Archives For theology

About 8 years ago I was contacted by Vicky Beeching about designing a logo for her women in worship network blog. I was super excited to work with her because I was a huge fan of her work since her vineyard days. I had just seen her open for delirious and Rebecca St. James and this just became a monumental business relationship for me. I had the pleasure of doing logos, photo editing, and design-work for her websites and in the mean time learned more about her via her blog.  I loved doing the work for her because I had a real connection to her worship songs that she wrote. They were not the typical 3 chord, made for radio, theologically drivel songs that were all around me. They were rich, expressed anguish, poured out lament and joy at the same time. Honestly her albums always reminded me of the Psalms.

Somewhere along the years we lost touch on the business end, but I still followed her life thanks to social media and the internet. Then in 2014 Vicky announced that she was gay on an article on the independent in UK. Of course the world… her world…. blew up that night as every christian that admired her or agency that signed her had to decide how to personally handle the situation or reconcile singing/promoting her songs.

I woke up that morning, saw the article, saw the people that I respect in Christian world respond and was floored by it all. There is a moment for those of us who have been in the church a long time when we realize that there is a lot of UGLY in the beautiful thing we call the Church. I saw a lot of ugly that day and felt I needed to respond, if not for my own self, but also so vicky and others could see that there are those of us out there that don’t fly high the banner of condemnation and hate.

This was that post.

I still stand by every word I wrote in that post because I truly believe Love has no strings. Grace has no prejudice and BOTH look like Jesus.

Ever since the announcement I knew that she would have to write a book to tell her story. Maybe one day I will follow suit. In the mean time I could not wait to get this book for a few reasons. First is because I knew I shared a similar church journey being in the same kinds of fellowships and being brought up with a dogmatic and sometimes extra-biblical theology. I’m still processing much that in my own life and I was hoping her book would help me remember things as odd as that seems. Second because in the journey I have had theologically and in my faith over the past 5 years I have tried to unlearn so much in order to make Jesus my theology. This has forced me to be editable and allow the Lord to speak into 40 years of noise. My hope in reading this was that the Lord would speak through her story in a way that would challenge me.

When the book finally arrived I opened it up, began reading, and could not put it down. Within 2 days I had devoured it. She is a brilliant writer and that makes for an easy yet compelling read. It was everything I had hoped this book would be and more. It was raw, honest, earthshaking, heaven drawing, emotional, theological, heartbreaking, and joyful all in one read. To be honest, this book reminded me why I love Vicky’s music.

I want to keep my review as to the content as simple as possible because I’m pretty sure I could go on for days discussing it. I will sum up my review with a bullet point list because that is what all the cool kids are doing.

  • Vicky’s story broke my heart for her and for those dealing with the same story
  • I am ashamed once again by how the church can wield the beautiful work of Jesus as an whip and abuse people with it. I remember being in those kinds of churches. I remember being in similar prayer meetings in the 80’s and 90’s. It gutted me knowing I stood in those rooms and wasn’t fully aware of how dangerous those meetings were to those who just needed to know the true love of God and that they were not a mistake.
  • I found myself repenting, maybe not as a contributor to that vitriol but as a bandwagon youth group person who had no room for grey and who was convinced God was black and white and fit neatly into the box I stuffed Him into.
  • There is a quote in the book where she said “I love the church, and I consider it my family. It’s extremely painful when families inflict damage on one another, but I’m choosing not to walk away…” – I think I read that line about 10 times as I have felt that in my own relationship with the church. Vicky goes on to share that it is her hope that one day LGBT equality would be the norm much like other things in the bible which were debated over an over again in regards to their acceptance.
  • One of the reasons Jesus spoke in parables or stories was to give context, make theology more accessible, and to simplify. Of course people hearing and reading those stories have dissected them and gutted them to the point that every single little thing had meaning, even though that was not Jesus’ intent, and then they subsequently missed the TRUE meaning entirely. I think you have to read this book much in the same way. Don’t pick it apart because it’s a lifetime crammed into a few hundred pages. Instead take a deep breath, exhale your dogma, and try and see the meaning behind her story.
  • In the last 3 years specifically, the Lord has had the LGBTQ community on my heart to pray for, love, and speak to as often as possible about God’s love for his creation. I’m actually not sure why God has made this a reoccurring theme in my brain and prayers, but because of it I have spent time in discussion, listening, and reading anything I can on the topics vicky addresses in her book. I knew I was not going to pick up 300 pages of answers, but I did know that vicky studied and knew the word, science, and other areas and I would for sure find insight through this story. What I was not prepared for was more unlearning. The age old phrase when anything doesn’t match our paradigm is “you can make the bible say anything you want” and the hardline fundies would say “IT’S VERY CLEAR”. I’m not sure how to express my opinion on the topics in the book other than I’m open to anything God would show me and I’m willing to be wrong about everything but Jesus. I have been called a heretic many times this last year or so ironically because I choose to make Jesus my theology so If my openness to God on this topic makes me fit that category again then hand me my nametag.
  • I found myself trapped in the time between times reading her heart-wrenching story. I wrestled with her words and heartbreak and I found myself in the end cheering for Jesus the healer and God who loves without strings.
  • The good news is this book is dripping with THE GOOD NEWS even in the midst of the rubble.

Vicky mentions in her book Kintsugi which I have heard of before. It is a japanese art that repairs broken ceramics with precious metals like gold and silver. It is literally the art of precious scars. It makes the pottery more valuable and amazingly enough more durable. The “scars” become a feature that gets exhibited instead being hidden. I have always found that art beautiful and it’s meaning even more so. After reading This book it has taken on a new meaning and I pray that the Church becomes a place safe enough for people who are broken to display the precious mending of God. Maybe we aren’t right about what wholeness “Looks” like. Maybe there are people who we have determined have a grace expiration date that could be embraced by Jesus if we weren’t see dead set on standing in the way.

God is LOVE
(God) is patient, (God) is kind. (God) does not envy, (God) does not boast, (God) is not proud. (God) is not rude, (God) is not self-seeking, (God) is not easily angered, (God) keeps no record of wrongs. (God) does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (God) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (God) never fails. JESUS is God. Jesus has always been God. God has always looked like Jesus. there never was a time when God didn’t look like or act like Jesus…

So if we intend to be more like Jesus we should be less concerned about being perfect and instead allow him to perfect us.
We should be willing to be editable, full of grace, recklessly loving, and willing to do whatever it takes to show people that the LOVE of God is far deeper and wider than even our own hearts allow.

Yes I’m preaching because regardless of your thoughts on LGBTQ in regards to your “stance”, you have been given ONE mandate… It’s not to do conversion therapy, it’s not to do exorcisms, it’s not to condemn, it’s not to cut off and remove…..

It’s simply to love

I think this book is a critical book for our time. It is a must read and I am convinced every church leader should read this in order to understand the damage that comes from us NOT loving God’s creation.

trail

I was doing some internet strolling this past week while in prayer and thinking about ministry leading and I kept getting this picture of a trail guide. Once that was in my brain I did a little searching and came across an article on WikiHow called “How to lead a nature walk“. I found it very interesting and things started to pop up in my brain as I went through each step and compared to the local church and leading towards a vision. Below is the list on leading a nature walk and how it translates to the church

1. Read up about the local plants and animals that live in your area. Field guides are a good introduction to acquiring this skill set. So is tapping the wisdom of long-time naturalists who might live nearby.

Church: Study the word, be in prayer, read books, find a mentor

2. Take a hike through the area beforehand and note any unusual features about the area. Are there nests to observe or evidence of animal activity (beaver damage to trees along a riverbank for example)?

Church: Plan and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Canvass the field. Make sure to grab your compass (Jesus) and fix your eyes on him

3. On the day of the tour, gather your group and assess their physical limitations if any. Will the weather impact slipperiness of trails? Is there a more comfortable, safer alternate?

Church: Assess the people you are leading and their spiritual limitations. Take a look at the plan ahead and see if you need to disciple more to prepare for the road ahead.

4. Introduce yourself. Provide your group with a brief explanation of the planned walk. Give out maps if relevant. Point out comfort facilities; it is a good idea to suggest a rest stop before heading off. If you have any heavy props to show, this is a good time to do it (to avoid carrying them, or forgetting them at the end of the walk).

Church: Introduce vision, preach vision, and then repeat. Make sure to communicate so everybody understands the vision.

5. Have the members of the group introduce themselves to one another. This way they can get to feel comfortable around one another quickly.

Church: An effective team is most often a team with real relationships. Foster authenticity and community.

6. Ask members of your group to let you know what they would be most interested in viewing, for example, edible plants, birds, nests, burrows, medicinal plants, etc. You can then tailor the hike as much as possible to their interests.

Church: Make sure to ask people their desires and hopes and give them ownership along the way.

7. Find out if anyone is phobic about snakes, spiders, insects or any other animals that you may see on your hike. You may actually be able to help them face their fears if you show them how to correctly handle the animals. At the very least, provide appropriate reassurances as to the group’s safety.

Church: Sin, addiction, fear, etc will always thwart moving forward with a vision. Creating an environment where you can put everything on the table is important. As hinderances come up you will be more prepared to address them.

8. During the tour, ask questions, don’t talk at people. Engage them by pointing out a few things and then let them take it from there. Be open to questions.

Church: Engage people and hearts. Lead by example and as a servant. Don’t dictate.

9. Collect your walk items. Ensure that all your other carry items are with you, such as demonstration props, and essentials such as First Aid, maps, two-way radio, water, snacks, etc. When it’s time to set off on the walk – either lead the way or point the way where appropriate.

Church: Be prepared and well planned. The same God that can change anything with a word also honors those who plan and are good stewards of His work

10. Give presentations where appropriate during the walk. When you make your stop to wait for the group to catch up, adjust your position so that you are positioned in the middle of the group. With you at the middle of the group, the whole group has a better chance of hearing your talk and seeing any activity.

Church: Use every opportunity to preach Jesus. In the same way Jesus entered our story we have entered His and taking time to remind people along the way is important.

11. Be aware that there will always be stragglers. If you’re leading without others, take a head count and silently add up the numbers at regular intervals. If you’re lucky enough to be a leader with a few sweepers, use the sweepers to check if everyone has arrived at a stop. One of the sweepers can always be elected to return to base if needed, without disrupting the whole group. If you have a very large group that feels unwieldy in terms of managing, it might be better to break this large group into smaller groups, making sure to keep people with their family/friend groupings.

Church: Press forward and take care of those who drift. Make sure not to let one persons problems monopolize or deter the group from the vision and instead equip people to care and mentor them.

12. Prefer frequent shorter stops over longer, less frequent stops. When you have a group of mixed fitness, interest levels, and stamina, it is best to make stops short and frequent, so as to maintain the group’s attention.

Church: Short rests are fine. Burn out ends vision. Avoid long breaks because it breed complacency and makes people selfish and give up on the vision

13. Children are amazingly observant – and they usually are more interested in animals than plants and other non-moving things, so if they’re along, focus on their interests too!

Church: Jesus said let the children come to me and we are to have the heart and faith of a child. We need to watch them and listen to them along the way because they see and feel things in ways we never will.

14. Allow time for photo-taking. Depending on the length of the walk, drink and refreshment breaks will also need to be considered. Find clean, dry, sturdy logs, mossy or grass patches, etc. to sit on for a rest where needed.

Church: Take time to breathe. Go out with your wife. Play and enjoy life. Take a rest and get away from the noise. Getting burned out kills vision and drive

15. When the tour is completed, ask people what their favorite part was and note that for your next field outing.

Church: When tasks are done; when vision is complete; when God brings visions and victories… talk about them; document them; take pictures so you can learn and always have a reminder of God’s faithfulness

16. Finish with a stirring message that recaps the experience. Ensure that it includes conservation messages that draw on what the group has seen, so that their experience informs them about the future opportunities for stewardship that they might be able to participate in directly too.

Church: With every journey make sure to lead people in a way that teaches that each “hike” is a trip towards the larger vision of caring for people and leading them to Christ.

The Shack is EVIL!

November 19, 2008 — 23 Comments

Have you heard of the book, The Shack? If you haven’t then please come out form under that rock.

I while back I wanted to see what all of the talk about it was so I bought the book, devoured it, and then reviewed it on the blog. I loved it.

Then I started to see all of the negative attention on the net. Mark Driscoll, who I love, describes the book as heretical and that it promotes modalism. Of course there are tons more online who preach against the book as well calling it evil and a non biblical representation of the trinity.

This past weekend my church did a mens retreat with another church form maine. We gave everybody in the groups a copy of the book, let them know it was fiction, it was not theology and more like a parable. They were told to read it and we would discuss it on the retreat.

I bet from the guys who claim it’s evil they would be screaming right now

“Noooooo. you are going to be teaching your men wrong doctrine….”

Well most read it and tore through the book and then God tore through them.

In our discussions we instructed our men to not get hung up on the theology because it is more an allegory and not a theological book. They were to see if they felt like some of the story was their own.

I was floored with what happened.

Did our guys change their minds theologically?

Did our men think  God was a big black woman?

Did they hink the Holy spirit was an asian woman?

No…No….and No….

So what did happen?

Freedom from anger

Freedom from past

freedom from Father issues

bigger view of God

An understanding that God cares.

Our men came face to face with a God that loves them and every one of them, one way or another, walked away understanding that God is bigger than they thought.

Is the Shack Evil? I don’t really care actually, but I am really glad that a simple story made God more real to some hurting and angry men.

Sanity in the church

September 25, 2007 — 9 Comments

A book I read recently “The dangerous act of worship” made an interesting statement.

“Have a sane assessment of your abilities”

This made me think. Think about pride and doing too much. Think about how many people in ministry arent so good at delegating and people keep piling more on their plate. Funny thing is…If we had a more sane assessment of our abilities maybe more would get done in the kingdom.

Thoughts?