Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Grace, Love & Bunny Hills

A few days ago I took a group of all ages from our church on a “Family Ski Day” a few hours drive from home. I love to ski, but living in Illinois has only offered me opportunities nearby, and probably only about once every other year. Still, I look forward to it every chance I get – and dream of someday going down an actual long ski run. I don’t enjoy the “Black Diamond” hills as much as a long, side-to-side, “Blue Square”.

This trip was different, however, as I brought our oldest daughter along. I secretly hoped she’d be a prodigy so we could enjoy a bit of skiing on the biggest slopes the valley of Andalusia, IL could offer. I took a quick video of her first attempt on a bunny hill so I could capture & share the memory.img_0397

Fast forward 6 hours later – she was still bubbling over with delight as she cruised down the bunny hill, using her ski poles to increase speed on the way down. She loved it. There was a small part of me that wanted to see her experience a larger hill – for her own sake – but also so that we could share that experience together. But her cup of excitement was filled and flowing with joy as her eyes communicated that she was thrilled to be skiing down the hill and riding the “magic carpet” back up, over and over again. She granted me permission, more than once, to go enjoy some more extreme skiing for a bit. I took her up on that offer a few times, and each time returned expecting her to tell me she was growing weary and wanted a larger, steeper hill. Instead, I could see her smile still beaming from a football field away. She was in the zone and loving every bit of it. I’d gently ask her if she wanted to try something a little different, and explore a larger hill. “No thanks, dad! I’m loving this.”

I smiled, loving her. As her father, I wanted so much more for her – and knew someday she may enjoy cruising the larger slopes. But also as her father, I loved watching her gain confidence and grow in excitement over her abilities here – where things were a bit easier to stay in control.

There are moments in scripture where I hear the same kind of love Jesus has for his disciples. He came as God in flesh, to reveal a way of loving and living never before seen in humanity. He gathered a small group of followers and began taking them down the bunny hills of revealing God’s Love. They were thrilled.

He began pointing to some of the larger slopes, and inviting them to adventure…and they took a few tumbles. Peter asks Jesus how this new approach to forgiveness works in Matthew 18:21, and you can imagine Jesus nudging him along on new ground. The disciples begin to rebuke people who were bringing children to him, and Jesus reminds them to keep their knees bent, and body relaxed (ski talk for a grace-full approach) in Luke 19:14.

There’s a bit more exasperation in his love during other moments. Times like the disciples freaking out about the storm in Mark 4:38, or Peter using his sword in Matthew 26:51-52. You can imagine Jesus patiently wanting so much more for his followers, even as he understood they were limited and still maturing in their faith.  The smile coming over his face, as he closed his eyes to imagine the ways God’s Love was yet to be revealed by His followers in the years and millennia to come. Then perhaps a bit of sadness in the corner of one eye, as he understood humanity would also continue to stumble on such large slopes.

There is a moment, in Luke 24:36, where Jesus comes back to the bunny hill to check on his followers. He waits a bit, hearing their conversation and smiling to hear their excitement as they share stories of his resurrection. This group of random men – fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, all brought together and united by the stirring of God’s Love. He knew they were being prepared for so much more…and they would invite others into the mission as well. He finally spoke up, “Peace be with you.”
They couldn’t imagine the places He’d just returned from and were stunned to see his scars. But as he began to talk to them in those final moments, they realized the grand picture of what he’d always been inviting them to join. They were no doubt overwhelmed by the love of this Savior who’d spent so much time on the bunny hills with them. They believed His promise that a power was coming that would enable them to Love & Live as He had.

May we be newly aware of such grace and love, and see how the Spirit might guide us to reveal His Love in ways we never imagined on the bunny hills…

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)

Reminder: Check out the adventure of faith our family is launching out into!

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my brother, Phil.

There’s been quite a buzz lately on the words spoken by “Duck Dynasty” star, Phil Robertson.  In a recent interview by GQ you can read here (warning, offensive content by both Phil AND the writer….I didn’t realize reporters used so many curse words….but anyway…), Robertson obviously said some things not realizing the stir they’d cause once published.  Perhaps he didn’t even realize they would be published, as he spoke candidly in ways A&E won’t allow him to.  This entire occasion has brought many things to the surface, if we’re willing to confess & repent (as Phil himself calls us to)…here’s just one:Phil Robertson in his sophomore year (1966-1967) as quarterback

1. Manifestations of Christianity aren’t always as loving as Jesus.  When our focus is on “getting souls saved”, and Jesus becoming the magic pill that society needs to swallow to make everything better…..we end up saying and doing hurtful things.  This is an adventure in missing the point.  A reason this often happens is found in Robertsons interview, toward the end.  He asks his GQ interviewer if he and his family are “Bible people”.  This response is, “Not really, I’m sorry to say.”

Phil’s response is, “If you simply put your faith in Jesus coming down in flesh, through a human being, God becoming flesh living on the earth, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead—yours and mine and everybody else’s problems will be solved. And the next time we see you, we will say: ‘You are now a brother. Our brother.’ So then we look at you totally different then.

What’s interesting here is how we interpret that final sentence.  In scripture, we see the same thing in Jesus…when someone becomes a follower, it changes our relationship to them…but quite different than our approach today.  You see, Jesus lavished huge amounts of love on people right away.  Nothing was required to earn his affection, and nothing could purchase the grace He offered.  The tax collectors.  The prostitutes.  The Roman soldiers.  But when you became a follower…then He looked at you totally different.  The teachers of the law.  The disciples.  You were expected to follow.  Your life was to begin bearing the fruit of someone being transformed by the Love of God.   Before you followed Jesus?  Love.  After you follow Jesus? Accountability to a life transformed by that Love.

But not so with Phil and much of Christianity today.  It’s like we want people to give thumbs up to Jesus before we can “really” love them.  But I guess this is where I, as Phil’s brother, should call him out.  I doubt he’ll read this….but just in case:

Hey Phil,

I’ll start out by confessing, I’m not perfect.  I’ve messed up a thousand times.   Thankfully, there was never a reporter or television camera around.  I’ve turned away from those choices, and toward all that God invites us to.  I live as part of a community seeking Christ, and am kept accountable to my words and actions.

Recently, you’ve said some things that were hurtful to a lot of people that Jesus loves. I know you didn’t intend to hurt anyone.  The truth is, we need to be careful when and how we speak on certain topics.  There are confused and lonely people out there who you’ve just accused of being one step away from beastiality.  There are people still wrestling with the impact of racism, whose long & transforming struggle you’ve just reduced.   Accusing people for being everything that’s wrong with our society is not a good path for helping them feel how loved they are by God.  Looking at years of racial segregation, slavery and hatred and saying “It wasn’t that bad.” is not a great path for showing God’s love to those who’ve endured suffering.

James 3:9-10 reminds us both, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

From hearing your words, I know that you know…when we mess up, we repent.  That means turning away from what was, and toward God.  I pray that God can bring redemption to what has happened.  Already it’s obvious, evil would love to see this transformed into something that injurs not only your witness, but the entire body of Christ.  But in the midst of it all, as with anything in life – when offered to God, it can bring beautiful experiences of God’s Kingdom.  I look forward to how all of this…can be offered to all things being made New.

Your brother,

Wick <><

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(just in case you missed the discussion on Facebook)

Sara: I think this is great. I think the biggest frustration in christianity is that we overlook people who are really actually hurt and struggling to forward our cause. that does WAY more harm that good to actual people, and to whatever cause we’re trying to forward!

Stori : Great letter! Thanks for sharing!

Randi : So good I love your blog

Steve : There aren’t going to be enough buses in the world for Christians to throw this Robertson guy under. They’ll probably crash notalllikethat.org like an Obamacare website.

Matt : This was fantastic! Thanks for writing this and sharing it! “Before you followed Jesus? Love. After you follow Jesus? Accountability to a life transformed by that Love.”

Molly : Thanks for not bring a jerk. Lots of people who also call themselves Christians can’t wait to be nasty and the blogs I’ve read make me just as sad as his interview. You’re approach is loving and not condemning. Like the world needs us to be.

Rod : So you are saying Jesus never called out sin? I think you are wrong here. Although I don’t agree with everything Phil said, he was pointing out sin, something Jesus did on occasion. When Jesus did see sin, he showed love. I think Phil tried to show love, but wasn’t allowed to (like I said I didn’t agree with some of the words he used). I am surprised how Christians continue to support Main Stream views and not support Christian views. I think Phil did the best he as a human could do. No where did he say he hated people. He just pointed out sin. Too bad more Christians don’t stand up for the bible (hopefully in a more loving way).

Oleta : I understand what you are saying but Phil began a dialogue that needed to be brought forth. What you said also needs to be said from a very public platform. Write to Mr Robertson ,and I think you will find a humble Christian who will take correction and do something about it publicly.

Matt : Phil’s statement released today after the fact should have been his first response. It was more clearly thought out and it was certainly more loving and Christ-like than what he originally said. Here’s his statement: “I myself am a product of the ’60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Chadwick: Thanks Matt. I’d just seen that also. May God continue to transform Phil and each of us into New Creations as we Love in a way that brings/proclaims the Righteousness of God. Rod – I don’t think we disagree on much here. Oleta – glad God can use this to bring about a healing conversation…praying those happen more often than the opposite from it.

Tyler: Not gonna lie Chadwick, from your letter it feels like you didn’t even read the entire interview. I see nothing wrong with the way the interview went…other than the interviewers language. I agree with Phil and believe he did Christians proud in how he handled the interview. Christians need to stop tip toeing around the issues.

Michael: How as a pastor can you Biblically back not pointing out sin? The way the interview is reported has been totally twisted. That’s what’s wrong with the church today we are afraid to stand on biblical principles for fear of offending someone. Jesus offended the mainstream throughout his entire ministry by preaching the truth, his truth. Phil merely stated that homosexuality along with bestiality, promiscuity, drunkenness, swindling….. Are all sinful. The church needs people to stand and not sit back fearing political correction, we’re to further Gods kingdom and point people to Christ and that includes pointing out sin that is in very nature the opposite of Christ. Any attempt to downplay it is simply not biblical. Of course people are offended, sin engulfs and twists and this political correctness by the church is only an excuse to continue in sin.

Ward: I think Phil is a true believer, but not a theologian. He was sharing off the cuff & he is a straight shooter. I still think he has been treated poorly. If you are brave enough to speak the truth about the sin of homosexuality you will be censored. It will get much worse yet unless we stand up for the truth of the Word of God.

Rod: Chad – We do disagree here. I believe Christians should stand on the bible with love. Jesus pointed out sin but did so with love. I don’t agree with everything Phil said, but agree when he refereed to scriptures to point out the sin. It seems in your blog you disagree with Phil on this as you wrote….. But not so with Phil and much of Christianity today. It’s like we want people to give thumbs up to Jesus before we can “really” love them. But I guess this is where I, as Phil’s brother, should call him out. I doubt he’ll read this….but just in case:
The truth is, we need to be careful when and how we speak on certain topics. There are confused and lonely people out there who you’ve just accused of being one step away from beastiality.

Rod: Chad – Phil wasn’t asking anyone to give a thumbs up to Jesus, he just pointed out sin. He didn’t say he hated people so your comment regarding “love” is way off base. You can’t mix the 2 here, if so you are saying Jesus never pointed out sin in love.

Chadwick: Tyler & Michael & Ward- not worried if he “did Christians proud”…our concern is how Jesus would respond. His vulgar comparison of how desirable a vagina/anus are (reducing loving relationships to sexual acts…which offends me even as a man in a heterosexual marriage), how “logical” a decision heterosexuality is (implying anyone who chooses otherwise is obviously illogical), quickly connecting homosexuality to beastiality, claiming blacks were happy/content before civil rights, etc…did not take into account the individual lives and struggles of those he was talking about. I’ve read the entire interview, and realize he was speaking candidly – not as a religious leader. Conversations like this probably shouldn’t become summaries of all we do or think.

I agree with my brother Phil regarding the scriptures he quoted. Scriptures meant to convey God’s Love just as much as to bring that Love to life in our lives being transformed. Phil has clarified….he didn’t mean to show disrespect. He encourages us all to love God, and love each other. Let those be the words we remember from him in all of this.

Chadwick: Eek. Sorry all…this is probably why I didn’t want to step out into the madness. But I did. I think my main beef was…many Christians seem to be responding as if all Phil said was “I think homosexuality is a sin.”  He said quite a bit more than that…on more topics.  Rod – I agree….he never came out and said he hated anyone. So I suppose my letter to him is less an accusation of hate, and more a reminder to live more from the love Phil has already confirmed has always been there. A love each of us can do well to live from….even when pointing out in our brothers and sisters (and ourselves) where we’re allowing anything other than Christ and the ways of His Kingdom to reign in our lives.

Michael: There’s more to Christianity than love though brother, there’s right and wrong, biblical truth and sin, heaven and hell. I agree you love everyone but that love ultimately encompasses pointing out sin. Following Christ is love but out of this we we are to love as Christ did.Homosexuality like bestiality is a sexual sin on par with all sexual sin and sin in general, no greater or lesser. If you think that’s not the future of sexual sin your mistaken. History shows that sexual sin is rampant and in many forms as with all sin. Its the issue for this generation and being called to evangelical ministry needs to be addressed point blank. We all need Jesus and the church needs to support everyone in Christ, voicing belief is not bigotry its merely disagreement and the church is in a period of trial and truly needs revival. Jesus would’ve loved them agreed but he would have taught them as well and that’s where a Christians we need to stand pointing out all sin that separates from God.
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Whew. If you read all of that….I’m sorry. I’ve closed comments on this post, and stopped responding on my FB. Hopefully my voice is heard in the midst of it all. I meant to call a brother to more clearly reflect God’s love, even when calling out the sin in our world. Now I’m gonna go eat Christmas cookies.

different kids.

“He’s part of the smart and popular group.”  I heard a 5th grader describe his friend this past week.  Holy Smokes.  I don’t remember thinking about “popularity” in elementary school, although I’m sure it was there somewhere.  I remember coming to school and getting incredibly good at the art of twisting my hair so that it stood up without using any gel.  Throw a cape on my back, because I was super.

I remember some mornings, waiting out by the road for the bus to pick us up.  We’d easily get bored, and want to do something more fun.  I remember putting frogs in the mailbox for our postal worker to be surprised by.  (She wasn’t happy when she found baked frogs in the mailbox.  Ooops. Hot fall days.)  I remember playing Ninja Turtles. (I preferred Michaelangelo.)  I remember squatting down, pulling my coat down over my knees, while hobbling along the road trying to scare the cars driving by into thinking I was some sort of troll.  (Probably not the safest thing I’ve ever done along a highway.)

Looking back on who I was growing up, I think is part of the reason I was totally okay when we began our homeschooling journey.  Sure, a lot of homeschool kids can grow up a bit weird.  But look at me…public school kids can grow up pretty odd themselves.  My kids are certainly going to be unique in this world, scripture pretty much demands it.  But their uniqueness is not about simply wearing the moniker “Different”.  It’s so much bigger than that.

In fact, it’s too big to fit into an awesome sentence that I can make into bold text, and you can quote me on in some place that gets more internet traffic.  I want my kids to live authentic lives of experiencing all that God has created them for.  I fiveironfrenzypray over them daily that they would be filled with so much love, the world will be changed.  I believe it’s possible with all that I am (and the even more that I am not), and parent them that way.  Whether they go on to become missionaries in foreign lands, moms who raise the next generation to know the love of God, or a female-fronted version of Five Iron Frenzy.  In fact, if they could go on to become a female version of Five Iron Frenzy, at least for a little while, I’d be pretty excited.  One thing is for sure – they will be unique.  I pray they are unique even in the face of consumer-driven Christianity.  That they would ask questions, and push the envelope for how God’s Love can be shown, and how the Holiness of God can be lived.

So for now, we’ll continue to build the foundations of a life lived uniquely toward responding to God.  We aim to exercise those spiritual muscles on a regular basis.  To invite our children to respond to God with us on a regular basis.  To train them to listen to His voice.  To point out where some things in our world are broken, or don’t make sense.  To help their first reflex and knee-jerk reaction to be Love for God & others.  And above all of that, because we cannot guarantee what path they’ll take…..we pray.  God, use our family to make things different, as you are Different.  Amen.

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