Sunday, May 24, 2009


The desire for more abiding love and unity in the family of Christ is something that Father has put heavily on my heart lately. As I’ve previously discussed, there was always more talk in IC about how “we are a family” than I ever saw lived out. Some of the time I’ve spent in Christian circles reminds me of spending time with the in-laws when you don’t really care for each other: you’re a family – but in name only.

My journey-mate Free Spirit has written an impressive series of BLOGS called, “The Last Cow Standing.” I thought her title was great, and fits well especially here in the buckle of the Bible belt. Here in Texas, IC and “kin” rival each other for first place.

Sometimes, IC wins. There was a story that I heard in the context of a sermon about a man’s dying father who chose to attend his usual evening church service rather than his granddaughter’s birthday party, the last he would ever be able to attend in this lifetime.

Other times, “kin” wins. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve tried to invite someone over from the IC who couldn’t make it because of a family engagement. “Family” always came first. I heard an endless list of excuses from some former friends why they never had time for me. It was often some family get-together with relatives they didn’t even like or get along well with, but hey – family is family and they should rightfully eclipse everyone else at all times.

Either way, I wish I had a dime for every time I thought someone made a choice that showed how far out of whack their priorities were. It’s not necessarily about whether “church family” or “blood relatives” come first – it’s about making the heart choice that is reflective of abiding in Love. I think Free Spirit said it better than I can, so if you want a thorough run-down on this subject please check out her BLOGS. I’m just going to add a few more cents’ worth here.

There’s a reason we’re being awakened, called out of the catacombs of lifeless tradition. I am specifically speaking right now of the lack of understanding of just what family really means to Father. I’m not a doomsayer; I don’t try to pinpoint when Christ is coming back or spend my days combing the news for anything to line up with Biblical prophecy. However, I believe the time is coming. Just as the Bible says, the Church will be persecuted in the last days. It is commonly agreed that you depend on family during hard times. But I think we’ve barely tapped the significance of this idea in spiritual terms.

What are we going to do when the church is persecuted? When “building church” becomes illegal or even dangerous? When it becomes totally acceptable to be anything BUT a Christian? What if our own biological relatives turn on us and report us to the government for living our lives as we feel led? What if the people we called our “family” at church all run for the hills, forgetting our name as they do so? If we don’t know the difference between relatives, institutional church-based friendships, and true spiritual family – well, I think the day will come when we’re in real trouble. These things can be one and the same, but sometimes they’re not.

I don’t feel afraid of what may be coming as I write this; I’m not trying to scare anyone else either. Nor do I feel that Father is trying to scare or condemn anyone. Father may be concerned for us learning to live as family for practical, life-saving purposes that are to come only-He-knows-when. But even more importantly, I think is that he loves us so much that he wants us to deeply learn how to live as Christ said, “By this they will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I found a couple of interesting articles that you can read HERE and HERE . It’s no wonder we as the American church have so much difficulty living in love. Touch is a very natural part of love. While these articles are good, I think it’s indicative of a very sad problem that this even needed to be said. Throughout most of history, such an article would probably have been met with a befuddled stare. It would have been like handing a shepherd a manual on why sheep bleat when they’re not fed. Only in a society as warped and far off the meter as ours is, would we even need to be told these things.

But indeed, warped the American culture has become. We’ve been so conditioned to live in fear of our affections being misconstrued. Someone might think we’re behaving provocatively. Someone might suspect us of being gay. Someone might even think we’re child molesters in disguise.

The second article reported the observed low amounts of touch between teens. Then it stated, “The low amounts of touching in these studies was surprising, given the high levels of physical intimacy reported among U.S. students.” Excuse me? DUH! Where is the surprise? Based on the overall report in this article (which I think is dead on) desperate teens in a “no touch” culture will do whatever it takes to get a hug, some contact with another, anything disguised as affection and love. And I don’t think this phenomenon is in any way limited to teens.

It is easy to see why there is so much sexual deviance in our culture. We all hear stories of teen promiscuity, same-sex partnerships, adultery. But even many who live in healthy and functional marriages and other family relationships may find ourselves worrying about sexual sin and thinking we’re just a step away from it. With the number of sexual images being bombarded at us on a daily basis in our culture, it’s no wonder we may tend to have “sex on the brain” whether we want to or not.

Even standing in line at Wal-Mart we’d have to close our eyes and try not to get run over by the cart behind us to keep from being bombarded with images. Each time we are greeted with obtrusive magazine covers that try to force-feed the public endless details of the sex scandals of celebrities and other sexually related things we didn’t really want to know. Yet we’re often cautious of giving a simple hug or squeeze on the shoulder for fear it will be misconstrued. How sick is that?

I couldn't find any conclusive scientific evidence to support the following statement, but I'm going to make it anyway: I think that nearly all sexually deviant relationships and desires are the product of an environment in which healthy expression of love and affection isn't allowed or available.

I wish all this didn’t affect the Church, but sometimes I think we are the worst affected of all. We’ve been so conditioned to think that Christianity is about Not Sinning, rather than Living in Love. Therefore, the plumb line has been making sure you don’t do anything that looks wrong, rather than making sure someone else feels loved.

I’m just sick of it. And I hope and pray that Father will continue to work to heal this sick cultural phenomenon that has infected his Bride. It was so wonderful at the Free Believers gathering in California to just hug my brothers and sisters. I’m looking forward to seeing lots more of this next year in Phoenix. Meanwhile, I’m going to try to keep my eyes open for anyone who needs a hug.

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat. – Mother Teresa

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Brother

I believe Father is working to heal an old wound, one of no nurturing male relationships in my family of origin. The sadness over the loss (or really lack is a better word) of relationship with my biological brother is something I thought I was just stuck with. It is such old news that I went years hardly thinking about it. Yet it had been bothering me a lot again for a few months. I’m noticing a pattern over my years as a disciple, that when something really begins to eat at me, Father often is actually working on healing that area.

The warnings about adultery and sexual sin in the church have had me treading carefully over the years. Supposedly we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but IC protocol dictated that I wasn’t truly allowed to have relationship with any of the men. At some level this always saddened me. What good is a family if you can’t abide in love with the other members?

Well, I knew I was supposed to keep my distance in order to avoid sinful temptations. I didn’t find myself really drawn to many of the men anyway, some were cool and distant, others friendly enough but didn’t stand out as anything super special to me. I even thought some of them were Total Geeks. So I didn’t really see what the big deal was. But I certainly didn’t want to be guilty, so I dutifully followed the rules.

Occasionally though, I would talk with someone who I really liked. They might be especially good listeners, or have a great sense of humor, or an exceptionally gentle and compassionate personality. I would find myself wanting to talk to them more and get to know them more. I would even find myself looking forward to seeing them again.

Then of course, I thought "oh no. This must be adultery in the making. A tiny flame can be fanned into a wildfire, so snuff it out!" I would stuff down thoughts of wanting to talk more in depth with a man I liked, or of really liking him for this quality or that. Especially if he was anywhere near my age. I figured it might be OK if he was young enough to be my much-younger brother or old enough to be my grandpa, but anything else was Not Allowed.

Fortunately I have come to realize that most of the "adultery" paranoia is based on the "depraved sinner" mentality, rather than acknowledging we have new hearts. After all, many of Jesus’ friends who followed him around were women. I assume they were single, but Jesus obviously wasn’t "available," as that wasn’t what he’d come to earth for. I remember Mary finding Jesus alive and well on the third day, falling at his feet and weeping overjoyed. What love she must have had for him! Yet I don’t believe for a minute that they were having an affair or any sort of inappropriate relationship. They were simply and very powerfully loving each other as brother and sister.

Meeting Darin in person at the "Jake BBQ" was a real blessing. After a year and a half of reading his writings and listening to him online, I got to see added dimensions of how kind and insightful he is. I really enjoy his personality and sense of humor. And his compassion and understanding of people is truly special. He doted over his daughter, approached everyone with a friendly smile, patiently answered the questions of hungry people.

On the last evening, I listened as Darin talked with someone who was struggling and had a lot of questions. I hoped to have something helpful to say too, but there was little I could add to the conversation. So I just watched as Darin did as Jesus did -took the time to listen and get to the root of the problem.

As I sat listening to Darin, I recognized some of the feelings of affection and being drawn to a man that I had had in the past that I’d been told were wrong, sinful, deviant. The knee-jerk reaction of, "Oh, I'm sorry Lord, let me not sin" kicked in. In the past, the "oh no, I'm sinning" thoughts made it easy enough to change channels and think about something else.

This time, that didn't work. The feeling grew stronger and I know Father wanted it that way. Then, I felt Father was saying softly to me, "It’s all right. Let it out. It’s okay." So I let a wave of love for him just wash over me. I just love Darin, I told Father, and I felt Father smile as he said, I know you do. And it’s all right, as well you should. He is your brother.

I believe that brothers are just as important as fathers are. They can give their sisters friendship, protection, advice, the feeling that she is important and special and beautiful. Or, they can hurt hurt her and make her feel worthless. Is it really Father's plan to allow the loss and the wounds from our earthly family to remain a burden we have to carry all our days? Many Christian circles seem to hold a view of "you're a depraved sinner, so don't look at, talk to, or allow yourself to have significant feelings for anyone of the opposite sex unless you're married to them." Is this really reflective of Father's view of us? As Proverbs says, as a man thinks, so he is. I'm coming to see how we've shortchanged ourselves thinking this way.

If you haven’t already listened, the link to the latest FBN podcast is HERE. The subjects of sex, relationships, and the distinction between healthy and unhealthy ways to express our love for one another is a subject I hope is opened up for discussion more. Certainly there are appropriate boundaries, but Father is showing me what we are missing by 'drawing the lines' way too rigidly. We're missing out on relationships of love that could work to heal, help, and encourage each other.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunny Kim

Kim's usual signature is "Kim in sunny Sacramento." One day when she told us it was raining there, however, I reminded her that it's always sunny wherever she is.

The invitation to come out to California came as a wonderful and very unexpected thing. After quite some time of very little meaningful face-to-face interaction with anyone outside my immediate family, out of the clear blue Kim called and invited me out for a Free Believers weekend. I thought of Jesus who goes around collecting the straggling sheep. This time he put one on a plane to Sacramento. So, well armed with gum and a barf bag in case of airsickness, I found myself clinging to Father, and he to me, as the plane left the ground.

Kim had invited friends she’s met from all over. Some were single, some were older, some younger people her children knew. Some had significant life issues they were struggling with. Many of them were those that I know from experience the IC would dismiss. Young, old, black, white, affluent and financially struggling - everyone is the same to her. We’re all looking to make heart connections, and this is something Kim is great at. She doesn’t see people in terms of outward appearance - she looks at the heart.

This wonderful quality has also brought her close relationships with her grown daughters and son-in law, who spend time with her because they WANT to. Three of the four young adults live out of their home now but were there so much I had to stop and remember who technically lives there and who doesn’t.

Kim spent a lot of time in the kitchen preparing food to feed everyone, but she didn’t seem to see it as a chore or a bother at all. She chatted with everyone easily as she worked, totally unlike the harried "Martha" stereotype we’ve all heard of. As she worked, she talked of how she loves to have people over and sees it as a privilege to prepare for a house full. Her entire family reflected the attitude of hospitality, right down to her mom who made a huge pan of wonderful biscuits and gravy for breakfast one morning. (I was touched that she even called me on Kim’s cell phone on the way to the airport to say goodbye since I’d missed her earlier that morning!) This love for people, this attitude of outreach and hospitality, is a precious and sadly unusual commodity in today’s society.

Kim’s optomistic outlook is one of the first things I saw in her personality the first time we talked on the phone. Being a more melancholy sort myself, she is a great influence and balance for me. An incurable optomist is something that many of us need. Seeing the sunny side of life doesn’t necessarily come easily to me. Having her lens to see things through has been very good for me.

My family of origin tends to have a strong negative outlook. Then of course, there was the time spent in charismatic IC where there was supposedly a demon around every corner that we had to be all wound up in fear over. If we didn’t "break the curse in Jesus’ name," we were goners for sure.

Kim’s sunny outlook on life has been a breath of fresh air that I had long felt a need for. Something good IS going to happen. Father IS going to work any situation out for good. There IS reason to hope in spite of a bleak landscape. There IS something good waiting for you around the corner. We DO have control over some things that bother us and the things we don’t have control over WILL get better. Father IS faithful. This is a message I didn’t get for years and years of my life, and am so glad to be drinking in now. A stream in the desert, and sunshine through the clouds.

Father is working through people like Kim to show me that I have worth, that I am special and of great value to him, just the way he made me. The wilderness can be a hard place. It’s just been very, very lonely at times. Even in my active "church" days it seemed I was mostly just valued for being the dependable one who would man the nursery or pass out bulletins. Feeling overlooked as a person for so long can certainly leave its toll on a person’s self-esteem.

Part of me felt like there must be some mistake when I was remembered this way, to have an invitation for a whole weekend in sunny California, to meet not just one but three people whose online friendship I've enjoyed. The whole experience served to remind me that Father never does forget us. I have needed more sunshine, and am glad to have found it in Kim… in my spiritual family… in my Father.