Being Gay is Not a Sin

A quick glance at social media and it seems to topic – or controversy – of the yesterday was the Franklin Graham attack on Pete Buttigieg for being gay.

I was pleased to see such pushback against this tweet from a person who is a religious leader through the coattails of his father, and who’s “brand” of Christianity is one of hate, misogyny, nationalism, and bigotry. I am especially bothered by his anti-Muslim rhetoric. That he supports a president who’s words and actions are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus lead me to hang my head in shame at the direction Christianity has gone.

So I agree with calling out Franklin Graham for his behavior. At the same time I am bothered that many of the Tweets and other statements are in the “what about your sin” category. This whataboutism is very subtle in its identification of “being gay as a sin.”

It is not a sin to be who God created you to be!

If we choose to go back to the creation story of Genesis, God created:

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” -Genesis 1:27, 31a

We can also remember those words of the psalmist:

“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” -Psalm 139:13-14

To all my LGBTQ siblings, you are good, just as you were created. You are wonderfully made. Your existence is not a sin. Your seeking and having relationships that are fulfilling is not a sin.

To all of us that are allies, let’s please be careful with our language so that in pushing back against homophobic rhetoric we don’t unthinkingly hurt our siblings.

Pray (photo-a-day) #rethinkchurch #marathon #run

Sunrise runs can be quite the prayerful start to your day

When do you pray? Maybe it’s because I wasn’t raised in a church I never developed a set prayer time. For many years I would end my day with prayer, lying in bed and thanking God for the day. I still do this on occasion. Since I began running, much of my prayer practice has been a “while running” prayer time. I didn’t start running with this spiritual practice. I actually started running in an attempt to lose weight, but along the way things changed. This was quite the sup-rise and I am grateful.

New Book Blog – Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality

I don’t have a history of being happy with my body. I started running to lose weight. I soon learned that running alone wouldn’t do it. I had to change my eating as well. Over the years I did lose weight. While its not always been easy, this is the first time in my life I didn’t gain it all back. At the beginning I didn’t expect the spiritual change that occurred.

Today I run as a spiritual practice. I work through problems. I pray. I even write sermons. I’ve also felt the deep call to help others to (re)discover their own bodies as pathways to experiencing God’s grace. I’ve struggled with language. So I’m thrilled to have discovered the book, “Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality,” by Edwin M. McMahon and Peter A. Campbell.

As I read, I will share thoughts and hopefully start some discussion. Today’s thought comes from page 1 of the preface:

During more than 45 years of our team research, we have discovered that the way in which people treat their own bodies and feelings becomes a reliable predictor of how they will then treat and interact with those around them.

I’ve been saying that if we can treat ourselves better, we will be able to treat others better. How might our world be in a better place if we cared for ourselves? Would we then be better able to care for others? I think so. I look forward to more discoveries in this book.

Meanwhile, what are your thoughts?

 

Running Our Public Lands

img_4998.jpgLast night I listened to a friend, Vic Thasiah, make a call for the running community to be more actively engaged in conservation efforts for our public lands. His presentation took place at Topa Topa Brewing Company, and since I was holding a beer while listening, I missed taking notes! I wish I had because his talk was inspiring.

img_4776He shared that, from a national perspective, runners, as a group, are not as involved in preservation efforts as are hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers, and skiers. We as runners, are not organized around this important issue as are other groups. As I listened to the presentation, I wondered how many of us runners consciously appreciate the beautiful places we can go. Or do many of us think of running as “exercise” and something to “get done” while also experiencing the added benefit of a beautiful view?

As a pastor, I pray my gratitude for this beautifully created world in our weekly worship, while also praying that we would be good stewards of all that surrounds us. I find myself envisioning some of the places I’ve run as I pray. I’ve also tried to encourage our getting outside for worship with a monthly Hike Church. This has been met with limited success… but maybe that’s because I’m not doing a good enough job of inviting people.

img_4207-2.jpgThe other day, while running on one of our paved, but in need of much work, bike trails, I wondered about the feasibility of runners and cyclists fundraising to fix the trails. That’s a good endeavor and I’d support it. But now, I’m also thinking that we, wherever we are, should involve ourselves in to caring for, and helping to preserve, and conserve our public lands.

In my area, that care can be exercised through The Ventura Land Trust. I might even use my upcoming Thanksgiving to Christmas Mile a Day Challenge as a fundraiser for this worthy organization. Meanwhile, how do you see the running community participating in care for our public open spaces?

img_3858.jpg

Coaching

oMZMn5W+SF2PYQGyKaDjZQIf you haven’t read this important article by Erin Strout, Why We Need More Female Coaches, I recommend you take a few moments to check it out. Before reading it, I hadn’t been aware that we had such a dearth of female running coaches. My ignorance, was solely due to my relative newness to the sport.

Well, I don’t think I’ll make it to the elite level and I know I won’t be at any college, but I’m excited to announce that, officially, I am a certified running coach.

Currently, I’m helping to coach a group to the Ventura Marathon. I’m doing a little bit of personal coaching for friends and family…and am setting my sites on more. Pastor Coach…

My Thoughts – BlackkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman Movie PosterI’m not a movie critic. Sometimes when I read what others have written about movies, my own thoughts seem to be so inadequate. Maybe if I saw more movies, and then chose to review them I’d get better at it. But then, life as a movie critic is not my job.

My current job is both a job and a title, Pastor. Specifically, pastor in a Lutheran Church that is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We are one of the (if not the most) whitest denominations in America. The synod of which I am a part (Los Angeles and surrounding counties) is the most diverse, something to be proud of. But my congregation is not one of those diverse congregations I am sad to say. I am a white pastor in a majority Mexican immigrant city. I speak some Spanish and am continually working at it. But so far, my efforts to lead us to being a more diverse church have had limited success. This is just a bit of my context.

Today, for Labor Day, I went to see BlackkKlansman. It was a powerful movie. It bridges the past and the present in such a way that it is impossible to close our eyes to the ongoing evil of white supremacy in our nation.

I don’t use the word “evil” lightly. It was evil to kidnap and subsequently enslave people. It was evil to keep their children as slaves. It was a most horrible evil to sometimes rip children from the arms of their parents so that they could be sold again. Slavery in this nation was done under the guise of Christianity, my religion. This was evil.

This was not the subject of the movie. But I couldn’t help to think of it because this sin of slavery is at the heart of the racism that we continue to live with today.

BlackkKlansman is a story that is based on a memoir. I don’t know what of it is true memoir and what is added story telling.

An uncomfortable, for me, aspect of this story was the juxtaposition of scenes depicting calls for white power alongside demonstrations with calls for black power. I am uncomfortable because I often wonder how we will ever progress. The story also almost allows us (white people) to tell ourselves that we aren’t part of the KKK and thus we are not racist. It touches on the institutional aspects of racism but even there, it depicts a racist police officer rather than a system that is biased against people of color. Alas, there is too much to cover in a single movie.

As a pastor, I continually preach that we are allcreated in God’s image and that means us all people. I also lament the fact that too many of my fellow (white) Christians don’t seem to be able to see this beauty in all of God’s creation. I often wonder about my place among Christianity, because it seems as if the most vocal proponents of my faith are also vocal proponents of white supremacy. Even if they don’t use those words.

I’ve heard arguments along the lines of, “no, that is not us, but we just want everyone to get along.” But then the next line of the conversation is to attack Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization. I don’t know how many times I have tried to explain the reason the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary.

I once had a very long dialog with a distant family member. He is an evangelical Christian and he had no desire to learn about why people are protesting. It was easier for his to condemn the protestors as members of a hate group. I went so far as to try and find people in his city for him to meet and to learn from. But once I made this step, it became clear that he wasn’t interested in learning. It turns out that he was just trying to figure out how “unchristian” I am because of my “liberal” positions. The conversation ended with his telling me that he’s learned a bit about ELCA Lutherans and it appears that I am where I belong (not a compliment from his perspective), and that he would pray for me. I wanted to scream that I don’t want these prayers. I didn’t scream, but I did say that instead of praying for me, maybe he could pray to see.

I’m tired and I’m white and I’m privileged and I’ve not done enough and I’m not doing enough and I’m tired.

Stamped from the BeginningI cannot imagine how exhausted my Black sisters and brothers must be in living with the structural racism that is so much a part of our culture. It is like the air we breathe. Don’t believe me? I suggest you read, starting with “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi. If anyone reading this would like to read this book as a group – in person gatherings or online, please let me know. I think we could learn a lot together.

Our learning the history of slavery, segregation, and racism from times past until now is necessary for us to be able to see the truth that is all around us. We need to learn so that we can see and so that we can work for a better today and a better tomorrow. I don’t believe that it should be the responsibility of our Black citizens to get us white people to change. It should be up to us! It is our continued collective sin in burying our heads as we try to say, “that’s not me” or “that’s not us.”

Letter From Birmingham Jail is included in this book
As I think of this I am reminded of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” I’ve often said that if I could, I would add this letter to the canon of scripture. I don’t’ have that ability, but I can still use it in matters of faith. And as I think about this movie, and the state of affairs in our country today I am reminded of his calling to account of the “white moderate.” For Rev. King, the moderate was in many ways worse than the overt racist because the moderate just went along with the status quo. This was not helpful then and it is not helpful now.

Well my friends, this was definitely not a review of the movie! Please see it. Please read what our sibling of color are writing. And please know that the God that I know is a gracious God. This God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. All our neighbors. It’s not easy to do but it starts with opening our eyes to see.

This pastor hopes and prays that we will.

Consistency – You Can Do It

IMG_4366
This tattoo, with the words run, live, breathe and gratitude celebrates the rewards of consistent training. Check out the link below if you want the story behind the tattoo

As I’m approaching the San Francisco Marathon (the 9th!) I’m thinking about an important element in marathon (or any distance) training. Consistency!

While in the middle of training, or building mileage and fitness we might not notice how much or how hard we are working. But in looking back it’s easy to recognize the rewards of consistent training. It’s not the occasional good workout that will lead to a good race effort. Rather, a good race effort is found in consistently putting in the miles, week after week. It is through this consistent training that our bodies adapt to running.

All runners will have the occasional run they don’t want to do. It may be due to a busy schedule. It may be due to fatigue. It may be due to general soreness. It may even be that you just don’t feel like running. So what should you do? In most cases the answer is to run. How do you know if you should back off?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Feeling too Busy -RUN
    Even if you have to make the run shorter, it will help you to get out there. It may even help you get through your tasks in a better frame of mind. That’s a big benefit of running!
  • On Vacation – RUN
    A wonderful way to explore a vacation spot is to go for a run.
  • Experiencing General Soreness – RUN
    General soreness and injury are not the same thing. If you have achy and sore legs, a very easy recovery run may make them feel better. Make sure you run easy (as in slow).
    If you have very sharp, localized pain, this may be injury. It also may be stiffness. If, after a few steps the pain worsens then stop. If it feels better, then you are good to go. Sometimes we have little aches and pains that come and go and we have to make educated guesses about whether to run or not.  
  • Injured – DON’T RUN
    We need to learn to distinguish between good sore (your muscles are working and improving) and bad sore (injury). A good rule of thumb: if you have soreness that affects your gait (limp for instance) then take time to recover.
  • Feeling Crummy – RUN
    Although it might not feel comfortable, you can run with a head cold or allergies. The general rule is if the congestion is above your neck then you are good to go.
  • Have a Fever or Chest Congestions – DON’T RUN
    If your chest is congested, and/or if you have a fever, don’t run. You body needs to use its energy to fight the infection so allow it time to recover.

Sometimes, we’re just not sure. It’s ok to give it a try (unless you have a fever!) and then stop early if you’re not feeling well. You can always check with your coach if you’re not sure.

Happy Consistent Running!

About that tattoo: We Made a Pact!