An honest and true life builds honest relationships

Our Development Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, Holly, shares her take on the benefits of vulnerable living:

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Growing up, I had a lot of anxiety and when I was overwhelmed the last thing I wanted to do was share how I was feeling.

When my sister would ask me to talk about it with her, I would close up and could feel myself bursting at the seams. But in the end, if I didn’t talk about it, I wouldn’t have to deal with it. And that for me was the easy way out at the time.

I think the reason why it is difficult to tell our stories and connect with others is because we haven’t been honest with ourselves and we hold things back that need to come out.

Maya Angelou explains it like this: “There is no greater agony than an untold story inside of you.”

 We have to remember that our story is significant and that we are created by a God who is writing the grand narrative. Our story is a part of the reconciliation of human relationship.

 As I got older, this tactic of holding things back, pretending, and bursting at the seams did not work on other people. In college, I had a friend who learned early on that I was hiding how I really felt and wouldn’t let me pretend. She forced me to be honest with myself and with her.

And opening up was completely freeing.

This was the beginning of building true relationships in my life. Yes, I had to be honest about not only the good parts of life, but also the parts that were messy and ugly. And even though this was difficult, I began to understand more of who I really am.

And as I began to be more confident in myself, it became easier to share my story with other people and ultimately started building healthy relationships with friends and my boyfriend (now husband).

Knowing our stories and being able to share them confidently will benefit both you and the people who are hearing it. But it takes time and trust to be able to do this well.

If you think about it, this is one of the reasons why relationships are messy. Two people who have parts of themselves they are ashamed of, parts of themselves they don’t even know and parts they have never shared with anyone else. In order to be in healthy relationships, we have to know our story, own it and share it with all of the good and the bad and the messy.

Relationships are lived out through our shared stories.

As you learn to share your story with people you trust, you begin to understand more of who you really are. You start to see what is important to you, if there have been any unhealthy patterns in your life, and what have been some of your darkest times.

Having confidence in who you are and accepting the messy parts of yourself makes it possible for you to accept other people for who they are. It also makes it possible for you to give other people grace because you know first hand no one is perfect.

Until we are able to know our stories, and allow other people to be a part of them, we cannot love other people well. Knowing our true identity, accepting our story and sharing it with others is the beginning of building true relationships with other people and living a true and honest life.

 Don’t be afraid to tell your story. It’s the beginning of something beautiful that plays a crucial chapter of this grand narrative.

An Open Letter to My Son, Kaleb

father-sonAs many of you have probably noticed I haven’t blogged a whole lot this summer. Rather, I’ve not blogged at all! The reason being that my wife, Emily and I welcomed our son, Kaleb, into the world on June 15. Since then life has been filled with changing diapers, sleeping when possible, waking up in the middle of the night to feed, burping and spit up, playing with him, watching him get tired and fall back asleep, then repeat…thus turning us into zombies for the first month of his life. In fact, I now believe that when we talk about an eminent zombie attack what we are really going to have to ward off are tired parents who are only looking for a nights rest without crying and poop.

During this time I’ve prayed often for our son. It has only been two and a half months but I’ve already gotten to see him grow so much. His personality is starting to show and his smile continues to change any bad day into the very best. To say that he has me wrapped around his finger is an understatement. I am thankful he can’t talk yet because if he asked for anything his mom and I would have a hard time saying no. As I’ve prayed, I’ve thought often of his future…the people he will spend time with, those that will invest in him, future love interests and heartaches. Obviously I can’t share any of the things I would like to about love, sex, and relationships at this time in his life so I decided to do the next best thing…I wrote him a letter for when he is 13.

Dear Kaleb,

Without a doubt the world you now live in looks different then when you came into this world 13 years ago. I can remember hearing how different the world was for my parents when I turned 13. They talked about how much the music had changed (I had MC Hammer, Madonna, Prince, U2, and Michael Jackson. They had the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley), or how technology was beginning to shift the ways we communicate (We had just got our first nice computer that was the size of giant microwave and weighed close to 50 pounds and although the internet was still not widely used, we had a dial up connection.) and they pondered how these new changes would impact me as an adult. I do the same as I write this letter to you.

As a 13 year old I thought pondering how the world had changed from one generation to the next was stupid. But, now that I am an adult and your father, I recognize the need to reflect on this very thing. I do so not because I fear the changes that will occur, but rather because I want to know how best to lead you in this ever-changing world. This letter is as much a reminder for myself as a word for you. I want to parent out of a deep desire to see you think critically, recognize beauty, and see God even in the most secular of artifacts. I desire for you to have a faith rooted in Jesus Christ, and to live the life I only wished I could have as a teenager because I was too afraid to be myself and live out my faith with conviction and courage.

So here is my attempt to share some thoughts I wish someone would have shared with me when I was younger.

No Matter What You Have Done I Probably Won’t Be Surprised

Remember, I am the “sex-guy,” the person responsible for coming into your middle school and high school to share a message on healthy relationships, media education and choosing to wait to have sex. I’ve spoken to thousands of teens and young adults in the church and one thing has happened over all these years. I’ve stopped being surprised by what I hear.

Pornography runs rampant throughout every campus I’ve visited. Whether it is a middle school, high school, college, or church, there are individuals who look at porn…and often. More and more of your peers have started to have sex earlier and earlier so I would not be surprised if you already know several of your classmates that have already had sex or are close to having sex. And I’ve seen the impact all of this has on relationships, classroom performance, sports involvement and life at home. It never has a positive influence.

I’ve learned one truth in all this time: our deepest cravings for power, money, alcohol, sex, recognition, and release are really misguided longings for God.  This doesn’t mean that what your peers, or what you, have done is okay. But I do know that within those thoughts and behaviors, there was really just a desire to be found in the one who created you.

Sex Is Not Everything That Our Society (and Church) Often Makes It Out To Be…

Sex sells. Or, at least that was the phrase that we often heard throughout my life. Movies proclaim its pursuit as the absolute most important thing in becoming an adult. They say it is the one thing that separates you from remaining a boy or becoming a man. Every decade has its “coming of age movie” whether it is a John Hughes movie from the 80’s, or one of the American Pie movies of the 90’s, or SuperBad of the 2000’s, sex and the loss of one’s virginity is the central theme.

However, in the same breath I can also talk about the church and how virginity is also a central theme. Only the message there is dead set on protecting one from the loss of virginity rather than the giving away of it. And if you choose to wait then God will bless you with awesome sex…mind blowing….body altering….sex. Or, at least that is one way it could be said.

Here is my issue, son. Both groups put too much emphasis on the wrong thing. Your virginity is not what is most important to you or your sexuality. Losing your virginity will not make you any cooler. You will still be a boy who desperately wants to be a man but lacks the character or patience needed to be a true man that loves a woman for more than her body, and himself for more than what he does with his.

Nor will keeping your virginity make you any more holy. Unfortunately, there are some that wrongly believe the first question that God will ask us when we meet Him face to face is, “Were you a virgin when you got married?” Choosing to wait for sex until marriage is about more than just our virginity.

God is concerned with your heart. Kaleb, your virginity, if not spoken of in the right context, can be a source of pride rather than an opportunity to glorify the Creator. Virginity, as a stand-alone virtue, is not enough.  This is why my desire for you is to live with sexual integrity.  And sexual integrity cannot fully occur unless you are in a relationship with Christ. For it is “In Christ” where your identity is given and determines how you love yourself, and those around you.

Sex Is Powerful!

You might think this defeats my first point but it doesn’t. Although sex is not everything that the media tells us and virginity is not the end-all most important thing about you, sex must be placed in its proper context. Then, and only then, can we celebrate its beauty and power.

At the core, sex is about creation. It is about the two becoming one. And it is about the desire to be known. What other act in life can you say does this?

The reason our culture spends so much time talking about sex and relationship is because we are searching for something. We are looking for meaning and purpose. We are looking for release and then to be filled with something new. That is why you see our culture talking about sex in such idolatrous ways.  

Sex needs to be placed in the context it was intended. In the marriage relationship.

This will be counter-culture from everything you hear but it is the boundary found in Scripture over and over. Genesis, Exodus, Song of Songs, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Hebrews all clearly communicate the power and beauty found in sex and the place it is intended to be enjoyed, in the covenant of marriage. Again, for good reason. It is meant to be an act that not only brings pleasure but also has the power to create….relationship, connection, and life. can all be found in this one act.

 My hope is that you use sex to create, not destroy.

 Your Mom and I Want To Be Google In Your Life.

There is absolutely no question you can ask us that is off limits. If it is a real question, it deserves a thoughtful response from people that love you. I don’t want you to have to go online, by yourself, to seek answers.

My prayer and hope is that we are the safe people in your life you can come to us with any question or contemplations.  We cannot force you to believe what we hold to be true, but we can, and hopefully already have, taken the time to speak from our own experience, knowledge and wisdom.  Our hope is to always share these in a loving and safe environment that welcomes dialogue on some of the most difficult, yet also the most important, topics.

You’re at an age where you are going to know everything…or think you know everything. I will be at an age when I know I don’t know everything…not even close. In fact, the older and older I get, the surer and surer I become of fewer and fewer things. However, of those things I am sure of…I am definitely sure.

Something I learned when I was working with a large corporation was that when a customer asked us (an employee) a question that we didn’t know the answer we were supposed to say, “I don’t know but let’s find out together!” This has been a powerful statement in my life and I hope it can be in yours too.

There are going to be many questions you have about life, love, relationships, sex and God. Some of them your mother and I will be able to answer.  The ones we can’t answer though we want to discover with you.

The Jesus Of The Gospels and In Scripture Can’t Be Found on Twitter or Facebook…or Whatever Form of Communication You Use Now.

I want you to know who Jesus is, really know Him. That is not going to come from a 140 character tweet or some Facebook post. My desire is that you learn to do exactly what the Bible invites you to do…meditate on and retain its words. ‘I have hidden your word in my heart’, says the psalmist, ‘that I might not sin against you’ (Ps. 119.11). Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.’

Remember, the only product these social networks sell is you. You are its product, delivered in large quantities to advertisers! The medium is designed to keep you constantly surfing, constantly skimming, constantly clicking. This is not how you need to be able to think in the real world. You need to be able to concentrate and critically observe the world around you. This requires context and patience.

The Jesus found in the Gospels is found by reading the Bible in its entirety. Creation, fall, redemption, and new creation are only understood when you read the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. It’s here that you will find a Savior that radically loves you, is seeking you out, and He is the only one that will truly fill your soul with any meaning.

You Have A Team That Is Cheering You On!

I saved the best for last and this is also probably the most important. You don’t just have your mother and I. You have grandparents that love you deeply. Your aunts and uncles have been dedicated to being in community with you from the time you were born until now. We’ve also been fortunate enough to invite close friends into your life that have loved you as their own flesh and blood.

Through community you will be exposed to new experiences and unforgettable lessons. In community you will know that you have more than just your mom and I to seek advice and wisdom. Out of community you will grow and become a man.

You might think you can’t do it (enter manhood) and will be afraid to express these feelings to me. That is okay. I hope, however, that because of the community that surrounds you that you will always have someone to tell how you are feeling.

The community we’ve welcomed into our life is a safe place. May it also be a place that helps launch you into the next part of your life!

Your Loving Father

Why Unanimous Roar?

I shot up out of my sleep from a deep slumber. You know, the kind where you wake up and freak out because you’re not exactly sure where you are. After a few seconds reality comes to you and then you realize, “oh, I am in my room.” But what awoke me has been an image that has led me in much of my ministry over the last 10 years…a picture.

Concerts have always been my weakness. In fact, my wife and I just finished paying off all of our debt. I am embarrassed to say that much of that debt was mine…mostly from trips I took to live out a life long dream of visiting most of the major league ballparks and then from the many concerts I’ve gone to great lengths to attend. Ask me about a band and it is highly likely that I’ve seen them perform live. In fact, it is easier – and would take less time – to tell you who I’ve not seen perform then those that I have. But here is the thing; what always drove me to a concert or a ballgame, what always kept me going, and to this very day is the reason I will still go to a concert or ballgame, is the essence of community that happens in brief but spectacular moments while you are there. It’s when all the hands in a stadium are raised in unison and a cheer has fallen over the place. It’s in those moments that something happens, something holy, something divine. For a moment in time 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or even 50,000 people are united…making a unanimous roar! That was the vision I had that night when I awoke. But it wasn’t for a team, or a band, it was a body of people who were united in cause, devotion, and love because of one person, Jesus Christ.

We live in a culture that celebrates the self. Endless consumption of goods and services, obsession with others that are overly narcissistic, and sex without any bounds are some of the many symptoms. Plus, you have to add the fact that we now live in a society where we are endlessly critiqued and what others think only amplifies and propels this continuing epidemic. But this dream, or vision, or thing, whatever you want to call it, spoke to something different. It spoke of community. It spoke of change.

One of the most beautiful things about any great concert or ballgame is the fact that for brief moments you are brought together with people from different backgrounds and beliefs. There are those moments, those special moments, where you are one with everyone there…and you know it! Differences fall away for a short time and you just focus on being there.

I love what the theologian Karl Barth wrote: 

“We return to our main thesis that the Christian is a witness, a witness of the living Jesus Christ as the Word of God and therefore a witness to the whole world and to all men of the divine act of grace which has taken place for all men. Thus in what makes him a Christian the first concern is not with his own person. He is referred, not to himself, but to God who points him to his neighbor, and to his neighbor who points him to God. He does not look into himself, but in the most pregnant sense outwards; i.e., to the fact that Jesus lives, rules and conquers, and to all that this fact includes. In the measure that he is engrossed in himself, rotating about himself and seeking to assert and develop himself, he alienates himself from what makes him a Christian. And in the same measure he curiously hazards and forfeits the very thing which does in fact personally accrue to him as a Christian, as a witness referred to God and his neighbor.”

My hope with this blog is that as I devote time to writing and sharing my thoughts on culture, sex, and Christ it will in some small way bring about moments that cause us to drop our differences and point towards the ONE that brings true life and gives us opportunities to discover…a unanimous roar!