Unpacking Boxes in the Advent Season

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Since leaving Chicago, we are finally settling into a home in MD, and this past weekend, I got to unpack boxes of stuff that have been sitting in a garage for the past two and a half years. All of the boxes contained kitchenware – cups, plates, mugs, forks, knives, cooking utensils, and serving dishes. I spent a few hours awakening them from their cardboard slumber, unwrapping them like craft paper mummies.

The process was very nostalgic for me. As I opened each cocoon, I felt like a kid unwrapping Christmas gifts. I never realized that our kitchenware could be imbibed with so many memories: the two mugs Sarah and I got on our excursion to Mackinac Island (before kids); the flatware we received as wedding presents complete with the first chips I gave them doing the dishes. With each piece, I remembered a gathering, or an experience of a life lived in Chicago, now being reconditioned here in Maryland. Continue reading

The Embrace That Changed Me

Greetings, friends. I know, it’s been WAY too long since I last posted. There’s no particular reason for it. I just haven’t had any reflections that I’ve wanted to broadcast (that’s not to say I haven’t had reflections!) The purpose of this blog has always been to observe the ways in which the Gospel invades our existence, and so I’ll get back to that task.

This past weekend I preached from 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 on fleeing from sexual immorality. I don’t think that it was a particular good message homiletically (that’s the science/art of speech-making/preaching). No powerful stories. No bells and whistles. No clever videos or rephrasing. Not a lot of humor or great visuals. I just didn’t have time for that. I had 35 minutes to plead with my church to flee from all sorts of sexual immorality. So I studied, read, prayed, fasted, and wrote. And then I wrestled with God that if he didn’t do something with the pathetic manuscript that I had put together, we would all be in big trouble.

I’ll leave it for you to decide how it turned out. As I finished the message in each of our three services, our music team created space for people to “linger”. That’s when people just occupy a space and “be” – with no hurry to get to the next thing or pressure to vacate. We invited those who needed to just be with God to seek him. Those who wanted prayer could meander forward as the service concluded. There was a holy hush over the entire 1200 person auditorium, interrupted by the staccato of sniffles and heavy sighs as people experienced grace in confronting personal sin.

At the end of the last service, there sat two beloved gals in a same-sex relationship. They just lingered, waiting for me as I finished praying with the last person. As I walked over to them, my mind was racing particularly concerning one of the gals. What was she feeling? I had just talked about homosexuality as a kind of sexual immorality (in the same vein as pornography, cohabitation, and adultery). I was so afraid that my words had hurt both of them, added to their pain, or given them one more reason to be distanced from God. Then the unexpected happened.

As she stood, I just embraced her. And she wept. She burst out in tears and with every sob, every heave, I sensed the pain, the hurt of rejection, the confusion, the betrayal. All I could do was whisper, “I’m so sorry…” I hugged her for a few minutes as she drenched my shirt with her tears, and I wept with her.

Somewhere in the midst of that embrace, I sensed the presence of our Savior, enveloping both of us in his arms. I know that sounds super cheesy, but it was a real presence the likes of which I have only experienced in the most powerful moments of celebrating the Lord’s Table. In a way, it was a release for me as well – weeping over all of the confusion, pain, and rejection this image-bearer must have felt, weeping that the world was so broken, that the church was so impotent, and that it had to come down to a gal I care so much about sobbing on my shoulder. It was beautifully painful.

I don’t know where we go from here. I don’t know where the path will lead – what decisions for obedience we will need to press, or how our lives need to reflect the commands of Scripture. I anticipate that we will have some disagreement, confusion, and a lot of awkwardness. I can only respond to those things as they come.

But here’s what I do know: I will stay committed to these gals by that which I can choose: understanding, humility, patience, and love. I care about these young women beyond their sexual identity, and my embrace steeled my resolve to do whatever I can to point them to the One who embraces all of us and to call them to obey him – in whatever shape or form, as sincerely as they can.

A Canine Requiem

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A major chapter of my life closed last Tuesday. After nine years (the last of which she battled an aggressive tumor), we put our family dog, Nala, down. I didn’t think that this would be so difficult. In fact, when we first got Nala at 6 weeks (5 months into marriage), Sarah and I both agreed that should any health issue come up, we would not spend more than a reasonable amount for surgery. I know that sounds cruel, but we live under the conviction that there is some pretty serious suffering going on in the world, and we are stewards of resources and money. Seeing what we’ve seen in terms of human need around the globe, we just couldn’t justify spending a lot of money on a pet.

That said, I was totally ready to cave on my conviction. Continue reading

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