Sunday, November 23, 2008

culture wars

We’ve been known for boycotting Disney, decrying the Teletubbies and rallying behind pet legislation. Christianity and the culture wars have been synonymous now for a long time. When it comes to media attention, Christians most often seem to get it for something we’re against. The last few decades of the Church seem to be ones in which we’ve taken an adversarial relationship to the culture around us. We’ve spearheaded protests, boycotts and letter-writing campaigns. If Christians are against it, we’ve done a decidedly good job of making the public aware of it. It seems we have made it our mission to loudly denounce those things in society that don’t match our worldview, and find ways to pressure the culture into rejecting them. As such, evangelical Christianity has developed a reputation in society for being angry, boorish and self-righteous.

Yet, should Christianity be engaged in these culture wars? Is it our lot to remake the world in God’s image? The answer is, of course, a resounding yes. It is absolutely our role to stand against the tide of culture and to be a clarion voice for God in the midst of darkness. The problem is, we often go about it all wrong.

Without a doubt, we are called to stand apart from culture. Paul admonishes us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). The life Christ calls us to is one of being countercultural, and of spreading the Kingdom of God throughout the culture around us.

What does it mean, though, to be countercultural? Does it mean that we organize protests or pen invective letters to the FCC for some sitcom’s latest grievous offense? If we follow the standard Christ set, it is a much deeper calling than that. When Christ speaks of being countercultural, it looks so much more revolutionary and bizarre than merely fighting for legalistic ideals. The picture Christ paints is of a peculiar people who confuse the culture around them by being so utterly different. Whereas our society worships status, we are to be servants to all. When the culture tells us we have to seek fortune, we hold material goods lightly and give all we have to the poor. If prevailing public opinion says that we should lie to get ahead, we cherish honesty and keep any oath we take. Where cynicism and pessimism pervade those around us, we are agents of constant hope and tireless faith.

Ultimately, though, the absolute most countercultural role a Christian can take is that of truly loving our enemies rather than treating them to our usual show of angry saber-rattling. This is hard for a people who have spent so much time viewing those who would tear down God’s Kingdom with such vitriol. But Jesus did not suggest this—He commanded it. He told us: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).

This is a revolution born not of anger or discord, but of unmitigated love. It is one that confounds culture by showing resilient mercy and charity at times when it makes the least sense to do so. How would society be impacted if, instead of staging counter-protests when we disagree with a group of pro-abortion demonstrators, we showed up and served them in humility and love? What kind of reputation would we gain if we quietly showed love to our homosexual neighbors instead of putting signs in our yard touting our political views on their relationship?

Are we at war with the culture? Yes. But we’ve been fighting the wrong battle. Ours is not a war of taking shots at things we deem offensive to the public sensibility. It is one of standing against the tide of selfishness, wrath, vainglory and cynicism that surrounds us. It is a battle of refusing to be swept up in the idea of consumerism. Of fighting the concept that we should avenge every wrong done to us. Of taking up arms against our culture’s mindset that the rich, famous and powerful are to be admired and the poor despised. This is a war of loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us and speaking God’s abiding truth with genuine compassion for those whose ears it falls upon. Now is not the time to back away from a fight. It’s time to actually engage the true enemy.

- "A Treaty To End Culture Wars", 850 Words of RELEVANT, email dated Nov 17, 2008

Live free! Live in Daddy's affection!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

boston marathon

Monday, April 21, 2008 - what a beautiful day for a marathon! The Boston Marathon more than lived up to its reputation for being a challenging course, especially the long hills beginning around Mile 19 at Newton, MA. The hills, especially the infamous "Heartbreak Hill", were almost my undoing. It took all the willpower and determination I could muster to keep pushing on to the end. I had to break the final part of the race down into 100-yard chunks to motivate myself to keep going. My thought process went something like this - "If I can just make it to that next stoplight, then maybe I can summon the strength to go another 100 yards." I finished the race at 3:49:28, completely spent, but satisfied that I had given it my all.

One of the highlights of my first trip to Boston was the cheerleader who accompanied me - my 20 year-old daughter, Elisabeth. We arrived in Boston on Saturday evening and spent all day Sunday exploring the city. Some of our stops were Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church, Copp's Hill Burial Ground, and Long Wharf. After the race on Monday, we picked up where we left off, walking from the finish line at Copley Square to Boston Common, and then to Quincy Market for a post race snack. Elisabeth and I concluded our day with dinner at one of Boston's finest seafood restaurants, Legal Sea Foods. We drove home Tuesday morning, full of fun memories from one of the nation's most historic cities.

Live free! Live in Daddy's affection!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Our divorce was finalized on Friday, June 27, almost three years after the process began. Talk about a marathon. Truly an incredible journey into a deeper understanding of Father's love, mercy and compassion. Two overriding themes of the past three years - grace and freedom. Grace defined as the inner revelation of the magnitude and depth of Father's affectionate love. Freedom defined as the simplicity of living as His beloved child, progressively unencumbered by fear and a sense of religious obligation. His grace has transformed suffering into glory. Today, I can honestly say that He is far more glorious and beautiful than I ever dared to imagine. Isaiah 61:3 has become my testimony - "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." I just love that last phrase, "that he might be glorified." He is truly worthy of ALL glory!

A heartfelt thanks to all of you who have extended grace and prayed for our family over the past three years. Your lovingkindness has been a very real source of comfort and healing.

- Lindsay

Live free! Live in Daddy's affection!

Monday, February 18, 2008

surf city usa

On Sunday, February 3rd, I finished my second marathon - the Surf City USA Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. What an incredible experience from start to finish!

Shortly after I completed my first marathon (the OBX Marathon on the Outer Banks of North Carolina) in November of 2006, I began looking for another marathon to run. The first marathon that caught my attention was the Surf City USA Marathon. The thought of running a marathon along the Pacific shoreline was quite compelling.

In August of 2007, I registered online for the 2008 Surf City USA Marathon. On the registration form I was asked to put down my predicted time of finish. Based on my OBX Marathon time of 4:11:15 (4 hours, 11 minutes, 15 seconds), I nervously typed in 3:59:00, hoping that if I trained hard enough I could shave 12 minutes off my OBX time and break the four-hour barrier.

At the end of August I began training in earnest. Having recently joined a local fitness club, I decided to incorporate weight training into my training regimen three times a week. The payoff was almost immediate. I recovered from my longer training runs much more quickly and the nagging aches and pains that had been a regular part of my OBX Marathon training were almost nonexistent. I felt great!

As late summer turned to fall and fall headed towards winter, I had to face the prospect of doing something that seemed utterly dreadful - running indoors on a treadmill. Yuck! I had never run on a treadmill before, and I surely didn’t want to start now. But I was a man on a mission, and if achieving my goal of a 3:59 marathon meant running on a treadmill, then I was willing to bite the bullet.

Fortunately, I found the perfect training partner to accompany me on my dreaded treadmill training runs - a purple iPod Shuffle. Armed with a collection of my favorite Motown, R&B, Disco, and Pop tunes from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, I was ready to tackle treadmill monotony head on. One advantage of using the treadmill was the ability to closely monitor my pace and mileage. This proved to be a key component of my training.

Following several of my training runs, my thoughts would turn to Lindsay Dunn (see “lindsay dunn” post dated December 29, 2007) and I’d begin to cry. Running was one of our common bonds and this would be my first race since her death. I missed Lindsay’s kindness and encouraging words. I began to think of the Surf City USA Marathon as my “Dunn Run” - a way to honor Lindsay and her positive influence in my life.

After playing around with the pace setting on the treadmill, I felt comfortable with 8.2 miles per hour, a pace of 7:19 per mile. As my training progressed, I was very encouraged to see that I could maintain a 7:19 pace for 4 miles, 8 miles, 12 miles, 16 miles, and finally, 20 miles. When I compared my 20-mile training time (2:26:43) to my 20-mile split time for the OBX Marathon (3:13:46), I was blown away. I had shaved 47 minutes off my 20-mile time from the OBX Marathon!

Pretty soon I got to thinking that my goal of a 3:59 marathon wasn’t quite ambitious enough. Maybe I needed to set my sights a little higher. Out of curiosity I went to the Boston Marathon website to see what time I would need in order to qualify for the 2008 Boston Marathon. The magic number was 3:30. I now had a new goal - to qualify for the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon, the Boston Marathon!

Towards the end of January, with the Surf City USA Marathon fast approaching, it was difficult to contain my excitement. I was so focused as I began making last-minute preparations for the trip to California. My flight from Harrisburg to Los Angeles presented some challenges, but in the end it all worked out perfectly. Thanks to a canceled flight, a delayed flight, and then a missed connection, I ended up arriving in Los Angeles almost 24 hours later than originally planned, but the upside was two solid nights of sleep - one in my own bed and one at a Holiday Inn in Kentucky.

When I touched down in Los Angeles on Saturday, the southern California sunshine was in full effect. A short drive down the San Diego Freeway put me in Huntington Beach just in time for a beautiful afternoon along the Pacific coast. After picking up my marathon bib number and timing chip from the Expo, I met up with my brother, Peyton, for a leisurely stroll through the lively streets of Huntington Beach. We stopped for a nice pasta dinner before he headed back to LA and I headed to the hotel for an early bedtime.

Sunday morning dawned and just as forecast, it was raining and windy. I caught a 5:30 am cab to the starting line where I spent the next hour trying to keep warm and dry. Fortunately, I brought along my disposable “poncho” - a 30-gallon trash bag. “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, the classic Beach Boys tune, signaled the start of the race at 6:50 am as the rain and wind continued unabated. Despite the adverse conditions, I was thrilled to be running along the Pacific Coast Highway with a perfect view of the storm-tossed Pacific Ocean on my left.

My shoes were completely soaked in no time thanks to some very large, unavoidable puddles. By Mile 5, my “poncho” had become more of a hindrance than a help, so I tossed it aside. The Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Central Park, and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve were some of the more interesting stretches along the 26.2 mile course. Nine of the last ten miles were run on the beachfront running path right along the Pacific Ocean. I laughed out loud at the irony of running in such terrible weather at a place known for its warm, sunny climate.

When I checked the race clock posted at Mile 25, I knew I had Boston in the bag. I ran past the Huntington Beach Pier one more time en route to the finish line. Nearing the finish line, I could hear Peyton cheering me on. As I crossed the finish line, I was completely spent. With bottled water and finishers’ medal in hand, I slowly walked across the road to a spot where Peyton could pick me up and drive me back to the hotel to recuperate.

After a warm shower and a cold bath to help my legs recover, I was ready to roll. I checked out of the hotel and headed over to the Olive Garden with Peyton for my post race lunch. I followed Peyton back to LA after lunch and we arrived just in time to catch the kickoff of Super Bowl XLII.

During the Super Bowl, I checked the Surf City USA Marathon website to see if the race results had been posted. I could hardly believe what I saw! I finished 44th out of 1087 runners overall and 5th out of the 95 runners in my age/gender category. My time was 3:22:01, shaving over 49 minutes off my previous marathon and qualifying me for the 2008 Boston Marathon. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

Several days after the marathon, I told Lindsay Dunn’s parents about my desire to honor Lindsay and how her life had given me a sense of purpose and determination I would not have otherwise had in preparing for the race. Lindsay’s mom, Diane, shared the following with me last week - “Lindsay would have been very happy for you. She had hoped to run a marathon with you one day. She shared that with me. Sounds like she did--two weekends ago.”

Live free! Live in Daddy's affection!

Monday, January 21, 2008


Last week as I was reading through my 2005 journal, I came across a passage that expressed the Father's heart for me during a very dark and painful time. It's so encouraging to look back and see how Father's words became life and joy and peace -

"Patience. Patience. Patience. The Father has made EVERY provision for you to live and thrive in the midst of this dark situation. Run into His mercy! Appropriate the fullness of His grace. Tap into the resources of the Body of Christ - those brothers and sisters who are supporting you from the heart. Roll all of your burdens and worries onto Him. He is fully able to carry them without any assistance from you! Rejoice in the trial. Rejoice in the suffering. Glorify the Father violently and passionately in the midst of the fire. Remember the three Hebrew children in the furnace! Revelation comes IN the fire! Suffering begets glory. Let the glory of the Father rest upon you - trusting Him to work out ALL things concerning you in perfect accordance with His plan and purpose. HE'S GOT YOUR BACK. HE IS SO INTO YOU! HE DELIGHTS IN WHO HE'S MADE YOU TO BE! HE'S EXCITED BEYOND WORDS ABOUT YOUR FUTURE. IT'S GOING TO BE GLORIOUS AND MIND-BLOWING, HOWEVER IT PLAYS OUT!

"Don't take the easy way out. Live out of your heart. Do not fear!!! The Father's got your back.

"Continue to wait patiently upon the Lord - allow Him to unfold His purpose in your midst. Entrust yourself into His love, care, and faithfulness. He will never let you down! Allow Him to have the fullness of His way in you and through you. Above all things - let HIS LOVE be your guiding light. The knowledge of His love for you! Be a vessel of that love for others. Love your children lavishly. Give them the fullness of your heart. Feel their pain and release love, affirmation, and healing into their lives!"

- October 18, 2005

Live free! Live in Daddy's affection!