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Is There Grace for Miley Cyrus?

September 4, 2013 1 comment

Hannah-Montana-Forever-10I had decided I had waited too long to comment on Miley Cyrus’ appearance on the Video Music Awards a week or so ago. Then I saw a poll that had been conducted by a local newspaper:

How would you describe Miley Cyrus’s performance at the MTV Awards?

  1. 63% Disgusting
  2. 19% Should have been censored
  3. 0% Cry for help
  4. 10% What happened to that innocent Hannah Montana?
  5. 7% It was OK by me

I appreciate the fact that the paper tried to be somewhat objective, in phrasing the question so that it was about the performance and not the performer. We were not so fortunate when other people were commenting on the incident.

I had more people than I care to count tell me, not that the performance was “disgusting,” but that Miley was. She was also “nasty,” “totally untalented,” and surely “must be on drugs.” Too many followers of Christ, including myself, were willing to drag another human being through the mud based on what? Something that offended us and our sensibilities? Were the batteries dead in our remotes? Did our remote not have an on/off switch or a channel changer?

I seriously doubt it. We watched it, when it happened live or the jillions of times it was replayed on news channels, and we clucked our tongues and we thanked God we were “not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector [singer].”

Is there grace for Miley Cyrus?

I hope I would always say yes, yes, if she would just open her eyes and understand that God loves her, has always loved her and that he accepts her, and that she doesn’t have to expose her body or behave in sexually provocative ways to get affection and acceptance and significance…

But I’m not sure I always do say yes.

Miley is 20 years old. I thank God that the sinful mistakes I made at 20 were not broadcast on television or written up in the newspapers.  She is most likely surrounded by people who constantly say, “Yes Miley, whatever you think Miley, sounds like a great idea to me Miley…” There is probably nobody in her life who can put the brakes on, challenge her and encourage her to rethink. I’m afraid of what my own children would be like in those circumstances.

I guess the bottom line is “what can we do?” We can tone down the judgmental rhetoric. (How would you feel if your child made a huge, public mistake and people called them nasty and disgusting?) And we can pray – that the eyes of Miley and others would be opened to the reality of a God who stands ready to forgive, love, and accept. And we can offer to others the same grace, in the same measure, we would want for ourselves.

Yes, there’s grace for Miley Cyrus – and for all of us finger-pointing Pharisees too.

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Categories: acceptance, brokenness, drama, grace, sin

Friday Remix: For Pastors and those who love them…

April 10, 2009 2 comments


On a forum I am active in, a fellow member, and pastor, wrote this:

A local minister on Sunday rose and told the congregation that he would be taking a sabbatical with his wife. They had had problems and the marriage was suffering greatly – they were crashing. The leaders allowed them to take some time away. If when they return things have not improved then he will resign his position. It is sad for this guy. He seemed like a nice guy. Always active in many things. But in the end the one thing that should have mattered suffered.

Too often the flock in our immediate reach go untended and then the wolf attacks them scattering them to far off places. It is even more a wake up for me. This guy had kids who were out of the house and on their own, so they did not have to take care of kids on top of everything else. My wife and I, on the other hand, do. Though we have managed to keep boundaries intact for now, the fact remains we must be careful.

I immediately went back in my mind to a national Pastor’s Conference I attended 20 years ago. A well-known and successful pastor of a large church was speaking to us. I don’t remember most of what he had to say that morning, but I will never forget his eyes welling up with tears when he said, “For almost 30 years now I have done ministry the way I was taught, the way it was modeled for me. I went to every meeting of every group and committee in the church… I made every hospital and nursing home visit… I attended every service and function even remotely related to the church… I knocked on thousands of doors… I answered every call and went everywhere and anywhere anytime anybody in my church needed anything. On top of all that, I prepared two sermons, a Sunday School lesson, and a Midweek Bible study every week. Today my church is large, and some would say, influential… But I have no relationship with my wife, and my daughters basically grew up without my involvement in their lives.” At this point the man broke down and began to weep openly. In a moment, he recovered enough to say, “Please don’t allow yourself to get so caught up in your work that you neglect your family… I would trade everything I have today to get back the time I missed with my family.” It was one of the most sobering experiences of my life.

God never called anyone into ministry to neglect their family. Our spouse and children are our first flock. They need us even more than the folks in the other flock.

And so, a few somewhat random thoughts related to all this:

  • Protect your time off. Sunday is NOT an off day, Pastor! Take, at minimum, one complete 24 hour day off every week, two days is better, one and a half days is a fair, doable compromise in most situations.
  • Take your vacation time. You’ve earned it and deserve it. Go away somewhere nice if you can afford it, or just to visit relatives or friends. If “everything will fall apart” if you go on vacation, your situation is probably already so bad that you NEED to get away!
  • Spend time with your family. Please don’t give me the tired, old “quality time vs. quantity time” stuff. None of us is good enough at quality to make up for a lack of quantity. Our families spell “love” T-I-M-E. If you have to choose between a meeting and a child’s activity – pick the child. Block the time out on your calendar or daily planner, and let nothing other than death derail it. A good rule of thumb is to spend as many nights at home with the family, or in family activities as you do in church related activities each week.
  • Date your spouse. Take them to lunch, or dinner and a movie. Take some sandwiches to the park, hold hands, walk and talk. Try not to talk about church business or problems with church people. Use the time to reconnect with your most important ministry partner.

I know most of the people who will read this already know this stuff. The question is, are you doing it? Pastors, we cannot succeed in the ministry if we fail with our family.

Skipping Stones 03.23.09

March 23, 2009 1 comment

skipping-stonesThoughts jumping across the pond in my mind…

  • Just being honest – Sunday’s worship had the potential to be a trainwreck… Josh, our worship leader, had to work; Anya, lead vocalist, was “unable to board” her flight out of Florida, so she was going to be MIA; the band had not been able to practice… But, praise the Lord! – they flat brought it!  Jesi did a great job leading, the instruments were sharp, and the songs they selected led those who were willing into God’s presence with adoration on our lips.  Thanks guys – one of these days I might get over being surprised when you exceed my poor little expectations…
  • We took another step in our “Journey to the Cross” series, with “Welcome to the Sifter.”  We looked at Peter’s lowest moment, when he denied Jesus.  Peter is a human study in God’s incredible grace.  We can all identify with his failure – we’ve been there.  Now it’s time for us to identify with Peter’s “post-sifter” experience – when God used him in powerful ways, sharing the good news and giving hope.  Message audio HERE
  • Financial Peace University is rounding the final turn, heading for home… It has been a great class and the families involved had made LOTS of progress.  You definitely need to plan now to enroll in the class later this year.  $100 enrollment fee per family gets you tons of material, the complete course on CD, website access, and lifetime membership in FPU.
  • We are a little over halfway on our Easter eggs – if you can help, please pick up eggs and instructions this week.  If you prefer, you can donate candy, plastic eggs, cash, or all three!  The Easter Egg Hunt is April 11th.
  • 52 books update – reading two at the moment, “I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church,” by Paul Nixon, and “Activate” by Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas.  Nixon’s book is written more for mainline denominational pastors and church leaders – frankly, some of the stuff he talks about never hits my radar.  But the overall thrust of the book is excellent.  I’m reading Searcy/Thomas on the recommendation of my buddy Pastor Chris, to get another perspective on small groups.  Searcy’s stuff always makes say, “Now why didn’t I think of that?”  – it’s so practical.
  • We will be doing something at Jubilee this Sunday that is completely new for us!  A handful of people know, but I’m not going to spill the beans here – you’ll have to be there to decide whether you like it or not!
  • Have a great week!

A ragamuffin reminder

December 10, 2008 1 comment

Wow… I was going through some old files a little while ago, and I found a paper I had typed up a few years ago – I had to study it a few minutes before I realized what it was… It is something I had adapted from Brennan Manning’s book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel.”

It was one of those handful of books that have caused a profound shift in my entire life. It fell into my hands when we were in the middle of a church plant that was crashing and burning. The combination of the simple truths and beautifully told stories was used by God to do a tremendous work of healing in my heart. I have read and re-read it, bought it for people and recommended it to others. Frankly, the book is one of a handful of factors that are responsible for me still being in the ministry instead of pursuing corporate success in northwest Arkansas…

What I adapted was from Manning’s “A Word Before” at the very beginning of the book – My paper begins:

This is the kind of pastor I want to be and the kind of church I want to lead…

…not for the super-spiritual.
…not for muscular Christians who have made John Wayne and not Jesus their hero.
…not for academicians who would imprison Jesus in an ivory tower of exegesis.
…not for “feel-good” folks who would manipulate Christianity into a naked appeal to emotion.
…not for hooded mystics who want magic in their religion.
…not for “Alleluia” Christians who live only on the mountaintop and have never visited the valley of desolation.
…not for the fearless and tearless.
…not for the red-hot zealots who boast with the rich, young ruler: “All these commandments I have kept from my youth.”
…not for the complacent, with their tote-bag full of honors, diplomas, and good deeds, and who actually believe they have it made.
…not for legalists who surrender control of their souls rather than run the risk of living in union with Jesus.

But for…

…the bedraggled, beat up, and burned out.
…the burdened who are constantly shifting their heavy suitcase form one hand to the other.
…the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together.
…inconsistent, unsteady disciples.
…poor, weak, sinful men and women with faults and limited talents.
…earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.
…the bent and bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God.
…smart people who know they are stupid, and honest disciples who admit they’re good-for-nothings.
…myself, and anyone else who has grown weary and discouraged along the way.

Mostly Manning’s words, but my thoughts – then and now.

A pain in the neck

December 3, 2008 Leave a comment

Wow… Seems like I blinked my eyes and it’s been a week since I blogged…

For one thing I’ve been hurting – Saturday I developed some kind of strange pain in the back of my neck.  It hurt to swallow; Couldn’t raise my chin or turn my head to either side.  Couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to eat much; I was producing unusual amounts of eyeball snot.  (OK, I made that last one up…)

By Sunday night it was impossible to sleep, so I headed out to the chiropractor’s office on Monday.  That’s always fun and a little surreal…

Dr. Bones: OK, I’m going to start with #6 – that’s the most common source of problems… (He grabs my chin and the back of my head and gives it a jerk.)

Me:  Aaaaaayeeeee!

Dr. Bones: Let’s try it in the other way direction – just relax…

Me: Yeeeeeoooowww!

Dr. Bones: Hmmm… did that hurt?

Me: Yeah – did the screams and the tears give it away?

He cracked my back in a couple of places, massaged my neck so hard my eyeballs bulged out, and gave me a treatment with a device that felt like a rapid-fire series of charley-horse punches to the back of the neck.

Doc concluded that I was having muscle spasms and recommended a couple days of intermittent moist heat.  I tried to convince Vic that I also needed regular neck rubs from a loving companion, but she didn’t buy it at all.

Anyway, today I feel much better, pretty close to 100%…  And I’d lose my “preacher’s cred” if I didn’t find some kind of spiritual/philosophical point in all of it…

My pain was quite localized, but my entire body felt the effects.  That’s because the head leads the body, and when the head isn’t leading, or is incapable of leading, the body doesn’t function well – the simplest tasks become monumentally difficult.   Sometimes leadership is a pain in the neck…

Sunday Replay 03.02.08

March 3, 2008 Leave a comment

We got a “spring tease” yesterday with sunny, clear skies, and temps in the 50’s!  But it’s already fading away…  It said to us, with a straight face, “See what’s coming, Hoosiers?  But not yet… No.  Not yet…”

People who are interested in involvement in worship ministry are beginning to emerge, ready to use their talents and gifts to honor and exalt the Lord.  There were some amazing conversations that took place after service yesterday.  I’m more excited than ever at the direction God is taking us in our praise and devotion to Him!

The new “Word’s that Change the World” series got off to a good start, as we looked at the words Jesus spoke from the cross that let us know that we can be forgiven.  In His prayer for those who were crucifying Him, Jesus told us that we can be forgiven for our part in His death… In His arrangement for the care of His mother, Mary, we see that even when we are going through pain and disappointment, Jesus cares for us… And in Jesus’ assignment of John to care for Mary, we see that He offers restoration if we’ll meet Him at the cross.  The old hymn, “Near the Cross” was a great prayer for most of us and a fitting way to end our time together.

These are exciting times at Jubilee!  Remember why we do what we do: To glorify God by drawing those who are far from Him “near to the cross.”

And I’ve got to give a BIG Cougar Shout-out to our Carroll High men’s basketball team for winning the sectional title over Seegar on Saturday night!  It is the first sectional victory since CHS was opened in 1961!  Way to go Cougars – now let’s win the region, and on to State!!!

Have a great week!

A C3 Finale?

February 29, 2008 Leave a comment

Probably not – I’m still thinking and wrestling and chewing on the stuff I heard while I was there…  And as I said, I’ll probably post some more when the dvd’s get here.

Brian Houston, Pastor of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, had a phenomenal message on empowering people…

He showed a photo he had taken in Africa of an elephant.  He wanted to include himself in the picture, so he held the camera up at arms length and snapped the pic.  He got back in the vehicle and looked at the photo and found that his head filled 90% of the frame and the elephant could not be seen at all…

The only way to miss an elephant is if you’re too big in the frame.  Some people cannot empower others because they’re too big in the frame.

Serve others.  Practice taking second place.

Develop a culture of permission.  Say “yes” more often to people, ideas, initiatives.

Empowerment is not about independence – it’s about interdependence.

There’s a balance between grace and ‘stretch’ – between acceptance and challenge.

A leader must have a heart for lifelong learning… Honor the old and promote the new.

Bishop T. D. Jakes, Pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, TX.   Frankly, Bishop Jakes was the presenter in this year’s conference that I had heard the least and knew the least about.  Some of you will no doubt wonder how that’s possible, but each of us has a “radar” that gets hit a little differently by different people. 

After hearing Bishop speak Friday morning, all I can say is I’ve missed out on a lot!  His message was on “The Order of the Breaking of Bread” from Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus…

You haven’t begun to preach until you’re controversial.

Quit trying to be liked, and start being faithful.

People generally admire their leaders best after they’re dead!

The beginning of true leadership is to know you don’t know as much as you think you know.

Don’t burn the school down because you think you’ve graduated.

You can’t lead people who aren’t thirsty.

The Lord can become what we need… Lord, abide with us until we see You bigger than our circumstances and situation.

They saw Jesus when He broke the bread – people see Jesus in simple things.

The pattern of the Lord “taking, breaking, blessing, and giving” is repeated over and over in the Word.

The breaking stage is the real blessing stage.

If you want to be a leader, don’t show me your successes – show me your brokenness.