Archive for the ‘Vocation’ Category

Agenda-less

May 15, 2019

What a beautiful reminder of the possibilities when things aren’t overscheduled or over-planned.

Wednesday evenings I lead a Bible study.  It started out for people in my congregation who couldn’t make the mid-afternoon weekly study.  We started with one set of topics.  But over time, those folks quit coming, while another group began attending.  A group of three to seven ladies from a local drug & alcohol residential recovery program began coming.  It’s a slightly different group each week, so I’ve had to keep the programming relatively loose.  At times, I worry that our time together lacks direction or purpose on any given evening.  And other nights, I’m reminded of how God can step into situations where there’s a gap.

Tonight there were three ladies who came.   I know these three ladies.  Shortly after they arrived in the program (in one girl’s case – the next day from her arrival)  our family began opening our home each week to the ladies from this program, having three of them over at a time to help cook & eat dinner, to hang out, play board games or video games, and just be part of a family for an evening.  They’re committed to a year-long recovery program that takes some of them out of their families for  a long time, and a chance to just be has turned out to be a welcome thing for them.  Who knew?

But also on hand was a woman from a Friday Bible study I lead at the retirement and assisted living community next door to us.  She’s attended Friday Bible studies for probably five years now – ever since I started offering them there.  She’s 96 years old.  She’s lived long enough to begin worrying about her siblings and now children dealing with cancer and death.

One of the recovery ladies started out, when I asked tonight if there was something they wanted to talk about, simply asking for help.  Her sponsor told her today she thought there was some sort of block between this girl and God that was inhibiting her relationship with God and threatening the success of her recovery.  She was understandably frightened by those words, even as she  acknowledged that she’s suspected this herself for some time.  It was frank and open and honest.  Humble and vulnerable from a young woman known much more for her mischief.

Her honesty set the tone for the evening.  One of the other recovery ladies shared about how she’s been looking for work now for several weeks as she enters the final phase of the recovery program.  But so far her diligence has only resulted in rejections.  And the rejections are piling up and she’s having trouble dealing with them.  Rejection isn’t any fun.  And rejection after seeing your life transformed must be even harder.  She shared – both as part of her story and as encouragement to the young woman who had just shared her difficulty connecting with God – that her way of re-connecting was to look at plants and flowers.  To study one particular one up close, observing it in detail, and that this would lead her to eventual worship of the One who must have created it.  She spoke more this evening than in the entire nine months I’ve known her, and her honesty was breathtaking.

The third lady shared how she had just been admitted – by surprise and two weeks early – to the final phase of the program, and that she’d be starting a transition class at the local community college in the summer but was looking for work in the meantime.  Once again she shared and was open in a beautiful way.  She shared about the way her mother loves her, and is so excited for the new possibilities in her life now that she’s free from her addictions.

Finally the older woman from next door spoke.  She’s a very shy, private woman.  But it was obvious she was delighted and touched by meeting and listening to these younger women.  She talked about how she could relate to each of their struggles, as she had already lived through each of their stages of life.  She offered words of simple encouragement, even as she shared a little of her own struggle in having a husband and siblings pass away before her, and now watching even some of her children struggling with disease.

I heard more tonight from these ladies than I have in months or years.  After I prayed for them each, they exchanged hugs with the older woman, as they were touched by her care and concern for them.

It’s so easy to worry all the time about schedules and plans, agendas and objectives.  Tonight was a beautiful reminder of how God can work in the spaces we leave open.  That given the opportunity beautiful things can and do happen, opportunities to give him thanks and praise as He draws us together in unexpected ways.  I’m grateful for that humbling reminder that it isn’t about me, or about always doing or teaching, and that listening is critical.  When the opportunity arises, listening can be holy work, or more accurately a holy blessing.

Thank you, Lord.

 

 

Missing the Obvious

May 13, 2019

It’s funny how sometimes you don’t see the simplest things right in front of your face.  It’s nice when you can think of it as funny, when missing the obvious doesn’t kill you or cause disaster of one form or another.  But when you can appreciate the irony of how wrapped up we are in ourselves that we sometimes forget who we are.

Thinking through possibilities for the future for my congregation and family, it struck me today that these considerations all come through the aspect of me.  It was not a pleasant thought at first.  After all, who am I?  Certainly, my ideas and hopes and dreams and whatnot should be more objective than that?  Certainly, how I cast a vision for things should be clear to others as the logical, reasonable way forward?

Yet that’s not the case.  Whether I like it or not, and I don’t.

The cult of personality in our culture is so strong and pervasive that I recoil from it as often as possible.  I’m not here to promote me.  Yet in the process of doing what I do, I do it as me.  And therefore, how I do it is different than how anyone else might do it.  This might not be true in some vocations, but it’s true in mine, and I have to deal with it.  Acknowledge it.  Come to grips with it.  Try not to let it destroy me.  Try to determine if what I propose for others is really as reasonable as it seems to me.  The danger of the I overreaching is always crouching nearby, waiting for an opportunity.

So that needs to be taken into account.  The vision I have may not make sense – at least initially to others.  There’s no way to really escape from that.  It may not be a bad thing, but it’s something very pertinent and real to bear in mind.

There’s so much more to learn, even in just the basic, simple, obvious things.

The Log in Our Own Eye

May 6, 2019

I’m all for mission work.  The task of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to other places and peoples who haven’t heard it already or need greater teaching and grounding in it has been understood to be part and parcel of following Jesus since, well, pretty much Jesus.  This work does need to continue, by all means.

But I’m struggling with an issue in my own Christian denomination, where troubling times and failures on the home front of evangelism are compensated with by directing people’s eyes overseas.  In my local regional polity of our denomination, there is a push to unite our congregations in support of mission work in India.  I think this is wonderful.  There are many people in India who have not heard the Gospel and we should reach them.  It isn’t that I’m against this effort.  But what I would prefer to see alongside it is an equal effort to figure out how to share the Gospel here, in the United States, on the West Coast.

But that’s harder work, and people feel stymied.  There isn’t an obvious rallying point.  People can be hit up for a few dollars to send to India, and know that their spare coffee money pays for entire school buildings and equipping dozens of missionaries.  There is, quite literally, a bigger bang for the buck in this sort of mission work.

But here at home, the situation is not far removed in grimness or urgency than the pictures of overseas children with smiling faces as they huddle over a Bible or a bowl of porridge.  Our children are killing each other, their teachers, strangers.  We’ve lost the ability to discourse civilly on important ideas and concepts.  We’re barely able to love our friends let alone our enemies.  We are hooked on drugs – prescription or illegal – and monumental amounts of alcohol (particularly wine) to help us cope.  The only answers our culture has offered are to legalize drugs or ban weapons or determine that opposing ways of looking at an issue or  the world are due to psychological dysfunction or literal brain damage.

The Gospel is needed here, in the United States, every bit as much as it is in India.  And just because it’s hard or difficult or confusing shouldn’t mean that we ignore this mission field.

Protecting Penance

May 2, 2019

I met with some folks earlier this week for a private discussion, which began in part by them querying my responsibilities as a mandatory reporter.

As an ordained minister of religion, the state recognizes that people may tell me things as part of private confession, and that those things should remain private (the eventual fortunately didn’t entail anything controversial!).  But there are folks who think that this should no longer be the case.

California State Senate Bill 360 would remove the clause in the existing Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act that exempts confessional statements from existing mandatory reporting requirements for clergy.  Some clergy members are speaking out against this as dangerous, and for good reason.

As it stands now, I have to report if I think a child is being abused or neglected, or if I come to that awareness by any number of possible ways.  But if someone discloses private information to this effect, I am not required by law to report it to authorities.   In our day, this sounds like pretty important stuff.  Why wouldn’t a priest or clergy member report possible criminal activity – particularly against children – even within the more narrow confines of Confession & Absolution?

The difficulty is in the relationship of a priest/clergy member to someone desirous of and in need of confidential handling of sensitive information.  I like how Father Pietrzky is quoted in the article – The Catholic Church holds that the information received by the priest in confession does not belong to him.  It belongs to God alone.

The current law indicates that any kind of private communication could be exempt from mandatory reporting, not just the more narrow confines of confession and absolution.  I could see an argument being made for a more narrow exclusion to mandatory reporting, but then again that would complicate matters considerably.

The reality is that priests and ministers have a unique role and relationship both to their parishioners and those who relate to them in their professional capacity.  I’ve heard private confessions from people wracked with guilt over things they’ve done in their lives.  I’ve heard horrible things.  Nothing, thankfully, that was ongoing or led me to believe that anyone was at risk of harm, but still things that are hard to hear.  Just as it’s hard for them to say them.

But it’s my job to hear these things, a direct command from Jesus to those who would become his church.  I am to convey his forgiveness to these people, for these specific sins.  Some might argue that the same thing can be accomplished in general or corporate confession, or through privately praying to Jesus.  But Christians have long understood that we have an enemy who works against the hope and confidence we are given in the death and resurrection of the Son of God through our baptism.  We’re prone to sitting in church, or at home after prayer, and telling ourselves that the forgiveness the priest or minister declares isn’t really for me.  Not for what I’ve done.  For everybody else, sure, but not for me.

Private confession provides very specific assurance of forgiveness by Jesus’ authority and command.  This is exclusively something that has to do with our relationship before God.  Who else on earth can someone go to in complete honesty?  Who else can someone verbalize things to, and then hear forgiveness promised to them due not to the civil or criminal justice system but solely and completely based on the death and resurrection of the Son of God?

I understand people’s concerns – that ongoing harmful or illegal behavior will continue despite confession & absolution.  There may be the idea that crime could be curtailed if clergy were forced to be mandatory reporters for child abuse.  But of course once established for one class of crime it would be a slippery slope towards mandating reporting for any illegal activity.

All I can say is that in over a decade I’ve never heard a confession that involved child abuse or any other major crime (murder, etc.) or anything that would even remotely incline me to report, or wish that I could.  Perhaps it isn’t really crime or child abuse this bill is after.  Perhaps it’s just another attempt to eradicate freedom of religion.

 

 

 

 

 

Movin’ On Up

April 22, 2019

Perhaps not exactly to a deluxe apartment in the  sky, but an improvement all the same.

I’ve bit  the bullet (paid) to upgrade my blog site from free to a paid plan through WordPress.  The annoying advertisements are now gone.  I intended to do this much sooner but, well, life and money and what have you.  Look for some tweaks and changes to roll out as I explore the options I have available now as a paid user of the site – including possibly a change back to my original domain name (livingapologetics.org) instead of the WordPress name.

All in good time, but at least it’s the first step.  Perhaps a step up?

Interpreting Authority

April 9, 2019

We had our monthly gathering of pastors in our denomination today.  We come together spanning a stretch of territory just shy of 100 miles in length, and we were at the far southern terminus of our area today.  The study we started briefly on had to do with proper pastoral authority.  What authority does the pastor have (and not have), and where does he derive it?  It’s a theological discussion with a rich tradition, but not one that I’ve had to have many conversations with lay people about.

But it coincided with some other thoughts on authority and how we interpret it.

Two out of the last three weeks I have worshiped in places that sing the song “Our God”  by Chris Tomlin.  It’s got a catchy rhythm and, while being somewhat vague on details, is a fun song to sing.  But both times it was used, the bridge got me thinking:

And if our God is for us then who could ever stop us

And if our God is with us then what could stand against.

Now these words are true, but I wondered how the people singing and swaying along to them interpreted them.  In both settings there was no further explanation of this very strong claims.  And barring interpretations, people are prone to filling in their own explanations.

The words  could easily be interpreted to mean that as followers of Christ we can’t suffer any setbacks, any failures, any disappointments, let alone any meaningful persecution or violation of the rights and privileges which we – as American Christians in particular – have come to enjoy and expect.

God is indeed for us and with us, and as such we are indeed conquerors in Christ.  But we need to remember that Christ conquered through his death, and his command to his followers was not to go out and dominate culture and society and politics but rather to pick up their crosses and follow him.  To expect the kind of suffering, even, that Jesus experienced and, perhaps, to even be killed for our confidence and faith in him.

That is a very real, very powerful victory indeed!  Satan cannot stand against us in any eternal sense.   Those  who cling to Christ may lose everything else – health, wealth, prestige, honor in the eyes of the world, even our lives – but we inherit so much vastly more.  It is a promise that has held Christians faithful on their way to the gallows or the shallow graves, in the face of guns and knives and fists and fire.

But is that how people today hear it?  And what if they seem to be stopped in their lives?  What if their jobs disappear or that promotion never materializes?  What if their family life is a struggle or they deal with the very real threat of sickness and disease?  Does this song support and encourage them to trust completely in Jesus and endure all things and all losses?   Or does this song leave them without a means of explaining their struggles?  Does it set up a false hope or point them to  the only true hope and definition of victory in Christ?

Only time will tell, I suppose.  But the rates at which people seem to be leaving their faith behind for the none category in survey after survey, the rate at which participation in worship continues to decline, I have to wonder if these kinds of songs – which can and should be so powerful and comforting when provided the proper interpretation – are leading people to a shallow, straw-man sort of faith in a god-djinni who grants wishes and offers protection rather than dies and rises again for them?

Those are the conversations I’d rather be having with my colleagues.  How do we equip our people to face real suffering and loss rather than letting their shallow roots wither and die in the blistering sun of an enemy?  Defending and explicating the proper role and use of pastoral  authority requires, after all, a congregation of people to explain it to and live  it out with.  That might require some more diligent preaching and teaching rather than letting them define their pop hooks by the world’s standards rather than God’s.

 

What’s on Your Pastor?

April 4, 2019

A famous tagline for a credit card is What’s in your wallet?  A simple question posed by smiling, wealthy, successful entertainment spokespersons that imply perhaps your credit card should be the same as theirs.  After all, if it’s good enough for the rich and famous it should be good enough for you, and perhaps it will bring you a bit closer to that status yourself?

But should parishioners be paying attention to what their pastor is wearing?  Some folks think that it’s worth consideration, and I can’t really fault them for raising the question.  Of course part of my agreement is couched in the comfort of knowing that nobody is going to call me out for $1000 shoes.  One of my parishioners expressed surprise a few years ago when I wore a different shirt to teach Bible study class.  My wardrobe is sparse, perhaps too much so.

There are some who would say that’s a sin, something I criticized briefly years ago.  Or at least a marketing disaster.  Pastors are in the public eye, and need to take better heed of their personal appearance.  And at some level this is true.  I remember one seminary prof who strongly reminded us to keep our shoes polished.  He once had a parishioner chide him for his scuffed and worn looking shoes.  That anecdote sticks more firmly in my mind than much of my Hebrew lessons, but I still don’t shine my shoes very often.  Are leather shoes, even the sensible, not-too-expensive-but-still-polishable kind an offense, an indulgence or luxury because others don’t have them?

Perhaps.

Though of course these things are relative as well.  I don’t consider my Levis a luxury, but somebody else likely could.  I splurged on my sunglasses a couple of years ago, and undoubtedly that could be questioned.  When it comes to most everything that we do and wear someone could always point out that there is some level of extravagance by some corresponding vantage point of poverty.  At what point do you draw the line?

One of the pastors mentioned in this article asserts that all the pricey items they were sporting were gifts to them.  Does that make the situation any more or less awkward?  If you mention to the rich and famous, if they pay you a salary that many pastors might only dream about, and shower you with perks that aren’t any big deal to them – much as a rural parishioner might drop by a few pounds of pork spare ribs to put in the pastor’s freezer – is it sinful to accept?  It’s a slippery slope, and one I don’t feel comfortable calling others out for.  But pastors should remember that it *is* a slope.  And even if it’s a simple thing and a blessing to them and the giver, people are always watching, and somebody, somewhere is going to be offended.  Even if they don’t choose to put it out on Instagram.

Pastors Evaluating Other Pastors

March 31, 2019

I’m a pastor.  It’s what I do, and what  I have done for over a decade now.  Not long by some metrics, nearly eternal by others.  I’ve never loved what I’ve done as much, for as long, as I have the office of public ministry.  Whether I’m any good at it or not, however, is largely a subjective matter.  I try to keep this in mind.  The fact that I was certified by a seminary and ordained by a denominational body with a respectable history and some reasonably rigorous standards is  no guarantee that I’m a good pastor.  Psychological evaluations and other metrics by professors and others during my graduate work were all an effort to  ensure they ordained a reasonably competent person rather than turning loose a potentially deadly canon.

But those are all best efforts, not guarantees.  As such I try to maintain a modicum of humility about myself and my work.  And I try to extend that  humility when I find myself in the pew of  someone else’s congregation rather than my own pulpit.

Over the past week I’ve had the opportunity to worship in two different congregations.  Two (or more accurately 4) different pastors.  All within my same denominational polity.  All different in terms of personality, worship  styles and preferences, and a host of other things.   Just as you’d expect differences between people  in any professional field, or just people in general.  Yet somehow, among my colleagues,  there is a dangerous temptation to  pass judgment on one another.  I want to avoid this but find myself  struggling with it as well.

Nobody preached heresy.  Both experiences contained historic liturgical elements of one sort or  another.  One was very traditional and the other was decidedly not.   One was packed full of people well-past retirement age, the other was populated by a staggering number of children, young adults, young couples and families, and a few older folks as well.  One pastor utilized a puppet as an object lesson before his sermon, a holdover from the days when he gave children’s sermons, even though there aren’t any children in the congregation any longer.  The other pastor led a rock band praise team.  Literally.   As the lead singer.

I  trust and pray and need the Holy Spirit of God to work in more ways than I’m  capable of imagining or expecting and therefore, more ways than I might  even think necessary or want.  I have every reason in my own life  and the history of God’s people to expect this sort of lavish, ridiculous outpouring of God’s love and effort.  And like God’s people pretty much throughout  history, I don’t always react to it enthusiastically or affectionately.  I’m prone to critique.  To worry.  To furrow my brows, as some who know me well are fond of  saying it.

I like to think I’m not so traditional as to still be using puppets when there are no children in my congregation.  But I also know full  well that I’m no rock star.  I like to think I have a few surprises up my sleeves, but I also know that I’m undoubtedly far more staid and predictable than not.

Both experiences lead me to naturally compare and contrast what I do with my own congregation and ministry.  They lead me to examine and rethink.  Both experiences showed me successful pastors and ministries where God the Holy Spirit is at work whether I prefer the methodology or not.  And so both ultimately direct me back to the work that God is calling me to here and now, in my own context.  To follow as I feel his leading, even if I’m exploring uncharted paths.  To continue even though there will be those watching and evaluating, some appreciatively and others with furrowed brows.

Ultimately what I pray is that God would be glorified rather than myself.  That God would be praised for his imagination and creativity as well as his amazing continuity and steadfastness that can hold so many different people and personalities and ideas together into a homogenous body.  Because if  He’s not behind these various things, they’ll ultimately dissolve and blow away in the wind.  Humbling to  remember, and a good reminder to get back to the work.

And that work remains the same: Preach the Gospel.  Die.  Be forgotten.  By  my fellow men, for a time to be certain, but never by Christ.  Solo dei gloria.

Lutheran or Biblical?

March 8, 2019

There shouldn’t be a distinction, a separation, but anecdotally speaking, it often seems as though there is.

Though born and raised in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I like to think that I remain in it, and am ordained in it, because our biblical theology is the strongest.  That we have the best ways of dealing with the tensions in Scripture.  Not that we are the only Christians out there, but that theologically speaking, we’re closer to the mark than not, and closer to the mark than more than a few others.

But this essay is dead on.

Let me say right away that I count myself among those who need to  know the Bible better.  I remember during seminary, working with the chaplain at the local county jail, he asked me what one of my goals was for ministry.  I told him memorizing the Bible.  Not word for word, but at least knowing basically the flow of every book in the Bible.  I marveled at his ability to cite book and chapter (and often times verse) in referring to Scripture.

His response was that I hadn’t preached enough.  And he was right – preaching does help drive us into Scripture.  But even if you use the three year lectionary system, you hit a remarkably narrow spectrum of Biblical books.

More than anything in this arena I’ve valued the in-depth Bible studies I’ve created and led over the past six years or so at my current congregation.  Working chapter by chapter through different books of the Bible while referencing or reading through 3-5 commentaries on the material has (hopefully!) given me a depth of knowledge and skill of remembrance of the books we’ve covered that is so very, very helpful and necessary.  It’s time consuming, of course, so we’ve only made it through Genesis, Exodus, Mark, John, Romans, Revelation, Jonah, and now we’re a bit over halfway through Isaiah.

Seminary didn’t (and arguably couldn’t) provide (or require) the level of Biblical knowledge I feel I’m gaining week by week, and hopefully providing to my people as well both in Bible study and in sermons.   I have a few wonderful scholars of the Bible in my congregation, but I imagine most are like I was as a lay person – familiar with the big picture stuff but very fuzzy on the details (especially the prophets!).

I can’t stress enough how important knowing the Bible is, and I’m grateful for the opportunity each week to get to know it better.  But I lament that many of my colleagues would much rather talk about Luther and Lutheranism than Scripture.  They aren’t separate, but we often talk as though they were by never actually grappling with the Biblical text itself.

Dust off that Bible.  Start reading it.  Start asking questions.  Ask for Bible studies from your pastor.  Form them with your friends if necessary.  But get in there and start really reading it.  You’ll be amazed at what you find – nothing less than the Creator of the Universe and you yourself and everything in between.

Maybe even Lutheranism.

 

 

Standing Firm

March 4, 2019

We live in a squishy culture.  Nothing is firm and set.  People and ideas and beliefs and practices are expected to be equally squishy.  Like jello or marshmallow, like sponge cake you can poke and push and it will bend and form to the shape of your finger or fist, allowing you to pass through or pass on before it begins to take shape again.

When you listen to people talk this is readily apparent.  I hate that I catch it in my writing and speaking as well, though I try to ferret it out.  You know what I mean, the constant prefacing or concluding of any statement with in my opinion or it seems to me, or  in my experience.  The kind of statements that devalue whatever follows or precedes, even though the speaker or writer believes those statements.  It is the assumption that nothing can be stated absolutely, that everything is up for question and grabs, and that any opinion is ultimately as good as another, even if we don’t treat them that way.

Squishy.

It is shocking to people to run into non-squishiness.  It is painful.  But it is necessary.

Last night we had a deep conversation with some of the core people in that community.  People who have been coming every Sunday night  literally for years.  They come because they know us and trust us and love us to some degree.  All things that evolved because in our home they found love and acceptance and respect.  They know we don’t necessarily agree with them about everything they think or say or do.  They know that we’re Christian, even if they aren’t sure what they are at the moment.

Yet in conversations – those rare, deep conversations that I live for – there is the expectation that we will converse like everyone else in their lives has conditioned them to converse.  State what you think or feel.  Couch it in the squishy terms mentioned above, but put it out there and nobody is allowed to question or disagree.  Or if they must disagree, they need to do so in the same squishy terms the original assertion was made.  Disagreement must be couched in dismissive language that softens it for the hearer and, in my opinion, assures them that they can go on feeling what they feel or thinking what they think because I’ve acknowledged that my disagreement has no stronger basis than their opinion.  It’s a self-defeating form of expression that ultimately makes any sort of progress meaningless or pointless as there is no acknowledged objective reality to strive for.  If I asked them to defend a mathematical equation they would leap to it readily and easily.  If I asked for the proper  medical treatment for a specific condition they could provide it authoritatively.  But in the biggest questions of life, of meaning and purpose, of truth and beauty and good and evil – these things are supposed to be squishy.

So there were tears last night because I wasn’t squishy.  Because I responded to assertions with simple nos and you’re wrong and that makes no sense sorts of statements.  No squishy comfort words before or after, simply confronting their statements with hard, abrupt words.  I was reprimanded for it, at which point I assume I was expected to apologize and back down and be more squishy.

And I refused.

I meant to be hard.  Not mean or cruel, but hard.  Unyielding.  Anti-squishy.  I know these people and they know me.  And I rely on that built up relationship of love and mutual respect to be able to be hard and  unyielding when I deem it necessary.  Because when everyone is talking squishy talk it’s easy to lose track of things, easy to discount things, easy to move past things.  And some things shouldn’t be moved past or through or around so easily.  Some things, like Truth, need to be run into and bounced off of.  People need to be shaken at times out of the stupor of relativism and subjectivity which now passes for intellectual discourse.

I am not squishy.  I mean, I am, personally.  But what defines me, what anchors me, what is my rock and fortress is not squishy.  I don’t stand on my own ideas – at least as much as I can avoid it.  I stand on a word I believe with all my heart and mind and experience and observation and reflection  is given by the Creator of the Universe himself.  I stand on a rock that cannot be moved no matter how much simpler life would be for some people if it did.  And it’s my job to stand firm on that rock.  To not be squishy.  To not be hesitant.  To speak with boldness and confidence as God the Holy Spirit allows and leads me to.

NOT to be unloving or uncaring, but to stand firm.  In love and care for others and refusing to allow them the misconception that I think these ideas of truth and reality are soft and squishy and malleable.  And hopefully, in standing firm in the midst of tears and shock and anger, to trust that the relationships we’ve build over the past three plus years will drive us back to these topics for explanation and clarification and discussion.

It’s not easy or pleasant, but by the grace of God, because of His infinitely greater love and care for these people than my own love and care for them, it’s getting easier.  Easier because it’s becoming so much clearer.  Such a fascinating process!  And such a blessing to know that He is at work in all of these things not simply to vindicate my point of view, but ultimately to draw these children of his back into his arms to find the peace and hope and healing they need so desperately.