Guys pursue the women God puts on your heart, and Girls don’t ever let anyone convince you that you are not worth pursuing.
I sat in a courtyard one Wednesday night, watching 5th and 6th graders be their awkward, not-quite-teen-but-not-quite-children selves before a youth group event at the church I work at.
One boy walked by a young lady and you could see the wheels turning in his head. Quickly, as if he was about to lose his chance, he turned and said “hey, I like your pants” followed by another turn and a quick shuffle around the hallway corner.
This created an uproar in the status quo that these students have set up in their mega-church social world.
You see these girls could have reacted one of two ways.
If the girl with the aforementioned pants thought this boy was cute or if she “liked” him, giggling and whisper chatter would have occurred. If she was brave enough their may have been another compliment sneak attack. But if this girl did not “like” this young man who mustered up all the guts a 5th grade boy has in his jellyfish spine, the gross looks and the worst rumors in the world (to a 5th grader) would begin to spread.
The latter was the event that occurred. These girls went on to accuse this boy of checking them out and they used the word that describes the sin of all sins in their mind “LUST”. (which I didn’t even realize 5th graders knew about)
I sat back in awe. I was blown away that this boy’s minor compliment was now totally demeaning his reputation and character. Luckily, it’s 5th grade, they will forget next week and probably be “dating”, which in the christian tween world means sitting next to each other in service and maybe following each other on instagram.
But isn’t this what we have been taught.
We are taught in purity conferences and conservative, gender-separated youth group meetings, that boys lust. And even worse that boys can’t help that. Girls are taught that it’s their responsibility to dress and act a certain way in order to prevent their brothers in Christ from their uncontrollable “stumbling” and this cycle pulls us into the social and emotional disarray we find ourselves in today.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that girls are more self-conscious and less proud of their bodies than any other time in history.
I’m going to jump across to another, possibly thinner limb, and say that this is mainly because of what we have taught our children about the opposite sex.
Girls are taught that when boys look at them, that sin is undoubtedly occurring. We have confused the appreciation of the human body with a sin that we so little speak of.
Something needs to change.
So, my female friends, I want you to know you are beautiful. I know I haven’t been allowed to say those things and I want to apologize for not telling you sooner. I’m asking permission to speak the truth in encouragement and love to you.
I want to tell you when you look great, and have the freedom to do so. I want you to know when your hair looks awesome and when a shirt just looks rad on you. I want you to know that we notice when you do your makeup different but more importantly that most of us love when you wear none at all. And I want you to know that none of this is sin. Most of the time it doesn’t even mean we have feelings for you.
It simply means you’re gorgeous, and you deserve to be told that.
We are the church and have the responsibility of bringing up the next generation. Let’s appreciate each other and understand purity for what it really is, a condition of the heart. Not a social stigma and it most definitely has nothing to do with your wardrobe.
It was Saturday. The sun was shining like I hadn’t seen for months. Spring was approaching, birds were chirping, and you would have thought as I stood on that sidewalk gazing at the front door that everything was perfect.
The Monday before, tragedy struck, death swooped in and rocked the world around me. I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know what to feel. Hope seemed to be shattered except for a glimmer of light in my life.
And I mean sure the girl that I had fallen in love with was scheduled to walk through that door any second. And I knew that we would walk to that park bench where two weeks before she had spoke words that I had waited for months to hear.
It was the saturday after the week from hell.
The expected relief after weekdays of tears, sadness, and confusion.
Saturday was supposed to be good.
So I walked, in utter silence, next to the most beautiful girl that I have ever met. The sun beat our skin and our hands swung next to each others in perfect sync.
We did sit down on that park bench but in just a few words, after moments of small talk, Saturday was no longer good.
Those word’s hung in the air, as though someone had repeated them from a dark cave and they were echoing through this small neighborhood park.
What I thought was the worst week of my life had it’s grand finale, fireworks and all.
I held my breath.
Two thousand years ago the disciples came across a Saturday.
Friday had come and gone. Hopes had been dashed and everything they knew was lying in a cave covered by a rock.
They stood empty handed in silence.
Word’s hung in the air. Promises seemed to be shattered. The life they knew would never be the same.
I can imagine them waking up Saturday morning just praying it was all a dream. I can see them gathered in small rooms, staring at the ground, tears in their eyes, in complete silence.
The promise of hope they had clung to for so long seemed not to be coming.
They held their breath.
As Easter approaches and we celebrate the incredible conquering that Jesus made over death. We celebrate all the promises that seemed so empty Saturday coming to life on Sunday morning.
I don’t know where you are at.
Maybe in your life, it’s Saturday.
Maybe there a promises that don’t seem to be coming. Maybe all you know is that he said he’d come again, but he doesn’t seem to be coming.
Maybe hopes are dashed and the life you knew is completely changed.
There is grace in the tension of Saturday.
There is mercy in the void between tragedy and redemption.
I wish I could say that it will be better tomorrow. I wish I could say it would only be a day or a week or a month. But I can’t.
All I can tell you is….hold your breath.
I sat at a small table in the corner of a coffee shop across from a friend. We chose the corner because I knew this conversation would be full of tears and the choice of a table was in hopes that the least amount of people might see those tears. I’m a strong guy and I’m there for my friends, I work a lot, and I’m a christian. I didn’t have time or reason for tears according to the expectations I placed upon myself. It was tuesday.
My friend looked over the glossy table, twirling her clear cup in her hand, and she hurt. You could tell in her eyes, glossed over by tears, that she had taken all the hurt that had marched into my not so guarded heart and set up camp in the last few weeks and she felt it. Every ounce of her being was attempting to sweep in underneath my crumbling figure and lift the weight off my shoulders because that’s what friends do.
They don’t tell you it’s gonna be ok, because they don’t know. They don’t tell you that God is bigger than this, because you already know that. They just look at you, with tears in their eyes, tears of sadness and pain and frustration, not for themselves but for you. They open their mouths with no other words to say but “I’m sorry” and “this sucks”.
My friend shook her head as she remembered that our last few conversations seemed to leave her in this same place. We sat in this exact coffee shop a mere three weeks ago with the same looks on our faces speaking of other tragedies that had all seemed to strike my life at once.
As I looked up, fearing eye contact would only cause the water, (or whatever tears are made of) to pool up in the bottom lids of my eyes, she said my name.
“Mike,” her voice rang out definitively and strong, the opposite of any emotion I was feeling.
I turned my head and our eyes locked.
“You are the guy you think you are.” She said staring into my eyes as if she had grabbed a hold of my shoulders and shaken this statement into the core of my being.
At that moment it was as if an entire army packed up their tents and tanks and marched right out of the unguarded city that I’ve come to know as my heart.
As tears welled up in my eyes, in case I hadn’t heard it the first time, my friend repeated those redemptive, life-changing words, a few more times. My eyes couldn’t stay locked with hers but she leaned over this table to be sure that they penetrated my ear canals.
“You are the guy you think you are.”
I have been guilty of pulling the Jesus card. Of not understanding a tragedy or circumstance and in my peaceful situation leaning over to my friends in need and saying “just trust Jesus.” As if this were the easiest thing in the world.
It’s not the easiest thing. In reality it’s usually the hardest.
As friends, in the midst of tragedy, our job is not to tell people about the Jesus they already know of. It isn’t to offer hallmark greeting card sayings because those apply to our wonderful birthday card lives.
Our job is to BE the Jesus they know. It’s to look them in the eyes and say “this sucks”. It’s to wrap our arms around them in parking lots and then proclaim that you won’t be letting go anytime soon. It’s wiping tears away with our fingers and with the words of the Holy Spirit.
And sometimes it’s looking our friends in the eyes, knowing they have been convinced of a lie from the enemy, and saying “you are the guy you think you are.”
A little over a year ago I sat in a giant church, amongst my closest friends, and mourned the death of an incredible man.
As we stood, one of the most inspiring and honest people I know, picked up a guitar and began to play. As he approached the microphone his mouth opened and he began to sing the age old hymn It Is Well.
Ever since that day that song has struck fear in my heart and I have run from it. I wrote a poem about that day and how much I didn’t want to sing that song because to me it wasn’t true. (You can hear that poem here)
I hadn’t sang that song since that day. Mostly because I’m a worship leader so the majority of services that I’m in, I get to choose the songs, and that one has been carefully left out.
Last night I sat in a brand new place, at the peak of brand new relationships, and at the end of a really similar week to that of the one a little over a year ago. But the leader on stage began to sing it anyways.
My heart felt like someone had thrown it into a vice grip, my stomach fell to my feet.
But still the words came out. I opened my mouth and those words repeated “It is well with my soul”.
The words of that poem still rang true, it wasn’t well with my soul. It’s still hard for me to love him sometimes when I think of the tragedy this world has seemed to come to.
Yet still I sang.
Because I wanted them to be true. I was hoping, just like in that poem, that somehow, if I just sang loud enough, that these words would change my heart and they would be true.
It didn’t work.
But I think this is something we should continue to do. We should continue to open our mouths and declare our desires and the truths of who God is. Even when sometimes we may not feel them.
This is part of choosing love, of choosing to be a disciple, to do even when we don’t “feel like it”.
I sat in my living room the other day with my little brother.
We were talking of the craziness that ensued among the blogosphere last week having to do with purity, modesty, and the
We talked about the things we were taught as kids by our pastors and youth workers and the way those things shaped the people we became.
We mentioned the lies that we had to discover for ourselves and the troubles they caused in our faith as we discovered Jesus for ourselves.
But as we talked my brother said something incredibly saddening. He looked at me with what seemed like defeat in his eyes and said, “well ya, but the church will always be this way”.
This is a sad thought process as a twenty something.
If our generation continues to believe that the mistakes the generations have made before us are unchangeable and we fall into the “that’s just the way it is” mentality we are missing out on so much.
We are a generation of world changers, of social justice pursuers, well builders, shoe makers, and song writers. We have the opportunity as the next generation to influence and change the world.
The people speaking up against “the church” now are the same people that will be “the church” in twenty years. (you can TWEET THAT if you’d like)
We have the opportunity to teach the next generations different things about our faith. We can take the mistakes that were made before us and correct those for the next generations.
I believe that the next generation will not say that “the church” (meaning us) was not about social justice, or that we ignored the least of these. I believe the next generation will not say that the ones before them fought over things like music or the sacrements. These are things that we say about the generations before us and because of that we are making changes.
WE will be “the church” very soon and we have the responsibility of acting in a way that carries that name with honor. (TWEET THAT)
That doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes. The generations after us will have plenty of things to fight against and lies of their own to debunk as they make their faith their own.
But we have the opportunity to change the status quo. We get to determine what “the church” looks like in twenty years.
Happy Valentines Day!!
Here’s a poem about hearts and junk!
Poop and fart, if you are anything like me those were the first two things you thought of when you read the title of this post.
But if you grew up in the conservative evangelical world that I did, something else might have come to mind as well.
I grew up thinking girls didn’t lust. The big L word that they couldn’t talk to guys enough about, I was led to believe that it wasn’t an issue for girls.
Sure they sinned, they weren’t perfect. But their sins were gossip and lying and a bad attitude.
My chief sin, purely because of my chemical make up, was lust.
The only time I ever heard any sort of youth leader or pastor talk to girls about lust was to talk to them about the things they did (or wore) that would trigger this vile sin in the hearts of their christian brothers.
I grew up with all kinds of misconceptions about what lust was and what I could do about it but the biggest was the lie that I was alone in it.
That somehow when Adam bit into that apple and God kicked him and Eve out of the garden that she was cursed with child labor and he was cursed with an uncontrollable sex drive, neither of them having to experience the others pain.
As I have grown into my twenties and the ability to have conversations about this topic, without being herded into separate rooms by our gender, has become more of an option I have learned that this, and most of the smaller tales associated with it, is a lie.
Girls do lust.
They lust just as much as guys. Lust is not a sexist organism that invades the hearts and minds of men but skip over any girls it comes across.
The even bigger problem in this mix of misinformation is that we as guys don’t know what to do about it.
We know that the visual triggers that guys experience in their battle against lust are not the same as the triggers for our sisters.
Although the things taught to teenage girls sitting in youth rooms all over our country about their bodies or the way the dressed had a lot of issues, at least the church attempted to address the issue.
“…so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” has been taken to the extreme. So much that they teach girls what to do and not to do (however flawed) to prevent the lusting of their christian brothers but never have I heard anyone teach me, as a guy, how to prevent my sisters from stumbling into lust.
This is a conversation that needs to be had. No matter how awkward, sisters begin to have open dialogue with your christian brothers.
Sisters tell us those things that trigger lust in you so that we can come together as a community and build each other up.
Forgive us for the things we do on a daily basis that make your battle against your sin nature even more difficult.
I’m praying that these conversation begin to happen, even today, so that the generation after us does not experience the same lie that I did. Let’s stand and engage in open dialogue about this issue of lust for guys and for girls, so that we live like the body of christ, building each other up.
I just got back from a trip to India.
An incredible, emotional, difficult, joy-filled, awe-inspiring, friendship building, tear jerking trip.
I learned so much on this trip and I won’t ever forget the experiences I had half way around the world in one of the most impoverished countries on this broken planet of ours.
But in the midst of extreme poverty, terrible conditions, and utter hopelessness we noticed something about ourselves.
One Saturday we arrived in a small village where children and adults lined the streets, sitting cross legged, facing a tent. The tent held a stack of what looked like dinner rolls, cartons of eggs, and a bowl of bananas.
Hundreds of people sat anxiously waiting for what we would call a snack.
We walked through these lines, shaking the hands of little boys and girls. All of them wanting to know our names, calling us brother, and asking the very simple but tear jerking question “are you happy?”.
I don’t know why Indian children asked us everywhere we went what our name was and whether we were happy. It wasn’t like the “how’s it going?” that you hear here in the states. It was of genuine care. I don’t think these children will ever forget my name, and I believe they really wanted to know whether in that moment I was happy.
As we handed out the last of our eggs, and the families returned to their homes we walked down a small alley way. I looked at the few team members I was closest to, all of which had held themselves together, emotionally speaking, for the whole of the trip thus far.
We were all crying uncontrollably.
But as we did this I noticed we all, including me, quickly placed our sunglasses upon our faces and tried to fake smiles as we made eye contact. Little words were spoken as our eyes returned to the utter hopelessness that surrounded us and something hit me.
Here in the midst of poverty and despair, we as humans, felt shame at our tears. We attempted to hide the emotions we were feeling in one of the most desolate places on earth. The pain we felt in our hearts for the children of God living in such desperation had somehow become something we attempted to hide.
I don’t know if it was completely shame filled or if some part of us was attempting to be strong for the others, but either way, we hid it. Our brains kicked in and we attempted to stuff back our emotions due to whatever logical processes were firing in our brains at the time.
We do this all the time.
We fight back emotion and cling so close to reason that we can’t weep at the saddest thing we’ve ever seen. (you can Tweet That)
I’m not sure what this means for us as humans. I know there needs to be some sort of balance between our hearts and our heads. I know that if we leaned into emotion that our world would be an even crazier place than it already is.
But I know that if we continue to suppress our emotions that the stories of our lives won’t move people. If emotions were completely suppressed freedom wouldn’t be fought for, lives would not be changed, and even the reality of the sacrifice that Jesus made would never truly sink in.
Sometimes opening up to people is scary.
There are feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness when you feel too broken to be good for someone.
This poem came out of that struggle inside of me.
The struggle to pretend to be someone I’m not, or to show the real me and risk the vulnerability.
Check out more poems at http://www.facebook.com/thehymn