Church Hurts And

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Children, Agony and Praise with Jana Alayra

Children change the matrix. Did you ever notice this? You are in an argument with your husband, and it is getting heated. He’s being stubborn, won’t get your point, and keeps saying the same things over and over. About to notch it up one more level on the intensity scale, you hear the unmistakable sound of children’s feet approaching. You take a deep breath as you push back your hair and wipe the tears from the corners of your eyes. Children change the matrix.

Having started three churches, I am well aware the children/youth dynamic is critical for a balanced church to grow. Young families who may have ignored God for years start asking about the impact such might have upon their children. Do they really want their own offspring to grow up with no knowledge of the Bible, no understanding of Christian values, and no connection to the heritage which drove the progress of Western Civilization in Medicine, Science, and the Arts?

“What church should we try out, dear?” she asks her husband. “I don’t know if I can do that church thing again. Can we put it off another month or so? The Steelers are undefeated, and I don’t want to miss the impact on my fantasy football team today.”

With some movement of the Divine in strange and mysterious ways, a family may end up back in church. Trying to act casual, the Mom and Dad navigate the maze and signs to the children’s wing, smaller churches apologizing for not having a program just yet. Everything is awkward, and the service hasn’t even started.

Will your children or grandchildren know anything about the church you avoid due to your past pain and disappointment? Could kids be an avenue to awakening a desire deeper down in you than any building with walls could contain?

Today we have an expert in kids and church. She sings like an angel, prays like a warrior, is the friend everyone wants, and is just real enough to sneak into Church Hurts And for the next few moments.

Singer/Songwriter Jana Alayra, welcome.

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Liturgy, Crisis and Culture with the Very Reverend Father Chip Edgar

Looks don't matter. “It is what is on the inside that counts.” Most of us grew up hearing some version of this. In reality, I'm afraid this little ditty may not hold up so well, but at least it causes us to reflect. Dating sites without photos don't go very far. We want our partners to be deep and thoughtful and caring, but we also want them to have an appearance we find appealing.

The weekly service structure for a church may be considered the outside. Surely for the beginner or visitor, it is what gets their attention. Historically we call it the liturgy; the basic structure for a worship service which includes various readings, creeds, hymns, rituals, and practices that are done in a certain way. Some traditions even have what they call a liturgical calendar, following the same readings and celebrations as others on the same dates around the world.

Stand up, sit down is the stereotype common to the layman. To the uninformed, it can seem meaningless, repetitive, and lacking in relevance for daily life. The 1970s and 80s brought about a spasmodic reaction to even the lowest of liturgies, perhaps most dramatically symbolized by organs being replaced by guitars, robes by open collars, rituals by attempts at relevance.

Ironically this non-liturgical form became its own liturgy of sorts. While denominational distinctives became less obvious, wording and music selections of the contemporary church movement were surprisingly uniform. It seemed to be working to stem the tide of attendance decline, for a while anyway.

Against this tide stood traditionalists of all forms, denominations, and theological persuasions. Many of them were overtaken by the waves they tried to stop. Others rode their churches down until the doors closed.

Our guest today refused to be defined by those categories swirling around him. He still wears a collar. His title officially is “The Very Reverend Father”. He values the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles and considers himself in the mainstream of the Anglican Community. If I keep going you are going to think he is boring, but you’d be wrong.

Welcome to Church Hurts And The Very Reverend Chip Edgar, the founding rector of Church of the Apostles in Columbia, South Carolina.

 

Practical, Political Correctness with Dr. Dan Lind

Are you tired? How about stressed? Do you find anxiety in your stomach these days, which is frustrating to diagnose and almost impossible to remove? Are you reaching for the Tums container more than usual? I didn’t need the Poll taken last week by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) to know this. Still, it sure didn’t surprise me to find out that 72% of people are anxious about the Presidential Election. That’s just 8 percentage points less than the results for the virus called Corona. Politics. Political correctness. I already need a Tums with a few Advil to follow.

There is one thing I know for sure. My view of politics is better than yours, and how high my need is to make that point abundantly clear is, at the very least, a combination of two things: my personality and my dysfunction. Let me put it another way: My dysfunction and personality will determine how badly I need to prove you are wrong.

But this is Church Hurts And. What does all of this political stuff have to do with church? Don’t we live in American where we have the separation of Church and State? Today we are going to look at that from a different angle. Church done right is about real life, a real God, and real people. And real people are stressed, and it has snuck into our families and our friendships and our sensitive little personal constitutions.

So today, we are going to try to get practical. Political correctness can get rhetorical and theoretical very quickly, not to mention petty. But Thanksgiving is coming. Family isn’t theoretical. Friendships are needed, and they aren’t hypothetical. Co-workers are real, and some of them have appalling political views. What do you do? How can you handle this better?

Today we have as a guest an annoyingly patient man, and I mean to the extreme. He’s a great preacher, sometimes sensitive pastor, and terrible joke teller. Soon he will retire from being the Senior Pastor at Faith Bible Church in Glendale, AZ.

Welcome to Church Hurts And, The Rev. Doctor Daniel Robert Lind.

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Education, Learning and Growth with Dr. Perry Downs

Discipleship was the trend in Evangelical Christian circles when I was in school. Young converts or “committed Christians” were encouraged to talk a more mature Christian into “discipling” them. Many made it a formal process, going through books together or meeting at a particular time with a syllabus of sorts. For others, it was a more informal process, making sure it included regular contact and prayer together. For those in the recovery community, you will know it as being similar to having a sponsor. For those in the business or academic world, it was rather like having a close mentor.

I had been fortunate to have some great mentors whose behavior functioned as a discipling relationship, but none would have allowed it to be labeled that way. Now that I had arrived at Seminary, I figured it was time to make it official. In a new city, a new school, and mostly lost, I looked around to see who I could trap into “discipling” me.

To picture what it is like being a new seminary student, remember what the first day of High School was like, or college if you will. It wasn’t a monastery, and no vow of poverty or celibacy was not required. I ended up landing upon a hippie-like professor of Christian education who responded by denying my request, pleading busyness. 

With reverse Tom Sawyer thinking, I shrugged off the rebuff and told this Professor that I’d love to get off campus, and if he needed any help around the house, like painting a fence or something, I’d love to help. He laughed, asking me who put me up to this. I didn’t get the joke. As it ends up, he had been whining around the office about having to paint the fence the forthcoming Saturday.

Fast forward a few days in 1979, the smell of Fall in the air with newly colored leaves just beginning to drop. There are two unskilled laborers with paintbrushes working on a yard fence, and the laughter started. One might never have guessed these were Seminary types.

The seminarian went on to graduate and plant churches. The Professor became head of the doctoral program with a long, storied history at the school. Today they are in front of a microphone on Zoom during the pandemic on OC Talk Radio.

Here to discuss Education, Learning, and Growth, we welcome to Church Hurts And, Professor Perry Downs.

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Country, Christ, and Classics with Ben Virgo

When the virus called Corona hit Southern California’s shores, I was determined to practice the spiritual principles I have learned in recent years. Believing that God is in charge of every molecule under heaven, I had good reason not to get all stressed out. The equation added civil unrest and political monologues, destroying joy and fellowship on Facebook and social media. I consciously tried not to get caught up in what seemed like so much folly in the dialogue.

Disengaging is simply not in my DNA, so I focussed my attention on learning more about the history and background to provide meaningful context to the authentic human history we are living. My mental meanderings ended up taking me to a place I wasn’t expecting, and a time I wasn’t expecting, and through a location, I prefer to avoid, Washington, D.C.

Follow my thinking here. We are a nation founded mostly by English malcontents or Christian refugees or adventurous, restless pioneers, depending on what version of the story you want to tell. Yet when my overly visual mind travels to Washington, D.C., my senses are assaulted not by Christian symbols or architecture at all. In fact, there is nothing uniquely British about the city either. Then I remembered this signature American city was designed by a Frenchman, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who preferred to be called Peter. Now don’t get me wrong, just because he has a fancy French name doesn’t mean he wasn’t a patriot. He was with General Washington at Valley Forge as part of the Continental Army. No other credentials are needed. Few dispute his dominant influence on the design of our capital city. He also was commissioned by General Lafayette to do a portrait of George Washington and became good friends with Alexander Hamilton.

What visual images are coming to your mind as I bring up Washington, D.C.? Certain buildings? You know architectural design 101 you were taught in 7th grade. Come on. Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Ringing a bell.

To see if this mental meandering can take us anywhere, I’ve invited back to Church Hurts And a London Tour guide. I know it sounds weird, but his specialty is the classics, so welcome back to Church Hurts And Englishman Ben Virgo.

 

Justice, Race and Relatives with Wm. Difenderfer, Esq.

Where do you go when you get in trouble? I mean real trouble. Since this is Church Hurts And you may be trying to outthink me and are guessing I am about to launch into the availability of the God of the Universe in prayer, but not today. Today I am asking this in a really tactile visceral way. I mean the kind of trouble where you may be standing alongside the road with a policeman telling you to show your hands. Your heart is beating fast. Your mouth wants to protest your innocence but you aren’t allowed to talk. Turn around. Put your hands behind your back. 

I find it interesting how many hot topics today end up in the legal arena. Race? Are Blacks being treated right by police and in the courts? Legal. Religion? Do Governors have the right to limit church attendance yet not protests? Legal. Politics? Should the President nominate a Supreme Court Justice during the election season? Legal. Somehow the law and lawyers just seem to keep getting dragged into the discussion.

Many people are not aware that historically theology and the law were sister disciplines. If that seems confusing to you, go back and try to read a theology textbook from the 17th Century. Each word is carefully selected and parsed, closely analyzed for accurate meaning. Any good explanation of the Gospel is always in the context of the Old Testament Torah, or Law. Paul’s epistle to the Romans explains that quite well.

Do you understand why a sculpture of Moses holding two tablets is centered above the portico on the East Side of the Supreme Court? Legal details can be confusing, but one should have no doubt that the big laws, “Thou shalt not kill.” “Thou shalt not steal.” “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” weren’t made up by our founders. Learning to respect other people and get along in society has been a challenge of the human race as long as it has existed.

So today we are turning not to a theologian, but to an attorney. He’s not uniquely spiritual or church qualified. In fact, he is one of those attorneys you hope you will never need, a “Criminal Defense Attorney”. He has argued in over 7 cases where the prosecution was seeking the death penalty. Murderers, rapists, and thieves, or at least those accused of such, have sought out this man in their moment of desperation. 

Let me bring him in: 1978 Student Body President of Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania: William Difenderfer, Attorney at Law from Pittsburgh, PA. Welcome to Church Hurts And.

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Never Broken, Never with Zack Collie

Life just isn’t fair. There is not a parent alive, probably in any culture, who doesn’t have burned into their memory the way their child expressed this sentiment. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair. Most likely that scream or whine or tearful plea comes at the behest of oneself relative to another who has been more favorably treated, rewarded, or blessed.

My earliest memory of this came when my older sister seemed regularly slighted as I was the one who got attention or praise seemingly at her expense. As I grew older, I became aware that others seemed to have nicer parents, fancier toys, and hospitable homes. It didn’t seem fair.

With maturity came a development of the same concept into right and wrong. What wasn’t fair now became downright wrong. That’s just wrong. This ethical conclusion takes away any doubt or relevance of corroborating details. It’s just wrong and brings with it a visceral gut-wrenching gnostic determination.

Depending on the event, result, people involved (particularly if it is me) another stage occurs in which fairness and wrongness seem inadequate as standards. Now we get to evil. This is no longer the polite “bad things happen to good people” scenario. This is when the heavens and earth shake in our life and our foundations tremble.

As with most feelings and issues of significant import it doesn’t take long until they get bumped up to the higher court, even the Supreme Court, but in this case, it is the heavenly court. The court above all courts over which resides the Judge over all Judges. Now he must answer us. We’ve cycled it in our brains ad nauseam. How could even God in heaven give an explanation as to such a thing happening if He makes any claim to goodness?

If you have never had such a struggle, I am glad for you, but for many, such an occasion meant the end of Church in their life, and correspondingly also their belief in God. It may not need to end that way. Today we meet a young man well-qualified to speak about difficult subjects. He has youtube videos that will make you squirm, about issues you didn’t even know existed. He happened to come into my life in a time I couldn’t see through the haze. Let’s jump into his story. Welcome to Church Hurts And Zack Collie. 

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Change, Absolutes and Church with Richard Dahlstrom

I have always said the “C” word changes everything. Are you struggling with things in your life today? Money problems? Family issues? Health difficulties? Problems at work? Have you given those things the “C” word test? You know, cancer. How do your problems stand up next to the call from the doctor, “You have cancer.”

I got that call this week for the first time. Now I don’t need to stretch out the story. It’s Basal Cell Carcinoma which is the most common form of skin cancer and next week I will go in and they will perform a Mohs procedure on the little mole size spot until they get to tissues without any cancer in it and I will walk out cancer-free. But, it was the “C” word, and it caused me to pause and check my perspective.

The day before a good friend of mine got the “D” word. That’s a bit more shocking than the C-word. Dead. I doubt he heard it, but he knew it was coming. My silly head goes back to games played as a child where you would run around yelling “You’re dead!” We don’t think much about it. It’s just a game until it isn’t. My friend is dead, for real. That too caused me to pause and check my perspective.

I laugh when I hear people make the statement “I don’t like change”. It just isn’t true.  Of course we like change if it is in the right direction. Your investments have changed to the best position you’ve ever been in.  Good change. Your relationship is healthier, your blood pressure is better. Good change. Your reputation among your friends is at an all-time high. Great change. Change can be great.

Psychologists will tell us that real deep change is almost always preceded by pain. Without pain to motivate our lazy tails, we are fine on the couch cruising through life. So life has a way of providing that stimulus, that pain to move us along. The stubborn among us will resist thinking we will win the battle against pain. Bad fight to pick.

The ancient Greek philosophers were a lively bunch trying to figure out life and understand change while seeking to discover what was absolute. What didn’t change? A guy by the name of Heraclitus is the one who made me smile even though he was given to depression.  What is Absolute? His response was “Change”. Change itself is the one thing we can count on. You can never step into the same river twice.

To bring us back down to earth and help us deal with change today we have a uniquely gifted traveler on this earth. He’s the Pastor of Bethany Community Church outside of Seattle and it won’t quit growing. I call him the reluctant Pastor. Author Breathing New Life into Faith, Colors of Hope (much needed just now as it is a call for Christ-followers to be about mercy justice, and love) and The Map is Not the Journey: Faith Renewed While Hiking the Alps.  Welcome, Richard Dahlstrom.

Clean, Sober and Wonderful with Kaitlyn Anne

165,148. That’s how many deaths from COVID-19 to date in the United States. Everything in life has changed as we live in fear and shock from this once in a lifetime pandemic.  67,367 that’s how many people died from drug overdoses in 2018. 70,237 was the number the year earlier. Wait. I’m talking annual numbers here. Not a one-time pandemic. It doesn’t take many years of these numbers to far exceed the deaths from COVID-19. It is simply breathtaking.

“THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC is devastating America. Overdoses have passed car crashes and gun violence to become the leading cause of death for Americans under 55. The epidemic has killed more people than H.I.V. at the peak of that disease, and its death toll exceeds those of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq combined. Funerals for young people have become common. Every 11 minutes, another life is lost.

So why do so many people start using these drugs? Why don’t they stop?”

That was the beginning of an article in the New York Times in December 2018 entitled “A Visual Journey Through Addiction”. It quoted one young woman describing her drug use with the words “It like being hugged by Jesus.”

The reality is that until one's life is personally touched by drug abuse, it really is just another sad statistic. It’s like hearing about a war on the other side of the world compared to feeling a bomb go off in your back yard. Why pay attention? Why care?

So today we are going to bring it closer to home than I would prefer. We are going to talk to a young Orange County woman who has worked in almost every aspect of the recovery industry in the past ten years, and yes, it is an industry. 

Her credentials? Really? Her credentials are mainly found in the story behind the resume. Growing up she excelled on the soccer field, her blonde ponytail bouncing behind her as she sped by the opposing team juggling the ball as if she was born with it. Her laughter and joy-filled the field. She was a preacher's kid too, going to church every Sunday for four hours and a few times during the week. I bet you feel it coming, don’t you? Kaitlyn Anne, Welcome to Church Hurts And.

Politics, Politics and Church with Dr. Art Lindsley

Never in my lifetime has politics felt so contentious. I know as a preacher I am given to hyperbole, but not this time. This is an ugly, visceral, palpable, and vomit-producing level. It can even make family gatherings stressful, divide generations, and kill any notion of a wonderful community. If I know anything about history, it can certainly kill a country, and not a few are suspecting that is at stake.

If that isn’t a difficult enough beginning let us add church into it. I wonder how many people would put politics on the list of things that attributed to them moving away from the church, not going to church, or being stressed by the church. This certainly was true for my father.

One of my mentors, Steve Brown, used to often say before a sermon: “I have a lot of political views and they are a lot better than yours are, but you aren’t going to hear them from the pulpit because this is a place for God’s word and we have come here to see Jesus and Him only.” I loved that for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the humor inserted into something that could otherwise be quite divisive. I followed his lead and was always careful not to get political from the pulpit. I wonder how successful I’d be now if I preached every week. Everything seems to have been thrown into the political basket.

On the other side, I had a preacher friend of mine come out publicly about his political views right down to for whom he was going to vote. Now he’s retired and I’m glad, but I was embarrassed for him. He waxed eloquently about the why’s, but I knew he was alienating people right and left, mostly only to get stroked by those who agreed with him. I prayed for his serenity.

Who can help us here? Our guest today is uniquely qualified to speak on this subject. He’s one of those Reverend Doctors, which means he has a doctoral degree and is ordained and I will let his job title suffice to let us know he is bringing more than personal opinion to this discussion. The Vice President of Theological Initiatives for the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Dr. Art Lindsley. 

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