Whatever you do don’t do this…

Of course it happened, I knew it would, I’ve actually come to expect it.

My wife lost her job this week, this is the 3rd job that she has lost in the last year and a half. It’s horrible especially for her because of how it makes her feel about herself, but her losing her job isn’t the thing that I have come to expect to happen. No, it’s what always comes after, what always comes after any kind of crisis.

“Just remember to be strong.:

“Cheer up, God has a great plan for your life.”

“when God closes a door he opens a window”

“You should be thankful for what you DO have”

“You’re strong you can get through anything”

“God will never give you something you can’t handle”

Whoa…..

WHOA…..

Wait……… STOP!!!!!!!!!

Just STOP a second

We all have well meaning friends who, when they hear about something horrible happening in our lives, a lost job, a death, cancer, bills we can’t get paid, they begin spouting these little rays of sunshine at us.

It’s like advice but it’s not really advice… they’re meant to be encouraging but they leave you feeling anything but courageous.

If we’re really honest we’ve all probably said some of these things ourselves to others.

The intention are always good don’t get me wrong… But seriously, some of these sayings are just downright horrible, and false.

When I decided I wanted to write this post after seeing countless people say one or more of these cliches to my wife and myself I asked some of my Facebook friends to share some of the worst they’ve heard. The list is a sampling of some of the responses I got. I mean where do we begin?

“Just remember to be stong”, “You’re strong you can get through anything.” How bout we start with these? I mean in many cases this ight be technically correct, I know my wife is certainly strong she has weathered a lot through her years on earth but she is also discouraged. She has lost 3 jobs in a row in less than 2 years. Maybe reminding someone of their strength when they are hurting isn’t the best way to go about supporting someone.

“When God closes a door he opens a window.” What does this even mean? If a door is closed I’m supposed to find a window to crawl through? Perhaps I am not even supposed to visit that house. Sometimes horrible things happen and there are no open doors, open windows, heck there isn’t even a place to hide while tragedy bears down on you.

“God has a plan for your life.” While this is true, God has a plan for all of our lives when we state this we forget the free radical agent of sin and brokenness. Was it God’s plan for my brother to die all alone in a field? Was it God’s plan for one of my Facebook friends not be able to make her rent? Is it Gods plan for me to eat too much when stress gets the better of me? Now I believe that God will redeem all of the horrible things that happen but it’s just bad theology to say that it was all a part of God’s plan. It certainly doesn’t make anyone FEEL better. “I know you have lung cancer but don’t worry it’s all part of God’s plan.” “Well great, thanks for that God. Glad to know you love me so much as to afflict me with a horrible wasting disease.” It’s just wrong, stop saying it.

“God will never give you something you can’t handle”. I don’t even know where to start with this one. First of all IT’S NOT TRUE!! It’s not ion The Bible, go ahead go look I’ll wait here.

Can’t find it? That’s because it’s not there! The verse that you think says this is speaking about temptation. It’s 1 Corinthians 10:13   No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

That’s not about trials, it’s not about getting sick or losing your house or having someone you love die or losing your job it’s about resisting temptation. Every time I hear someone say this garbage I want to smack them upside the head with Young’s ANalytical Concordance..

So if all of these are horrible things to say how can we react to bad news?

Well for starters, don’t say anything. Listen. Hear(or read) everything the person has to say. Digest it, think about it, put yourself in their shoes.

If you do speak just start by telling the person that you’ve heard them, that you’re there for them. Be honest about your feelings, tell them that what they are going through sucks. Tell them you wish it would not happen.

you can try to get them talking more, ask open ended questions, clarify what they are feeling. “It sounds like you’re pretty overwhelmed” A few questions like this will help you to get to the root of the issue. ‘

Most importantly though pray. Pray with them but if they don’t want to pray than pray for them. The best thing that we can don for anyone who is in crisis mode is to bring them before God in prayer.

You’ll mess this up, we all will, but having a few tools in place can help you really be there for the people you love who are hurting. Mostly they want to know they’re not alone. Anyone can give them that assurance.

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Things that have changed.

I have been a dedicated Christian for 3 years now. It has not always been easy and I’ve fought a few things but I can easily say I’ve been on this road for three straight years and couldn’t be happier about it. If you are a Christian for any amount of time there is a lot of discussion about character that takes place. It’s been one of those things that I haven’t really understood mostly because there is so much emphasis on our effort to change in many Christian circles. What must I do and not do in order to be counted as a Christian. Sadly this totally misses the mark of grace and the power of the cross. Character is important and it’s a discussion we need to have but it need not be about our own effort to change but rather how we’ve changed regardless of our effort as we have drawn nearer to God. I’d like to illustrate this by sharing some of the areas I’ve noticed changes in my life without really trying to change.

  •  I am much slower to anger: I’ve always had a notoriously bad temper especially when things aren’t going my way. I have been known to curse people out in my car when they cut me off, laying on the horn. I’ve kicked and thrown a few trash cans in my day and I’ve broken things. Not things I am proud of but a part of my brokenness. I’ve noticed, without really trying that I am a lot more patient. I’m more patient with other drivers, with general situations in life and most surprisingly I am more patient with myself.
  • Going out to have fun is much less important to me. I loved going to shows, going to karaoke, hanging out at bars and having a good time. I am not opposed to these things but it’s much more common to find me hanging out at home watching a movie with my wife or hanging with friends in their homes. I still get out to sing some but the definition of what a good time is has drastically changed recently.
  • I’m someone who can enjoy a beer, I’ve been known to advertise that face quite a bit. I’ve also been known to post pictures of me drinking a beer or some whiskey but as I’ve grown close to Christ I’ve also become aware of my influence to people I care about. I’ve got a few friends who can’t drink and I have no desire to become a stumbling block to them so I don’t talk about my drinking like I used to.
  • The way that I watch movies and TV and even listen to music has changed. I still enjoy lots of different types of entertainment but I am more apt to think about what I consume. Shows like Family Guy which I used to find really amusing don’t do anything for me anymore. It’s not that I feel like I can’t watch certain things or even that I shouldn’t but I;ve just lost the taste for crude humor.

All of these things which have changed without me working on them. They aren’t areas that I feel like if I didn’t change them I would be in trouble because such thinking again nullifies grace which is free and not earned. The Christian life isn’t about effort it’s about trust. The more I trust Christ the more he renews my character and identity into what it was always supposed to be.

 

What about you? If you are a Christian, what are some area’s that God has transformed you? If you aren’t a Christian what are some area’s that you like to see change but are having trouble?

Misfit?

Ever since I was a kid I had this sense that I wasn’t quite like other people that I knew. The things that drove me weren’t like the things that seemed to drive others, the things that were important to the world weren’t always in line with what I held as valuable. For entirely too long this distinction made me feel less than human, it made me deeply regret who I was and it made me hate what I saw in the mirror.

I believe that a lot of this comes from the fact that I am autistic, and like it or not autism has shaped who I am and how I view the world.

The other day I was watching Mercury Rising which is a fun romp of a movie if you’ve never seen it. That’s not the only reason I like it though, I like it because it has a kid that reminds me a lot of myself. It has a kid who has autism as the focal point of the picture. At one point the Bruce Willis character asks if autism means that “nothing gets in” to which a nurse corrects that in fact “EVERYTHING gets in” and that we(those of us who are autistic) have issues processing all of it.

I would say that Autism is really issues in two key areas, processing and expression. How we process the stimuli that comes in and how we react and express ourselves in reaction to that stimuli. I can remember during my first marriage that in the home we were staying in someone would be listening to an internet radio station at the very same time that someone else was watching a TV that was too loud. All while the two of them were having a conversation and even attempting to have a conversation with me. You can imagine that this would be overwhelming to anyone but to someone like me who has issues processing and expressing myself it was a living hell.

I remember when I had my job at McDonald’s when I was 18. I rarely was put back into the kitchen area for good reason, there were too many tasks for me to do at once. I was never very fast but if you had me doing too many things at once I was useless. I remember trying to accomplish so much during that job and getting so overwhelmed by it all I wanted to do was escape and go outside so I could cry. Being on Fry duty was the absolute worse because I couldn’t keep enough boxes of fries ready to go during a rush.

For these and many other reasons I have always felt like a misfit, someone who doesn’t fit, a square peg, an anomaly. You know when they say that 9 out of 10 people usually do this? Guess who the 10th guy is. I’m the exception, the cast out, the ostracized… you get the picture.

If I have always felt like that in life it’s only natural that that feeling would play out in my faith as well.

3 years ago I became a Christian again. It was a strange thing to happen, I’d never thought I’d ever have faith again even though part of me always wanted it. I found myself trying to figure out just what it was that I believed, how much of cultural Christianity was I going to adopt as mine and how much was I going to dump? Who was it that I was following? I was sure about Jesus but there were other things that I wasn’t so sure about it. Much of what I would consider my faith was in flux, I was wrestling with a lot of ideas and thoughts and beliefs. The only thing I knew was that I wasn’t sure about a lot of stuff so I started searching. Some of what I found and latched onto was in the vein of more liberal progressive Christianity. Idea’s about uncertainty especially with the nature of The Bible and where it came from. I said some things that I regret and I came off as arrogant and hurt some folks along the way but I was searching.

As I drew nearer to Christ I could see some of my worldview shifting. Teachers like Brian Mclaren and even Rob Bell whom I still have great respect for weren’t feeding me like I thought they did in the past. I started to search for deeper and richer idea’s and studied scripture a lot more exclusively. Still though I had a hard time with the hard line of fundamentalism, the ultra right wing sect of Christianity which has hijacked the faith that I love so dearly and turned it into a political war cry around an “us vs them” mentality that I just couldn’t get on board with. So instead of aligning myself with either a progressive slant of Christianity which can’t get Jesus or his resurrection right  or with a right wing fundamentalist mentality who refuses to see that the world they are warring against is the exact same world that Jesus came to redeem I’ve continued to just be on my own. Partnering with whom I can when I can but realizing that no single worldview will have it all correct, not even(and especially not) mine.

The one thing that has remained is that I have no desire to get it all right, I already know that;s impossible. My biggest aim is to know God, to love him and to be loved and enjoyed by him. I find that most of my study as of late whether in the bible itself or by other authors is chasing after that aim. My questions have less to do about what can Christianity do for me, can it solve my issues, can it take away my pain, can it bring me joy? My questions are more about what Christ can do THROUGH me. Perhaps that is why I feel such a strong call into the pastorate, if he would have me. I have a broken heart for hurting people and I wan t for them the same thing that I have discovered. The furious and absolute love of God through Christ. If that makes me a Misfit than I will wear that badge with honor.

 

 

Hellbound? A review and some thoughts

I finally had the chance to sit down and watch Hellbound? Today. I’ve been waiting about 2 years to see this film which began filming in the aftermath of Rob Bell‘s Love Wins book. It’s a movie that delves into some deep theological areas all surrounding around ideas about where we will go after we die. There is a lot to unpack about this film but first things first, if the subject matter is interesting to you you should go and watch it.

The thing that I love best about this movie is it gets rid of the notion that there are black and white answers to any of these questions. There just aren’t. There are answers that are more widely accepted than other ones but those answers suffer the same handicaps as the othger questions. They require a certainty that no on on  earth has. There are scriptures that seem to point to the fact that there is an eternal hell awaiting some of us when we die but there are also scriptures that seem to speak of the salvation of everyone. I think Kevin Miller did a good job of handling the subject matter pretty evenly, there is a slight advantage to the universalist viewpoint but Jerry Walls, Mark Driscoll and Greg Boyd all got quite a bit of screen time and none of them are universalists.

I would have liked to have seen someone like NT Wright interviewed for this thought I am sure he;d be reluctant to participate. He offers a strikingly different viewpoint on this whole matter that I think adds to the complexity of the debate.

Entirely too much screen time was dedicated to Westboro Baptist, I think at this point of time everyone knows what they believe and everyone agrees they are as far from Christianity as one can get. To keep going back to them again and again  really didn’t push the conversation forward.

I also think continuing to include Chad Holtz without any kind of edit or allowing him the opportunity to express his new views on the subject was a bit sloppy. For those that don’t know Chad is a pastor who lost his job after defending Love Wins in a letter to his congregation, he has since changed his view on Hell and has expressed this change publicly. I don’t agree with many of Chad’s current conclusions but his interview should have been removed or he should have had a chance to share his new thoughts.

Overall I am happy with the questions that the film was asking, I am very happy with the sense of uncertainty that the film leaves, these are important questions, not ones to be taken lightly but ultimately they aren’t questions that any one of us can ever know for sure. Perhaps the uncertainty about what happens after we die should lead us to another set of what I think are more important and more pressing questions. What are we going to do with the gospel today? What else might have Jesus been saving us from if not just from hell?

Very little time is spent on the life to come in the bible, most of what we find there has to do with this life, the here and now.  I think it is safe to assume that most of our focus should also be on how we are living this life, not so much where we will spend eternity, but more about how we can serve God and others here.

That is not to say that healthy debate and speculation isn’t good for us but we need to be careful as to how we frame that debate. Humility and respect is of the utmost importance. I’d personally like to see more of that in many of the areas that we discuss. Creation vs evolution, whether or not gifts of the spirit still exist, even the very nature and existence of God. If both sides of any topic would learn to respect the other side I think our conversations could become a lot deeper than they are currently.

I am not at all certain about what happens when we die. I tend to lean towards something that I guess could be called universalism but there is a hefty amount of “I don’t know” in almost all of my theological ideas. This allows me to explore things and keep an open mind about what God is doing and where he is leading me. The Bible is not a black and white book so it does not allow me to have a black and white theology. I am certainly never going to assume that I know for sure the final destination of any individual or even any one group. I think our lives DO matter here as do our choices. I am not one to believe in some get out of jail free card for anyone, including Christians, we will ALL give an account of what we have done here and we will all need to work out our OWN salvation with fear and trembling.

Jesus doesn’t want to get you out of hell, he wants you to pick up your cross and follow him into death. Death to ego, death to self, death to making this life about how much you can get out of it, death to idols of money and toys and sex and power. Those are the things I believe will be burned up in hell and that process will be painful. Many of us are already going through that process right now while we are still living. I have seen things that I thought were important getting burned up right before my very eyes.

I am very glad that Hellbound is around for people to watch and to spark conversations like this. Maybe we’ll find that when we are talking about final destinations we’re missing the whole point of who Jesus was and what he did on the cross. Maybe we’ll understand what it means to follow him. Watch this movie alone and in groups of people and have conversations about it. You’ll be glad you did.

My friend Jason is having an online garage sale

The first thing I would like to tell you is I am not being compensated at all for my post here, I consider Jason Boyett a friend and if I can help him out In will. A few years ago he wrote a book called The Pocket Guide to The Bible. It is a heavily researched book that serves well as an introduction to what the bible is and how it works. I think the best part about the book though is it’s not bland or boring to read, Jason peppers the entire book with insight and humor. I really don’t think there is anything else like it in print.

I met Jason online about 2 and a half year ago when my wife got me one of his books. “O Me of Little Faith” for my Birthday. I loved it, I was so encouraged to find out that there were people out there who were just like me, who loved God but weren’t always sure whether he existed and weren’t afraid to admit that but also they were not afraid to still believe anyway. Not long after I read the book I found him on Facebook and against his better judgement he became my friend and though we’ve never met we’ve been good internet friends ever since.

2 years ago when my friend Sean came down with inoperable cancer which took his life I felt the need to do what I could for his wife and 4 kids so I staged an event to raise funds. Jason wasted no time in offering signed copies of most of his books including a whole book of Pocket Guide to The Bible which we gave away as thank you gifts to people who helped. We also have some that are still left that we give to new members of our church for free.

Jason originally ordered 9,000 copies of Pocket Guide. Most of them have been sold but he has 1400 still left which have been in a storage space for awhile but he lost that space last week and the remaining 1400 copies are sitting in boxes in his garage.

This isn’t the kind of book that is supposed to sit in boxes in a garage, this is the kind of book that needs to be read,

SO for my friend Jason I am asking that you’d consider heading over here and buying some copies of his book. You can get an entire box for only a dollar a book(those come 48 books to a box) If you are feeling really generous you can get an entire box of 75 copies for $70 and there are about 45 individually prices books for $4 each. These books can be useful to give to new believers, non believers or people that just need a thoughtful and entertaining introduction to scripture. Each and every copy will be signed by Jason himself.

We need to get these sold in 2 weeks so please help out in anyway that you can. Thanks guys.