Monthly Archives: December 2021

9 things for Christmas

If you don’t have a problem with Donald Trump in the pulpit on Christmas Sunday, then you have no right to have a problem with Beth Moore. Nor do you have the right to complain about “taking Christ out of Christmas.”

If you are grieving this Christmas, grieve. God collects tears. God doesn’t rebuke you for mourning. God hears your cries even if you can’t say anything more than “help me help me help me help me.”

God became flesh; he is Immanuel. He knows what it is to feel sad, lonely, abandoned, despised, hurt and even dying. He bore it all so that we might live. Hold to that.

Mary wasn’t a girl. She was a bright, godly, intelligent, and incredibly courageous woman. The angel didn’t ask her father’s permission. Nor did he ask Joseph’s permission.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if there is a leader in your church that is using the Christmas Story to perv on girls, then he is a wolf and a son of Belial. Please report him. Crush his head. No second chances. And yes, this happens.

I have no problem saying “Happy Holidays”; Christmas is a holiday; People carry burdens I know nothing about; And it is better to be kind than to win some kind of weird culture war, especially one that has Donald Trump in the pulpit.

If you say, “Happy Holidays”, you won’t be struck dead by lightening, you won’t take Christ out of Christmas, you won’t anger God – you will simply cause your neighbor to smile and say, “Happy Holidays” back. You’ll make a connection. For a moment, your heart will be lighter, and so will your neighbor’s.

There might be someone who will respond with “Don’t take Christ out of Christmas!” And then they’ll shout rather angrily “Merry Christmas!”, snort, and give you that look like they sure told you. But it is better to smile at that guy and ignore him than to become that guy yourself.

If you haven’t heard Andres Segovia play “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Francisco Tarrega then you haven’t really lived yet.

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Where abuse thrives

For many years, I worked in the Food and Beverage industry. It has a way of creeping into your pores and into your vocabulary.

I’ve seen restaurants shut their doors because of foodborne illness. Little pathogens and toxins sometimes attach themselves to food and cause illness or even death. Very few restaurants can survive an outbreak.

I don’t know of any restauranteurs that will confess a love of germs. If asked, they will proclaim strongly how much effort and energy they put into the destruction of germs and how clean their establishments are. But the proof is seen in the washing of the hands, the monitoring of food temperatures, the cleanliness of the corners and the walk-in refrigerators, the labelling – in the routines.

Whether a restaurant is truly safe is not dependent upon whether they SAY they are opposed to foodborne illness; but in the environment they keep. Some environments give themselves wholly to the growth of germs and toxins. In order to be safe, good restauranteurs learn how to create an environment that is hostile to germs. It is that simple.

For 20 years, I taught restaurant employees how to create a hostile work environment. Not hostile towards health and goodness and nutrition and peace; but hostile to pathogens and illness and toxins.

Some got it. A few never did. It takes effort and intentionality, and not everyone is willing. They will eventually cause an outbreak.

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I don’t know of any pastors who will just say that they enjoy having pedophiles, revilers, and abusers destroy their ministry. Every one that I know will say, with varying degrees of skill, that they are opposed in the strongest way possible to those who would hurt a child, or revile their spouses.

But that really isn’t the question. The question is this – are they creating an environment where abuse thrives? A quick glance at the news will show us that there is something in the teaching of modern evangelicalism that causes abuse and revilers to thrive.

But in order for sheep to be safe in church, the environment must be “hostile” towards the wolves.

This is why I write what I do. It is for the same reason that I taught young restauranteurs how to protect against food-borne illness. We who have the power to do so must do whatever we can to protect life, to protect health. We must be people of life carrying the savor of life.

And that, very often, means the savor of death – to pathogens and to children of Belial.

In restaurants, the savor of life often smells like sanitizer.

In churches, the savor of life smells like the gospel – that in Christ, God is with us.

And if God is with us, children are safe. The weak are safe. The outcast are safe. And those who hurt and destroy are cast away, for none shall hurt or destroy “in all my holy mountain.”

When we are loyal to our brand first, and our people second, we allow wolves to thrive.

When we refuse to learn about the tactics of abusers, we allow them to thrive.

When we arrogantly assume that we know the Bible, so we know all there is to know about abuse, we allow abuse to thrive.

When we refuse to believe the victims unless they meet a burden of proof so enormous that no evidence actually qualifies….

When we force non-disclosure agreements…

When we teach that women’s bodies are created to serve men…

When we teach that all women are to submit to all men…

When we teach “sanctified testosterone” instead of meekness…

When we teach that “all boys experiment with young girls. It’s no big deal…”

When we normalize pornography…

When we call lust “every man’s battle…”

When we refuse to cooperate with the law when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing…

And I’m sure that we could all come up with more.

Please think about it like this. If you are a restaurant owner, and you believe that foodborne illness only happens to the others, that it can’t ever happen to you – and you take no precautions whatsoever to teach your people how to protect against it – then you will eventually close, after causing a lot of sickness and perhaps death. It takes vigilance to protect against germs.

So also, if you believe that abuse only happens to others, to the other denominations, the other people, the liberals, those who aren’t as clever as we are, God will eventually remove your candlestick. But I pray that you won’t continue to cause death and destruction to those who have come to you for rest.

It takes vigilance to protect the sheep. Sometimes you have to take up your cross to do it.

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9 things for December 8th

Gas prices are so high I just saw them out buying tacos with Snoop Dog. This might be the stupidest thing you read today, unless you follow “The Transformed Wife.”

Here is a note for those insiders (those with power, pastors, elders, ministry leaders, bosses): with the Duggers, Ghislaine Maxwell, Liberty University, and the Supreme Court taking over the news, people that you care about are triggered, anxious, worried. Their minds are full of trauma, recovered memories and they are seeing the face of their abuser everywhere on every news channel. Please be kind.

The primary horizontal relationship that the prophets spoke of is justice. Perhaps we shouldn’t mock and ridicule those who call out injustice. I do think, though, that it is OK to gently mock those who talk about “vertical” and “horizontal” relationships. It’s just silly.

Whenever you hide an ad on Facebook, you are asked to select a reason. In the pop down menu, you have several to choose from. None of them ever apply to why I actually hid the ad.

My disabled daughter paints my toenails and puts glitter on them. I let her do it because I enjoy the bonding time, I’m not a jerk, it calms her, and I don’t need to prove anything. It also, as a bonus, gives ammo to people who insist on hating me. I perversely enjoy that. “Yep. My toes are painted. And I’m also wearing a shirt with flowers on it. What’s your point?”

If sex in your relationship is used for currency, you are doing it wrong.

As far as I can tell, there is no material difference between a chocolate muffin and a chocolate cupcake. Perhaps when one is eating a cupcake for breakfast it soothes the guilt if you refer to said cupcake as a “muffin”.

Normalize cupcakes for breakfast.

An interesting observation – those who insist that a woman is responsible for a man’s lust are weirdly contradictory. On the one hand, they insist that the man is naturally the leader, is to be in charge of his home and she is to submit. But on the other hand, they insist that the man is not even in charge of his own heart, but is led about against his will by every woman he sees. There is something strange about that.

Have a joyous day and rejoice, because the Lord is rejoicing over you!

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The Joy of the Lord

10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. (Neh. 8:10)

I heard something today that disturbed me. I sat outside and smelled the night air and pondered it. What I heard is that this verse, particularly the last phrase, is used to rebuke those who are downhearted, gloomy or weeping.

I have heard this phrase. It seems to be a frequent guest lodging itself in annoying praise tunes. The idea is this:

Dance, be happy, rejoice, laugh – because God has commanded you to be full of joy in the Lord. Otherwise you will be weak and pitiful.

What bothered me is this – what about all of the times when God’s beloved people wept, or cried out to him? What about God keeping our tears in his bottle?

What about those times when violence and hatred assail our soul and we are trapped?

Or what about those times when we are bowed down by sin, crushed by the knowledge that we have offended a holy God?

That is actually the context of this verse. The people of Israel were mourning over their sins, and Nehemiah was giving them comfort.

Was he comforting by adding another commandment – be joyful!

Knowing that scripture never contradicts itself this is like an itch. I mull. I sit on the porch in quiet and think it over.

And then it occurs to me. It was like a light, a flash of joy and a thought so profound and wonderful that it doesn’t seem quite real!

What if the one with joy isn’t me? But God himself?

The word “of” can mean a variety of things. It can mean here that Israel’s joy in the Lord is their strength. OR it can mean that God’s joy in Israel is their strength.

In the context, there can be only one interpretation that fits. Israel, although convicted by the law, is told to stop weeping, get out the food, eat and drink and give generously to those who have nothing.

Why? Because even though they have sinned before God, God takes great joy in them. The joy is the Lord’s for Israel, not Israel’s for the Lord! And this changes everything.

Rather than being a command to Israel, it is a motive for OUR joy. In Christ, God’s anger is taken away. He rejoices over us. He even sings over us. He delights in us.

THIS is our strength. God’s joy in his people.

If we look within to see our joy in God and try to work some up so that God doesn’t zap us, we will never succeed. How can we rejoice? How can we love, if we view God as a harsh lawgiver ready to stomp us down any moment?

The answer is that we cannot. We can only rejoice when we fully understand that God delights in his people. The joy of the Lord is our strength.

Meditate on that. Think about how God delights in you. You are acceptable, loved, wanted, desired. Yes, your sins are many. But God’s grace is far greater.

Yes, the pain is real and the tears are real. But God isn’t in heaven scoffing at you for weeping at his harsh providence. He is holding your hand; walking with you. He is leading you to quiet pastures because he actually WANTS to. He loves you freely, not from compulsion – but that love means that he actually delights in you.

Do you know those parents that tell their kids, “I love you, but I sure don’t like you very much right now.”

And you see the child just crumple. How painful it is to not be wanted, to not be delighted in. We were created to be delighted in.

And yet in the cursed world, we are very used to the door slams, the unfriending on Social Media, the booting out of the inner circle – Jesus even said that they would throw his people out of the synagogues.

But being an outcast isn’t who you are before God. You are accepted and loved.

The joy that comes from the Lord, freely given to his people, is their strength.

Amen!

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