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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Sleeping Beauty...

I wrote this for my wife a while back..I just remembered it and wanted to remind myself of these thoughts today. She is my vineyard...

Sleeping Beauty

I looked inside your eyes today
And way beyond the blue,
A sleeping beauty rested there,
radiant like the dew.

Enchanted by an ageless spell
Your glory lies there still,
Waiting for the kiss of love
To break the curse’s chill.

It takes a strong affection
To wake you from your slumber,
For years I’ve kept it to myself
And left your heart to wonder.

I see you lying cold inside
Waiting to be seen,
Wanting to be rescued by
The knight inside your dreams.

The shining armor that you see
Stands between our hearts,
Trapping me inside this steel
Trembling in the dark.

I want to come and rescue you
To free you with my love,
To give the kiss that sets you free
And whispers, “You’re enough.”

On the surface I look just like
The hero that you need,
But underneath I’m hiding too,
Wanting to be freed.

Freed to say what’s on my heart
Instead of shutting down,
Freed to offer you the kiss
That lets you see your crown.

For far too long I’ve let you hide
Your beauty sleeps inside,
But as your knight I’ve come to fight
To bring you back to life.

I love you, babe.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The God of the Orgasm (please read on...)

This past weekend we launched into a new series: "The Vineyard". It's a delicate treatment of the laws of attraction, the vibes between the sexes, the institution and the unfortunate institutionalization of marriage, the delicacies of sex, the longings of the feminine heart and the masculine heart, and the undeniable and unmistakable distance that lies between where we are and the Vineyard of Eden.

I do quite a bit of preaching within the cycle of an average year. 40 weeks of teaching three services each weekend, retreats, conferences, training groups, college classes, chapels, etc. . . . and without a doubt the most captive audience is the one who is listening to any and all thoughts on the intriguing and fatiguing mystery of romance between the sexes. You can cut the atmosphere with a knife. You can hear a pin drop. You can see wincing faces. Longing eyes. Hurting hearts. Pursed lips mimicking your words when you're speaking a cultural belief like "Beauty is skin deep" or the addendum that my dad used piggyback on that little limerick, "...but ugly goes clear to the bone." (Hahaha)

They are poised, fixated, transfixed. It matters very little what you say, anything that comes out of your mouth is like water on the parched lips of a thirsty beggar. This was the first weekend in a long time that I didn't see one person slipping into a deep sleep while I was pontificating. People were all ears. Teens were all ears. The elderly were all ears...that's right...the elderly!

Even menopause is no match for the power of romance. You can take the uterus out of woman, but you cannot surgically remove her heart that pines for romance. You can struggle with E.D. and yet simultaneously be obsessed with being desired by a woman or desiring a woman. No one is immune . . . romance is no respecter of persons. It will chase you. It will find you. You can run, but you cannot hide. People know this. Even when they don't acknowledge it, they still know it. I could see it written all over everyone's faces this last weekend.

They are starving for God's thoughts on sex, gender, romance, attraction, and marriage. They love to hear the verses that are replete throughout the Scriptures that emphasize God's passionate and, shall I say, graphic feelings about this reverent issue of sexuality. It's sad that most people feel like any commentary or dialogue on this topic is irreverent and inappropriate. It's like we think God blushes like a 6 year old when the topic of sex comes up. But he created it, he created us.

He created an orgasm. It feels even weird to write that down to be read out loud because there's something inside of me that feels like that word came post-fall. Like there's something sinful about it or something. But he was the one who hard wired us to have those euphoric little experiences. He delicately placed the veins close to the skin and created the nerve endings to function just so. He is the one who, humorously in my opinion, created us with an insatiable desire for each other's most disgusting body parts. The very parts of our bodies that excrete waste are the same ones that we long for. I would have loved to be in the Holy Trinity on that day of creation . . .

The Father - "I want to make man in our image."
The Son - "I've got an idea."
The Father - "What's that?"
The Son - "Let's make two sexes who are attracted to each other."
The Father - "I like it."
The Son - "Let's call it sex and gives them both hormones that rage and course through their veins to make it almost irresistible."
The Father - "Ok, and you're thinking this is how they will multiply themselves?"
The Son - "For will be beautiful."
The Spirit - "That sounds really cool, but I have an idea that could really be funny that they will never doubt that someone created them."
The Son - "What's that?"
The Spirit - "What if we created them to be attracted to the most unattractive parts of each other? Like what if they knew intellectually that it was absurd, but physiologically it didn't matter? That would be a trip!"
The Father - "Oh, that's brilliant! It's like leaving behind a calling card. They will know that there's a God if for no other reason than how unreasonable the world of sex is!"
The Son - "bwahahahaha! This is gonna be sweet."
The Spirit - "Just think about it...the places where urine, feces, milk, and bad breath originate will be unexplainably irresistible."
The Father - "Let's do it. Let's stack hands and on the count of three say "Sex" . . . "One", "Two", "Three" . . . "SEX!"

Can't you just imagine the sacred fellowship of hearts called the Trinity just belly-laughing with the shot-gun giggles of a group of toddlers in the nursery? I can. It's absurd. It's brilliant. It's deep. It's disturbing. It's mysterious.

Mystery. Yeah, that's it. That's why people can't get enough of this subject matter. That's why as I looked at people's faces this weekend I saw an almost otherworldly fascination in their eyes. There are few things we as human beings are more interested in that the enigma of romance. We hate it because it has eluded us. We love it because it has enveloped us. Either way, we can't stop thinking about it. It is an inescapable longing of the human heart.

I look forward to the next 5 weeks as we take away the "fig leaf" that has covered the naked reality of this issue for too long. "Naked and unashamed" . . . that is what our hearts are longing for again. And unfortunately, the church for too long has been "Clothed and ashamed" as it relates to sexuality.

May God speak into our longings...

Friday, January 15, 2010

make believing and believing...

I just got back from an early morning Daddy/Daughter Date with Kami and Aly. It was so pure and true that I'm honestly reeling from the experience.

My favorite part of this excursion was sitting on the same side of the table in a booth eating our hash browns, sausage links, hot cakes, bacon, and Sprite. That's right, Sprite! They didn't want orange juice. ("Don't tell Mom." That's what they kept saying as they asked the waitress for seconds.) I ordered the usual. A double portion of Corned Beef Hash. Oh, how I love that dish!

But I digress.

Back to sitting in a booth all of us on the same side of the table. My arms were draped over their little frames like towels hanging on bedposts. They would lean into my side digging in their shoulders as if to burrow a hole in my ribs. It was kinda ticklish if I'm being honest.

Every now and again I would peer up and the whole diner would be watching us. I tried to make like I didn't notice, but they would smile after my daughters would saying something funny and smirk when I would jest with them about something feminine. It was apparent that they were having a voyeuristic heyday. We talked about everything from Haiti to Hair. Monkey Bars to "Beer Bars" (that's what they call them).

Our times together move like the current of a river, swift and smooth. There is an effortless vein of conversation that is primarily driven by them. Aly asked me today how I'm doing with my New Year's Resolutions. Nothing like some solid accountability from your 8 yr. old. We talked about boys, dancing, American Idol, and why dads sometimes do silly things that are a mix between embarrassing and endearing. Kami put it this way: "My dad's really weird, but deep down inside he's a really good guy." I could smell what she was steppin' in, if you catch my drift.

One subject that came up was how tough it was to carry on a relationship with God when you can't see Him. I didn't have the most clean-cut feedback on that one, since that continues to be a struggle even for me at age 35. There are days when I can hardly stand this "imaginary friend" sensation and I'm about done with the feeling of "talking to myself" when I'm praying. Sometimes I think they're more o.k. with faith than I am being that they're comfortable with pretending still. But that's just the thing that makes me want to initiate this conversation with them. I don't want them to carry a "pretend" sense into their faith as they mature. Just because they are comfortable with "playing house", I don't want them to get comfortable "playing church" or "playing God". That line is a fine one and sometimes you're not even sure when or how you crossed it, but you did, and it's evident in the jaded and jilted affections of your heart. I'm sure I won't be able to prevent the mixture of the two along the way, I just want them to know that they can talk to me about it.

Taylor asked not too long ago, "Dad, is God real?" I know what she was asking. "Dad, I know that you say He's real, but I don't ever see him. I don't even mind making believe with you, Dad, if it makes life feel better, but I just need to know, are we dealing with a straw man here or the real deal?" I think that's what I'm trying to bridge--the difference between make-believing and believing. Fantasy and Eternity. Fiction and non-fiction as Aly describes it.

Even thought Cinderella isn't real, they still are fine with make-believing and derive continued enjoyment in her fictitious existence. I think they would be similarly O.K. (right now) with me telling them that God is like the Wizard of Oz. They would keep going to church, praying before meals and talking about Him "as if" he played a central role in our family. Because the veil between pretend and pure is somewhere between thin and non-existent currently. This is the beauty of innocence mixed with ignorance. It's blissful.

But just because they are O.K. with God being nothing more than another Disney character, doesn't mean I'm O.K. with it. I want to initiate a wrestling match with these characters that they are blending together like mixed wine...a "celebrity death match" of sorts. I want them to know that God is, in fact, true myth as C.S. Lewis describes it. It seems mythical and mystical, but it is true, and true indeed. "To good to be true, and yet still true."

Kami is much more comfortable with these conversations at age 10, but Aly is warming up to their importance as well. I just can't shake the remembrance of feeling on so many occasions when I was growing up that I was lost in a "dream world" of Christianity all the while "normal" people were humoring me like a deranged lunatic in a psych ward. "Oh, of course your talking to God, Jason. Now come over here and take your meds." Hallucination, Delusion, and Faith are eerily similar at times. I can see in my daughters eyes and hear in my daughters tone of voice at times the huge question mark they nurse as to reality of the unseen world. I'm trippin' to not address it with them.

I don't know if I'm doing everything right...scratch that...let me start that paragraph over. I know I'm not doing everything right, but I hope I'm opening a door to the room of questions instead of hanging a sign on it that says, "off limits". I want them to know I'm comfortable with their dark questions and that we can, together, wrestle with our wonderments without feeling like we're cheating on God.

I sat there scrunched on the same side of the table with my little diamonds thinking to myself, "Self, you are a lucky son of a gun. You best be lapping this up. Their hearts are soft and time is short. Make the most of it."

So I did.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Someone knows my heart...

I cannot tell you how aligned these words are with my current musings. This is why I love writing and writers. I find a collusion of community that speaks for me, a man who can often not speak for himself all that well. For all the words I use and the metaphors I employ, this piece of writing strikes at the roots of my dark and damp thoughts. I'm grateful that someone took the time to fight for expression so that I could pull up fireside to the warmth of their thoughts. Thank you, Dietrich. I'm wondering if anyone else out there resonates with these questions.


Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

Freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune

Equally, smilingly, proudly,

Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

Tossing in expectation of great events,

Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 4,1946

Monday, January 04, 2010

Who's relevant to who?

I heard a phrase this last week that always used to seem so honorary to me. "Our church tries to make God relevant to the world in which we live." On the surface, this doesn't ruffle any feathers. I can completely understand the sentiment of the statement. And yet--at the risk of arguing semantics--there is something so heretical about uttering something so backwards.

In order for someone to make this sort of assertion, they must believe that God is, in fact, irrelevant, in and of Himself, and needs our help in the P.R. Department. It is the subtle belief that God--left to his own devices--will never amount to much. He's treated like aging elder in a nursing home. We know they are alive, but they don't have a life. We talk to them loudly with pre-school language. We pity them, humor them, and bear with them. We treat them as if they are out of touch with reality. They don't understand what's going on in the world. They take sponge baths and need hospice assistance to do the most rudimentary hygienic tasks. They rock back and forth all day staring at the wall until someone musters up the courage and compassion to visit them in their detached reality. In our minds, they don't relate. We have to work hard, unfortunately, as a culture to make their lives seem worthwhile. This is sad to me.

But I feel like we talk about God with a similar set of paradigms. We speak about the Bible and the Life of God as if He needs hospice and we respond with the equivalent of bedside manners. We treat him like he needs our face-lifting and spin-doctoring. We work feverishly in ministry to try to translate the Scriptures in a way that "makes sense" to people in the "real world". It's easy for me to take great joy in explaining God to someone and then have them say, "I never understood that until you brought the cookies down to the bottom shelf". It does sometimes seem that God does, to borrow the expression, have his head "in the clouds" since he's "up in heaven" and we are "down here on earth"...and needs some "competent human" to make him palatable for the confused masses.

But I wonder if the opposite is true. What if the main reason for the churches decline lies in our lack of relevancy to God? What would it look like to live a life that made sense to God? I work hard to make God "seem" real to people, as if he's not real. I say things like, "Talk to God 'as if' He was a real person." or "Live like He's right there with you." In saying this I'm essentially saying, "He's not real and He's not here." And then I work hard to make it look "as if" he is. I get creative with metaphors, word pictures, practical applications, marketing strategies, and branding methods. It gets me wondering, "What if the real problem with the church is our relevancy to God?" What if I worked harder try to make people seem real to God? I wonder if we are the one's who've lost touch with reality and in an effort to explain how life has turned out, we've misdiagnosed the cause by blaming it on God's relevancy to our reality instead of the other way around.

What if we've become irrelevant to God? What if the church has been deceived into believing the problem lies with God and our assignment as Christians is to set him straight by saying things like, "I know sometimes he seems awkward, but deep down he's a really good person." I'm not sure he needs our apologetic excuses. In fact, I'm sure he doesn't.

The life of God is, in fact, reality. It is "the real world". It is the relevant life. It is only as our lives become irrelevant to him that our Christianity becomes irrelevant to the world. We must bear witness to Him "as He is"--that is more than sufficient to take ones breath away. He needs no cosmetics. He needs no embellishment. If we would focus on seeing him...and singing what we see, saying what we see, I wonder if that would cause the attraction that we are slaving to manufacture. I wonder if He could draw people all by himself to himself. I speak of course of the unadulterated, unsullied, completely captivating God of all gods. Could he be enough? Would he be just fine without our makeup? Would he blow our minds as our lives became relevant to his reality?

I wonder how many things I've just plain got backwards about my relationship with God?