Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Striptease

Although the human path is diverse and varied, all of us intersect at life's mandatory stops: the yearning to be loved, the need to eat, the search for meaning, the desire to have a high school experience like Saved by the Bell and dreams.  We all dream.  And here, at this intersection, many order the same drink.  In other words, there are individual dreams unique to you, then there are those dreams common to millions like falling and the classic naked in public.

 Setting aside nudists, Aborigines and the Amazonian Indians, most sane human beings aren't going to take a stroll through Times Square in their birthday suits.  So why is naked in public such a common fear theme? Because we all fear the shame that comes with being exposed. My uneducated guess is that naked in public has nothing to do with being attire-less, but rather with humiliation, embarrassment, negative attention and being seen without the ability to hide.  We like to wear clothes that conceal those parts of us we don't like--parts others would deem disgusting and that might shock and awe our friends and neighbors.

Naked in public threads its way through the human fabric because, I believe, we all fear being exposed. We don't want our acquaintances, neighbors, friends, families and even those who know us best to see those unlovable and disturbing parts of our hearts and souls. So we cover them up with layers of social clothing. We know if we shed our facade and disrobe, everyone will stare, some will run and others will point their fingers and condemn; and rightly so, because those parts of us are not pretty...not pretty at all.

But sometimes the clothes are too much. Either we get tired of wearing them, or more commonly, those dark parts of our souls break free from the dungeons where we've chained them and we find ourselves bared and naked. That's what I did. I'm guilty and as a result I'm living naked in public. All those parts of me I've tried to hide are now open topics of conversation for both people who know my brand of undies, to those whose extent of knowledge about me are the passing daily exchanges, "How are ya?"
"Fine. You?"

I cannot hide anymore. I cannot pretend anymore; and it's not because I don't want to, but because it's too late. In that very fact is both great freedom and great shame. But here's the truth: when you first stand on stage buck naked, in front of the world, you want to run, hide and wrap yourself in the curtain. But the longer you are out there and the longer you are exposed, the more those stares and jeers become routine. Eventually, being naked becomes the norm.

I'm not there yet, but this blog is dedicated to helping me become comfortable in my new-found nudity. I write here, not because I have something important to say, know something you don't, have impeccable logic or the answers you seek, but because I'm attempting to be honest, to trust in hope, and stand with the Risen Christ.

Perhaps you are somewhere on this spectrum: 1. with a secret in your heart too black to tell, knowing that doing so would lead to being disowned and shunned by all you love, 2. struggling to overcome sin yet feeling incapable of doing so, or 3. perhaps bared and naked!  I don't have answers for you ('cause I need answers).  I don't have 12 steps.  I'm not offering advice ('cause I'm searching for advice of my own).  But, I can relate.  I will listen.  I will accept you.  And most importantly, I will stand with you as we stand alongside the Risen Christ.

If you would like to visit with me, a fellow struggler, shoot my wife an email:  Give her a contact method and I'll get in touch with you.

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ...[nothing] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pouting God

Sin is not and has never been about RULES; it is always about RELATIONSHIP.  God did not gather his heavenly crew around the dinner table over some Swedish Meatballs and Potato Dumplings and say, "Here's what I'm thinking: We make a list of things that I don't like and see if these humanlings can tote the line."  And then when you and I do one of the "no-no's," God gets furious because, "How dare we defy his authority."  So he pouts, "I'm not going to be your friend (God) anymore."  This "rule" understanding of sin creates a works-righteousness Christianity, a legalistic mindset.  It creates a competitive Christianity, a Christianity in which we take pride in our effort!  It removes the focus from God and love of others.

But sin is not about rules; it is about relationship.  When Jesus sums up the law in the prophets he uses relational language, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength.  And, love your neighbor as yourself."  Even The Ten Commandments are poorly translated; they are more accurately translated "The Ten Words."  God hates sin, not because it defies his authority but because it destroys the Shalom of his creation.  Shalom being the harmony, wholeness and health of His creation.
Sin destroys, tears down, and annihilates all relationships: human/human, human/Nature, human/God.  God does not punish us for our sins by sending us out of his presence.  Sin, by its nature, destroys our relationship with God.  I have preached much on sin, but this is not a sermon manuscript.  I'm typing from personal experience.  I have seen first hand how my sin destroys relationships, hurts people, shatters esteem, fosters doubts, abuses the innocent, raises relational barriers, hinders life, breaks hearts... My sin always affects others.  Your sin always affects others.  That is the problem with the world:  6 billion peoples' sin stacked on top of each other - an unsolvable exponential problem.  You get the world in its current state and a God whose heart breaks.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7:24-25

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Long Walks on the Beach and a Long John

She's fat... the kind of fat that makes her think twice before bending down to pick up dropped change.  Clinking change won't cut it. We are not supposed to talk about people being fat.  That's right!  We just say it behind their back.

Her face parallels that of a bulldog where the saggy lip gets hung up on the canine. Dentures would help provide some facial structure.  We would never say it, but if she were prettier we would deduct the social strikes of her obesity.  It's true.

She starts off most days with a couple of cream-filled Long Johns and a DP.  Why wouldn't she?  Food is one of the few consistent things in a world where, for some, life is a dull ache at best.  A Long John is sweet and creamy no matter who hit you last night or what jackpot you happened to land.  The Long John loves you unconditionally, so let her have her Long John.

I wonder if it these Long John moments and others like it that empower her to set her alarm each night.  I mean four kids, one with diabetes (she almost died) and a set of twins with a speech impediment so bad that you would think they were imported from Ukraine.  She is a single mom, a good one.  There is no husband.

But there is a man, one she calls the "Love of Her Life."  Although in reality, he's a bum.  He lets her work hard, back-breaking hard and he reaps all the benefits.  She kicked him out, but she'll call him back because they make each other laugh and his body warms an otherwise cold bed.  There's also the fathers of her kids.  Yes, I said fatherS.   One, the ex-husband turned ex-convict and the other... that's a good question.

When she talks, she would make you embarrassed for the South, the kind of person Good Morning America puts on TV for their random on location disaster site street interviews.  But any other circumstance, any other deck of cards, my life and she would be CEO of a Fortune 500.  She works harder for $12/hour than most millionaires do for their empires.  And The Company will keep her at $12/hour because they can.  They know they can.  And she'll keep working hard because the "Dat-a-girls" she gets for her efforts go down just as easily with a DP as do the cream-filled Long Johns.

Someone needs to grab her by the shoulders, look her straight in the eyes, and say, "You are valuable; you are precious; you are adored by the Maker; you are beautiful; you are strong; you are equal to all others; you are amazing!" Not because they should, not out of pity, not out of guilt, not out of a legalistic pull to be good, BUT because IT IS TRUE.

Bloody Noses and Tear-Jerking Melodies

Have you ever punched EVERYONE you care about right in the face? I did! - right smack on that tender bridge cartilage where it hurts the most.  And those closest to me... I punched them even harder.  Now I'm asking for their forgiveness as I stare in the eyes of their bloody, swollen faces- victims of my fists. I know what it feels like to be crushed by my own weight!  Then my friend offers me this song: 

A woman's voice carries the melody.  She longs to perform, to impress, to offer a sacrifice to God:

"What can I do for you? What can I bring to you?
What kind of song would you have me to sing..."

After a few more verses, she sings God's reply:

"You don't have to DO a thing.  Just simply be with me
and let those things go. 'Cause they can wait another minute..."

It is here, in the truth of these lyrics, where I place my hands on my hips, let my heart rate decelerate, and breathe.  I let these words shoulder my weight, keeping myself from smothering me.  It is here...