Monthly Archives: July 2012

It’s All About the Relationship

It is All About the Relationships

We read the news about teens in the United States:

  • 47.4% had ever had sexual intercourse
  • 33.7% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these
  • 39.8% did not use a condom the last time they had sex
  • 76.7% did not use birth control pills or Depo-Provera to prevent pregnancy the last time they had sex
  • 15.3% had had sex with four or more people during their life[1]

Those statistics terrify parents, faith leaders, educators, business leaders—and for good reason.  The ramifications are more than we want to consider.  In light of this, it is easy to narrow our focus.  It is all about sex!

Many times that is where the fight centers.  It is about sex!  It is about teaching individuals not to have sex.  It is about teaching individuals to use contraceptives when having sex.  It is all about sex!

But it isn’t!

It is about the relationship!  It is about the need that humans have to be intimate with another person, to feel desired and wanted and attractive and worthy.  It is about being known by another person in the most intimate way possible.  It is about being naked—physically and emotionally and know that you are safe!

It is about the relationship with parents, knowing that if you ask a question about sex you won’t be judged, ostracized or put on restriction.  It is knowing that your teen is a lot like you were when you were their age—full of all the questions, fears, yearnings.  It about allowing your relationship to grow and develop.

It is about the relationship with those who aren’t related to us, caring enough about the students in your class to know that what happens when they leave has as much to do with what they learn as what happens in class.  It is knowing that if we don’t care enough about young people that we won’t have customers or workers in a few years, let along any one to pay for my Social Security!

It is about the relationships!

It is helping our young people make good decisions about their sexuality, but even more about how they navigate the troubled emotional waters.  As Amber Madison reminded us at the recent Summer Institute, it all comes back to that note we used to pass in grade school: “I like you. Do you like me?  Check yes or no!”

As important as it is for us to help our youth deal with questions about sexuality—and we must help them make smart, informed, wise decisions—we also have to help them answer the relationship questions.  “How do you know when you are in love? “  “Why does it hurt so bad when she said no?”  “Why won’t anyone ask me out?”

These questions are just as important—if not more basic!



[1] Youth Risk Behavior Survey.


A version of this appeared on the SC Campaign Personal Perspective Blog.  You can read it here!


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My good friend Jim Somerville helps everyone understand what makes a Baptist church different. Worth the read!


ImageLast night the Episcopal Church in America approved a 3-year trial run of a service it calls “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.”  The service is not considered a marriage ceremony, media affairs representative Nancy Davidge said. 

“We have authorized a blessing, and a blessing is different than a marriage,” she said.  “A blessing is a theological response to a committed, monogamous relationship.”

But I’m guessing some of the members of my brother-in-law’s church back in Waco, Texas, won’t see it that way.  Chuck is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal in that city, a church that is progressive by Texas standards and conservative by almost anyone else’s.  I’m guessing that someone will pull him aside when he gets home from the General Convention and ask, “Did you vote for the gay marriage thing?”

This is not a question anyone will ever ask me when I come home…

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Late Season Spring Cleaning

Hidden away in USA Today on July 5 was a little article announcing that Google was doing a little “spring cleaning in the summer.”  The article stated that Google is retiring its iGoogle personalized home page.

I will say that this news does not affect me.  iGoogle is not one of the services that I use on a regular basis.  Let’s be honest here, I don’t think I have ever used iGoogle!  I am starting to like parts of Google+ more and more, so I hope that doesn’t go away!  But iGoogle?  I wasn’t overly wrought at its demise.

But that wasn’t what struck me about the article.  It was the next paragraph:

TechCrunch offers up a list of other services Google has killed off recently, including:  Google Bookmarks Lists, Google Friend Connect, Google Gears, Google Search Timeline, Google Wave, Knol, Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal, Aardvark, Desktop, Fast Flip, Google Maps API for Flash, Google Pack, Google Web Security, Image Labeler, Notebook, Sidewiki, Subscribed Links,Google Flu Vaccine Finder, Google Related, Google Sync for BlackBerry, mobile web app for Google Talk, One Pass, Patent Search, Picasa for Linux, Picasa Web Albums Uploader for Mac and Picasa Web Albums Plugin for iPhoto, and all Slide products.

All of these are programs and services that at one time Google offered to the world.  Some were used, and others…well, they didn’t work out as well as Chrome or YouTube.  But Google keeps trying!  They throw something out there and if it works, good.  If not, then it goes the way of iGoogle.

I am sure there is something those of us in the church need to learn here!  Too often the church is the place where nothing ever dies!  How many closets are the repositories of Sunday School curriculum from 1995?  How many programs are on life support, and that is being kind?  How often do we agree if it was “good for Paul and Silas it is good enough for me?”

Perhaps we should pay more attention to  John 12:24.  “I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  

Perhaps the most Christ-like faithful thing we can do is to allow some programs to die…or at the very least clean out that Sunday School closet!

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“You really should read…”

I get this all the time!  From friends who have just finished a book and want to talk about it; from church members who have been struck by something they came across in a magazine; from TV shows who just entice me with some tidbit of the latest best seller.

But the worst of all are my family.

“You need to read this book.”

Sometime it is phrased in a work-related kind of way—“Dad, you should read this book.  It has great sermon illustrations!”  Other times they just think I should.  “You need to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”  “You need to read The Hunger Games.”

Eventually they just wear me down and I give in.

And they are usually right!  (Please don’t let them know I said that!)

So as Anita sat in the airport, downloading a book to her Nook to read on the plane to the CBF General Assembly, she commented, “I think this is something you would like.”  Midway from Atlanta to Dallas she commented, “You probably should read this book.  By the time she was nearing the end (“I haven’t gotten anything done today because I have to finish this book”) she was pretty insistent!

“You HAVE to read this book!”

She was right.  (Again, please don’t let her know I said that!)

 I just finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  (Or should I say it just finished me!)  I don’t know what was worse–not getting anything done because I had to finish it, or not getting anything done because I am still trying to work through all the ramifications of the story.  (Full disclosure—Do Not Read this book if you are bothered by language and sex.  Probably not a Church Book Club Selection.)


The premise of his book is that as settlers came to America they brought they gods with them.  The Irish brought the leprechauns, the Vikings brought Thor, the slaves brought their gods.  They all came together in America where the Native Americans already had their god living in the land.

But as time passed, the rituals faded away.  As time went on the myths were no longer believed.  As time went on the beliefs died—and so did the gods.  Well, some of them died, or at least just disappeared.  Most of the others are “demoted” into less deity-like professions–undertaker, taxi driver, prostitute.  At the same time other gods come in to vie for people’s attention, affection, worship.  The book is about the storm that is coming.

That is the question raised by this book.  What happens when the sacrifices aren’t made, when the temples aren’t built, when the people don’t believe?  What happens to god?  (Little ‘g’ is intentional.)  What happens when we replace our god?

I had lunch recently with Reverend Doctor Lt. Colonel John Painter.  (I just wanted to see if I could get all the titles in one line in the right order!)  John is a chaplain at the VA Hospital and we were talking about ministry and life and stuff.  The kind of thing that ministers do when we get together.

I mentioned that I was reading Gaiman’s book.  As I was talking about the premise of the book John recalled that in the Sumerian world, the moon goddess was a major deity.  John was deployed to the Iraq several years ago and reads the ancient languages like I read the sports page.  The major seat of worship was Ur, home of Abraham, and not far from where he was deployed.

(I looked her up by the way.  Her name—Sin.  Cue CCR!)

Sin was a major god.  There were temples to her and worship services—but suddenly they all just went away.  I asked if there was some literature from that “going away” period, but he didn’t know of any.

I wonder what happened?  Was there some new knowledge that let them know that the moon wasn’t the most important being in the heavens?  Was the temple just too far away to get to on a regular basis?  Did a new more attractive god show up that offered more for less?

What happened?

What is happening?

When more and more profess that they are “spiritual but not religious;” when the ancient rituals are replaced with modern convenience; when the stories are avoided because they clash with our sensitivities, our lifestyles; when sacrifice means settling for a car one level down; when worship is planned around soccer matches and the NFL?

I have to wonder.  Will Jesus soon be a cashier at Wal Mart?


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