Dinner with Friends and Parachute Pants

IMG_0056

I was in sixth grade at the school’s monthly roller skating party when my skate slipped and my legs went sprawling in two different directions.  Before I could even scream in the horror of the moment, my white Fruit of the Looms were now visible to each and everyone of my classmates. I had split out the whole crotch of my parachute pants.

Mom couldn’t fix them. Heck, Alice from the Brady Bunch couldn’t make this right. Mom just kept shaking her head saying, “I should have known better than to buy you pants made out of nothing. I’ll tell you, this would never happen in your Toughskins!”

Toughskins. Yes, this epic disaster threw me back into my Husky size 14 Toughskins, fresh off the shelves of Kmart, and my mother never bought me another pair of parachute pants again. But all my friends had parachute pants and they were wonderful.

Envy reared its nasty head, as boy after boy showed up at school in their new parachute pants, and I in my Kmart Specials. I loved everything about my parachute pants, from the look to the feel, but none of it mattered. Sixth grade boys live in the prison of clothes chosen by their parents, and mine had secured me into solitary confinement with little help of reprieve.

You know what? I still get that feeling sometimes. I got it once when an old friend’s bestselling book was nominated for an award. Or when another friend qualified for the Boston Marathon. I got it when a wealthy friend posted a picture standing with someone pretty famous, who I’m pretty confident isnot waiting with bated breath for a selfie with me. I got it when a friend ran faster than me, and he hadn’t been running as long. It’s this thing and out of nowhere it can erupt on you at the most bizarre times and in verypeculiar ways.

Envy.

The scriptures, fortunately, have a lot to say about envy, and I for one am quite grateful. As little screen time as the topic gets in our cultural landscape, the Bible pulls no punches and dives straight in.

“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:2).

Well, that’s some pretty happy stuff about me and my envy issue. Parachute pants or not, that pretty much cuts to the core. But wait, there’s more –

“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30).

Years ago a friend of mine came and confessed his envy of me and apologized for the way he had been treating me. I was like “WHAT???” First, this guy was really good looking and successful, and everyone loved him, yet he found something in me that caused him to experience envy on a deeper level. I more than forgave him, and also tried to learn from him, to understand how he had come to allow envy to influence the way he treated me.

In my world, envy could stem from knowing a dad who has done a better job of supporting his kids in sports or in their academic achievements. It could harass me about being a better writer, someone who gets more clicks or likes and those always coveted comments that read “I totally connected to this.” Sometimes it rears its nasty head in strange and random ways, like spotting a guy driving a Ferrari or a group of friends out having a great time. “Boy I wish I had a bunch of friends to go laugh and have fun with tonight. I wish my life was like theirs.” Sometimes envy kicks the door down when a man provides great wealth for his family in a way I have never been able to. And will probably never will.

Its Smeagol wanting the ring. Or King David killing Bethsheba’s husband. And in the words of Judas when he questioned the actions of the lady who poured perfume all over Jesus’ feet. It is always shameful. Always ugly. And always leaves a feeling of void, especially if we ever get the “thing” we were truly envious of.

Envy isn’t a materialistic void, as much as it is simply worshipping something that was never intended to be worshipped. When our hearts take us down the path where we are filled with envy and longing, we need a “worship reset” to readjust our inner core, our spiritual self. Through the consistent practice of studying the scriptures, we not only reset our spiritual base, but we also provide our hearts with a passion that is good, and just. Here’s an example from 1 Chronicles 16:23-25 –

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.”

When worship of Jesus increases, envy decreases, because our passions are redirected towards a God who passionately loves us, and wants us to be in a loving relationship with him. As we study the Bible, listen to Christian worship music, or engage in our local church, our hearts are captured by what is good, what is pure, and what brings life not death.

Envy, the worship of what you don’t have, brings death to marriages, friendships, reputations, and so much more. Worshipping God, however, brings light and life, first to your heart and then to the hearts of others. It provides a constant reminder of who we are and who God is, and when we practice the worship of God, we are left amazed and entranced, and also left wanting little else.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).

The English Patient, Titanic and Here’s My Favorite Christian Movies

blog.jpg

Do you remember the movie The English Patient? Boy, I sure do. In 1997 it won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director. It also holds the distinction of being the only movie I’ve seen where more than half the crowd was booing and heckling as the credits rolled. It wasn’t a just a bad movie, it was the worst movie I’d ever seen and I don’t think I’ve ever felt such an overwhelming relief than when it was over. Soon after I saw the much ballyhooed film, The Titanic, which also won Best Picture and Best Director, but in the year after The English Patient. The Titanic also makes my most hated list, due to the obvious ending (c’mon, you all knew Jack was going to die) and the fact that I just didn’t like Rose. She seemed bratty and her storyline didn’t feel very legit, but maybe that’s just me overanalyzing stories again.

If we jump into the movies I have loved, like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and The Matrix, I think we can agree for the most part we’ve had to endure the brutal aftermaths of movies that obliterated our hopes of another cinematic work of perfection. With zero thanks to The Hobbit Movies, Star Wars Episodes 1 through 3 and Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, you and I had our greatest of expectations smashed as we shoved the popcorn down our throats in the horror of bad storylines, over-acting, and casting mistakes that will never make any sense.

Let’s be honest. How many times has Hollywood let us down on the big screen?

Whenever I sit through a bad movie, I get a bit ticked, because I’ll never get back the money and time I’ve wasted. There are almost zero redeeming qualities in movies today, except for a few which might inspire or educate us. In comparison to Christian movies with a positive message about Jesus, even if the movie is pretty low budget and horrible, I’m often left with feelings of hope, being challenged, and God’s love and acceptance despite our own brokenness. There are many movies with a Christian theme that have impacted my life, so here is my ranking order of the best Christian movies I’ve ever seen. And along with this, I will include the Rotten Tomato Ratings from Critics and Users.

  1. Facing the Giants (13% Critics/85% Actual Humans with a heart, also called the Audience Score) – Even though their entire budget was about what it costs for us to take our six kids out for ice cream, this is one of my favorite films of all time. From a great script, to a little shaky but heartfelt acting, to an ending that will have you clutching the arms of your sofa, this is the best of the best. Watch this with an open heart, and you won’t be let down!
  2. Courageous (30% Critics/86% Audience Score) – The follow up to Facing the Giants with Alex Kendrick as the star did not disappoint. There is one scene that might be the best original comic writing I’ve seen in years, and the ongoing tension throughout the movie kept me on the edge of my seat. The thoughtful storyline about being a father has some awkward moments, but I wonder if those aren’t because of what we have lost in our country as fathers, and our lack of initiative to be leaders in our homes. This is a must see movie, with a few surprising twists.
  3. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (42% Critics/87% Audience) – a light hearted romp through a familiar feeling narrative, that continued to make us laugh, question, and even cheer a little throughout the whole movie. There are no car chases or high impact scenes, just a very well-acted, heartfelt story that brings that satisfied feeling as you’re pulling out of the theatre parking lot. The lead actor, Brett Dalton, was perfectly cast as the wayward son/Hollywood wanna-be, working on his comeback, while figuring out his life. This is the first Christian movie The World Wrestling Entertainment company has produced, and it leaves us hoping there will be more.
  4. The Island aka a Russian film titled OCTPOB (63% Critics/81% Audience) – Although this film was well received by some critics, it has never been given its credit due. The subtitles take a little getting used to, but after a few minutes, it feels like a movie spoken in the language of Russian is quite fitting. It’s a sad, but inspiring tale, and almost akin to The Dead Poet’s Society, which I appreciated, but still found a little disappointing throughout. The Island rarely let me down, and when I found out the lead actor (a former Russian Rock Star) actually lives on this island in Russia, I was even more in awe. By the way, it’s free on Youtube!
  5. War Room – (33% Critics/87% Audience) –This movie bounces cleanly from tension to heartache to humor, and the acting is the best of any Christian movie I’ve seen. It all flows well together, as real life collides with the promises of God, as prayer takes center stage throughout this movie. There is a deep brokenness exposed in its most revealing moments, especially towards the end, but not as much as Courageous, which was almost too heavy at times. This might have been my top movie, but its climactic scenes didn’t leave me catching breath, as was the case withFacing the Giants and Courageous. But the directing, acting, and story were all top notch.
  6. Flywheel – (too low budget to make Rotten Tomatoes) – This is the first movie from the Kendrick Brothers, and has the most heart of any low budget movie in the history of film. From top to bottom you can see the director had little to no money to make a movie, but this was the launching pad into his next movies.
  7. The Passion of the Christ (49% Critics/80% Audience) – This doesn’t even feel like a normal movie, so I’m barely sure how to rank this. As far as cinema goes, this is the closest we can get to the final days of Jesus before his great ascension into heaven. Though The Passion is brutally violent, I wouldn’t hesitate bringing kids age twelve and up to see it.

If you haven’t noticed, the Audiences are high on these films, while the pros pan them. The critics continue to dismiss the inspirational messages, and the impact it makes on moviegoers lives. If you’re looking for the English Patient or Titanic or even the movie Chicago (which I hate only because it won Best Picture over the Fellowship of the Ring), then none of these movies are for you. For everyone else, add these to your library and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

In closing, here’s a few more Christian themed movies, in no particular order –

  • Soul Surfer
  • God’s Not Dead (the original)
  • Fireproof
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Amazing Grace
  • One Night with the King

666 and Salsa and Chips

 

chip

Come to River Falls, Wisconsin, a beautiful town where you can get the Mark of the Beast and experience an exciting walk over the Swinging Bridge!

This might not be the Welcome Wagon’s latest bumper sticker, but something is about to happen in the town of River Falls, Wisconsin and if we don’t address this as a country, we may never address it until it’s too late. And by too late, I mean the world is destroyed kind of “too late”.

Three Square Market is a technology company out of River Falls and on August 1st they are having a pretty big party, like salsa and chips kind of party, but for the worst reason possible. By the way, you wanna know why I hate salsa and chips at a party? Because I think “FREE CHIPS YES!!!” and eat the whole bowl. Anywho, at this party there will also be a bunch of needles and syringes, which the company will be using to inject small microchips into the hands of their employees. Read that last line just a little slower.

“Hey Jerry. Pass the zesty nacho dip and let’s use this needle here to get a small, foreign object stuck permanently inside of your body. Pass the Corona baby!”

I can’t even begin to express my disgust with Three Square Market’s CEO, Todd Wesby, who enthusiastically initiated this program at his company. Shockingly, these types of chips have been approved by the FDA, even though they can become infected or migrate to different parts of the body.

“Sorry, Barb. That’s not a zit on your forehead. It’s a chip, and it’s somehow stuck in your between your skull and your skin. But hey, I’m having a pampered chef party this weekend and wondered if you and Mike…”

Mr. Westby CLAIMS (does it not terrify you when it says a CEO CLAIMS something?) that this chip is not trackable by GPS and that it cannot bring you any super powers (I made the super powers thing up). Seriously, though, does anyone actually trust that technology won’t retroactively make GPS locating happen? I can’t even imagine getting this and having it not sound like a Viagara commercial with all of the disclaimers.

By the way, what happens if the chip gets hacked, which is a definite possibility? I think we’ve seen far too much deception in our dealings with technology companies to do as they ask and take their word for it. Mr. Westby also compares it to keeping our cell phones with us, but hey Todd, can I just share with you that “I DON’T HAVE TO CUT OFF MY FINGER TO LEAVE MY CELL PHONE BEHIND!!!” Just a humble thought.

With fifty of the eighty-five employees agreeing to being injected with the microchip, and the other thirty-five being actual human beings with a clue, maybe we should look to the bible for some insight in this situation (and drug testing for the 50).

Revelation 13:15-18 says “And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”

Our country has a history of first encouraging a new thought, and then turning a thought into a law punishable within the terms associated with the law.  In other words, once we go down this path, I don’t think the Average Joe’s like us can control or even influence this type of initiative. I’m not saying that it’s time to go buy bottled water, hang your Don’t Tread on Me flags, and pick up a new shotgun. I’m just saying this is obviously at the top of the list of bad ideas, even for health reasons, let alone followers of Jesus’ beliefs about the end of the world.

It will be interesting to see if this company makes it mandatory. And then if the state of Wisconsin does. And so on. And so on.

It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of something that sometimes doesn’t seem like it really is that far away.

 

The North Pond Hermit

NPHermit.jpg

For almost three decades Christopher Knight, dubbed the North Pond Hermit, lived alone in a makeshift campsite in the wild of Central Maine. He hadn’t spoken with a soul for 27 years, choosing a life devoid of friendships, laughter and love in exchange for the deep solitude of a life on the outskirts of the world. The officer who found him said Mr. Knight could move through the woods without making a sound, swiftly and unlike any human he had ever encountered. In even the thickest and thorniest brush, Knight easily walked without getting even the slightest scratch on his skin. It was like he was born for this type of existence.

But, he wasn’t. In fact, because of the choices Christopher Knight made, the next several years will likely be the antithesis of his past three decades, trapped behind thick, steel bars in a prison. Knight will have to line up with other inmates for food, be cramped into small spaces with too many men, and will only be able to see the outdoors through a chain linked fence for maybe an hour a day. I wonder if he ever thought he’d end up in prison for the thousands of homes he burglarized during his stint in the wilderness. The irony of it all is he has gone from the open wild, to closed concrete, and it was all his own doing.

I went to breakfast last week with a couple of friends, and we talked about all kinds of cool stuff. We shared life over a couple of egg white omelets, while our waitress Jen kept our mugs perfectly filled with coffee. A couple times a year I get in one of two vans of twelve runners, just so I can run two hundred miles with a team of friends, some of whom I barely have met. I think that’s the best part, actually. I love the discovery of new friends, and going on the thrilling journey into someone else’s story.

What’s most fascinating about The North Pond Hermit isn’t that he spent 27 years in the wilderness, but that he spent 27 years without speaking with anyone. I know, when you’re like me and you have six kids in one house that thought can be sound a little like utopia, but c’mon. How could anyone seriously spend maybe a third of their lives with zero connection to anyone else. Heck, I’d rather be stuck on an island with my arch enemy than nobody, but it seems that’s not the story of Christopher Knight. He not only chose this life, but sacrificed everything he could to maintain it.

Historically speaking, hermits make the choice to leave their society for either religious reasons, in protest of the politics within their culture, or they have suffered some sort of traumatic event. From what we know, none of these reasons apply to Christopher Knight. In fact, his story might be more of a mystery than almost any hermit before him.

In my book, God Is For You, the second chapter takes us on the journey of community and how upon creation we were intricately woven into each other’s lives. One of the fascinating discoveries I had as a writer was coming to understanding that many of us are living as hermits in society today, and we don’t even know it. I’m not saying our society praises isolation and not contributing to the world around us. I’m just saying sometimes we spend more time and energy getting ready for the picture we will post on social media than we do for our date. Or maybe we will hide who we voted for because we don’t want to be verbally abused or harassed. I wonder if we don’t have the smallest grain of envy in our hearts for a man who probably still doesn’t understand the basic concept of Facebook, and gives weird looks when someone tells him Donald Trump is President. Can you imagine that conversation? Can you imagine explaining the winking emojji someone just texted him?

You know, the most fascinating thing about the story of Christopher Knight isn’t where he has been, but why he left the people who loved him, his family and whatever friends he may have had. Maybe he gave up hope, and I can understand that things can get tough some time, but for 27 years? Really?

Four years ago I was at work looking at the huge window and way across the parking lot I see this lady’s car, and it suddenly stopped in the middle of the intersection and it’s like the heaviest pouring rain outside. I don’t know if it was her engine or something else, but her car was dead and not going anywhere. And before I could even process what was happening, all of these people start getting out of their cars and they come help this lady push her car out of the road. In fact, these two guys did most of the work while a younger woman consoled her, and helped her to the side of the road. They were smiling and acting like it was a sunny day, as their clothes were now soaked in the heavy downpour.

Sure, Christopher Knight missed 9/11, the election of 2016, and the OJ Simpson Trial, but he also missed strangers rushing into intersections in the rain to rescue a stranded motorist. He might have been spared from an increasingly toxic mainstream media, but he hasn’t given a thing back to anyone in almost 3 decades, and I feel  sorry for him.

Christopher Knight has terrorized the good people of rural, Northern Maine for at least a third of their lives. He made the choice to break into their homes and steal their food and stuff. He’s a criminal, no matter how you may view the decisions that he’s made. As bizarre as this story is, we have to acknowledge that the people who lived in his community were afraid of the legend of “The North Pond Hermit” and were worn thin by his cruel antics. Still, I can’t help but feel great sorrow for him.

It’s like that line from the end of the Harry Potter movie The Order of the Phoenix when Harry looks at Voldemort (the bad guy) and says –

“You’re the weak one. And you’ll never know love. Or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”

Christopher Knight certainly isn’t a monster, but he is weak, and even more so due to the lack of love and friendship in his life. I can’t help but wonder why someone would go so far to place himself into such a deep isolation from others. Until that question is answered, we really won’t know, and honestly, even if we did I doubt most of us could truly understand. I know I certainly don’t.

Celebrating Taquitos and Other Amazing Things

taquitos

This evening I googled “Worst News Story” and it led me down a strange and pervasive path I don’t think I want to venture down again.

One of the top news stories that caught my eye was the one about a gas station getting a two million remodel, and multiple reporters on the scene (that’s right, there was actually more than one) took us from the rotating racks of fried looking things, to the over-compensating attendant pumping gas for an eighty year old lady.

By the way, from all appearances this was her first time at any gas station, as the cameras caught her in an overly surprised tone asking the man clutching the gas pump in his glorious bright red vest, “Are you out here helping people?”

His best response would have been, “No. I’m standing here holding a gas pump waiting for my cousin Willie to show up with his flame thrower and we’re going to have some legit fun ‘round here! Hope ya brought some stuff to make s’mores!”

Sadly, those words never made it on camera, but the nice red-vest-wearing-dude pumped gas for a lady who shockingly isn’t up for an academy award this year.

The cameras moved inside to the spinning racks of fried TAQUITOS (in caps so you can feel my emotion here), which looked about as appetizing as the Amazon Prime cardboard box I just chucked into the garage. I also learned they are currently saving the world with a redesign of the pumps outside for a quicker and easier entry into the station. They interviewed a man who was very enthusiastic about all of the new construction. Why? Well, because he said he goes to this particular gas station every day and the remodel will save him some time getting in and out of the service station. Because those seconds will mean everything.

So for two million dollars this is what ya get, and I’m sure they will eventually make enough money to not only pay for their remodel, but maybe even create a medical expenses fund for their customers eating what may possibly go down in history as the most epic bad food idea of all time – Gas Station Taquitos. If you have never consumed a Gas Station Taquito you should probably just move along now and read something that’s going to provide you with a little more depth and beauty, like a comic book. Or the back of your Wheat Thins box.

Back to Taquitos, though, did you know that October 4th is actually National Taquito Day? I’m not sure if this was widely known, and in case anyone was to ask you what day is National Taquito Day, you now can give them an educated answer. You’re welcome.

Call me crazy, but I kind of think we are a bored country, and we are stretching to find any story, except for the best stories it seems. It’s funny, but I hear better stories, truly great stories all the time. How? Because you’re the one telling them.

One of the reasons I spent nineteen months writing a book is because I, too, discovered that when my friends share a personal story with me, I know something pretty amazing  is about to happen. Too often we overlook our own stories, maybe because we’re afraid to open up and share our hearts or pasts, or maybe because we just think it doesn’t matter. It DOES matter. Your story always matters.

They want to celebrate gas station remodels. And Taquitos. I want to celebrate you. And our stories.

I’ll make any of you bet. I could sit with you for fifteen minutes and I bet I could discover a wonderfully compelling story, one that could benefit the whole world. We could even eat a whole bunch of Taquitos while we talk! But seriously, we’ve let a strange, often worthless, and quite negative narrative get a stranglehold on our culture and I for one say we take it back, and talk about the stories that really matter, the good ones that keep getting overlooked. Like yours.

Or we could just stick with Taquitos. The choice really is ours. Isn’t it?

A New Challenge

unnamed (1).jpg

Hello, summer of 2017. Ummmm…what happened? I think if I’m honest I’m a little disappointed about my weight and my health right now. Usually the summer months I am killing the mileage and my weight is lower, but that’s not the story this year. Here’s a few points of comparison for 2017 versus 2016 –

From July 1st through July 20th of 2016 I ran 46 miles. Through the month of July this year I haven’t gotten in one single run. In June of 2016 I ran 67 miles, but only had 23 miles last month, mostly on vacation in Ocean City, NJ. Yes, my knee is much better, but I’ve honestly been intimidated at times to run on it, even though I have almost zero chance of reinjuring out there. I’ve avoided inclines that could cause me pain and have consistently been wearing my knee brace. Everything should be moving forward, but with no races on the horizon, there hasn’t been a sense of urgency to get out there. That’s all about to change, however, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

My weight has been more of a bizarre story. Last year I actually wasn’t much lower in the month of June, hovering around 255 to 260 pounds. I’ve I spent this past June around 270 pounds. Let’s keep it real, and even though I’m about six foot three and big boned (mom used to tell me I was big boned, so I’m sticking to it!), I should definitely be quite a bit lighter to run the distances I’m used to running. Is it really a huge shock I blew out my knee running forty miles on the ultra team at Reach the Beach last September? I love the endurance races, but how long did I really think I could survive out there being overweight?

It’s about two months until Ragnar Relay comes back to New Hampshire and I don’t have a team and haven’t trained. If I am honest, it will be a very tough weekend for me if I’m not out there racing with a team all across the White Mountains to Hampton Beach. I remember every leg from last fall. It’s etched into my soul. It’s probably my favorite event every year, but I haven’t trained, I’m nowhere near ready, and I’m  not sure if I could be. I’ve always run with Melanie, and I’ve always known my teammates, but something is stirring inside of me. I think if I do this, it’s the whole thing. If I do this, I’m all in.

Sure, my experience helps, but do I really want to punish my body for what feels like endless miles up and down the mountains of New Hampshire? It just can’t continue to be the same thing. It will have to be different this time, because time is exactly what I’m out of if I’m going to jump into this race with less than sixty days left. It will have to be a new adventure, a brand new training plan, and my eating will need to be spot on.

I have an idea though, and it’s pretty epic. Everything about my running, fitness and health is going to change, and I’m quite thrilled to share this story with you. I believe with all of my heart what’s about to happen next will be an amazing victory, and probably the greatest achievement of my life.

It’s a good plan. It’s the best plan. I believe in it. And maybe you will, too.

We are coming together. A lot of us. We are coming together in the month of August as a group, to encourage each other to hit some pretty amazing goals. Not my goals. But your goals. The ones you set. The ones you want. We are going to create a community, share our stories, and encourage each other to not break, bend, or wilt in the face of adversity.  So, for one month we come together, create our plans, and fight together to reach the summit. It has to begin sometime, doesn’t it?

For me, it begins in August. For now, we plan and prepare. I hope you’ll join us.

Christians, Gay Marriage, and Jesus: How To Reflect God’s Heart With Our Words and Actions

IMG_3459.JPG

I grew up on Forest Park Court, in West Carrollton, Ohio. That was me, tearing around our little cul-de-sac on my small blue, bike. It had the hardest, metal seat, but I didn’t care. It was my bike and my bike was awesome and I was scary fast.

I had a set of neighbors on both sides of me. On our left was the Tholens, and their son Eric was Robin when I was Batman, because none of the older kids would ever let me be Batman.  Those older kids had no clue how good of a Batman I truly could be.

In a ranch home to the right lived our neighbors Bob and Jerry. Bob and Jerry were a gay couple, and had a dog that barked at me a lot, but would lick my face silly when I jumped the fence to play with him. They had a genuinely kind demeanor, and spent a lot of their Saturdays talking with my ultra-conservative, but over-the-top-friendly mom. You could catch them and mom chatting it up on any ol’ summer day, while the guys were working their backyard and mom was hanging our laundry out on the line to dry. We lived next to them for several years, and they were always smiling, and we all always had something nice to say to each other.

Mom pulled no punches when she shared her faith with people, and though I don’t remember, I’m pretty confident mom had talked about such things with all of our neighbors. Yet no matter what Bob and Jerry and mom might have disagreed on, there was always a warm smile between them, and always something pleasant to say.

Let’s be honest, okay? Gay marriage was nowhere on the radar in the early 1970’s, and social media wasn’t even a concept. Folks! We didn’t even have the game pong back then! True story. Anyway, this narrative is quite different in 2017, as gay marriage is a legal right, and social media often dominates our communicative landscape. Times have definitely changed, in some ways for the better, and in other ways maybe not.

I wonder what the relationship with Bob, Jerry, and my mom would look like in 2017? First, let me say mom isn’t on social media (I’m just so not even going there, lol), so she has different inputs than many of us experience. Second, my gut tells me there’s probably no chance she’d be hanging laundry out on a line, but other than that change, I don’t think a thing would be different in their relationship. But maybe, if Bob or Jerry asked mom her views on gay marriage, maybe things would change. I’m not so sure, though.

This all leaves me considering just one not-so-simple question – “How do Christians communicate what the Bible says about gay marriage and similar topics, and do it in a way that best reflects the heart of God and the teachings of the scriptures?”? In the next few paragraphs, I’ll do my best to give a few very brief thoughts on this.

First, we ALWAYS lead with love and listen to the stories people have to share. There is a link at the bottom YOU MUST click on, where we see this type of love demonstrated in a powerful moment by my friends David and Lori Benham. I think their words and actions have some serious teeth, and encourage us in our obedience and love of others.

After we lead with love, I passionately urge each follower of Jesus to be honest with what the scriptures have to say within this topic (or any topic for that matter). So, love is first, followed by truth. Many progressive Christians will offer a buffet of enlightenment and philosophical arguments that Jesus would support gay marriage, but in the end, they take scripture completely out of context and ignore the passages from God’s word that lead people into a true and deeper relationship with Jesus. Honesty in these discussions is just so very crucial. They overlook their audiences thirst for truth, their hunger for God’s word, and even minimize their impact on the souls they connect with. Instead of being a beacon of truth, and helping folks struggling with sin (and I’m talking anything anyone might struggle with here), they shoot for some flimsy cultural acceptance and to gain some street cred. Let me just step back though, and be as clear as possible – Jesus never once supported gay marriage, and only ever supported marriage between a man and a woman.

“He (Jesus) answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-6).

Jesus words here, in Mark 10:6-9, and throughout the scriptures clearly show us that God not only had plans around what marriage would look like, but it was He who was the creator of marriage. How could we as self-proclaimed followers of Jesus publicly denounce his words and God’s specific terms within marriage and think this is actually helping anyone? When has being deceptive and misleading people regarding the scriptures ever been helpful? How can any Christian leader ever share the Gospel and preach a false message regarding gay marriage and think anyone, especially the gay community is okay with this?

We do not love the folks in the gay community if our relationships are built upon my deliberate lies. We do nothing but mistreat our friends if we know the path to freedom, love and grace, yet deny them the same path with our words. How can we claim to be followers of Jesus, and then manipulate and twist the scriptures to make us feel better? I’m sorry, but I cannot bear such a burden.

I want the world to know the true Jesus, the one from the scriptures, the one who sacrificed everything for all of us. He died on the cross for sinners like me, and for good people like you. He bore the colossal burden of our sins on his back, and was tortured and bloodied and murdered so each of us could have a direct path to the Father and be with Him in paradise for all of eternity. This is who Jesus is, and twisting truths doesn’t make Christians anything but liars. Our dear friends in the gay community should be overwhelmed by our burning desire for them to know the real Jesus and spend eternity with us in the presence of the one, true God. Love is our message. And love without truth isn’t love.

One brief note: I mentioned earlier these discussions are tough, so understand this post is not a condemnation of the 84 year-old Eugene Peterson. These questions and issues can be difficult, and I understand each of us wants to lead with love. We all should be very grateful for Eugene Peterson, and his ministry, and that gratefulness includes not judging him, or his motives. He’s a really good dude!

In closing, my friends the Benhams recently faced a similar situation at their church, and God’s love and grace completely stole the show. I greatly encourage each of you to click on the link below and read a piece David recently wrote. Not only is this an example of God’s goodness in action, but a true testimony of how we can powerfully follow Jesus in the world we live in today, and provide hope, love, and courage to those who need it most.

http://mobile.wnd.com/2017/07/ex-lesbians-new-identity-in-christ/