Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Memory as Hope

So on Sunday I was laying down, impatiently waiting for my back to heal, and I popped in the 3rd Lord of the Rings movie.  I'd recently seen the 2nd one when our symphony did a live performance of the music with the movie.  I was preparing to share with our church planting team about hope that evening, so I was watching the movie with thoughts of hope in mind.

I got to the part of the movie where Sam and Frodo are headed through the wilderness, finally abandoned by Gollum, and they are worn and ragged.  The journey has been long and difficult beyond belief.  They keep putting one foot in front of the other, but they struggle to do even that.  At one point, Frodo sort of collapses.  Sam stands there and looks at him, concerned, as always.  And then he starts to talk to Frodo, "Do you remember the Shire, Frodo?"  And he paints a picture of all the things that they left behind, all the things that they remember, all the things that they think are worth fighting for.

How powerful.

I thought of that in the context of the eternal story that we are living in the midst of.  We often think of hope as something to reach for that has no basis in reality, that has never happened before, that we can only just picture the possibility of.  But I think that we also have memory of something that's good and right and perfect that we still long for.  And the fact that it existed before actually can instill hope in us that we can find that again.

One of the most powerful aspects of the story of God is that there is hope for healing and restoration and re-creation.  We have a picture of what that was like - oh so briefly - in the first chapter of Genesis.  Where all relationships were right and good, where people and God walked together, and where work was not the toil it is today. 

When I'm physically suffering, attempting to counsel suicidal clients to get help, watching those around me physically or emotionally hurting, it's so easy to see just those things.  It's easy to see the problems and to be overwhelmed by them.  But the memory of the garden gives me hope that, through the power of Jesus and the work of the Spirit, re-creation is possible.  And not only is it possible, it will happen.  Someday.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The substance of hope

Last night we had the first advent conversation for the church plant I'm part of.  We talked about the first advent topic, which is the hope of things to come.  Although I would typically think of the beginning of the advent season as hope and expectation for the coming of the Messiah, the passages that we were looking at were all about hope for the 2nd coming of the Messiah.

So the question that I posed to the group is what is the nature of the hope that we have to offer ourselves and to the world?

In my daily life, brushing shoulders with all kinds of people in all kinds of places, there's a marked absence of hope.  There's a feeling that the world is not as it should be, and the imperfections of the world around us seem to take center stage in conversation.  Whether it's the economy (Michigan's is still really, really awful), the reality of an possibility of war, or the complete breakdown of our social relationships, people are living without hope.

In Isaiah 2, there's a really hopeful passage of Scripture where Isaiah talks about the end of time, when weapons will be given up for tools of peace.  Isaiah was speaking into a culture of instability and fear that is similar to where we are today, though the invasion of military forces was imminent for Judah.  But the hope that he mentioned was all in the future - the very distant future.  After reading, my question remained - what is the substance of hope that God offers today?  Is it just the hope of a future world where everything will be put right?

Because I'm not sure that hope actually really resonates with the people in my world.  The response I feel is the response of "so what?  How does that even remotely relate to my life right now and all of my current problems?  How does that put bread on the table or get me out of an abusive situation?"

As we talked about this as a community, I think we uncovered that there's a duality of hope that is offered.  Yes, there is hope for the future making-right-of-all things.  But there is also a way in which the body of Christ, the church, is to be an agent of hope and change in the world right now.  How do I know that the future restoration of all things is coming?  Because I am being restored - not just by personal healing, but by being a part of a transforming and transformative community.  

If I can say that I am being restored, recreated in God's image, being made a better person who makes better choices by the power of the Spirit in my life, then it's easier to hope for the ultimate restoration of all things.  If I'm part of a community that is transforming the culture around it, not in a damaging or disrespectful way, but in a way that reaches out and meets actual needs, perhaps it is easier to believe in the possibility of recreation.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vulnerability is a good thing

So I injured my back this weekend and all of my lower back muscles have seized up.  I can barely move, so I'm laying here, flat on my back, trying not to move.  Besides preventing all activity (except reading and writing, I guess), this problem gives me the opportunity to think.

What I'm thinking about this morning is the importance of vulnerability in building relationships with other people.  One of the biggest problems that I see with the way I was taught to share faith in my childhood was that I was sharing from a position of power.  Maybe a better way to say this is that I was sharing with the belief that I had something to offer the world.  I was untouchable - all my problems had been solved, my life was perfect, and in order for people to have the same experience, they just had to believe the same way that I did.  I'm sure this wasn't the intention of the people who taught me, but it seems like the approaches I was taught lend themselves to that sort of attitude.  It's like you're expected to share from a platform or a soapbox.

But that's not really the real world.  Real people have problems.  The minute I portray that my life is perfect, I take myself and my faith out of the realm of the possible.  Not allowing myself to be vulnerable or need something from other people automatically limits the depth to which I can reach their hearts.

So something I've learned is to allow my needs and vulnerabilities to be an opportunity to invite people deeper into my life.  This isn't natural for me, given my life experience.  I am much more comfortable being self-sufficient.  But self-sufficiency is actually unattainable.  Having needs to be met by other people is part of the human condition and it's a really powerful way to build community with people.  And it's in that kind of community that I think conversations about faith are most impacting.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On the other side

I've only ever been prostelytzed to one time.  It wasn't religious, actually.  It was a hard-pitch sales job related to a book/philosophy that a family'd bought into.  I went to lunch with a friend and her mom.  They came armed with this book and a folder full of information.  It was weird.

We were going along, having nice conversation, when all of a sudden, the agenda came up.  In the context of this nice lunch, all of a sudden they were explaining to me why this approach to life was so wonderful and all the different things it could help solve.

They were careful not to pressure me.  They said it would be fine if I didn't want the book or the materials.  But they'd clearly bought into it and were now trying to pass it on.

I couldn't help but think right then about all the people Christians share with about the gospel.  I'm sure many times, we make people feel just that same way - a little awkward, maybe offended.  What was really weird was that I hadn't asked for this information.  I didn't see that I needed it.  My own approach to life was working just fine for me, thank you very much.

It felt so much different than it would have had I had a problem I couldn't solve and had asked for help.  It felt so much different than it would have if she'd just been telling me her story one day, or about something that had happened to her, and how this helped her.

I would like to say that I've never made anyone feel like that before.  But I'm sure that's not true.  I think it happens when I have an agenda, or when my message doesn't really relate to the context I'm in. 

I think there are a lot of different ways to talk about faith.  I have conversations about faith with my friends who don't have faith or have faith in different things.  I even challenge the pants off the people around me to live lives totally surrendered to God.  But the only time I've seen it bearing the kind of fruit I'm looking for (better communication between us, a deeper openness to God and his ways) is when it's within the context of relationship and actually relevant to what's going on and what's being talked about.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How do you walk with God?

So the question I was left with is how do you walk with God?  How do you know when he's leading you?

The reason this is a problem is because, although I'm probably a postmodern person, I grew up with modern parents who taught me to lead with my mind and allow my heart and spirit to follow.  The answer to my question in my home would be to read Gary Meador's book about knowing the will of God.  If I'm remembering correctly, the basic premise is that within the moral and ethical boundaries God has given in his word, I can choose to do anything I want to.  There is no "will of God" beyond that.  I saw my parents make decisions like this.  They would pray about things, they would use their rational minds to think about things, and then they would make the good/wise/right decisions within the boundaries of morality and ethics.

I don't know how this happened, but I actually believe that the Spirit also speaks into a person's life, if she is listening, and can specifically lead and guide.  I think there's biblical evidence that this at least happened in biblical times--even the apostle Paul speaks about being led by the Spirit when he's heading on his missionary journeys.  But my parents had great skepticism about this, mostly because of how immeasurable it is and how you can easily misinterpret your own experiences.

So anyway, most of my life I've lived in a way that I would call is "sensitive to the Spirit's leading", where I make choices about what to do and say based on how I believe the Spirit is specifically leading me.

But this year brought up that question for me again.  Because if I'm going to allow that God means to use people to meet needs in the world, and if I'm going to allow that I should only be doing the things that I'm led to, rather than trying to meet everyone's needs all the time, I have to figure this out, right?

So I was drawn again to the passage of John 15, about abiding in Christ.  And I remembered Galatians 5, which talks about walking in step with the spirit.  What I noticed is that there is very little explanation of what this means.  We're admonished to walk in step with the Spirit, to abide in Christ, but the passages don't really paint a picture besides those word pictures of being connected to the vine or walking in step with something.

So I'm left to interpret these passages in the light of the whole of Scripture.  So I think of Adam and Eve, walking with God in relationship in the garden.  I think of Noah, who somehow knew God and had enough faith in him to build a boat when he'd never seen any rain.  I think of Enoch, who walked with God at such a deep level that he never died.  And then I think of those 400 years of the silence of God when the Israelites were in captivity.  And I think of the 400 years between the last prophet and Jesus coming.  And then I think of how the Holy Spirit came to believers at Pentecost and is now living inside of us.

And what I have to conclude is that God doesn't just plop us here, wind us up like little wind-up toys, and let us go to do the moral and ethical things.  What I see from the overarching narrative of Scripture is that God does want a deeper connection with his people - a connection that acknowledges him and submits to him in all things.  I do believe, not just from Scripture but also from my own experience, that God does lead and guide and give specific direction sometimes.  I think I have to know him and abide with him to the extent that I'm able to recognize his voice in my life.

That does defy measurement.  It can lead me to pretty crazy places if I am not listening to the right things or am just confused.  But just because it's hard doesn't mean that we should get rid of the idea all together.  In the body of Christ, in Scripture, in the orthodox faith throughout history, I think we have some boundaries and some ways to measure what's truly from God.

So that's where I've landed on this issue.  I continue to struggle with the ideas.  But the bigger struggle is actually a heart struggle, and that's actually being willing to wake up every morning and ask the Spirit to lead and to guide, and then being willing to follow where he leads.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Walking thru darkness

I think I've talked before about what I know to be one of my biggest emotional barriers to faith and trust in God - that question of God's goodness and his provision in my life.

After about 10 years of avoiding the question, maybe 3 years ago I went away for a week of silence at this retreat center (for all you extroverts, I'm sure this seems extreme... even for me it was long).  After a couple of days there, I was actually willing to admit that those were my questions.  I think before that, I'd been afraid to verbalize them.  I know that God wasn't afraid of those feelings and questions, but for some reason, I hadn't been willing to own them. 

So anyway, this year has been one of the hardest of my life.  I saw some people who were very close to me suffering intensely, and it affected my life to such a point that I didn't see how it was ever going to get better.  I'd been living with the belief that I had to take care of them.  Going back to that question of whether God is good, whether he will meet needs.  I was not really believing that he would.  So I was trying to take care of everyone around me.  What would happen if I didn't?  How did I know that God really would take care of them?

I think I mentioned before my disillusionment with the belief that God will always meet all of our needs because that hasn't been my experience.  On the trip I mentioned, I allowed myself to ask those questions, and I even allowed the truth of the goodness of God to penetrate my mind.  But it didn't get all the way to my heart.  So when I hit on hard times this year, I couldn't allow the needs around me to go unmet.  So I was trying to meet them all.

I'm sure you can see what I couldn't - disaster waiting to happen, right?  There's no way I can do that.  There's no way that's possible.  I'm human, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), and I totally have limitations.

By this fall, I'd gotten myself to a point of total exhaustion.  I was barely able to pray beyond "God help me," and I couldn't see how I could keep going on that way.  That's because I couldn't.  With the help of a spiritual director, I was finally able to see what I'd been doing and why it wasn't working.

But then there was the question of what to do about it?  The question still remained - if God doesn't always meet everyone's needs supernaturally because he's expecting to use people, but sometimes his people aren't listening, then how can I sit there allowing peoples' needs to go unmet, knowing how devastating that can be?

The answer for me came from John 15 and the picture of abiding in Christ.  I can only control my own behavior and my own willingness to hear the call of God in my life.  I can't meet everyone's needs, not even all of one other person's needs.  So instead of trying to do that, I had to learn to just be faithful and obedient to what God was calling me to do.  I had to abide in him and his word in my life and be obedient to the things he was leading me to do. 

This brought up another question, which is how to know what God is calling you to do.  More on that tomorrow.

For now, I just want to say that I am so thankful that God walked through this with me.  I am so thankful that I'm beyond the darkness that this year brought.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Learning to speak

So I have a friend who's been telling me for a while that one of the most valuable roles we can play in another person's life is to be what she calls a "prophet."  When she says this, she doesn't mean the kind of prophet from the Old Testament, calling down judgment or blessing from the heavens or having a specific message handed to you for another person.

I think what she means is having the ability to recognize God's work in the world around and pointing it out and contextualizing it for people.  She is always saying that one of the difficulties in our culture right now is that we're driven by emotion, but often people don't really have the ability to put words around what they feel or what they need.  One of the most important things we can do for people is sit there and reflect things back to them - thoughts, feelings, and where we see God working.

That kind of role is really uncomfortable to me.  I'm a peace-loving person.  I like to be in harmony with everyone around me.  I'd rather be listening than talking, and I'm usually pretty slow to give other people my opinions about things.  So to actually take the step to say, "hey, here's something I'm seeing," or "have you considered this question?" is always a risk.

What I don't want to be is that arrogant kind of person who walks around bestowing her wisdom and thoughts on everyone around, regardless of where they're at or what kind of effect my words will have.  But I do desire to be available to help people to recognize the work of God in their own lives.

I've gotten more comfortable speaking into the lives of my friends.  My approach is still to ask questions, but I think they've become more pointed as the years have gone by.  Somehow, as I've become more familiar with my own spiritual barriers, I've been able to see those that my friends are running into too, and I can ask questions that invite people to think deeply about what's going on in their own hearts.

It's much harder to do that for people who are casual acquaintances.  To speak into someone's life who you just barely know seems like a bigger risk.  At least when you have a long history of friendship, there's enough of an investment in the relationship that if you say something wrong or hurt someone's feelings, they're likely to be willing to work through it with you.  But with someone you barely know, there's no investment.  And you don't know the person well enough to be able to predict how your words will be received.

I just had the opportunity or the invitation to do that with someone I just met.  I hesitated for a long time, because I didn't want to offend.  I wasn't really sure where the person was at spiritually, and I never want to create a barrier where one doesn't exist.  But after praying about it, it seemed like the right thing to do, so I took the plunge.  I think it ended up working out.  The jury's still out.

Anyway, the key for me is learning to be guided by the Holy Spirit.  It's amazing how the Spirit is working and guiding to meet the needs of his children.  And it's actually fun to be able to be a part of what he's doing there.  It's a matter of learning to see what's going on and accepting the invitation to participate, because when it does go right, it's really cool to see how God is able to use your words and actions. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Living Storybook

When I was little, I listened to a record that had this song on it about "a two-footed, ten-toed storybook."  The idea was that God's story is written on his people, and the way we live allows others to read that story to find something out about God and us.

Generally, lawyers get a bad rap, and much of that is probably deserved.  Somehow what they teach us in law school leads us to believe that no rule is absolute, that it's all about the arguments that you make, and an argument can always be made.

Anyway, my world is made up of this belief system that you've got to do what it takes to get ahead.  There is so much stress and pressure associated with the job, that everyone lives life dreaming of making partner and retiring well.  There's little contentment, little joy, and a lot of divorce and substance abuse.

But I just met with a group of attorneys today who formed a law firm with the vision of helping people.  They represent clients on a sliding scale, and they take cases that no one else wants to take.  They are still passionate about seeing justice done.  They stick out in our community like a sore thumb.  And when I walked into their office, I saw things around the office that told me the reasons they do this is because of their faith.

What an awesome testimony to the love and presence of God in the poorest of neighborhoods.  It's inspiring to see other people who are so committed to making their lives count for something.  I have no idea if they talk about faith with their clients or with other attorneys.  They certainly didn't talk about it with me when we met today.  But I can say for sure that they're living it out in a way that's meaningful.  They're putting actions behind what they say they believe.  They're a living, breathing incarnation of God's presence and his passion for justice in our community.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Building walls

I talked with a woman once, not too long ago, about different social programs being offered in the schools.  She was explaining how many programs and services have been cut from her school system because of budget cuts.  She talked about how they really need the community to step up and offer some of those things, because it's the kids who are suffering.

And then she mentioned that churches sometimes offer.  But she wasn't too excited about that.  She perceived that the churches that had been coming into her school had an agenda and that it isn't really appropriate to have that kind of thing going on in our schools.  Unsaid were the feelings that were clearly on her face--a skepticism, a feeling of manipulation or agenda.

It struck me then that this might be the only experience this woman has with people who call themselves Christians.  All she knows is that these people with their own agendas come offering services, but that it's not really free.  It comes at the cost of being subjected to their opinions and ideas.  And immediately, a stereotype must form in her mind, one that begins to put all Christians in that category so that she has a wall up to any sort of spiritual discussion from acquaintances.

I don't know if you've ever experienced those walls, but I do all the time.  Talking about faith becomes a very delicate thing.  It's so easy to inadvertently add to those stereotypes or to make people feel judged or like objects of conversion.  I've done it before--never on purpose, but I know that I've made people feel that way.

So what do you do to keep from adding to someone's walls? 

The only thing I know to do is to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  To be quick to serve and to love, and slow to give my own opinion about what you should do or believe.  That doesn't mean that I never share from my heart; but I try to be led by the Spirit about what I say, and I usually wait until I'm asked.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

[wo]Man on a Mission

The word "missional" is being thrown around a lot in today's communities of faith.  There's this feeling that perhaps the church has, in the past, lost a little of its purpose in the world.  I would wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.  One of the reasons I struggle to attend church regularly is because sometimes there seems to be little point.  It's often a consumeristic experience, where we tend to show up looking for what can be done for us or what we can get out of the service.

But in our pluralistic, tolerant society, the ideas of mission, of ministry, of outreach, well, they make people uncomfortable.  And I can see why.

In the past, the church saw its mission as crusade--converting people to a way of belief through force.  And a little later, but probably just as damaging, the church saw its mission as tied to colonization--bringing not just spiritual beliefs, but also cultural ways of life to the "savages."  And then even more recently, you have Rob Bell's "Bullhorn Guy" as the picture of missional living gone off the deep end.

What if the mission that we've been given is to be a blessing to the world around us?

When I think of calling, I think of Abraham's original call in Genesis 12.  He was blessed to be a blessing, and God promised that the whole world would be blessed through him.  Then there's the idea of being bearers of the message and ministry of reconciliation, or peace, that is talked about in 2 Corinthians 5.  God called me to ministry through that passage while I was sitting in a chapel service when I was 12 years old.

So, what if every day, when we got out of bed in the morning, we prayed that God would show us who is in our lives needs the blessing of God's peace and presence?  And what if we prayed for that person?  And then what if we, being led by the spirit, actually did something tangible in that person's life to serve or love or listen to as a way to show the love and peace of God in a real way?

God, in my life, let it be so.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A little bit of faith goes a long, long way

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . ."

Hebrews 11 starts there, and then goes on to tell story after story of people who had faith in an unseen God and risked everything to follow him.

The problem I see is that we don't even have hope in today's culture.  The people I meet are hungry for something to hope for and to hold onto.  We all see the brokenness of the world around us.  We're unhappy with the unethical and unjust systems that control our community.  We're devastated by the lack of care society has for the earth and for the people on it.  And everywhere we look, things are only getting worse--never better.

That passage in Hebrews 11 is meant to inspire and encourage people to have faith enough to walk with God.  I recently was going through the Old Testament, and I was stuck on the story of Noah for a while.  We come into the story just when God is telling Noah to build this monstrous boat to float on the water after rain, which Noah had never in his life seen before.

My question is this:  How did Noah know that it was God asking him to do it?  How did he discern that this is what he was supposed to do?  How did he have the guts to actually get to work to do this crazy thing?  It's amazing.  And inspiring.  And challenging.

I think that hope comes from seeing lives transformed by the story and the power of God.  I recently attended a conference where Marton Hall spoke about his faith community, the Awakenings Movement, in Houston, Texas.  I was incredibly inspired by his willingness to step outside of the box, sacrifice the security of his prior churchified life, and risk loving and living in a way that's actually reaching a community that is not otherwise being reached.  His story inspired me to have hope and to want to walk forward in those things that God is calling me to do during this particular time in my life.

What I don't understand is why those stories of transformation and total willingness to follow God's leading are so few and far between.  Maybe we just aren't comfortable sharing the stories of how God has transformed us.  Maybe all it will take to inspire others to get up and walk forward in risk and surrender is to tell those stories of how we were called and how God met us and provided for us in that calling.

With that in mind, how has your life been transformed by God's leading and his work in your life?

To trust or not to trust

One of the things that holds me back from fully surrendering to God is the question of trust.  I grew up in a family where I was taught that God would meet all my needs.  You know, there's that verse that says that, "And God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory."

Really, that's the way that our family justified the choices we made.  We made a lot of sacrifices so that my parents could be "in ministry."  And we walked forward into difficult things believing that God would meet needs that maybe we were leaving behind.

There's a comfort in that belief--that God will somehow pick up the slack and take care of the things that we can't or won't do.  Because, after all, that's what he's supposed to do.  That's what he said he would do.

But then there have been times where my needs were most assuredly not being met.  There were times that I didn't have the things or the people that I needed in my life.  I was hurt and I simply legitimately needed things that weren't available to me.

And even though I rationally kind of made it through those issues--I somehow came to a place where I rationally understood that (only God knows why) God chooses to work through people, and we screw things up all the time, so that at least the possibility exists that God wants to meet needs through his people, he even asks or burdens people to be there and do those things, and they're just not listening.

But at the end of the day, that didn't really solve my problem.  Because if I was going to take risks in my life and step out by faith and have to trust that God would take care of me, how could I really do that?  The system is messed up.  Either God doesn't actually meet every need, or his people aren't paying attention and it's not getting done.  It's much easier (safer, more comfortable) to just make sure that my own needs are met.

So how do you make it through to the other side?  How do you actually have faith to take a risk?  For me, that issue was an emotional issue, not a rational one.  I could rationalize an answer just fine, but that didn't actually answer the issue I had in my heart.  No matter what I thought about it, it wasn't until I was able to confront those fears, those accusations against God, even, that I could move forward and walk in faith and trust again.  I had to go through this process, a relational, emotional process, of working through those emotions.  First I had to own them, which meant I had to admit them to myself.  And then I had to take the risk of actually talking about them with God, and really surrendering them to him.  It was then that I could hear the truth from Scripture about who God really is.

One of the things that I've learned these last few years about recognizing a person's barriers to faith is that they're not much different from my own barriers to faith.  Learning the skill of seeing into another person's heart starts with being brave enough and honest enough to see into my own heart.  And then, having confronted my own barriers and walked down that scary road, I can recognize and then have compassion and empathy for those who are making their own way through.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just a day in the life...

I’m typing this from the middle of a prison classroom.  All the students were called back to their cells for some kind of count, so I’m sitting here passing the time until they’re able to come back.

For the most part, prisons are a gross waste of humanity.  I know that it’s popular to be all “law and order-- you do the crime, you do the time.”  It seems sometimes like that’s the only thing that all the political parties agree about.  But I spend about 80 hours a year right now teaching prisoners, and I see that they have so much potential.

Yes, they’ve made some bad choices.  Most of the guys I’m teaching right now are in for murder, actually (shh... don’t tell my mom).  They’ve taken human life in a way that’s not justified.  The victims of their crimes probably believe that they will not be in here long enough.

But these men have minds.  They have souls.  They have a creative spirit that longs for freedom in the same way that yours or mine does.  They can be kind.  They have unique and individual personality, hopes, dreams, and needs.

What does it mean to love these men the way that Christ would?  What does it mean to walk with them in this world, or to visit them in prison the way that Jesus talked about them in Matthew 25? 

The gospel is that not even murder can separate us from the love of Christ.  The gospel story is that, in that mysterious, cosmic way, Jesus took the penalty that these men deserve for their absolute violation of morality and human value. 

The government still has to figure out what to do with them, how to maintain order, how to protect future victims from coming to harm in the same way.  I get that.  But the truth of the gospel frees me up to treat them with dignity and respect and with the love of Christ.

If God has already judged their conduct and offered up his own son to pay whatever penalty, then who am I to condemn them?  Who am I to look at them and say they have no value or worth in this world?

When I treat them like they’re valuable human beings instead of some thrown-away prisoner-number, I think that has the power to transform.  That’s the power of the gospel, in living, breathing form, and it has the power to soften and to heal and to spark a desire for good and for positive change.  And for God.  What God can do with that, maybe I’ll never know.  But I trust that he’s able to work through it and in it.  And I’m trusting that he is.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The blurry lenses of culture

When I was 13 years old, my family moved overseas, to Singapore, to live.  It was a really interesting time to leave my home country and find myself plopped down into a whole new world.

I was a pretty contemplative, observant kid, and so I just soaked in the culture.  I watched what people did.  I listened to what people said.  I began to separate culture from beliefs, from worldview, and from values.  I remember learning about the parlimentary system there, and how there are multiple parties, but only one ever has been (and probably ever will be) in power.  I remember asking to use the bathroom and having a lady lead me back to her bedroom suite, the only bathroom that had a bathtub.  I remember reading American magazines that were painting dark skin as desirable, and then hanging out with my Singaporean friends who were jealous because of how pale I was (yes, really!).

I think it was about then that I realized how we so often want exactly what we don't have.  And our whole culture values something that is scarce to us, but could be abundant somewhere else.  And I think it made me look at everything differently.  It made me question which of my beliefs were truly true, and which we just held on to because they were comfortable to our culture.  It made me wonder whether what my culture told me about beauty was really true.

Similarly, when I went to church in Singapore, I found that they focused on different "truths" than we did here.  What they were totally concerned about was in the Bible, but we just didn't pay as much attention to it as they did.  That made me wonder how we decide what is the most important.  Everyone says that they are taking what they believe straight out of the Bible.  But my life experience caused me to question which really came first... did my church really look at the Bible and then allow it to form our culture and beliefs?  Or did my culture and cultural beliefs form what my church thought was important and worth emphasizing?

This experience forced me to conclude that we really do read a lot into what we believe is "truth."  Based on our culture, our experiences, our lives, our values... we take those things with us when we read.  If I come from a culture that values community over individualism (like Singapore), I'm going to read about the call to Christian community with totally different expectations than I will as a Westerner. The Westerners that I know can't even conceive of the reality of living 12 people to a 3-bedroom flat, and all the cooperation that entails.

Technology has made the world smaller.  One of the consequences of that is that people are confronted with different ways of living and believing and existing at a really young age.  For me that experience was a shock to the system - I was thrust into another culture where I couldn't help but recognize the differences.  Today's generations are growing up exposed to all different worldviews and tolerating those is fairly natural.  I think this probably contributes to the skepticism about "absolute truth."  As I've said before, I think it's less an issue of people believing there is no absolute truth, and more an issue of thinking there's no way to know what that is.  How can I really separate myself so utterly and completely from my own life experience, values, and culture to be able to say that I know for sure what that passage really means?  And if you try to tell me that  you are completely separating yourself, I'll probably laugh at you.

So what does all this mean?  I think the beginning of every conversation about truth has to be the admission that I see through my own experiences and culture.  If we can agree about that, then maybe we can begin to talk about our different perceptions and how to figure out what the truth is, even though we know that we can't find it perfectly.  Until then, I think that modernists and post-modern, post-Christian people are just going to keep talking past each other.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why would you do something like that?

Inevitably, I get the question "How can you be a defense attorney?"  Or, "How can you defend someone you know is guilty?"

I give a standard answer.  The defense attorney is there to check the power of the police and the prosecutors.  The defense attorney is there to make sure that the constitution is followed, so that the defendant's rights are protected.  If the defendant's rights are violated today, the police are going to be walking into my house without a warrant tomorrow.  Those are important ideals--definitely worth working for.

But I have a deeper reason for the representation too.  It comes from my belief that all people are made in God's image and are therefore valuable.  No matter what someone has done, that person is valued by God enough that Jesus came and lived and died for them.  So they are worth treating with dignity and respect.  Often the system is an inhuman and inhumane system that steamrolls over people.  I can be the touch of humanity that allows the defendant to be listened to, if not always understood.

My job is really about mitigating the damages that the client has caused in his own life.  Very rarely is it possible to "get someone off" scot-free.  But it is possible to tell the client's story to the people who have power over his future because of his bad decisions.  In every case, I'm the only person who's shouting from the rooftops the mitigating circumstances.  Not everyone who commits a crime actually does it with malice and should have the book thrown at him.  In fact, a surprising percentage of my clients turn out to have mental disabilities.  They desperately need protection and advocacy.

Maybe this will change for me if and when I'm representing someone who has given himself or herself over to evil.  I know those people exist; they just haven't come my way yet.  I'm sure that I'll have to work through that when that day comes.

But for now I'm left with that picture from Matthew 25, where Jesus is talking about how we will know at the end of time who his followers actually are: 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I think that my clients are "the least of these" in our society, and it's really a privilege to be able to love them, minister to them, and advocate for them in a very real, very practical way. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

From Bitterness to Peace

I have a friend, we'll call him Joe, who has had kind of a rough history with his family.  A few years back, Joe said some hard things about the spouse of one of his sisters, mostly because of the way the guy was treating the rest of the family, and there's been a rift in the family ever since.  Joe's sister barely speaks to him now.  And Joe's sister's husband is usually as mean and cruel to Joe as he can possibly be.

A while back, Joe had a major verbal argument with his sister and her husband, stemming from all the water under the bridge.  He came to see me that evening, and we talked about how to handle the situation.  Joe was understandably angry.  He was furious.  But it was clear to me (the objective outsider... ah yes, how easy it is to see things when you're not right in the middle of it) that the anger had already begun to turn to bitterness.  I let Joe vent for a couple of minutes, and then I simply said.  "Joe, I think this is an opportunity for you.  I think you need to pray that God would give you love for your sister and brother-in-law again."

Cue the chirping crickets.  It was dead silent for at least 10 seconds.  And then Joe protested.  And I just said, "Joe, the anger and bitterness has the power to destroy your soul, if you let it.  You've got to surrender that to God, and let him transform you.  This is the opportunity to see God at work in your heart and your life, to remake you to be more like Jesus."

I left that evening not knowing whether Joe would follow through.  Two paths were clearly in front of him.  One to death and destruction--of relationships, of the ability to love and find joy, of many things.  The other was the path toward life and wholeness and healing.

It's been a long year.  But when I talk to Joe now about his sister & her husband, he's different.  He has a softness and a gentleness toward them.  He sees a little more where they're coming from and can look past some of their offenses against him and the rest of his family.  He clearly took the path toward life, and now he's reaping the benefit of peace in his soul.

This is just an amazing story to me.  It's the gospel--the story of how God transforms people from the inside out.  We can make ourselves conform to spiritual expectations on the outside.  We can do all the right things, and say all the right things.  But transformation of who we are on the inside and what we naturally want to do--to lash out in anger or frustration or hatred--that's only changed by the power of the Spirit living inside of us.  And that change only happens when we surrender.

Transformation to being a people of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control--that is the fruit of a surrendered, spirit-filled life.  The surrender part is difficult.  It's scary.  It's counter-intuitive. 

But the fruit is something you can live with, that you can live in, that gives you rest.

So Joe, if you want to know how to know that you're a follower of Christ, this is your answer.  It's clear that you are.  Not because of everything you're doing on the outside.  But because you've given God permission to transform you from the inside out.  It's such a privilege to be your friend and to be able to walk beside you on this journey.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One Skin, Many Worlds

One thing I always struggle with is how to live in the same skin in all kinds of situations.

It's really easy to separate the spiritual from the rest of life, and we get lots of encouragement to do that from both the church and our culture.  In church, it's like if you just do this list of things, that's enough.  Just read your Bible, pray, go to church, volunteer, and that's it.  We're not always encouraged to allow those things we know about who God is to transform every area of our life.  It's so much easier not to.

And outside the church, in the regular world, being a spiritual person is just fine, as long as it doesn't impinge on conversations or another person's freedom.  Spirituality is mostly viewed like something that should be a private thing--not really to be talked about or shared with just anyone.

So I probably err on the side of not sharing much at first about that part of my life.  But because it's so central to everything I am and everything I do, that basically means that I do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking at first.  I guess that's normal for me anyway, being an introvert.

Many times that means that people don't ever really get to know me.  But once in a while, I actually make a real friend.  It's usually someone who takes an interest in my life too.  And we get to talking.  Maybe it's some justice issue that we're both passionate about.  Maybe it's how taxing law school and legal work is.  Maybe it's something entirely different.  But in that situation, talking about my spirituality becomes normal.  It's not always comfortable.  Sometimes it feels like a can of worms is being opened, because I never know where people are at and what their experience with God and the church has been in the past.  But as we talk about life and how we approach it (yeah, I think most of my friends have a semi-philosophical bent), without fail I have to talk about my faith and what it means to me. 

What I've learned is that, in this context, it usually doesn't drive people away.  It usually doesn't have any of that hostility or skepticism you'd find if you were talking to a stranger.  It's just a normal part of sharing my heart and my life with the people around me. 

And sometimes it actually means something.  If I'm living my life as a "good" person, sometimes it gives credibility to the message of God.  Sometimes it can begin to undo hostility that's been caused by other people who call themselves Christ-followers who have unintentionally caused harm.  But sometimes it just is.  And most times I never know whether it means something or not.  My prayer is that I'm never one of those Christ-followers who causes another person harm.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of "surrender."  The word itself conjures up pictures of a battlefield and a white flag waving in the breeze.  But in the context of faith, I think that's the one word I would say could define what I believe relationship with God is all about.

This idea of surrender has been coming up in conversations I've had with a close friend about measuring spirituality.  Both of us grew up in a church culture that taught us to measure spirituality by the external things we did to conform to that culture - maybe it was reading the Bible or praying, or maybe it was wearing dresses and acting respectfully in church.  But I see a lot more in Jesus's teachings about our inner attitudes of the heart and being open to allowing him to move in and through us.  The Pharisees were pretty excited about external measures of faith too... and Jesus was always challenging them that they were "whitewashed tombs" - dead on the inside but looking pretty good on the outside.

Romans 12 talks about offering yourself as a living sacrifice to God, and the Old Testament is filled with pictures of holiness, or the idea that God's people are to be set apart and consecrated to the service of God.

If that's the heart of what it means to walk with God, then I think that this attitude of surrender is really relevant to how to walk through barriers to faith.  If we see faith as a relationship with a being, then barriers are an opportunity to be vulnerable and real and honest about where we are.  Once we identify these barriers, we can offer them to God and invite him to work in them and through them to bring us into closer relationship with him and to make us more like him.

The constant challenge is to abide Christ.  Jesus spoke about this in John 15.  The life that he describes in that passage sounds wonderful, yet so undefined.  The picture he gives is of a vine, giving life to its branches.  The branches have to stay rooted and fed and watered through that vine, or they will die.

I think barriers to faith are an opportunity to choose to abide.  We can allow those barriers to choke out the life and nourishment of the Vine, or we can use them as opportunities to return to the Vine and to ask the hard questions.  With emotional barriers in particular, it's important to give voice to the emotion and the pain that has created the barrier.  It's only when we recognize and give voice to those things that the Vine, who is also the Truth, is able to speak to and minister to and nurture our growth.

It's always a leap of faith--this surrender, this choice to abide.  But until we are willing to daily take that leap in our own lives, it's really hard to be the voice of encouragement and support to those around us who are struggling with their own barriers to relationship with God.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Finding My Place

I didn't set out to be where I am now.  When I pictured my life as a kid, I thought I'd be a school teacher.  When we moved overseas when I was 13, my world immediately got bigger.  After that, I couldn't imagine being in just one place or in one culture for the rest of my life.

In college, deciding what to do with my life was a challenge.  I'd sensed a calling to ministry early in my life, but I wasn't sure I wanted to deal with the politics I'd seen growing up in a ministry family.  My last year of college I grudgingly took a leap and was paid by a church to work with at-risk youth in the city.  It ultimately turned out as I'd expected, and I ended up leaving that church and the ministry.  It was pretty clear there was no place for me in that church, maybe any church.

The next few years I spent in conflict.  How could I walk forward in calling without having a "ministry"?

And then one day, I figured it out.  I'd begun working a regular job with regular people.  Over time and many Euchre games, I became friends with several co-workers.  And I began to have conversations with them--about anything and everything--including faith.  Faith, belief, and relationship with God were topics that began to come up in everyday conversation.

It wasn't like I had an agenda.  But when we talked about dating, for example, and I'd explain where I was coming from and why I wasn't dating every guy that crossed my path, I'd have to explain how my choices come from the values I have.  And then I'd explain where my values come from.  It always opened the door to some really interesting conversations about spirituality.  And I was amazed at how open people were to hearing about my faith and how it affects my life.

It's been about 5 years since I began to see that loving the people around me and just being their friend is an amazing way to be in "ministry."  As I walk beside people in life, I have an opportunity to speak into lives at every level--spiritual, emotional, and rational.  This is such a gift.

And I've begun to see my life as an opportunity to impact the people around me.  Married, single, Christian, Muslim, lawyer, student, teacher, roommate, friend... I want to be a part of encouraging, challenging, and blessing the people around me.  Not because there's some outcome I'm looking for, but because I believe that's why I'm still hanging out here on earth. 

For me, it goes back to the Genesis 12 covenant with Abraham, whom God blessed to be a blessing to the world around him. In my world, the first step is to be surrendered to God, sensitive to the Spirit's leading, and open to the people around me.  I just want to be available to be a blessing, a servant, and a minister to the people here, in my today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Historian

I once had an ongoing conversation with an historian.  We'll call her Mary for the sake of this post.

So Mary was struggling with her faith.  She'd grown up in a very conservative, fundamentalist home and church.  And she'd owned that life and belief system--surrendering her life to Christ and trying to follow him each day.  She did all those things that we normally use to identify followers of Christ.  She went to church, she read her Bible, and she acted like a Christian.

And then she went to college.  She studied history--first with a lot of excitement and interest because of how it would encourage her faith and help her defend the truth of Scripture.  Soon she learned that the study of history involves evaluating historical evidence for the probability of its truth.  So she bought into this system.

And as she  began to apply this system to the facts found in the Bible, she began to question the truth of the Bible because many of the stories she grew up believing did not measure up to the probability analysis.

When we first started talking, that's exactly where Mary was at--in this tension.  She believed that her probability analysis that she learned in history was the best way to evaluate truth.  She struggled, because now she had two different systems that were competing for her loyalty.  There was still a part of her that wanted to believe that the God of the Bible is true.  But she couldn't because she'd accepted this other system of evaluation instead.

I spent a lot of time talking with her about different standards of measuring truth and the different standards of measuring truth and the historicity of the Scripture and the death and resurrection of Jesus.  She was willing to admit that Jesus's existence, death, and resurrection were probably true under her probability analysis.  But she could not walk in surrender to God.  Why not?

Further conversations revealed some possible reasons.  First, somewhere along the way she took on the identity of an historian.  She defined herself as one, and to accept Christianity in whole was to her to reject her historical measuring system.  To reject that, she would actually have to reject herself.

She couldn't do it.  Even though we made it through most of her rational arguments against faith and she was semi-satisfied with the answers to her objections, she couldn't take that final step in letting go of her identity for long enough to find another way to define herself.  Unfortunately, she's not made that journey yet.

Another possibility had to do with some immense suffering someone close to her had had.  Here, too, we spent some time talking about the rational issues of suffering in people's lives and evil and injustice in the world.  But the answers--the good, rational answers to these questions did not penetrate.  Why not?

I think it's an emotional barrier.  It's not that she thinks there's no logical way for God and suffering to coexist.  it's just that she can't believe that a good God would allow suffering.  Emphasis on the word "can't."  Right now, she just can't make it through.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Where We're At

The first time I remember seeing and experiencing an emotional barrier to faith in another person was about 5-6 years ago.  I was having lunch with a good friend, and we were talking about our spiritual histories.  She was not really sure where she stood on faith.  She'd grown up in church, but she just wasn't sure about whether to follow.  After a while, she told me that, if she did believe in God, it would definitely be a God who offered salvation to everyone--no matter what they believed.  She couldn't tell me why she believed this or the reasoning behind the position.  She could only express that she could not believe in a God who sends people to hell.  She couldn't imagine such a horrible thing.

Some people would argue that she needed to be educated about the different positions that are out there and then taught why universalism is not true.  In order to truly follow God, you have to believe in this monotheistic, wrath-oriented God who sent Jesus, right?  I don't remember now exactly what I said, but I'm sure that I didn't take that approach.  It didn't seem to me that she was really looking for answers to a logical question.

Instead, she seemed to be yearning to believe in a God who is good, who loves all people.  So I empathized with her.  And I told her about how much God does love all people.  Maybe I said something about the victims of injustice and evil who need to know that justice will prevail in the end.  How much better it would have been if I knew then what I have since learned--that maybe the best response of all would have been to share a story about God and his compassion and his love for people.

Over the past 10 years, I have been walking with people in everyday life.  Though called to ministry and loving & serving people with a deep passion, I have found myself placed in a secular world, rubbing shoulders with people at all stages of a faith journey.  What I have seen is that we are taught a lot in church about how to respond to a person's rational questions about God.  We are taught apologetics to answer why one belief about God is better than others.  But those things no longer answer the questions that are being asked.

There are a lot of books out there about talking to people about their questions about God - Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ, the newer Tim Keller book The Reason for God.  But no one is talking about emotional barriers or how we can walk through those with people.  That's a conversation that I would love to have here.  Emotional barriers to faith is where it's at, my friends.  That's where we're at.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


So here's an example of what I mean about missing the point about how people view truth.  I was recently at the National Outreach Convention put on by Outreach Magazine.  While in one of the main sessions, they played this video for us.

I'm just not sure that in real life people actually believe that 2+2 does not equal 4.  I don't think that people question facts and reality.  The major issue I see is that people are struggling with how to identify truth when it comes to you.  There is admittedly a much bigger reliance on personal experience than authority when examining truth.  But if something is true, then shouldn't it work in real life too?  Is it really enough for true things just to make rational sense?

Let me bring this down to what it actually looks like in my own life.  I had a conversation with a Calvinist who I love and respect.  I don't subscribe to Calvinism for several reasons, which are somewhat beside the point here.  Anyway, we were talking about Calvinism, and he said to me, "Calvinists today aren't really following Calvin.  They've gotten away from the fundamentals that Calvin believed."  I think he was trying to make me feel better about Calvin's Calvinism.  So then I said, "um, yeah, but didn't Calvin kill a bunch of people who didn't believe the way he did?"  And he said, "Yeah.  He was a little cold."

Um.  Ok. 

So here's the thing.  I can't espouse a belief that, when carried to its logical conclusion, coldly kills off people who don't believe the same way.  I think that's antithetical to God's very character and being.  I think that right beliefs lead to right actions.  If experience is wrong, then something has to be wrong in the thinking too.

That doesn't mean that I don't believe in truth.  What I would say about truth is that it is a person.  Jesus said that he is the way, the truth, and the life.  I know true by measuring things against Jesus and what is revealed about him in the Bible. 

At the same time, I fully admit that how I perceive truth is limited to my own experience and beliefs.  If I had been abused as a child and had my father beating and belittling me all the time (which didn't happen), I would have a very hard time perceiving God my Father any differently than that.  That doesn't change the truth of God's character or being.  But it does limit my ability to perceive and experience his love.  Every word and every consequence of sin that's in the Bible is going to look like judgment to me.

Similarly, growing up in the Western world, the values and culture that I experienced totally affect how I perceive God.  For the first 15 years of my life, I thought of Jesus as a white man.  It wasn't until I was outside my own culture, living overseas in an Asian country, that I actually realized that Jesus was Middle Eastern and probably closer in culture to that country than my home one.  And what a shock to my system that was.  But how easy it is to read into our understanding of truth and reality what we're bringing in from other places--namely our experiences and our culture.

So what I am trying to say is that in my own conversations with people today, I don't have the sense that they question the existence of absolute truth.  I have the sense that they are cognizant of their own biases, prejudices, and limitations, and are hesitant to say that they know for sure that what they believe is true.  They'll also laugh in your face if you deny those biases and perceptions of your own and how they impact your own perception of truth.

My hope would be that we can move beyond this fight about absolute truth, which I doubt is at issue for the average person on the street, and begin to walk with people as they attempt to figure out how to know what truth is.  I think that we have a lot to offer there, and I think it's sad that we're wasting our energy on something that's not at issue.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I think it's only fair to begin by disclosing my assumptions--at least one pretty big assumption--that not everyone will agree with.  I'm coming into a conversation that's been going on for quite a while, and there are some things I don't want to get bogged down with as I continue to write.

Primarily, I recognize that there is a lot of disagreement out there about the approach to absolute truth.  Maybe a better way to say this is that the majority of people have decided that the main problem with younger generations is their presumed disbelief in absolute truth.  The way the conversation is going, it seems like that is where everyone is spending all of their time.  It's almost as if they believe that the rational assent to absolute truth, as it is currently defined by our rational western culture, is necessary for belie.  So, when speaking to the younger generation or telling others how to do so, the bulk of energy appears to be going to the argument about absolute truth.

But I think that we're missing the point--for several reasons.  First, I'm not sure that we have identified the right issue.  A great hew and cry was raised after Neitche's "God is dead."  And logically, true postmodernism probably does deny that absolute truth is possible.  But I'm not sure that's where the people on the ground really are.  In my experience, people allow for the reality of truth--even absolute truth--they just aren't sure that they have it figured out.  And they view the claim that you do know what absolute truth is as the worst kind of arrogance.  So I wonder whether we all aren't closer together than we think, but we're getting stuck on the different language we use.

Second, and probably more important for our future discussions, culture exists.  It is.  Every one of them has ways that they reflect God's values and character more than others.  Similarly, every one of them has ways that they violate the essential character and values of God.  But I'm not sure that fighting culture is the answer.  I don't actually think you can win.  Culture goes to the very core of our beings and forms the basis for our assumptions.

But culture can be redeemed as the people within it are redeemed and restored to the image of God.

So that's where I'm headed in this conversation.  I have accepted that this culture--the one we're in right now--exists for this time and place.  And we're just going to have to live and walk with God within it.  As we are redeemed and restored i his image, we can pray that he will do the same with our culture through us.

There are lots of forums where we can talk about how the world has changed and why reason is superior to experience and all those other things.  But we live in a world where experience is more important than reason, where life is more about what you do that what you say you believe.  My burning passion is to figure out how to speak about God in this context, how to walk with God in a meaningful way, and how to walk with others on their spiritual journeys here and now.  Today.

I hope you'll consider walking with me for a while.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The First Post

I have great hesitation about going public with this website and this blog. I have been happily serving Jesus as an attorney and professor for the past several years. I love what I do. I love being able to just be a friend to people without my faith and spirituality being in their face. I love having spiritual conversations with my friends--conversations that flow naturally out of relationship rather than an agenda. So here are the top 10 reasons why I don't want to proceed:
  1. I like being invisible, forgettable, ordinary.
  2. I don't want my beliefs and opinions to be the only things people know about me.
  3. I don't want to be in the middle of controversy. And it is sure to come.
  4. I prefer to keep my very strong opinions to myself until I am able to share them at the appropriate time and in the appropriate context.
  5. This site forces me to come up with a consistent approach to living and describing all of life. That's a lot harder than filtering offensive or complicated bits from some audiences.
  6. Taking this step is committing to following it through to the end at the cost of other things. I like to keep my options open.
  7. I don't want to lose my love or opportunities for ministry to my friends.
  8. I don't want to become part of the Christian marketing machine.
  9. I don't want to become a polished, untouchable caricature of myself.
  10. Being a catalyst for conversation--even necessary conversation--is not a comfortable place to be.
And yet, I'm going to go forward. It's important to me that we start talking about emotional barriers to faith. It's important to me that we start considering how to reach the post-modern, post-Christian culture without changing the things that don't need to be changed. It's important to me to encourage other people to walk into the darkness of the world around them and bring the hope and healing of Jesus Christ.