Saturday, December 25, 2010

Of virgin birth... (a Christmas poem)

Of virgin birth, of sinless life,
To rid the world of madness, strife,
We pause to pray, to give in kind.
Like holy men, his star we find.

But most of all, the awesome tale,
That God would condescend as male,
Of humankind, he journeyed toward
Our broken sphere. We call him “Lord.”

Where table full, or pantry lean,
Can we trust? Did he truly mean
To give us hope of better end,
Than where we sit with no true friend?

I say yes, and say yes again.
There is no other plan to win
My mind and will. Here justice swells
To right all wrongs, of this I tell.

My evil deeds press on my soul,
Only redemption makes me whole.
Advent reminds for what I grope,
Messiah’s grace, my only hope.

From this day and season I go
Ahead with fresh start and renewed soul,
With more love for foe, grace for all,
Until again I trip and fall.

May it not be next year - this time,
I’ve forgotten all I learned. Remind
Me - his place on earth is not sole
Of book, rite, holiday, or role.

His presence on the earth was more
Than a brief thirty-three year tour.
If to faith and love he bids me.
Now, it’s in me. It’s my turn. See?

(copyright 2010, Steven Chavis)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Knowing our fathers

The word of the Lord which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
--Zephaniah 1:1

Reading through the Jewish prophets, I almost overlooked the opening verse of Zephaniah. Once you run into those “Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim” verses, the eyes glaze over and you might want to skip ahead to other more readable parts of the Bible. Jews for Jesus notes that the 1982 Reader’s Digest condensed version of the Bible left out many genealogy portions. But genealogy is extremely important in Jewish life. People need roots.

Re-reading that verse 1, I thought of my own paternal ancestors and I could only go back two generations, to my father and his father. I want to know more. I am pursuing what I will henceforth refer to as “The Zephaniah Standard” – that’s four generations of fathers. For good or for bad, I want to know the men who spawned, ultimately but not finally, me. And I shall beware the narcissistic delusion that it’s all about me. But I very much want to know about these men.

(I want to know about my “mothers” too, but that’s another blog.) I’m also tracking a story about my mother’s father who spent a night in Lake Erie when he and some fishing buddies capsized. That’s a story of perseverance and survival that I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren.

In ancient days a man was known by his family. The family was central to one’s identity. The family was central to one’s business affairs. The trade was passed down within the family. The family’s reputation extended to all its members. That’s one reason the family’s honor was upheld and defended so vigorously. Shame also has a way of enduring through later generations. (Honor can also be abusive and controlling. Witness the brutality of Muslim “honor” killings. Is such behavior really Muslim? Again, a topic for another blog.)

In earlier times the family was a version of what is now known as “the network.” Across time, imagine your ancestors – your fathers - like the crowd of technicians and service people in the Verizon “can you hear me now” commercials. (One of my favorite Verizon “flash mob” videos here.) The book of Hebrews recounts many of the great heroes of Israel’s history, and then the author says, “… since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

I think we lose heart when we see ourselves standing alone. Conversely, we gain strength and courage when we remember we are “standing on the shoulders” of those who went before us. Thinking back to when you were a child, can you remember what fun it was to sit way up high on dad’s shoulders? We could see over the whole crowd from up there!

I’m checking in with my cousin, who’s the patriarch of the clan, and I’ll report back if I discover the identity of my grandfather’s father, and his father. How far back can you trace your fathers?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The next word on men in church

Pastor Darren Patrick has a word for men. This YouTube video sets the scene for his upcoming book, Church Planter. Are men in the church endangered? Disappearing? After watching the video, what say you?

Friday, September 3, 2010

What's a "retrosexual?"

What's a "retrosexual?" I love the definition from Lini Kadaba: "The retrosexual, however, wants to put the man back into manhood."

Read more at Merriman-Webster.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Church for Men is back!

While at the big PK ranch a few years ago, I had the chance to meet a champion of the Christian men's movement, David Murrow, author of The Map: The Way of All Great Men and Why Men Hate Going to Church.  He was busy with other things, I guess, but now his website is back up.
He pitches his DVD and books, and there's only one post from last March, but there's quite a bit of solid material there for those who think about ways to encourage men.  There's also a link to his YouTube channel, here, including a recent interview with Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll.

Let's pray for our pastors, TODAY!

Welcome back, David.  Missed ya!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

5 words that really matter...

5 words that really matter: "Her mother and I do." What a blessing. Thanks all!

Just a note to say that walking that woman down the aisle was the culmination of a few things done right, and much grace from God.  More to come later.  I'm still recovering.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We need more “sloppy wet kisses” in church

“How He Loves” is a rare worship song that has popular appeal on radio, as well as in congregations. But a controversy is raging over the lyric line “So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss….” Meditating on that line brought me to an epiphany of sorts. We need more sloppy wet kisses in church. (More comments on the dust-up at this blog.)

More accurately, we need more passion in church, and especially among our married couples. Yes, I’m talking New Year’s Eve, Times Square, just-home-from-the-war passion.

Where are the men on the matter of passion in the church? Harold Velasquez, one time program director for Promise Keepers, lamented the plethora of “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. He says men can better identify with “warrior” songs.’s David Murrow agrees that when men sing, they would rather feel like they’re “stepping onto a battlefield. On the other hand, many praise songs make you feel as if you’re stepping into a bedroom.” Buried within that view is a big part of the issue. Christian men, and church members at large, have surrendered their passion to the world.

We’ve noticed young couples actually cuddling in church services. Arms around each other, holding hands, hands on thighs, looking at each other’s faces. This is very good, – a reflection of authentic, godly intimacy in a very intimate place, the sanctuary.

What’s the problem with PDAs (public displays of affection)? It’s not the affection. It’s the unrestrained affection between unmarried people. Checking myself here. Am I judging other people’s commitments? Maybe. But I also know firsthand that affection without commitment is emotional abuse. Rather than society’s gorging media overdose on physical lust, soap opera partner swapping, teen vampire hotties, soft-core at the checkout stand and hard core porn just-a-click-away, how about a more public representation of passionate affection between married couples?

(Much respect to Relevant Church in Tampa, FL for their “30-day Sex Challenge” back in 2008.)

Fully given to each other, married couples have the high privilege, calling and honor of fully possessing each other physically. It all happens behind closed doors. I say, let it out just a bit. The world is so confused by the abuse and misuse of sexuality, we need happy married couples to show us the way.

I was thinking about this “sloppy, wet kiss” when it all became clear to me. When Jesus came to earth, as an astounding display of God’s love for humanity, his arrival was more like a big ol’ affectionate smooch. Yes it was a “holy kiss,” but it came with the spilling of amniotic fluid, and labor pains, and a sticky, wet baby crying out to fill its lungs with air.

Was that demure? Is the birth of a baby ever discreet? I’ve witnessed four births, and I can tell you that they are noisy, raucous events. I’m thinking God’s love for us is unrestrained and enthusiastic, the way a young husband is with his bride. In fact, that’s exactly the way husbands are supposed to be toward their wives. Paul painted this picture powerfully in his letter to the church at Ephesus, chapter 5. Most of us throw up our hands, not able to figure out our marriages or “Christ and the church,” so we call it a “mystery.”

Instead of identifying with the bride of Christ in our devotions, husbands should be identifying with the Groom, Jesus - God - the Christ, the initiator of this cosmic love affair. Of course, husbands are not God, we are members of the church, the Body of Christ, the Bride. But men are supposed to see this relationship from the husband’s point of view.

It’s a brain buster, I know. We are so used to calling ourselves the Body of Christ, the Bride. But as men, we are never fully comfortable with this designation. And we do not have to be. Paul has set us free from identifying with the Bride. We are called to identify with the Groom. We are to be the initiators of spirituality in the marriage. Imagine what would happen to our faith if we considered what it really means to love someone the way God loves us.

There is no need to be soft, reactive, and beautiful. We can identify with the Groom by being resolute, initiating and strong in character (a most attractive attribute on men, I am told).

For worship leaders, it may seem to be a challenge to find songs for a congregation that reflect God’s heart toward us, but the Bible is full of God’s expressions of love toward his people. And you would be surprised how men join in on those parts. (Please comment with your suggestions.)

Here’s my vision of a “romantic” Sunday at church. (Any pastors who think they can get away with it, please let me know how it went.)

1) Your moment is in the middle of the worship set (if you’re one of those sing-first, preach-later kinds of churches), after a song ends.

2) Have the instruments play in the background, and call attention to the married couples in the audience.

3) Talk about the love between them, and the love God has for us.

4) Offer a word to the singles and those attending without their spouse: “don’t feel left out. Please help us celebrate the joy and holiness of marriage and cheer on  the couples who are here this morning. And if you are married, you might want to tell your spouse about today’s service and do some ‘homework.’”

5) Instruct the couples to hold hands or put their arms around each other.

6) Now prepare them. Tell them, “Husbands, I’m going to ask you to kiss your wife, and kiss her like you haven’t since your wedding day. We will do this together on the count of three. Now look at your spouse. Men, think about how God loves us, and look at your wife with that kind of love. We need to show the young people how much fun it is to be in love and married.

7) Hold it. Anybody need a breath mint? (pass them out)

8) Are you ready? One – two – three! (And pastors, have your wife with you.)

9) Hit the cymbals! Strike the strings! It’s a mid-worship crescendo!

10) After this Sunday morning love-in, sing a great anthem of the church, and see how much gusto you get from all those thankful – Jesus-minded men, and their grateful, church-minded women.

I am for promoting the profile of marriage and romance within marriage in the public square. I am for modeling passion among Christians. I am calling for, asking for a holy imprimatur from the church for such a kiss. And I believe such a display of unconditional, "agape" love between married couples in the sanctuary of the church before so many witnesses is beyond physical "eros" love. It would indeed be holy before Almighty God and instigate more badly-needed affection between couples. Most importantly, I believe men who identify with Christ as Groom will more readily, easily, consistently love their wives as Christ loves the church.

I feel like I’ve been set free. I don’t have to sing like the Bride any more. From now on, I will sing like the God who loves his people. I will sing like the Groom. That identity will teach me how to love in a dramatically new way. I can’t wait to get to church. I might even kiss my wife without prompting - right there in church. Dig that P.D.A!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sally Jenkins' Wash Post column: Tebow critics intolerant

"Are you saving yourself for marriage?" Tebow was asked last summer during an SEC media day.

"Yes, I am," he replied.

The room fell into a hush, followed by tittering: The best college football player in the country had just announced he was a virgin. As Tebow gauged the reaction from the reporters in the room, he burst out laughing. They were a lot more embarrassed than he was.

"I think y'all are stunned right now!" he said. "You can't even ask a question!"

That's how far we've come from any kind of sane viewpoint about star athletes and sex. Promiscuity is so the norm that if a stud isn't shagging everything in sight, we feel faintly ashamed for him.

--Sally Jenkins, Washington Post sports columnist.  Read the whole column: