Warrior Bride

Warrior Bride

Don’t just be “pro-life” on a picket sign. Be pro-life in every phase and in every way. Foster care and adoption is our yes to life. 

Last week our fost-adopt journey turned the corner for a new chapter.

As is usually the case with social services*, slow and sparring information is the only information, so I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised when my wife got a call from the county saying, ‘birth mom is out of prison earlier than expected and she has a visit due this week… can you make it up town tomorrow?’

Classic.

So it is that we were faced with the last-minute audible to gear up and get going.

And so we did.

But not before having a bit of a spiritual-psycho-emotional freak out.

You see up to this point in our fost-adopt journey (on baby number 2; Selah adopted last year, we’ve been licensed for about 3 years), we haven’t had what I would call the typical foster family experience…

We haven’t had to give kids back after years of bonding and attachment; we haven’t had to travel 30 miles twice a week for biological family visits (as some of our dear friends have-mind you with their other kids and family life moving ahead at normal pace/scheduling); we haven’t had to deal with multiple family members and the ups and downs of them making progress, back sliding, court mandating chaos that can be the very essence of foster care.

As I explained it to a friend recently, when you become licensed for fost-adopt your technical title is a “resource family.”

This means that you are like an expendable tool to be used at the disposal of the system, the kids and the biological families needs. This is the lens that you are trained to assume as a foster mom or dad.

Suffice to say, easier said than done.

Herein lies the essence of our spiritual-psycho-emotional freak out: you’ve held, carried, nourished, kissed, swaddled, midnight fed-in short loved the crap out of a being that-in this case-we’ve had since he was 2-days old.

All of this largely “uninterrupted” (meaning: most days, no ones come knocking to pick him up, take him away or even call to check in!). And when it’s like that-very few bio family visits and very few calls/court dates-you begin to really live the illusion that this child is yours.

And then one day you get a call with a stark reminder that, at least legally, that is not the case.

And so we have a  mental shock to the system and the mind begins to reel… ‘what if he is taken away… worse still, what if he is taken away and given to birth mom where he is abused or neglected.’

Stop for a second, imagine if you will that one of your biological kids was dropped off one day and handed to someone you barely know and definitely do not trust (and also has a history of abuse/neglect). Well biological or fostered, we do not know the difference-that is what it feels like.

So doubt, crisis, fear creeps in…

Insert the mental/biblical picture that God gave my wife…

It’s the picture of Abraham laying his son Issac on the altar. It comes from Genesis 22.

You remember the picture

IMG_0148

22 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

It’s gnarly.

So many questions here-I get it… what’s God thinking about? What’s God’s deal? Just flat-out: why? Well besides the fact that I’m not here to talk about all that today, I do think the answer is 4 words into the first verse… God tested Abraham’s faith.

Ironic how that was essentially the title of a sermon I shared just 1 week prior. The one point was essentially this: God is using all things as a manner of testing and preparing us for what comes next. (And prayer, by the way, is our gift for having eyes to see this.)

It’s no different right here, right now with our little 7-month old baby boy.

A second truth paralleled in our lives with this passage is this: our kids are not our own.

Whether our kids are biological or fostered or adopted-not anymore than our past, present or future-do they belong to us.

I allude to the concept of time because that is the dual thing that God is asserting ownership over by the way, in this passage.

You see he’s not only testing Abraham’s faith, he’s not only reminding Abraham that he owns his son, but he owns what his son represents.

And what Issac represented was the hope of another son-Jacob, who was the hope of Israel, whose hope was Jesus, who is the hope of the world.

I digress, except to say this: he holds the people and he holds the plans.

Same is true for us right here, right now.

So hand him over…

That was the bright idea my wife got.. AND the reality we get the chance to live.

Starting today, in the new normal, of driving up to the group home to visit birth mom, making sure that she gets an audience with her son.

And the prayer that helps us navigate this all?

It is prayer no longer for 1 life, but for 2.

That’s the call after all isn’t it? To find whoever we may be diametrically opposed to and love that person, pray for that person?

I fear it is a lost or dying 1st century art form. But in truth, we just so seldom get the chance to meet our “enemy.” Besides the person in the car riding my tailgate, I fear I have never really met the enemy Christ spoke of… until now.

And please understand how I’m using the word enemy. It is not to make biological mom bad, rather it is to explain exactly what I meant when I say diametrically opposed, and the person who has the potential to claim back what we love like it is our own feels like no subtle opposition.

In the end, this post was meant to be an affirmation of my wonderful and amazing warrior bride-Rylee. After all it was the biblical-word-image that God gave her, that she in turn shared with the world via social media, which in turn appears to have been an incredible encouragement for the faith and struggles of others.

When I saw her post I was uplifted and inspired by her… after all she is at the home front with these precious babes logging far more hours than I.
She is the frontline soldier of love-mending wounds, wiping tears (and bottoms!), channeling screams and demands, listening, waiting, loving patiently and graciously.

So in a way it is her baby even perhaps a little more than my baby that is being asked to the altar now.
And so it is her courage and faith and boldness and prayers that emboldens us both now to keep taking one step after the next in faith and preparation for whatever it is that God has next…


*And not to disparage the many incredibly hard-working social workers out there-I am constantly floored by the amazing volumes of work and case loads they carry-and enormously gut-wrenching at times too. These workers match any ministry or church hustle I have ever seen-those who really are devoted and focused that is.

 

So Embarrasing it Must Be True (1 Way to Test Your Calling)

So Embarrasing it Must Be True (1 Way to Test Your Calling)

Have you ever felt so isolated or rogue in a certain decision, direction, mission or calling in your life that it was almost embarrassing to speak it out loud…?

Out of the many proofs for Jesus’ resurrection there’s this 1 that is commonly referred to as “The Embarrassment Test.”

Basically it says that-at the expense of telling the story as truthful and precise as possible-an author of history will include even the most embarrassing details.

There are several facts surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection that would fall under this category including the following:

  • That a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious Elite high council-the same one that carried out the very execution of Jesus) asked permission to give Jesus’ body a proper burial.
  • That, after Jesus was arrested in the garden, and again thereafter when Jesus is brought to the temple (Peter and his thrice denial of Jesus), all of his disciples turn tail and run.
  • Finally, the fact that the very first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb are recorded as having been women!

And it’s this last one that gets special attention…

They say the fact that Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary were present there at the tomb to testify how Jesus was risen is such a ludicrous and embarrassing element to include in the story because of one key thing:

The testimony of a woman in 1st century Greco-Roman culture was considered WORTHLESS! In legal proceedings it was considered equal to that of a robber. 

Women (and their word) were considered morally and intellectually bankrupt in that time. So as it pertains to the proof: because this detail is a major part of the narrative, then it is unlikely that someone is simply making this up.

I’ll give a more personal illustration…

My wife and I love dreaming about having another child. We have 5 as it is and I don’t have to be sitting next to you as you read this to imagine what your face looks like right now…

I know what your face looks like because I’ve seen the looks and stares and comments every time my wife and I go out for a walk with the 5.

Some people literally stop and stare. Some people stop us and say something. Most people just ogle and whisper to themselves as we walk by.

It’s not mean or nasty, its by and large probably just awestruckness… people ain’t never seen a family of 4 or 5 before… apparently… these days.

And my mom reminds me: it’s not just that we have so many but how close in age they are (5 under age 6)… which I submit is true.

In our town, in our context, in our community and even in our family and friends my wife is straight up embarrassed to even utter a word about her dream for giving birth to one more baby.

The other day she was processing, as we have done a dozen times before, her hearts cry… ‘are we crazy… is this wrong… can I do this…?’

In this moment, driving on the 5 freeway in the carpool lane (obviously) I was reminded of the embarrassment test of history, and I told my wife:

You know how I know this is right? Because, unless God was calling us to this, unless god himself had planted this desire deep in your heart, you would have to be a mad, crazy, weirdo to propose carrying and then delivering another baby whilst caring for 5 others!

I went on to say that the voice that matters now (besides God’s) is mine. And that, as hard as I try, I cannot come up with a reason, a hesitation or even a strong doubt that we couldn’t or shouldn’t do this.

I went further still and I affirmed our calling as parents-that we are both gifted in our wiring as mother and father to these children… and so long as God is willing to grant another one to us, it will be for the purpose of growing them up in one stinking righteous household.

So if God’s voice is clear

And if my voice is clear

Then there is only one voice left… the collective voices of this world.

And friends, I’m here to tell you (like I told my wife that morning on the freeway) that this voice is the one that matters least of all.

(FYI: if you’re not married find that one trusted mentor, friend or family member who knows you, your strengths and at least some of your true identity.)

If you’re looking to test if a certain thing is true, right or believable just try and get a sense for how embarrassing it might be or rather how much easier it would be to just leave it out.

I like to think of it like this: it’s so wrong it must be right. (Otherwise the author or originator of the story would have left it out!)

Now change gears from my calling to yours…

You’re currently the author of your life’s story. Well God is more the author, writer and director of the grand story, but as an actor in that story you are given a choice for the roles you play and how you play them.

My challenge question to you is: do you feel like you are seizing the decisions, directions and overall grand mission that God is nudging along through his Spirit?

If God is calling you to something, you have an obligation to walk into it… even if it would be considered worthless or embarrassing through the eyes of this world.

The question that remains is: what is it… what is that God-sized, God-breathed, outside this world mission, vision or calling that is beckoning you?

If you’re enjoying this blog; please repost and share! Thanks!

 

My Last Day

My Last Day

Something happened on my last day at work that I think is rather incredible…

Early on when I started at the church (that I’ve now transitioned off staff) we had a service where we invited people to get baptized-just right then and there.

There must have been over a 100 people that weekend-not that the number is the point. The point was how many unchurched people that day said yes to Jesus and as a result decided to get baptized in that same moment.

The reason someone should get baptized is pretty clear in the Gospel of Luke…

Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.

That’s what these people were proclaiming and I was awed frankly to be a part of it. I had maybe only baptized a couple of people up to that point and on this Sunday morning I was in the water taking turns with 2 other pastors as we baptized over 100.

It was an incredible and humbling experience to be a part of and I was wide-eyed for every minute of it.


This one powerful weekend happened very shortly after I was initially hired… my feeling then was ‘holy crap, I’m the new guy… are you sure I should be in the water?!’

Well a couple of weeks ago on my very last Sunday at The Crossing Church, we held baptisms again and I had the honor of getting in the water and walking people through this amazing act of proclaiming new life.

The only difference was that this time instead of 100 people there were 3.

A teenage boy from my (adult!) volunteer team, the mom of one of my former youth ministry students and one more surprise guest-another teenager… a girl… actually the above listed boy’s twin sister, who we will call Gemma.

I didn’t know Gemma wanted to get baptized, in fact I had never even met Gemma before, and I also didn’t know that she was in a wheelchair (she has cerebral palsy); she was very nervous about getting wet and very nervous about the whole public ‘show’… understandably so.

So the first two I invited to meet me down in the baptismal while onlookers watched and supported from above and then I got out of the water to check on Gemma.

She was a few steps away under the shade of a nearby tree and it appeared that she was giving the ‘go ahead nod’ after the encouragement of her parents and no doubt the amazing courage within her own self.

I ran back to the baptismal and grabbed a handful of water. I stood in front of her, while the droplets of water slowing dissipated from my cupped palms, and spoke the same words of life that I proclaim over all people who make the decision…

I told her how the immersion into water represented Christ’s stay in the tomb.
I told her how emerging from the water represented Christ’s defeat of sin and death.

I told her she was dead to sin, alive in Christ.

And I said that it was in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that I baptize her.

I dropped the remaining cup full of water on Gemma’s head and she smiled while her family and I all cheered, gave hugs and exchanged many unspoken words about what had just occurred.


It was just a few short moments later that I realized that there was more going on here than meets the eye.

First, I took the experience to be a prophetic symbol for my conclusion of one chapter and my beginning of another.

In fact there is tremendous precedence for this. If you take one particular Biblical reference of baptism, the baptism of Jesus for example, you may see what I mean.

You see at least from what we know of, baptism marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Based off what was recorded in the Gospels, Jesus was about 30 years-old when his his “public” ministry began and before anything, he was baptized.

Before he multiplied one loaf of bread, before he cured one sick little girl, before he gathered the disciples and went viral, he was first baptized.

It’s recorded in many gospels but this one from Matthew is a little more descriptive:

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

In this way you could interpret (as I have many times as I dictate the many impacts of baptism to those who I have had the privilege of “dunking”) that baptism has a way of launching people into the new and next. 

Well this was and is true for me. It was true when I baptized that Sunday nearly 3 years ago at the new church, new position, new experience and new season.

And it’s true for me now as I end one chapter of an incredible season of ministry and begin another new one.

But that’s not all of what was revealed to me in that moment…

You see it was the juxtaposition of that young girl’s courage (to allow me to splash water all over her in front of her family and these strangers) sitting perfectly alongside the prophetic call of God in my life.

His call. Her courage.
His call. The courage required for me to leap well and dive deep for what’s next.

I’m thankful for a God who still speaks. If you have questions or comments about anything here or particularly about how to hear God, post below!

I Went to Jail Last Week (Fostercare and Freedom)

I Went to Jail Last Week (Fostercare and Freedom)

Last week I had the very unique privilege of visiting the birth mom of our most recent foster baby at the OC women’s correctional facility.

It was an experience I’ll never forget because of the sights and sounds, but really because of one moment in particular…

I was sitting at one of the visitation windows (with the concrete stool and phone-just like the movies) with my back to the glass looking at the view.

It was a very small box of an outdoor gated yard. I don’t think it’s used for anything (though it has the look of a prison yard break area), because although there is a high-rising gate, there is no doorway to enter from the building into the yard.

Stretching high above this outdoor area you can get a view of the face of the correctional facility. It’s a grey, non-descript, concrete, dreary looking facade with only slits of what must be windows cut at various places into the concrete… I am assuming these upper corridors are were the inmates are actually housed.

A place with no windows and no doors… a concrete mass as tough and hard as rock itself… from this vantage point you get the feeling like the building can’t breath…

Well imagine the people housed within it.

And that was my epiphany in this moment-sitting there with my back to the visitation window:

this place is the physical manifestation of no freedom.

For most people reading this you probably think, ‘duh there’s no freedom… it’s a prison… that’s the definition and essence of a prison…’

You may even be thinking: ‘architectural success!’ (If you’re particularly out of touch with humanity), but I assure you in that moment all the freedoms and privileges that I have been granted were suddenly thrust into penetrating pellucidity.

The week prior my wife had made the visit and came back shook to her core.

For starters, she had no idea what to expect… from parking to paperwork to grumpy prison guards, dirty, worn and cold passageways all the way down to the moment that she would meet our little foster baby’s momma.

The woman, for starters, was white. (Our foster baby is black). And from there, a list of subtle facial features and personality traits that spoke to the very hard worn path this woman must have walked. That we know she’s walked-from her own admission, court filings and the testimonies of social workers, etc.

The experience was harsh. And it’s safe to say that after a very trying couple of days already for Rylee (sick kids, sick herself, massive scheduling conflict with her husband) it was the straw that broke the camels back.

And my wife is one tough cookie mind you… she’s the same one that, while in college, did a home stay with an, I’ll say “complex,” family in Compton (while she lived in LA for a whole semester).

If that weren’t enough training and exposure to the context of how others live, she spent another stint living alone in Uganda where she spent her days tucked in crammed vans, riding on the back of motorcycles with foreign men and going to the bathroom in a whole in the ground (literally).

The prison and the people had rattled her.

Whatever Rylee’s expectation was, I had enough data points to go on for my visit the following week.

And not only that, but during the past 3 years a combination of working in our particular neighborhood of Costa Mesa while being a large church facility, has drawn in a very wide array of people from the street.

Some addicts, some mentally ill, some just merely transient. Over the years I’ve sat with them and prayed, sat with them and tried to find local services, sat with them and said, ‘no, sorry we can’t give you any money.’

But more than that, sitting with all those people I have this collection of faces-toothless and scarred and dirty and worn that have probably given me a unique insight into this mostly unseen community of people.

These folks… they’re not free. Not any more or any less than baby’s momma who’s locked up isn’t free.

Here’s my point: freedom is given and it is chosen. How we use the freedom we are given determines the future boundaries of that freedom. It can run unfettered or it can be restrained to a drop. It’s all a matter of how we invest the freedom we’ve been given.

And of course I would argue-using a Biblical worldview-that all freedom comes from God. The closer we are to him and the closer we pursue His suggested way of life-the closer we are to the purest form of freedom imaginable.

But most of us, not just these folks listed above in the more extreme examples, like to fiddle around and throw away our God-given freedoms.

Here are some ways I think we toss our freedom to the wind and some things that all leaders must be aware of in their own self-leadership:

  • We are free to chose our identities and yet they somehow are never fully committed. While we are not free to chose our race, gender or ethnicity we are totally free to chose the core convictions that form our life legacy. All leaders who wish to lead themselves well must understand that those 3 (race, gender, ethnicity) are only the foundation for everything else to build on.
  • We are free to chose the way we exercise our calling and yet most of us never really pick up our gifts and use them. How many of you even now-reading this post-resent 40 hours a day/5 days a week? Is that a joke?! Do you know what that amounts to over years, let alone a whole lifetime?!
  • We are free to channel our time, talent and treasure for the good of others yet most of us seldom ever do. Whether it’s allowing our finances to flounder into eventual garage stockpiles, endless goodwill clothes runs or even eating out 20/30 days in the month… whether it’s sharpening our God-given talent into weapons for world change… or whether it’s the ultimate irreplaceable commodity-our time. Turning all of these things into overflow so we can radically bless people outside ourselves seems to never make it onto the table.

  • We are free to build a family around a radical vision (much bigger and more complicated than to ‘ensure our species goes on’) yet most of us are content to let our kids grow up on the ‘non plan plan’
  • We are free to pray for and visit those who are sick, naked, hungry or imprisoned and yet we will go our whole lives before lifting one single finger.

The ball is in your court. What freedoms are currently being wasted in your life… or at least strongly under-invested? I would love to hear about your honest processing in this!

Don’t Ever Abdicate (3 Areas of Your Life That are Under Assault)

Don’t Ever Abdicate (3 Areas of Your Life That are Under Assault)

Recently I was reminded of one of my most profound learnings from 2016… the danger of abdicating. (And the power that exists on the other side of abdication… walking into the fullness of what you’re called to do.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of abdicating is someone leaving a throne room in some far off distant land or time.

And in truth, that’s probably because we relegate the term to those sole sources of history or literature where, in fact, someone is giving up or renouncing their power.

Therein lies the gist of the dictionary definition, but honestly the more I look at this world the more enthralled I become with its meaning, significance and potential.

Ab*di*cate

To formally relinquish power, office or responsibility 

[Latin abdicāre, abdicāt-, to disclaim : ab-, away; see ab-1 + dicāre, to proclaim; see deik- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

ab′di·ca·ble (-kə-bəl) adj.
ab′di·ca′tion n.
ab′di·ca′tor n.

It’s like to ‘disclaim’ away your power, office or responsibility.

As people we love to bail on our jobs & responsibilities, in so doing we forfeit the very essence and power of leadership.

The reason that this word carries such weight with me is not its Latin linguistic origins, it’s because of the word’s origins in the Bible.

Like most good ideas, this concept of calling… of vocation… of purpose and meaning comes from the Bible. The concept of what we are called into, which is fundamentally about identity, has a rich and extensive biblical reference.

And I will be your Father and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty -2 Samuel 7

I mean seriously? At first glance, we kind of take all that for granted… ‘oh yeah sure we are his children… right he is our father… what a cute little so-called family…’

Like nearly so many references in scripture I fear that the terms are almost too familiar so they are in danger of becoming too garden variety, generic or watered down.

Quick identify recap according to this foundational biblical truth: if we are his sons and daughters and he is our Father and he is also Lord Almighty-that is to say: supreme king, ruler, the sole universal source of power and authority-this means that we are his heirs, we are his inheritors, we are his princes and princesses.

We are called to co-rule, co-create, co-reign…. great power and authority has been vested in us.

So you have an identity… you also have a power… that means you have options… leverage that power or abdicate that power.

I’ve already sought to establish from day 1 of this blog that all people are leaders… leaders of themselves, leaders of their children, leaders of their household, leaders of employees and organizations. If you are a leader of some thing then great power has been vested in you.

Will you leverage the power or abdicate the power?

I figure we abdicate in 3 major areas…

1, we abdicate in our marriages

Here’s what I know:
We abdicate in the way that we don’t pray for our spouses.
We abdicate in the way that we don’t make sex a priority.
We abdicate in the way that we put other things (kids, work, hobby) ahead of our spouse.

First, notice that I strategically use the word, “we” in each of these… I’m guilty in every one of these areas. And they are ordered pretty closely as well. Prayer is always the 1st and easiest hold out. Who has time to pray?

Or if we do it is “all day… as I’m driving and walking and cooking and working”-yes that is a good and wonderful thing in the life of a believer when we can be in some sort of constant prayer, but it’s also not the same as a devoted, concerted, set apart prayer discipline. And that’s what is needed in covering our spouses with prayer…

Prayer for protection against the enemy.
Prayer for what troubles or ails her.
Prayer for wisdom, guidance, purpose.
Prayer for grace and mercy. (Hello-Kids!)

Sex. Yep, sex… Some how, some way, God smiled upon my wife and I by sending a small handful of couples into our lives really over the last 4 years who have stressed the importance of intentional intimacy as the bedrock foundation for all else in the lifeblood of a marriage.

And that’s simply the truth of God’s gift of sex: it is the forging of all other securities. This physical intimacy breeds all the other intimacies needed: emotional, spiritual… even financial!

I mean think about it, you can’t (not in good conscience) come together in this intimate fashion, with things drastically at odds in those areas, but even if you have felt recent tension in one of those areas, the coming together from 2 to 1 has an absolutely mysterious and powerful effect on bridging those gaps of where we were missing each other… emotionally, spiritually and yes, even financially.

2, we abdicate in our vocation

We abdicate in our calling.

This abdication has two levels: 1, when we carelessly throw aside key aspects of our job description-our actual functional calling-we abdicate. And 2, when we refuse to carry the Light of the World with us into our individual sectors and industries we abdicate spiritually.

But when you think about it: both are bad witnesses. 1, when we show a lack of care for our work product, what does that say about our character->our heart->our God?

And of course 2, when we don’t seek to emulate Jesus in the way we act, talk and treat others while at work, what does that say about our faith being a worthy endeavor for others to inquire about…?

3, we abdicate in our parenting

It’s sad you know because recently at a group book study, when I was reminded all over again-the power of this word, I realized that our abdication has a certain unwieldy multiplying effect.

Take for example refusing to have the tough conversations with your children… hearing them, understanding them, spending time with them when you walk in the door.

Well when they-only a few years down the road-begin acting up and lashing out, how long before we finally conclude (based on even the counsel of good people) that they just need professional counseling or therapy?

(*Disclaimer: I’m not saying that therapy is bad for kids, teens and adults… of course it has its place! I’m talking about here the concept of preventable bahvior and character lapses due to OUR abdication as the primary developmental leads in the home!)

That would be a primary abdication that breeds a secondary abdication. We dropped the ball on seeing them, listening to them, sharing in process with them and then to compound that abdication we shipped them off.

Therein lies the cyclical nature of our abdication in parenting.

Abdication breeds abdication. Abdication multiplies abdication. Abdication supports and confirms more abdication!

Anytime we do not invest the time, effort and energy on the front end of things, we succumb to the assault of abdication.


But there’s a flip side because just as our abdication has a multiplying effect for weakness and loss, when we seize our God-given identities and authorities the power that comes with THAT has a radically multiplying affect too!

Where have you recently abdicated and sense the need to lean back in?

Don’t Tear Down The Bride…

Don’t Tear Down The Bride…

Have you ever caught someone talking badly about you, your family or your employer?

When it happens around the church world, as pastors, we’ll say, “don’t tear down the bride with that kind of talk…” or “man, that makes the bride look bad”

This idea of the Church (i.e. The universal body of believers, Christians, Catholic, etc) as the “bride of Christ” has many scriptural reference points but here’s one of them:

2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (2 Corinthians 11)

Recently I found myself getting all worked up, rehearsing all the comeback lines and talking points (all of this neurotically in my head-of course) over someone who had publicly made a whole group of people I represent look and sound bad.

My first thought was: flame war.
My second thought was: I should call someone first.
My third thought was: dangit now I can’t go pick a fight.
Finally, I thought: geeze, that really worked me up… what can I learn from all this?

And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who has every temporarily given into the adrenalizing nature of self-defense record straightening…

But the thing that bummed me out the most is that this individual was basically from the same team… you know like the same office, the same community or church, like someone who carries the same last name.

I’ll be more transparent: it was a comment from a local pastor about another pastor (and his church) and here I am a pastor. (Oh man this is starting to look like a horribly sad “3 pastors walk into a bar” joke…)

And that is what makes this scenario so pathetically painful… because you would expect better right?!

And in this case you expect better not just because you’re hoping that everyone thinks like you, operates like you and treats others like you. But because the team, the family, the household is all governed by the same exact commandments!

Here’s my favorite and most direct example of what I mean:

The Gospels record several instances of Jesus rescuing people from demon-possession; of all his acts and wonders it’s a very consistent thematic act of Jesus’ miraculous ministry.

So like many occasions before it, the people…  “they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.” (Matthew 12)

And of course the religious elite were envious and humbled by their inability to explain and believe Jesus for who he was.

They-the pious ones of the times-(who so often stood in opposition to Jesus’ way and words) then call Jesus out (even though-yes, they’re supposed to be on same team) and say something to this affect:

“Sure, he can ‘cast’ out demons because he gets his power from the prince of demons.”

So I guess the logic is: he must be on the devil’s side because he has the ability to manipulate and control them.

And Jesus does what Jesus does best which is to confound them with a totally logical and truth-filled thing to say:

23 Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. 24 “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. 25 Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. (Mark 3; Matthew 12)

Well yeah, duh… I’m not trying to be magically original or profound here, I’m just trying to let the verse speak… It says very plainly: how can we be on the same team and yet tear each other apart-the sooner we do that the sooner we and all that we stand for falls to pieces.

A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. A family divided will collapse. An organization divided will collapse. A church divided will collapse.

Here are some learnings for me…

First, I got emotional. This was a great reminder of just how weak I am…

Now hear and understand me, I’m not suggesting that feelings are bad. I’m talking about a particular type of emotion that turns off the rational, higher functioning parts of your brain.

I was all alpha, all fight or flight, all incite a riot… and these, my friends, are a few of our favorite things, but not very helpful for a maturing leader.


Second, I was reminded of how I do NOT want to influence and lead people.

Here’s what I mean: do not mistake the catalyzing power of a message oriented around a common enemy. All good stories are born this way… hero, antagonist, plot (dramatic arch), conclusion. But I think it’s the lower and weaker road to mobilize people around an enemy rather than a common good.


Third, this affects all areas of our life. This is a motivation against common, everyday slander. Just don’t do it….

It does not serve anyone.
It doesn’t serve you or your reputation.
It doesn’t serve the listening audience and it obviously doesn’t serve the target of your verbal onslaught.

And when you at least say you believe in Jesus, and the way of Jesus was so clearly enemy love, you may have reason to pause and really begin to think about what serves your enemy. Weird, crazy, radical-I know… but that was the way of Jesus nonetheless.


Fourth, just take Jesus’ words… He says that when we do this, when we tear each other down from within the same team, we destroy ourselves. It’s self-destruction its cannibalism-it’s eating your own kind.

I think probably most Christians read the passage and think that Jesus was just talking about “them… out there”-the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of the devil.

But using his logic isn’t it so plain to see that the opposite is true within our kingdom-the kingdom of good and peace and righteousness? If we can even call it that with a historical legacy of in fighting such as ours.


Finally, my learning is that we have to build some consensus and some mandate around refusing to tear down our own team.

And in fact what I wanted to do to this guy who was putting my people on blast was not to meet him on that silly juvenile playing field that is the internet, but instead what I immediately sought to do was get his phone number…

No-not to call and berate him or crank call or threaten his children. But to set up a coffee date. Literally. And that’s something very recent that I’ve learned, but it’s as old as time… that when you have a problem with someone you go to the source.

You don’t go to their friends or their neighbors or their competitors, you go to the source and have words-eyeball to eyeball. If we could learn to do this more, if we could have the courage and resolve to meet “the enemy” direct and remember that we are in fact on the same team, oh Lord just imagine the possibilities.

Captain Fantastic and the Need for a Big Family Vision

Captain Fantastic and the Need for a Big Family Vision

We watched this Academy-award nominated film last week and boy it was really something to behold…

It wasn’t our favorite because of the philosophical statements on society/humanity. And it wasn’t our favorite because they have this big righteous brood that seems wild and free (though that was pretty cool). It wasn’t our favorite because of the writing or screenplay or picture or costume.

It was our favorite because of how it puts a highly intentional family on display.

The family has its mission, vision and values pretty well laced up.

Although one of the major points of the film is the unraveling of the dad’s perfect family plan, you can see the sharp discipline and buy in of this family on a mission.
And THAT is awe-inspiring.
THAT is something that all families, the American family, most certainly the God-fearing family must embrace… (and like as soon as humanely possible by the way…!)

You see the problem is that, in our families-as in our personal lives, in the absence of intentionality there is drift.

When I say drift I mean in our character, in our spirituality and in our identities. So the first question I have is: do you think its worth it to leave those things up to chance… in ourselves or the kids we have the privilege of leading?

Without a plan, without a clear-cut and ruthlessly pursued vision there is just merely default mode. And the next question I have for you about “default mode” is this: is that really how you want to lead your family?

If you’d like to take just 1 or 2 positive steps in the direction of intentional family planning (and out of drift/default mode) then I suggest you consider this:

FIRST…

Consider the vision you have for you, your marriage and your family. I would define vision here merely as a picture of a preferred future.

What’s the destination? What’s the hope? This is most commonly illustrated by how our kids turn out. Now as much as their hearts, their character, their spirits are formed by the sovereign design of God and the ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit, we still have a profound role as their parents and leaders.

And we all have known that child who we, frankly, hope to God our kid does not turn out to be like. We see the attitudes, traits and behaviors of that student in our kids class, that neighborhood kid or kid from church and think, ‘man, I hope that’s not my kid one day…’

Well I have news for you: all the “hoping” and “finger-crossing” in the world is not going to move the dial on your kid’s heart and mind if you are still living in drift/default mode!

The principle I’m trying to elucidate is this: you know very well how you would like your kids to think, act, operate and carry themselves and you know how you would like them NOT to think, act, operate and carry themselves. The question, once again, becomes: what are we willing to do, today, to see our preferred futures realized?

You have to think, seriously, for a moment: what kind of child, what kind of family are we producing right now? Every 1 day we are given is a building block for our character and development that produces an outcome-one way or another.

When your child is 12, 16, 21 you will not have a “take-back.” Once again, nothing is “too big” a job for the movement of the Holy Spirit in your son or daughters life, but the point is not living on a prayer (to shamelessly draw on the scripture of Bon Jovi for a moment), the point is to intentionally draw your family into a preferred future shape!

SECOND…

Consider the values that you believe must be baked into everyday living in order that your odds of reaching this preferred future picture are maximized.

As the above illustration shows, it’s not enough to just have the vision of your family’s preferred destination. You must now begin charting a path forward for this vision to be realized.

Your family needs some software.

If the current state of your family’s values, programs and “standard operating procedures” is vacuous, then you might be in a state of drift.

In the movie, the audience is meticulously reminded of the systems and standards by which this family carries itself. They work out together, they hunt together (yes, hunt together) they cook and clean together-it’s systemized with everyone willingly contributing and it’s beautiful.

But there’s this one scene where one of the daughters, when asked how she is enjoying her book (a book in a series of pre-defined curriculum the father has apparently laid out for all the children) answers, “it’s interesting.”

The dad and 2 or 3 of the siblings blurt out almost like sirens saying, “that’s a dead word… she used a forbidden phrase!” And the young woman is encouraged to find the real nuance in her evaluation of the book.

I mean that may seem like a pretty small example but think about the power of words for a moment. This family had a plan and a system and a value in place for what kinds of words are allowed in their family or not.

We can allow words in our house that breed a victim-mentality, guilt, shame and greed or we can bind those words, correct those words and redirect those words toward the underlying emotion. And in so doing we forge the responses that breed the type of mentalities and character we hope to see!


If we would like to make the move from drift to intentionality we have to start today.

We have to create, first, a vision because vision drives it all. It’s our anchor, it’s our guiding light and it’s our destination.

Then we have to set about the tough work of baking values into our daily lives at home, in the car, at the dinner table, when we are out and about with play-dates… everywhere there is the potential for relating or communicating, there is an opportunity to see values lived out.

TIP: start by writing it down. Sit down with your co-lead and prayerfully consider what those founding documents might look like.

I’m curious: what are the visions and values that have served and guided your family? How do you find this article to be true or not as experienced by you and yours?