Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homosexuality and Jesus

This weekend at Overlake, we're wrapping up our Hot Topics by tackling a very difficult topic that we see our culture wrestling with. Every person who is connected to this issue comes from a unique perspective. We have been highlighting testimonies during the series, this is just one more of those unique stories, from a cool young woman, twenty-something, following hard after Jesus:

"There are two main things I hope you get from my testimony, The first is that the devil can use anyone for any crazy thing if you stray from God. I'm sure as I am sharing this many of you are wondering what my connection to homosexuality is. You might think a previous boyfriend left me for a man, or maybe you think one of my siblings or one of my parents is gay. I know few people look at me and assume I ever identified as a lesbian. From the age of 15-21 I identified as bi-sexual. When I was 21 I claimed lesbian as my official sexual orientation. Yes, I even went so far to change my status on my myspace and facebook. Now, to help you pull this picture together let me give you a brief background on me. I played barbies, not sports. I wore make up not baseball hats. I walked in stilettos not sneakers. And no, I never had short hair. My path to lesbianism was not your stereotypical path, if there is such a thing. However, my motives for getting started, are ones we can all relate too. I was searching.

Searching for something and thought I could find it in someone. The problem was, I didn't know what I was searching for and for the most part, I didn't consciously know that was what I was doing. For so long I wasn't able to connect my emotions of loneliness to my actions of lust. It took years for my emotions to catch up with my actions. I made sure to live a very fast life in order to prevent that from happening. My first sexual experience happened when I was 15 in the form of date rape. That experience left me with a lot of confusion, guilt and denial. I was broken and tried to put myself back together by having relationships and physical encounters with men that were briefly entertaining but still left me feeling empty. After several years of poor choices and disappointment, I found myself in a new environment. My transition of teams from bi-sexual to lesbian was made easy in part because all of my close friends were gay. When I decided to come out, my friends threw me a party. Even my parents, who were non-Christians at the time, took the news with ease. When I came out to my mom her response was "We already know. We saw it on your myspace." I left the conversation more confused on how my mom who can't even check her voicemail was able to track me down on myspace and see my sexual orientation. What I received from identifying as a lesbian provided me with a few relationships to temporarily fill that empty void I had, but I also found something else that at first, fulfilled that feeling even more. I found an identity. I allowed a community to tell me who I was, what I liked and how I acted and reacted. This fulfillment I found in my insta-identity only lasted so long however. Eventually the drama of my relationships, friends and lovers caught up to me by my 23rd birthday. I remember waking up that morning with this disgusting feeling of "Where am I?" And not in the situation of partying too hard the night before and just not knowing, but just feeling completely lost. I had no idea how I ended up where I was but I knew I hated my life. It was that morning I knew I had to discontinue dating girls. I know the church ideal testimony would be for me to say that I made that choice because I called out to God and He showed me the biblical truth about my lifestyle. Well, my testimony doesn't quiet go like that. Honestly the push for me to leave that lifestyle is because girls are too much drama for me! I was done. From the manipulation, the nagging and especially the game playing. I realized that unless its the Seahawks playing I'm just not interested in games. Although I had made a good choice by discontinuing a destructive lifestyle, it took me a couple months to finally make the right choice. My life wasn't yet submitted to God. I believed in God at this point, but I didn't know Him or His word. The whole time I was identified as a lesbian I knew I needed to get to church. To be honest, I was terrified to go to church. At the time my image of Christians, espicially evangelical ones, was one of hate and hypocricy. Isn't it tragic that Christians today are known more for what they don't believe in then what they do? Well fortunately, as much as I desired to be church, God desired it even more and provided me with what I needed to get to church. From the right church, the right pastor and espicially the right people in my life. All of a sudden, all these great Christian women were being brought back into my life and were an amazing support system. There is one in particular who had been there all along, starting in first grade. My best friend Rachel was the first one to take me to church. I was terrified she wouldn't want to be my friend anymore or would try to change me or condemn me. Thankfully, she is a woman who truly reflects God's grace. Although I shocked her, she still remained my best friend. I never doubted where she stood on the issue, but at the same time I never doubted her love for me. It was through that demonstration of Christ's love that made turning my life around a lot easier.

Eventually my search for church transitioned to a search for God. I came looking to Him not because I felt convicted or condemned. I came to God because I hated my life and felt like I had made everything else I enjoyed into a god in my life and just figured what could I lose by trying to put God as center in my life? It's funny that as soon as I put God in His rightful place in my life, He put me in mine. When I was at a point where I felt I had nothing left to lose I was proved wrong and ended up losing a lot. Through my authentic relationship with Jesus I lost my guilt, the suffering I silently endured, the drama I told everyone about, the neediness, and an identity that was falsified and did me no good. What I found was truly unconditional love, grace and mercy from the only true God. Jesus said "Come as you are." And I did. And it was through my relationship with Him that I realized that it's because of Christ's great love for us that He wants us to change. I could change my lifestyle, but only Jesus can change my heart. I finally stopped looking at the world to justify my actions and attitudes and now only look to His word. The only source of truth. It was through Jesus opening up my heart and mind to His word that I was able to find my true identity. I am who I am only by the grace of God. I was done with all the other labels: femme, butch, tom boi, pretty boi, androgynous, transgender, power lesbian, gender queer. I know I just rattled off a list of identities that only a handful of followers of Jesus have any relation to or understanding of. So let me try another list: repentant, forgiven, redeemed, restored, born again. This is another list of words that you might have heard many times. But not enough of us take the steps to have any real understanding of them. At the beginning I told you there were two things I wanted you to get from my testimony. The first was that the devil can use anyone or anything to prompt you to stray from God. The second, and always most important is that God can use anyone for greatness if you submit to Him." -A.L.

God loves you, A.L.
Jesus loves you, reader.
See you this's gonna be a HOT Topic, handled with love...


Give all of your worries and your cares to God, for He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Earlier this morning I was running on the trails with my dog Scout. The wind was blowing gently, and the rain had not yet started. The last of the autumn leaves were coaxed from their moorings and were cast about and listing lazily towards the earth. I was struck with the thought of the wind as an analogy of how God moves, works, how He carries and cleanses. I couldn't see the wind. But everywhere I looked this morning, I could see it's touch. I could FEEL the wind buffeting me as I ran, I could feel it's fingers chilling the tops of my ears.

One yellow maple leaf, in particular, caught my eye. It was virtually alone on it's tree. The wind was playing with it, and for a moment, I thought the leaf would hold on fiercely. But then, as if with a sigh of relief, it quit the tree, rose up, twirling, and wafted over the trees on the other side of the trail, gone in a blaze of golden joy.

I wonder if that's how I hold on to my worries. They're all I know. If I release my cares, can I honestly trust that God will take care of them, of me? But if I can, with the help of God's gentle prompting, let go...suddenly I realize that God doesn't lift my cares and worries away...He lifts ME! When I let go of the anchor of life's burdens, God lifts me, God carries me, God helps me to see that the adventure He calls me on is the adventure of joyful flight.

As I watched the leaf disappear, I felt my heart release just a bit of my burden.
And there was God.
And Carrying.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Coffee. Pray. Journal. Let the dog out. Read to my son. Get the kids to the bus. Take Scout on a run. Shower. Christmas shopping with Jodie. (Adults in my life, be prepared for my friend Jesse’s new CD called Homecoming. It’s that good.) Hide aforementioned presents in strategically kid-free zone.

Lunch. Read. Write a rough draft message. Shoot said message to trusted pastoral friends. Scramble home. Make dinner. (Like for the third time in 12 years of marriage.) Set table. Burn Garlic toast. Try to wave the fire alarm off. Open the doors. Plug in a fan to remove last of smoke.

Feed dog. Family arrives home from Tae Kwon Do. Eat together. Notice it is our first dinner at home together in over a week.

Do dishes. Light a fire in the fireplace. Wrestle with kids. Oversee homework. Oversee piano lessons. Carry laundry up. Straighten house. Snap some crazy pictures with kids on photo booth. Happy soldier my kids through teeth-brushing and into bed. Let the dog out. Realize that it has been a week since I last blogged. Remember that pain of chaos is somewhat universal. Decide to turn my chaos into one more blog entry. Try to remember what I did today. Forgot that I also cleaned up the utility closet. And answered email. And thanked Jesus for loving me.

The fire is dying down now, and the kids are in bed, and Scout is somewhat subdued. The few flames left hardly make any noise. My wife is not yet home from her PTA meeting. I just inhaled really big, and exhaled. It is quiet, quiet.

I suddenly became really aware of great joy in my heart.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

be my friend?

Facebook is an addiction.
It is a joy to connect with folks that you haven’t seen in a long time…
It is a trip to actually be in touch with people that you knew way back when…
It is a bit fun to think that all of your friends are somehow connected to you…
It is a challenge to post something funny, pithy, and relevant to all of your friends…
It is a charge to pray over those God has brought into your life…

And it is just nice to have a reminder that, despite how you might feel right now, you actually do have friends.

So, I’d love to be your Facebook friend.
Tag me with a friend request.
I’ll say yes.
I’m kind like that.

p.s. Also, my friend Jesse has more friends than I do, and it kills me. Help me bury him. Please.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life is Beautiful

In 1997 a film came out of Italy called Life is Beautiful. It starred, and was directed by, Roberto Benigni, and, you might recall, won a couple academy awards.

Set in the Mussolini days, the film begins as a cornball love story reminiscent of a Charlie Chapman bit. Benigni himself plays Guido loud, tenacious, and bumbling…like the cartoon Goofy brought to live-action. Some of the early romance scenes are so cheesy that I have friends who couldn’t stomach it, and walked out. It IS rather unfortunate, but serves to introduce the characters: Guido, his love and fight for Dora, their son Giosue. However, when the Nazis take the father and his four year old boy to a concentration camp, the film turns brilliant. Guido embarks on a single-minded mission to ensure that his wife and his son make it out of the camp alive. To keep his son’s spirit up, right from the very beginning, the dad tells him that it (the camp and the work and the uniforms) is all a very competitive game, and that first prize is a real army tank they will drive home. He weaves an elaborately constructed rule system together, and Giosue is hooked.

The boy faces the days with excitement, he faces the challenges with anticipation, and he views his dad as heroic, all because of the focus of winning the game, and riding in a tank.

As you might imagine, the tragedy becomes harder and harder to mask, and as the war comes to a close, the Nazi’s try to cover their tracks by destroying everything and everyone. The father plays his last card, he convinces his boy to hide, and helps Dora escape…but he is caught in the process. He is marched across a courtyard, where he catches his son’s eye. Knowing this is the last chance to provide hope for the boy he loves, he smiles real big at his son, winks, and then marches, Goofy-style, out of the courtyard and to his death.

Giosue never doubts it’s a game. He remains hidden until everyone else is gone. He slowly emerges, wondering where to go next, when an Allied tank comes rolling into the courtyard. The boy is ecstatic. He gets his ride. Together, he and his father were victorious.

I watched the film again last Sunday afternoon. To say that it calls to the very best of being a man, a husband, and a father…that’s not an understatement. I found myself yearning to be that kind of single-minded man. Getting messages to his wife despite the danger to himself. Going to extreme measures to protect his son’s mind, and heart, from the brutality surrounding him. Sacrificing himself at the last, for the life of his family.

It’s a good movie.
As a pastor, I hear stories all the time of people who choose themselves. People leave their spouses. People abandon their kids. They have affairs and choose divorce, and embrace a life that puts SELF as the highest good. Convenience as god. MY choice. MY way. ME. I even see those temptations in my own heart.

But there is something higher and holier we are called to. Something grand and glorious. Something that is majestic in sacrifice. Jesus calls each of us to Himself…to the selfless love that he gives freely…to the selfless love that cost Him everything. And He calls us to give in that same selfless, sacrificial way. This is true heroism. This is laying down your life for your friends. This is husbands loving wives like Christ loved the Church.

And why does Jesus heroically, sacrificially, lovingly give Himself away?

Life is Beautiful.

Advent Conspiracy

I am so proud to be a part of my church.

This December we are truly seeking to get beyond the consumerism that has hijacked Christmas, to get back to what matters (loving Jesus, loving people), and to give back to those who find themselves in need. I LOVE that the people of Overlake are willing to step up to the plate and to make some changes for the sake of significance. I'd be honored if you'd watch this video, and then decide to join us...

Monday, November 10, 2008

AIDS Awareness

Thank you, Bono.

We are now in the place in our culture, specifically the part of our culture that identifies itself with Jesus, where we can talk openly and lovingly about AIDS. Where we can, with compassion, come alongside those whom HIV is claiming. Where we can, with great love, seek to stem the assault of the greatest pandemic the globe has ever seen. By and large, the church is a latecomer to the discussion. And scoff as you might, we can be thankful to Bono for bringing it to the forefront.

Here’s how our church, which is only one in 400,000 churches in America, is trying to play a role:

Tonight, we are hosting an AIDS Awareness Forum with World Vision President Rich Stearns. We are inviting our church and community in, seeking to increase our understanding, as well as dialogue practical ways to respond.

Landing near World AIDS day, we are partnering with World Vision to host their award-winning interactive exhibit called Experience AIDS at Overlake December 12-15th. Our goal is to see 4000 folks be impacted by that tactile learning experience. The Mayor of Redmond has declared these dates AIDS Week in Redmond, Washington, so get on it, people.

We are seeking to strengthen existing partners on the field, and to build new ones as well. Right now we have a team in Kenya, serving and strengthening the orphanages and schools of Christian Ministries in Africa, specifically built for AIDS orphans. A team is preparing to head out in December (led by my wife) to the ministry of Itemba Letu in South Africa, which is many things…an AIDS orphanage, a breast-milk bank to feed their infants non-contaminated breast milk, and an extensive education club that seeks to come around grade-school students and teach them of their intrinsic worth as children of God. Living Hope is another ministry in South Africa that Pastor Josh led a team to this summer. We are developing ministry partners in Thailand and India to work with this issue in places where the problem is rapidly becoming toxic.

Through hosting the AIDS Experience, and through our specific challenge with our upcoming Christmas Eve Offering, we want to give over $100K to AIDS relief. We call this initiative: Advent Conspiracy. Just one church, one drop in the bucket, one bucket in the ocean, but it’s an ocean filled with love.

Join us.
We can’t do everything. None of us can.
But each of us can do something. Conspire with us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Abortion and Jesus

This Sunday’s message at OCC is a biggie.

My prayer has been that over this message a complete covering of GRACE would flow. That gentle, Biblical TRUTH would cover all.
And that at the end of the day, LOVE would win out.

I’m VERY excited about this weekend.

Three different stories will be shared, each one completely unique, as are all stories regarding this issue. In each story, the love of Jesus absolutely overwhelms.

This issue isn’t about politics (that was last weekend). This issue is about caring for the most fragile and frightened in our society. This issue is about being a voice for the voiceless. This weekend is about bringing JESUS into the very center of the discussion.

Please join us.
Please bringvite a friend.
Please pray that Jesus moves powerfully to hold, to guide, to heal, to convict, and to cherish.

If you don't live near, feel free to check out to track with our current Hot Topics Message Series. Blessings.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Every so often, a comedian shines wit, timing, and truth with such dazzling clarity that one's only response is to put the clip on one's blog. Stephen Colbert has given us such a gift. Enjoy. (Warning: there is a reference to "intersexuals" that you just need to be warned about. Not a clip I'd watch with my son Caleb in the room. Hopefully the last line redeems it all.)

Monday, November 3, 2008




We covered a bit more this last weekend at church, and if you missed it, I'd love to invite you to check it out at title: Politics and Jesus. I was uncharacteristically exhausted by the end of the day. But at the end of the day, I truly believe that believers in America are called to pray like it's 1999, and vote like it's 1776 (or whenever they started voting in America...I could find out when we started voting in America on google pretty easily, but that's how exhausted I am).

Speaking of 1776, here's a quote from good-ol' Ben Franklin:
“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.” He could have added, "Pray. Vote." But other than that, it's a pretty solid quote.