This is an incredible talk that each person should hear.

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Below is a quote from Steven Den Beste (I found this quote here) that speaks very clearly how I feel about my choice to state succinctly my convictions regard same-sex attraction (he was speaking of a different matter altogether):
There comes a time in every man's life when he has to choose sides. I have chosen my side. I am comfortable with my decision. I do not think everyone on my side is a saint... Sometimes a man with too broad a perspective reveals himself as having no real perspective at all. A man who tries too hard to see every side may be a man who is trying to avoid choosing any side. A man who tries too hard to seek a deeper truth may be trying to hide from the truth he already knows. That is not a sign of intellectual sophistication and "great thinking". It is a demonstration of moral degeneracy and cowardice.
This past Saturday there was a lively debate on my Facebook page (when ever isn't there). Friend of mine on the Religious Right responded to a linked article on my Facebook page by Kathy Baldock, "The Ten Lies about the GLBT Community..." that I posted on Facebook. She said, "It sounds like you may not consider homosexuality sin or are critical towards those that do." (sic) Those words really stuck with me throughout the weekend. Another friend of mine who came up to visit said to me, "Ray why don't you just put your position out there?" His question, too, has stuck with me. I guess the answer to his question is this: I'm afraid. I have no problem being classified as a left-wing liberal. After all, maybe Jesus was (tongue-in-cheek). The truth of the matter is that I know to cross this line will put me at odds with a lot of evangelicals; many of whom are friends of mine. I know that to say that I have not been convinced by scripture, science and clear logic that same-sex attraction is a choice will really cause some to question whether, in fact, I am a follower of Jesus, or if I have become jaded in my convictions. That scares me. Honestly, it is frightening. That brings up another issue entirely that I won't touch on here.


SO...here goes the leap...

If it is not a choice, it is my conviction that  it unjust to expect a person to deny their sexual attraction. I find it unloving, irresponsible and cruel to tell teens--my fifteen year old niece being one of them--that they are an abomination destined for hell.  It is wrong for the Church to lead the charge of hate and vitriol concerning folks with same-sex attractions. It is wrong to disown family members and friends because their sexual orientation is not to your liking. Finally, it is wrong to drag the name of Jesus through the mud to codify bigotry, hatred or simply fear and ignorance. 


Martin Luther warns that it is "neither right nor safe to go against conscience" and I could not agree with him more.

I am certain that I do not know it all; I do not have all of the answers so far as this topic (or any topic) is concerned. But I know that God has shown me what is required; what is good. It is good to Do Justice. It is good to Love Mercy and it is good to Walk Humbly before God. It is good to love folks and leave the judgment and conviction to the only omniscient and perfect God. (Click here for more depth on that)


Let me state clearly and succinctly my position, lest there be any ambiguity:
  • I believe that the Old Testament has enumerated many things that are abominations that we no longer see as such 
  • I believe that the debate around this issue is still growing and evolving
  • I believe that science is clear that same-sex-attraction is not a choice but rather "normal"
  • I believe that same-sex-attraction has more to do with biology than with choice
  • I believe that folks with same-sex-attractions can be bona fide Christians
  • I believe that folks can disagree with my position and still be bona fide Chrisitians
  • I believe that we all win when we stay in our lane and love; leaving judgment and convicting to God.

I submit this humbly, lovingly and with great conviction.
Four days ago I became the big 3-0! I gotta tell you that I was not much looking forward to this birthday. I know what all of my evangelical friends will say, "Every year is a gift from God; be blessed to be alive." I don't refute that; I am happy and blessed to be--as Grandma would say--, "In the land of the living." But there was something about turning thirty that made me, well, sad. I don't know if it is because I don't feel like I am anywhere near where I envisioned myself being at thirty or if it is because this is the first birthday that I have not had my Gma Mammie. At either rate, I was not looking forward to it.

This past weekend was full; very full. So, I officiated the wedding of one of my dear friends this weekend. I had lunch with Frank Tart, my middle school mentor. Met up with some of my Hillsborough family--who I have missed desperately. Then the cake-topper--crème de la crème--of the weekend, I celebrated with my twin brother, most of my siblings and some of our childhood friends. I had an incredible time. Then when I got home I celebrated with Kels, Jesse, Mille, Toots, Ben and Joy! This past weekend was so great.  So, this leads me to the heart of this post.

I have lived fifteen million, seven hundred, sixty-eight thousand minutes. That is a lot of minutes, but not really. In the first third of my life, I have laughed a lot, loved a lot and lost little. When I look over the first third of my life, I have had few regrets and tons of rewards. As I think about the blessings in my life, I must start with the acknowledgment of Jesus. His sacrifice for me, a wretch without him. Then there is my incredible bride, who has always been the unsung hero of my life these past six years. She is, without a doubt, an evidence of God's grace upon my life.  Quinton, my incredible son, is a joy to me. He has shown me a lot. He has given me a glimpse of the love that Abba has for me. Then there are Dee (Courtney) and Jesse (Camille)--my two best friends who get me and know me--loving me despite it. My parents, have been a constant. They have neither been perfect but have been a constant love. My Judy, I love her so much and she is the epitome of a strong, black, educated woman. My other siblings and their spouses have been a constant source of love, strength and support for me. I love my family! To enumerate the people who I have impacted my life in the fifteen million minutes that I have lived would be impossible.

My mind, however, immediately go to people like Tonetta Landis--one of my longest and dearest friendships. This woman has exhibited before me and the world how to live out your faith through actions. She will travel any distance for the ones whom she loves. Then there is my dear friend, Allen, who has always been a listening ear for me and willing to give hugs when necessary. My dear friend, Patti; words will fail to speak of the impact that she has had on Kels and me. Charlton, he is my brother from a white, W. Va mother. Brandy Black, my sister from another mister (ILYLAS)! There have been countless folks who have impacted my life in such positive ways, and you each know who you are.

So, instead of looking with dread at the next 2/3 of my life, I look with anticipation. I look forward to the folks who I have yet to meet. I look forward to the obstacles I have yet to clear. I am excited to see my family grow.

Thirties, I will master you!

There are tons of things that I miss about youth ministry. The thing that I miss most is the impact that you can have on the lives of the young friends you spend time with individually and the impact they have on you. Caleb and I hung out tonight with his folks at Lone Star. We had a good meal but the best part was just the time spent together. One thing that can't be taught at Seminary or Bible College is genuine love; mutual love. I think that successful Youth Pastors are ones who make their "job" far more than that. They are the ones who love their young friends whether they come to a houth meeting and especially if they don't. They are the ones who go beyond. They are the ones who allow the relationship to become reciprocal! Caleb, thanks for reminding me; I love you dude!
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I'm sitting in my new babrber shop. The smells of the shop take me back to when I was a kid getting my hair cut in "The Grove" in Greensboro.

There are few institutions in the black community that hold more influence and foster community than the Church and the Barbershop. As I've been here I have heard already the talks of Obama, Wallerbees, Church and the pros and Cons of Charlotte. I love the barbershop. If you want to get a bead on the black community go to the shop or the church.

The parting words of a frequent "client" (because he does not pay) was, "When the hell yall gone get some new magazines?"
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Death is a pretty bizzare thing. We often think that we git it; we understand. The reality is, in reality, we don't. We accept death because to not accept it would be to ensure certain instability.

No matter how much we know of death's inevitability, we never are prepared.
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Mammie Lee Goodwin
Born: December 19, 1936
Died: November 23, 2010

I took this picture of my grandma a little over a month before she died. She died. That still gets me. Death is so final; so unforgiving. No matter what you had not done with or for a person prior to their death, it remains undone or unsaid. 

As I think about my gma, I immediately smile. I hear her laugh which is so distinct in my mind. I hear her saying my full name with the emphasis on RAY...RAYshawn. I hear her asking me if I'm hungry. I hear her telling me, "Well, don't hurry." when I go to leave after visiting for hours. I hear he telling joke to Ms. Loula Mae, her best friend of 70 yrs. I hear her asking me to get her some of the fish that was "fried hard". 

Then there are the memories and smells. Now, when I smell tea, I think about all of the "Russian Tea" that she would make for my home church's "Rainbow Tea". I think of all of the Easter Egg Hunts that we had at her house. I think about her phone number that had the coolest rhyme 2722702. I think about, well...when I think about grandma, the memory that most hits me is the memory of being secure. Being safe. In contrast to my biological grandmother, my Grandma loved me. She "oogled" over me, clear up to her last days.
My Grandma (and Grandpa),most importantly, had the greatest influence on me as a Christian. Were it not for her (them) I am not sure the trajectory my life would have taken. I remember going to my grandparent's each weekend and often mult times during the week. Gosh I miss her so much. This is rambled, I know. But it is near six a.m. and I have been awake thinking about her. Crying. Sobbing. Cussing. Confused. 

I would give so much just to have one more kiss. One more hug. One more laugh with you, Grandma. But I know that is not going to happen on this side of heaven. I will settle for my fond memories. I will settle for the smile you gave me in the Hospice Room on Monday night. I will settle for the love that can never wither, fade or die. I will settle for the pictures. Those must suffice until I see you in heaven.

Grandma:

The days are cold living without you
The nights are long, I’m growing older
I miss the days of old, thinking about you
You may be gone, but you’re never over

Lord I’m so thankful, please don’t think I don’t feel grateful, I do
Just grant me the strength that I need, for one more day to get through

I love you grandma! You are gone but never over. You are my hero, one of my biggest fans and my heart.
Photo Credit
Read below my prayer to God. Just so you know, this is how I talk to my Abba, I hope you are not offended but, if you are, let's be honest: Ya know I don't really care...

Man, God,  so much has happened in my life in the past month. I had to come face-to-face with my humanity. I had to come to the realization that in life there are ups, there are downs and there are so many places in between. In short, shit happens. I can choose to wallow in it (which I did for about ten days) or I can get cleaned up. I can ask your forgiveness, receive it and kick rocks.


If I have learned anything from you within the past two weeks it is that I am yours. Though I stumble, fall and even forsake you, I am your boy. Just as in these past weeks weeks my earthly Abba has reaffirmed his love for me and devotion to me, so did you. You reminded me that even when I fail him, that even when I fail people and when I fail myself that I can run to you and receive help and mercy in my time of need. About a week ago I drove down to Reidsville at like eight at night just to be with my dad. To spend the night and just be with him. He was there for me, there to love me, affirm me and tell me that things would get better. That though life seems like it is over that if I keep going, things will get better. I will breathe again. I will smile again. I will live again. Life is not over. He told me that every time that I am breathing is a time to see things get better--to see to it that they get better. Just as dads do...even for a near thirty year old son. If my earthly father does that for me, how much more you, the one who has known me from the commencement of time?

Life has been crazy, but thanks to you and the wonderful family and friends that you have given me, I am seeing some light. I will never forget the grace, love and mercy shown me by my baby, Kelly, thanks for the gift that she is, Abba. My twin brother Dee and Courtney. Mom, Dad, and my step-mom. My sister Keisha and Kenny, Von and Shannell, Telly and Penny and Aron and Vickey. Real talk, without Jesse and Mille, I don't know how Kelly and I would have navigated this.

You know what's weird, at the time when I should have been driving into my broader family and community I pulled back. I isolated myself. But thanks be to you, they did not give up on me. Tonetta drove from D.C. because I wasn't answering her calls--she is a true evidence of Grace. It still blows me away that folks doubt that she is yours and has a love for you that rivals any of ours on our best day--but I digress. Pastor Smith drove down from Hillsborough and took me to lunch and spent about three hours with me--I mean, honestly we didn't spend that kind of time together when I served under him--gosh that made me feel special. Pastor John and Nathan came over--I knew that Pastor John would; despite our differences, that man loves me and I know that he wants the best for me. Thank you so much for that man! Oh, and then that Sunday night your sweet Martha came over to love me and hug me and to give me her sweet and affirming, "baby...". Jake--what an amazing dude--cried with me, held me and was there for me. Charlton--gosh I love that dude--was there praying and giving me the space that I said I needed. Jonjo text me and said, "Ok, it's time to get yo black (bleep) out of bed." and made me smile and laugh like only he can do! Tiffany called and said, "RAY MCKINNON!" in that Tiffy voice--dang I miss her. Josh gave his hugs complete with sound effects. Elisa cleaned the house and was her normal sweet self. Then there was Neal who dropped by and said that I was being uber dramatic in typical Neal fashion--It was so great seeing him on the couch, watching TV and eating as I came from the back. Josh L., my fellow progressive, was the constant...he was there for me and with me through it all. There are so many who I am leaving out. It is so crazy how truly loved I am, thanks, Dad.

You know, in the middle of all of this, the enemy of my soul had me convinced that I was unloved, unwanted and a used up commodity that was now fit only to be discarded. It is amazing that in the thick of sin, life, mess, chaos or whatever, that the enemy can convince you to believe such ridiculous lies. He actually had me convinced that I was unloved! The funny thing is that he was not able to convince me that you, the Lover of my Soul, discarded me, so he went to what he knew would hurt almost as deeply: my people. The reality is that I was never, in any of this process, less loved by you nor any of my people. It was through this that I was finally able to see how loved I really was and to receive that love..

God thank you for your grace. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for your people who shone through your goodness.

Father, grant it that I--and all who read this--will never live less loved. Grant it that I will always combat the lies of the enemy of our soul with the truth of scripture. It's not over. The best days have not passed. I look with anticipation toward the future you have for Kelly and me. We are excited, daddy, about Hickory and Christ Church. We are, as you know, also scared as all get out. We're going your way, Abba!

Love you so much,  God,

Ray

P.S.

Enemy of my soul:

I look back now, I look at how you tried to break me to take my life, my peace of mind and drive me crazy. My self esteem, my dreams, my destiny.So, God allowed it, because He knew He had big plans for me. But you can't mess with my mind anymore; this is it, dawg...you done. It's a wrap! I'll holla!
As a Pastor and a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I unequivocally condemn the acts of Pastor Jones. The notion that one will do such and act hearkens to a dark time. This is reminiscent of the Holy Wars where folks did all sorts of dastardly deeds in the name of God. The Reverend is mistaken if he thinks that God looks down pleasingly on these actions.

Father, I pray that you would forgive us, the church, where we have been silent, thereby giving tacit approval of these actions. I pray for peace and for harmony. Lord help us all to view one another not as enemies but as folks whom you love. Father, I pray that we would each be full of humility and compassion. Father, we love you and want to be folks who, in all things, show forth you character. 
There has been growing controversy and outrage of the proposed site of a new mosque in Lower Manhattan. There are plans to place a mosque near the former World Trade Center. As you are well aware, on September 11, 2001 terrorist crashed two planes into the twin towers in the name of Allah. Because of the Terrorists claims that they were acting on behalf of Islam folks are understandably upset and horrified at even the possibility of these plans being realized. I suppose I understand their angst and the arguments make sense to me.

"First They Came for the Communist" by Martin Niemoller seems apropos for this conversation:

 


First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.


America has been and should continue to be a nation of law. We are a nation founded with the understanding that folks with any religious view or no religious view at all are welcome here. Welcome to practice their faith free from intervention from their government. Whenever I hear of the government overreaching in regards to religion it gives me pause. Oh, I am sure that it is fine when they overreach when it involves the other religions, like Muslims, Jews or the Atheists. But if we allow for the government to discriminate against them, who will speak up and protest when they tell us that we can't build our churches. Since when is it an American value to infringe upon the rights of Americans simply because a large group thinks that it is OK?

I am aware that emotions are still raw regarding the terrorists attack on America. I am aware that the terrorists said that they were acting on behalf of God. I am aware that 3,000 folks (including Muslims) lost their lives at the hand of those brutal terrorists. I am also aware that at the core of who were are, we love freedom. Americans do not indict entire groups (with some exceptions--Japanese Interment Camps, McCarthy, etc.) based on the misdeeds of some.

These are the hard things that separate Americans. We are a people who cherish the Constitution of the United States of America. We are a people who believe that rights apply to all Americans, even when the majority of Americans may disagree.

Where does it end? Who will speak for me when they come after the Christians?

I say, build the Mosque...if for no other reason than to say to the terrorists: You will not make us like you. We choose to love and not hate. We choose to add value and not take it away. We choose life over death.
There is a Sanctus Real song named, "Whatever You're Doing" (the video is below).

They question, "Am I doing everything to follow your will or just climbing aimlessly over these hills?...Show me what it is you want from me. I give everything; I surrender." I sense in the most clear way that is possible, that at this point in my life God is calling me to speak out about the wrongs that have been perpetuated against Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered folks. Did you know that every five hours an LGBT teen commits suicide? This is an outrage that I fear the Church (and me as a member and minister within the Church) has had a hand in facilitating.

There are folks who may chock up this latest "Soap Box" to my already liberal leanings. There are still others who may use this new thing that God is doing inside of  me to dismiss me altogether. That is honestly very scary. I am fearful to keep quiet and not get too "carried away" with this subject. After all, this whole thing started because of a new Talk Series for Awaken and after I get through delivering it I can forget about it and move on, right? The part of me that has been trained by ten years of ministry work inside the local church is screaming out, "Don't go too far off of the reservation; what will "they" (the seasoned Christians and Pastors) think.?" That side of me is begging, "How will you answer the critics who say that you are accepting of these abominations?" Without relenting is asks, "Are you saying that "they" (the gays) are right and the Church is wrong; haven't you read Romans 1?"

Honestly, I don't know the future and what may come from this. But this I know: I will surrender to what he is doing inside of me. I know this: I will not only fight the fights that I can win but also the fights that just need fighting. I know: Love covers a multitude of sins. I know: Jesus loves.

It is very hard to surrender to what I can't see, but I am giving in to something heavenly!

Pray for me; I'm scared...



Billy Graham has been quoted as saying, "It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love." Truer words could not have been spoken. So often as believers we confuse our role. A good friend of mine says a lot that we, "wanna be holy ghost junior." 

When the Son of Man returns, I want him to find me being about the business of loving folks. I don't want to have wasted all of my time trying to do God or the Holy Spirit's job. I don't want to waste the brief moments of my fleeting life telling people how much God wants to punish them. It has been said that the Good News, isn't Good News unless we tell people the bad news (I am sure I have made that asinine statement). That is false on its face. The Good News never ceases to be Good News. The Good News: That Jesus came so that we will never have to be separated from God is true whether we clobber folks over the head with their sin or not. If we were to be honest, the reality is that, so often, we use this argument to justify our bigotry, callousness,  phobias or outright hatred. Folks, all too often, are acutely aware of how messed up they are. What I want to spend my breaths on is speaking love and living love.

The word love is mentioned approximately 180 times in the New Testament alone. We can't claim to believe in, and love Jesus--whom we have never seen--but harbor hate and malice in our hearts toward folks who we do see. No. Hatred, bigotry and fear have never been--and will never be--desirable, God traits. Hatred is from another source altogether.
Next week Awaken City Church will begin a new six-week series entitled, "Soap Box". Yesterday our Experience Pastor gave me a heads up that he needed my topic by the end of the week or early in next week and I was stumped. Most folks know that I am in no short supply of Soapboxes on which to stand and give my opinions. I thought about talking about the church's marriage to the Grand Old Party. It crossed my mind to speak about the oppression that unfortunately still occurs within the church to women. Then there was the over or under emphasis on money within the church, which seemed most fitting to my role as Executive Pastor. But, at the end of it all there was no peace within. I didn't feel like either of those is where it was. So today, while checking Twitter, I read a tweet that asked simply, "How is your church communicating to the gay community; maybe a humble apology is needed." That grabbed me and refused to let me go! (read the blog post by Tim Schraeder here: http://ht.ly/25vRl)

God has been doing somethings in my heart in the past four years so far as it concerns gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered folks. This past week while in the ocean with one of my dearest friends on earth, Frank Bishoff, I shared some of those things with him. It was a good conversation. About four years ago one of my longest and closest friends "came out" to me. Instead of loving her, I judged her and I am sure that I hurt her.

When this friend of mine came out, it forced me to put a name and a face on "those people". It forced me to see that "those people" are people. I can't say that I have resolved everything so far as it concerns homosexuality; I don't know that I have to. One thing I know for sure is that I, and the Church (universal), of which I am a minister and representative have done a terrible job of loving people. We have elevated homosexuality to such a level that we can't see that the mandate to love and bind up (most often from the pains that we have inflicted) applies to gay folks too.

I am happy that I serve at a church where I can share this soap box topic without fear of losing my job, which is sadly not the case with a lot of my friends who work at a church. I have had my share of Christian object to my approach to the LGBT community, and I am OK with that. Just a month ago, I had some surprised that I would marry a heterosexual couple because they had lesbians in their wedding party. I can't worry with the naysayers, I must be about the business of loving folks and leave the sorting out to God.

I am excited at how God is going to bring this talk together. Pray with me that it will communicate the heart of God for all people.

NO
H8

Broken and Humbled,

Ray

The following was copied from Jim Wallis' blog, "God's Politics". It is so moving and so true that I am re-posting it here at my blog. I, like countless others, have been really quick to cast stones at BP for this disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But, it would do each of us well to remember the words of Jesus in John 8:7, "Let the one without sin throw the first stone." I bear blame here. I drive a Ford F-150 that uses its share of petro (Mainly from Sheetz...) which in turn causes such a high demand. You bear blame as well. Each of us  have hands soiled with the oil from the coast... 

Here is the original article:
by Mark Johnson 06-15-2010
I don’t know the personal, spiritual ground of those who created the situation that has become the BP oil spill disaster. I know, however, that I am in no position to “throw the first stone.” My style and standard of living cries for oil wells to be built.
This catastrophe raises the question of whether I am glorifying and relating obediently and worshipfully with the One who created everything I see, hear, touch, and smell. Have I stuck my head so far into the sand that I cannot budge from my self-serving practices?
While I stand convicted of my own shortcomings, the BP disaster dramatically represents the sinful, human tendency to put our own personal (or corporate) desires ahead of our Creator’s treasured handiwork. I believe we were all created with a purpose to use our gifts and abilities to glorify our Creator, and this can be expressed by treasuring everything that the Master treasures. We are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); thus our dominion must reflect the nurturing, sustaining character of the One who has knitted the universe together and breathed life into every living thing, rather than reflecting an overbearing parasite that sucks the life out of everything that might serve us. Additionally, Jesus taught that a good steward takes care of her master’s belongings in a manner that will please the master and not in a manner that makes the steward feel good or brings the steward personal gain (Luke 12:43-48; 19:11-26; Matthew 25:14-30). So we must love our neighbors, love our enemies, and love all that God made and declared to be “good.”
If loving and serving is our purpose, I think we must consider whether our response concerning the BP oil spill disaster is about glorifying God or about building a tower for ourselves.
Mark Johnson is the chair of the Creation Care Task Force of the Florida Conference United Methodist Church.
I found this entry that I wrote on Facebook a little over a year ago and I wanted to re-post:

If you have been on Facebook within the last day or so you have seen my status updates about the book that I am reading by Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God. The truth contained within this book has grabbed my heart and refuses to release me until I have grasped the height, depth and breadth of his furious longing for me.

I lay in the bed last night--while the one on this earth who loves me the deepest (Kelly) lay peacefully sleeping under my arm--weeping over what God was doing within me through the words of this "crazy man", Brennan. He was ruining me, stretching me and healing me. He was showering me with the reality of his fury for me. He reminded me that he came not for the self-righteous but rather the sinners. (Matt. 9:13). He was showing me that, "I am my beloved's and his desire is for me (Song of Solomon 7:10)

Please buy this book, read it, savor its truths and pass it along to "some poor wretch who is bedraggled, beat up, and burned out!"

Here is an excerpt from this incredible book:

For twenty-one years, I tried desperately to become Mother Teresa. I loved around the world in griming poverty and depersonalizing squalor. I lived voluntarily for six months in the garbage dump in Juarez, Mexico--garbage there as high as your ceilings. It was a place filled with everyone from four- and five-year-old children to senior citizens in their eighties, all crawling over broken whiskey bottles and dead animals, just to find something to eat or possible sell to hawkers on the side of the road. I've lived voluntarily as a prisoner in a Swiss prison; the warden there believed priests shouldn't be chaplains but actual prisoners. Only the warden knew my identity. I've lived on the streets of New York City with eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-old prostitutes, both boys and girls, and ministered to them through Covenant House. I just knew if I could become a replica of Mother Teresa, then God would love me.

Pretty impressive, right? Yeah, right.

That's just a part of who I am. The rest of Brennan Manning is a bundle of paradoxes and contradictions. I believe in God with all my heart. And in a given day when I see an nine-year-old girl raped and murdered by a sex maniac or a four-year-old boy slaughtered by a drunken driver, I wonder if God even exists. As I've said before, I address Him and I get discouraged. I love and I hate. I feel better about feeling good. I feel guilty if I don't feel guilty. I'm wide open, I'm locked in. I' trusting and suspicious. I'm honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I'm a rational animal. But I'm not. That's some of the rest of Brennan.


This passage from the book grabbed me! I am so full of a lot of these paradoxes. I want to draw near at times but then I shrink back. I find myself full of courage and times and full of fear the next. There are days when I am sure that God is jealous for me and then there are days when I have to remind myself almost hourly that God knows my name. There are days that I say with Balthazar, Love alone is credible." and then there are days that I am convinced that I must work hard to impress Abba.

May you live in the reality that God is OK with your paradoxes.
May you live to love the fury of Abba.
May you stretch your palms to heaven and say, "Abba, I belong to you."

I am falling deeper in love with God; he is ruining, stretching and healing me!
Today I think of my boy who is serving in the Air Force. In memory, I looked at this video from his graduation from Basic Military Training in San Antonio and cried. I miss him so!

In the darkest of nights there awaits a dawn.  When everything seems lost, remember that though it is Friday, Sunday is coming. Don't give up on Friday; Sunday is coming!

S.M. Lockridge's excerpt is so gripping and moving. There words are here:

It's Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter's denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It's Friday; but Sunday's a coming.

It's Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, Father, forgive them. It's Friday; but Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God who will not abide with sin pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, "My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?" What a horrible cry. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. And at the moment of Jesus' death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that's because it's Friday, and they don't know it, but Sunday's a coming.

View the excerpt and allow this powerful Preacher to encourage you, as he does me every time I listen to him.

So a friend of mine told me about this video by Derek Webb that he thought that I would like/find interesting.

The lyrics and video are below; what do you think?

Here are the lyrics to the somewhat controversial song:
What Matters More lyrics

You say always treat people like you’d like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth
about what you believe
make you sound like a freak

'Cause if you really believed
what you say you believe
you wouldn’t be so damned reckless
with the words you speak
you wouldn’t silently consent
when the liars speak
denying all the dying of the remedy

(chorus)
tell me, brother what matters more to you
tell me, sister what matters more to you

If I can see what’s in your heart
by what comes out of your mouth
then it sure looks to me like being straight
is all it’s about
it looks like being hated
for all the wrong things
like chasing the wind
while the pendulum swings

'Cause we can talk and debate
till we’re blue in the face
about the language and tradition
that He’s coming to save
and meanwhile we sit
just like we don’t give a shit about
fifty thousand people who are dying today

(chorus)

 The following is a post that I am re-posting from http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.


Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved. Permission to use any of the material on this site is granted for non-profit use, as long as credit is given to ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com.
Seriously, folks, it is getting really ridiculous!  Factcheck.org)


Snopes.com

Politifact.com



So, there you have it Arizona legislators, birthers and everyone else who insist that the President is not an American. Sheesh, the length to which some folks are willing to go...shameful.

In the ocean!

Ask me anything

Leviticus 19: 33-34:
"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." (NIV)

This measure in Arizona should have us all outraged. I will remember where I was the day that this bill was signed into law. This law will go down in the history books as laws very similar to the Jim Crow laws of the fifties and sixties. To think that anyone, especially me and other believers, can sit back and allow this to happen is outrageous. I have a committment to always fight for justice and not be silent while injustice takes place. This is wrong. This law effectively legalizes racial profiling within the United States of America. President Obama was correct in condemning this bill and I would like to see real reform that takes into account dignity and worth.

I join with Rev. Jim Wallis, of Sojourners:

The law signed today by Arizona Gov. Brewer is a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation. It is not just about Arizona, but about all of us, and about what kind of country we want to be. It is not only mean-spirited – - it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. Enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. This law will make it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona, and will force us to disobey Jesus and his gospel. We will not comply. (Click here for the full statement)

As a Christian and someone who loves justice and the Constitution, this must not continue.

Let's end with some Stephen Colbert humor:


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - No Problemo
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News
Below is Glenn Beck talking about Social Justice and below that is a response PSA.

 Here is why I am a Christian who believes in--and advocates for--social justice:







Social justice seeks to ensure that justice reaches to every aspect of society and not just within a courtroom. So, to say that I am a Social Justice Christian is to say that I want to ensure that justice is achieved for all people.

So for me, I am a Christian who believes in:...


  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Non-discrimination
  • Access to safe and affordable health-care
  • Safety from danger
  • Ending chronic homelessness
  • Treating immigrants with dignity
  • Just war
  • Ending sex trade
  • Clean water


Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jer. 22:3

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, ...Matt 25:31-46



Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:14

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” Zech. 7:9-10

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. -Eze 16:49


“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” -MLK, Jr.




This has been such a great weekend! Yesterday I went to Hillsborough, where I lived for five fantastic years of my life and served as a Youth Pastor. I hung out with some of my boys. Mark and I drove over to ACS together after we chilled at his place for a little while. Jordan played a Spring League game at Alamance Christian School (ACS), where they killed the first game and got killed in the second (unexpected) game. My boy Nate was there, too.

Today Kelly and I went over to Mebane to see Taylor Tay-Tay Hall off to prom tonight with Nathan Nate-Dogg Jackola. Taylor was dashing and Nathan was dapper. Right now, as I type this blog entry, I am waiting for Jordan to call me so that I can pick him up at the Greensboro Coliseum; he is at the Nickelback Concert and he is going to chill with us tonight and go with us to Awaken tomorrow. I also got to catch up with my boy BJ who is up in Charlotte working and ministering to high school students through YoungLife.

This whole weekend has made me miss Youth Ministry so much. I don't miss the church politics or folks constantly thinking that I am not doing enough or that the youth ministry is not big enough. No. What I miss is being able to spend my time pouring into the life of my YWIT kids. I miss being able to share life with a group of folks who have not yet become jaded by life. I miss being with kids who have a love for God but who are also imperfect and still trying to figure out this whole journey and where they fit in the whole scheme of things.

Being with those guys this weekend has reminded me that even now, as an Executive Pastor, among my primary focus should be a desire to share my life with people. To go where they are and experience life with them. Youth Ministry has a way of reminding you that at the end of the day your job is simple: Love people and leave the rest to God's capable hands.

What has surprised me most about this weekend is that my YWIT kids love me and still want me to be a vital part of their lives. Not because I gave such incredible talks or dazzled them with my creative youth ministry gimmicks. No, they want me to be a part of their life still today, even though they have an incredible and very capable Youth Pastor in Jason, because I lived my life with them. I have cried with them. I have laughed with them. I have lost my temper with them and unfortunately, at times they have heard me cuss. You see, in ministry, especially Youth Ministry, the most important thing is to be real, love your youth and leave the rest to God. That is what I have learned in my ten plus years of Youth Ministry. After all, when the talk ends, life begins.

In Youth Ministry, the youth don't care how much you know or where you got your degree (only the adults worry with that); they want to know that you love them and when the hellish winds of this life start to blow, will you be there with them. They want to know if you will love them even when they stop coming to youth group on Wednesday night. They want to know if you will love them when they question the existence of God. The youth really want to know if you love them or is your love just a gimmick to get them to "accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior".

So, to any person who is considering giving themselves in service to Youth: Be sure that you will love them. Be sure that you will lead them to the hope of Christ. Be sure that you are called.

I love youth ministry; always will.

YWIT, you blessed me more than you will ever know. Thanks for letting me share life with you!
Many of you have probably heard Glenn Beck ranting about the evils of social justice. Glen Beck seems to ooze vitriol, misunderstanding and lies. I am not sure which bible Mr. Beck reads, but I think that he should take another read at scripture passages such as Matthew 25: 31-46. Or maybe you should read Jeremiah 22:16 or possibly Micah 6:8. Perhaps, Exodus 22:21. Maybe we should all heed the warning of Ezekiel 16:49 . We have begun to sound sadly similar to Jeremiah 5:26-28: "...Fat and sleek...refusing to provide justice and deny[ing] the rights of the poor."

What Mr. Beck fail to realize is that the bible is no proponent of Capitalism and does not see the American way of doing things as the highest or best way of doing things. As Christians, we are held to a much higher standard than the mighty dollar. The American dream may be to collect wealth, buy homes and tons of stuff. But the dream that God has for us is far greater. God's dream for our life is that we would, above all else, make much of him in this world. We make much of God when we surrender our life to him. We make much of God when we spend our lives on others. When there is an injustice, we make much of God by seeing that that injustice is righted. What Mr. Beck fails to grasp is that social justice that is rooted in the cause of Christ is honoring to God.

Mr. Beck, I, too, am a social justice Pastor because at the heart of the teachings of Jesus was a mandate to help the poor. At the heart of the teachings of Jesus was a call to stand with the widows. We would all do well to heed this warning from the Prophet Isaiah (10:1-3):

What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who issue unfair laws.They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans.What will you do when I punish you, when I send disaster upon you from a distant land? To whom will you turn for help? Where will your treasures be safe?
The bible is not ambiguous regarding social justice; it is clear! As believers, we must stand for it. As believers, we must do justice, love mercy and walk with humility with God!

Do you believe in Social Justice and will not leave your church if they do too? Then tell Mr. Beck here!

Let's end on a lighter note with the always hilarious, Stephen Colbert:


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Glenn Beck Attacks Social Justice - James Martin
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News
So this has been a fairly tough week for me. Too much stuff to name, but suffice it to say that I have been more than a little bit stressed and worried. So, I got this text from a great friend and former youth, Lars Bria: "Miss you bro. Hope your day has been and will continue to be blessed." After some time of texting back and forth, he sent this  simple text (kinda related to another topic about his future):1 Peter 5:6-10.

Here is 1 Peter 5: 6-10 (NLT):

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 
Before today, I don't know if I ever realized how closely the admonition to be on alert against our adversary was connected to the text which talks about humility and not worrying. My buddy who I was texting was an instrument from God to me; no matter the situation: remain humble, be alert and don't worry! For me that means, keep a keen eye on Abba and I will be fine.

That exchange of texts reminded me that "ministry" is a two-way street. For far too long Pastors and Leaders have believed, falsely, that we are the ones with all of the answers, especially Youth and Lead Pastor (I can talk, I was a Youth Pastor for years). We say, "Sit back and listen to all that I have to teach you; I am so wise.--the saddest part is that we actually believe that--all the while missing the opportunity to allow them to speak into us. Today, Lars, or Larsy as I named him back in the YWIT days was an agent of grace to me today. Thanks, man!

Lord, may I continue to be humbled, alert to my adversary and worry-free. Because, as Lars reminded me today, you are a loving father! Thank you for loving me so sweetly and gently, Abba!
The other day I was at the home of a very dear friend and he said that someone, who doesn't know me personally, asked him if I was an activist. My friend proceeded to gently rebuke me for the things that could be interpreted poorly that I say on Twitter and FB. Well, I was annoyed. After thinking about it, I remembered these words of Dr. King:
"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."


He also, told me that I was too political. Implying that as a Pastor, I should leave politics out of my life. Though I agree that while in the official capacity of performing my sacerdotal duties I should be non-political. I find it curious, however, that my passion for justice and equality is most often seen as political. I agree that a lot of my views are in line with those of the Democrat Party but the Democrat Party does not shape my views; the bible does.

I commit to always stand for truth and justice no matter how unpopular with the established church. I commit to always stand for truth and justice not matter how uncomfortable it makes the religious right. I commit to always stand for truth and justice no matter how unpopular it is to the unchurched. I commit to always stand for truth and justice no matter how uncomfortable it makes religious left.

I am not self-centered enough to think that I am always right or dogmatic enough to believe that God is always on my side. I hope that in all things love will prevail, even when I disagree with folks.

Oh, I pray that I will be an activist for justice, an activist for love and an activist for hope!
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