Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ashes, Dust & Green Bags

Photo Source. Very cool tat design.

"Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." -Genesis 3:19

On Ash Wednesday at church, I was reminded of my own mortality as my pastor rubbed ashes in the sign of the cross on my forehead.

Or more accurately, it was yet another reminder of my mortality, as a conversation with my sister on Tuesday had me thinking of croaking.

I was telling Jos about my post-Z body and the fine lines that have taken residence at the corners of my eyes whenever I squint. She was trying to reassure me that I (still) look good. I was telling her I agree: "No, I'M NOT SAYING I'M FAT! Augh. I look okay. Especially after having Zoe and having the neuro problems. But I do not look the same. My stomach sags... I have that 'Mommy' pouch. And my boobs have shrunk back, but they definitely aren't the same, ha ha ha! But breastfeeding will do that..."

Somehow, the conversation drifted to older Hollywood mothers like Halle Berry and Mariah Carey. We discussed how nowadays, even us regular chicks can look a whole lot younger. "But your insides," Jos emphasized, "are still your actual age. There's no antioxidant cream for your ovaries." And she's right. Despite the near-magic we can do on our outsides, our hearts, lungs, nerves, kidneys, and bones are impenetrable to such trickery.

Showing off my ash.

A few years ago, Jos saw an infomercial for those Debbie Meyer Green bags and purchased a bunch of them. Excited, she couldn't wait to pack her veggies and fruit into the green baggies. After a few days, she unpacked her blueberries and strawberries and was delighted to see there was no bruising or mold. Success!

She placed them in a bowl for a nice and healthy snack, grabbed a fork, took a bite, and... nearly hurled. Despite their perfect, non-puckered skin, the fruit was rotten. She told me later how extra grossed out she was to have bitten into rancid berries. Sadly, she has vowed to steer clear of the "As Seen On TV" seals thus forward.

Okay, no, not really. Jos will try something she sees from the ol' flatscreen in a second. I just felt like being dramatic. But really, those bags didn't work for her.

It's not being dramatic in pointing out that, like produce, one day, our bodies will break down and decay, too. Hmmm.... okay, that might not be dramatic, but it certainly is macabre. Sorry for that.

But to me, that is central to the meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It's natural law. It's entropy (or, um, maybe not... I admit now that I can't actually recall the "Second Law" since I haven't picked up a Physics books since Bill Clinton was in office).

So during this time, of prayer and fasting (no Facebook!), I will meditate on those ashes- the mortal. And look forward to Good Friday and the Cross, and to Easter Sunday and the Resurrection- the immortal.

Are you observing Lent? Why or why not? If yes, how?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Totally Sarcastic (& Possibly Sacrireligious) Lent E-Cards


Monday, February 20, 2012

Are We Prudes?

The BFF and I were headed to a cafe a few weeks ago and we were discussing art. She had seen and fallen in love with a photograph of a model hanging in a coffee joint she frequents near her Virginia home. She described it as stunning and eye-catching, and fortuitously, for sale.

Me: "So? You're going to get it?"

Her: "Nope," she said, stone faced.

Me: "What? Why?"

GiGi: "The model in it... she's naked. Nothing is really showing, but you 'know' she's naked."

Me: "..."

GiGi: "Li, where I live, that would be considered 'too New York'. I guess I can get it and hang it in our bedroom..."

"Ah, no. If you like it, you should hang it where you want. It's your house! It's your dag-on house," I started in on all of GiGi's hypothetical judgmental neighbors who would poo poo art because of bare shoulders or calves.

Me: "... So it's a new time! You get that painting..."

GiGi:"... photo..."

Me: "... yeah, photo, same difference. You get it!"

GiGi: "..."

I recall this convo because I was reminded of it when I did the "Cussing" post a few days ago. I was thinking how many Christians still shy away from any form of nudity, even if it's shown tastefully (think Rose in "Titanic") or classically (think Michelangelo's "David"). Or in a totally non-sexual situation (like a breastfeeding mom).

I grew up hearing all about modesty (and I'm talking about old-school, holly-roller Pentecostal modesty with long, ankle grazing, ill-fitting dresses that managed to be dowdier than a burka). But being modest isn't the same thing as being a prude.

Maybe the setting does play a big part in nudity being acceptable or not, much like swearing. Giddel does have a point about her locale. While it's no backwoods hillbillyville, it's definitely within the span of the Bible Belt which is more conservative in every way than where I live.

How do you feel about nudity in artwork? How about in general? Comment away!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Raging Against That Good Night

I feel that death has been lurking about me for the past couple of weeks. Not like the hooded Death character on "Family Guy". More like the specter of death.

Last week, my godsister, Mamie Williams, passed. I cried but not so much for her passing as the realization that yet another chapter was finished. Another golden thread knitted tightly into my patchwork childhood closed.

I didn't call her Mamie. But Mother Williams. She was one of our beloved church mothers, and when she closed her eyes for the last time, she had lived to see great-grandkids. I wrote on Facebook to my friend Mary:

I know she's with the Lord... and she was actually older than my grandma! Her mom was a respected and loved church mother at my parents church. When my mom had me, she fell in love... and my parents made the unusual choice of naming an octogenarian one of my godparents. She passed when I was 11. She was so very sweet. I still have a teddy bear and a set of dolls she gave me as a baby. So, yes, my godsister passed. But she was in her 80s. A great-grandmother. She lived a life of faith and family (and music!). So I feel sadness for us, because we don't have her, but not for her. She is with God!

As the week passed, like everyone else with a computer, television, radio, phone, cell, or a telegraph, I was inundated by the wall to wall Whitney coverage. It reminded me of when MJ passed.  I wrote a post about her. Just scroll back a few days ago.

Pretty much any and every side of this story has been dissected. No, it bypassed dissected by Tuesday. It was diced and shredded. There really isn't anything left to say. Her funeral was this morning. She's been buried now.

I didn't watch, but I know from others' reactions, that it was quite a service. Made me think of how LL opened the Grammy's on Sunday with a prayer in Whitney's memory to our "Heavenly Father". Now it's Saturday and millions got a front seat at a Baptist church in Newark, NJ, where they were reminded that nothing, not even death can separate us from His Love. God has a way of getting His message across, huh?

Pastor Clemmie McIntyre

It's another death that has me feeling some kind of way. My friends' Aimee and Clem's mommy passed this morning.  Her name was Clemmie. She had a southern accent even though she lived here in Jersey for decades. She was a pastor and had a doctorate in theology. And she was beautiful.

Aimee and Clem and I are all about the same age. We grew up going to the same churches and the same schools. Mrs. McIntyre's passing has me feeling dissected.

Aimee's heartbreaking posts on Facebook made me think of that Dylan Thomas poem about raging against the dying light. The son is begging his father not to go. Keep fighting. Mrs. McIntyre fought valiantly against cancer. Aimee described her mother as her "heartbeat". Part of her has stopped.

We cannot stop our setting sun. That "good night" will envelop us all one day. Rage. Hiss. Spit. Embrace. Acquiesce. Deny. The light fades.

But one glad morning...

Rest in peace.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Was Bob Marley a Christian When He Died?

From The Christian Post (H/T: The Old Black Church):

Bob Marley was born on Feb 6., and although many are familiar with the reggae legend as a Rastafarian, others may be surprised to hear that he was baptized as an Orthodox Christian before his death.

Marley was an influential figure in the global expansion of a Rastafarian religious movement through his music. The movement began in 1930s Jamaica, focusing on the worship of former Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie I, whose followers believe him to be a messiah that will lead them into righteousness and prosperity.
Although Marley sang and spoken about being a Rasta, some say he converted to Christianity before his death. Abuna Yesehaq, archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere who died in 2005, admitted that he baptized Marley about one year before his death.
Yesehaq appeared in a 1984 interview with Jamaica Gleaner's Sunday magazine, titled "Abuna Yesehaq Looks Back on 14 Years of Ministry in Jamaica," in which he spoke about Marley's desire to become a Christian long before his death.
"Bob was really a good brother, a child of God, regardless of how people looked at him," Yesehaq said. "He had a desire to be baptized long ago, but there were people close to him who controlled him and who were aligned to a different aspect of Rastafari. But he came to church regularly."
Read the whole thing here.

"Lin"-credible: Jeremy Lin's Lightening Rise & Playing "Godly Basketball"

As you all know by now, I'm a Jersey girl. If you didn't know this, boo. Go now and click on the "About Me" box on the right. Good. Scroll down. For my location, it says "Where The Wild Things Are, New Jersey". Yes, NEW JERSEY.

Moving on, as a lifelong Jersey girl, and specifically, one who grew up just a tunnel or bridge ride away from NYC, I'm all for our local teams- Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Devils, Rangers, Yankees, Mets. And yes, by "all for" that means I claim to support these teams although I have yet to go to an actual game physically, and really only watch pieces of games, usually when they are recapped on the local morning news the next day.

So of course I'm all for the "Lin-sanity" that's sweeping the nation. And by "all for" I mean emailing pictures of happy fans rocking their craziest Lin gear to Keiron on a semi-daily basis. Oh, and doing this post. From Think Christian:

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin's underdog story and outspoken faith have some sportswriters dubbing him the "Taiwanese Tebow." But while Lin and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow share similar Christian convictions, Lin's rise to stardom is even more miraculous.
Just a few weeks ago, the Harvard University graduate was buried on the bench and crashing on friends' couches. Stadium security guards mistook Lin for a team trainer. After injuries to teammates, though, Lin was inserted into the starting lineup. The Knicks have promptly won six straight games - the latest of which ended on a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot by their new point guard - sending New Yorkers and Asian-Americans across the country into a frenzy of "Linsanity.”
Like any good point guard, Lin knows the art of the pass - distributing the praise to his teammates and to God.
"I'm just thankful to God for everything," Lin said in a recent post-game interview. "Like the Bible says, 'God works in all things for the good of those who love him.'"
Lin's passing reference to Romans 8:28 was caught by his longtime pastor, Stephen Chen of Redeemer Bible Fellowship, a ministry within the Chinese Church in Christ in Mountain View, Calif. Chen describes the church as full of first- and second-generation immigrants, like Lin and his parents, who are "conservative in nature" and evangelical in faith.
"Very early in his life he decided to pay heed to the call of Christ to take up the cross daily and follow after Him," Chen said.
Lin credits his parents with teaching him to play "godly basketball," which measures success by sportsmanship, not stats. That means putting teammates first and showing respect to opponents and referees.
As his star rose, first at Harvard and then with the NBA's Golden State Warriors, Lin shared his faith testimony with youth groups and churches near his California home. In a 2011 appearance at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara, he quoted from the works of John Piper, a prominent neo-Calvinist pastor in Minneapolis, and spoke of trusting in "God's sovereign plan."

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Cuss or Not to Cuss?

Lately, I've stumbled on a few stories debating the merits of cursing- as Christians. Mark Driscoll has long been blasted- or praised- for letting the expletives fly, even during his Sunday morning sermons. But a number of others are admitting that they, too, enjoy the release of a few four letter words.

Kurt Willems, an Anabaptist pastor in California, recently wrote this post over on Red Letter Christians

"In my opinion, we ought to have the freedom to use language contextually and not be bound by religiosity. That doesn’t mean that we ought to cuss like a sailor, but words have power… even what our culture considers offensive...
I grew up in a context where Paul’s words were oft quoted: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” I wonder what determines unwholesome speech? Does the popular culture? Does the FCC? Nope. The answer comes in the second part of the statement: “…only that which is good for building others up ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS.” This statement both relativizes cussing and invites contextualization. The test, does using this word tear someone down or build up? If it doesn’t tear them down (because it is part of a language they understand) then we ought not live in a legalism that the Scriptures don’t impose.
Oddly enough, in Philippians (3.8) Paul says that he considers all things as “rubbish” or “garbage” or “dung” or “loss” compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus. This word (skubalon***) is only used once in the New Testament. And yes my friends, that word is a first century cuss word.
I do not think that we ought to be known as “cussers” but I do believe there’s something wrong when my non-Christian friends feel the need to apologize when they slip the F*Bomb in the conversation. My response is always: Please, please, please feel free to be exactly who you are around me! Your language doesn’t offend me or make me see you in a bad light. I’d rather get to know the real you."

Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber recently invited people to unfriend her on Facebook or stop following her on Twitter if they're offended by swear words because she uses swear words:

"If you are a Christian who takes offense at swear words or believes for some reason that clergy should never be cranky or irritated, then I am not the person for you to follow.  It’s ok.  You don’t actually need me. The entire publishing arm of the Christian Industrial Complex (I believe my friend Shane Claiborne coined that term) has a great deal of material that is just for you! Countless Christian websites and books and blogs are your brand of Christian.  No need to leave me comments about how disappointed you are in my use of language because out there in cultural Christendom you will find niceness in abundance, super-duper positive thinking, and lots of inspiration with (best of all!) no swear words! The Christian world is your oyster.
 You are not my audience.
But there are other folks out there who are comforted by ambiguity, who need a Word of grace which is not covered in strawberry syrup. Who need the stark truth of what it means to be broken and blessed at the same time.  Who are at home in the Biblical story; stories of anti-heroes and people who don’t get it; beloved prostitutes and rough fishermen.  They tend to not really care that I use colorful language.  If anything, they are relieved that they don’t have to watch what they say around this particular member of the Christian clergy."

For the record, I do curse. It's not an every day thing. But it's not once in a blue moon either. I was raised STRICTLY against it, but after five years of college and thousands of hours spent listening to rap music, a four letter word will make an appearance from time to time in my vocab. But I don't believe in cursing in front of my parents, seniors or children. Or clergy. And definitely not during business hours.

So what say you? Is this an ultimate no-no? A way to show the world we're human, too? An issue of mere semantics?

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Requiem Before The Sepia Stain

"She was a drug abuser, a talent wasted... took her own life, pissed on her fortune and pissed away her beauty.

I know. God, Whitney knew. She said it 10 years ago to Diane Sawyer: "I am my own worst enemy.... pray for my soul... pray for strength."

BUT... I mourn anyway. Not in spite of the countless other "quiet" deaths that have occurred lately. No, in ADDITION to them. I lost a godsister a few days ago myself. But my heart still mourns. If you don't care, God bless. That still won't change the sadness.

So like countless others I admire, but were gone abruptly- Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, Biggie, Sam Cooke, Tammi Terrell, Aaliyah, John Lennon, Left Eye, Amy Winehouse, Selena, Tupac, Michael Jackson- I'll add Whitney. I hope that now, in eternity, she's found that strength that so desperately alluded her in this life."

I wrote that as a rather long status update this morning after reading a few Facebook friends status updates that referred to the late diva as a "crackhead", an "idiot" and a "waste". I was upset when I typed that up and hit "post".
I still feel upset somewhat now. Why? Well, I am a fan. Growing up, not much secular music was played in a home that was still very much full of music. We just heard a lot more Carmen, Be Be & Ce Ce and Kirk Franklin than most of our neighbors. But there were exceptions. And Whitney was one of them.
I could say it was parental hypocrisy, pride for a Jersey girl gone global or Whitney's obvious gospel-tinged vocals. But I think the truth is, she simply was The Best. So even though her songs were on constant rotation on radio stations that were typically taboo, they still found their way on play at our house. So I wanted to dance with somebody, too. I always loved "YOOOOUUUU"! I was every woman, shooped and stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Black Atheist Group Calls for Day of Solidarity

black atheist billboard LA Black Atheist Group Calls For Day Of Solidarity In February

From CBS (LA):

In a month when iconic spiritual leaders in the African-American community are honored across the nation, one group wants the world to know that church leaders don’t speak for everyone in the Southland.

Members of Black Skeptics Los Angeles are calling for local “freethinkers” to participate in a national “Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers” aimed at promoting “community and solidarity among blacks in America who identify as non-believers”.

The event set for Feb. 26 is part of an ad campaign by African Americans For Humanism (AAH) planned in Los Angeles and five other major U.S. cities targeting African-Americans who have privately or openly questioned their faith.

The ads are already fueling controversy in Dallas as the campaign made its debut Monday with a billboard reading, “Doubts about religion? You’re one of many.” erected within one mile of several area churches.

Each ad will also feature an image of historic black leaders like social reformer Frederick Douglass or poet Langston Hughes along with a contemporary black atheist.

In its mission statement, African Americans For Humanism said it holds religion responsible for “many of the problems plaguing the African American community” and wants to focus its efforts on “rational and scientific methods of inquiry” that include “positive thinking, the sharing of ideas, and enlightened self-interest”.

In addition to L.A., billboards are also expected to go up in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington DC, and Durham.

UK Bans Ads Claiming 'God Can Heal You'

 Shhhh.... just don't advertise it.

From Charisma News:

Jesus can heal you everywhere you hurt. But Britain’s advertising watchdog is barking about ads that proclaim the healing power of God.

The Advertising Standards Authority, or ASA, said Healing on the Streets (HOTS) is making misleading claims about its ability to heal people with ailments. The ASA is forcing HOTS to change its verbiage from “God can heal you” to “We believe God can heal you.”

“We told HOTS not to make claims which stated or implied that, by receiving prayer from their volunteers, people could be healed of medical conditions,” the ASA said in a statement. “We also told them not to refer in their ads to medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.”
The ASA moved against HOTS after Hayley Stevens filed a complaint with the watchdog.

“I was quite concerned at the claims I found there about illnesses and conditions that this group seemed to be promoting as healable through prayer,” Stevens wrote on her blog, “Hayley is a Ghost.”
HOTS plans to appeal the ASA’s ruling. The group finds it “odd” that the ASA wants to prevent it from stating on its website the basic Christian belief that God can heal illness.

is, which is unacceptable to us—as it no doubt would be for anyone ordered not to make certain statements about their conventional religious or philosophical beliefs,” HOTS said. “We tried to reach a compromise, recognizing some of the ASA’s concerns, but there are certain things that we cannot agree to, including a ban on expressing our beliefs.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Defense of Mars Hill's Discipline Contracts...

... from faithful FAR fan Aja. She actually tried to post this in the comment section of the last MH post, but Blogger was trippin', so with her permission, I'm making it a post of it's own.

Hey there! Super commenter, Aja, in the house! You said it, Alisha, not me :) Hehe... {Yup, yup, I did!}

My initial reaction to this post was sort of, "what's the big deal"... I may be missing something that the two of you ladies know because I didn't read anything in the post about the man's issues being broadcast on a public forum so I'm not really versed on that part.

I do, however, believe that lust is a really, really, really serious issue in today's church and ESPECIALLY today's marriages. First of all, this man was a leader in the church (not literally, but he was involved in ministry, which means he was trusted and other people could have been looking up to him as an example). I know in our church (Times Square Church, in NYC) you can't drink if you are ministry, for example, and you certainly shouldn't be having sex with or cheating on your fiance.

It seems like this man had grave issues with lust and seeing as how he was soon going to be taking on a wife and in the future, maybe children of his own, maybe the church wanted to take an extra hard line in order to drive home exactly how serious an issue this could potentially be and the many lives that it could detrimentally effect in the future.

Being married and having dealt with sexual sin from my past, I can tell you, it is no joke. Lust is never satisfied and things that aren't addressed before you're married usually become bigger and bigger issues once you are, because the enemy really uses them to accuse, tempt and torture you. If this issue wasn't addressed seriously, it could have led to this man being adulterous and even to divorce and maybe a broken family if children were involved in the future. Being a child of divorce due to infidelity (although not from a Christian family), I for one, can tell you that I am still dealing with and in the very process of being freed from emotional bondage due to my dad's infidelity and serious lust issues, so I don't fault the church for taking a hard line and really making this man accountable for his actions against God, his fiance and the church in general, because really he was in a position of privilege and was bringing some very unseemly baggage into the church... That being said, yes, we all have it, everyone sins, everyone has baggage, me included. My husband and I weren't perfect during our courtship (although we did wait until marriage to have sex) but we were honest about that with our marriage counselors and they dealt with it how they saw fit, which wasn't to throw us out of ministry or make us sign any contracts.

That leads me to my next point, which is that I am assuming here that these meetings, since they were church meetings, were led by prayer and that the men who were in charge were prayerfully seeking the Holy Spirit and how He would have them handle this situation. None of us were there and none of us know how the Spirit was leading them. Maybe they felt God leading them to be especially hard on this guy. Jesus says if your eye sins against you pluck it out. That doesn't exactly sound like a joyful process, but sin is grievous enough to God and to the human heart, that it needs to be completely repented of and cast away or else it will lead to death, for Jesus does say that it's better to have one eye in heaven than both in hell (not quoting exactly, but I think you catch my drift).

So ya, once again, I am supporting Mars Hill, I feel like I'm Mark Driscoll's Mama or something, haha. I'm not, but I do like his church and I know that in listening to his sermons on marriage from his book (haven't read the book though) that he takes a very hard line against men not living up to their godly role as head of the household, as leader of their family under Jesus. I think that Mark Driscoll takes such a hard line with this because it is an INCREDIBLY serious and meaningful topic to the church. If it wasn't, why would so many Christian marriages be headed for divorce? If more men took their role as leader more seriously and saw how incredibly detrimental their lusts could be to the sanctification of their whole household and to God even hearing their prayers, because Peter says that if you don't honor your wife, God won't even entertain your prayers, then maybe the church could hold up it's track record for godly marriages as the example to the world it should be and not the opposite.  This is really really really important stuff, ladies. The porn industry and the lusts of the world in general are eating Christian marriages alive and I don't think Mars Hill is wrong to take a serious approach against it and I definitely don't think it's wrong to ask him to sign a contract for accountability reasons...

That being said, and I really do have to go now, I do think that meetings within the church should be confidential and I also do know that if we repent honestly to God, He is faithful and just to forgive us. But, we do submit ourselves to church leadership for a reason, just like Jesus submitted to His Father for a reason, and if we do the crime, which this guy did, we've gotta do the time, which in this case was lots of embarrassing meetings and signing a paper which doesn't seem that terrible to me if it saves his marriage from falling apart in the future and keeps honesty and accountability in the church ministry.

Glad I could show a differing opinion, although I do think you two had some great points as well! Thank goodness for the everlasting Grace, Forgiveness and Love of Almighty God!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

In The Depths

My cerebus for 9 days.

For ten days in December, I was hospitalized for treatment of a sensory neuropathy caused by an autoimmune disease. This is my first essay discussing it. Keep me in prayer. Thanks!

I lay on the elevated hospital bed with a thin paper sheet over my face. I felt sweat beading on my forehead. On my palms. Behind my knees.

The doctor tried in vain to relax me. He told joke after corny joke about doctors, nurses and residents. His residents were busy giving me lidacaine. Lidacaine that could not block out the searing pain of a needle being pushed into the main vein of my neck.

Which was followed by a long white tube that was inserted deep into my chest. The top of it hung out of my neck like some sort of medical cerebus with its three ports.

I felt my eyes starting to roll back in my head. Do you know what's  worse than searing pain? Suddenly feeling nothing. I struggled to speak. It felt impossible. Considering I'd spent the past three years losing the ability to control my legs like normal thanks to a sensory neuropathy, you'd think this would not be too frightening. But it was. Horribly frightening.

I mumbled out a weak "Help". The doctor with his corny jokes told me it would be okay. God, no, no, please help me speak... "My heart is racing...". One of the residents ran to grab a monitor. She put my right pointer finger in a tiny clip on cuff and sure enough, my heart rate had jumped extremely high.

"Oh no... Sweetie, Sweetie, calm down..." the corny doctor said in his thick Pakistani accent.

I had calmed down enough to hear his Pakistani accent. Enough to realize I hadn't passed out.


The bed lowered, my dad and stepmom were ushered back in my hospital room. They had been standing outside the door. Now they were at the foot of my bed with tears in their eyes.

My 74 year old roomate told them how brave I was. She was crying, too. I wiped away the tears that were streaking down my face and put my glasses back on.

For some reason, I couldn't bear the thought of everyone in that crummy little room crying.

"I'm okay..." Who's voice was that? Damn, I sounded horrible. I couldn't fool a soul sounding like that.

I couldn't fool my soul feeling like that.

I stared at the crucifix on the wall across from me. I couldn't think clearly. Not enough to even pray. Just stare. Stare at tiny metal Jesus. Stare at his tiny feet with the single nail through them.


Recently, I read a great quote by the late Catholic priest Father Daniel Lord. It was shared with me by Dawn Eden, an amzing writer who is no stranger to pain and perseverance herself. The quote says, "It may well be that I shall find you in the depths before I shall find you upon the heights."

That night, at St. Francis hospital, in the deep, in the valley, I found Him.

Forgiveness & Signing on the Dotted Line

I love reading other Christian blogs, especially a number over on the Patheos Christian portal. Even when I don't agree with them, I enjoy their "higher than the average blog" approach to writing and topics.

Anyway, one of the topics which came up on Karen Spears Zacharias' blog is on spiritual discipline. She linked to Matthew Paul Turner's blog which details the story of a young man from Mark Driscoll's church Mars Hill who, after cheating on his fiance, found himself being pushed to sign a church discipline contract. The man, Andrew, had been a member of the church's security team and was active in several small groups.

...  shortly after becoming engaged, Andrew made a costly choice, one that involved hanging out alone with a female friend he knew from the community college he attended. Andrew and his college friend messed around. They didn’t have sex. But they got close. But what they did and didn’t do isn’t the issue. He cheated on the woman he was planning to marry. On the following morning, Andrew felt devastated, his brain flashing memories of what he’d done the night before, his heart full of shame, guilt, and hindsight’s remorse.
That evening, Andrew met his fiancee at community group. As soon as she saw his face, she knew something was wrong. After the meeting was finished, they walked outside to his car (he was planning to give her a ride home). A long hard conversation ensued, but at some point in the middle, Andrew confessed...
As so often is the case with church drama like this, the following month was, for Andrew, filled up with meetings. A meeting with his old community group leader (he was forced to join a new community group). A meeting with his new community group leader. A meeting with his fiancée’s step-father. A meeting with his trusted friend who also happened to be the leader of his mens small group. So many meetings. And some of those meetings required second meetings.
Over the course of that month, Andrew also confessed more of his sexual baggage/history.
“I confessed to my mens small group leader–a close friend of mine–that my relationship with my fiancée was physical, too.”
That confession led to more meetings and more than enough long (and sometimes ridiculous) text message conversations with church leadership at Mars Hill.
“On several occasions, I was called a Wolf,” says Andrew, “which at Mars Hill, is like the worst thing you can be called.”...

On the evening of December 18, Andrew met with the pastor and small group leader. It was during this meeting that Andrew first learned that he was being “brought under church discipline.” Despite it feeling like he’d been going through church discipline for a little more than a month, he didn’t say much. He did a lot of listening.

And his ears listened, his eyes began opening, too. For a couple weeks, amid all of the various conversations/meetings/confession sessions, Andrew had noticed what he believed was a strange shift in how people were treating him.

The things he noticed weren’t exactly subtle differences either. There was something about their tones, a certain change from being serious and kind toward him to always coming across intentionally serious and sometimes harsh. He’d also noticed a difference in the words they used, a switch from words and phrases that depicted gentle care and concern to words/phrases that sometimes caused him to feel like a criminal on trial, certainly not a longtime member of a loving, forgiving church environment.

But now. During that meeting. All of the things he noticed. The tones. The words. The differences. They were definitely not his imagination.

Andrew sat in that meeting wondering, questioning whether he could/should trust the two men sitting in front of him. The two men that he was supposed to trust, that he was supposed to deeply respect.
But something made him doubt that.
Something in his spirit told him not to trust them. Something caused him to believe that the men sitting in front of him were far less interested in restoring him than they were in having control, feeling powerful, throwing their spiritual weight around. Beating down a sinner like Andrew.

Andrew was then sent a Church Discipline Contract via email which he was expected to sign. When, after careful thought and prayer, he declined and informed leadership of his decision to leave the church, things grew considerably worse. Sigh.

The Mars Hill leaders claimed they were following Mattthew 18:15-18 in taking such a hard line.

I want to make a few things clear. Despite my recent posts about Driscoll's new marriage advice book, I don't have anything against the guy or his church. I usually post things on this blog based on their popularity at the moment, which is why I've posted on Creflo Dollar, Ray J, Amy Winehouse and naked celebs over the past three years. So please don't think I have it out for him.

But this did get me thinking on the proper role of discipline within the church. Some comments I've read have pretty mich advocated doing away with it altogether. I personally don't think this is a good idea. Not only would we be violating Scripture, but we would be sending the message that purposeful disobedience against God is okay. Which most definitely is NOT.

But what is the proper way to handle this? Do you think Mars Hill's contracts are a good idea? Why or why not? I'd love some feedback.

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