Jeff and Jerry

A few years ago, back when I lived in Austin, TX, I received a phone call from a guy I occasionally did work for, asking if I was willing to work a 2-day event for a pretty decent chunk of change.  He ran a sound and lighting company and I did roadie work for him on the side.  I asked what the event was and Gene said it was a festival.  Great! I needed extra scratch in my pocket and festivals are fun!

Closer to the event I asked him what the festival was and in classic Gene style, he responded “oh, some gay thing.”  Honestly, I didn’t think a thing of it.  In fact, all I thought was that I needed to make sure I was ready to work the long hours and to adjust my regular work hours accordingly.  I never thought of the implications of being a college pastor working sound for Austin Pride 2010.

After two days of the event, I had experienced so many emotions in such a short time.  At the evening “party” event, I was backstage with a gentleman whose name I cannot remember, so I will call him Jeff.  After wondering for a while what he was doing back there with us who were working, I asked him and he told me that his partner Jerry (who was on stage) was the DJ.  Jeff and I had a pretty long conversation throughout the night.  He was a really nice guy.  He and Jerry had been together a long time.  Jeff was beside Jerry when they removed a big part of his lower jaw due to cancer.

You would never know Jeff was gay.  He didn’t have any stereotypical mannerisms.  He was not decked out in rainbow.  He looked like the average, suburban, husband and father.  I don’t know that he was a father, but, hopefully you see where I am going here.  JEff and Jerry were two “normal” guys, living two “normal” lives, except they were attracted to each other.

Now there were some things right in front of my eyes that were downright disgusting.  I don’t care what your orientation is, but watching someone “dance” provocatively, wearing nothing but their underwear while pouring drinks all over themselves is not something I want to see, man or woman.  There were things like this that clearly fit the description of the Romans 1 passage in the scripture:

24-25 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

26-27 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

28-32 Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

But then there were Jeff and Jerry.  They do not fit this description.  They wanted genuine love!  These weren’t two lustful guys burning after one another saying f**k off to God.  They wanted something real.

Is their love sin?  Maybe.  Is their relationship “unnatural”?  Perhaps.  Does God love and adore them?  ABSOLUTELY!!  I have to be completely honest, I struggle with this tension.  I want people to be able to find love.  I want people to know that they are loved by God.  I want people to be able to respond to that love in love to God and to others.  I do not intentionally revel in disobedience.  But, I struggle here.  My heart broke for Jeff and Jerry, and countless others who were there, not to revel in sexuality, but because they wanted to be known and loved regardless of their imperfections and vulnerabilities (which we all have).

The church, at large, has failed miserably in this department.  The bumper sticker reads “What Would Jesus Do”?  I believe he would have shown up at Austin Pride 2010, walked backstage, and say to Jeff, “I’m thirsty, may I have a drink of your water?”  (See John 4, The Samaritan woman at the well).

We often downplay the story of the Good Samaritan and the Samaritan woman at the well.  We notice some of the important factors such as Jesus calling out the fact that the woman has been around and that the good Samaritan showed neighborly love, but we often gloss over what the significance of the fact they were Samaritans really meant.  They were known for a loose interpretation of Judaism.  They were “sinners.”  Unclean.  Heathens.  Donald Miller puts it best when he said the modern-day Good Samaritan story would be more like that the traveling man whom was robbed and abandoned was a conservative evangelical and that the “good Samaritan” would be a liberal, homosexual, pluralist that stopped to aid the injured conservative evangelical, as the preacher, and church going family pass on by.

My point here is this:  Jeff and Jerry are people.  Just like the “Good Samaritan,” and the Samaritan woman at the well.  When we label people by sin, we don’t see people as people, we see them as objects, even if our intentions are good.  Jesus worked relationally.  Jesus went to that woman and said “I know you.  I know your deepest, darkest secrets.  Guess what? I love you.  I AM all you need.”  Jesus via the Holy Spirit work the rest.  HE restores.  HE reconciles.  HE convicts.  HE loves!!

If the church is made up of Christians, and a Christian is a follower of Jesus, then maybe we need to follow Jesus.  Maybe we need to walk up to Jeff and say, “I’m thirsty, may I have a drink”? Or in today’s model “Are you thirsty, may I buy you a drink”?

The Swiffer Generation

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I recently purchased a 1990 Jeep Wrangler YJ when an unfortunate mishap occurred while I was playing mechanic on my old truck.  I love the idea of owning this Jeep.  Besides the fact that thisjeep twenty three year old Jeep with 184,000 miles looks and runs better than most 7 year old cars with 90,000 mile, I like the idea of owning something that will require some tender love and care, and I hope to rebuild it over time to run and look better than it did when it was first made.  There is honor in restoration.  In fact, that is the story of God and His people, using Jesus Christ as a primary tool in the process.

elderlyIn our grandparents’ generation, manufacturing was a slower and more costly process.  The items built then were meant to be reused.  If your car acted up, you worked on it.  If your clothes had a hole, you patched it up.  Today, our generation has become accustomed to the likes of Swiffer and Walmart.  We have grown used to using something once or a few times and throwing it away, because it is cheap and easier to do this then to clean or fix the product for reuse. 

There is a big problem here…depositphotos_6241944-Problem-sign

We as the Swiffer Generation have not just become accustom to the use once and throw-it-away mentality with consumer trashproducts, but it has infiltrated every aspect of our lives.  We lease cars or trade them quickly because we don’t want to deal with them.  We buy cheap new-construction homes that will be lucky to last 30 years expecting to move.  So much of what we buy and even what we do is disposable. 

Besides the environmental implications, you may say “So what?”

The “so what” is that this rolls over into our relational lives.  We have, at large, become a generation of disposable relationships.  Whether romantic or platonic, our relationships are like Swiffer pads.  Use them up.  Toss them.  Move on.  We are not accustomed to working on things.  To fixing things.

I know there are a plethora of factors that play a role in the lack of relational endurance, but I believe that our expectation of instant gratification with little work is a major contributor! 

I’m not sure what the practical solution is besides being mindful of it.  Maybe it is taking on a project like my Jeep.  Maybe it is establishing some fasting disciplines to teach us to learn to live without instant gratification.  Regardless of what the possible approaches are, I think it is first necessary to recognize that our culture of convenience does in fact play a role here and we need to be aware of it. the_more_you_know_banner

A relationship is not a Swiffer pad.  I urge you to work at the relationships in your life.  I urge myself to do the same, as I need my own advice.

Dude, be a Man! (Part 2)

onceIn the last episode I shared some personal experiences of growing up in different ways.  In this episode I will share someone else’s story…

Meet Jimmy.  Jimmy is a guy that takes his family andstick marriage seriously.  Jimmy loves his wife and kids sooooo much that it is hard for him to not talk about them.  It is contagious really.  Jimmy’s story makes you want what he has.

Now Jimmy had a fatal flaw in his marriage.  more_more_more_main_a2He put his providing for his family ahead of his family themselves.  He was never home.  He was trying to bring home more money to buy a bigger house, better cars, you know, the story of many American “men.”

upsidedownworldOne day Jimmy’s story was turned upside down when he came home from work to find his home empty.  His wife took the kids and left the state.  I can imagine what many of y’all are thinking… Can she do that?! Chase after your kids!  Take her to court!  Judge Judy!judy  I make these statements because that is what I was thinking.

But Jimmy thought differently.  He took the verse in 1 Corinthians 6 about not pursuing a believer in court very seriously.  He felt God nudging him in that direction.  I honestly thought he was crazy.  But he listened to God over his emotions.  People told him he was wrong, that he was abandoning the kids.  He felt God nudge him differently.  He never took off his wedding ring.  He never pursued divorce, even though the scriptures give him an out… abandonment.follow

He listened.

He obeyed.

One day this past fall, a year and a half later, out of the blue, Jimmy received a phone call.  It was his wife.  This started a new relationship.  He got to see his kids again!  And again!  phoneEvery priority in his life has now been placed around his kids, his wife, and a Godly pursuit of them.  It has been a slow work in progress.  He and his wife have not reunited.  Yet.  That still may be in the cards.  He continues to pursue, and that takes a man (or woman), not a boy with a beard.

Moral of the story (true story, but Jimmy is not his real name), he followed God, and the blessings are becoming visible.steptomanhoodcomment500-250x225

Dude, be a Man! (Part 1)

il_fullxfull.382938815_h2htThe concept of a man is interesting in today’s culture.  There is the “machismo” version.  You know this guy. He lets everyone know he benched 250 while listening to Pantera beforetissue eating half a cow in one sitting.  There is the player concept.  The concept that sadly, by sleeping with many women, Mr. Joe Smooth thinks he is more of a man because he has been able to do the same act that every other mammal can do.  Then there is the ashamed to be a man because it is sexist to identify manwith your gender.  Despite all of this, there is a type of man to strive to be, a responsible man after God’s own heart.  This post focuses on being a man verses being a boy with a beard, this is not man verses woman.  In fact, I’d like to read the post about being a Godly woman, from a woman, to re-post to this site.

A man is not someone who doesn’t make mistakes, but humbles himself after and learns from them.  A man takes care of his family, he doesn’t walk out.  Fathering 30 children to 18 women beard01and then complaining about child support is not manhood.  A man values his worth by his love and his grounding in Christ, not by his car, job title, or salary.  A man shares his junk with others to grow more rather than boxing them up in the name of pride.  “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

I have been praying that I grow into a man.  Most adult males are men in some ways while boys in others, and it is different from dude to dude.  I have been praying to grow into manhood in some areas of my life.  To be a strong leader and provider.  To love unconditionally.  To be able to lay down my life for someone else, figurative or literal (I hope more figurative).real_men_love_god_sleeveless_tee

I have not always been the best role model in relationships.  Though I have not slept with women to add notches to the belt, I also haven’t always put others before me.  I haven’t always been able to truly commit and love someone.  This past week, my girlfriend Julie had a surgery to remove a growth on her thyroid.  This has been an opportunity that God has presented to me to love her, to be a man.  When she found out it was cancerous, nothing felt more like being a man then holding her in my arms and assuring her that I will be with her through it.  I’m not writing this to say “go me, I’m awesome at being a man,” rather I’m sharing what I’m learning.  This is only the beginning.  I have much to learn, but in some ways, I have never felt more like a man.minimal-desktop-wallpaffper-keep-learning

Beyond Expectations (I see your list, forget your list)

mediat-list-iconHave you ever had an expectation for God only for Him to respond quite differently than you expected?  I knew what I wanted in a future wife.  I knew the sense of humor she would have, the music she would listen to, the house she would want to live in, yada yada yada.  Fortunately for us, God sees a much bigger picture for everything in our lives.

I can remember as a kid in Ft. Wayne Indiana, I loved a local park called Fronky Park, but even more than that, a weekend trip to Indianapolis to stay at the Radisson, visit the childrens museum, and to go to Union Station downtown to see the old trains and it was a mall as well.  You know life as a 4 year old in Indiana is exciting when Indianapolis is your dream get-away.  So my parents said one dayindianapolis “hop in the car, we are going to Fronky Park.”  I was pumped, I was excited.  After about 10 minutes I was wondering where we were when my parents said “Surprise, we are going to Indianapolis!”  I cried… disappointed I wasn’t going to Fronky Park, until it really sank in that rather than a few hours at the local park was being replaced with a whole weekend in Indianapolis.  It was a far better deal for 4 year old Jon in Indiana.fast fwd

Fast forward to adulthood.  God showed me the woman on my list.  I met someone who was cute, dug the mountains, liked the same music, drank the same beer, enjoyed the same TV shows (of course same faith).  It was great!  But something was missing.  My expectations were met, but they weren’t.  Kind of perplexed and bummed, wondering if boy meets girl 09 I needed to force it since, I mean, she was what I asked for, I was in a quandary.  I decided best to be friends with we’ll call her Anna, I decided to keep my mind open.  I was to meet my friend for a cup of Joe at Remedy Coffee in Knoxville’s Old City when I met Julie.  My friend was late and when I walked in I saw my friend Eliza and sat down to chat while waiting on my friend I was there to meet.  Eliza introduced me to her friend Julie.  Julie and I decided to meet for a drink the following evening.  After three or four dates, unlike in the past, I knew then that she was my future wife (bold I know, especially not knowing what the future holds)

Julie has a lot of differences from me.  She has not met my expectations for the person I foresaw exceedspending the rest of my life with.  Instead, so far, she has exceeded them.  God gave me my list, and yet, it wasn’t what I was looking for.  Then, when I wasn’t looking He showed my what I didn’t know I was even looking for.

The moral of the story, don’t get too caught up in expectations.  Trust God in this!  There absolutely needs to be some requirements, such as faith and what not,trust but we often get way too caught up in nonsense that changes, stuff that doesn’t really matter.  I can’t predict the future, so I do not know whether or not Julie and I will get engaged and married, but I do know that every day has been a further blessing getting to know her.

Compliment her already!!

I will start by saying this; I am writing this not as someone who does this well, but as someone learning.  I have dropped the ball big time over the years in this area.  This also spawns off of the same phone call as my last post.

hey-you-look-great-thumbGentlemen, ladies often put a lot of time into looking beautiful.  There are many different forms of beauty that suit different circumstances.  Compliment them!  Let her know you appreciate what you see!  This does not imply sex.  I know some people have difficulties separating the two.  You can acknowledge beauty in a completely platonic way.  This also goes way beyond looks.

Ladies, try and realize that if a guy compliments you, especially if he is someone whom does not interest you, it doesn’t always mean he is trying to get into bed with you, or trying to pursue a romantic relationship.  He may simply be trying to build you up.

Of course, these examples apply to the opposite as well.  Men like to be complimented too and also need to learn how to receive those.

me too
It seems our society, especially in the Christian circles, has made this type of communication very difficult.  We always try and read into things that may not be present.  So may I suggest an alternative?  If you perceive that your compliment may be seen incorrectly, to clarify your intentions from the beginning.  “I wanted you to know, that as your friend, you look very beautiful today.”

A month or two ago, a lady in her early 30’s came into the bank to cash a check.  As her teller, I how oldchecked her I.D. and noticed that her birth date was in 1971, in other words, NOT in her early 30’s. I was shocked.  I asked her “1971, what’s your secret?”  This honestly made her morning.  She kept bringing that p throughout the transaction, and was shocked that I said that as she had apparently left in a hurry to get the kids to karate and did not put on make up.  She was almost in tears and stated more than once that her day had been made, and it was maybe 9 AM.

Imagine if we all made one another feel like a million bucks on a regular basis?im_feeling_like_a_million_bucks_shirts-ra0ac89687ebf48bf92d7b48b2b4ea229_f0cz5_512

Feel free to comment, dialogue is good :-)

Why is this so complicated? ….

bangyourheadSo I just got off the phone with my friend from Texas.  For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call her Katie.  Katie is an attractive and Godly woman, probably one of the most Godly women I know.  I understand her frustration when she wonders why men don’t ever compliment her, why they don’t ask her out on dates.  To be honest, there is no good excuse.  There is no excuse why an attractive woman, with a great personality, a solid career, and a genuine pursuit of God does not get asked out or even complimented.

Men… Step up your game!  Take a chance!  I’m not saying be creepy.  I’m not saying keep persisting when a woman says no.  I’m saying be a man.

Dating in our generation has become such a jumbled mess messas it is, but the Christian culture says I see your jumbled mess and I raise you to the most frustrating social situation imaginable.  What happened to asking someone you hardly know to a cup of coffee or a beer for no other purpose than to get to know the other person.  No strings.  No thought of whether this person’s politics will be welcome in your family, or whether their stance on predestination is how you want your third child to be brought up on.  Coffee.  Beer.  A concert.  An beerdateopportunity to get to know someone new.  In our parents generation they called this a date.  If the date went well, you went on another.  If they continued to go well, then you became steady and a real pursuit begins.  Often times, before the “going steady” began, they would have these dates with multiple people.

This is a simple concept that has been complicated over and over again, and now the church has added more hurdles to jump through.  Let’s get back to basics.  Let’s date for the purpose dating began, to get to know someone new with no strings attached.  (side note, getting to know someone with no strings attached is different than having a friend with “benefits.”  This is to get to know a person, not their kissing ability, or how they are in the sack.  Call me old school, but the bedroom comes after signing on the dotted line, as God intended it).  Coffee.  Conversation.  A walk.  Whatever tickles your fancy.

I know a common objection.  “Jon, you have to be intentional with your datingintensional relationships.  You don’t date someone you are not equally yoked with.”  Well, I see the argument, but let me ask this… How do you know if you are or are not equally yoked with someone if you never got to know each other in the first place?  Say you go out, and you’re not.  Okay, well, now you met a new person and maybe learned something from each other.  It wasn’t a waste of time, it just had different results than expected.

My point….

askoutMen… ask women out!  Ladies… be willing to go out. askout2 Be approachable.  Men… be respectful and courteous.  Treat a lady as you would if here dad was right there polishing his shotgun.  And… if you’re not attracted to someone, be honest with yourself and the other person.  shotgun

I write all of this not as an expert, not as someone who has figured this out, but as someone who has made mistakes and am still learning as I go.  More thoughts to come soon.date