Sunday, January 26, 2014


While having coffee with a friend of mine last week, he shared with me a personal experience that he had while running and what the word "Amen" really means. As the repetitive nature of running is often conducive to simple thought, he began to ask what place the word actually has in our prayer and communion with God. We utter the word almost instinctively in conclusion of a prayer or use it when discussing something that we approve of. But how many of us have ever stopped to meditate on what the word really means? This got me thinking and my thoughts came to fruition this morning while listening to a conversation in Starbucks.

Two young men were having a discussion revolving around the recent execution of Edgar Tamayo in Huntsville last week. From the details, words and phrases of their conversation, I could tell that they were Christians. And I quickly came to the conclusion that they not only approved of the execution, but seemed to be somewhat joyful that this man was dead. As the conversation began to wind down and it was clear that their discussion was about to change gears, one man declared with finality, "Well, he's finally dead and that's one more illegal alien scum bag that we don't have to worry about anymore."  His friends response? "Amen!"

Amen. Think about that for a moment.  

The word has a Hebrew origin and basically means "so be it". It has developed in Christianity to express strong agreement and confirmation of the context of the prayer. With the declaration of "Amen", one is expressing that all that has been prayed for, asked for or uttered with thanksgiving, is being agreed with in the assumption that God approves, agrees and accepts your words as being in union with His perfect will. One could make the argument that from our perspective, prayer in it's purest form is uttering the words of God, assuming that His words would be the exact words that we offer to Him.

"Well, he's finally dead and that's one more illegal alien scum bag that we don't have to worry about anymore." 


My goal is not to debate the moral grounds of the death penalty or defend my personal beliefs. The argument can be theologically and Biblically defended from both sides of the issue. There are strong opinions from both perspectives and if approached from love and humility, I respect both views. But as with most issues within Christianity, my concerns rise more from the heart that guides a person to reach a certain perspective, rather than the complexities of the issue itself.

The conversation that I overheard this morning really had nothing to do with support or opposition of the death penalty. Obviously, these two men supported the capital punishment and I respect their freedom to hold that belief. What I don't support is the apparent hatred of this man and the celebration of his death, rather than isolating their emotions to his actions. What I don't support is the "amen" that God would somehow celebrate an execution, preceded by a pattern of death by a man who God loved as much as He does you and I.

We live in a dark world and a culture that sometimes seems to be consumed by death. We witness evil and the results that come from evil actions. Unfortunately, we do not always have complete control of what our eyes see and what our hearts ingest. We process what we experience, filter the information and emotions and decide how we will outwardly react. We can choose to allow our pain to cause us to react with anger and hatred, thus perpetuating the cycle of pain for others. Or we can choose to shut down the cycle, healing what has been broken and loving when it's hard.  Our emotions can lie, but they can never keep us from externally expressing truth. What would that look like? How would our culture change?

Can I get an amen?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Love One Another - Part IV

Love One Another is a series of blogs that I began developing back in November. I took a break during Advent to focus my writing on the themes of the season in a series called Advent Reflections. In the beginning of this endeavor, I simply began asking various people to express what it personally meant to them to "love one another" (John 13:34) in 2-3 sentences. My intention was not to encourage deep theological dissertations or even much contemplative thought. I simply wanted to find out what people thought in a more off-the-cuff manner. I asked a wide and varied group of people from well known Christian leaders, authors and speakers to everyday folks that I know in my community. The response was so positive that what started out as a single blog entry has now become a series of blogs including one video post by The Whiskey Preacher, Phil Shepherd.  

As we journey through the landscape that is our lives, we run across more than our share of opportunities to love one another. Even to those that we have no communication with, simply by a smile or eye contact, we have the ability to reflect love. Love is much more than an action or decision to love. Love is an all-encompassing emotion that transcends how we feel, what we do or what circumstances surround us. When we reflect on what love really is, we see that it is an emotion that involves much more than any other emotion. In fact, one could even venture to say that love is more than a sentiment, but a supernatural occurrence that frees us from the restraints of human emotion.

As we begin the New Year, let us be reminded that when we love one another, we are not just expressing a simple human emotion to the world around us; we are expressing the very existence of God in this world and His unending love made evident through Christ.

Meet the contributors for Love One Another - Part IV:

"Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, which is no small thing. But the fragmentation of North American culture has made it difficult for most of us to even know our neighbors. "Love one another," it seems to me, is a call to be the sort of community where people can know one another. And that means sticking around, even with those people who bore you or annoy you or enrage you. This is not possible without forgiveness, which is why we cannot love one another without a strength that comes from beyond us."

- Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Jonathan is Co-author of the celebrated Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, and author of several books on Christian spirituality, including The Awakening of Hope, The Wisdom of Stability, and The New Monasticism. He is founder of Rutba House in Durham, North Carolina, where formerly homeless are welcomed into a community that eats, prays, and shares life together. Jonathan is also Director of The School of Conversion, a nonprofit organization that educates people in Christian community, and Associate Minister at the historically African American St. Johns Missionary Baptist Church.

“I always liked this Thomas Merton quote: “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”

- Michael Gienger
Michael is Director of Youth and Impact Ministries at The Watershed Church in League City, Texas  and an MDiv student at Perkins School of Theology. He is also the founder of EXIT39 , an intensive poverty simulation ministry, educating others to the plight of the poor and powerless in American culture.     

"I think Jesus said it best: "Treat people the same way you want them to treat you" Matthew 7:12, and "Do not judge, and you will not be judged" Luke 6:37. Even with people we dearly love, at times that's a real stretch, and with irritating or hostile people, it's practically impossible. Here's the key: "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God" Luke 18:27”

- Joy Wilson
Joy is a freelance writer and author of Uncensorded Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling with God. You can get to know more about Joy at her personal blog: Solacetree   

“To love means to listen; to sit down with a person and hear their story - not with a dispassionate demeanor and a subjective viewpoint; not with a pre-planned rebuttal nor an agenda - but to listen with your full presence and an unguarded heart. This allows for sometimes shocking and scandalous affection, which I believe is a part of our spiritual nature, to be nourished and grow. Once you know someone’s story - and by ‘know’ I mean that it touches your core beyond what your belief system thought possible - then judgments fade, walls crumble, and you begin to find yourself in love.” 

– Chad Estes
Chad is a former pastor who works with people to help share their redemptive stories through the art of photography and writing. You can find his blog at
and more of his work at

"Love is knowing someone cares about you even when you aren't doing the very best you can do. Love is the struggle to rise to the occasion in yourself...for others."

 – Gene Anderson 
Gene Anderson is a middle school STEM instructor, a sometime preacher, and an all the time djembefola. He is also an ordained pastor, has spent time in the US Army, cooked an awful lot of food in various restaurants, and once hitchhiked across the United States. He loves books and cheesecake, though not necessarily in that order."