We’re So Random

We are the chosen few

The essential elements

We are all chosen.

We are your bread and butter

Your compass

And your nick of time.

We are.

We are.

We are the fabric and the thread

The friction and the traction

The tension and the peace.

We are human

We are being

We are life.

We are.

We are.

We are lightning and thunder

Scuffed shoes, worn souls, and ripped jeans.

We are better than expected.

We are sunlight and rain drops

Tear drops and heartbeats

Heat and meat and feet.

We are.

We are.

We are what’s behind door number two

We are broken pottery

Putring the pieces together again.

We are.

We are.

We are the win column

We are the losers bracket

We are tie goes to the runner.

We are life and death

Here and now

And maybe forever we’ll be.

We are.

We are.

We are graffiti on the wall

Graffiti on a bathroom stall

We are art our own way.

We are holier than holier than thou

More sacred than the sacred cow

More awe than just some.

We are.

We are.

We’re so random it’s meaningful.

It’s beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Fear Drives

2016 will be a defining year for Christianity.

The year we let fear drive.

The year we let fear lead.

The year we let fear dictate
our attitude,
our emotions,
our outlook,
our reactions,
our responses,
our interactions,
our posts,
our tweets,
and our votes.

This is the year we let fear overthrow our faith, and Christianity will lose its identity in the aftermath.

When Fear Drives…We Get Lost

Fear causes us to forget who we are and forget where we’re going. This year we have become guardians, defending tradition and doctrines. We’ve abandoned our tasks as gardeners, failing to cultivate and nourish our neighborhoods and our relationships with agenda-less generosity and compassion. Fear has hardened our hearts and turned us inward.

We have become spokesmen and spokeswomen of who’s in and who’s out. We have lost our first love and replaced it for being right. Fear speaks first and serves last, or serves just so it can speak, instead of serving for goodness sake.

When we follow fear we wander away from Jesus, and his way is the last thing on our mind or our feed. We’re lost.

When Fear Drives…We Go Too Far In The Wrong Direction

Once lost, fear won’t let us turn around–repent–because we’re afraid the way back, or the right way, may be wrong. Or it might just be judged and condemned and blasted on Facebook. We become too affiliated with a party or a denomination or a view point or an opinion or an interpretation that it’s the only voice of God we can hear.

Any other way or possibility becomes nothing more than something else to fear.

When Fear Drives…We Will Wreck

Our relationships.
Our reputation.
Our witness.
Our influence.
Our legitimacy.

When fear leads, we’ll be known by nothing more than the lyrics of a Derek Webb song:

They’ll know us by the t-shirts that we wear

They’ll know us by the way we point and stare
At anyone whose sin looks worse than ours
Who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare
they’ll know us by our picket lines and signs
They’ll know us by the pride we hide behind
Like anyone on earth is living right
And isn’t that why Jesus died
Not to make us think we’re right

We’ll be known for slamming everything: Hillary, Trump, Joel Osteen, liberals, conservatives, Christians who are not like us, abortion, war, dancing, wine, Jen Hatmaker, MTV, CNN, NPR, pop music, processed food, global warming, gays, Oprah, tattoos, video games, Rob Bell, grown men who live with their parents, self-help, bi-racial relationships, single moms, Mark Driscoll, transgender, too much candy, quirky theology, women in leadership, and lists that a too short of things we don’t approve of.

We’ll be known for what we oppose, instead of the blessing we offer everyone.

When Fear Drives…We Can’t Enjoy The Ride

When we’re afraid of the dashboard lights going off all the time, we’ll never delight in the scenery.

If we drop the metaphor, fear will cause us to miss God because we’ll just be afraid of making him mad all the time. When we live by fear we can’t have joy. They can’t co-exist in the same space. Fear is a vacuum that removes wonder, joy, delight, and love from every space it fills.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

When you live in fear of God, it’s impossible to experience the love of God (and share it with others).

We’re not the first to act this way.

A couple years ago, Jesus was asleep in a boat with his disciples, and they were freeeeeeeeeeaking out in the throws of a storm swirling around them. We are in the same boat. 2016 was the year we peed our pants of faith and abandoned all we believed in, while he was in our very midst. (Many Christians believe that the Spirit of Jesus resides within them.) We have forgotten he’s in the boat, and we’re fearfully trying to calm the storm on our own, instead of extending comfort and peace to those who are paralyzed by fear all around us.

We have not been given a spirt of fear, so stop quoting that verse until you can act like you believe it. Or at least fake it ’til you make it.

Stop letting fear drive. Let love drive instead.

Maybe we’ll start following Jesus again in 2017.

Girls On The Rise – Part 3: A Servant Hearted Virgin and The Willingness of Women

This is part 3 of a series on what the bible has to say about letting women lead.

Click here to start at the beginning.

Women aren’t perfect, men aren’t either. There’s no implication in this series that they are. Even though we’re all level when it comes to our perfect status, women get the short end of the stick when it comes to being recognized as an equal contributor to influence others.

Even though women, like all huMANity, are flawed, they are irrepressibly  competent, capable, and courageous. It’s not their imperfections that hold them back, it’s the attitude and perception that they have leadership limitations. Imperfection doesn’t equal limitation. The fractured view of woman sets statutes of limitations upon them.

Unfairly.

Despite the marred view, women are doing some incredible and irreplaceable work in the world.

The attribute that stands out to me most about women, is their willingness. This quality is not true of all women, but it is a defining aspect of many who emerge as cultural influencers.

Willingness is defined and demonstrated by openness and boldness. Willingness is a neutral virtue that expresses itself in different ways, some healthy and some risqué.

Take Britney Spears. Willing to dance around with a snake around her neck. Willing to be a slaaaaaaave for you.

Unfortunately for the unbridled lust of men, there are many women who are willing to take it all off.

Other women are willing to stay with him, even though he doesn’t even deserve to date a tree.

These are a few examples of the risqué nature of willingness. There are some actions and behaviors that women should be unwilling to associate with and participate in.

Then there’s the glorious nature of willingness. A willingness that is not risqué but risky and brave, compelling many to live vibrant lives of willingness.

For instance:

Amelia Earhart was willing to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, and she was willing to attempt circumnavigating the globe. She is quoted as saying, “I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.

One of the most radiant versions of willingness is Brene Brown, who was willing to be vulnerable in front of a TED Talk audience with her shame. “Vulnerability,” she shared, “is our most accurate measurement of courage — to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest.”

Then there’s the list of women I mentioned in part two of this series, who are read and tweeted and quoted and envied for being willing to admit that their lives are a hot mess. Shauna Niequest describes her life like this:

This is who I am…not the sparkly image, not the smoke in mirrors, not the accomplishments or achievements. This is me, with all my limitations, with all my weaknesses.

Present Over Perfect

And how about Michele Obama? Stepping to a mic, like Joan of Arc to a battle, in New Hampshire, willing to speak up for the dignity and sexual protection of women, with gracefulness and confidence, “The shaming comments about our bodies,” she spoke bravely, “the disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.” Amy Sullivan wrote a report for yahoo.com that asserted Michele Obama as one of the most powerful speakers of this era because she is human, and with that bracing humanity comes vulnerability. It means hearing the hateful things said about her and her family, and being hurt. In large part for the sake of her daughters and all children.

One of finest examples of willingness comes from one of the most popular women in history, Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary was from a town called Nazareth and she was pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. The gospel of Luke tells us that Mary was a virgin and pregnant with the son of God at the same time. When word got to Joseph, he was less than thrilled and more than unwilling to move forward to marry Mary. He must have been pretty close to calling it off that an angel had to assure him that it was all part of God’s plan.

Mary, in contrast, was willing from the beginning.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”

Her response is awe-inspiring. Holy. Sacred. Her words may have made her more immaculate than her womb did. This willingness–to be the Lord’s servant–set her apart, and it has set women like her apart ever since.

This is the willingness to go to church when your boyfriend or husband is antagonistic or uninterested.

This is the willingness of single women to travel as a missionary to foreign lands with unfamiliar people and customs.

This the willingness to step into roles of leadership and authority over girls, boys, women, and men with composure and humility.

This the willingness to step out of the stereotypes and embrace a God-sized vision and direction for life.

To carry God in the womb.

To be a servant of the Lord, no matter the risk.

To deliver the good news to a world of raised eyebrows and hardened hearts toward women, with a message for all people.

This should be the mantra: If she can, we can.

Mary is a tangible example of willingness that all women can imitate. You don’t have to be a virgin or a Jew. All you have to be is willing. Willing to receive an assignment from God and face the challenge and the criticism and the misogyny head on. Who knows, you may just bring God into someone’s world in ways you never expected.

A child in your classroom.

A teen mom in your neighborhood.

A wife on the rocks of divorce.

A coworker in the office.

A man set in his prejudiced ways.

God works miracles through the willingness of women.

Girls On The Rise – Part 2: Smash The Ceiling

This is part 2 of a series on what the bible has to say about letting women lead.

Click HERE to start at part uno.

Culture is making progress when it comes to women in leadership and positions of authority. It might not be as fast paced as some people would like, but most change takes time over time. The church in particular has never been fully on board, but throughout the years it has found a couple loopholes when it comes to letting women lead.

When allowed, they can lead Kids. Worship. Women.

These are the ministries women are “empowered” to oversee within the church. Now there are some churches that fully endorse and establish women in leadership. They quickly become labeled as liberal, a term that holds a wide variety of meaning: from sucker punch to bullying to excommunication. (When I witness that treatment, I get discouraged, because I guess we would label Jesus pretty quickly as well.)

Are those three ministries all Jesus had in mind when he said, “come follow me?”

What about senior leadership? President of an outreach or mission organization? Denominational leadership? Pastoral leadership?

I can hear Jesus now, one hand on his belt buckle, the other tipping his hat, “Whoa, whoa, whoa little darlin’. I reserved those saddles for the big boys. Now go run along and play.”

It’s just funny, in most Catholic and Evangelical churches, women can lead little girls and boys, worship, and women. Men are off limits.

That’s their glass ceiling, and that’s our loss.

If that were the case when Jesus died, the disciples may have never known that Jesus was alive.

The crucifixion story contains some powerful imagery. From the time Jesus stressed blood from his brow in the garden before his arrest; to the exchange of the criminal Barrabas for Jesus; to the moment when a man named Simon assisted Jesus in carrying his cross; to the time when the sacred veil of the temple tore. Every piece of the story explains an angle of Jesus’ sacrifice that is essential for understanding the expanse of the Gospel.

One of the most captivating aspects of the condemnation of Jesus is that the women never leave him. Even though the men (except one) desert and deny him, the women stay true. At the foot of the cross. At the burial. At the gravesite.

And at the resurrection.

The women were the first to the empty tomb. The first to find out that he was alive. The first to tell the disciples. You know, the men.

These women were proclaiming good news–the best news, for God’s sake! Jesus was alive. All their fears undone and now death was moving in reverse. And these few loyal women had the holy privilege of bearing witness of it all, to men.

Here’s the kicker, from Luke’s gospel account: “But [the disciples] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” ‭

Just like a man.

If I were one of the women I’d be foot stompin mad at that encounter. Jesus had been telling them for all of three years that he was going to die and rise again, he does it and IT SOUNDS LIKE NONSENSE from the lips of some devoted ladies. Why I oughta beat you with a rolling pin!

This is our problem.

There are so many fantastic females out there who are communicating the good news of Jesus Christ to a world of young girls, young boys, and women. The men are missing out.

My wife is a fan of Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, and Shauna Niequest. I respect my wife more than anybody. She is one of, if not THE wisest woman on the planet. I want to read those who are shaping and renewing her life and soul. If these women are influencing my wife’s life, why wouldn’t I want them to influence my life too?

What saddens me about what I have read of these inspiring authors is that they write to women. Male authors have the privilege of writing to men and women, but women can only write to women? Bogus. From my quiet little corner of the internet, I want to implore you and your tribe to write for men too.

FOR. THE. LOVE! (Wink, wink. I see you Jen!) I’m not 100%, but I’m pretty sure Jen reads this blog a couple times every week.

You see the thing is, when a big dog celebrity pastor puts out a disclaimer against women in “leadership” over men, it’s us men who suffer. As men, we are not a integrated whole ourselves. Women are our counterparts. We’re missing a rib and they compliment our gaps. They do not fill in our weak spots they balance us out. We do not complete each other, we increase each other. And to be clear, men do not balance out women by making decisions for them, and women do not balance out men by cooking for them. 

We balance each other out by sharing the aspects of the image of God with each other that we do not possess within ourselves.

We need each other to experience God more fully.

We need the voices and leadership of men and women.

Which makes me think of Star Wars.

The church is traditionally 20-50 years behind the culture. We catch up on style and customs and technology once it goes out of style. There are some champs out there who are doing some really great work to shorten the gap, to increase the church’s presence and influence within the culture. But they usually get labeled liberal…

If you’ve been paying attention to the latest episodes of Star Wars, you’ve noticed that females have been cast in the lead roles. They’re being cast for more than sex appeal. They’re becoming icons of courage, leadership, skill, strength, and honor. Equal appeal.

HERoes that young girls and boys can look up to and be inspired by.

I’m not one of those guys who says the devil is puppetmaster of Hollywood. I think God is always up to something good, and if Jesus said that if we keep quiet (or hush up those who shouldn’t be), the rocks will cry out. Then why can’t a movie like Star Wars shorten the church’s gap when it comes to authorizing and celebrating the voice, creativity, perspective, contribution, and image of God in women as leaders of the church?

Every good rebellion is built on hope.

Now back to the story of no one believing the nonsense the women were saying about the resurrection. 

It wasn’t everybody. Maybe it was because he had already denied Jesus three times, that he wasn’t going to risk dissing these women as well.

“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”

He also went on to tell a few others the good news. Good news he received from a woman, because they’re worth believing.

Women can push on the glass ceiling as hard as they want, but it’s going to take a man, like Peter, to chip at it or down right smash it for them.

Next week we’ll talk about a servant-hearted virgin.

Girls On The Rise – Part 1: The Pride Of Man, The Downfall Of Women

Now seems like a better time than ever to talk about women in leadership.

We are on the verge of having the very first female president in the history of our nation. If we do, I predict that we will become some of the meanest and nastiest people on the planet.

Toward her.

(If the other candidate gets elected, I predict we will become some of the meanest and nastiest people toward others.)

My suspicion is largely influenced by a behavior and a feeling.

The behavior is called moral licensing. I first heard this term listening to Revisionist History, a Malcolm Gladwell podcast. The basic idea being that doing a “good deed” somehow gives people permission to do the wrong thing. Such as, once you do something good for someone, you get a pass to refrain from doing it again. The behavior is also tied to a social perspective known as tokenism, where a person (a Jew in 1940’s Germany, an African American in 1960’s United States, or a woman in the Evangelical church) is given preferential treatment to allow and accept all the unjust and ignorant actions being done to the rest of them.

The feeling is that men feel threatened by women. It is hard to say what we’re threatened by, but I know what women are a threat to.

Our ego and our pride.

There is something that quivers within us at the thought of having to take direction from a lady. It is an odd physiological phenomenon but after middle or high school, or through the brain-washing of most (not all) frat houses, women become second class, second rate, a means to an end. Not subhuman, just sub-man.

This is not to say that there are women who are hindered by their ego and pride, but it rarely roadblocks a man’s progress. The pride and ego of men will always negatively affect the progress of women.

The pride of man has a difficult time taking instruction or critique from anyone, let alone a woman. The ego, the I of man–the I can do it by myself, I can do it for myself, I can prove it to myself, and I don’t need anybody’s help–has no place for others, unless it serves the “I” and “I” get credit. Especially not a woman.

Sure, women can have pride and ego issues as well, but these are the behaviors and feelings women are often subjected to.

These are behaviors and feelings women are subjected to in the church.

I grew up in a fundamentalist church, and the only time I saw a woman lead was singing a song or in front of a flannel board at children’s church.

This is where the behavior and feelings of men often relegate women.

We would never say that though, because the bible told us so.

According to the scriptures, women are not allowed to speak in church, preach in church, or lead in church. BOOM! Let us pray.

These verses are loaded with ancient context which is often hard to nail down, but it is a playground for pride and ego. The bible said they can’t so we can’t sin by letting them.

This is when Jesus starts turning over tables in the most subtle and silent ways, that it makes us think the tables were just like that to begin with.

Jesus was a sage, a Rabbi, with followers known as disciples. A surface glance of his disciples would lead us to believe that Jesus set the standard for a leadership core comprised exclusively of men. His 12 disciples were all men. When you penetrate the surface you’ll come to realize that Jesus had more than 12 disciples and many of them were women. (The make up of the 12 disciples was probably more about symbolism than masculinity.) Their existence in his company is mentioned indirectly and their activity is subversive. Jesus is establishing a new type of spiritual leadership comprised of men and women.

N.T. Wright proposes this idea as the meaning behind the meaning in a popular biblical story of two sisters from the gospel of Luke.

Mary and Martha were hosting Jesus while he was visiting their home. Martha was Ree Drummond things up in the kitchen, for Jesus. As the oven was heating up, so was her irritation with her sister Mary. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching. Not helping. Martha boils over and sticks it to Jesus, “tell Mary to help me.” To which Jesus responds:

“Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”

‭This response is typically explained away for putting Jesus before work, or taking time to be with Jesus before getting to busy with less important matters. Those interpretations have a place, but N.T. Wright pulls out the message behind the message.

The inception of scripture.

To sit at the teacher’s feet is a way of saying you are being a student and picking up the teacher’s wisdom and learning, in order to become yourself a teacher, a rabbi.

BOOM! Let’s pray.

If pride and ego are permitted to drive interpretation than we would only ever use a story about two women as tokens for an good old comfortable object lesson on devotional practice. If pride and ego were driving Luke’s writing of his gospel, this story may have never made it onto the of scripture. For me, this is what convinces me that scripture is inspired. Men writing about Jesus legitimizing women as church leaders is huge in so many ways.

Especially for the pride and the ego.

Next week we’ll talk about how Jesus shatters the glass ceiling.

Walking The Streets With Sanchez Fair – An Interview – Part 2

Click here to read Part 1

 

The Jewish scriptures of the bible always bring attention to the cry of the oppressed. As a pastor of a local church, and a pastor of the city, what connections do you make between the cry of the oppressed in the scriptures and the cry of injustice taking place in our city and our nation today?

The cry of injustice is something that I wrestle with on so many levels. It’s hard because I naturally want to cling to the hope we have in Jesus, however, it’s not that easy. I live in a world and world of systems that weren’t created for folks like me to really thrive and be true to who I am.

Oppression looks very different. Am I enslaved and beaten? No. Am I poor and hungry? No. Am I free to be myself and valued for that? No. Am I known for being Sanchez, or have I learned the game and art of being what my surroundings dictate? Yes. Have I learned to say the right things and use the correct language in order to be heard and accredited? Yes. Do I still feel like African Americans have to give 200% to Caucasians 100%? Yes. Do I feel like this is reflected in the church and government? Absolutely. The church and government, during the reformation particularly, paved it to be this way. It’s unfortunate that the two most influential and powerful entities paved the way for this chaos.

From what you can tell, how has the local church responded to the racial tensions and social crisis? How can we improve/change our response moving forward?

I think that for the first time some churches realize that it’s an issue. The local church has responded better, but if I’m honest, it’s not been a great response. Have we focused so much on “reaching the lost” and becoming “seeker sensitive” that we have ignored the voice of those hurting in our care? Do we truly get discipleship? Do we get the simple things, like loving your neighbor as yourself? Do we get what it means to be a “mother and father” to those who have no home? Have we chosen us for them? Have we made what was once a conviction our comforts?

It’s easy to share the gospel, but to mean that and exercise that on a practical level is another thing. It’s time for us to do less preaching and more living. I don’t see many churches giving up their program to walk the streets or get in the trenches. It’s time to wake up and get dirty!

It’s time for us to do less preaching and more living. It’s time to wake up and get dirty.

Looking at the scriptures again, the Gospel of Jesus Christ affirms the equality of all humanity and the power to rise from the grave of struggle and suffering with hope and courage. How does the Gospel influence your current outlook and future dreams for the city?

The gospel is everything and the only thing keeping me in this fight. It keeps me loving the poor, homeless, and broken well, while tolerating and loving church people. I know that’s harsh but the gospel points me to the brokenness in myself and it motivates me to fix my attitude. I have to allow love to be unconditional and let it lead me. Love is the only answer to mending the hurt and pain that runs deep.

What are some simple actions steps we can take as individuals and churches and neighborhoods for healing and wholeness?

We have to display unity to this world. How will they know what it’s supposed to look like if we don’t lead them? It starts with us uniting with other churches locally. Challenging our people to build authentic relationships with people different than them. It doesn’t have to start with skin color. When we address the pattern and fix that, then will we see change. We, as the Church, need to be the voice that changes some of the systematic racism, meaning we get it out of our institutions that are supposed to be churches. Church should be a safe place where ALL people are welcomed, not just the ones that look and act like us.

Unity is the key that unlocks healing and blessing for our community.

-Anonymous

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Sanchez is one of the pastors at Center City Church in Charlotte, NC. Visit their website at centercity.church or their new location at 2225 Freedom Dr. Charlotte, NC 28208.

Bonus Plug: Sanchez just dropped a new EP, One Voice, a couple months ago and you should check it out. It can be purchased wherever good music is sold. Here’s the title track, a powerful vision for a people and city unified with God and one another: