Fighting for Love in Columbia, SC

It rained over twenty inches in our fair city last weekend. This weird radar-red and yellow arm reached way up out of Hurricane Joaquin , pinned Columbia down and kept pouring water on our heads. Coming on the heels of over a week of soaking rains, this final unrelenting round of Joaquin waterboarding threatened to drown us. We spluttered and coughed, but thankfully, we survived.

flood Justin

Creeks and streams filled to overflowing Saturday night. Dams on neighborhood lakes liquified and began to breach. On Sunday morning our friend Justin launched his fishing boat down a nearby street in his subdivision and began rescuing people whose homes were quickly filling with water—one family huddled together on top of their kitchen table. Where else do you go when your car is already under three feet of rising water and there is no dry land in sight?

Gun to Your Head. “Are you a Christian?” What would you say?

We can never know how we would respond to the ultimate threat. But a thoughtful heart check sheds light on what we treasure most.

Pray for RoseburgWhile our choices matter to God, he tells us our motives matter even more. God is always looking at our hearts.

Thinking of what I would say to a shooter pointing a gun at my head was not nearly as revealing for me as pondering why I would say it. As you read these wildly different responses from the candid crew over on Reddit how does it clarify your motives?

Life Is Becoming Entertainment: The 2016 Great Race Survivor Reality Show

If you locked all the Hollywood reality TV writers in a room until they came up with a script that would compare to our nightly news episodes they’d never be seen again. Each evening we tune in to discover what our crazy cast of characters has been up to today. And we are not disappointed.

P1000468

Just in the last few days…over at the Values Voter Summit the billionaire with the uniquely crafted hair was waving his Bible in the air. Back in July, when asked whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions, Mr. Trump responded, “…if I do something wrong, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

But on Saturday he was all about reading the inscription in his “favorite book” and in his closing remarks held it aloft once more, reminding the evangelical voters, “This is the key.” Except maybe for the forgiveness part?

In New Hampshire a 74-year old socialist, Bernie Sanders, leads Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton 46% to 30%. One of two very smart women in the Great Race made some very curious decisions to take her government email off the grid and wipe her server. (Inquiring minds will be lining up at the October Benghazi hearings to find out why.)

Meanwhile the other very smart woman, Carly Fiorina, was bombarded with condoms at an Iowa tailgate party by supporters of Planned Parenthood. (Really, you could not make this stuff up. But wait, there’s more!)

Jesus Calling: More Thinkers Needed in Today’s Culture

Feeler needs to thinkThe more the world changes from modern to postmodern the more thinkers (and thinking) are needed. In today’s culture it’s going to take more and more courage to stand against the feelings and experiences of other people. If we rely mainly on our own feelings and experiences to base our faith on, how will we have the courage to sacrifice? To go against the cultural flow? How can we grow as thinkers?

We find ourselves in a culture saturated with images–videos, games, selfies, Pinterest, movies, Instagram, TV, even notable quotes are embedded in pictures for heightened impact. And while images capture our attention, we don’t process them the same way we do words.

Three Reasons Why Thinkers Should Feel more

thinker to feelerAre you a thinker or a feeler? If you’re a thinker like me, is growing into more of a feeler something you might want to be more intentional about? If you’re a feeler, how might you inspire a thinker to grow into more of a feeler? Or is that something we can change?

Before we go any further, what does it means to be a thinker? According to the Myers Briggs gold standard of personality testing…you know you’re a thinker if, when it comes to decision making,…

…you make decisions with your head and want to be fair.
…you like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved.
…you like to analyze pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding, not letting personal feelings get in the way.

You know you’re a feeler if…

When Politicians Fail Us: A Bonhoeffer alternative to doublespeak and cunning…what you can do

Doublespeak Meme

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds.

We have become cunning and learned the arts of obfuscation and equivocal speech.

Experience has rendered us suspicious of human beings, and often we have failed to speak to them a true and open word.

Unbearable conflicts have worn us down or even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?

We will not need geniuses, cynics, people who have contempt for others, or cunning tacticians, but simple, uncomplicated, and honest human beings.

Will our inner strength to resist what has been forced on us have remained strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves blunt enough, to find our way back to simplicity and honesty?” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, Germany, 1943-45)

Until you reach the last lines you might think this quote could be from political outsiders Ben Carson, or Carly Fiorina…or, if it weren’t so eloquent and respectful, even Donald Trump. Simply substitute “political class” for “human beings” in line three.

A Wilberforce Moment: The PP videos and how you can make a difference

Planned Parenthood supporters are leaning on congress and the media to kill the story of what’s really going on inside America’s abortion trade.  Reminds me of how England’s  slave ship owners did *not* want the Brits to see what went on inside the slave ships. We are living in Wilberforce times, no?

amazing grace movie slave ship

William Wilberforce was the British Member of Parliament who led the fight to abolish the slave trade. If you haven’t seen Amazing Grace, the 2006 movie about that struggle, now would be a good time. Especially to see the scene where Wilberforce has arranged for a pleasure cruise of British lords and ladies to pass by the moored slave ship Madagascar. Watch them recoil at the chains and manacles draped across the stern that had recently bound its human cargo. Imagine the stench as they hold their noses.

Ioan Griffudd as Wilberforce calls out from above the manacles, “I want you to remember that smell… remember the Madagascar… remember, God made men equal.”

Wilberforce and his friends in Clapham Circle feel compelled by their love for God and each person he created to not just tell but show the truth about slavery. Thanks to them and the encouragement of Prime Minister William Pitt (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), eventually things change. But only as the public becomes more and more aware of the abominations that are out of sight/out of mind.

In addition to the PP supporters who want to keep hiding the truth from public outrage and legal investigation, I’ve heard too many  conservative newscasters and friends say they do not recommend watching the Planned Parenthood videos because they’re too graphic. Please don’t follow their advice. Here’s why…

An Open Letter to Planned Parenthood: What exactly are you apologizing for?

Nucatola meme2Dear Planned Parenthood,

With great interest I watched your apology in response to the undercover video of your Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, discussing the sale of human livers, hearts and lungs.

“Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide,” said Cecile Richards, your president. “In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”

Planned Parenthood apologizes for a lack of compassion. What do you mean by “compassion?

This is the way Dictionary.com defines it: “Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

Compassion is always directed at another person. Please clarify: Whom do you think deserved compassion but didn’t receive it?

Your Response to Gay Marriage: Seething, Fearful or Soothed?

The Supreme Court released its long-awaited ruling on gay marriage Friday morning. By a vote of five to four it’s now legal in all fifty states. We are living through a tidal wave of cultural change. How do you respond?

Supreme court gay marriage

Maybe you are celebrating the news. Relieved that the issue will not need to be fought out state by state. Glad for your friends who are gay. Maybe you are working hard to show tolerance in this new social reality but, under the surface, are you seething? (Or maybe not under the surface…)

If you are angry, sort it out…why?

Before we throw stones at the Duggars…and some advice from a CPS pro

It’s been a terrible, no good, very bad week for the Duggars and their 19 Kids and Counting reality TV show. A few days ago a celebrity gossip tabloid reported that twelve years ago Josh, the oldest child, fondled 5 young girls, several of them his sisters. He was 14 at the time. The tabloid took the police report public and the web has exploded with condemnation.

19 KIDS AND COUNTING 7

19 KIDS AND COUNTING

(August 22, 2010 update: With Josh Duggar’s confession of unfaithfulness and holding an account on the Ashley Madison website that facilitates adultery, I’ve written a sequel to this post.)

Parents Jim Bob and Michelle have been publicly shamed for calling it a “very bad mistake” and covering it up. Last night CNN’s Don Lemon and his guests slammed them for dealing with Josh through a religious lens of sin and repentance rather than acknowledging “the reality”: his actions are a crime and he should be reported to the police. (Really? Keep reading…)

The Learning Channel is deciding whether to continue producing the show. Viewers are deciding whether they will continue to watch it. Or permit their children to watch it. Many of us are listening to the uproar wondering how to respond to fellow-believers with wisdom and grace. And no doubt many families with a similar experience are watching this unfold in horror of what this all means for the way they handle their own children.

#boycottindiana and YOUR religious freedom: A lawyer who worked the Hobby Lobby case explains what’s really at stake

boycottindiana2Suppose you are an Indian who runs a vegan café in Indiana. (You are Jainist and your faith opposes the taking of animal life.) And suppose a customer wants you to cater their wedding with your amazing vegan creations, but please, just put some chicken wings on the side for non-vegans.

If you refuse this service should the offended customer (backed by the NRA, Ducks Unlimited and the force of government) see you have to shut down your café and lose your livelihood because of the heavy fines imposed? Would it make sense to justify this because you clearly “hate” and are prejudiced against meat-eaters?

Do you really want the government to force you to violate your core beliefs? This is the question at the heart of the intense debate in the wake of this past weekend’s social media campaign as well as last summer’s Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

  Engage the Culture Series

On Sunday, April 19th, Pepperdine University Law Professor Robert Cochran will present an evening conversation in Columbia, SC: The Hobby Lobby Decision and the Future of Religious Liberty. Read more.


And here is the rock-bottom truth lost in the media frenzy: 

The Indiana law doesn’t say anything @ gays and lesbians. 

It says that if the government is going to force people to violate their core beliefs they should have a good reason. Otherwise they should leave them alone.
The law sets up a test for what makes for a good reason. The courts decide.

To further explain this conflict so hurtful to so many I’m honored that Daniel Blomberg has agreed to answer some key questions. Daniel grew up here in Columbia and graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School magna cum laude. He is legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and clerked for the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

1. Daniel, what was your role in the Hobby Lobby case?

Why the Biblical Defense of Traditional Marriage is NOT like the “Biblical” Defense of Slavery

“Evangelicals will more or less come to embrace homosexuality in the next 20 to 30 years,” Jeremy Thomas, professor of Sociology at Idaho State University, predicts. “I would put all my money on that statement.”

They will “grow out of” their disapproval of homosexuality and gay marriage. Just like they like they “grew out of” their approval of slavery based on race. So goes the conventional wisdom.

Bible Defense of Slavery
But there is a vast gulf between the “Biblical” argument to defend slavery and the “Biblical” argument to defend homosexuality and gay marriage. In order to defend the enslavement of blacks based on race, white Southern antebellum preachers had to resort to a tortured theological construct. How tortured?

When we stand before God I would not want to be Josiah Priest (1788-1861). His Bible Defense of Slavery (1843) twisted Scripture and the minds of thousands and helped launch the civil war. For those who equate the “Biblical” defense of slavery to the “Biblical” defense of traditional marriage: read just how tortured…

What we need to know about the threats to our religious liberty

“Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.”

Robert Cochran 2It is Lent. And I was just praying this this morning from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s prayer guide on what a broken, humble heart really looks like. It’s a heart like Jesus’ heart, who even gave up his rights as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to purchase our salvation with his life’s blood.

So does that mean we should give up our rights to religious liberty in America? Or should we pay for contraception that is really abortion? Should Christian colleges be forced to hire LGBT professors to teach Bible or theology? Should my husband, an ordained minister, be compelled to preside over a same-sex wedding? What exactly is at stake?


 Engage the Culture Series

On Sunday, April 19th, Pepperdine University Law Professor Robert Cochran will present an evening conversation here in Columbia at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church about the future of our religious liberty.


As with everything, I believe that when we find ourselves in tension between claiming our rights and giving them up, God looks at the larger context and at our hearts. What are the circumstances? What is our motivation?

What Drives ISIS and How Will We Respond?

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, do you look to military might to end them? Are we 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:

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?

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?” 

IF: the (mostly) under-40’s rock at their first un-conference

(“Best of” blog)
IF2
I wrote this review of the first IF Gathering in Austin, Texas right after it happened last February (2014). As the banner above reads, they’ll be meeting again in February, 2015. I encourage you to gather there or online. A fresh wind is blowing out of Austin! And you can find out more here.

The 1200-seat Austin Municipal Auditorium sold out in under an hour. So they offered live streaming to anyone with a computer. And from around the world 20,000 more registered, many of those inviting friends and even churches full of women. It was as IF the organizers had blown a giant whistle and thousands had come running…to what no one was exactly sure. Not even the organizers.

A Visit to an Emerging Church: The Gospel According to Lost

 (“Best of” blog)

Gospel According to LostSaint Sayid gazed across the congregation, cool yet conflicted. The “humanitarian torturer” his tagline read.  Next to him, Saint Jack and next to him Saint Kate—all rendered on large canvases with bright colors. Like portraits of the apostles in a medieval church, the cast of Lost, complete with gold halos, surrounded the congregation, reminding them…

“Together We Survive. Alone we die.”

After his brother Robbie led the people in thoughtful, sometimes haunting praise and prayers, pastor Chris Seay settled onto his stool in Ecclesia, the emerging church they founded in the artsy Montrose district of Houston, and introduced a video story of his Hawaiian adventure the previous week.