Life on the Timetable

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The Modern life is lived on the timetable.

On a daily basis, our focus falls on moving from point A to B. We climb up the ladder, catch the boat, and race to the head of the pack. We create schedules to shortcut slip ups. Any change in plans is suspect as we are forced to face a whole new set of variables. We are obsessed with laying nest eggs and we are terrified of uncertainty.

The true mark of the modern man is his aversion to risk and his shortage of spontaneity. We set our sights squarely on the end goal: happiness. And sometimes, things do work out. Promotions happen, families are made, homes are filled, retirements are secured. Things go as planned and suddenly we realize that there is no such thing as fate.

But then, one day, the test comes back positive. The car crashes. The dog dies. The rain never comes. The home is foreclosed. The marriage splits. The kids grow up. The parents get old. And the world keeps spinning.

When life shows us how untamable it really is, we find ourselves facing that color-coded calendar, wide eyed and stunned.

How did we slip through the cracks?

Instead of accepting the ambiguity of our tomorrows, we like to theorize about them. Most of us live our lives this way, continually concocting scenarios out of our expectations.

And for those that have been bruised by the rough side of life, the timetable can be a threatening thing. Instead of holding out for the hope of happiness, we shutter with every step forward. Some see five-year plans, others only see minefields. For the latter, Tick-Tock can sound like a countdown to the crash.

 

I’m experienced in this area. Several times I have connected more to the crystal ball than to reality. Many mornings I would find myself paralyzed in bed, thinking if I laid there long enough, I could stop it. I could change my foreseeable future.

But rational thoughts are no competition with the broken record.

I would start to think about my friends getting married, again and again. My siblings having children again and again. The single-bedroom apartments I would rent, again and again. Cold Christmases, again and again. Lonely feelings, again and again. Night after night. Again and again.

Tick-tock

Tick-tock

Tick-tock

It hung over me like a dark cloud and I didn’t see the point in moving through the next chapter. Life had become something to get through.

Thankfully, someone stepped in.

“The future… its just so… out there, you know ? It’s completely theoretical, you have no idea where you’ll be, what you’ll be doing, who you’ll be with, or whether you’ll be with anyone. All you have is right now, right here.”

The truth that took so long to sink in finally provided the peace I was desperate for:

That I am not guaranteed the next five years. The next five days.

Or the next five seconds.

All I have is now.

The rest is theory.

Life is too unpredictable to be lived on the timetable. It’s too precious to be wasted worrying.

And every now then, we get a chance to face down false fears.

Because,

Even though I feared they would, my parents didn’t hate me when I came out.

Even though I feared losing my closest friend, she didn’t leave my side.

Even though I feared the loss of my faith, it began to thrive.

Even though I planned to do it, I didn’t and I started living for the first time.

When I finally figured this out, I recalled a line I resonated with in the film Along Came Polly:

 It’s not about what happened in the past, or what you think might happen in the future. It’s about the ride, for Christ’s sake. There is no point in going through all this crap, if you’re not going to enjoy the ride. And you know what… when you least expect something great might come along. Something better then you even planned for. –Irving Feffer speaking to the worrywart Rueben. 

Stop theorizing, stop scheduling, stop worrying.

And start living.

 

RR

 

*Photo Credit

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A Runaway Named Freedom

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The following is a moving testimony from an incredible woman of faith. We’ll call her Freedom. Read it. Be changed.

I watched the scene, trying to hold back tears. It was a simple scene, and I’m sure the depth was lost on most of the audience. Yet for me it was so real, so personal. Thomas was putting into words what I never could. As he spoke to the wounded soldier, he shared his pain in growing up different. Through tears he grabbed the blind soldier’s hand and united with him in the margins.

Lost somewhere in the midst of the familiarity, my heart was suddenly ejected into reality by the girl sitting next to me on the couch. She covered her eyes and scoffed a homophobic comment, certain that Thomas was trying to seduce the soldier. She must have uttered “gross” five times within a second.

I closed my eyes, and I was on another couch – a young girl watching television with her mother. Two men grabbed hands and my mother covered my eyes, grasping for the remote with urgency. She too expressed her disgust with homosexuals – their behavior was so repulsive to her she couldn’t bear to watch, much less expose her child to that indecency.

I learned two things that day: (1) I was detestable and (2) God did not love me. I vowed to spend my entire life burying my secret. Even if it killed me.

The ignorance of my mother brought only death into the world; it extinguished any candle of hope with utter darkness. With each homophobic expression, I lost hope that God would ever love me – though I desperately cried out to be free. I didn’t want to be gay, I didn’t choose this. How could they say this was a choice? Every day I would wake up soaked in self-hatred, trying to motivate myself to get out of bed. I didn’t feel worthy to live, though I didn’t know my crime. I dreamed of death, of freedom. Why would anyone choose this? They could never understand. Science could never understand.

October 17th, 2005. I woke up that morning knowing freedom was imminent. My neighbor’s shotgun was loaded in his garage, ready to secure my departure from Earth. I didn’t know my destination, but I did not care. I could not imagine any reality worse than the one I lived in. I was only hours from the end, and my heart was full of hope. The curtains were about to be closed on the most horrifying script of all time.

I found freedom that night, but not from the barrel. God wrapped me in His embrace as I wept for the first time in a decade. What kind of child doesn’t cry? The child that doesn’t believe they deserve to cry. The child that feels so wretched that tears do not belong to them, only to the righteous.

I came out of the closet that night, and was met with love and grace. The lies that I was a divine mistake or an irredeemable outcast were shattered. The mother that had unknowingly kicked me to the margins held me in her arms, a broken mess. Her lifelong battle with homophobia was cured when she looked in the eyes of her beloved child. A child she would willingly give her life for.

That night I began to walk towards freedom – for me it was a freedom from self-hatred, guilt, and shame. For her it was freedom from ignorance and bigotry. Jesus welcomed us both. He transformed us both. He is transforming us still.

I wanted so badly to lash out at my friend – to point a finger at her ignorance, her hatred. I immediately assumed she could not know the Jesus that I know. How could anyone saved by the grace of Jesus condemn anyone else? How could she not show compassion, knowing how much grace it took to save her?

I lay in my bed that night, stewing with a righteous anger. I was plotting my exit from our friendship – wondering if it would be best to inform her why or to simply stop returning her phone calls.

The Lord spoke to me in a vision.

I saw the group of men prepared to cast stones at the prostitute. I was certain my friend was standing in the fold, rock arched.

Yet I saw my face in the crowd, with a handful of jagged rocks – my face ugly with anger. She was the prostitute, and Jesus stepped in my way to defend her. Her lovers were pride, ignorance, and intolerance. And Jesus was offering to pay them off – to pay the price for her freedom.

As I prayed that night, Jesus asked me to be the one full of grace and love. To kneel and wash her feet, to share the truth that saved my life. The gospel wasn’t only for my breed of sin, but hers as well.

Before I would have mocked her in front of my like-minded friends – puffing my chest as I displayed my humble affection for tolerance and love. But now I find myself on my knees in prayer. Praying that she too will find freedom.

 

Lord, give me the courage to defend the voiceless and the marginalized in the GLBT community, and the boldness to do it with love, understanding that I too am a sinner who struggles to offer grace.

Measuring My Manhood

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My manhood hasn’t always been a huge concern for me. I mean, occasionally I’ll experience the brief insecurity of letting Taylor Swift finish her song as I’m riding in a car full of dudes, but who hasn’t? (and honestly, who doesn’t love her?). There’s also the times when the demon incarnate baseball will roll up to my feet, and I have a moment similar to Smalls in the Sandlot, where I, uh, run it over to its owner. Oh, and also, I don’t really fall under the hetero tent either.

But I have some manly qualities about me. And, in all seriousness, I am very proud to be a man. It’s a unique part of my identity, and just for sake deconstructing stereotypes: no, not all gay men wish they were women or are feminine.

I’m practical, logical, enjoy the outdoors, love fishing, action flicks, working on my core, eating steak-rare,  (this is starting to sound like a dating profile), anyhow, my point is, even if you were to judge me from societal standards, I think you’d consider me a man of men. But all the reasons listed above do not equate to the Biblical definition of what a man is. They are what pop culture defines masculinity as. I am not Chuck Norris nor am I Rambo. And I am no less a man than these two real/fictional characters would have you believe.

Oh, and I am also nothing like Mark Driscoll.

“The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.” (http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2009/01/limp-wristed-jesus.html/)

Latte-sipping Cabriolet drivers do not represent biblical masculinity, because real men — like Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist — are dudes:  heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.  In other words, because Jesus is not a limp-wristed, dress-wearing hippie, the men created in his image are not sissified church boys; they are aggressive, assertive, and nonverbal.”

(http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/01/08/jesus-and-masculinity/)

Music to my ears.

According to the list, Driscoll’s list, I flunk with flying colors.

Heterosexual- Doomed from the start

Win-a-fight- Have fought, well wrestled, when I was 7, and I always lost.

Punch-you-in-the-nose- Hate seeing people bleed, next.

Dress wearing hippie- I’ve never worn a dress! Check. But, some would call me hippie-like.

Aggressive- Passive

Assertive- sort of?

Nonverbal– I like to talk about feelings.

So there you have it, I cannot be a member of Mark Driscoll’s Macho Man Club.

Additionally, I don’t make my heavenly father proud.

So, there’s that.

Hold on, let’s tap the brakes.

Jesus, Paul, and John’s turn

 

Heterosexual

While I have very strong doubts that John the Baptist, Paul or Jesus Christ were gay men, they never made public declarations of their sexuality, or even mention a single instance of personal sexual attraction. (perhaps because they weren’t so insecure about it.. driscoll). If this was such an important credential to being a real man, why didn’t they simply say so?

Fighters/Aggressive/Assertive

Jesus nixed our natural tendency towards self-defense by declaring that we take the hit on both sides of the face (Matthew 5:39), and by submitting to a criminal’s death undeserved. And in his instructions for evangelism, he asked us to be “harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NLT). Not bullies.

Paul was beaten to a pulp, unprovoked, and he refused to raise his fist. Why? Because according to him, we should not “overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21, NIV).

John the Baptist looked soldiers in the eye and told them, “do violence to no man.” (Luke 3:14, KJV)

Dress-wearing hippie

For the sake of serious argument, I will pass on talking about how Paul, and Jesus all likely wore clothes resembling dresses, but John, on the other hand, preferred threads of camel hair (Matthew 3:4).

But the hippie charge. I’ll make this short and sweet. Jesus was raised in poverty and led an all out nonviolent rebellion against the religious order. He hung out with societal undesirables (including WOMEN), and had Woodstock-esque gatherings during his sermon on the mount, and when he fed the five thousand. In today’s context, Jesus would be a hippie.

John the Baptist, was head to toe hippie, he chose a radical lifestyle. He ate bugs, and held gatherings in rivers. His statement to the soldiers reminds me of the flower power generation placing roses in the rifles of cadets.

Paul is the perfect example of a hippie’s biography. He started out as a fundamentalist, a legalist, a persecutor, and then, a life altering talk with Christ, and boom, he abandoned the old ways. Additionally, he was a man of utter tolerance. He brought in Gentiles, women, and children. His reasoning?

“for the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Romans 14:17, NIV)

 

That’s hippie talk.

Nonverbal

 

Perhaps the most ridiculous statement made by Mark Driscoll. Jesus turned oration into an art form. The poetic nature of his parables were sensitive stylistically, and incredibly elegant. Jesus never turned anyone away, nor did he dodge dialogue.

*Additionally, this places us in an awkward position if we are to be nonverbal, cause prayer requires the opposite (although it also requires listening!)

Paul was even more verbal and open about his story. He wrote deeply personal accounts of his own pain, regrets and struggles. He didn’t man up and shut up. He wanted to share, yes, his feelings!

John the Baptist was a preacher. Yes, a preacher. But somehow nonverbal? He engaged with the outcasts and was quite vocal about the coming Kingdom.

The irony of Mark Driscoll’s statements in light of these three men (one of them, being God), would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. Tragically, Driscoll took his hate speech one step further.

He beckoned forth the bullies.

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I cannot imagine what it was like for these worship pastors to be insulted so publicly. And by none other than a pastor!

I cannot understand how Pastor Mark believes this behavior is becoming of a man of God. In an age of teen suicides resulting from cyber-bullying, pastor Mark called for Christian hazing to his some 200,000 followers on twitter and facebook. It is nothing short of sickening.

And, more than anything, I am amazed that people still follow him.

Rachel Held Evans, a personal favorite of mine, wrote a response post to Mark Driscoll’s declarations.

“Godly men stick up for people, not make fun of them.

Godly men honor women, not belittle them

Godly men love their gay and lesbian neighbors, not ridicule them

Godly men celebrate femininity, not trash it.

Godly men own their sexuality, not flaunt it

Godly men pursue peace, not dismiss it

Godly men rise above violence, not glorify it

Godly men build up the Church, not embarrass it.

 

Godly men imitate Christ—who praised the gentle and the peacemakers, who stood up for the exploited and abused, who showed compassion for the downtrodden, who valued women, and who loved his enemies to the point of death.” – Rachel Held Evans (http://rachelheldevans.com/mark-driscoll-bully)

This woman of God knows more about what’s in the fabric of Biblical manhood than Pastor Macho.

Finally, I am glad I do not make the cut for Mark’s Macho Man club.

Because guess what?

Christ wouldn’t either.

RR

Best Bible Story Ever

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It is one of the most compelling examples of Abba’s affection for the outcasts. It may not be what you think of first.

It is not the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery.

It isn’t the story of the leper or the tax collector.

It isn’t about Samaritans.

It’s deeper in the dumpster.

It is the story of the Eunuch.

Act 8:26-39

Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.

 29-30The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”

 31-33He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him. The passage he was reading was this: 

As a sheep led to slaughter, 
and quiet as a lamb being sheared,
 
He was silent, saying nothing.
 
He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial.
 
But who now can count his kin
 
since he’s been taken from the earth?

 

 34-35The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.

 36-39As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.” –Acts 8:26-39 (The Message)

 

This story is often retold as the birth of the Ethiopian Church and thus, breaking down the racial wall of Christianity. All of this is very true and very important. The Eunuch took hold of his new found life and allowed God to use him to transform a nation.

But are we missing something a bit deeper?

Should we not take a closer look at the first individual ever to be evangelized?

Is there more than one mountain moved here?

If you are unaware, to be a eunuch meant that you were castrated at a young age. The purpose of this heinous practice was to create little male body guards for women of importance, removing the risk of a possible sexual affair.

To be a eunuch was to be a non-heterosexual. To be a eunuch was to be a sexual minority. It was an immutable characteristic that they had no choice in.

Now, having an idea of what a eunuch is, think about what it would be like for him, passing by a temple, hearing the Rabbi recite this:

 

“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 23:1, ESV)

 

He was doomed from the start. It didn’t matter whether or not he had held the knife, he was uniquely disqualified from grace and salvation.

Yet he still searches.

Reading the passage of a sheep being lead to slaughter, a man with no descendants, one that was mocked for being different, was like reading his own biography.

Could this book be more than a guest list?

Could a eunuch really be beloved?

Once Phillip reaches the chariot, he asks the eunuch if he understands what he is reading. I imagine at this moment, the eunuch is experiencing an earth-shattering moment. It makes sense that he glances up, and utters, “help?”

After beginning a dialogue with Phillip, he gets to the heart of his question. One that, once answered, would define this man’s eternity.

Who is he talking about?

Why is his story so similar to mine?

Philip told him about Jesus of Nazareth.

Grace and love rained down on the eunuch as he began to grasp the reality of what Philip was saying. The King of Kings, Savior of sinners, Lover of the lost, was also rejected by the religious establishment. His father was not someone unfamiliar with pain.

During their trip, they passed a river, and the Eunuch, who I am sure was still struggling with what Deuteronomy said of him, asked Philip what was stopping him from being baptized. I can imagine him cringing, waiting to hear the haunting Old Testament words.

Brian McLaren gives a wonderful exegesis of this moment:

“Imagine what Philip might have said: “I need to contact the authorities in Jerusalem to get a policy statement on this issue. Maybe we should wait a few centuries until the church is more established. Baptizing you could cause real controversy in our fragile religious community. In the interests of not offending people back home, I’ll have to say no. Or at least not yet.”

But Philip doesn’t answer with words; he responds with immediate action. They stop the chariot, and Philip leads him into the water and baptizes him.

Neither race nor sexual identity was an obstacle for the apostles in welcoming a new brother into the community of faith. As early as Acts 8 in the story of Jesus and his apostles, the tough issues of race and sexual identity are being addressed head-on. But as we all know, as the years went on, both issues once again became obstacles. It’s only in my lifetime that we have truly begun to put racism behind us – although even there, we still have a long way to go. Now, it’s time for us to remove the second obstacle. Not in spite of the Bible, but because of it. We’ve lost a lot of ground since Acts 8. That’s why I am among those who dissent from the conventional approach and attitude, appealing back to Philip’s even more ancient church tradition.” (http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/synchroblogging-on-sexuality.html)

RR