Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Last night I had the privilege to listen to my good friend, Matt Clark, deliver a heartfelt keynote at one of my favorite camps: LCU's Encounter. He ended his message appealing to the 1000 gathered students to put their "planks" (Matthew 7:1-4) out there, to hand them over to the "Plank Remover," Jesus Christ. He called the camp to transparency and confession. Ministers stood on the stage prepared to receive those desiring prayers. Students, counselors, teachers and sponors flooded the stage.

Having faced crippling shame in my own life, Matt invited students dealing with shame to come and pray with me...and there were many. As we huddled together, tears streamed down thier young faces, heads hung low and their heartbeats raced. I could see it in their faces, they wanted to share, and not just the generic,

"I've got some struggles right now!"
"I've made some bad choices!"
"I feel ashamed over things I have done!"

But I could sense they wanted to name "it" but were afraid. They were afraid of being known. Being known means being vulnerable, it means the possibility of rejection, it means undoing the perfect perception they'd worked so hard to establish! They wanted to know what all humans want to know..."Will you still love me?"

This is why ALL people need...

1. The Gospel. In Luke 7, Jesus dines with a Pharisee, the religious Lebron. During the meal, a prostitute enters the home and begins to wash Jesus' feet with her tears. Her very presence at the table defiled the meal. She was dirty, unclean...a sinner. The Pharisee mumbles to himself, "If Jesus KNEW what kind of woman she was..." implying he would cast her out, reject her, scold and rebuke her. The Pharisee failed to realize that Jesus DOES know what kind of woman she is. He knows she earns a living by selling her body. He knows she is a sinner. He knows she is unclean. But, he also knows her heart...her broken and repentant heart. Knowing what he knows Jesus affirms her,  "Your sins are forgiven! Go in peace!" In other words, "I still love you!" 

No doubt the woman came to Jesus trembling expecting rejection, hate, and humiliation. Fear! But she encountered the gospel, the good news, Jesus Christ and disovered that her worst was no match for the love of Christ! We need to hear the gospel and be reminded of it in our worst moments!

2. Deep Relationships. Facebook and Twitter give us the ability to be our own paparazzi, publicist, and promoter. We edit our own life to a highlight reel and in so doing create a community of superficial relationships. I'm not knocking social media...I will link this post on all venues. But, superficial relationships cannot provide the safety humans need to thrive. We need deep meaningful relationships, and it doesn't have to be, two, three individuals with whom you can make yourself known, fully known and who, with their words and actions, say, "I love you still!"

More than investing in successful careers, stocks and bonds, or luxury homes, we would live healthier, fuller lives if we invested in deep meaningful relationships. It's worth more than the price of your home, a new title at the office, a salary upgrade, noteriety, and "success." 

3. A Faith Community. Our churches have an amazing opportunity to be safe zones, places known for "loving still!" Places where strangers walk in and feel at ease, places where confession is modeled and practiced by leadership, places where grace is not simply preached but lived out in tears and embraces, places where people can check their performance at the door, and places that exorcise fear! 

Yes, many churches fail, many foster fear...but many do not. Find one! Join it! Become a part of the "no fear" culture! A word to Church leaders: creating a No Fear Zone starts with you: your transparency, your teaching, your intentionality...

As the students huddled around, afraid yet wanting to be known...the Spirit moved me to step out of my own fear and start the conversation by sharing from my own sin and failure. Then the floodgates of confession opened...fear ceased and our hugs and tears said, "We love you still!" 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sweet 16: Thinking on Marriage

 Sixteen years ago...

Mary Beth agreed...that's a weak way of putting it. She committed with her whole heart to do life with me, not just the good parts of life but all of it: the unexpected parts, the terrifying parts and the ugly parts. She vowed to me saying, "No matter how things go, you will never do this thing alone!" Her commitment has been as sure as the rising of the sun. 

Sixteen years ago...

We began a journey together. For 90% of our journey it's been 65 degrees and sunny: a clearly marked trail, the sound of rushing streams, spectacular vistas and a gentle breeze. Yet, we've also walked through scorching valleys, been attacked by mosquito armies, struggled to catch our breath as we plodded our way in the thin air of jagged mountains. There were moments we thought our journey might come to an end, but it has just begun. While dehydrated in the valleys and straining on the mountain slopes our relational muscles grew stronger, our marital VO2 max increased, and our resting heart-rate improved. The struggles of the journey have better equipped us for the journey. The best trails are on the horizon.

Sixteen years ago...

I fell in love with Mary Beth: her smile, her tiny nose, her gentle hands, her sweet disposition, her care for the marginalized, the contrast of her jet black hair against her snow white skin, her capacity to love, and a genuine ability to enter the suffering of others. Many times we tell our spouses on relational marker moments, "I love you the same as I did when we first married." I don't. I love her more. What I thought was love in 1998 was primarily hormones, infatuation and a longing to be around Mary Beth. Today, I've just begun to understand love...a choice to put the best interest of The Other in front of yourself. Most of what I've learned about love Mary Beth has taught me. 

So, Mary Beth...I don't love you like I did that night in Corpus Christi, I love you more. I commit to keep learning to love so that 16 years from now I will love you more than I do today.

Sixteen years ago...

Something began that is not yet finished. Mary Beth, we will see this to the end! I love you!