Wednesday, August 17, 2011

in your corner

"all the circumstances of life, how anything turns out, whatever work you do or don't do, whatever jobs you do or don't get or take, matter not at all compared to the person you become. no one can block that.
and I admire how you work and strive and persevere.

I am on your side and in your corner."

these words from my an email from dad have been sitting deep in my soul the last couple of days. i hope that they are helpful to some of you, too. because this is the truth: who we are matters far more than any circumstance of our lives. but we all need someone in our corner, someone to speak those words to us, when we cannot speak them to ourselves. let this sink into you today.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

File under: Oh, my.

These are two of my favorite days of the year, the Thursday and Friday of the Leadership Summit. And as much as I will always love Willow as the church where I grew up, this time is about so much more than Willow. It is about churches and Christians and leaders coming together to get a fire under their collective ass. It is about reminding all of us who love the church just what we can do when we recognize the reality that we are part of  --  the reality of the power of God in the world, the joy that unleashes in us, and how that intersects with our unique gifts and callings and talents.

So this year, the day before the Summit launched, I found out that Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, had decided not to show up to speak at the Summit. A group of people signed a petition calling for Schultz to break his contract with the Summit, or else the signers would boycott Starbucks. After what sounds like some thought and conversation on Schultz's part, he decided not to come to the Summit. (Some other blogs and websites have said that Schultz 'caved' or 'capitulated' to the pressure. And maybe he did -- but he made a business decision, and thinly-veiled insults aren't going to get this conversation anywhere.) Willow, in the meantime, has gotten Patrick Lencioni (a fantastic author and leadership consultant) to come in his place.

Bummer that Schultz can't make it, but this sounds like a good solution for everyone, right?

Apparently not.

Things have quickly gotten ugly on both sides. On one hand, there are Christians suggesting that Willow Creek should never have gotten mixed up in learning about church practices from the business world, and that this is some kind of just dessert (Never mind that this has never happened before and is unlikely to happen again). Christianity Today wrote a thoughtful, pretty neutral piece (read it here) and it took hardly any time at all for Christians to do what we are so good at doing -- spouting mean-spirited sentiments about the gay community in the comments section, and suggesting that Christians ought to boycott Starbucks now.

People who signed the petition on, however, have made their share of cruel comments as well, and seemingly without doing their research. Willow Creek is not an anti-gay church. I can understand how gay people might feel not fully accepted there, both given the record of Christianity in relationships with the LGBT community and the fact that most people at Willow would probably believe some form of the idea that the Biblical sexual ethic looks specific to a man and a woman in the confines of marriage. But, it is a place full of good people who want to listen and understand, and the unmitigated hatred and condescension from the commenters on only serve to push people farther away from true understanding. I don't think that's what much of the gay community wants.

But it's rarely the moderate, thoughtful commenters who get attention online. Or elsewhere. Which is why I really appreciate what Bill Hybels said today (watch it here) at the Summit. And why I really hope that we, as Christians gathered together in the name of a good and loving God, can take responsibility for our actions, our complicity in judging and mistreating and distancing.

Because the point is this: We don't get infinite chances to love each other. We get this chance, and this life, and for those of us who claim to represent God, this means everything. It means everything to the God who has given us this life, and it ought to mean everything to us. Let's make it count.