Prayer for Peace…”O Lord, deliver us!”

In light of all that is going on in regards to Syria, I find hope in this prayer…”O Lord, deliver us.”

“From self-righteousness that will not compromise, and from selfishness that gains by the oppression of others. O Lord, deliver us. From the lust for money or power that drives to kill, O Lord, deliver us. From trusting in the weapons of war, and mistrusting the councils of peace, O Lord, deliver us. From hearing, believing, and speaking lies about other nations, O Lord, deliver us. From suspicions and fears that stand in the way of reconciliation, O Lord, deliver us. From words and deeds that encourage discord, prejudice, and hatred; from everything that prevents us from fulfilling your promise of peace, O Lord, deliver us. Amen.” (Prayer for Peace with Justice Sunday, from the United Methodist Book of Worship, page 428)

One day, we will “study war no more.”

You are Outraged and I am Annoyed

Dearest Reader, again, this will be a rant. I will most likely offend you. I will go ahead and clarify that I am wretched sinner. I am not perfect. Oh, and neither are you.

By now, it’s old news. Miley Cyrus “shocked the world” with her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.

And, to be honest, I’m simply annoyed with all of the “outrage”. Parents, conservative religious groups, and Will Smith (by way of pictures and meme’s) have shown their disapproval of the performance. Was it awful? Sure. Do you have every right to be outraged? Yep. Do I think we should pull the planks out of our own eyes first? Absolutely.

So, why am I annoyed?

Well, because none of us should be surprised. Didn’t we all see this coming? I mean, when Billy Ray was pushing his daughter into the spotlight after he failed to follow up “Achy Breaky Heart” with another hit, we should have all seen the writing on the wall. Let us think back to other performances that have attempted to “shock” us…Madonna, Britney, Christina, etc…the bar has been set pretty low. MTV has no moral filter (Jersey Shore and Teen Mom are solid evidence of that).  We simply should not have been surprised. As I watched, I simply thought, “Wow. This is a really pathetic and desperate grab for attention.”

In the end, Miley was successful. More people are talking about her than they are the lack of bands, JT’s marathon performance, Macklemore’s beautiful words on human rights, and how no one in the audience knew who the two guys from Vampire Weekend were. And, let’s not forget…Robin Thicke…the married man, Robin Thicke was there too and was a full participant in all of this. It’s not like he was surprised. He knew what was going to happen. Why are we focusing on Miley and not so much on Robin?

Now, it would be easy to start quoting Scriptures like 1 Timothy 6:10 (the love of money is the root of all evils) and say that the pursuit of fame and fortune has led to ruin. But, that seems like a cop out. It’s too easy.

The reality is this…where were we? The Cyrus family have talked about Jesus often throughout their career. So, where has the church been as it seems things started going wrong for young Miley (let’s remember, she’s still just a kid…I believe she’s 20)? Where have the pastors, youth workers, and strong Christian women to speak into Miley’s life been? Maybe they’ve been there and have largely been ignored? However, my guess is that those voices of positive influence simply haven’t been there. I’m guessing there haven’t been too many who have pulled Miley aside to let her know that there is a better way. So, Monday and Tuesday we criticize this behavior…and yet we did nothing to prevent it. And, we probably aren’t doing anything today to prevent future incidents.

So, let’s be honest about part of the reason why I’m annoyed. Dancing aside, more people should be outraged with the overall vocal quality of the performance. It was awful. And, by the way MTV, where were the bands? It was like karaoke at Applebee’s night!

However,  what I find most annoying is this…many of those who are outraged by Miley Cyrus’ performance pay a lot of money to allow their daughters to perform similar dance moves in similar costumes. The only difference between Miley’s performance and some of the elementary, middle and high school dance team routines I’ve seen would be the presence of Robin Thicke. Think about it…revealing outfits? Check. Over-the-top make-up? Check. Booty shaking that makes people uncomfortable? Check. Stripper-esque moves? Check. Twerking? Check. Loud-screaming fans (called parents in the dance world)? Check.

It’s like me…I’ll get offended by the colorful language used in some of my favorite music and films. Yet, I often put together strings of obscenities that would make Lil’ Wayne blush. So, my outrage seems a bit mis-directed.

We’ve got a bit of the “plank eye” syndrome. We call out what we see in others but fail to own up to our role in all of it.

So, should people be outraged with the Miley Cyrus performance? Of course. But, we should be honest enough to do a reality check within our own lives.

We can criticize Miley, Robin, and MTV. But, are we justifying similar behaviors in our own lives?

Hopefully this serves as a reminder that we have a role in all of this. So, what are we doing to speak words of hope, truth, love, acceptance, and encouragement into the lives of the young people in our world?


The “Truth” About…


Disclaimer- In the typical style of “Tuesdays with Morris”, this will be a rant. I make no apologies!

This week, after a friend showed me a book he received anonymously, I have been thinking about the way we throw around the word “truth” within Christian circles.

We confidently label various statements and positions as “the truth”. We use the word “truth” to establish our authority on whatever topic we happen to be dealing with. We quote a verse of Scripture, make an opinion based statement, and say “that’s the truth”. However, in reality, most of our statements and positions that we label as “true” are simply an interpretation of what we believe to be true.

Visit your favorite Christian bookstore (online or a local store) and search for books that have “truth” in the title. You will most likely be overwhelmed. Now, look at the contents of the books. Many of the authors will disagree with one another on what “truth” is.

I mean, authors like John Piper and Mark Driscoll are going to have extremely different ideas of “truth” than Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and Rob Bell. Of course, McLaren, Jones, and Bell are very careful with the word “truth”. And, all of them would disagree with Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen.

So, what is “truth”? In our pluralistic society, truth is largely relative. What is true for me, may not be true for you. Truth is extremely hard to define.

Now, some will say, “Jason, you are a pastor. Therefore, you should believe in absolute truth.” My response would most likely be, “Well, maybe. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure this journey I’m on is called faith…not ‘absolute truth’. I mean, so much of what I believe to be true is heavily debated…even within my own theological tradition. So, yes, there are certain things I believe to be ‘true’. Yet, at the same time, I’m honest enough to say, ‘I could be wrong.'”

Whenever I hear the phrase “absolute truth”, I remember a conference breakout session led by Tony Jones. He was talking about truth and asked the question, “What is absolute truth?” Someone in the audience replied, “Something that cannot be debated.” Jones built on that and asked, “So, what are some of the absolute truths within Christianity.” People began to share things they believe to be absolutely true…And, Jones challenged us to think. Someone said, “The virgin birth.” Jones replied, “Okay. But, you defined absolute truth as something that can’t be debated…and we’ve been debating that for years. What else is absolutely true?” The crowd quickly quieted down.

I guess, when I see books with titles like “The Truth About Marriage”, I feel like the books should either have the word truth in quotation marks or include a disclaimer that explains that what the author labels as “truth” is simply his or her interpretation of what they believe to be true.

So, how do we handle things when what we believe to true differs from others who also claim to be followers of Jesus?

Can we just agree to disagree? Do we have to be “right” all the time? Can we realize that most of the things we claim to be “the truth” are minor issues in the grand scope of what it means to be faithful in our relationship with God and one another?

What do you believe to be “true”? Any chance you could be wrong?


Please, for the love of God, Stop Talking…

stop talking


Fools who keep quiet are deemed wise;
    those who shut their lips are smart. ~Proverbs 17:28

I’m going to be honest with you, I love to hear myself talk. I think it’s a fairly common characteristic among folks in ministry. We put a lot of time and effort into our messages, Bible studies, and other duties. In the midst of that, we often come to the point where we consider ourselves to be somewhat authoritative on certain matters. And, too often, that’s where we get ourselves in trouble.

Recently, there have been a couple of controversial decisions made by local United Methodist congregations in regards to matters concerning homosexuality. The first had to do with a church cutting its ties with the Boy Scouts of America. Bishop Michael Coyner actually made a statement encouraging local churches to continue partnering with the Scouts. So, it was confusing to have a local church cut ties and use the Discipline as a defense to support their decision. Of course, each local church can make its own decisions on these matters.

This week, another congregation made a decision to not allow Pride Lafayette to be a part of their community celebration. When the pastor was interviewed by the local media, he started off with a statement that was appropriate. He simply stated that it was a community event and Pride Lafayette was not really a part of that particular community. However, he kept talking. And, that’s when things got a little sketchy.

The quote shared by local media outlets stated that the pastor looked at the mission of Pride Lafayette and found that it was not in line with our Discipline and that influenced the decision.

The problem in both of these cases is that when local congregations make bold declarations, they are doing it on behalf of all United Methodist churches in the community…at least as far as the typical viewer/reader is concerned. And, in both cases, the pastors used portions of the Discipline’s statement and not the whole in order to support their interpretation.

Our more conservative brothers and sisters are quick to jump on the following statement, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” And, while that is a part of our statement regarding human sexuality, it is not the whole. It seems as though they see the denomination shifting views and becoming more and more welcoming and affirming towards our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters. So, they are doing all they can to take bold stands that may not fully reflect the tone of the denomination as a whole. Using a broader portion of the statement gives a clearer view of our attempts at a grace-filled approach to issues of sexuality. 

The often quoted paragraph (161.F) states, “We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us.  We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”

“All persons are individuals of sacred worth…All persons need the ministry of the Church…We affirm that God’s grace is available to all…We will seek to live together in Christian community…We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends…We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”

Hmm…so how does that support cutting ties with the Scouts? How does that support excluding Pride from your event? It sounds like the Discipline actually calls us to be in ministry “for and with” everyone…regardless of race, socio-economic level, gender, sexual preference, etc…

I was extremely proud of my Sr. Pastor, Scott Mann, for attempting to speak words of grace, peace, and clarity. Scott said, “It is extremely disappointing to hear of yet another fringe United Methodist congregation in the Lafayette area taking an extreme position on the issue of homosexuality. The hearts of nearly all United Methodist’s are with and for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. You are our brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters and we both love you and welcome you.”

The issue with Pride Lafayette probably would not have snowballed had the pastor stopped talking after making the statement that Pride Lafayette was not fully associated with their particular community.

Now, I’ve seen folks from the church saying that the pastor was misrepresented and that they edited out more graceful statements. However, the pastor put himself in the position to be misquoted and misunderstood.

This serves as a warning to us all…be very careful in what we say and don’t say.

Skaters & Jesus

cab and hosoiThis morning, I came across a video of my two all-time favorite skateboarders, Christian Hosoi and Steve Caballero. These two guys, often pitted against one another in contests and the overall skateboarding world, seem to be great friends and have great respect for one another.

It’s a brief video that features interview and skating segments. I was captured by the video and deeply moved towards the end of the video when Cab started talking about being missionaries.

Now, having watched the documentary and read the book, I am familiar with Hosoi’s Christian testimony. His transformation is incredible. Skateboard hero – junkie – prisoner – pastor. It speaks of the great hope found in Christ. And, just the transformation in his demeanor and attitude…from ego-maniac to humble servant…it’s incredible.

However, I had never really heard anything about Cab’s faith. So, I really expected Caballero to talk about being old school missionaries of skateboarding. But, then he started dropping the “born again” and “Jesus” bombs. I’ll be honest, I kind of teared up.

I’m intrigued to learn more about Cab’s faith. He’s always had a pretty “clean” image within the skateboarding world. Yet, I’m sure there’s more to the story.

Hearing these two talk about their “higher calling” within the arena of skateboarding…wow! For old school skaters and young skaters who have an appreciation for those who paved the way, these guys have the potential to be used as God’s powerful agents of transformation, hope, grace, and mercy. When these guys talk, people (especially skaters) will listen. These are some of the giants of the industry. They have some serious credibility within skateboarding circles.

I’ll be following Cab and Hosoi closely to see how God uses them…and to continue to be inspired by these men.

I encourage you to check out the video: