29 October 2012

me, too...

if you find yourself somewhere between what you thought would be and what you hope will be and what it looks like it will probably be, i just wanted to tell you that you're not alone.

much of the material in christian media/literature today focuses on either the beginning of a journey or, more typically, the end.  it's easy to find tips on breaking through, winning big, finishing strong. the net effect of this focus on winning and overcoming and getting better and bigger and faster is that those among us who find life to be a bit less "Jesus Rocks!" and a bit more "are you kidding me?" feel isolated in the starkness of our reality.

so today i don't have catchphrases, or lists, or bullet points, or the secret to overcoming whatever it is coming over you just now. in some respect, i don't have anything to give, really.

but if you're confused or tired or frustrated, if you have way more questions than answers, if it seems that you heard God wrong, or that he's late, or disinterested, or otherwise engaged...

me, too.

you're not alone.

22 October 2012

vlog #3: winners, losers, and sour grapes*...

as you get ready to watch the video me and lori did for this week, all you really need to know is this:

 i win...

 *lori interprets things differently.  you can get her take here.

16 October 2012

this post** is long and mostly pointless...

last winter, the wife and i felt as if we were being called to return to a town in which we had lived for the better part of a decade to start a church. to dispense with any suspense, let me tell you first that it didn't happen. we didn't move; we haven't planted a church, and the prospect of moving back north now seems as likely as me opening for coldplay. but that's not really the point. for now.

as we considered the possibility of a move, and the nature of what we felt was a clarion call from God, we attempted - and still do, but i suppose to a different end - to discern what God was saying to us, how he was leading us, and above all, what he wanted us to do. the idea of walking by faith and not by sight became more than something we said, or something we knew Christians should try to do, but it really did become the way we tried to live every day. we weighed decisions against the backdrop of this new faith walk; we thought not about what seemed to be most practical or popular or easy, but rather we attempted to do things that seemed to us to be pointed in the same direction we felt God leading.

a good example of this is the fact that we began, albeit haltingly, to pack for a move we had no visible means of executing. we were convinced God had called us, that he would provide for this call, and this being so, why not go ahead and get ready for what lay ahead? lori packed up things we weren't at the time using, storing boxes in closets, under beds, and generally out of view. (we knew what we were doing was a bit unconventional, and we didn't want to have the "oh, you're moving? when?" "we don't really know" conversation with anybody.)

fast forward a few months. as i mentioned above, we haven't moved. doors we thought might open didn't; jobs for which i applied didn't pan out, and we eventually parted ways with the group we had thought to plant with. hopes turned into frustration, and more than anything, faith gave way to questions.

did we hear wrong?
are we not waiting right?
should we keep waiting?
are we dumb?
are we crazy?
where's the spatula?

that last one, or one like it, nearly put me over the edge one day.  i was looking for something - it may not have actually been a spatula, but you get the idea - and lori told me that it had been packed away for the move that never happened. all at once i felt foolish, a misled dreamer who thought he was being called but instead had just failed.

by God's grace, i didn't dwell there. frankly, after my initial reaction, i didn't think much about it at all. stuff we needed had been packed for a move. we didn't move. we need the stuff, so let's unpack it.

and then earlier today*, as the cooler weather outside crept inside, i began to wonder where all of my winter clothing was. and then i remembered it had probably been packed away. i began rummaging through one of our closets - there's no need to hide now, is there? - and found... my. favorite. sweater.

that which was lost to me had been found, and i was happy.  i actually took the sweater outside and set it on the ground about a block from our apartment just so i could run out to meet it and put a ring on its finger and sandals on its... anyway, i love this sweater, and i was thrilled to have found it.

so now you've wasted like six minutes of your day reading this, and you're thinking, 1) this post has no point, and 2) it's just a sweater, weirdo.

but i think that in some way, it's about more than a sweater.

i believe God knows everything, and i believe that when we were dreaming and hoping and packing for a move that ultimately did not happen (yet?), God saw and knew that on this day i would find my sweater, and find some small joy in it. God knew we'd be frustrated and confused, and for some reason he was okay with that. he knew our season of waiting and expectation would lead to a season of hardship and stretching and head-scratching. he knew that on this quiet, cool saturday i'd open a closet door, rummage through a box, find a sweater, and think of him. he knew, too, that i'd ask him about it all. and absolutely, he knew i'd find him waiting, not with an answer, per se, but with a gentle reassurance that life is less about answers and more about presence than we'd like.  no, God has not explained last winter to me, but he's with me now, as he was then, and for now, that's going to have to be enough.

in a way this post really is sort of pointless, at least as compared to how we want our 'God stuff' to normally be. we love it when plans come together, when stories run full circle, when the ends of our journeys shed light on the way those same journeys began. but that's not how it always is, is it? sometimes you try to follow God, and it doesn't go the way you thought it would. sometimes you hear God telling you to do something, and then you do it, and then nothing else changes. sometimes you believe God for provision, and that provision hurts, confuses, stretches. even still, i say follow.  listen, yield, obey, follow, trust.  i was believing God for a house and a church and a new ministry, and instead i got a cardigan.

for now...

*this post was written on saturday, 10/6

**re-posting this in a link up with Emily Wierenga and Imperfect Prose today...

15 October 2012

the world has failed me in every way*...

i don't even have the energy to comment on what transpired over the weekend.  you can find all the sordid details - and even photos - over at lori's page.

i'll be here attempting to cover the nakedness and shame of my upper lip...

*not really.  it's totally cool.  i realize that i look good no matter what.

11 October 2012

06 October 2012

hello world...

the captain and tenille. tom and jerry. wilma and fred. woodward and bernstein. hall and oates. kool and the gang.  peaches and cream. starting now, you can add another powerhouse creative pairing to the list...

lori and steven.

together we've launched a new YouTube channel, and you can look for videos from us each week.


03 October 2012

imperfect prose: fighting for the right thing...

when i was younger, i viewed disagreements as a challenge. when someone thought differently than me, or held an opinion i found unacceptable, i would get excited and start thinking of things i would say to change the way they believed. i am the opinionated son of an opinionated father, and i've never struggled with uncertainty, at least when it comes to my convictions.

strangely, though, something is happening inside me. i no longer view a difference of opinion as an opportunity or an opening or a challenge. i view it as a bane, a drain of emotion and energy, a winner-less non-starter. yet i know i can't withdraw from society, and i can't in good faith ignore those who would say (or do) things with which i disagree.  i remember telling churches i served that the call is for us not to be peacekeepers but peacemakers, and sometimes making peace is hard work.  it's just that ten years in the ministry, along with the opinion-fueled pugilism that is modern social media, have completely drained me of my will to fight, to debate, to attempt to convince.

even still, every time i witness someone acting or speaking or posting in a way which to me evinces a worldview based in hate rather than love, there is still this spark ignited within me, this sort of righteous anger (made righteous not by how i am, but by the fact that love is always in the right), which seeks to, in the words of steve brown, 'speak truth to power'. with each passing day, i become more convinced that i am complicit in all the 'wrongness' i see, so long as i keep quiet in its face.

and so here i have a bit of a conundrum. on the one hand, i'm tired of fighting.  i'm tired of trying to convince people that love and grace can really do what Jesus said they can do, and i'm tired of trying to explain why i believe this way or that, or vote this way or that, as if somehow orthodoxy is affirmed or denied in the voting box or in the posts i choose to like on facebook.

on the other hand, i'm also tired of seeing people hate other people in Jesus' name; i'm tired of watching the church become so entrenched in the political process that we think Jesus cares about who wins the presidency as much as we do; i'm tired of being told that Christians should support this war over there, engage in this other sort of war here at home, and support the sanctity of life in the womb, but not the sanctity of life on the gaza strip.

and then it hit me. i'm not tired of trying to convince, i'm tired of trying to convince the wrong people.

instead of trying to convince the christian friend on facebook that Jesus doesn't hate right-handed people, i should instead spend my energy telling right-handed people that Jesus doesn't hate them. instead of fighting with old college buddies about whether or not the poor in america are to blame for their own poverty, i should be talking to, going to the poor, and telling them that Jesus knows their name, and doesn't blame them for anything.

i'm not called to debate the hater; i'm called to love the hated.
i'm not called to convince the attacker; i'm called to protect the attacked.
i'm not called to eradicate marginalization; i'm called to stand with the marginalized.
i'm not called to win (anything); i'm called to lose (everything).
i'm not called to be right; i'm called to love, even when the world says it's wrong.

this is not the beginning of an agenda for me. i don't hope to convince you that this is how you should view life. the Holy Spirit is well able to guide you and direct you, to show you the path in which you should go. if anything, i would hope, as you read this, that you might feel emboldened to follow through on the decision you've already made to love, even when those around you would rather fight; to show mercy, when the world tells you that vengeance is the answer; to gather in even when society, or the church, or even your friends, tell you that casting out is the only way to salvation.

may we all feel brave and bold and battle-ready, and may we all realize that the fight worth fighting is the fight to love.

to love.

no matter what...