Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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Called Out Episode 004: Tiffany Bulgin

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This new episode on my podcast Called Out features Tiffany Bulgin, who founded Isaac’s Room with her husband Mark. People in my hometown of Salem, Oregon know of Isaac’s Room through the local coffeeshop Ike Box.

Tiffany and I talk about the backstory leading up to Ike Box starting, as well as talking about foster care and why people avoid it. Then we finish by discussing what it looks like to take in the long view with loving people who are used to being discarded and overlooked.

You can listen to the full episode below (click here to listen email readers):

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

You can read more about Ike Box and the work they’re doing with Isaac’s Room right here.

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Permission to be Honest With Yourself

When it comes to having a proper awareness of yourself our society pushes you in two separate and equally unhelpful directions:

1. You are a total disaster. You fail time and time again. You will never get better. You don’t deserve help from anyone. You are unworthy of God and his blessing.

2. You are awesome. You don’t make mistakes. You are the hero of the story. You are a gift to the world. God is blessed to have you on this earth.

In the first instance you are prone to depression, lack of purpose, and doubt.

In the second instance you are prone to narcissism, a self-agenda purpose, minimizing weakness.

For the past two years I have purposefully taken our church through a weekly practice that I call “permission to be honest with yourself.” Traditionally this would be called confession. We begin our weekly church gathering by praising God for his majesty and greatness, and in response to this how can we not help but realize our sinfulness and frailty?

This natural progression of corporately recognizing the greatness of God and the sinfulness of man, and subsequently, the covering of this sinfulness through the work of Christ, is a long-held movement for Christ-followers as they gather. Some churches have a spoken word prayer they recite every week, but I choose to call this confession moment “permission to be honest with yourself,” because it takes on a different feel every week.

Some weeks we recite a corporate prayer of confession, other weeks I describe my own personal weakness, struggle, and doubt. Some weeks we lament current events, other weeks we describe our longing for another place. Some weeks we wait in silence, other weeks we sing our failures with honesty.

This confession-like moment is always different, but undergirding this is a desire for the church to be a place where people are able to be brutally honest about their brokenness within a community of people who are willing to do the same, all in the presence of a God of mercy. I have a lot of goals when helping lead our weekly gathering as a church, but the highest is to give people the opportunity to be who they really are because this is where healing begins.

In our society brokenness is often commodified and used to build a personal brand in the name of authenticity. Or brokenness is flat out ignored in order to go through life like a grand masquerade. But never is brokenness spoken of as the beginning of entering into who we were created to be. Without it we think so highly of ourselves we would never need God. Without God we can never see a life for ourselves past our failure.

Ray Ortlund eloquently says that all people need to be aware of two realities of being human:

1. I’m a complete idiot. 

2. My future is incredibly bright.

Rather than minimizing or glorifying weakness, we declare our weakness to a God who has the power to turn weakness to strength, brokenness to blessing, and death to life. In this, lives are opened up to the healing touch of our Heavenly Father, and then the future is incredibly bright.

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Called Out Episode 003: Sharon Hodde Miller

called out episodes

I’m thrilled to share this episode with Sharon Hodde Miller, where we discuss her first book project, image management in the age of Instagram, and raising up women in the church.

Sharon has been one of my favorite connections in the past few years because she is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects with tenacity and care. Sharon lives in North Carolina with her husband and two boys, while also carrying the load of child number three, to be born soon!

You can listen to the full episode below (click here to listen email readers):

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

You can find Sharon’s book Free of Me here or anywhere books are sold.

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My #MeToo Story

As a preface, here’s some backstory on #metoo and why it has gone viral in the past few days.

I hesitate to share my #metoo story because so many women have been so brave, and I don’t want to come in and mansplain things here. However, the bravery of so many women has encouraged me to share my personal story connected to this.

Late in high school, a guy in his mid30s started helping as a leader at my church. He used a carefree attitude to suck in me & my friends. We can have fun at church? I’m game for that.

As a pastor’s kid at a large church, I was often approached by adults who wanted to be serious, because, for them, church was a big deal. To encounter someone who wanted to have fun was rare and something I grabbed onto. But this was a ploy. First, it was inviting us to his house. Then it was buying us stuff. Then it was encouraging us that having one drink w/ him was okay.

All these were little tactics to get us to trust him, get us a little closer. Then came the soft-porn movies, sexually explicit conversations.

His tactics were the very worst in my book—using assumed spiritual authority to bait young men into impossibly comprising situations.

It was not until he made his move on me that I realized what he was doing, that I wasn’t the only one. It was all calculated. I had no idea how to respond to this. Do I say something? Do I tell my friends? I had assumed he was trustworthy, godly, worth listening to, worth spending time with. In reality, he was a gay man preying on me.

While much has been made of the Catholic Church’s abuse scandal, evangelical churches are not immune to the same issue. Power often corrupts, even in the church. I am now a pastor prone toward cynicism about the church, because of one misguided man.

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Covenant > Compatibility

Often in marriage compatibility is seen as the goal for a couple. Find your match, learn to love them, then commit to them for a lifetime. It’s not that compatibility has no place in marriage, but prioritizing it over the commitment of marriage misses the mark.

Walter Brueggemann phrases the prioritizing of marriage by saying, “We do not fall in love and then get married. We get married and then learn what love requires.” I’ve shared those words with every couple I’ve had the privilege of marrying at their wedding ceremony.

Though these words from Brueggemann are rarely adopted, they are astounding nonetheless. They highlight the great value of covenants in our lives. Operating in covenant relationship with another is one of the most sanctifying works in life.

Consider how this relates to your interaction with a church. Most often we look for a place that feels comfortable, seeking compatibility. But if compatibility becomes the highest goal, we only massage our own personal bent, rather than allowing the friction of covenant to produce growth.

In his book Uncomfortable, Brett McCracken describes the work covenants do to us:

“Covenants are never easy and rarely comfortable. Every marriage testifies to this, as does the roller-coaster history of ‘prone to wander’ Israel. Yet covenants do something that is far more constructive than anything comfort can do. Covenants challenge us to bear with and sacrifice for the sake of others, for the glory of God” (pg. 183).

Covenants not only connect us tightly with others but also to Christ, who has stayed true to us despite the lack of compatibility. Covenants protect us from allowing our lives to be led by our ever-confused desires.

Yes, covenants present challenge and struggle, but they are the ground in which God cultivates sanctifying growth within our lives. Compatibility has its place, but covenants supersede their importance.

Covenant > Compatibility.

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Called Out Episode 002: Brett McCracken

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We are a society driven by individual curation. Just last week Spotify announced a new throwback playlist, created for every user based on their current favorite songs. Whether it’s a music playlist or your morning coffee or your daily news, everything is built around your preferences and interests.

2 years ago I had lunch with Brett McCracken and he shared with me about stepping into leadership at a church that he originally didn’t even like that much. It was foreign to all his previous church experiences, and ultimately that’s why he and his wife Kira decided to call that church home—because it pushed against their preferences.

Today’s episode features Brett and me talking about that church experience, as well as some of his writing as a film critic, and being a Christian in the age of Trump.

You can listen to the full episode below (click through to listen email readers):

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

You can pick up a copy of Brett McCracken’s new book Uncomfortable here.

Thanks for listening! If you enjoy what you hear please rate and review the podcast wherever you listen.

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