Sunday, December 9, 2012

Campfires and Candles

I love campfires. I love starting them with a little aid from some petroleum products, striking the match and then the big WHOOSH that forces the air past you.  The power, the strength, the heat.  I love sitting there with the fire and a poker and tooling around in the coals.  I love stoking the fire and getting it hotter and hotter and hotter.  And then feeding it more fuel to keep the flames burning.  The worst part of a campfire is extinguishing it.  If we didn't need sleep, I would be perfectly content sitting by a fire enjoying it for a week or longer.  Sitting there, staring into the flames. Searching for understanding in front of the mesmerizing dance of the fire. But when we extinguish it, we lose the heat, the light, the relaxation that comes from a campfire.

In today's Christianity, it is common to use fire as a metaphor for being spiritually alive.  As if our faith is a raging fire consuming us and igniting those around us.  I have experienced this. And I believe it is a great metaphor.  It may be over played, but my love of fires fuels my love of this comparison.

But the thing with fires is that eventually, no matter how hot and how fierce they are, eventually they do go out if they are not fed.  This is where I'm at today.  I feel as if my faith is a small flicker of a flame and I am searching desperately for some fuel to reignite it.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not turning away or recanting my faith.  Not even close.  But my flames, which once blazed bright as day, are now but a flicker. I feel that life has overwhelmed me and have smothered my fire.  I feel that my life circumstances which require me to work as much as i have to takes me from the fuel.  Takes me from things like working with charities, studying and deepening my knowledge and faith, but most importantly taking valuable and needed time away from relationships that need nothing but time together, with family, with friends, with God.

So how do we reconcile this? How do we keep life from taking the bucket of water and extinguishing our flame? How do we keep our busyness from smothering our hearts? How do we keep life from stripping from us that which we hold most dear?

Maybe it's just as simple as remembering that there is a time for everything. A time of happiness, a time of sorrow.  A time of being empty, a time if being full. A time of raging fires, and a time for flickering candles.

Keep and hold dear that God will never forsake us.  He will never leave us. If we give him the authority in our lives, he will guide us. This is the hope that we have to hold onto in order to reignite our faith.

May God's love burn bright as the sun within all of us.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Minnesota Defense of Marriage Act: A Christian Perspective

I have made it no secret how I'm going to vote on this come November.  Only recently was I finally asked by someone at church why I stand where I stand.  Here's the message I got, "I noticed you're voting against the Marriage Protection amendment, may I ask why?"

This is my response.  It is not an exhaustive study in the matter, it's what I've been wrestling over the past few months.   I've edited it slightly to be more blog friendly.

"Please, don't read this as if I'm angry, I'm not. This is a peaceful discussion on something that I've taken a lot of time to think about.

I am against the Minnesota Defense of Marriage Act for many reasons, political, moral and spiritual.

First political. The institution of marriage as recognized by the state and nation is mostly for tax and benefit reasons. Could you imagine not being able to visit your husband or wife in the emergency room because the government says you can't marry? I see no reason for the government to step between same-sex couples that desire marriage. I believe that it would be overstepping governmental limits.

Second, morally. I am morally opposed to the amendment because it is a blatant attempt to legalize discrimination within our society. I am opposed to discrimination in all ways.  If this is passes, it legalizes second-class citizenship much like pre-civil rights America. 

Third, and most importantly, I am against this spiritually. I would find myself a hypocrite if I voted for this. The scriptures used against same-sex marriage are stretched scripture at the most. If I were to vote for this based on the Old Testament scriptures, I would then have to be against wearing clothing of mixed fibers, or against eating pork chops (two things that are also forbidden in OT Law). Not to mention I would have lots of animal sacrifices to catch up on, and where would I sacrifice them? The Temple's been gone for years and you can't sacrifice animals without it. Take into account where Paul talks about dying to the Law (Gal. 2:19-20), and the OT Law argument falls apart pretty quickly.

So we look to the NT for arguments against Same-sex marriage. Still coming up short for support. The verses commonly referred to as banning homosexuality as despicable, when taken in context, are talking about people that do detestable things, "being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." (Romans 1:29-30) I know people that are homosexual, and I've never known them to exude these qualities. Which proves to me that Paul wasn't talking about homosexuals, rather he was talking about evil people that hold unnatural relations.

And what are these unnatural relations? When looking at the original text and context, more times than not, it's talking about child molestation and rape, not a mutual lifelong relationships. Marriage in the time of Jesus was largely for property possession and other material reasons.  Marriage how we know it today was very new and almost unheard of.  Loving your wife?  Crazy.  So if marriage as we know it wasn't standard, why do we think that the Bible standardizes it in today's society?  And if marriage as we know it wasn't really addressed in the Bible, why would we expect same-sex marriage to be addressed?  Is it?  Or are we taking verses out of context to rationalize condemnation of something that we don't fully understand?

But put all of these semantics aside and get to the core of the Gospel, we are to love God and love others. And God is love. These verses overpower any argument for me. If God is love, and we are not God, how are we to fully understand love? God? Or are we able to? We can only know God as much as he reveals himself to us. I have found a greater understanding of what love is within my marriage and fatherhood. I experience God's love through my family. Who are we to say that God can't reveal his love through same sex couples? Wouldn't that be limiting God's power? Wouldn't that be limiting God's love, which is supposed to be limitless?  Who are we to say that same sex couples can't love a child like I love my kids?  Who are we to say that homosexuals can't know love?

But moreover, if the heterosexual church views homosexuality as a sin (not saying it is or isn't), they NEED it to be forgivable. God HAS to be able to work and minister through all people. Because even though not all people are homosexuals, every one of us has fallen into the shortcomings that Paul lists. And if homosexuals are condemned, then we are all condemned. 

So, after all of this consideration, this is why I'm voting no on the Minnesota Defense of Marriage Act.  Any way I cut it, I can't justify it.

Like I said, this is how I see it. I could be right or wrong, but lucky for us, God's grace allows us to be wrong.

Blessings to you."


Monday, October 8, 2012

An Interesting Thought at 7am.

Monday mornings I have to be at work a half hour early.  Which means that I'm in the parking lot waiting for my boss to open the door right at or before 7am.  My normal morning routine is to listen to NPR on the way to work (about 10 minutes, tops) to catch up on news and weather.  Being that there is no news except political news right now, I have been turning the station over to my other mainstay, Life 96.5 out of Sioux Falls.  Yes, it is a bit lovey-dovey.  Yes, I do blaze the worship songs loud and sing my heart out like a 13 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  I don't usually gain a whole lot of spiritual insight from the partial talks I hear on my way to work, but I'm not really looking for that anyways.

This past week is was Hotdish Week.  Hotdish week is the week where they have their Fall Fund Drive or something like it.  "Hotdish Week" is a term my father-in-law termed saying, "It's the week where they dig to the back of the fridge and throw it all together and put it on the air."  Hence, Hotdish Week.

So they wrapped this fund drive up last week, and still have a little giving on the tail end going on, which mean that the morning show hosts take a little more time to talk about how great the station is.

Well, this morning they were talking about getting bogged down in the faith.  They were going on about how, from time to time, they get in the place in their study and prayer lives that they feel bogged down and just feel that they can't connect with God.  And this happens, this I know happens, I was stuck in this place for the better part of two years.  I felt like I couldn't connect with God.  I felt that through study and prayer that I was just reading and talking to myself.  I felt that singing the songs and trying to grow in my faith through reading books by my favorite authors should catapult me back into growth.  Only to be stymied and still in need of something.

I would have loved to take a long weekend and just get away, but with a new job that required 50+ hours of work each week, not to mention a 2 year old at home, it was just not in the cards.

So what was it?  Where was God in all my searching?  Where was God in my scripture studies?  I read about him, but I didn't have a holy 2x4 type moment.  Where was God in my prayers?  I was desperately seeking and begging, crying out for God to retake my heart and heal it.  Where was God in my worship?  I would sing my voice hoarse, only to feel nothing.  Where.  Was.  God?

I was at a point where I had a fowl taste of faith.  I was jaded, skeptical about all things faith oriented.  God had apparently abandoned me after I was cut through the heart.  Was this the great healing that God brings?  Abandonment?

I all of a sudden knew first hand why so many people get cut deep and leave their faith all together.  I was two steps from packing up that part of my life and putting it in the "Wasn't that fun back when" box.

The only thing that kept me from taping that box shut was way back when I first was fired.  At one of the lowest times after being fired, I was a wreck.  I was sitting in my bed one night, crying out to God, "I am hurting!  I am broken!  Everything we've done has been undone!  I am nothing..."
I lay there, still.  Quiet.  Residing in my moment of brokenness.  Then, when the tears faded, when my mind and heart were more settled.  A small voice, barely a whisper.  It wasn't audible, but it may as well have been because it was clear as day, "I will restore you."  That was it.  It wasn't repeated.  It wasn't explained.  I was short, concise and direct.

Over the next couple of years of trying to find the path to restoration, I came up empty.  I would have given up if it weren't for that moment.  But isn't that the point?  Every attempt we make to try and restore ourselves will come up empty.  Even if it is reading the Bible or worshipping or even praying.  The thing is, God has agenda-less love for us.  If we have an agenda, whether it's seeking restoration or not, I think we short-change ourselves.  When we bring an agenda to God, we are trying to play the slot machine and win big.  We are trying to use God instead of communing with him.

So what happened?

Pastor John called me one night after work.  He asked me, "Kyle, we've received a request to have a high school guys group.  Is that something you'd be interested in?"

Now keep in mind, I've searched for God in all the ways I know how and have come up short.  So why would I want to enter into a leadership position when I am still feeling hurt and broken?  How can he ask this of me when I have been seeking restoration and he has let me fall flat?  Why would I even think to agree to this?

Because, I. will. restore. you.

I said to John, "Yeah, sure..."

Now picture this.  Here I am, feeling like the worst person in the world to lead a youth group.  Extremely unprepared.  Spiritually a mess.  What happens?

The first night with the couple guys that come we talk about stuff that I was only beginning to touch on in two years at the previous church.  The next week, we talk about stuff far deeper than I ever even hoped to get.  It was amazing!

But what did I find?  I found God again.  He was waiting there for me, for two years!  God knew that when we fall, we need to get back up.  And he was there for me.  I started feeling God's loving healing wash over me.  Worship on Sunday mornings became more meaningful.  Song would bring me to tears on the way to work in the morning.

It's been four months now and my heart is very much on the mend.  Cynicism has been on the outs.  I'm not jaded towards faith anymore.  I can stand to sit down and read a personal growth type book again.  The words in the Bible have come alive again.  My faith has been restored, and my growth is on the move again.

So what did I learn?  What happens when we're bogged down and just can't get going?  Go out and serve someone.  In whatever capacity you can.  Whether it's volunteering at a soup kitchen or getting involved in a youth group or even leading worship.  Get involved.  Get going.  We can't sit around and think that by continuing to reside in our brokenness and pain we're going to magically get healed.  It doesn't happen.  It takes work.  A lot of the healing comes through action.   But brokenness festers with inaction.

Even if we think that there's no way were able to do any good, get going.  In my experience, God supplements our shortcomings when we commit to agenda-less faith and action for his glory.  Nothing requires more faith than committing to something we know we're not ready for.  But our leaning on Christ in our insufficiency leads to a deeper relationship, a deeper faith, and the best type of healing.

Be blessed, and get out there.

My $.02


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Lot Has Happened

Well, here I am again writing another post saying, "Man, it's been a while since I posted." and "This time for sure I'm going to post more..." etc., etc.  But for the first time in a long while, I've actually been inspired to hop back on here and write.  So without further ado, let's catch up with the Galle's over the last year or so.

Labor Day 2011 Corrine and I moved into Worthington.  We basically traded gas money driving to work for rent.  It has been one of the best decisions we've made.  Not only are we closer to work/church/daycare, because of living in town it's like we've gained an hour of time each day that was previously taken up in our daily commute.

October 17, 2011.  Corrine, Melody and I welcome little Charles Dwayne into our family.  He's a hoot.  Big head, blue eyes, and out of sheer will, he's been walking for a month already.
This is Melody and Charlie in June.

March 2012.  I trade my drumset for a non-running motorcycle.  Waiting on two parts before she runs like a champ, can't wait!

June 2012.  Back in the youth ministry game.  Still working at Ag Parts, but Pastor John asked me to lead a High School guys' youth group.  I felt it was God telling me it was time to get off my duff and get back into it.  Up to this point I had felt that something was missing in my life.  Since getting back in, it's been wonderful.  It's a fairly small group, but it has been fantastic getting to know these guys.

July 2012.  Pastor John and his wife Grace decide to move down to Hot-lanta to be closer to their family.  They made it safely and are enjoying their time down there.  I miss his wisdom and guidance.

August 2012.  It's announced that Pastor Brad is going to be taking over John's role in leading Journey. Brad is a Fuller Sem. graduate that had been a pastor in a neighboring town.  He got burnt out over there and has been the county's family counselor for the past year.  They started coming to Journey about a year and a half ago.  Brad's one cool guy.  I'm really looking forward to what's in store for our community with Brad at the helm.

And that brings us to today.

Brad had asked to get together sometime and learn more about each other.  I thought it was a good idea since I knew who he was, but I didn't know anything about him except what he said in his little meet and greet at church.

We met tonight in a little, semi-trendy cafe in a town halfway between where we both live.  It was about a 30 mile dive for me, but that's alright, I like driving.  Drive time for me is a time to reflect on the day and process through the stress.

Brad was already there when I arrived.  What I thought was going to be a nice little "get to know you" type evening turned into a "Kyle-sees-a-therapist" type evening.  Ok, maybe it wasn't that bad.  But he did ask about when I worked at First Methodist.  And from then on it turned into a dish-session.  It wasn't so much a time for me to put everything out there.  But it was a time to talk through a couple of the things that have been lingering over the past two years.  I kind of amazed myself in how much I still had to say about getting fired.  To be perfectly honest it was a terrible thing to go through.  But in all reality, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me.

If I wouldn't have gotten fired, I would still be there, and I would be miserable.  I would be a burnt out pile of garbage youth pastor that would probably be in the process of getting fired.  But the bigger thing is that I wouldn't have been able to be part of the Journey community if I wouldn't have gotten fired.

Journey has been a place of healing and a place of spiritual sanctuary for me.  Without getting fired I would have never had to rely on God as much as I have in these past two years.  Before I got fired, I was floating along just trying to keep my head above water.  But then I started sinking and I needed someone to help me back to the top.

I know God doesn't heap coals onto us just to make us draw closer to him.  That's a selfish god.  But I do believe that sometimes you find yourself in hell and the only way out is to look to God.  I believe that's where I'm at right now.  I believe that I have a long ways to go, but little by little, as we rely more and more on God, we find ourselves further and further from hell.

Just remember what the Psalmist wrote, "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."  May we hold the hope of morning close to our hearts.  And if we wake and find ourselves in the middle of the night, hold fast to God, for he is the morning.