Pious Playwrights

Do you see why Christianity is called “good news”? Christianity proclaims that it is an equal-opportunity faith, open to all, in spite of the abundance of playwrights in the church who are more than anxious to announce, “There is no place for you in Christianity if you: wear an earring/ have a tattoo/ drink wine/ have too many questions/ look weird/ smoke/ dance/ haven’t been filled with the Spirit/ aren’t baptized/ swear/ have pink hair/ are in the wrong ethnic group/ have a nose ring/ have had an abortion/ are gay or lesbian/ are too conservative or too liberal.                                    ~ Michael Yaconelli

I’m a fairly new Twitter user. I’m pretty long-winded for tweeting. In the past, I’ve only keep an account to keep up with a few family members. But tonight I did and saw a re-tweet from one year ago from the Westboro Baptist Church that read: Cory Monteith found dead in Vancouver hotel room – STRUCK DOWN BY RAGING MAD GOD!

I’m uncertain what compelled God to kill Cory Monteith. I don’t know if God was RAGING because Cory was on a television program that has gay characters; or if God was MAD at him because he was intimately involved with a girl he wasn’t married to; or if God STRUCK him DOWN because at 31, he took a lethal mixture of heroin and alcohol.

Here’s what I’m certain of, Michael Yaconelli had it right. The Gospel is “good news”. And whoever you are, there is a place for you in this equal-opportunity faith.

When I read the WBC tweet, I’ll be honest, it made me angry. I thought things like: No wonder no one wants what we say we have when this is how our faith is represented.

And I thought other things. Things like: How can people be so: ignorant, hateful, malevolent, evil.

In a moment my heart was seared. Hating the hateful is my spiritual Achilles. I was ready to assume the role of a playwright, too. So quick to say there is no room for you Westboro and your brethren who preach hate and proclaim the message of an angry God.

I’m more willing to extend unqualified grace to those who hate Christians than to Christians who hate.

Tonight I’m praying for a heart like my Father’s heart. The One who says: Come to Me, ALL of you who are weak and weary and I will give you rest.

Grace: It Isn’t Just For Breakfast Anymore

Episcopal priest Robert Capon said: “We are in a war between dullness and astonishment.” The most critical issue facing Christians is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality or school prayer. The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good new, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing, Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into “nice people.” If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested. What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down?

What happened to the kind of Christians who were filled with passion and gratitude, and who every day were unable to get over the grace of God? ~ Michael Yaconelli

What has happened, Michael? I think we’ve gotten side-tracked. We’ve become a people more passionate about our causes than our Creator. And that has turned us into a very dull lot. Loud, but dull.

As something becomes dull, it begins to lose its light and luster. I think we’ve lost our light, not because we’re passionless but because of what we’re passionate about. We picket and protest and proselytize on the side but we are so over grace. Grace is left for the Mother Teresa’s and a quick pre-meal prayer.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to be filled with passion for the Father, gratitude for His Son, overwhelmed by the grace of His Spirit and live a life of just okay news.

When I opened the package and saw this sweet gift, painted by my friend, I smiled. I smile every time I see it and I see it all the time because it’s hanging right by the door. It’s a reminder to me, all day every day, not to leave home without it.

Grace isn’t just another name for thank-you for this food, it’s a way of living. And it’s never dull.

Lost and Found-ness

It took me fifty years to realize I was lost. No one knew I was lost – my life had all the trappings of found-ness. I was a pastor for heaven’s sake. I had spent twenty-five years in church-related ministry, and most of my days were consumed with writing or talking about Jesus. And yet I was lost, confused, soul weary, thirsty, and bone tired. I had succeeded in mimicking aliveness, but I was nearly dead.

In desperation, I picked up a book by Henri Nouwen titled In the Name of Jesus…  I heard a familiar voice… It was the unmistakable voice of Jesus! He had found me! He had been hiding in the pages of Henri’s book, and my heart began to tingle with anticipation. The numbness of my soul began to dissipate , and I could sense the beginning of a wild and new way of living.

Five years ago I decided to start listening again to the voice of Jesus, and my life hasn’t been the same since. He has not been telling me what to do, He has been telling me how much He loves me. He has not corrected my behavior, He has been leading me into His arms. And he has not protected me from the danger of living, He has led me into the dangerous place of wild and terrifyingly wonder-full faith. ~ Michael Yaconelli

Michael and I were both 50 when we tripped over grace and landed at a place where conventional Christianity (as we’d known it) left us lost and weary. Michael died at age 61. He had 11 years to revel in his found-ness.

I’m 55. I may only have 6 more years, like Michael. I may just have 6 more days. That I don’t know. This I do. I’m going for the found-ness. I’m abandoning the proper, decorous Christian life of convention and correction and correctness.

I’m listening. I can finally hear that Voice telling me how much He loves me. I’m stepping off and falling into His arms. Michael was right. It’s dangerous. It’s radical. In most Christian circles, it’s wildly unpopular.

That’s grace for you. If you’re going to take it, you better be willing to dish it out. Are you ready for a wild and new way of living? I’m always looking for traveling companions.