Tag Archives: relationships

Breaking the Silence (part 3): Domestic Violence

Domestic ViolenceThis is the final part of my three part series called Breaking the Silence. It was an emotional set of sermons, each dealing with important topics that have too often been ignored in the Church. I am in the process of creating brochures to go along with these three sermons, so that others can get the facts and help loosen the stigma that so often keeps people from getting the help they need.

For domestic violence, there seems to be an important Biblical understanding that needs to be addressed and reshaped. The nature of marriage and divorce has often been used to keep people, especially women, in abusive relationships. The sermon below goes into more detail, but it should be said that the Biblical understanding of a marriage is that it is between two people who are in a covenant relationship to be mutually submissive. When some cherry-pick Scripture to read “wives submit to their husbands,” they often leave out the surrounding paragraphs which are inevitably about love and kindness. The Bible describes relationships built on mutuality, not hierarchy. Secondly, a divorce does not end a marriage. Violence ends a marriage. A divorce may be the legal ending of a marriage, but a covenant relationship of love, respect, and mutual submission is broken not with a signed document, but with spiritual, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. There are other ways that a marriage may end, but in regards to this issue, too many women have been trapped inside a destructive relationship in the name of “saving a marriage.”

If you are in an abusive relationship, I implore you, save yourself. The marriage is already destroyed. Call the police and get out, then call the Pastor to seek healing.

Breaking the Silence Series

Mental Health: Silent No More

Suicide: Nothing Separates

Domestic Violence: Call Police, Not Pastor

 

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40 Notes in 40 Days, 2.0

Read my blog about taking up ashes to begin Lent. “I Give Up.”
40 Notes in 40 Days, 2.0

Last year I introduced this idea for Lent. It was a powerful experience for many who tried it. The point of this exercise is not to get overwhelmed by another thing on your to-do list. The idea is start thinking about relationships. Think about real, past, new, old, strong, strained relationships. As you write your notes, if something cool, unexpected, fun, or funny happens, let me know. Tweet it out using #40Notes40Days.

Read my blog about taking up ashes to begin Lent. “I Give Up.”

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March 5, 2014 · 12:17 am

You were made in the image of God, part 2 of our trip to East Saint Louis

Part 1 of our trip to East Saint Louis “Bullets on the Tennis Court”

It is a lesson I have taught dozens of times.  I guess you could say it is one of my “go-to lessons.”  In my estimation, it is a pretty important lesson to teach.  You were made in the image of God.  It is a foundational lesson in the Bible, and the repercussions of understanding it are far-reaching.

On the first day with kids at the Mary Brown Center, we started by getting in a circle.  Sitting at halfcourt of the gym, there were about 12 kids from the center, and 9 of the youth we brought from Moline.  We played an ice-breaker game before I told them a story.

“In the beginning was darkness and chaos.  There was no order, no light, no substance.  Then God spoke, ‘Let there be light.’  And there was light.  And God saw that it was good.  Then God separated the sky and the world, giving shape to the Earth.  And God saw that it was good,”  I was encouraged by the attention I had.

“Then God made the oceans and the dry land. And God saw that it was good.  Then God set the stars, the moon, and the sun in the sky, and everything was ready for life to begin, and God saw that it was good.  Then God filled the sky with birds, and the seas with fish, and filled the earth with animals of every kind.  And all of it was what?”

“Good,” they said.

“Yet God wasn’t done.  It was all there, everything was ready, but something was still missing.  So now I’ll read directly from the Bible: ‘God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the animals of the earth.” So God created humankind in God’s image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.'”

As I read these words, I was able to look at the children sitting around me.  I repeated, “In the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them.”  I was a little surprised at just how rapt they were at this point.  I didn’t need to call their attention to me.  I didn’t have to tell anyone to sit still.  So I went on.

“All of God’s creating work culminated in this act.  God created humanity as the ultimate expression of God’s love and creative work.  God made man and woman, and what did God call them?”

“Good,” they replied in unison.

“Indeed, the Bible says that God called them ‘very good.’  God is still creating.  God created every man and woman in God’s image.  That means that you were created in the image of God.  I was created in the image of God.  You, and you, and you…”  I looked directly into the eyes of the children and youth as I said this, “You were created in the image of God.”

“So what does that mean?”  I asked.  “It means that you should be treated as God’s special creation, who God called ‘good.’  God called you good, so don’t let anyone ever tell you anything different.  And it means more,” I said.  “It means that everyone you meet was also created in the image of God.  Your friends, your Mom, strangers, even people you don’t like.  They were created in the image of God too, and God called them good.  So it is important to treat others for who they are.”

It is a story I have told so many times.  It is always a powerful story to tell, but this time I felt like it was something more.  It is easy to tell a group people that they were created in the image of God when everyone in the group looks alike.  But we sat in this circle and our differences were obvious.  Different races.  Different ages.  Different social classes.  Different home towns.  Everything about us was different.  Yet at the same time there was nothing different.

As we went about the week, we learned more and more just how true this was.  We discovered undeniable truths about the people that God has created.  We love to create.  We love to dance.  We love to play.  We want to feel safe.  We enjoy making friends and connecting to others.

The mission of the trip was simple.  We wanted to share something that we love with new people.  We wanted to share the music, art, and learning that we love with children.  In accomplishing our mission, we did so much more.  We created friendships.  We built connections across all the obvious divides, and called upon something even more obvious, but somehow less well-known.

In so doing, we learned perhaps the most important lesson of the creation stories.  We were made, above all, for relationship.  We were built to be in relationship with God, and with each other.  We were created so that we could create.  We can create art, music, laughter, friendship.  We can create light in the midst of darkness.  We can create order in the midst of chaos.

We were created in the image of God who is a Creator, and who is still Creating.  My prayer is that the relationships we built were built to last, and that none of the kids we met ever forget who and whose they are.

Part 3 – Not goodbye, see you later

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40 Notes in 40 Days

40notes40days2014Rethink Church has come up with a great Lenten discipline focusing on taking pictures of different themes.  It looks like a great spiritual discipline, and I’m looking forward to seeing the creativity that gets shared in Pinterest and other sites.  A week ago, I decided that one of my Lenten disciplines would be to write 40 notes to people in 40 days.  Inspired by Rethink Church’s effort, I created my own list.  Below is a list of 40 different people to write a note to.

There are no real rules to this idea.  This is just a way to write a note to 40 different people, and pray for them in the process.  I’ll leave the content of the note up to you.  Only share what you feel comfortable sharing with others.  For example, you don’t have to tell someone that you’re writing them a note to fill in their “might be fearful” slot, and you don’t have to offer forgiveness to the person on March 27.  Any note could be as simple as saying, “During the course of my prayers today, you came to mind.  I hope you are doing well.”

And if any readers feel compelled to take this idea, and create a better-looking picture to share, I wouldn’t mind (just please send it to me before you share it).

If you try it, and want to share experiences on twitter, use #40Notes40Days or #FatPastor.  Also, you can go to the facebook page and share on the wall.

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Thank you to two readers who took the idea, and redesigned it for me. I think either of these look a lot nicer than the one I created a couple of years ago.

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Journey to Hope: Relationships

Week One of the Journey to Hope is about relationships.  Here is a seven minute discussion about the connection between friendship and hope.  The hosts of the program talk to a mother of an autistic boy.  She talks about how shattered she was when she first heard the news, and how relationships gave her strength.  Brian, one  of the hosts, Brian, said:

“Sometimes we don’t have the words.  Sometimes we don’t know what to do, but we can just be. And just sit, and perhaps hold someone’s hand and walk with them.  It’s not always about doing or saying something.  That bond can be transformational.”

I’m immediately reminded of Job’s friends.  There are times when I hear about a friend’s problem, and I feel like I need to rush in to solve the problem.  I often have to remind myself that a friend might not be looking for solutions.  It’s easy to offer answers.  It takes time, commitment and compassion to offer myself.  Friendship – true friendship – isn’t an easy endeavor, but it is so worth it.

When I start to think of the friends in my life, I can easily become choked with emotion. I think about people with whom I’ve shared a moment in time:

High school friends with whom I shared a television show, a “secret club,” a perfect night on the roof of The Odyssey, parties at Weed’s (not weed parties), and one great victory over the BBC.  I think of fraternity brothers with whom I shared a few beers, a few all-nighters, a few meetings of the TNC, a couple of trips to Virginia, and more than a few long, heart-felt talks.

I can think of the faces that have come in and out of my life and thank God for the moments that we shared.  I can think of teammates, classmates, and colleagues that populate my memories.  Even if we aren’t in contact anymore, I am so grateful to the people that have been the in the movie of my life.

And then I think of the co-stars.  The ones that have done more than shape me.  They are the ones that have formed me.  So much of my hope comes from my friends.

My friends have loved me through difficult times.  They have (as my Dad often says) “Multiplied my joy and divided my sorrow.”  We’ve been together trough the valley of the shadow of death, and we have celebrated the greatest joys.  There’s nothing like calling  a friend with good news, or lightening my load with a quick phone call that turns into an hour-long conversation.

I love my friends, and I probably don’t tell them that enough.  But then again, they probably know.  To my friends, thank you.  Thank you for being a source of hope, for showing me what it is like to walk with God.  Thank you for offering me forgiveness when I don’t deserve it, and helping me when I could never pay you back.  Thank you for revealing the love of Christ in your smile, your listening, your tears, and your embrace.  Thank you, above all, for reminding me that I am never alone in this world.

When I think of hope, I think of my friends.  And Jesus did to.

“‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.'” (John 15:9-13, NRSV)

It was to his friends that he entrusted his life.  He was abandoned, denied, and betrayed, but his faith in his friends held fast.  He knew that it would be his friends that carried out his mission in the world.  Jesus wrote nothing save for what he wrote on the hearts of his friends.  His friends would become the Church.  All that claim Christ as their friend today do so because Jesus trusted his friends so long ago.  For this we may all be grateful, for we are all offered the love that Jesus described – the love that is so strong that he would lay down his life.

The Journey to Hope: The Beginning

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