Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Inadequate Containers

Oh Eternity wrapped in flesh
So eager to expand
Pressing from within
With anxious impulse
And untamed energy

Like a hurricane in a thimble
A volcano in wine bottle
A tornado in the soul

You strange Gift
Feels so empty
Never so full
Feels so lonely
Never so close
Feels so afraid
Never so powerful
Perfection wrapped in imperfection

Perfect gifts given
To the imperfect
Have weight
Infinity swirling within
A body…
A glorious risk
A reckless faith
An experiment in Heaven’s lab

It is Love, no less
Spilled gleefully, endlessly
Into little fissured vats
Flawed and leaking
Not good at containing
Eternity must spill out
Just as it spills in

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lipscomb Family Therapy Center - a Place For Healing

This house is now officially the Lipscomb Family Therapy Center. This center is Lipscomb’s newest outreach to Green Hills, to Nashville, and to Middle Tennessee. It is our mission not merely to engage the community, but to make an impact on the community by providing high quality, affordable, and highly accessible mental health services for individuals, couples and families. In this house, some amazing things are going to happen. In this house there will be healing. 

Couples on the pathway to divorce will walk through the doors of this house and walk out of this house on the road to reconciliation, forgiveness, and relational healing.

In this house, people who fight the insidious and destructive powers of depression and anxiety will learn how to push back against these monsters and have joy and peace once again. 

In this house, parents and teens who can’t find a way to get along will find meaningful ways to refresh, renew or reclaim a meaningful relationship with each other. 

In this house, children who have been wounded, abused, and broken will find ways to heal, and grow and be children once again.

In this house, the wounds of the past that keep festering will find healing and relief. 

In this house, engaged couples will learn relational skills that will help their coming marriage for years and decades to come. 

In this house, people who have lost hope will find hope. 

Because inside of this house is holy ground. Within the walls of this house is sacred space where conversations are safe, where people can show their wounds, and where healing can begin. 

Let this be a house of healing.  

Thursday, May 07, 2015

"I'm Prolly Sinning Right Now"

I don't usually sin, but when I do, it's because I'm human. Actually, I sin a lot. In fact, I'm prolly sinning right now. What, you may wonder, am I doing right now that qualifies as sinning? Well, the way I see it, everyone has a relationship with sin in some manner that varies in its visibility to the individual.

Sin is, in short, missing the mark. It is imperfection. If you're not comfortable with the word sin, then maybe let's just go with "nobody's perfect" and leave it there. So, when I use the word sin, just think about "nobody's perfect."

My relationship with sin varies in awareness and likeliness to engage in it. Here are a few ways I think about sin.

Obvious Sin; No TemptationThere are some sins that are so obviously sin, murder for example, that almost everyone would agree that they are indeed sin. Furthermore, I have never been drawn to murder. It has not been a temptation for me. I hope it never is. The odds of my murdering are low, but of course still possible.

Obvious Sin; Temptation: There are some sins that are obviously sin, selfishness for example, that almost everyone would agree that they are indeed sin. For me, it is so very easy to miss the mark on this one. I am selfish. I know that act on self-interest. I take too much and give too little. It is a real problem. I know it is a problem. I do it anyway.

Obscured Sin; Oblivious: Here is a tricky one. This is the one when I am sinning and I don't even know it. It is either due to a lack of awareness that whatever it is I am doing is sin or that I am sinning and do not realize what I am doing. I am either unaware of sin or unaware of myself.

Obscured Sin; Promoted as Though a Virtue: This one is even more tricky. Greed, for example, unless you're Gordon Gekko, we can all agree greed is bad. What we cannot easily agree on is the definition of greed.  What we cannot easily see, especially Americans who live in capitalism like a fish lives in water, is how greed operates, how systems of greed make sin so normal it is espoused and defended (sometimes in the name of God) as virtue. I am a participant in this sin, promoter of this sin, and in the rare moments when I find some vague awareness of this sin, I find it next to impossible to get out of it. But most of the time I am not even aware of it.

This last sin is more abstract than what are more often understood as behavioral sins. It is a system or process of sin. It is a condition of culture on some level that situates people into missing the mark, but in a way so nuanced and subtle that it may be experienced as normal or even virtuous.

So, yep, I'm prolly sinning right now.

Now, here is the kicker. What is obviously sin to me might be in some other category for another person. I might know X to be sin when another person might see the sin X as a virtue - and vice versa.


Saturday, February 14, 2015


In the whirl and whip
Of these worry-filled
Winds of Winter
They hurry through bare-branched forest and
Blow their bone rattling cold
Through marrow and soul
Whispering wintry words without mercy or promise
Except the promise to steal steam from coffee
And fling it into infinite cold
Endless cold

Night after night
The dark wind howls
Outside windows
And threatens to enter
And creeps through cracks
And open doors
And haunts basement floors
Taking all it can take
With a lust for more

And yet

The Light makes way
Without detection (at first)
And day by day
Captures some cold
One minute at a time

Sequestered cold
Still overconfident
Still ignorant
Still threatening
Still cold

Light only (at first)
To show the robin where to fly
Before thought of flight ignited
To call the flower to bloom
Buried deep in a seed
Before it thought to awake

Then Sun whispers warm
Breaths into the wind
The bird hears first
Then sings songs earlier this morning
Than the morning before
With patient wooing
Of sleeping seeds

Reluctant cold
Relents and retreats
At the soothing songs of the Sun

Rousing flower from seed
To reach for light
From buried darkness
To break the Earth
To rise and declare –

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Prayer For Research

God of all Truth,
Maker of the Universe,
Keeper of all Knowledge,
You are the Maker of makers,
The Creator of creators,
The Builder of builders;

We gather here,
Together with each other,
Together with you,
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness,
And as we seek this righteousness,
In Part, through this advanced training,
We ask for your guidance and blessing;

We gather to learn and consume knowledge;
We gather to learn how to apply the knowledge we consume;
However, we gather to learn the sacred task of creating knowledge.

We come with our confidence;
We come with our insecurities;
We come with our wise assumptions;
We come with our foolish assumptions;
We come carrying beliefs that may be supported;
We come carrying beliefs that may be crushed,
And we enter into what is reserved for the very few
In this world,
In this history –
We come to create knowledge
We hope reflects truth,
We hope reflects Truth
For our own understanding and
For the understanding of the world.

Give us child-like curiosity,
Child-like imagination,
Child-like innocence,
As we take our hands and minds
And put them to the powerful and sacred tools
Of knowledge creation.

Give us maturity beyond our years,
Give us wisdom beyond our experience and observation,
Give us humility to match the courage needed,
To take our hands and minds
And put them to the powerful and sacred tools
Of knowledge creation.

Give us ears to hear
The knowledge creators who have gone before us,
Who have pushed the edge of knowledge out to where it is,
Who have pioneered and struggled in the uncreated
So we will walk simply where they labored,
Give us critical minds to discern
The knowledge created before us.
Give us humility to respect
The knowledge created before us,
While maintaining all the wild imagination
You have already set in motion within us.

Thank you for the privilege
To be a creation who creates.


Monday, February 02, 2015

Praying under the Waterfall

Praying under the coldest waterfall
On the hottest day
For all that dirt
To wash away
To return to the earth
For another chance
To grow something beautiful
To sing and to dance
With the rhythm unbroken
Just pounding down
Applause of angels
Endless sound
Too much to drink
Too much to take in
Too much to control
Too much for my sin
Endless love
Liquid scripture
Healing imperfections
Filling fissures
With clean clean water
For a sore sore soul
It's never going to end
I'm never going to go

Monday, December 29, 2014

Secret Oxygen

When the gasp finally comes,
To choke out the waters,
Of a dark baptism,
To beat the grave,
This time,
Fully alive;
More than zombies;
More than eating without hunger;
More than drinking without thirst;
More than these little desires -
Saline for thirst
Sugar for hunger
Drive-though lust
Like Las Vegas as a church;
When the gasp explodes through it all,
There is life

Life springing from real desire
Not on the skin - But
In the veins
In the marrow
In the soul

There is an oxygen that can only be gasped

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Parenting at the speed of children

I can't keep up with my kids.

When I became a parent it was whether I was ready or not. I wasn't. I thought I was, but alsa, i was not. What can prepare a person for this? Books? Therapy? Pet dog? Nothing. I entered in unprepared, and then with the title and responsibility of being a parent, these (wonderful) children of mine who made me a parent became a moving target that refused to sit still. They insisted upon growing up at what I have now determined is an unsustainable pace. They keep growing into situations for which neither they nor I are prepared to handle - only I am the one who notices this lack of preparation. The reality is that there is no preseason for parenthood, no scrimmages, no practice children to try parenthood out on. When you have children, it is game day, every day.

There is no getting used to this. It has been my experience that my children change faster than I can adapt to their change. Just prior to getting a grasp on one new thing they are on to the next. There is no getting used to this stage, because this stage is gone by the time its presence it detected. There is no time to detect, contemplate, adjust, and normalize anything. In making any effort to slow down and contemplate the current event I notice that I have missed something else. I have learned I must grow fast because fast is the only way my children grow. 

No reflection. The way I experience life is that I have the in the moment reality of what is happening in real time. In general, it is all I can do to be in the moment. But like heavy rain on my lawn, there is only so much life I can take in each moment before the majority of the experience becomes runoff. It's not that I don't want to soak it in, but rather than I do not have the ability. I need time to reflect, complate, make meaning, and turn experience into story. It takes a long time for me to do this and my children will simply not stop changing, growing, and moving along long enough for me to having any idea what just happened to me. I want to stop and smell the roses, to cherish each moment, and to just sit and enjoy the beauty of the moment. I almost never get this. Being a parent means living a double life, mine and theirs, and it means life approaches at such a speed so as to allow for little reflection. 

Never enough. I have been a parent for nearly 17 years and have come to realize that I will never arrive at some point in which I will conclude that I have done enough. Parenting offers no arrival. My work is not now done, nor will it ever be done. I will not brush off the dust from my hands and conclude there is no more to do. Once a parent; always a parent. 

There goes my heart. In becoming a parent, part of my heart was born into the flesh of another. I feel the loss of part of my own heart as it fills another. Part of my heart is at the mercy of another and goes out inside another and therefore I will be there, wherever there happens to be at any given time. It is not a portion of my heart that I can ever retrieve, nor will I ever desire to retrieve it. And even though I know that my heart is in another and I cannot and do not desire to have it back, there is the ever present experience of not having all my heart to myself. There is an ache and a vulnerability that runs deep and mysterious and beautiful. I cannot have it back, but I do want it close.

I love being a parent. I love my children more than I ever imagined I might - and I had imagined quite a bit of love. I wouldn't want life any other way.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Gender, Social Systems, and Change: Observations of Churches of Christ - and my 2 cents

Gender, Social Systems, and Change: Observations of Churches of Christ and my 2 cents
(This is a long post -- essay)

Each of us is embedded within a variety of social contexts that have their beautiful parts and have their ugly parts. To others who share my various social systems I may appear to be one of the beautiful parts and to others I may be one of the ugly parts. I accept this reality. I am honored, however, to share a social system.

Whether it is a family, a work environment, a faith community, or a neighborhood, there are no social systems that are perfect. None can be. People are imperfect and in relationships we connect imperfections and synergize them. People are also amazing and in relationships we connnect these amazing aspects and synergize them. Social systems bring together its members and create something more than the sum of the independent members. In short, it's a beautiful mess.

Each of these social systems has an emerging and evolving culture of their own. Healthy social systems move toward stronger and well differentiated interconnnections and strong secure attachments with healthy boundaries. This is enabled through constructive conflict, generosity, and a good dose of repair when there is hurt. Unhealthy social systems either impose or neglect, destory or disengage, exploit or abdicate. They result in hurts that go unreparied and often a drift apart into ambiguity or an explosion. All are destructive.

One of the social systems I am embedded in is the faith community called, Churches of Christ. It is a branch or tribe of Christianity that I was raised in, formed (and continue forming) my faith within, and work within (professor at a university affiliated with this branch of Christianity). I know this social system very well and I love it very much. It is my family of faith. It is also the religious social system for whom I have the most critique. I love us and I want us to be better - thus critique.

And like any family, there is diversity among its members. There are disagreements, concerns, struggles, and fears. But also like any family, there are the things that keep the family a family. There are overarching agreements, similarities, and deep rooted loyalties that facilitate the very life of the social system.

In Churches of Christ, there is an agreed upon high respect for scripture (Biblical scripture), unified belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and that it is through Jesus that the redemption of all things is even possible.

In Churches of Christ, there are also many differences such as how to understand scripture, what the implications are for Jesus being the son of God, and what and who is involved in the redemption of all things. There are also differences on such relevant matters as gender roles in family and in church.

This "Open Letter" is such a case in point. It is a response written by blogger Adam Faughn to a congregation who has a female preaching intern and embedded within the "open letter" is a video of the preaching intern. What the "open letter" contrasted with the embedded video allows for here is a case study in how a social system is going about trying to both stay together as a system amidst diversity while at the same time trying preserve the integrity of the system itself.

For many outside the Churches of Christ, the idea of a female preaching intern may be a big fat yawn because "we dealt with that 20 yers ago (or 40 years ago)." If this is you, I urge you to consider that each soacial system changes at its own pace and addresses issues more organically and locally than might be assumed. Just because such matters have been "dealt with" in one social system does not determine when they should have been dealt with in another. Your social system has yet to deal with some issues that others have long since resolved.

For others outside the Churches of Christ, this is evidence of the embedded sexism within the social system called, Churches of Christ, and therefore serves as evidence that their choice not to associate with Churches of Christ, Christianity or perhaps religion itself is justified. I understand. But please also understand that every social system in which each of us is embedded has its own injustice. All injustice is ugly. This one happens to be one of ours - one of many.

What we see here is a family, a family of faith, having a a disagreement. One side is excited to assert its freedom and putting into practice the gender equality ethic asserted by the Apostle Paul when he said there is no longer male nor female. The other side fears that such actions are sinful disobedience and reference other words of the very same Paul. Thus, an "open letter" such as this serves as feedback into the larger social system in order to make things right.

However, each side asserts their position is right and has used scripture to support their claims. My assumption for both sides is that they are doing their very best to go about doing justice and at the same time both cannot be correct. This is a social dilemma that will likely not be resolved by one side convincing the other of its position, but rather will be resolved being able speak without being silenced, to share their views without being shamed, and to be accepted based on the extension of trust rather than compliance.

I want to make three statements on the matter and then close.

1. It is my desire that this family argument can be conducted in a manner that brings out the very best in each of us. In our fellowship we have a history of just giving up on each other and splitting and then not associating with each other. This is an embarrassing legacy. We have an opportunity right now to genuinely disagree while not pulling the plug on the very meaningful and important relationships we share. We cannot make claims of unity by cutting off all who disagree. The inevitible end to that process is being "right" and very, very alone.

2. From a theological position, I side with those who affirm gender equality in all church matters. We owe it to God, to srcipture, to society, and to young girls and women to no longer read scripture into sexism, but eliminate sexism by use of scripture. But I assert it locally, not generally. What I mean is that I hold my beliefs to myself and do not require others to hold them in order to remain in the same social system. It impacts my selection of a local congregation. It impacts how I converse with people at work. I hope I conduct myself in a manner that is generous toward others and authentically me. It is my hope and desire that I will not be cut off for how I geneuinely and honestly understand scripture. It is also my hope that although I have no intention of imposing, that I will influence. I want to influence without coercion so that if change happens or when change happpens it is authentic and legitimate.

3. If someone or some group does decide to cut off from me or my home congregation or various other shared social systems because of my beliefs or because of this matter, I will openly say this: that is going to hurt. And the closer the relationship the more it will hurt. Cutting off, however, will not convince me to change my mind. Perhaps there is some other way to engage in discourse that could change my mind as I am open to truth, but cutting off will not be a successful strategy to change me. I can understand if cutting off for the sake of preservation of a set of beliefs is more important than remaining in relationship (sort of), but I cannot deny that it will hurt. I will hurt and pray and grieve and heal and move forward with less of a social system.

In conclusion, this is an important conversation to have in its context. Let's have it without hurting each other. Let's show that we love each other.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Call to Clergy and Communities of Faith

A call to clergy and communities of faith

If we are on the dawn of a second wave of the civil rights movement, communities of faith had better be engaged and leading as opposed to sitting on the sideline. Pastors, ministers, clergy of all kinds of all faiths must assert their public positions to be voices of peace and love and change. They must motivate their congregants to find meaningful, productive, and transformational ways to do the same.

If clergy and communities of faith remain passive onlookers, what they will be passively onlooking upon is leadership taken by those who spread violence, stir hearts of people against each other, of people who have no higher calling but resolving their own angst at the expense of others. These are leaders whose logic can amount to nothing more than blame and their actions and leadership will take on the base and senseless actions that blame necessarily requires - revenge. Will we stand by and watch revenge take root? Will we let revenge and counter revenge spiral completely out of control? Will we let this day pass and it cost us two or three more decades until we can find a way to heal through all that revenge and try to move forward again? 

If this is not the dawn of a second wave of the civil rights movement, then clergy and communities of faith should make it one. The energy is there. People are in the streets, literally, demanding some meaningful direction. Millions more people are in their homes awaiting the very same direction and leadership.

Letting this moment pass without action IS an expression of leadership. Letting this moment pass and hoping for things to just calm down and get back to normal is in itself a serious political and moral statement that the world in which we live is normal and good. Things are not normal and good. We do not live in a normal society. We do not live in a normal culture. We do not live in a normal America. We live in an American where shooting people is controversial, not horrible to everyone. We live in an America where rioting in the streets makes sense to far too many people. We live in an American where taking sides and protecting one's own smaller interests at the cost of someone else's interests makes sense. In short, division is what is normal in America. Standing by and hoping for things to return to how they were is an active and aggressive stance for division, for future violence, and for more of the same. 

If communities of faith have struggled for relevance in a culture that is trying to ignore them, then here is your chance to show what you are made of. Here is your chance to demonstrate your calling, your mission, and your ancient-future truth of peace, love, and reconciliation.