Why It’s So Hard To Say I’m Sorry – Bill White

On Saturday morning I fought with my wife.  Not a big fight, just some bickering over directions to Caris’s soccer game, ending with an unnecessarily hard remark and a long, awkward silence.

fightThat night was date night, so after Indian food we took a walk around the canals of Naples Island in Long Beach.  As we debriefed the week, Katy graciously brought up our fight and, in particular, my impatience (I say graciously not because it was nice of her to bring it up, but because she did so with gentleness).  One of the ways I know there is a God is that he gave me the ability to be quiet and listen, which many of you know is a clear sign of divine intervention.  I fought it hard, but finally, I apologized.  Now that I reflect on it, I don’t even think I apologized all that well, but at least when we prayed together that evening I confessed my impatience and selfishness to God.

The words of Anne Lamott come to mind: “I was not willing to give up a life of shame and failure without a fight.” Why was it so hard for me to apologize?  Why was I so unwilling to just admit my failure and name my shame?  It’s not like it was hiding anymore.  I mean, by the calm, moonlit waters around Naples Island it was just me and her and God – and all three of us knew precisely that I was wrong and should apologize.

I don’t know about you, but every time I apologize and ask for forgiveness I feel like I’m dying.  And I don’t like dying.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but again I’m taken aback that every time I die that way, there seems to be more life on the other side of it.  More connection, more intimacy, more joy, more peace.  It didn’t dawn on me till just now that this rambling blog that was going try to connect marriage to starting a church is actually about Jesus and what Easter means.  I’m so grateful that what he did on the cross and what his Father did at the empty tomb together inaugurated a new reality that his Spirit works into our lives each day, so that every time we die to ourselves we come to life just a little bit more.

Not Sure What to Title This Post (Jason Brown)

The TriangleWe’ve talked about Christianity being a triangle. I know, it sounds a bit institutional and unimaginative (although it’s deeply Trinitarian — my apologies). Christianity is about an UP connection to God, an IN connection to other folks who are following Jesus and an OUT connection to the good God is doing in all people and all places.

Last week, in one of the groups I lead I asked, “So which of these connections comes least naturally to you?” We divided into groups of three and shared. Everyone in my group said the OUT connection was the biggest challenge for them. To be honest, I thought OUT is what everyone would say.  Wow, was I wrong.

There were twelve people in the group.  Six people said UP was the biggest challenge. Five people said OUT was the biggest challenge. Only one person said IN was the biggest challenge. We had a great discussion as a group after this – analyzing our answers and thinking about how to help each other grow.

I’m sharing this story for a few reasons. The first is to encourage you to answer the question: Which of the three connections is the most challenging to you? I suppose the natural follow-up to that question would be: Is there anything you want to do about that?  Finally, I suggest you discuss your answer with a group of people you trust.

A Tiny Little Confession of a Trying-to-be-believer (Jason Brown)

I came across this quote earlier this week. It’s in a new book by Hugh Halter:Not pointing the finger

Most people are really trying-to-be-believers. Although Christians live by a belief system, we stop believing all the time. We fail to trust God with our money and our children; we quickly move to frustration with God when things don’t work out; we strive and work for the same empty American dream unbelievers do, and on and on and on. We log on to porn sites, file for divorce, and fudge our taxes like everyone else. We are all disoriented or at least have a massive built-in propensity to screw up our lives and see things the wrong way. Knowing this about ourselves helps us have much greater patience for and faith in others.

“So for now, incarnational living is going to challenge us to view everyone— including ourselves— as at least a little lost.” (Halter, Hugh. Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth, p. 43. David C. Cook.)

I really like what he’s saying. I guess it’s not so much that I like it, but that I think it’s true – at least it’s true of me. The gap between the life Jesus calls me/us to and the life I’m living is huge. Most days I am a “trying-to-be-believer.”

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if our public statements reflected this reality.  Rather than saying, “You’re wrong,” we said this: “We’re messed up. We don’t get it. We are frauds and hypocrites. And we’re sorry we’ve done a horrible job of following Jesus. Can we talk?”  This isn’t a strategy. It’s just a step in acknowledging reality.

Not a Post on Being a Sexual Disciple (Jason Brown)

Last’s week’s post was, well, sexy. Predictable

We move from all the tabloid pizazz of sex to something we’ve learned to call “Predictable Patterns” (a list that, if you’re married, should include “sex with your spouse”). What are predictable patterns? These are the things you regularly and intentionally do to grow your spiritual life and be a part of what God is up to in the world.

Rather than listing off a bunch of predictable patterns, we thought we’d let you chime in and let us know what some of these predictable patterns are in your life — these might range from praying in the morning to inviting one of our neighbors over for dinner every week to surfing every Wednesday morning to  . . . . you fill in the blank.

Just a couple of requests on sharing. First, only share stuff you actually do. Second, be modest. Remember, the goal is to help the rest of us consider new patterns that might help us grow, not to brag about how spiritual you are.

Thinking About Sex – Bill White

It’s been one of those weeks.  I’ve been talking to couples.  I’ve been talking to singles.  And it’s on everyone’s mind.

There are the couples who aren’t married who can’t figure out how to stop having sex.  There are the couples who are married who can’t figure out how to actually have sex.  And then there are the zillion of folks who get by with that cheap, plastic imitation of sex called pornography.

Finally, one more “I-can’t-believe-my-boyfriend-fiance-husband-does-porn” conversation broke the camel’s back.  I got mad and decided not to take it any more.

So I assigned my discipleship group to watch a TED talk on sustaining desire in long term relationships and then gave them a few key passages to study (1 Cor 7:1-7; Prov 5:15-23; Song of Solomon 7:1-14)… and we had some great conversations. sexual disciple

Eliseo suggested that we rename our group “The Sexual Disciples.”  Paul suggested we make t-shirts.  I suppose that would make for an interesting conversation starter.

Over the past three weeks, we’ve talked a lot about what it means to follow Jesus in the bedroom – and about how that’s usually a microcosm of how we follow Jesus in the rest of our lives.  As we processed our key learnings, in particular we asked what the next steps are for each of us to grow in our intimate life with our spouse and what it would look like for us to grow in our openness to walking with others towards a healthier and holier sexuality.

So would you like one of the t-shirts?

An Article about City Church

EricMarsh

This is Eric. He’s been a huge encouragement AND he has a nice goatee.

When we were thinking of starting City Church, we ran into Eric Marsh. Eric works at Grace Brethren Church in Long Beach and is the Executive Director of PlantLB, an organization that supports church planting in Long Beach. PlantLB and the churches, pastors and business leaders associated with it have been a huge encouragement to us. This week, PlantLB posted a short article on City Church and we thought you might like to read it.

CLICK HERE to read the article

When I met Stan – Jason Brown

So, Bill, Patsy and I were coming home from our conference in Oakland. We were flying Southwest and had forgotten to check-in early . . . which meant we were at the end of the line when it came to picking seats.

I knew I was going to get a middle seat so I thought I’d take the first available one – which was in row one. I could tell the guy on the aisle was offended I had taken the seat. The guy sitting next to the window was already snoring. I bent down to put some stuff under the seat. When I came up, the window-seat guy was staring me in the face. It was a little unnerving!

Airplane

I should have gotten a picture of Stan and me, but this was the best I could do. At least it fits the theme!

I knew he was somewhere north of 70, probably pushing 80. His hair was stringy white. He was wearing a suit, complete with a slightly loosened tie at the top. He was beyond caring what people thought about him. I introduced myself and asked his name. “Stan. Stan Sklute.”

I asked what he was up to. Well, he was a lawyer and was traveling home from San Francisco. He commuted there every week – Mon-Thurs. He asked me what I did. “I’m a pastor.”

“What?”

“A pastor.”

He looked at me in disbelief, then smiled “Oh, I’m Jewish. I’ve never talked with a pastor before.”

We spent the rest of the flight talking. I learned Stan’s story. Where he grew up. The fact that he went to high school in Long Beach.  How he was injured in the Korean War. The remarkable conversations that led to his getting into law school. The classically-trained, concert pianist named Millicent who became his wife and, oh by the way, also took his bottles of booze and crushed them up to form mosaic tiles that she transformed into beautiful pieces of art. His two 50 year-old daughters who had never married. The way his current employer convinced him to forego retirement in order to take this job. It was fun. He asked me about my life, too.

At one point he said, “My wife tells me I shouldn’t think this way, but because of my experience I’ve basically thought most Christians are anti-semitic.” What to say?

“I’m sorry, Stan. We Christians have done and said a lot of bad things.”

He insisted on buying me a drink. This isn’t generally something I do at 2 PM on a Thursday afternoon, but  I’m a Christian and Stan was a frequent flyer on Southwest with 2 drink coupons. “I’ll take a Heineken.” We toasted.

Stan let me know his wife was giving a concert on her one-of-a-kind Faziola in their home on March 22. I told him my kids had just started taking piano lessons. He said, “My wife would love it if you came. She’d love having the kids there. You need to come.”  He gave me his card and I gave him mine.

Which brings me to this. When I shared the story of my conversation with Stan with Em (my wife), she said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to compile everyone’s best airplane conversation stories?” Yes, that would be fun.