Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Liturgy of Healing

I sat there with a lump in my throat. Entropy rising in my soul in the ache of self loathing. It happened again. How could it happen again?

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

She sits there in our bed; tears stream down her face as she tries to muffle quiet sobs. She doesn't want me to hate myself, she doesn't want me to feel shame, so she hides her scars to protect me. She can no longer hide what has been building up for a long time. It is a familiar blur of tears, lowered heads, avoiding eye contact and awkward silence. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

A reminder that we had healed so much, but there was more healing needed. We fall asleep in our bed, neither of us wishing to continue the conversation. We wake up, and decide to make the best of our night. "Sing Street" is playing at Cinemark. A cute little indie movie about Irish teens starting a band to impress a girl with a 97%  score on Rotten Tomatoes; it could work.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

As we get ready to head to the movie I repeat the ancient prayer over and over in my head. We needed healing. We needed hope. We needed mercy. We get to the mall and I'm immediately put at ease by the smell of the popcorn running through the building. I love the smell of popcorn; a smell that calls back to the simpler time of youth and watching Survivor on TV every Thursday with mom while dad made stove top popcorn in the Kitchen. We were together. We were happy. We were family.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.

We sit down in the movie theater, only two other people in the whole auditorium. The movie starts, and instantly we know this is the movie we were looking for. This was the movie we needed. Over the next two hours we laugh, tear up and hum along with catchy songs. We did this together, at the same time, in the same moments. The theater was our cathedral. A refuge in the type of rough night all husbands and wives are familiar with. We were united. It was hope. It was healing. It was mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

The night was a reminder of why I love movies. The world outside the theater can be chaos, entropy, fear. For those two hours, whatever separates you is gone, and you are united in a beautiful moment in time, suspended in healing and unity. The church used to be known for it's art. Art that spoke honestly to the brokenness of the human condition. Art that celebrated a God who could heal his people. We facilitate His liturgy of healing with our art.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of god, thank you for your mercy.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Obama Presidency

I will be the first to say that for most of his presidency I was one of Obama's biggest critics. There were things that are definitely easy to criticize, and I could easily talk about those things. And I suppose there is a time and place to reflect on these things. It is true that if we don't meditate on histories mistakes we will be doomed to repeat them. It's really easy to stand and point a critical finger, but that is the posture of brokenness, not the posture of restored members of Gods family. We want to be critical thinkers, but we don't want to be critical people. I don't feel like it's healthy for me to write about where I felt Obama failed; plenty of angry and concerned conservatives have done that, and will continue to do that.
   I also will admit that for most of his presidency, Obama could have ended world hunger and I would have found  a way to be mad at him for advancing some liberal agenda. The idea of a democrat contributing something of value to the world was near inconceivable to me. I would be quicker to side with Howard Stern because of his being a republican than I would with Shane Claiborne because of him being a democrat (For those who don't know who they are: Howard Stern is a raunchy radio personality famous for interviewing porn stars and getting them to do degrading things on his show; Shane Claiborne is a Christian activists who has constantly lobbied for putting a higher value on human life and changing his community for the Kingdom of God.) Most of my family has a pretty tough time accepting that democrats could be right about things; we have an even harder time accepting that some republican stances stand in opposition to Jesus' Gospel of forgiveness, generosity and peace. And I was the worst culprit of such a thought process. This gross and hyper critical attitude towards anyone is inappropriate for those who carry the mission of Christ. It's no secret that I've been under going my own religious and political reform over the last year; which, for better or worse is something I've chosen not to hide. It's easy not to learn new perspectives and only educate yourself further on what you already agree with; it is a challenge to learn why people think the way they think.

  Because of Christ' work on the cross, His people should no longer be a tribal people. Christ died once and for all. Yet, sometimes we still act like following God is an us verses them war. We judge people based on the tribe they affiliate themselves with, or the tribe we assign them to; here's the rude awakening I've been going through: God isn't a tribal God. I don't think he's looking at Republicans and is thinking "Why can't my democrat followers be more like you?" So, as followers of Jesus, the only tribe that's appropriate for us to ascribe to is the Kingdom Tribe. And the Kingdom Tribe will not be pushed into a political party; it's just not that simple.

So having said that, I wanted too take a minute and list my 5 favorite Obama moments and facts.

5. That time he called Kanye West a jackass.

Kanye has had no shortage of negative attention in his career, and I'm sure this inclusion will fire up some Kanye apologists, but what a beautiful thing to know our president was thinking the same thing we all were when Kanye stormed the stage during Taylor Swift's MTV Music Video Award and told her and all of American that she was stealing Beyonce's award.

4. That time he showed everyone he had loads of class by telling us his favorite movie is Casablanca.

3.  That time he abolished  "Don't Ask/Don't Tell." Even though this country prided itself on being the land of the free, until 2011 you were not allowed to be an open gay person and serve in the military. Granted, Don't Ask/Don't Tell was partially to protect gay soldiers from any abuse they might be subjected to for being open about their sexuality; near the end of it's run it felt less protective and more oppressive. Who are we to say you can die for our country, you just can't do it if you're going to tell people your gay?

2. He is the first president in US History to visit Hiroshima. It's easy to understand why past presidents have dodged the bullet of heading to Hiroshima. Whether he is legalizing gay marriage or initiating extreme health care reform, President Obama has never been one to shy away from potential bullets being fired at him, his stepping to Hiroshima marks steps towards reconciliation for this still politically sensitive issue.

1. He expanded the faith based Bush initiative called White House Office for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This is an enormous example for Christians to follow, though political lines may divide us, our mission to bring heaven to earth should always unite us. Obama is quoted saying "“I may disagree with President Bush on a whole set of issues but I agree with him that we need to bring in the faith community and work together with churches and other communities of faith to make sure that the marginalized are taken care of and that the poor and vulnerable are protected.”

So there you have it!  I want to leave this blog with a challenge; for my more conservative friends, can you think of some things about Obama you appreciate? I understand it's hard; especially when you and he so clearly don't see eye to eye on very important issues; but maybe it's time for us to ask ourselves, what is a better witness to the world? Fighting over what divides us or fighting for what unites us? I've seen the arguments, I've heard the complaints and I've never seen those work. I've only seen them divide. So, for anyone who wants to participate, what are some of your favorite things that Obama has accomplished in office?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Top 10 Tom Hanks Performances

Every generation has a few actors that you could safely say "defined" the generation. The forties had Jimmy Stewart and Katheryn Hepburn, the fifties had Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. For me, when I think of the 90's, my first decade of living, no other actor personifies it more than Tom Hanks. Before 1993 Tom Hanks could have easily been equated to Will Farrell or Vince Vaughn; doing mostly gross out comedies. With the exception of Big, he had no masterpieces. The Burbs, House Party, Turner and Hooch... nobody would have watched a Tom Hanks movie and thought he was going to be one of Hollywoods all time greats. However, in 1993 a little movie came out that changed everything; not just for Toms career but for the scope of what would be acceptable content in movies. Philadelphia came out in 1993 and was the first major Hollywood motion picture to confront head on the AID's pandemic; it also changed the way the world would look at Tom Hanks forever. Over the next 23 years Hanks would go on to warm and stir hearts to no end. Whether it was his iconic voice in Toy Story, his charming innocence in Forrest Gump or his sly humor in You've Got Mail; everybody has a favorite Tom Hanks performance. Here are my picks for the top ten Tom Hanks performances. Disclaimer: I have not seen Big, so nobody jump down my throat for it not being on this list.


I often refer to Tom Hanks as the Jimmy Stewart of our day. So it is only fitting that he would star in the remake of Stewarts Shop Around The Corner. This movie is schmaltzy, predictable and at time unrealistic; but it is also my second favorite romantic comedy of all time (behind When Harry Met Sally). For those who believe in movie magic, this is a shining example of it, but made all the more watchable by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in their third outing together. Tom is funny, flawed, arrogant and lovable in this; showing us a light hearted, easy going side of him rarely seen in his performances, but we all like to believe he's really like this.


In one of his most flawed characters to date, Tom plays the sleazy congressman turned war profiteer turned anti war advocate. Hanks doesn't let you put Charlie Wilson in any boxes; he's not just a womanizing politician, he's not just a social justice advocate. Tom doesn't pigeon hold the character and so neither do we. In a lesser actors hands, this character wouldn't have just been unlikable and unrelatable, but he'd probably be unwatchable.


Is there any other actor out there capable of bringing to the big screen the charisma and likability the beloved Walt Disney was famous for? 2012 was a return to form for Hanks, giving us two of his best performances. Making Disney sweet, sympathetic and flawed, Hanks does a great service to one of the most iconic figures in American history.


The Green Mile is a 3 hour and 9 minute masterpiece that meditates in miracles and challenges everyone's position on the death penalty no matter where you stand on the debate. There's a lot of story and beautiful themes in The Green Mile, but Tom Hanks playing the sympathetic and noble Paul Edgecomb holds it all together.



In addition to Saving Mr. Banks in 2012, Tom Hanks brought a tour de force performance in this edge of your seat thriller. If there was any question as to whether or not Hanks is one of the best actors of our time, watch the last ten minutes of this movie. There is a short list of Oscar nomination snubs that thinking about just ticks me off, Anthony Perkins in Psycho and Tom Hanks here top the list.


In his most understated and under appreciated performance to date, Tom Hanks takes on the most conflicted role of his career. Tormented by the choices he made that lead to his families suffering, Tom Hanks plays a man on the road to redemption and to connect with his son for the first time. Hanks doesn't miss a beat or wink at the camera at all, he embodies the stoic and introverted Michael Sullivan perfectly, showing us something he's never done before or since.


In what is arguably Tom Hanks' most iconic performance, he took home his second Oscar in the title role of Forrest Gump. This was a risky move, playing the mentally challenged Forrest, which could have easily been interpreted as insensitive or cruel. But in the capable hands of Tom Hanks all those bullets are carefully dodged, what we are left with is one of the most earnest and enduring performances of all time.


Undoubtedly the best war movie of the last twenty years, Steven Spielberg took home his second Oscar for his meditative and violent film on war. Playing the strong leader who suffers quietly, Hanks does nothing flashy here, but he does ground this this character in the brutal, war torn reality he lives in.


When most of your movie focuses on a man alone on the Island, and you're the actor tasked with keeping the audiences attention for two hours, it sounds like a recipe for failure. But we aren't just talking about any actor here, we are talking about Tom Hanks. In what I consider to be one of cinemas finest performances, Tom Hanks takes on an impossible role that will leave you speechless. No disrespect to Russell Crowe, who won that year for Gladiator, but Tom should have taken home his third trophy for his masterful work here.


The movie that changed Tom's career forever. As a gay, young lawyer dying of AID's, Tom Hanks is in total control of your heart from start to finish in the role that won him his first Oscar. Though today it may not seem all that brave, at the time nobody portrayed this type of character in a major Hollywood motion picture. Tom pioneered new ground in cinematic acting with his heartbreaking portrayal of a dying man seeking fairness ad justice.

So, these are my top 10 favorite Tom Hanks movies. What are yours? Slap on a comment! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War asks tough questions and isn't afraid to hit you in the feels. SPOILER FREE

Captain America: Civil War
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlet Johanson, Jeremy Renner and a million other famous people. 
Rated PG-13: For extended sequences of violence, mayhem and action.

    Captain America. Iron Man. Good verses... good? How does this happen? What a weird and interesting scenario to present to us. These two guys want the same thing; why are they fighting? In a rare achievement for modern film this movie takes on the intimidating notion that nothing is as simple as it appears or as we think it should be. Captain America Civil War takes place shortly after Avengers: Age of Ultron. It is equally Avengers 2.5 and a direct sequel to Captain America: Winter Soldier. So be warned, if those movies are a little blurry in your memory it would be beneficial to revisit them before watching Civil War. Playing off similar themes of consequence and accountability that were presented to us in Batman VS Superman, Civil War asks tough questions and rejects easy answers. After an encounter with a mother grieving the loss of her son, a casualty during one of The Avengers rescue missions, a guilt ridden Tony Stark is a man in desperate need of redemption. Tony sees an opportunity in a law proposed to him by the Secretary of The State (played by the always reliable William Hurt, reprising his role from the ill fated and quickly forgotten Incredible Hulk). He approaches The Avengers with a law stating that they can no longer act as uncontrollable vigilantes, and do nothing with their powers outside the consent of the U.N. A law written by 117 different countries... yikes! The reaction among The Avengers is where the film starts gaining its heat. "If we can't accept consequence or limitations, we are no better than the bad guys" Tony Stark quips; only being able to see the countless lives lost because of his careless and arrogant creation of Ultron. "The safest hands are still our own." responds Steve Rogers, who can only see all the lives saved because of The Avengers efforts. They both want to save future lives, they both fear the path the other one is taking will divert their efforts... and They're both right.

  This movie is jam packed full of stories, big ideas, tough questions and plenty of action. In lesser hands this movie could have ended up like the unbearable third Spiderman movie or even the over the top Batman VS Superman (a movie I liked!). But there are four components to this movie that make it a step above most movies you're likely to watch this year. It has an fantastic script; full of heavy themes and plenty of humor. These writers had the impossible task of taking a star studded cast and their equally iconic characters, throw them all in a movie and not have it feel like an overcrowded mess; and they accomplish this with ease.

  The 2nd component is the performances. By now we know that Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlet Johanson and the gang are perfect choices for their roles. They have made The Avengers sympathetic, lovable and layered characters. Downey Jr. and Evans give their best as these characters yet, and it's clear to see why they keep coming back for more: When the content is this good, how could you turn it down? But the real surprise for me came in a couple of the new faces. This might be premature to say, but Tom Holland is the best Spiderman we've seen yet. I grew up on Toby Maguire and adore Andrew Garfield, but Tom Holland embodies everything that Spiderman was supposed to be. As some one who groaned loudly at the sound of yet another Spiderman franchise, I can gladly say I have very high hopes and firmly believe the best is yet to come for Spiderman. We also get our first glimpse at The Black Panther, played a young actor who could very well be the next Denzel Washington. Chadwick Bosman was outstanding as Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up. His character is small here, but in what little time he has he brings a depth and darkness that would have been missed in a lesser actor's hands. Keep your eye out for this one.

   The third component is the stakes are high! No, this movie does not take sides. It takes the bold approach of not telling the audience what to think and forcing us to think for ourselves. More than once watching this movie I sighed in exasperation and said "Everyone is so right!" They don't make any of the characters less likeable, but they allow you to see and understand exactly why they are fighting; and for all the smart and funny dialogue, this movie packs an emotional punch! This is a testament to how tightly knitted the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. You care about these characters because the creators of the previous 17 Marvel movies did their due diligence.

  The fourth, and most impressive component to this film is the Direction by the Russo brothers. Two guys who's previous directing experiences include some episodes of Arrested Development and Community, as well as that horrible "comedy" with Owen Wilson, You Me, and Dupree. You guys, we've seen Neo dodge bullets in The Matrix. We've seen William Wallace in epic battles with Braveheart. We've seen the shaky camera documentary style of filming of the battle in Saving Private Ryan. We've seen showstopping superhero action in the the 1st Avengers. So how the Russo brothers can make you feel like you're watching a type of action scene you've never seen before in this day and age is astonishing to me. I was impressed with their ability to direct a fight scene in Winter Soldier, and they blew me away here. Nobody directs actions scenes like them; a compliment all the more impressive given their background in entertainment.

  In the end, Captain American Civil War is a near perfect movie. It is emotional and funny. It's writing is impeccable, the performances are remarkable and it's directing is as good as you're going to see in a superhero movie nowadays. It's rare for me to walk out of a movie with no complaints, and I'm sure some will come as I watch it again; but as it is Civil War brings something refreshing to the conversation happening in cinematic art. It is some of the most fun you're going to have at the theaters this year: Go watch this movie!

Parental guide: The movies action scenes are intense, and some of the themes are definitely a little dark and could be unsettling for younger viewers. I don't recommend this for anyone 10 and under.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Benefit Of The Doubt

Benefit Of The Doubt

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, it's certainty. For what need do the certain have for faith?”
-Anne Lamott

I love music. I know this is a agonizingly uninteresting statement; everyone loves music. There's nothing interesting about saying, “I love music.” Why did I even write that? In fact, the only person I ever met who didn't love music was a self proclaimed sociopath; I'll let you do the math. I loved music so much that I wanted to learn to play it. I wanted sing the song Pistol by Dustin Kensrue to my now wife when I proposed to her, I wanted to lead people into Gods presence with worship the way my brother AJ does, or revel in it's paradoxes and complexities the way my friends Dennis and Bobby do, or use it to bring the purest sense of joy the way my friend Jordan does. I love that music can serve so many purposes for just one person. So I attempted to learn this music stuff. I bought a guitar, joined the Youtube School of Music, and got practicing. The trouble is, there is no resolution in learning music. You can't just learn music, there's always more to grasp, you are always a student. The more I studied and learned, the more I realized I didn't know anything. This startling reality hit me when my afro-mentioned friend AJ, who is the best musician I know personally, showed me videos of musicians doing things he said he'd never be able to do. It made me begin to realize why the majority of people who devote their lives to learning this topic make barely livable salaries, look homeless and are, for better or worse, very emotional. We can't fault those who fit this stereotype, they produce the greatest art in the world or admire and understand it better than any emotionally stable non-musician will. There was so much I didn't know, it made me begin to wonder if there was anything to know. The more I looked into it the less sense it made. It eventually made me realize learning music wasn't for me. However, a strange thing happened. A remarkable tension formed, a tension of doubt and love. The more I began to realize how nonsensical music theory is, the more I fell in love with listening to music and appreciated those who braved the mystery of music theory.

A lot of people approach faith this way. They love the initial tenants of Christian spirituality. They see how loving your enemies leads to a more peaceful and harmonious world, they know the virtue of charity and sacrifice, there is scientific proof that prayer strengthens the brain and decreases stress. There is a part of them that longs to see miracles. There are people that they deeply love and admire who have vested their entire lives into this thing, even being willing to sell all they worked for in a moment if their God asked them to. Yet, as the virtues attract the skeptics the logic of it all repels them. You can't convince an atheist mom with two little boys that the same God who killed all of Egypts first born, or flooded and killed the entire earth, loves them unconditionally. You can't tell a evolutionist biology teacher that the earth is only 6,000 years old and expect them to throw all that they've studied their whole life out the window (though, as my favorite podcaster Science Mike says, I'm growing more and more convinced the "Darwin or God" debate is a false dichotomy.) It's no surprise to anyone that the agnostic would love the virtues of Christianity but is repelled by the nonsense of it all. Yet, shamefully, what is not being talked about as much is all the Christians who feel this way. I say shamefully, because if there was ever a people group that held in high value the ability to safely convey doubts, fear and pain you'd think it'd be the followers of the Man who welcomed these things. Now, before I get accused of flicking mud at the church, let me say this: I'd trust almost every friend of mine who loves Jesus with my biggest doubts, worst fears and deepest pain. I'm not saying the church has rejected honesty. I will say this, many in the church are afraid of doubts being expressed in an open and corporate setting. We want these things locked safely away in the awkward conversations of the pastors office, the one on one talk at a coffee shop, or in the isolating caverns of our hearts. Doubts can be contagious, and by and large, in my own personal experience, the churches answer to doubt is to suppress it, ignore it, hide it and not seek to satisfy it's itch. Some circles consider doubt a sin. There is this unspoken belief that doubt almost certainly gives way to atheism. Doubt or faith; another sickening false dichotomy. I would like to argue this. I don't want to be divisive and, most importantly, as I hope you'll see soon, I am not at all refuting that famous passage in Hebrews that says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (I don't remember where it is in Hebrews, somewhere between the first chapter and the last chapter) But I have a fight to pick with the fight against doubt. Here are the points I have to make about this.

1. The fear of doubt is causing something far more sinister than doubt; it's causing a deconstruction of faith for so many. My wrestling matches with doubt have always been brief and mild. It's always been pretty easy for me to believe in God and commune with Him. I definitely have questions, but trusting God is who He says He is has just always come naturally to me, a gift that I am so thankful for. Until recently I misjudged the people who do struggle with doubt as arrogant; people who aren't "humble" enough to embrace Gods mysteries. But I have several friends that I know of  who have experienced, or are experiencing the deconstruction of their faith because of the pressure to conceal doubt and challenging questions. This deconstruction is not an act of arrogance, it's not being too smart for their own good (oxymoron) and it isn't easy for them. It is a period of deep suffering, deep sorrow, deep fear, and deep fighting. And more often than not, it is a season they walk through alone. When this happens, when you suffer in silence over your doubt, it creates new neurological pathways in your brain. Where the neurological pathways to God were once connected to love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, gentleness, holiness, faithfulness, goodness and self control, the pathways are now being connected to fear, hopelessness, isolation, dishonesty about faith, and suffering. What do you get when you mix questioning Gods existence or goodness with real nasty neurology? A deconstructed Christian.

2. Fearing and avoiding doubt makes faith look like weak fiction. I have always been thankful faith comes easy to me, and there are virtues to gain in this. One is that I believe real, sincere faith creates room for questions and doubts with out fear. Fear is the enemy of faith; where fear reigns faith is surrendered. Why is it that so many of the faithful are so afraid of doubt? Is God not real? Is His Word not true? Does He not love us? If we answer yes to all of these, then even when we are completely stumped by a question the challenges the very fundamentals of what we believe, we are brave and confident in our God. Real faith is bigger than hard questions. If we fear doubt that means our faith is not sincere and that we really fear our God isn't as rock solid as we purport. I understand being afraid of doubt leading a loved one away from God, but fear will do that a lot quicker than doubt.

3. Fearing doubt has created a culture of ignorance and intolerance that is ugly to the rest of the world. In our efforts to avoid doubt and protect western, traditional Christian thought, sometimes we avoid truth and evidence. We come up with faith based arguments against scientifically proven things. Sometimes we cringe when we hear some one, especially a fellow Christian, propose the idea that maybe the scientists aren't just godless heathens, maybe the earth really is millions of years old and maybe macro evolution was a part of it all. We fight and judge this because that doesn't line up with how we were taught to interpret Genesis 1 and 2. But a lot of us don't that the creation account in Genesis is written in the form of Hebrew poetry while most the rest of Genesis is written as a historical narrative. It's more like a song proclaiming God's creativity and no one reads songs and takes it literally; which means there's biblical room for belief in God using evolution to carry out His creation and that the earth is, in fact, very old. Now, I'm not saying this is how it went down, I'm not saying I believe in a old earth or in evolution, to be honest I don't know where I stand here. But I do know that if we chose to be ignorant on scientifically proven issues instead of educating ourselves and having gracious conversations, we will contribute to the deconstruction of Christian faith. As Galileo warned the church, one must be careful when interpreting the bible in a way that directly conflicts with science, as creation too is "God's Word." And, as Greg Boyd puts it, "If there are ways of interpreting scripture that don't conflict with science, shouldn't we look into that?"

4. Doubt has the potential to give way to the truest sense of intimacy with God. Doubt causes us to ask tough questions, and guess what? Sometimes God gives great answers! And if He doesn't give us answers, eventually He'll give us peace over our unanswered questions; one thing He will not do is leave us hanging. It may take a while, but He will help us. Once you get the answer or once you get the peace, you are so much more intimate with Him than before. Doubt also has the ability to expose things we have been taught in Christianity that just aren't true. For years I believed church was a building that held boring meetings once a week for white people to talk about Jesus. I hated church. I couldn't believe God would want that for a bride. But once I realized that this about functions as much for church as a golf ball functions for a basketball, and that church wasn't a place; it's a deeply diverse body of people who are united under the love of Christ, who dedicate their whole lives to looking like a community version of Jesus on the earth and who love and take care of each other no matter what, I fell that much more in love with a God who could design something so beautiful, complicated and possible. Doubt removes the masks and forces us to come to God as we are; and when we come to God stripped of defenses and confidence in our theology, He gives us himself.

Doubt is not bad and doubt doesn't have to equate disbelief, maybe it's a sign that you are thinking. Doubt is an experience. Doubt isn't anymore sin than sadness, happiness, joy or anger. Those things are what we make of them.  My best friend told me about a friend of his who had been preaching for his church, and his friend had a movie clip that was so perfect for his lesson, it would have really hit it home. But he couldn't show the clip in church, because it had the word “damn” in a context not talking about hell. My friend said to me that this showed him how fake we seem to be expected to be at church; everyone in the church body watches movies, shows and commercials or listens to songs that have plenty of swearing in it, everyone there has cussed after stubbing their toe or getting pulled over by a cop, why is it at church we are expected to pretend that stuff doesn't happen? Church should be the place where we feel like it's the safest place in the world to be real. And he's right. Church should be the place where we welcome doubts and questions, and Christians should wrestle alongside the skeptic rather than against him/her in their struggle with doubt. Church is is the place where the saints look like sinners, and the sinners help each other look more like Jesus; confronting doubt and all.

Recommended reading that helped inspire this blog:
 Water To Wine: Some of my story by Brian Zahnd
Traveling Mercy by Anne Lamott
Generous  Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans