upper room daily devotions

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Daddy Dudes: Why I Love the PNW

Today I had a couple of conversations about people I affectionately call "Daddy Dudes." These are the guys who know how to use a circular saw and also how to love their children. One of the great joys of living in the Pacific Northwest is the sheer number of men I see every day who are equally comfortable in their masculinity and their role as a nurturer. (Before I receive emails telling me that men don't have conform to any particular picture of masculinity, STOP, and read on.) One of the many things that I like about the PNW is that for many of the men I know, see, and meet, conforming to such standards is simply a nonissue. Whether they like power saws, musicals, rock climbing, sewing, movie watching, or bowling, they are comfortable in their skin, and they are comfortable being hands on loving parents with their kids. That's what I'm talking about.

It isn't uncommon to see guys with babies strapped to their chests or backs walking Green Lake or riding a bus. Every day I see men pushing strollers, jostling crying babies in restaurants, and getting up (before their wives do) to change diapers. I know several men who decided to be stay at home dads while their wives continued with their day jobs...and they are completely unfazed by this arrangement. I know men who take their daughters rock climbing and pack up all three of their kids to go to the zoo. I know men who are contractors by day and bath time daddies at night. The men who reach out with their calloused hands to offer the gentlest of loving hugs to their children, you are magnificent! These are men who understand that their "manhood" isn't conditioned on their testosterone. These are men who awe me.

The reason this is on my mind is that Seattle megapastor Mark Driscoll of megachurch Mars Hill Church recently co-authored a book with his wife Grace on marriage and sex (not referencing it directly, sorry). The reviews have been passionate, simply fascinating to read. Like most things undertaken by Driscoll, this book has heated up quite a debate. Such attention is not new for Driscoll. Occasionally, he steps into the national spotlight because of his less than "orthodox" (pun intended) use of language, i.e. "harsh" words, his theology, and his off the cuff remarks. For those of us in the Seattle area, we hear more about Mark Driscoll than probably the rest of the world does, but he has made and continues to make an impression in the lives of new Christians all over the country.

Driscoll and his church are what are known as "complementarians," which is a word that describes people who believe that men and women are ordained by God to serve complementary but different roles in life. The flip side to complementarianism is often referred to as "egalitarianism" - men and women equal in all things. In complementarianism, men are the leaders of their churches and their homes and should love them as Christ loves the Church. Women are to serve men and to support them as the Church does Christ. This is an oversimplification, but you get the gist. There are many forms of complementarian thought. Mark Driscoll's form, and thus Mars Hill's form, not only prescribes roles, but teaches that "real" men behave, move, and act in very particular ways, and this view has periodically put Driscoll in the hot seat with other Christians, including Evangelicals and even other complementarians.

I don't want to take this whole post and focus on Mark Driscoll. Rather, I started this post because I wanted to thank those loving men whom I know and those whom I will never meet but see every day. I thank them for their kindness, their ability to withstand the Mark Driscolls of the world, their complete comfort in being who they are and loving the ones close to them. For all of the guys out there who have not been held prisoner by examples of brutal dads, distant dads, stern dads, harsh dads, and hands off dads, thank you. Every time you tuck in a child, give a bath, teach a child a song, show a child how to ride a bike, say I'm sorry, kiss your partner with gentleness in front of your child, hold hands, read a book out loud, embody humility, wash the dishes, laugh with joy, make the bed, do the laundry, cry, throw a ball, build a birdhouse, plant a garden, pray with your family, take out the garbage, celebrate your spouse's success, or do any of the millions of other things that you do every day, you are teaching the world what it really means to be a man - a responsible, comfortable in your own skin, adult man. When you embody these things without apology and with grace, you make the world a better place.

For all of the pastors out there who have told guys that they have to like and do Mixed Martial Arts, shoot animals, like guns, swear like a sailor, use anger as a first defense against all vulnerable feelings, or belittle others, I apologize. They may not know the damage that they have done, but I do. You may like some of these things. If so, go for it. But, if you don't, your worth as a man is not predicated upon your affinity for all things testosterone driven.

So, to all you Daddy Dudes, thanks and keep up the good work! For the men I see every day in the PNW, keep showing the world that you can build a house, a great community, and a lovely family all at the same time. We need heroes like you.

PS Another reason I love the PNW: Seattle Stay At Home Dads. Check them out!

Friday, January 06, 2012

TS Eliot and the Magi

Here is the crux of this year's Epiphany sermon at Queen Anne United Methodist Church. It seems to me that Epiphany calls us to go down new paths. More than that, though, in our time of intense international conflict and uncertainty, the idea of all nations seeking light to lead us all to peace is a wonderful thought.

Soon after his conversion and baptism in 1927, TS Eliot wrote “Journey of the Magi,” which begins:

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’

Eliot wrote this poem during a time of deep personal and spiritual struggle. His marriage, which had been difficult for a number of years, was coming to a close. His newly forming faith demanded that he leave behind parts of himself to which he had grown accustomed. Everything was changing. New life was born out of a series of deaths. The poem concludes:

'All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.'

The story of the Magi, which culminates in the Adoration of the Magi on January 6 – Epiphany – is a story about uncertainty, journey, death, and birth. Many of us look back to the story of the Magi believing it to be part of our spiritual history, but, a more mature faith looks to the story as something much more meaningful. It is about us searching for God. We struggle. We search. We come to what feels like unsatisfactory endings to our travels only to be led down yet more paths to unknown destinations. We go through periods of deep uncertainty. Like the Magi, we little understand the culture or the ways of Jesus and his family. Like the Magi, we are distanced from them by space. Unlike the Magi, we are also distanced by two millennia; time is its own ocean we must cross to meet the Christ-child. Like the Magi, we must die to our gods in order to enter into the presence of the God of the Most High.

Epiphany is our celebration of the gift of ourselves to God. We bring all that we have – our best, our most precious selves and we kneel in awe and wonder at the miracle of the Divine One right here among us. Epiphany is for all who struggle and weep, for all who wrestle with God, for all who question whether we will find God at all. Epiphany is our way of experiencing together, if only for one day, a reality that is both in and outside of our world. God is here. In the humble places. In our fear. In our dreams. In the dirt, slime, and muck of the world. God is here. Despite our doubts. Despite our wars. Despite our greed. Despite our proclivity to wound one another. God is here. God knows the pain of birth, life, and death. God knows all that we experience because God experiences it with us. Birth and death. So close together. As we start our new year together, I wish you healing deaths and vibrant life. I hope that we, like the Magi, learn to die that we might live. I hope that we, Queen Anne UMC, can hear the beauty and the calling of the words of TS Eliot, whose own journey to the manger led him to realize:

'I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.'

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