Landmark Day

26 06 2013

Around the corner from my new home is the Landmark Mall.  I stopped by the other day to check it out and I’m sorry to say it was a very sad sight.  The two anchor stores — Macy’s and Sears — seemed busy enough, but the rest of the place was deserted.  It’s clear that the mall has seen it’s day, and that now it is just biding it’s time until some developer buys the land and bulldozes whatever is there in order to start over.  Unfortunately, at least for my family, the Landmark Mall is nothing more than landmark for something that was both outdated and irrelevant!

So it was no surprise when I discovered this week that next spring, a major portion of the mall is going to be demolished so that a new, outdoor, ‘mixed-use town center’ can be built in it’s place.  Macy’s and Sears will stay right where they are; but the landscape around them will be altered to reflect the needs of an ever-changing community, brining beauty, relevance, and new life to an institution that was mired in the past.  So as a new resident to this part of Alexandria, VA, I’m excited to see what is going to become of this ‘landmark’ decision.

Today, our nation’s highest court is also going to make a landmark decision of it’s own, and I’m even more excited to see where that decision is going to take this country that we all love and call home.  

Now it will come as no surprise to some of you that I am have some strong opinions on what the court’s decision should be.  At my denomination’s national meeting last year, I took my alloted two minutes on the floor of the gathering to challenge the Presbyterian Church USA to stop following our culture, and start leading it — to boldly declare that new wisdom and movenents of the Holy Spirit were now calling our community and the rest of the world to recognize that same-gender marriage is not only NOT forbidden by God in Scripture, but in fact, like any committed marriage relationship, is a covenant relation that can bring honor to God! The church had the chance to redefine marriage, and become one of the first institutions in the world to speak a Godly truth, to powers and principalities that were rooted in a pious and puritanical homophobia.

But we didn’t!  Instead of taking the lead in choosing love and not fear, the denomination that I love so much chose to wait for someone else to seek justice and to love mercy.  Afraid that any actions that challenged the staus quo might cause further decline in our numbers, commissioners clung to the past and closed their eyes to the ‘new thing’ that God is doing in our world today.

So now its the court’s turn to take a stand. And if they declare DOMA unconstitutional, and make it legel for ALL Americans to enjoy God’s gift of marriage, then once again it will be our culture that is setting the course for this nation, instead of the church.

No don’t get me wrong! I’m content when anyone takes the lead in speaking God’s truth to the world today, even when they may not know it is God’s truth that they are speaking! But how I wish it could be the church — the group that claims it is committed to seeking and doing God’s will . . . the community that proclaims it’s mission is to love God and neighbor . . . the body that declares it is all about living in world where justice flows down like waters.

On more than one occassion I have been accused of allowing my walk to become warped by the world. I have been accused of caving in to the culture, and neglecting God’s Word as I seek to live out my faith. But that is not what has happened to me at all! My walk hasn’t been ‘warped’ by the world; it has heard the Spirit speaking through the world because the Church had silenced it. I’ve not caved in to my culture, I’ve heard Christ speaking through my culture and saying what the Church was failing to say! And I never want to neglect God’s Word, but rather I allow the Word to continue to speak newness of life into my old ways of thinking and being.

The church has let so many people down, and for so long, that today I am hoping for the courts so speak up and take a stand. Today I am hoping that they have the courage to give us a Word from God, the courage to give us the justice for which so many are yearning. I pray they will stand on the side of love, not fear, and do what needs to be done. The time is now. A landmark decision is needed. So in this decision, may the Spirit breathe on us all, and bring a fresh sense of beauty, relevance and newness of life, to the institution of marriage.

Father’s/Mother’s Day 2013

16 06 2013

My dad has taught me many things in my 52 years; and even as he makes his way through his 76th year I’m sure he still has a few nuggets of wisdom left to share. But the thing that I think I will always appreciate the most is his commitment to excellence. If anyone has pushed me to become the best that I can be – it is my dad. His words – “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”; “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”; and most recently, “significant is more important than success” – have always challenged me, and pushed me, and inspired me to truly become the man God created me to be. And I’m so thankful for that. In a world that often accepts mediocrity as the norm, my dad has always encourage me to strive for something more.

Now at times, the pressure to achieve and accomplish was overwhelming. I tend to be my own best critic, and am extremely hard on myself. And over the years my high expectations of others has often led to a great deal of disappointment. Sometimes I reach too high, run too fast, and push too hard. And that is when fall back on the most important thing my mother has taught me over the year. And that is this – excellent or not, you are deeply loved!

Amy Grant’s latest CD has a song titled “Don’t Try So Hard” – with chorus that goes like this. “Don’t try so hard. God gives you grace and you can’t earn it. Don’t think that you’re not worth it. Because you are! He gave you his love and he’s not leaving, gave you His Son so you’d believe it. He loves you even with your scars. Don’t try so hard.”

I think this is the most significant thing that I’ve learned from my mother! Yes, we all need to strive to be all that God longs for us to be, but divine love is not dependent upon any of it! And neither is the love of any good parent!

Perhaps this is why parenting is a joint venture – there are many things we need to learn in life, and it is simply not good for any of us to be alone. We need families, and churches, and communities, to help us become all that we were meant to be. But while I am thankful for all of those people who have blessed my life, today, I am most grateful for my parents. Together, they have made me the person I am. And while I’m not perfect, I strive for excellence in all that I do, and know that I am loved no matter what.

Thanks Mom and Dad – and Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day!


6 06 2013

Sometimes, it feels like my living is getting in the way of my being!
The past two months have been extremely hard for me and my family. Life has been hectic and living has been exhausting. Leaving Stone House Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg, VA so that we might respond to God’s ‘calling’ to Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, VA meant that both my wife and I had to give up jobs that we loved. We had to say goodbye to friends who were like family, and a community that felt like home. Moving meant that we had to pack up a house that was full of our children’s elementary, middle, and high school memories; where countless birthday, graduation, holiday, and pool parties were held; and whose walls had embraced bountiful Thanksgiving dinners, joyful Christmas mornings, and hope-filled Easter brunches. It meant leaving behind favorite coffee shops, infamous ‘house dressing,’ ‘quirky’ gift stores, and long walks on DOG Street. We had finally lived in a place long enough to know the people that we met on the streets, and where every corner, store, or annual event had a story behind it. But now it was time to move, and in a sense, start all over again.
Today, we’re living in an exciting new community, and already beginning to feel at home in a wonderful new church. We’ve closed on a beautiful townhouse, and the boxes are all unpacked and the pictures are hung. We’re slowly learning our way around and a sense of being settled has . . . well . . . settled upon us. Relationships and memories are obviously going to take some time, and I still don’t know who makes the best Chai latte in town; but life is slowly quieting down and both my wife and I are feeling like we can breathe (and sleep!) again.
So where have the last two months gone? Why has the frenetic pace of my living been so burdensome? Why have I found myself so distracted by the practical trivialities of the last eight weeks of my life that I’ve been unable to stop and consider the deeper issues of family, friendship, and faith? Why have I been so consumed by the daily responsibilities of changing ministries – leaving well and starting fresh – that I’ve neglected to consider what the Spirit was doing IN me, and TO me, and to reflect on the deeper issues of growth, and discipleship, and obedience? Why have I not been reading, or writing, or reflecting? Why have I not been doing all of those life-giving things that normally make my days so rich and fulfilling? Why have I felt as though all my “living” has resulted in my neglecting my “being?”
Well . . . the answer is relatively easy. Sometimes, that’s just the way life is! Sometimes living DOES get in the way of our being. And the more I think about it, such times are really nothing more than times when our being is exposed and expressed. It’s really NOT that our living is getting in the way of our being, as much as it is that there are times in all of our lives when the rubber meets the road, and ‘who we be’ comes out in ‘how we live!’
And that’s what’s happened for me over these past two months. I have gone to the well, and drunk deeply of all the growth that I’ve experienced over the past 13 years. The Spirit of God has melted and molded me, fractured and fired me , reshaped and remade me; and for the past 8 weeks I’ve found strength, and courage, and hope, that I never knew I had. My “being” had been recreated for my “living,” and I’m confident that’s how it is for all of us.
Living is not a distraction. It’s why we were created. And during those ‘average’ days, when we’re just doing what we always do – when life is relatively easy and nothing appears to be changing – we need to be feeding our “being,” so that when the challenges come, our “living” does not overwhelm us. Our living should never get the way of our being, but rather it should be shaped by our being. And our being, while not necessarily shaped by our living, is refined and reflected in our living.
So wherever you are on your journey, be mindful of both your being AND your living. See the relationship between the two, that both might each day, point to the one we call God, and reflect the character and nature of the one we call Christ.