What are We Saying?

“But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.”
(1 Corinthians 14:19 NLT-SE)

Last night J and I were reading together.  We are finishing up a series on love in the church and I thought I would read the chapter after my text for Sunday.  That would be 1 Corinthians 13, nice chapter gets used quite often really for all sorts of things.  This Sunday it’s going to be coupled with a baptism.  Which reminds me I need to order a jar of marbles… anyway I digress.

Chapter 14 starts with a six word exclamatory sentence…( I did hear what school teachers were saying, even if it took 20 some odd years for me to listen to  what they said.) 

Let love be your highest goal! Already Paul is telling us that all the other things I’m about to talk about in this part of the letter are important, but they are not the MOST important, they aren’t the thing that has the most value.  He isn’t discounting anything that he is about to say, he is just saying that you all think that these things are the most important issues you are facing, I have news for you they aren’t.  Love is where I want you all to camp out.  I want you to get very good at Love.  Love should be the focus of your interactions with each other and with the world around you. 

Anyway as I read through this chapter I began to look at it with a different set of eyes.  Growing up the way I did you always look at verses that speak about tongues and get mystical about them.  Sure that’s a basic view, and it is more nuanced but the general assumption for many is that speaking in tongues shows you and everyone around you…in the club…that you’ve got something special.  You’ve got “it.” of course there are the times that people take umbrage at labeling the Holy Spirit an it so they tried to say you got Him,  Some say you got the power…there are all different explanations to the whole thing that tongues is to a large contingent of Christians.  My thoughts when it comes to gifts and God and all that is that all things equal God can do whatever he wants or needs.  It’s not my job to tell him what those things are, it’s to be available…. anyway enough of that.

What struck me this time around was this verse…

“It’s the same for you. If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space.”
(1 Corinthians 14:9 NLT-SE)

Follow me here for a moment.  This has been used to talk about the charismatic practice of speaking in tongues.  But it holds true for so much more than that. 

Christianity like any religion has words that are used by people in the club.  Calling everyone brother or sister can be strange. Talking about communion and blood and all that could be off putting, but there’s more to it than that. Even when speaking full sentences in English they don’t necessarily mean what they sound like.  Churches have a language all there own.  Services, and Gatherings, and small groups, fellowship, Christian Education, Buy In, Outreach, Service.  These are concepts that have basic easily understood meanings to people in the church but if you asked people outside the church it’s highly possible likely probable that those same words would take on a different meaning.

Churches take way too much for granted.  Even when we as church leaders are told not to take things for granted there is a part of us that continues to do so.  When you are in a smaller church, or a church in a part of the country that is not as wide open as some of the fasted growing church areas things go from disappointing to depressing really fast. We work in most cases with people that remember when… shoot we remember when…and all the stuff from when, the words that we spoke and the language that was used through events and outreaches makes sense to us because it’s what we are used too, meanwhile the people we are supposed to be reaching aren’t getting the conversation, both verbal and non verbal from churches, but more importantly from Christians.  We use Bait and Switch tactics more than we should and many times we don’t even realize it consciously. 

Here’s the thing. If we started talking the language that people understand instead of the language we want them to understand we would be so much further down the road. 

Sharing our faith is more about living it in front of people in such a way that they become curious,  the trick is that once they are curious we need to stay away from the in club words and move toward authentic conversation, building a relationship, getting to know the person and letting them see what makes things in your life different, letting them see what makes my life different.  Sure there will come a point when they understand what a small group is, what a worship service is all about, and why we sing the songs we sing.  But in those first few weeks and months if they come to church they are going to be in a foreign land, they are going to see the worship time as a concert let them, and if you’re sitting with them treat it the same way.  They may wonder why someone gets up and talks for 20 to 40 minutes depending on the church, answer their questions if they have them but be sure to do so in an in-churchy way.  Don’t bring out scripture and verse that talks about how important it is for Christians to be together, bring out practical you based examples of how important it is for Christians to fellowship together. I can almost guarantee the deeper in they get the more they will begin to understand that worship isn’t a concert, teaching is a chance to look at the Bible and what it says and how it has meaning today even if it’s been around for a few thousand years, and that service is a way for us to be the hands and feet of Christ extended not just a way for us to get the warm fuzzies. 

Some people think that the approach I’m advocating means that I’m willing to toss out the Bible, etc.  Far from it.  I want what the Bible says to be the foundation on which these conversations and interactions grow.  I want people who claim to follow Christ to follow him so hard and so fully that they can have a conversation about the last movie they saw and not feel like they haven’t done enough to spread the gospel. 

See sometimes a movie can just be a movie, a song can just be a song, a meal can just be a meal.  It doesn’t always have to lead to the ABC’s of salvation.  What it does have to lead to or at least what it should lead to is authentic relationship that is nurtured and cared for and ready for that moment that will come when all hell has broken loose in a person’s life and they turn to their friend…not their pew mate…

We have to use words that people understand because that’s the only way we will get to use words that will bring the light and truth of Christ into a persons life in real lasting ways.

The Greatest of These

This Post also Appears on the Pastors Screen portion of Locust Point Community Churches Website.  I posted it here with a couple of edits because I know some do not read or visit that site but may read this blog.
It’s February.  I am shocked that It’s already February but there you go.  It is.
So much has happened in the past month.  The elephant in the room is of course the fact that there is a new president.  Regardless of your feelings on the new administration, it’s safe to say that remembering the title of today’s blog, or more importantly remembering where that title came from is important.
Let’s look at it real quick.
Faith, Hope and Love Abide.  Abide is one of those words that people rarely use any more but it’s meaning is not really all that hard to figure out.  Some translations use the word remain but the meaning is clear.  Other things will end.  Circumstances change, people change governments change.  Everything changes but these three things.
It’s been a long few weeks for people in my house.  I am not a person who just sits quietly and agrees with things.  I have an opinion and I’m willing to share it.  If you are interested in that opinion dig around the blog a bit you can probably figure it out.  However I realized something last night when I was told to stop “trolling” Facebook.  I was forgetting a few things that are important.
No matter where we stand on the issues that are confronting us on a daily basis, no matter what our party affiliation, our stance on immigration, climate change, education, health care, fill in all the blanks that people are fighting about now and all the ones that are coming in the next months and years, if we claim to follow Christ.  If he is the one that we want to be like, to emulate and to share with the world, we must remember that all of these things, while important are temporary.  They are here for a moment and then gone when a new idea, or administration, or set of important issues comes up.  What matters what remains, what lasts are Faith, Hope and Love, and the one that is more important than any of the others is Love.  Love that is unconditional, unwavering, and constantly reaches to others weather we agree with them or not.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe we have a mandate from Christ to reach to the least the lost and the lonely, to stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves.  Inaction is not an option if you and I follow Christ and are working at living and moving and having our being in Him.  However I have to remind myself that through all the actions that I am willing to and must take, no matter what side I’m on, the person across from me, needs to see a Faith a Hope and a Love that endures.  One that is firm, but that also is sure and full of compassion for whosoever it comes into contact with.
So stand for your convictions.  Say what you have on your heart and in your mind.  Be strong for those that are weak, but in doing so be sure that behind that stand is not a need to be right, but a need to show people the God you serve, in real, tangible, touchable ways.  A God ever faithful to the promises in His word, a God who offers humanity Hope for eternity, a God who’s unfailing, unending, and unfathomable love is constantly extended to the people He created.  All of them those that you like, those that you don’t, those that you agree with, and those that you don’t, those that you understand and those that you don’t.  It extends to whosoever, and we all need to step back and realize that we all can be whosoever s, if only we will allow the God Shaped hole in our lives to be filled by the one that made us.

How I saw it…

I’m confused.  I guess the best way to start this little conversation is to admit that from the get go.

Growing up in the church can do things to a person.  For some it scars them.  They get out of High School, head to college, and never look back.  I feel bad when I hear about that happening, I know it does, and there are real valid reasons for it.  Just feels sad that a place that is supposed to help you live the life that you were designed to ends up being a place that you run from.  I never really felt wounded by the church I grew up in, or the people that were there.  Pastor John was such an amazing influence in my life, such a man of God, when I started down this whole pastoral path, there was an example of care and concern and service that could be aspired too. But…

Things started to unravel.  I began to see things differently than the denomination I grew up in.  I began to have questions about why things were the way they were.  I started to wonder and poke and prod and in doing so I began to see cracks in the denomination.  Now don’t get me wrong,  look hard enough and there are cracks in every denomination.  Every time you add humans to the mix when it comes to a relationship with God there are going to be cracks.  I stepped away because for me the cracks were hampering my relationship with God and others.  They had the potential to make me into someone that I didn’t want to be, and while I never left a relationship with God, I did step away from the church that introduced me to God.  I love the memories that come from my time in church growing up. The time praying, the time at camp, and at youth group and conventions.  I am proud of the work that I did while still in the denomination.  I look at what was accomplished, at all of it and while there are things that I would change there are things that make me a better Christ follower today that have their roots in my upbringing…and yet things did unravel. I began to see past some of the things that “God Said” to find that in digging a little deeper it may not be as simple as the interpretation given.

I began to wonder at the disconnect I saw between serving others because it’s what Jesus wants, and serving others because in doing so they owe you a listen.  I started to question why some people were welcome whole heartedly into the faith and some were “prayed for” in love that God would really prepare their hearts to receive His message.  That they would accept the correction that came from God into their lives…I watched as entire churches fell prey to the idea that our country was founded as a Christian Nation, as opposed to one that was founded on Biblical Principles.  There is a difference.  I stopped wanting prayer in schools, started to question capital punishment, and began to realize that context is everything when studying the Bible.  I started to understand that for me there is a difference between endorsing something and recognizing that the very rights that assure me the ability to worship and study, and question, and protest for “Christian” values, also afford those same rights to others.  I began to understand that it’s possible to support a woman’s right to choose and still feel that life is precious and should be cherished, nurtured and cared for, all life not just new life.

I disagree with people all the time when it comes to these and other issues, but disagreement does not mean I need to make them see it my way, to force them to accept Jesus on my terms because every time I stick my terms into the very real and amazing gospel that will change a persons life, I am watering it down.  Every time I try and qualify exactly what the word whosoever means, I am telling God that he messed up in His inspiration of John 3:16, that he should have done some “extreme vetting.”

All this seems to be coming to a head here in 2017 and it’s coming at the intersection of faith and politics.  I find myself getting more and more frustrated at old friends seemingly blind support of our president.  Lies are renamed alternative facts, the women’s march is talked about as pointless, conspiracy theories are now accepted by many that I know and love as fact.  There is no ability to dialog because the moment you question what is going on the claws come out and instead of answering the question they attack, blame, and rip apart the previous administration.

Looking at what has happened in the first eight days of the new presidents administration is frightening to me an many people like me.  Instead of doing things to answer those concerns, instead of attempting some kind of reconciliation the vast majority of people from my past and many who support the administration say things like “buckle up.”  or “We won get over it.” Meanwhile the president is taking a sledgehammer not just to the previous administrations policies but to constitutional rights afforded in the very amendment that Christians use when they don’t want the government telling them how to worship, when to worship, and what their faith means and looks like.  In case we need a refresher on that amendment here it is.

amendment_1

That’s a bit hard to read but I wanted to put that in there to show how long this has been a foundation principle.  Here’ is the text in a readable state…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[1]

 If the past eight days are any indication this entire ideal, an ideal that our country was founded upon, the ideal that allows NOW, and GLADD and Westborro Baptist, and The Family Research Council, and Locust Point Community Church, and Liberty Assembly, and CAIR, and fill in the blank is a suggestion instead of a founding principle.  What we say matters, we all know this and yet for some reason our President gets a pass on these issues.
I feel such a disconnect from people I know and love from the past.  I read what they say on Facebook, I read comments to posts that I make and I get frustrated because what I see Jesus doing, and what I see them supporting don’t add up.  What I see happening flies in the face of what we read in the Old and New Testaments.
ezekiel-blog
I read this and I look at our country and many of the Christian leaders and people I know supporting it and this is what I see…
The thing is others don’t, and while I can’t imagine how these things aren’t clear to anyone watching what is going on, to anyone taking the time to read the executive orders being signed on a regular basis, to anyone that is willing to dig a bit deeper, I do understand.  Which brings me back to the beginning of this particular post.
God’s word tells us to work out our own salvation. It’s important to attend Church, it’s important to have fellowship with others, but it’s also important to go beyond what your pastor says.  The moment we relegate our growth as a Christ follower to what we hear on Sunday and in modern worship songs, we stop growing.  We become a danger to Christianity because instead of living the word of God, we are living the word of the church and pastor we attend.  I spend a lot of time studying and praying for the sermons I preach on Sunday’s, I step into the pulpit and I share what that study and prayer has pushed into my hear for the people I serve, but I also know that there are times that I get it wrong, that I misinterpret, that I misrepresent, not because I want to but because I am human and I don’t see things clearly, or face to face but through a glass lens that is warped and smudged and dirty with my own thoughts, feelings, prejudices and leanings.  I always want my people to go home and dig in a bit more, to read the text and talk to God and learn for themselves what God is saying.
I could be wrong, I could be missing the boat when it comes to my fear and misgivings about our President, and yes I said our…I’m not about to suggest that President Trump isn’t my president, he may not be my choice but he is my president…but isn’t it also possible, just maybe that his most ardent supporters could be wrong too?   That’s what is so off-putting to me in this whole thing.  The apparent blind support of a person who has had a past that would make all the dads in my audience with daughters, sit on the front steps cleaning their shotgun…

Celebrity Appresident…

It’s not personal it’s just business, while good in the corporate world is problematic when governing, be it sitting on the board of a church, being a member of city council, mayor, governor, senator, congressman or yes even president. It’s no secret that I am not keen on our new president. I am amazed at the willingness of many to ignore, mansplain away (what is so frightening about the mansplaining is the women that are also engaged in it) comments that were made, by saying ” but he didn’t mean that,” etc.
I am concerned for our country in the next four years. HOWEVER, that does not mean that I am rooting for his failure. That makes no sense. I will pray for him as I prayed for George W, and Bill Clinton, and George Senior. I suppose I prayed for Reagan but in an I was 8 when he took office and 16 when he left and yeah you get the point sort of way.
Governing is personal, things that work in the business world, the personality it takes to successfully grow, and run a company successfully are not the same.  As a government official you have to make difficult decisions, but as a business person you do so constantly looking at the ledger. The bottom line is growing the business, doing whats best for profit etc. While the best bosses have the ability to humanize the process, and can see the people they employ and serve as important, there is an over riding desire and look at the ledger, as it should be, it’s business. However the bottom line in governing is not whats best for the bottom line, but what’s best for the people you represent. Yes there are times that financial decisions will matter more, but there are also times that physical health will matter, or that housing and quality of life take a front seat. There are times that you can’t throw money at the problem because it’s not money you need.
 
When I look at some of the people being tapped for key positions in the current administration, I see someone assembling a team of elite 1%’s out of touch with the very people that got our president elected.
 
I want him to succeed but I also want us all to realize that we MUST stand up for those that are not just going to lose a voice, but those that think they now have one.
 
I find myself consistently frustrated by politicians in general. Too may are willing to re-write recent history to make themselves appear better than they are.
 
The thing is as a Christ follower my job has never changed and if you claim to be one neither has yours. It’s summed up in these verses in Matthew…
come-yeAs followers up Christ we are consistently supposed to do what is right, even when it may not line up with what we want to do, when it goes against what is considered the bare minimum, when the governing authority say’s we don’t really need to.
The apostles made it clear that there was a time to honor authority, but there was also a time to stand up, and many times in doing so, in standing up and living their lives for Christ they were not just persecuted by the governing authorities but in some cases executed.  Far from going meekly about their lives submitting to the authority they actively challenged it and stood against it when that authority was doing things that were contrary to what Jesus would do.
In many ways Right Wing Evangelicals have equated the republican party as a whole as the party of Christ.  To that end anyone they elect must be a Christian, and must by default be right.  I know that sounds simplistic, but the only answer I seem to get when bringing up my concerns about our president, and they are many, for our president’s unflinching support from many who claim Christ, is that: “It’s a big conspiracy,” that the media is out to get Trump, that I didn’t really hear or watch the the things that I heard and watched.  I have had my faith and profession called into question by a friend of a family in the church I grew up in simply because in that individuals mind, any true pastor would fall in line, vote Republican, push LGBT people out of the church, demand the de-funding of planned parenthood,  push for prayer in schools, and recognize that if America will just get back to God then suddenly it will be sunshine and unicorns.  The steel mills where I grew up will start up again, Detroit will start producing loads of gas guzzlers, and regulation of fossil fuels will disappear because face it climate change as we all know is bunk…I wish that is was just that person that thinks I’m past the point of what true faith is, but I know better.  As I read comments and see what people I grew up with are saying and how they are reacting to peoples very real concerns myself included I have realized something rather disturbing.  If that is what Christianity looks like, if those words, and those ideas, if this man is the person they want to anoint as the Christian choice for our country.  I don’t want to be in the club…I’ll turn in my card, and walk away from the entire system, because it doesn’t fit…he doesn’t fit.
Years ago Christians talked about the importance of the character of the people in office in our country.  They called the private lives of elected officials into the public, decrying past behavior and making it an important part of their ability to serve. All of that has gone out the window this time around.  Not only are the same people that called for impeachment, investigation, and imprisonment excusing the behavior, they actively stick their heads in the sand and ignore it.  Now the past should be left alone, who can really know what he was thinking, that’s just locker room talk.  I get why people call so many christians in America out for their hypocrisy.  It’s rampant.
I want a few things from President Trump.  I want him to succeed, but more than that, I want to see him come to a real, authentic, life altering faith in Christ.  Naive… of course it is but it’s what I want.  It’s what I have wanted for every President we have had since Reagan.   What I don’t want is the de-funding of planned parenthood, the national endowment for the arts, the corporation for public broadcasting.  What I don’t want is for my daughters and yours to have to worry that some idiot is going to act like this man has in his past, treating women disrespectfully  and talking down to them. What I don’t want is for my black friends to be pushed and pushed and pushed into molds that they don’t fit.  What I don’t want is some big wall to our South and North, because remember not only do walls keep people out, they trap people in.  I don’t want some vaccineaphobes kid to be in the same class as my daughters, exposing them and others to needless disease, but more important exposing people with compromised immune systems to danger.  I don’t want my kids and grand kids to be the ones stuck with a world that has been used and used and used and used with no regard to what that use is doing to God’s creation.  I don’t want to be told how and who I can worship, which means I don’t want us telling others how and who they can worship. I don’t want to ostracize people who look, sound, believe, and love differently than I do, I don’t want to put myself in a place to make decisions for a woman that I don’t know, will never meet, and have no idea the situation she is in, because the moment I make rules or strike down rules that effect their freedom, I am removing my own freedom as well.
I will be praying every day not just for our President but for every leader that sits in Washington.  This I can and will do.  But I will also bee looking for ways to be Jesus with skin to those that are afraid, disenfranchised, and ignored.  I will take the opportunities that are afforded to stand with them, to be a voice that advocates for them. To call out our leaders if need be.
Being a Christ Follower has never been easy…if you find it so then you’re doing it wrong.

Losing My Grip…

No one could be happier than me that 2016 is finally coming to a close.  I hated a vast majority of 2016.  The point of this blog has always been to get out whats been going through my mind, heart and life,  a way to push out personal feelings, frustrations, joys and sorrows, an invitation into the mess that is Aaron.

Through the years people have read that mess and been encouraging, or judgmental, even spiteful and rude at times.  For the most part I have never really edited out the few comments that I get, preferring to allow people to respond how they feel like they need to or want to respond.  I look  at this venue as an opportunity to grow, mainly because be it encouragement or criticism, the interaction forces me to look at the underlying issues that relate to any given post and look at them on a different level.  Once I get past the self-justification that is involved in my actions, I am able to see things from another perspective and adjust or ignore depending on the circumstance.

Equally important in this space has been the evolution of my faith journey.  There is struggle in these pages and posts.  In them I find old “truths” replaced with legitimate ones.  There is a faith that wants action as opposed to reaction.  A faith that is willing to question why, as much as it is willing to state emphatically that it is right.

In these pages there are joys, sorrows, successes, failures, moments of pride and moments of shame.  There is a healthy dose of fear in here, as well as bitterness, and downright anger.

Today I am adding one more post to the pile, which brings me back to the beginning.  I am so glad 2016 is going away.  I am hoping that 2017 is better, need 2017 to be better.

Feelings are dangerous things because, admit it or not, they rule most of our actions.  If I had to put a label on 2016 it would read…FAILURE…

Failure to pray hard enough.

Failure to minister to enough people.

Failure to see lasting change in the neighborhood of Locust Point that can be attributed to LPCUCC.

Failure to minister to the people in the church effectively.

Failure to be all the Joyce needs.

Failure to be all that the girls need.

Failure to communicate enough.

Failure to hold it all together.

Failure to buy the right house.

Lots of F’s on the report card this year.  It’s how I feel, and while not necessarily accurate as I said before, what I feel in this matter is really all that matters.  At least where I’m sitting now.

With all of this I’m losing my grip.  Joyce said she doesn’t like to see my shoulders slump, and yet I’m not sure what else can be at this point.  I feel like every time a little bit of the wight gets lifted there are 12 other things tossed in the pack, most of which weigh more than the one thing that was lifted.

I’m so tired, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and the worst part about it is there really is no time to be tired.  I know all the things that make sense. I know that going into a new year and a new ministry season, should be done with lots of energy and excitement, and so I’ll do what I have been doing for the last 7 months,  I’ll pretend…pretend to be excited, pretend to have the energy, pretend to be okay, and in that pretending, I’ll even fool myself for a few hours, days, weeks, but I also know whats back there, whats hiding in the shadows.  I know that there will be one more thing said, or one more things done and it will be the tipping point…

Which is where this promise comes into play…

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9 HCSB)

This one thing I know,  that I am going to feel all of the things I have written on these pages, for the foreseeable future.  Things are not going to be getting easy any time soon, and that can be okay, as long as I can remember that each of these failures that I have written about here, that I have felt, true or not, are opportunities for God to become more in my life, and lets face it any opportunity for God to become more in our lives is a good thing.  I just have to realize that God becoming more, doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly going to feel any differently, I have to be okay with that.

Again…

Six years ago…well okay five years and a couple of weeks, Joyce and I spent a month at University Hospital in Morgantown WV.  I spent the days in the ICU waiting room, and the Nights in a chair by her bed.  If you want to know more you can look it up on the blog, quite extensively documented, sometimes more than once a day.

Today I sit in a surgical waiting room, tweeting, texting and hoot suiting updates on the cancer surgery that we knew was coming, just like a train that starts down a track, moving from point a to point b, it will get there and you really can’t stop it,  even when you wish you could, even when you say, as J did last night, I don’t want to do this.  We don’t want to do this, and didn’t want to do it.  Doesn’t matter though, this is where we are.

J is in the last of three procedures, the first two went well,  if knocking someone out with drugs and cutting and removing things can be seen as going “well,” still if this lets us continue to do life together then this is what we do.

23 years ago I will or was it I do?  We talked about better and worse, richer and poorer,  sick and healthy.  It’s safe to say that we’ve been through all of those things.  J has stuck  beside me through worse and worse, we have weathered some serious storms, had times of intense joy and excitement, done amazing ministry.  We have felt success, failure, fear, loss.  Pretty much everything people feel when they do life together.

I never thought that J would be the one that was in hospitals,  I always thought that would be me, and I always thought it would be at least 2o years away.  That’s not how it worked out though.  We are here, walking through cancer, just like we walked through everything else and will keep walking through things.

You learn so much when you go through these things, you learn about yourself, you learn about the people around you.   You learn and grow and change and sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s a sad thing, and sometimes it’s just hard.  The important thing isn’t which of those adjectives it is, the important part is the learning, the internalization of the things you find out about life and how you are doing or have been doing it and what you do from then on.

The final doctor came out.  He said everything went well, we will get to go to recovery soon, get to see her and be with her.   Thank you for praying, for standing in that space that it’s been hard for me to stand in lately.  The space between faith and doubt, belief and denial, trust and anger.  Please keep doing so.  I know it’s selfish, but we need it now more than you know.  The journey is not over, there is still much to do, more steps to take, more things to deal with, more conversations, more, more, more.  You all being strong when we are not really does help.

 

 

 

Words, Words, Words.

Words have meaning, sure that’s a pretty obvious statement, but in light of all that has been going in the last week plus it bears repeating.

Last week I posted about my feelings on the election, about the bulk of evangelical church leaders support of the President Elect, the knowledge that my personal journey of faith and just daily life has pushed me away from the way an evangelical is supposed to think and act, and in some ways has placed road blocks and wedges between people who knew me when…

Words are easy, especially today when those words can be posted from a distance without any dialog.  When we read words we assign them meaning not just based on definition but on a set of filters we have picked up over our lifetime.  When I read I hear words and sentences if that makes sense.  I put emotion and inflection, or at least my brain does, into what I am reading.  This is problematic because I am almost certain that I get the intention wrong at least 90 percent of the time.

But words matter just like actions matter.   When I look at what is happening, at who is being appointed to important positions and at the actions of a group of people who everyone knew existed but that had been relegated to silence.  There will always be bigotry in the world because humans are flawed.  Still as Christ followers we’re supposed to remember that being in the world is necessary but living differently is not just some sort of suggestion.  It’s a command from the one we claim to follow.

Here is where I get frustrated.  In every movement there are extreme individuals.  People who the vast majority of people wish would just not open their mouth.  Those individuals are useful in some ways, they represent numbers and numbers are always good to have, but then many of us hope that they will slink off to obscurity again once the initial goal is achieved. I know there are people who voted for the president-elect that are loving, caring thoughtful individuals, they don’t look down on people, they don’t and never would say some of the things that are being said with increasing regularity.  They probably hope that the alt right will just slink back to that rock it crawled out from under and disappear for at least another two years and if they have their way another four.  The thing is it’s not happening, the alt right is not crawling anywhere and with the appointment of Steve Bannon it seems that the new administration is perfectly fine with that.  Words matter and Trumps words have birthed a fear in a large group of people in this country, I place myself with that group. But that’s not all that those words have done,  they have emboldened this group of people so much that they not only aren’t crawling back under the rock, but are willing to pick those rocks up and start throwing them, and through it all the evangelical movement, specifically its leaders seem to remain silent, it’s not enough to call for prayer, it’s not enough to have a rally where the answer is to pray for our country and leadership to somehow get back to God.  The church should have already been praying, it’s time to be Hands and Feet extended to the whosoever’s, which makes this next paragraph so hard to write.

As much as I wish it were not so, President Elect Trump is a reality.  I am completely down with protests.  I think that they offer an opportunity, when done peacefully, to show where we stand in tangible ways, but words matter, and no matter how much it pains us to admit it.  We have a President Elect.  Democrats have said not my president when it was George W B, Republicans said not my president when it was Barak O, and now Democrats are again saying not my president when it’s Donald T.  Not My Choice seems more accurate.  I know it’s not as catchy a slogan, but it is non-the-less true.  Protest but do so in such a way that the people’s attention you are trying to get are pushed to confront the reality of what is now happening, forced to face the fact that the racism, misogyny, and bigotry that they want to claim is just a fringe part of their choice is not as fringe as they thought or wanted to admit.

When I say not my choice it places the onus on the ones who voted for the President Elect to deal with the choice they made, or should in theory.  When I say not my choice I am reminding people who I get a chance to choose again in two years for the House and Senate, and in four years for the White House.  When I say not my choice I also begin to realize the responsibility I have to stand up for and with people who will be effected in the next four years but also who are feeling the fear and effects of what is happening right now, and finally when I say not my choice, I am faced with the reality that I have the choice to pray, every day, for the leadership of our country, not the way I want to pray, but the way Paul told Timothy to pray for them.

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”
(1 Timothy 2:1–2 NLT-SE)

What strikes me in this scripture is that we are not necessarily praying for conversion here.  We are to pray for God to help them.  I have to say that’s not something that I really want to do right now.  I want to pray that the incoming administration implodes, that they fail to enact a single policy measure that they ran on.  I want to pray that the Senate Majority leader fails, that The speaker of the house falls apart.  I want to pray imprecatory prayers, but that’s not what I’m supposed to do.

I’m supposed to pray for my leaders and ask God to Help them, but more than that I’m supposed to Give thanks for them.  I don’t want to, but living like Christ necessitates my daily doing something that no one in their right mind would want to do.  Take up a cross and follow him.

What makes this all so hard is the realization that I must pray for help and guidance for the president-elect, and stand with the people who are out there protesting, working with them, loving them where they are, and pushing the importance of the issues that face us all.

Our country is more divided than ever, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.  I have come to a realization though,  healing the divide isn’t nearly as important as living out the faith I have been called to.  So I’ll be doing a lot of praying, and a lot of standing up for the people who are afraid and stand to lose the most.  I’ll be doing a lot of praying for leaders and standing against the policies they will attempt to make that go against the mandate to bring the love and Light of Christ to “WHOSOEVER.”