No Filter Friday {Random Thoughts about Football, Church, and Authenticity}

To begin with, a little sports update: 

It’s no secret I’m a Seahawks fan. #gohawks! There’s a very interesting off-the-field development surrounding Marshawn Lynch and his ongoing refusal to talk with the media. I find it befuddling that we flaunt our societal value of authenticity yet criticize Lynch for his silence.  Why does anyone care what the dude has to say? He’s not a politician or a professor–he’s an {introverted} football player. I wonder how many of us would want to give an exit interview after a long day at the office…every day.

And to the surly butcher at the market who practically wielded a knife at me yesterday–I’m truly sorry your Chargers aren’t in the Super Bowl and I know you had more short ribs in the back for someone who isn’t a Seahawks fan. #calmdown

How do you respond to failure? If like me it undoes and flattens you, you must go watch this video of Clayton Kershaw accepting his MVP and Cy Young awards and wait for the very last line. There is much to learn in this speech about vulnerability, honor, humility, team, and the measure of true greatness. Show it to your kids. Tear a page out of his manual for your own life.

Church-y stuff: 

This week I have been in many conversations with my church peeps and a common thread is running through the words–God is at work. The work is deep, sometimes painful, and terribly discomforting. These conversations have helped me to see how quick we are to bandage up wounds that need a deeper healer. God’s work of binding up the brokenhearted is something much more profound than a conciliatory bandaid and a quick kiss on the forehead. He is not about a simple fix but lasting transformation. Stay with Him, friends. I know the work hurts. On the other side of the pain there is healing…there is a Healer.

I read this interview of Erin Lane and was stirred by this quote of hers:

I worry, though, about whether we’re doing enough to interact with people who don’t inhabit our particular lifestyle enclaves. I don’t see many examples of rich involvement in public spaces that are open to strangers and friends alike. That’s one of the unique features of the church, at least right now, that it offers a common space between your private friends and the larger community. I think we’re losing some of those rich public spaces where anyone can show up, regardless of fitness or food preferences or economic status and ability to work.

I see this at work in my own life and it’s giving me considerable pause. What can be done to create more common space and how can we invite people into it in such a way that it offers true welcome and acceptance? I wonder what would happen if we would all just calm down about our differences and be secure enough in our convictions to allow for divergency of preference. Friendship is sterilized when we objectify and classify one another according to camps, shared interests, and common allegiance to the same opinion.

I know it’s the spirit of the age to scrutinize and critique, but suspicion and cynicism do not exactly communicate, “Come on in! We welcome you!” Possibly before we are able to create common space we will have to do the hard work of ridding ourselves of the judgments that shoo away hospitality. It will maybe feel a little risky, unsafe…vulnerable–but we can do this.

That leads me back to my first thought about authenticity. We love authentic people, so long as they look just like us. That kind of authenticity requires no patience, no kindness; no love. If we are compelled at all by the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you” then it might help us if we rephrased this command, “Go find an enemy and make them a friend.” Because after all, that IS how he loved us.

Blessed Are the Lightweights

I’m a lightweight. This is the conclusion to which I am coming as I once again study of the Beatitudes and wonder, “Whatever does it mean?”

What does it mean to ‘blessed?’ Everyone is always saying “bless, you” like it’s some magical happily-ever-after birdseed being thrown about at a wedding celebration. Have these same people read the hard words of Jesus?

When you are poor and desperate, heartbroken, powerless—you are blessed.”

I have been in all these circumstances. They did not feel blessed.

When you are merciful, newly pruned, and a peacemaker—you are blessed.” Implied in these circumstances are the offenses in need of mercy, the cutting away and scrubbing off of the impure, and the conflict for which someone must resist warfare.

I have been in all these circumstances. They did not feel blessed.

In point of fact, I do my best to insulate myself from such situations. These are for the brave and vulnerable ones.

Vulnerable | adjective: 1. Capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt. 2. Open to moral attack or criticism.

Like most of our English words, ‘vulnerable’ is susceptible to being overstated and under practiced, in spite of Brene’ Brown’s best efforts.

I am a lightweight to the tough demand of Jesus and the vulnerability it requires.

***

Lately, I’ve been having a hard time keeping my mouth closed about different situations that so easily woo my commentary. Name it. Call it out. Pound a fist on the table, throw some hip into it, and boss everything in life back into order.

Shhhh!” I hear. “You have nothing to offer. It’s okay to cry about it—it is a sad reminder of what isn’t yet that should be. But don’t get confused—meekness is not weakness. It is only deferring power to the One who has true strength.”

***

Scot McKnight defines the blessed this way: “Blessed: Someone who, because of a heart for God, is promised and enjoys God’s favor regardless of that person’s status or countercultural condition.”

When looking at the text where we find the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, two notable features jump out:

  1. The promise of the “Kingdom of Heaven” (MT 5:3 & 10) sandwich these circumstances of profound vulnerability.
  2. Right smack in the middle of the sandwich—the meat, if you will—is hungering and thirsting for righteousness (MT 5:6).

Do you not hear the voice of Jesus in the hungering and thirsting?

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink” (JN 7:37-38).

and

I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (JN 6:35).

The Kingdom of Heaven is given to those who have discovered their greatest riches are nothing more than the pauper’s empty hands, open with desperation to receive their next day’s deposit of grace.

The Kingdom of Heaven is present in the comforting of those who mourn for the ashes of life to once and for all be replaced by the crown of beauty and festive oil (Is 61:3).

The Kingdom of Heaven is experienced now as practice for enjoying the reign of God whose power is mercy and judgment is love.

Friend, is the darkness thick with no glimmer of light? Does the waiting mock hope? Does everything feel out of your control? Do all your efforts come up short?

Good news: Your longing for things to be set right can be found in the one whom the prophet declares, “is our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6). Jesus, the righteous One who became our righteousness (I Cor. 1:30)—in His presence we find the blessing, the favor of God.

***

Is there risk in being you—in your poverty, broken-heartedness, and powerlessness—in the presence of Jesus? Yes, of course. But as Brene’ Brown so aptly replies, “Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It is the birthplace of everything we are hungry for.”

There is no blessing without vulnerability.

Are you hungry for acceptance? Jesus says, “Come. As is. No need to dress up. Come as you are…and be blessed.” Come to the blessing of his presence. Let your heart rest in His righteous sufficiency. Sit in the gaze of God’s favor. Leave the hustle of work and worry and Martha’s nagged refrain, “Lord, do you not care that… ? (LK 10:40). Let the power and beauty of His presence dull the edge off the circumstances and fill your heart with his love. “Blessed are the lightweights–the scared, the weak, the can’t-do-it-on-their-own, for in the presence of Jesus their hearts will find strength.”

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” MT 5:6.

Gutsy Love {For Conversations about Sexuality and Intimacy}

On my desk sit books upon books about sex. Yep, you’ve got it. Sex. All these books stacked up and some overflowing on the floor. I myself have sat at this desk with these books now for many hours in preparation for an upcoming parenting class about sexual wholeness. I’m going to be blunt, because that’s how I roll: I’m burdened by the depths of our collective brokenness.

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We are so far off from what God has created us to be that it’s painful to listen to the grammar to which we (and by this, I mean the Church) has resorted to describe our sexuality. What is intended to be beautiful has been reduced to a sterile, clunky, and shame-filled vernacular of confused messages. No wonder our children grow up with no idea on which hook to hang their sexuality. Is it bad? Is it good? Shhhh! Don’t talk about it.

In some ways, I’m glad we’ve already pushed our children from the proverbial nest. We did our best to direct them to God’s best ideal and now it’s their turn make choices consistent with what they understand His desires to be for them. {Granted we still speak into their lives, but parents occupy a different space in their adult children’s lives.} But I tip my hat to today’s parents–you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Sadly, the Church has lagged way behind the culture’s conversation in regard to sexuality. Waaaaaaaay behind. Conversations of sexuality in the church are often non-existent or relegated to the “biblical roles of men and women.” Moms and dads are still figuring out how to have “the talk” (as if though it were just one) while the culture is openly espousing many, many opinions on topics that for way too long have been kept locked away in the taboo cupboard in some secret passage way behind the church custodian closet. If we feel overwhelmed and confused as adults, image how our children feel.

Naturally I listened yesterday and today with interest as the Twitter board lit up with comments from the Southern Baptist’s inaugural Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Summit on Sex (You can see the tweets on Twitter #erlcsummit). I was bummed. The conversation felt like a play back from things that should have been said twenty years ago. Nobody is going to be excited about a sandwich made from day old bread. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know–it’s a start.

I’m sad too. Sad that we so often miss that the conversations about sexuality aren’t about sex. It’s really about longings and desires to be loved, embraced, and to belong; to be found as a person of worth; it’s the God-instilled ache of the heart for intimacy in a relationship that reveals beauty and joy and togetherness in such a way that words aren’t powerful enough to define. And honestly, the Church ought to be writing the dictionary for that conversation…but we’re not.

When it comes to matters of intimacy, (and here I speak of non-sexual intimacy), we are awkward, discomforted by closeness. I think of my mentor Marva (although I’ve never personally met her) and her astute observation:

As persons have lost skills of interpersonal relationships, the poles of technology and intimacy have become reversed. We recognize that intimacy is missing from our lives, so we advertise our technological toys with sexy models and try to make our technology more intimate with personal names. On the other hand, we do not know how to express intimacy, so we have to find technological assistance to do it. Sexual union formerly  expressed the culmination of many growing intimacies–intellectual, spiritual, financial, recreational, creative, social, spiritual–and marked a committed covenant relationship. Now persons turn to sexual intercourse as a way to begin to know one another, and technical manuals are written so that it can be done as effectively as possible. The whole act of union carries an entirely different meaning.

What makes sex “good?” Is it its efficiency –that is the chief criterion in our technological milieu–or its extreme, albeit momentary, physical pleasure? I am distressed that our contemporary culture would reduce the beauty of an expression of lifelong fidelity to one’s spouse to a mere experiment in sexual gratification. There are other ways to express affection for one’s friends, to experience tenderness and intimacy, to enfold others haunted by their cosmic loneliness. 

Please listen to what Marva says next–because if we, the Church, are going to enter the cultural conversation with any credibility we have to first look inward and ask ourselves if we revealed love as beautiful in our communities. Do we love one another well? Have we made love to be fluff and convenience or are we persisting to love one another in places that are messy, uncomfortable, and reeking with the odor of loneliness that our brokenness, and primarily, our sexual brokenness has made for us? Have we unwittingly made sexual intimacy the only way for our children to experience a sense of being wanted?

Marva continues:

The Church has a wonderful message to proclaim–the hope of eternal meaning, the love of persons in deep relationship because God loved us first, the faith that we are accepted on the basis of the merits of Someone perfect and not because we have successfully managed to be the most efficient. Everyone in the world is longing for the Hilarity of that kind of hope, that fulfillment of being loved, that content of faith that will not change.

The superficiality of many parish fellowships belies the biblical possibilities. Why do Christians have such difficulty in truly loving one another, in being glad to belong to one another, in experiencing the empowering Hilarity that the grace of God and true community confer?

God freely chose to love each one us. We respond to the wonder and Hilarity of that by loving him, but also by seeking to become more loving toward others. Relationships that float around on the surface deny the reality of God’s gutsy love, a love so full that it compelled Christ to suffer depths of degradation and cruel crucifixion to demonstrate it to us. (Marva Dawn, Truly the Community)

Gutsy. That’s what I think we need more of. Gutsy conversations. {With our kids. With each other. Let’s get to talking about it! It’s time for us to take back our voice.} Gutsy commitments. Gutsy postures of humility for the sake of others. It’s time. We’ve been silent too long.