Tag Archives: love

Learning Leadership From Horses…?

Craig & Demo2Demo was one of the seven horses we would take out on our ride that day. None of the horses, mind you, were your standard “trail ride” horses that just follow nose to tail while your butt gets sore for an hour. A mustang caught from the wild in Utah, Demo was different. Head strong, independent and a leader in the herd, Demo used to be called Demolition Man – you can figure out why. And I was about to ride him!

But before I could ride him, Craig (our host at Shiloh Ranch – a ministry to ministry families) needed to bring him in. But Demo wasn’t about to let a lead rope be put around his neck and head. He wasn’t about to submit to Craig. Craig wasn’t the leader, wasn’t in charge – Demo was. It took some time for Craig to get Demo separated from the rest of the horses into the smaller corral.

And there I saw a lesson for how God leads us.

Craig would get Demo moving in one direction around the corral by applying pressure. He did this by pointing, using his voice and waving the rope. He never hit Demo, didn’t abuse Demo and never became aggressive with Demo. After he would make several loops in one direction, applying pressure Craig would steer him in the opposite direction. Craig would do this with Demo several times and then he would suddenly stop and lower the rope, his arm and his face so he wasn’t looking at Demo at all.

He waited.

And when Demo didn’t respond, the whole exercise took place again. Sometimes the rhythm was different. The amount of time spent in one direction over another would change. And when it wasn’t expected, Craig would stop – and wait – until Demo moved.

Toward Craig.

Not immediately taking control by slipping the lead rope around the horses neck and head, Craig did something that made me curious. He wrapped his arms around Demo’s neck, nuzzled his cheek against the horse and gently loved on the beautiful mustang. Only then did Craig slip Demo’s lead rope on.

In those ten minutes I saw in Craig and Demo how God has time and time again been at work in my life.

Directing Demo in the corral was consistently done with deep respect for Demo: looking at him the right way, keep a proper distance, using his voice gently and firmly and never frightening or demeaning the horse. And then, when Craig would stop and lower his head, it was an invitation for Demo to draw near. And, when he was ready, he did.

God will often, with amazing love and respect, direct our lives by his Voice, with his hand or with circumstances. But God never forces himself upon us. And, when it is time, God invites us, again, to draw close to him – toward intimacy and purpose.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Mt 11:28-30

I wonder how God is inviting you to draw near to him today? And for what purpose?

Demo’s purpose that day was to give me a ride through some of the most beautiful countryside. And we had fun!


To the woman who had an abortion… and to the church

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I was sitting at lunch yesterday, on the first day of a retreat, when my friend Nate told me Twitter was blowing up over Planned Parenthood. I didn’t think about it much at the time.

Then last night I began reading the stories. I had a lot of feelings: Anger, disappointment, disgust… Then Messenger buzzed.

It was a young mom I know really well.

She’s a great mom. And I will never forget the incredible courage it took for her to share with me that she had had an abortion, the circumstances surrounding it and the shame-filled self loathing guilt she felt everyday:

Would she ever stop grieving? Could Jesus ever really love her? Forgive her? Could she ever forgive herself? Would I think differently of her and push her away? Would the church?

That was several years ago. And in a moment it seems like all the healing, discipleship and faith building has been undone.

She had gone to a Planned Parenthood clinic to have the abortion performed.

Every angry post on Facebook, every Tweet of disgust, each news article are experienced as deep cuts of a knife to her soul. They remind her to keep believing the lies she has been working so hard with God to overcome.

She wants to hide in her shame, disconnect from others & God and not be known. Like the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, she “knows” she is unloveable, unforgivable, and undesirable. 

She isn’t alone. I know several women who constantly battle with the ongoing shame of their abortions. I also know there are many more who suffer in their shame in silence. That is what shame does, after all.

To every woman who suffers in this shame, even more so in the wake of Planned Parenthood, I want to hold both of your hands gently in mine and look you in the eye:

You are created in the image of God. You are beautiful. Jesus loves you. In fact, Jesus couldn’t possibly love you more than he does right now. His grace is yours and I offer you mine. I do not condem or judge you. I want to know and love you, the real you – in the midst of the mess.

And others want to as well. You don’t always have to hide. You have something incredible to offer all of us – your self. I know it feels impossible, but reach out. Find someone safe to reach out to. Tell your story to someone who will listen and love. Be reminded of the incredible gift you are. 

I know it’s risky and scares you to pieces; but you don’t have to walk alone.

Church – may we remember that our anger and outrage often has the unintended consequences of pushing others away from Christ’s love and grace rather than inviting them toward it. If you know someone struggling in all this, would you share this with them? Remind them you love them?


Church – Gay Marriage Isn’t The Problem!

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Love is.

John 3:16 is one of the most powerful passages in Scripture; and quite possibly, one of the most misunderstood.  For several decades it adorned the bellies of large, shirtless men in the end zones of football stadiums.  It became a placard and we allowed it to become trite.

But today, Church, it is really important for us to get its meaning.  The depth of its meaning. The largeness of it.

In the midst of a culture and time that did not receive Jesus for who he fully was, Nicodemus, a teacher of the law, snuck under the cover of darkness to chat with this rebellious, strange and yet powerful teacher.  It is in the context of Jesus being radically counter-cultural to his time, that he says these words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Let’s repeat the first phrase and then add another passage to it.  For God so LOVED the WORLD…  The whole world – everybody who lived and everybody who would live.  The whole world.  God loves the world so much that he did this while we were yet enemies toward him – Romans 5:10!  

Church, when we didn’t know God nor like God, God sacrificially became a servant (Philippians 2) and even died on our behalf.  God didn’t yell at the world.  He didn’t yell at us.  He didn’t organize a petition or pass out signs.  He didn’t even ask the Roman government to change. 

Church, we used to enjoy the privilege of living in a world that looked mostly like us most of the time.  But that time is gone.  We can grieve that loss much the way Jesus grieved over Jerusalem in Luke 19. We can grieve, yes.

But we must also love.  Church, will we be enough like Jesus to love like him?  Will we love a world where we are no longer dominant? Will we love a world where we no longer fit in? Will we love a world so radically that we sacrificially give ourselves the way Jesus did?

Or will we keep living for ourselves…?

Today, more than ever, Church, we are being invited to step up and demonstrate deep, sacrificial love in such a way that we reflect the glory of God (Hebrews 12).

Thoughts?


We’re Asking The Wrong Questions

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I will confess that on Friday, June 26, when the Supreme Court issued a decision constitutionally securing the right for same-sex marriage in all 50 states, I wasn’t sure how I felt. I’m still not sure all that I am feeling.  To be honest it is taking some time to sort through it all.

And not because of same-sex marriage.  And yet, because of it…  🙂

The reason there is this place in me that feels uncertain is this:  We still don’t know how to dialogue. And because we don’t know how to dialogue, we are asking the wrong kinds of questions and making polarizing statements. On both sides.

Social media was flooded, of course. Both heralding the SCOTUS decision and condemning it, everybody was taking sides, it seemed.  And, I think that is part of the problem – the taking of sides. But it’s what we do when we are anxious.  And even the LGBT community and supporters were anxious, even if it was in a highly celebratory way.

And so most of us asked the same question in two different ways – as if life is a coin and there are only two sides.  Version one of the question is something like this, “Do you support the SCOTUS decision? Will you perform a same-sex marriage?”  Version two of the question is something like this, “Do you support a Biblical understanding of marriage? You wouldn’t do a same-sex marriage would you?

Said differently, they are the same question, “Are you on my side? Do you agree with me?”  

I believe the questions we are asking are designed to put people into a box (for or against), on a volatile issue, outside of the context of relationship.  They are the wrong questions because they create enmity not dialog. They force us into agree/disagree thinking and talking resulting in I like you / I don’t like you behavior. They keep us stuck in a way of dealing with a part of our reality that has been in place for decades and clearly hasn’t worked.

Jesus describes a way of being in Matthew 5:43-48 where we engage in actively loving those we are in conflict with that requires personal connection, face to face interaction, where we develop a genuine love for the others in our lives.  And because we really love the person in front of us, we want to listen.  We want to really hear what she has to say. We want to understand his thinking and values.

But!  Some will say that the most loving thing we can do is sometimes tell someone they are wrong.  And, that’s true.  Imagine with me, though, that because of my love for my children, all I ever did was tell them what I thought they shouldn’t do in order to keep them safe.  Everyday, from birth til they leave the nest, all they hear is what they shouldn’t do.  No genuine “I love you’s.” No listening deeply to their frustrations or pains.  No just walking alongside them through life.  Jus day after day tell them what I think they shouldn’t do…  I wonder if when they leave the home they would say they felt deeply loved…?

What if both gays and those who aren’t in favor of a homosexual lifestyle, were to begin to have a different conversation.  What if we moved away from throwing one-liners over the wall at a nameless third person stereotype and began to develop deep meaningful relationships with one another.

I wonder if we would treat each other differently?  

I wonder if the world might see Jesus more clearly?

I wonder if we would begin practicing the wholeness we can have in Christ?

Can we have a different conversation with different questions?


Racism, Let’s Stop Playing The Victim

Charleston Church

I got this photo from a friend of mine who lives in Charleston, S.C. It was taken the morning of June 18 – the morning after the shooting

Yesterday morning I woke up and went through my usual routine.  When I got to perusing the news, my heart sank.  There was a ball in my stomach and I felt sick. Wednesday night there was a mass murder of 9 individuals attending a Bible Study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.  And while we don’t have all of the details yet, it seems this was a hate crime born out of racism.

Throughout the course of the day yesterday I was part of, and an observer of, several conversations about the shooting in Charleston.  Most of the conversations were with white church going believers.  Many of them hold significant leadership positions of various kinds.  These are good people whom I love and admire!  But there was a theme – no, a story, being told throughout the conversations that was very troubling to me.  The story being told can be summed up in one sentence:

It isn’t really a racism problem, it is a sin problem. Can we call that what it is?  Please?

Yes, racism and hate is a sin.  Scripture records for us the first hate crime in Genesis 4 with Cain and Abel.  Romans 3:23 reinforces for us that when sin entered into the world that ALL OF US have sin, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Racism is sin.  Hatred is sin.

But!

Passing off a racially motivated murder of 9 individuals, or even 1 individual, as a sin problem is a story we tell ourselves so we can assume the role of helpless victims.  Not victims to racism.  Not victims to hatred.  But we play the roles of victims to sin.

This is where we helplessly throw our hands up in the air saying “it’s a sin issue” as if there is nothing we can do about it.  When we gloss over egregious evil in our world by labeling it a sin issue, we allow ourselves to become helpless and habitually disobedient to the teachings of Jesus.  

Let me say that all differently.  We do life as if we are obligated to live with racism in our world because there is sin in the world.  If we obligate ourselves to living with racism, with sin, then we enslave ourselves to racism, its existence, and let it control us as we play the helpless victim.

But!

Paul tells us we do have an obligation in Romans 8, but not to sin.  In Romans 8:12 we read this, “we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.”  Paul tells us that our minds, when controlled by the Spirit of God, are life and peace.  This is not helpless victimization to sin; it is quite the opposite. In Romans 12:2 Paul tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

We partner with the work of the Spirit in this renewal process.  It is hard work.  it is the working out of our salvation.

Racism is sin.  Sin is a problem.  But racism is not just a sin problem we can’t do something about.  We can learn to boldly love.  We can proactively develop relationships with others who are different than ourselves.  We can stop teaching our children to hate or to be passive.  We can stand up to injustice, even in its smallest forms, when it creeps into our communities, neighborhoods, and even our churches.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, we heirs of God, co-heirs with Jesus himself.  We do not need to play the victim to sin. We do not need to put up with racism.


Really?!?

Justine decided several of the children should ride the bus with us

Justine decided several of the children should ride the bus with us

Really! It was always said as a statement, never as a question.  There would always be a certain musical playfulness to her sarcasm as she spoke with a British influenced Ugandan English.

It didn’t take long and this young lady of 23 was feeling very comfortable with the dozen “mzungus” under her care.   Laughter, joy, depth, passion and love filled the conversations and time we spent together.  And, at the end of our stay, some “leaking” as well.  You know what leaking is, right?  It’s when water leaks out of your eyes…  🙂  We would all learn a lot from Justine; and Justine would also learn a lot from us:  

About Love.

When the 12 of us showed up at the Katuba Care Point, it was clear Justine was the person in charge.  It was also immediately clear that she loved the children at the care point – a lot.  And very quickly, it seemed, Justine developed a great love for the 12 of us – and I think that caught her by surprise.

Abandoned by her father so early in life she never knew him, Justine told herself a story that he had died and that’s why he wasn’t around.  When she was only 11 Justine’s mom died leaving her and her sister to beg neighbors for food.

But God’s love wouldn’t leave Justine and her sister on the streets and they became sponsored through Compassion International where Justine was clothed, fed, cared for and discipled into a relationship with Jesus.  It was a hard life with lots of pain and heartache.

But Jesus was faithful to his words in John 6:39 that he will “lose none” that the Father would give him!

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Justine & Michelle… Btw, Justine likes fried ants, but Michelle can’t get them down 🙂

Justine, would eventually graduate from college with a degree in social work, get connected to a ministry called Reach One Touch One Ministries through which she was called into Children’s Hope Chest and the Katuba Care Point.  (Ok, so that was a couple of decades of life summarized in a few paragraphs!)

With some pretty deep wounds and a low level of trust for others – especially men – Justine began the difficult work of establishing a discipling care point in the village of Katuba for 118 children being sponsored by people she didn’t know.  And she fell in love with the children.  Raising up volunteers from the village, recruiting a cook, working with teachers and care takers, creating a discipling process and managing all the day to day details – Justine has sacrificially created a vital ministry in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

And mzungus from Haven Church.

I learned what sacrificial love looks like by watching Justine and hearing her story.  I saw how she cared for each child.  I also saw how each of the children knew, with confidence, that even if nobody else did, Justine loved them.  It also became clear early on, that Justine loved the 12 of us.  Just as deeply as she loved the kids.  And I think that happened by day 2!

Even though the people who were supposed to love and care for Justine left her early on, while we were in Uganda with her, Justine discovered it might be okay to love and trust a group of people who would also have to leave.  She experienced the deep joy that comes in risking it all in relationships.

The night before we left, Justine had a letter for us she knew she couldn’t read, so she gave it to Nanette to read (one of us). Nanette “leaks” with a good tv commercial, so she passed it, and her reading glasses, to me to struggle through.  In her letter Justine shared her heart with us, what she saw in, and learned from, each one of us.

Because God is redeeming the broken places in Justine’s life, she is one of the brightest, smartest, funniest and gifted leaders I know.

In the book of Philemon, Paul talks about being a spiritual father to Onesimus.  Because of God’s grace, I get to be a spiritual father to Justine.


When Love Comes To Town…

katuba hands

Love comes to town, I’m gonna jump that train
When love comes to town, I’m gonna catch that flame

This is one of my favorite pictures I took while in Uganda.  It’s an expression of love.  In Uganda it is not uncommon for men to hold hands with other men or for women to hold hands with other women.  It says something loudly, boldly.  There’s nothing sexual about it, but it is a proclamation.

Without any words at all, while walking along at the care point, a little hand reached in and entertwined fingers with mine. I looked down.  He looked up.  We didn’t say a word but just kept walking. Together.  Hand in hand.  When Noah took my hand he was saying something.  He was telling me he wanted to be WITH me, that BEING together was important.  We didn’t have to do anything.  We walked and held hands.

In Uganda I learned that touch and presence are important.  That just being with is more than doing for.

Jesus commands us to love one another.  He prayed that we would be one.  In fact, Jesus sums up ALL of the law and the prophets with these words in Matthew 22:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s pretty easy to love Noah.  Look at him. Right. That’s a face that just screams “squeeze me!”  Katuba noahThose are eyes that let him get away with all kinds of mischief.  He has a heart that is tender and precious.  It’s easy to love Noah.

It isn’t always easy to love our neighbor.  Our neighbor isn’t always cute.  Our neighbor isn’t always who we choose to be friends with. Our neighbor isn’t always gentle and kind. But then, neither are we.

And yet, there is the clarion call of the Gospel.  Love your neighbor.  Who will you love with your presence?  Who will you go out of your way to just be with?  Who will you love – just because?

Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners.  And in his process of discipleship, Jesus taught the twelve, and us, that we are to be friends – with people like us and people not like us.

Will you catch that train with me?