With the Father close at hand

20150418_094814 This picture is me and Liam. Liam is my 3 year old son.
Liam is holding 2 things in this picture:

  1.      My hand, and
  2.      his sword.

As you might imagine, the sword is one of his favorite toys.   I cannot tell you how many times he has, using his sword, saved his sister, his mother, and I from certain doom.  I imagine he has probably saved the world several times, too.

I’ll tell him you said thank you.

On this particular morning, he really wanted to hold the sword and play with the sword.

He also really, really wanted to hold my hand.

Which made me wonder:

how could a boy feel any safer than to have his sword in one hand and his father’s hand in the other.

I know Liam won’t always want to hold my hand. But I hope he will always feel that my love for him protects him, looks out for him.

Especially when he feels like he needs his sword to face the world.

I can imagine that God would like our relationship with our creator to be very much this same way.  I believe this offers us a helpful perspective on what Jesus meant when he called God “Father.”

We may all get to a point in our lives when we are past the hand-holding.  But I pray the strength and courage that flows through that hand-holding may stay with us.

Especially when we feel like we need  a sword to face the world.

With the Father close at hand

Rights v Right makes wrong

Having the right to do something does not necessarily make doing it the right thing to do.

Case in point: Jacyln Pfieffer was allegedly fired from her position as a teacher at Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center. Further, she was allegedly fired because it was learned that she was living in a lesbian relationship.

The discussions about this that I’ve seen, and been part of, on social media, tend to end up with people on either of two sides of this polarity

  1. The ECLC was within its rights as a religious organization to fire someone engaged in conduct they believe to be immoral; and
  2. Ms. Pfieffer was a victim of discrimination.

I am not taking sides on that polarity.

Knowing a little about Church-State matters, I expect the ECLC, related to its host Church, may well be perfectly within their rights to have fired her.

Even if they were within their rights as a religious organization, though, I think they blew it. They failed.  They did not represent Jesus well.

This is stronger language than I usually use on this blog, but this is serious business.

Whatever your position on sexuality and orientation and same-sex marriage, if you are a Christian, I assume you would agree that we (Christians) represent Christ, and therefore God.

I think you would also have to agree with this: whether we approve of someone else’s behavior/orientation/lifestyle/fill-in-your-preferred-term-here,we are commanded to love them. All of them; friends, enemies, strangers, etc.

Christians do not get to choose whom to love and whom not to.

But we do, according to the law, receive some leeway according to our religion, in choosing whom to employ and whom not to.

I believe that choice is far better made before hiring than after.

So, even if you fully support Aloma Methodist ECLC’s decision, you must agree that they would have represented Christ better had they been open upfront and refused to hire Ms. Pfeiffer in the first place than to fire her.

I don’t know where the law places the burden of proof. Should Ms. Pfieffer have self-identified as lesbian in the hiring process?

How self-disclosing are you when you apply for a job?

No; from my perspective – and it would be very, very hard to sway me on this – it is on the church-affiliated organization to be very, very clear during the hiring process what their moral expectations of employees are.

If Aloma Methodist ECLC presents itself as representing the God we know in and through Jesus, they owe it to the world around them, the culture in which they serve, to love the other. If this means anything, it at least means treating them with respect.

Simply put: I’m pretty sure that if Jesus wouldn’t allow a lesbian to work for him, he wouldn’t have hired her in the first place.

Go, thou, and do likewise.

Rights v Right makes wrong

Good Friday

O Love divine, what has thou done!
The immortal God hath died for me!
The Father’s coeternal Son bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th’ immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Is crucified for me and you,
to bring us rebels back to God.
Believe, believe the record true,
ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood.
Pardon for all flows from his side:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Behold him, all ye that pass by,
the bleeding Prince of life and peace!
Come, sinners, see your Savior die,
and say, “Was ever grief like his?”
Come, feel with me his blood applied:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

                    -Charles Wesley

Good Friday

How could anyone…?!

How could you…?

How could anyone…?

One of my earliest recollections of this was early in my first year of college hearing someone say, “How could anyone grow up sane if they have to move a bunch of times as a child?”

This friend had grown up (all her life) in the same small town.  12 of the 16 in her high school graduating class, if I remember correctly, she had also started kindergarten with.

My response, a military brat who had moved at least ever 4 years, had wondered the opposite.

I have wondered the same thing: “how could anyone _____?”

I bet you have, too.

But this is another of those times that, if we are honest, we must recognize we don’t know the full story of the other person.

Just like no one else knows your full story.

At our best, we remember that we don’t know the other person’s story.  Then, still at our best, we acknowledge there may be good reason for whatever it is about them or their behavior we cannot imagine.

And if not a good reason, at least a reason we had not thought of.

Please don’t feel the need to hone your skills to learn every possible reason someone might do something differently or be something different from you.

Just let them be who they are.  Learn more (than you already know) about who they are.  Listen to their story.

You might still not understand them or what they do, but by the time you’ve listened to their story, you’ll likely be too tired to judge them.

How could anyone…?!

Too much excess?

I like to think I am a “make your point and move on” kind of guy.  I tire of repetition. Especially when I feel like it is repetition for repetition’s sake.

But this one thing bears repeating.

During this season of Lent, we are looking at excess and what to do about it.  We believe that we live in a culture of excess – voices around us, and in us, tell us we should want more, we should have more, we need more.
Jesus, on the other hand, calls us in the opposite direction.  Jesus recognized that stuff – money, food, clothing, power, media, friends, etc., cannot satisfy.  Only God and a relationship with God can satisfy the deep longing of our souls.
Yet, as much as we talk about excess and our mutiny against it, we are not being judgmental.  Let me repeat that: we are NOT judging you or your excess or other people in their excess.
We are not even judging ourselves in our own excess.
Our intent, during this season of Lent, is to open ourselves to God’s presence and God’s leading. Judging can be off-putting and conversation-ending.  We want to start the conversation or continue it.  We want to admit to ourselves and one another that excess challenges us and that following Jesus means getting all excess out of the way.
If all of it is too much for you right now, feel free to start with a little.
Too much excess?

A Little Stress, Anyone?

For Lent, I’ve been preaching a series based on Jan Hatmaker’s book 7. We’ll finish this Sunday.

Stress is the final topic.

Got stress?

I’ve had some this week. Maybe I’ll tell you about next week.

I think it will make for a good sermon this Sunday. If you don’t have a church home and live in the DFW area, visit Euless First United Methodist Church this Sunday and we will make it worth your while.

If you live elsewhere, or just can’t make it this Sunday, check out our webpage Monday or after where you can find and download the sermon.

But you would rather be there Sunday. Our choir is worth the trip.

A Little Stress, Anyone?