How Will We Respond to the Threats of ISIS?

ISIS sent a message last week: “Message signed in blood to the nation of the cross.” Twenty-one Christians slaughtered on the beach. Did you see it?

ISIS on beachThey said they were “chopping off the heads of those that have been carrying around the cross illusion in their heads.” That’s me and my family. My church. Their message is for us.

They beheaded 21 Egyptian Christian brothers as an act of Worship to Allah.
And the 21 died with prayers on their lips to Jesus. “Lord Jesus Christ,” they called out. “Yeshua!”

And we can feel powerless. Our military might ensnarled in tribal rivalries and ancient disagreements over the legitimate successor to Mohammed (Sunni vs. Shia).

I heard Bill O’Reilly sign off of an interview with Rev. Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse, saying, “Yes, I hear you saying we need prayer…but we also need power.” And once again he called for more military intervention in the situation.

As you watch the horrors of ISIS unfold on your TV, in your heart of hearts, do you look to military might to end them? Are you praying? Are our churches praying? How should we pray?

Fifty Shades of Blue

Last Sunday at the 2015 Grammy’s our friend Brooke Axtell appealed to women trapped in abuse to raise their voice and escape like she did.

Brooke at Grammys

When the man she loved began to abuse her she said, “I was stunned…I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him.” The Grammys audience erupted in applause as did The Washington Post, ABC News, Time magazine, Salon, Slate and many more news outlets. You can watch the one-minute video here.

Not a week later 50 Shades of Grey opened in theaters across the nation. Do you have a friend or a daughter who is intrigued by the movie? Or maybe you are…Ask them or take one minute to watch the video of Brooke’s speech and compare it to this paragraph from the New York Times review:

We cook. We eat. We bond. And the IF: Table questions are the secret sauce

Last weekend IF: Gathering again rocked Austin and thousands of women around the world. Last year I reviewed the Gathering here. This year, whether you attended IF: or not, I invite you to roll out the IF: experience each month around your own IF: Table–6 women, 4 questions, 2 hours.
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 IF: God is real…”Take the land!” by simply setting a table. In his famous description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 I really think that the apostle Paul should have included a knife and a fork—so powerful is the opportunity for bringing God’s kingdom at a dinner table.

In today’s culture where we feel stressed by work and caregiving and meals tend to be hurried or ignored, where we are painfully aware that our table pales beside HGTV, it takes a bold stroke of Spirit-led intentionality to make space for cooking and serving. But the rewards are rich.

Our friend Brooke Axtell made an eloquent appeal last night on the Grammys to women trapped in abuse

Please join me in spreading this video and Brooke’s story within your circle of influence. And praying for women to be set free. Also, please pray for Brooke as she stands against powers of great darkness.

When Brooke was seven her Mom, Mollie, was hospitalized with a severe reaction to environmental poisoning. Her Dad traveled extensively for his business so they decided to put their two sons and Brooke in the care of a series of nannies.

One, a seminary student they thought they could trust, repeatedly sexually abused Brooke, even trafficked her to other men, as she recalled in a piece titled “What I Know of Silence,” written for an anthology of women’s writing in 2012. She was so ashamed it was years before she shared her experience with her family.

Last night, after a clip by President Obama on the subject of violence against women, Brooke briefly shared her story of another, more recent episode of sexual abuse by her boyfriend.

Deep thoughts on the heart of Valentine’s and a simple way to celebrate

Girl Blowing Red Hearts To Her Lover For Valentines Yes, Valentines is a celebration of love, but what is at the heart of love? And what clues might it give us to the best way to celebrate?

On the phone with my mom last night, a true introvert and a tiny bit of a loner, she said, “I just need a hug.”

“I’m so sorry, Mom, that Dad isn’t well enough to hug you anymore. And I’m sorry that I’m so far away.”

“Yes, you know there’s a lady here where I live and she gets to feeling the same way. So we’ve agreed that, if ever we need a hug, she can just come to me and I will gladly give her one. And she’ll hug me if I need it.”

“Sounds like you need to look her up tomorrow.”

“Yes, I think so.”

Whether it’s a sudden disruption or a long slow drip, trouble and pain bring clarity. They help us discover, what really matters most? What is our greatest treasure? The answer is not success or accomplishment. Or a closet full of clothes or a trip to the beach or the mountains or “going to Disneyland.” It’s the tender presence, even the touch, of someone who cares about us.

A Christian Response to Those Who Question God’s Judgment and Heart

Exodus Gods and KingsAnother week, another new big-budget Hollywood movie that condemns God as unjust and uncaring. And it’s not just Hollywood. We hear it more and more in schools. In the marketplace. From unbelieving friends and family. How do you respond?
It hurts my heart. God is such a Treasure. I wonder how people can miss it. But clearly they increasingly see themselves as more moral and compassionate than the God of the Bible. How might we respond?

Why the Gospel is Better than the World of Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell Cola museum 2

 

Before the “conquest of cool” Norman Rockwell celebrated good relationships, hope, kindness, trust, respect and family. As he put it, “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” Yesterday we took in both the lecture on his life’s work and the exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art. His work is powerful and the world he created is richly beautiful (and fun!). I loved our walk through the archives of American optimism–so many childhood memories. But something even richer and more powerful seemed missing.

Rockwell didn’t just paint pictures, he told stories. He used models as actors, directing them to assume poses and convey certain emotions and facial expressions.

Five Ways Unbroken will Enrich Your Life–the movie and (even more) the book

UnbrokenFor all Lauren Hillenbrand’s in-depth research and narrative craft and Angelina Jolie’s movie-making chops, only God could create the story of Unbroken on the canvas of Louie Zamparini’s life.

Our little family did our part to make it #2 at the box office this past weekend (second only to the final Hobbit movie), but I first heard of the book four years ago when my friend Rosie, who reads stacks of books and rewards only the best, grabbed me by the shoulders; looked me in the eyes and said, “You have got to read Unbroken.”

This was now the fourth friend endorsement (and definitely the most physical) for Laura Hillenbrand’s World War II saga of the Olympic runner, Army bombadier and Japanese POW. So a group of us gathered together to read it.

How do we speak from failure with integrity?

WorldproofingWe who follow Jesus have a high calling. And often a high privilege of telling others about him and his way of life, equipping or simply encouraging them on their journey. But we are all sinners, desperately in need of God’s saving grace. So when our lives haven’t aligned with the way of Jesus how do we decide if we still should speak (or write) about following Jesus in that way?

For example, How can we best honor Jesus and speak with integrity to our children about sexual purity if we were not sexually pure?

Or should we counsel and minister to other couples about how to have a strong marriage if we’ve struggled in our marriage or been separated or divorced? What if we’ve committed adultery?

Should we counsel others on how to help their children love and follow Jesus when our children have not followed him? Do we have anything to say? Should we keep silent? If not, how might we speak with integrity?

I probably have as many questions as answers on this so I’d love for you to think and engage with me on this topic…even give me your advice.

An Open Letter to the New York Times Editorial Board: Maybe there is a “why” to evil and ISIS?

The Times editorial board and some of its columnists have no explanation for the evil splashed across the internet and the pages of their own newspaper. But the kids in our church and the people in Rwanda do. What does it mean when your worldview cannot account for the real world?

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From “The Fundamental Horror of ISIS” 10-2-14:
“Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators…as Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist, wrote in a recent piece about ISIS, there is no “why” in the heart of darkness.” —New York Times Editorial Board  (“Yet, in the end, there is no why to the barbarism of ISIS. There is no why in Raqqa. Evil may adduce reasons; they fall short.”–Cohen)

Dear Editorial Board,

The Best Christian Response to Terror

NO circled wagons

Another beheading. More Christians raped, murdered and fleeing ISIS in terror. The enemy wants us to feel powerless. Hunker down. Circle the wagons.

But Jesus always calls us to something richer and life-giving, even in the midst of death. After we’ve written a check, after we’ve gathered in our churches and prayed for our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, after we’ve signed petitions…then what? What can we actually DO in a hands on way?

About the Gay Bride and the Christian Photographer

(“Best of” blog)

P1020423The door swings open and a high-energy, petite blonde walks in. “Hi, I’m Annie.”

“Hi Annie, I’m Mary.” Her smile mirrors Annie’s. “Welcome to my studio.”

“I’m friends with Emma and Ryan Glassman. I love how you photographed their wedding. You just…you do great work.”

“Thank you.” Mary glances at the Bride magazine tucked under Annie’s arm. “Your turn coming soon?”

“Yes!” she beams. “Next spring. So I’d like to talk to you about your pricing and packages.”

Mary grabs her brochure and hands it to Annie, pointing to two chairs pulled up to a coffee table full of wedding albums. “Can I get you some coffee?”

Annie looks at the chair and hesitates, “Umm before we get into this you should know…I’m gay.”

Mary knew this day might come. It just came much sooner than she expected. “I’m glad you’ve told me up front…because there’s something you should know. I’m a follower of Jesus.”
Annie’s smile fades just a bit. “Well…what does that mean?” 

valentines-day_1100010892-1013intWith earthly love, often what you experience at first is not so much love, but what author Lauren Winner calls ‘ego blast.’ You are excited that someone so great is into you! But until you come to appreciate his beauty it isn’t really love, it’s using someone for your own gain.

In the same way, in our relationship with the Lord, we first long for what he can give us–salvation from hell, relief from suffering, material provisions…Jonathan Edwards reflected that religious people find God useful, but Christians find God beautiful.–Dee Brestin, Idol Lies

Idol Lies (Worthy)

If God doesn’t condemn me, then why all the regret? Why the feeling that I just don’t measure up or have what it takes?

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What a relief. God never labels me a Loser. He never dismisses me. Writes me off. Withdraws from relationship.

Love Word Sinking Showing Loss Of Love And Broken Heart

But it is one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs to convict us all of sin. And we’ve all felt his sharp elbows in our guilty little ribs. So what is the difference here? How can we live the difference between conviction that brings a proper response to the grave reality of our sin without getting sucked out to sea in an undertow of self-condemnation and regret?

The Tyranny of the Expected Response…What lies beneath?

(posted yesterday at Emerge)

A farmer sits on his front porch. Just inside the screen door the phone rings. And rings. His neighbor asks, “Aren’t you going to get that?”

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The farmer spits and leans back, “I bought that phone for my convenience. And right now…it’s not convenient.”

A prayer for you, your family and your service to others this week…

P1040303Father we pray your love and favor over us this week. Anoint us for all that is before us. We pray your glory and goodness over our lives and the work of our hands. We proclaim the Kingdom of Jesus over our lives, our families, and the good and beautiful work you are doing through us. This is the realm and the province of Jesus, all of it. Fill our lives with your life this week, God. Fill us all with your trueness and goodness and beauty. For your glory, for our joy. In Jesus’ name.

(Thank you for the inspiration, John Eldredge)

Downton Abbey: A Technicolor Story Enfolds a Black and White World

(“Best of” blog)

Downton Abbey

The final episode of Downton Abbey aired Monday. “Keep calm and wait for January” the Facebook icons reassure. You wouldn’t expect to find such a cool- set-must-see-TV-water-cooler-buzz show on PBS, but Masterpiece Theater has struck gold (four Emmys) with its story of Lord and Lady Grantham, their three Jane Austinesque daughters and the downstairs intrigue of butlers, valets, footmen, ladies maids and cooks. What hooks millions of viewers all over the world?

A world of daily candlelight dinners, beaded Chanel gowns, side-saddle hunts and Christmas pheasant shoots is rocked by World War I, the explosion of technology (automobiles, electricity, telephones), the rise of modern media and women’s and workers’ rights and a plot laced with secrets, theft, jealousy, midnight rendezvous, dead bodies, romance and a fairly astonishing moral clarity and commitment.

What it takes to move people from here to there

(“Best of” blog)

After months of transition, job search, selling a home, finding a home, a month of waiting for the new home sale to close, we have finally, actually, irrevocably MOVED.

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What seemed so daunting and risky and unknown has become, step by step, reality. Actually, God is in the business of moving us all from HERE to THERE. And as Bill Hybels pointed out at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit last week: the essence of leadership is to lead people from HERE, the current reality, to THERE, the much preferred future.