the Church. Is there an effective warning system in our churches? When things are going wrong, what signals do we follow, what actions do we take to make it safe again?

People are leaving the church. Many strong followers of Jesus are walking with Him outside of a traditionally accepted institutional community because they’ve found it to be too dangerous on the inside. Trusted voices are being silenced by a message of love that is tainted with toxic levels of politics and pride.

When these trusted people stop “singing,” do we take it as a warning sign or do we just replace them with someone who will perform on command? If we continually repeat the pattern, replacing the dying bird without venting the poisonous gas and correcting the problem, the quality of life will never improve. The canary may be more sensitive and succumb more quickly, but the same toxic fumes are negatively affecting the health of rest of the people as well.

It’s been half a year since we stopped singing. Like the canary’s silent alarm, our exit was quiet, to the casual observer it may have even appeared peaceful; yet there was nothing peaceful about those last violent, painful gasps for air and eventual suffocation. How many more will succumb to the noxious fumes before someone throws the doors open, letting the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit refresh the air supply with Jesus’ love?

Breathe. Just breathe.

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’
Matthew 22:37,38 MSG

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.

Forgiveness First

15 09 2011

Forgiveness can be given, but not received, without repentance; and once given it cannot be rescinded. Imagine a baseball that has been thrown, but cannot be caught until the catcher puts on his glove. The baseball is forgiveness, and that glove is repentance.

When we are wronged, we expect the person who has wronged us to make it right. This expectation is like a debt that can either be collected on or forgiven. The choice is in the hands of the one who has been wronged.

“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” C.S. Lewis

Forgiveness doesn’t erase consequences, nor does it create trust. What it does do is release the person in the wrong of the emotional debt they owe, but not the consequences or responsibility of their actions. Also, it releases us of the emotionally burdensome task of keeping track of all that is owed us.

Forgiveness creates a mutual partnership for the resolution of a matter, rather than leaving all obligation with the person being forgiven. Each partner involved in forgiveness, both the giver and receiver, has a role to play and responsibilities to carry out. The forgiver releases the painful attachment of emotional debt, the forgiven repents, while still carrying responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

To maintain a healthy culture of forgiveness, there must be a free-flowing exchange of repentance and forgiveness, or forgiveness and repentance. Forgiveness first? Yes, generally speaking we expect an “apology” before we offer to forgive. Why? Have you ever tried offering forgiveness beforehand? Often the reassurance that forgiveness is available draws out repentance.

 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:13

Spinning…Riding hard, but we getting anywhere?

12 09 2011


Last year my wife asked me to participate in a spinning class with her at the gym. Once she explained that “spinning” was the trendy, fit-persons term for the stationary bike class, I agreed to try it. Once. Amidst the soundtrack of grunts, groans and an intense techno beat, I hopped on a bike near the back hoping not to be noticed by the instructor and started to “spin.”

About a minute later, soaked in sweat, I heard the instructor inform us that we are about to begin, and that we should all turn our resistance knobs to level 1. Oh good.

So this is how it works: The instructor, who looks like she lives on her stationary bike, shouts out how fast to pedal and where to set the level of resistance, and in unison, her spandex-suited stationary-biker gang submissively complies.

Or do they? Within the first minute I realized that the instructor has no way of knowing what level I’ve actually got my bike set at. As long as I make the same strained face and  grunt with the rest of them, I could keep my resistance level much lower and I just might live through this class.

At the end of our “ride” our instructor congratulates us and informs us that we’ve “travelled” nearly 40 kilometers today.

Really? Where did we go? What did we see?

I’ve noticed that as good, church-going Christians we put a lot of emphasis on training, making sure that we are in perfect spiritual shape. We focus on eating the right food, drinking the right liquids (and not drinking the “wrong” ones…), wearing the right clothing, the right equipment and then we train. We spin and spin and spin…but do we ever really get anywhere? Do we ever really race?

I’d rather ride a mile outside, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting…than spin 100 miles in the cool climate-controlled atmosphere inside. If the rubber never hits the road then all we’re doing… is spinning.

How much of all this exerted effort is simply to impress the instructor or our fellow stationary riders? If we are just going the through the motions, grunting at the right times, dramatically toweling off the sweat at just the right moment, then it is all for naught. It is very easy to get caught up in the attention of people or leaders observing us as we work-out, showing off our skills and talents, finding fulfillment in their acknowledgement.

What good is all this “training” if it is never put to use? The church in general has an inward focus. Very little of what is done inside is targeted to applying our training in real-world situations outside. In fact, most of our energy is spent trying to make sure everyone is keeping up with their training, keeping each other accountable with devotions, service and lifestyle.

I liken this to the resistance knob, because nobody really knows what level you’ve got the bike set at, and as long as you make it look good, you’re fine. This culture places great importance on the outward appearance, and fosters relationships based on that, limiting the potential for real relationships that allow for failure and encourage growth.

There are churches that take the show on the road, as it were, and attempt to focus some attention outside and evangelize, but, for the most part, it isn’t done very well.

We keep this awkward distance, a buffer, between “their” way of doing things and “ours.” Instead of outfitting ourselves with equipment suitable for riding “their” way through the “dangerous” and “difficult” terrain of this world, with perhaps a road bike or mountain bike, it’s almost like we’d rather put our safe, stationary bikes on a trailer and tow them, and show the world what we can do from a safe, elevated platform. All the while we’re decked out in protective “armor-of-God” styled helmets and safety gear, possibly forgetting that it is designed to protect us from the devil’s schemes, and not from people.

It’s a ridiculous, exaggerated example, but sometimes our way of doing things and the language we use can seem as absurd as riding a stationary bike towed on a trailer.

Well, I’m looking for a new bike. See you on the open road. Me and Jesus will be the ones riding with no helmets on.




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