Sunday, February 9, 2014

ALONE


~In December of 2013 my wife, Josephine, went off of her medication and suffered from an apparent psychotic break.
After sending out horrible emails about me and other hurtful things -- 
She Left.
I have no idea where she is or even if she is still alive.
The pain I have suffered has been horrendous.
I am writing this because I want to get out what is bottled up inside of me.
The song below is one of the most beautiful songs I have heard.
It also communicates where my heart is right now.~



As a person who was abandoned by my mother at six weeks of age, abandonment is a very fearful thing for me. As I sit in this house alone I constantly see things that remind me of Josephine. After almost twenty years of sharing, defending and loving a person -- the silence is deafening. My children are now adults and I am just an old man who is left with memories. I guess I am sharing this because I want you to know that I am a broken person, as are you. Just because I am a person who is seen as a person with answers, doesn't mean I do not experience the pain that others do.

What I will say is I have heard a phrase over and over from people,

"God will not allow you to face more than you can handle."

I thought I would take a minute and explain where that quote has its origins and why it is not true. This is a misquotation of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which actually says:

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability,
but with the temptation he will also provide
the way to escape, 
that you may be able to endure it." (ESV)

Now, not to be cruel to people who are trying to help and are at a loss for words, this passage is talking about temptation not when your whole world collapses around you. It also makes the person who is suffering want to say, 
"I am at my wits end and I really cannot endure this. Why is God punishing me?"

I believe another passage is helpful, at least it is to me. Jesus knew we would be faced with troubles. The Christians of the first century faced persecution so intense that it would often cost them their lives. He knew that in this world we would face troubles. Often times, they are more than we can bear. So, during this time in my life, I have found my faith increased and my prayer life energized. I know this is more than I can handle! I throw myself on the faith and mercy of Jesus. His words are here to be a source of comfort.

"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden,
and I will  give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you,
and learn from me,
for I am gentile and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light"
(Matthew 11:28-30 - ESV)

I am not trying to give you a pie-in-the-sky  response to suffering. I am saying, that for me, the only place I have left to turn is my faith in Jesus Christ.

I have no idea where this path will lead, but I do know who is with me.

Thank you for your time.
Grace
~Al

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO CHOCOLAT

~ I watched a very cute movie, Chocolat, and I thought I would share its message today. It is a short video clip but worth it.~

At the end of the movie, a young priest stands up to give his Easter Sunday homily. Throughout the movie many changes have happened and he addresses what he has learned since the beginning of Lent.


In the movie Chocolat a small village has lived for hundreds of years in peace. Villagers went about their daily activities in quietness with much of their lives revolving around the local Catholic Parish. The leader of the  village is utterly appalled that a newcomer, a woman, would open a Chocolate Shop at the very beginning of Lent.

This movie might strike a chord with anyone who has experienced "church-life." Unfortunately, many people embrace a form of Christianity that is merely a list of do's and don'ts. They pride themselves on how much they have avoided sin in their lives. 

There is a story told by Jesus that sheds some light on this very issue:
The Story of the Tax Man
and the Pharisee
LUKE 18:9-14 (The Message - a translation by Eugene Peterson)

"He told his next story to some who were
complacently pleased with themselves over their
moral performance and 
looked down their noses at the common people:
'Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man.
The Pharisee posed and prayed like this:

Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people

-- robbers, crooks, adulterers, or heaven forbid, like
this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.
Meanwhile, the tax man, slumped in the shadows,
his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said
God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'
Jesus commented
'This tax man, NOT the other,
went home right with God.
If you walk around with your nose in the air,
you're going to end up flat on your face,
but if you're content to simply be yourself,
you will become MORE than yourself.'"

Things haven't changed much in the last 2,000 years. This pious attitude, in my experience, has two fruits. First, people who mess up are known by their misstep or assumed misstep. 
"Oh, yes, she was Divorced."
"I think he might be gay."
"He had an affair."
"She drinks too much."
"Their kid is on drugs."
"I heard they are having 'trouble at home'."

These people become known by the labels we ascribe to them. Individuals are not viewed as a children of God, nor as an instrument through which God can work. Instead they are judged on their PAST, not their POTENTIAL.

The second fruit of this attitude is far more damning. Admission or the confession of a struggle, weakness or sin becomes fodder for church gossip or what some people justify as "sanctified gossip." Sanctified or not, it is gossip, it is sin, and DESTROYs and pollutes the Church of God.  Not wanting to become the latest topic of gossip, we need to HIDE our missteps, thus becoming a part of the sterile veneer that fills our churches. The church has become a hotel for hypocrites rather than a hospital for the hurting. Confession is rare. Asking for help is avoided. Yet sin is still occurring:
  • How many Christians are addicted to pornography?
  • How many inappropriate relationships do Christians have on Facebook?
  • How many women are a punching bag for an abusive husband?
  • How many of our young people are involved in sexual immorality?
  • How many Christians are racists?
  • How many are abusing prescription drugs? 
Yet on Sunday morning, we camoflage our own struggles, pain and sin with that nice "Christian Veneer." The shallowness of this kind of Christianity is causing our kids to leave the church in droves.

They see the hypocrisy, and quite frankly, want no part of it.

I think here again we should look to Jesus. As Paul puts it in Philippians 2:1-8, we will again use The Message:

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ,
if his love has made any difference in your life,
if being in a community of the Spirit 
means anything to you,
if you have heart, 
if you care 
-- then do me a favor:
Agree with each other,
love each other,
be deep spirited friends.
Don't push your way to the front;
don't sweet-talk your way to the top.
Put yourself aside,
help OTHERS get ahead.
Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget about yourselves long enough
to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought
of himself.
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much
of himself that he had to cling to those advantages
no matter what. NOT AT ALL.
When the time came, he set aside the privileges 
of deity and took on the status of a slave,
became human!
Having become human, he stayed human.
It was an incredibly humbling process.
He didn't claim special privileges.
Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died
a selfless, obedient death
-- and the worst kind of death at that - a crucifixion.


Isn't it ironic that the self-righteous went about with their chests stuck out and their noses in the air, yet the one who had every right to do that, Jesus, became a servant.

Please, God. Forgive our stupidity, bigotry and self-reliance. Help us to see ourselves as you see us. More importantly, please help us to see others as you see them. Give us the courage to confess our struggles and sins to one another. God, please stop the rampant gossip, judgment and maligning that has polluted your church. God we ask that your Spirit will create in us new hearts that see the brokenness in this world and cause us to weep and pray for this fallen world. We ask, Father, to be your instruments to help heal the brokenhearted. In the name of your Son Jesus - Amen


Peace
~Al

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Remind Me

~Please Allow the Words of This Song to Encourage You~


Labels are difficult to avoid. Most of us when asked to tell someone who we are respond with our vocation. I am a plumber, homemaker, minister, police officer or whatever. We do that to keep from telling people who we feel we are. I am a failure, a loser, an addict, divorced, lonely, depressed, incapable or some other label we have chosen to describe our inner hurts. Often those labels have come from a parent or other authority figure and we believed them and they stuck. 

I was recently listening to a message by Joel Osteen where he spoke of "wormy" thinking. The concept grabbed me and it made sense. Over our lives we have been told who and what we are. During that same time those labels built a cocoon around us and trapped us inside. We struggle inside that cocoon and we reinforce  the walls with wormy thinking. We have accepted that we are a worm and the idea of breaking free is just a distant and unattainable dream. Just as that beautiful butterfly was never meant to stay in its cocoon - neither are you!

Sometimes we forget that we are beloved by God; the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We were created in His image. From passages like John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world that he he gave his only
begotten son That whosoever believe on him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

To Jeremiah 1:5

"Before I formed you in the womb
I knew you,
and before you were born 
I consecrated you..."

There are times when the struggles and stresses of our life are so overwhelming we long to crawl back into our cocoon and wallow in self-pity. We forget the grace of God. I would like to remind you today that you are loved and that God does not look at where you have been -- He sees what you can become. I hope in some small way God can use these words to remind you that you are valuable and loved.

Peace
~Al


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TOO OLD

~Give a listen to John McCain's Answer~

I guess I should have seen this coming.

When I was in my teens and into my young adult years, there was a slogan. In our infinite wisdom, we decided that anyone over the age of 30 was basically socially retarded. They didn't understand life, the war in Viet Nam, Jesus People or good music. We had all of the answers and they were basically Hippieville. 

Now I fast forward forty years. I am now 30 x 2 and I am watching another generation walking away from the previous generation. The vast majority of people in my age bracket have no idea what has happened. They have seen our churches growing older and older and become smaller and smaller. A generation from roughly 16-29 have opted out of what we call the Church. My generation is ignoring this and clinging to what worked in the 1950's & 1960's. The Postmodern worldview is firmly established and it has said, "No", to our view of
Christianity. They see no absolutes in rules, structures or ethics. Things do not have to match up and in fact, inconsistency is embraced. A young person can have a bit of Buddha,  Krishna, Wicca, New Age, Astrology and Christianity and be perfectly content. We would go insane with all of the conflicting dogmas, they accept them all under the umbrella of spirituality.

This brings me to the topic of Too Old. This week I was told by a second church in the past year that I am too old to be their minister. I have been wanting to go back into full time ministry for the past year. I know I am 60 years old, but I also know that I understand and can communicate with this lost generation. However, getting past a search committee that has decided a younger minister would be more relevant and would attract this generation back is extremely naive. The problem isn't age, it is the message and the way the message is communicated. (By the way, I am still looking for a grace oriented congregation).

The umbrella of spirituality I mentioned tells me there's a hunger for something beyond us. Having a slick speaker and a contemporary worship worked in the past, but that is no guarantee for the future. Being able to relate in a non-judgmental accepting manner is needed by the church to this generation.

I will say this; at least the churches were honest enough to tell me I was too old. Most companies usually look at your graduation dates and find some other reason. In many ways, my generation is the "Lost Generation". We are here but no one sees us. We have wisdom but it is irrelevant. I have a few years left in me and I want to use them to reach out to this new generation and help them with their spiritual search.

May God Richly Bless You!
~Peace
Al

~I highly recommend you listen to this video~

Friday, March 15, 2013

BROKEN PEOPLE

~ Please Listen to This Song. There Too Many People Who Only See This as an Option~

As many of you know, I have been preaching on a fairly regular basis (not as regularly as I would like) at the Tammany Oaks Church of Christ in Mandeville, LA. In a discussion with one of the elders, he commented that people who I have met that were not church people -- liked me. I asked him how he felt about that. His response, laughingly (He was kidding), was he was concerned about that. So I said, those were the people Jesus spent his time with. In fact, if you were to make two columns; on one side Jesus's interaction with "those people" and the second, the Religious establishment's response to Jesus' actions or comments. Which column best describes most of our churches? Aside from the legalism and self-righteousness of the Pharisees and Priests -- they couldn't speak the language of broken people. 

I was raised in an alcoholic home, that has its own baggage. One of my earliest memories was my Dad taking me out. He said it was a surprise, it was - a bar. I remember I was little and he was going to let me play pool. That translated into him putting a coin in the pool table and putting the balls on top. He then lifted my up and I spent a long time rolling the balls around and he would resupply the table with coins. All the time I was playing he was getting shovel-faced at the bar. I remember growing up with my "Mom" passed out and me heating a TV Dinner and watching TV until the channels signed off, (Yes, they used to do that). I grew up on the streets around gang members, bikers, druggies, winos and just the general throw aways from our society.

So, when I became a Christian, a great deal of that baggage came with me. I tried my best to fit in. I would overhear the other young people, in the youth group, talking about going out for pizza, I would not get the invitation. So, I would just show up and act surprised. I had to FIGHT my way into our youth group. I knew I wasn't like them and they knew it too. I had been a violent teen and we didn't speak the same language. They had what I called, "Leave it to Beaver Homes". ( I had no idea of the dysfunction and family "secrets" that even plague those homes). I had no idea what it was like to come from a normal home. As a Christian, I failed over and over in ministry and with my family. It wasn't until I met a man named Lynn Anderson who taught me about the grace of God. Even through my failures, he was still there. He said I reminded him of King David. David messed up royally (really bad pun) but he "had a heart after God's own heart".

So now back to my affinity for the brokenness  Matthew writes these words about Jesus:

"When he saw the crowds, 
he had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd."
(Matthew 9:36 - ESV)

I guess I understand why non-believers view Christians as having nothing to offer them. When I am talking to a person who does not share my faith -- I listen. I listen to their story and I listen to their happiness and pain. I have NO judgment in my heart toward them. For many, having a group of people who will love and accept them is all they want. That is why so many just hang out in bars. Remember the line in the theme song from the sitcom Cheers? 

"Making your way in the world today 
takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries,
sure would help a lot

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same.
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.


That is the lie of bars, they just continue to equip people's addictions and they fall further and further into darkness. One the other hand, if I can persuade them to come to a group, class, meal or assembly - I pray they will feel accepted. If they stick around they will have questions about Jesus. Then it is time to share his grace with them. Too many Christians want to start right in quoting Scripture, most broken people are not ready for that -- it is a foreign language to them. They really are looking for belonging. If we can just love these people and be there to listen and allow God to open their hearts, they will follow Jesus. I think, since I have had so many personal failures in my own life, and being a broken person, I am a little bit more patient with people coming to faith. This is the start to fixing our churches.

Please pray daily for those you may know who do not know the Lord.
Peace
~Al

Friday, February 15, 2013

QUICK UPDATE

~This is a quick update asking for your assistance ~

As I have moved into my sixth decade I have looked back over my life. I have seen times of wonderful grace-filled times and times in a wilderness where I could not find God. I want to thank you for following this blog, in just over a year and a half My blog is approaching 50,000 views on six continents. May God be praised for taking my feeble words to help those in need. I have much appreciated the comments, emails and phone calls that have allowed me to share in some of your struggles and successes. NO I AM NOT STOPPING THE BLOG.

I am now at a point in my life where I want to do what is on my heart and not just bring in a paycheck. I have begun writing a book and hope to have it published in the next year. In the meantime, I have become aware of two issues facing the church:
  1. We, as a people , do not know how to deal with brokenness. We are uncomfortable with it and around it. Along with that, there are broken people who do not know how to come home. (If you have read much of my previous blogs you are aware I know a great deal about this. You might look up the  blog "Fallen".)
  2. We have lost a generation, look around your congregation and gray hair is probably the predominant color. The Western World has moved into a worldview described as Post-Modernism that is a very hopeless and empty view of life. The generation currently 16-29 hold this view but I believe we can make the Good News as good news to this generation.
That being said, I would like to begin speaking for churches and groups on these two topics. It can be over a weekend and at your assemblies. If you are interested in having me come to speak, I can be reached at al_lachner@yahoo.com or on my cell at (775) 303-4708.

~Peace
Al

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

LOOKING TO JESUS

~ "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and 
perfecter of our faith." ~
Hebrews 12:2

I started writing this blog a little over a year ago. I have shared intimate stories that some were shocked to hear. I have been open about the failures and successes in my own life and the church in general. Today I have been reading from a book by Jim McGuiggan and was puled back to the foundations of my faith. A faith, I believe has been long forgotten and possibly even neglected by many of us. It is a simple response to a still quiet voice that calls to us in our suffering and calls us back to what is truly important.

Here is a quote from Jim's book, Jesus, Hero of Thy Soul:

"Only Jesus could give himself to all without pandering.
Only he could treat us as individuals while insisting that we belong to one another.
Only he could forgive us fully, freely, gladly -- but without 
dishonoring us or weakening our resolve for righteousness.
Having seen Jesus, knowing how he has lived his life here, we can't settle for less than a genuine pursuit of his likeness. His very presence among us forbids us to settle for just being "nice" people who do "nice" things. 
(The bland leading the bland and both falling into a "nice" rut.)

"I am sick of the literature that reduces the Christian life into quiet times, fixed grins, happy talk and saccharine songs.
I am tired of writers and speakers who indulge our whimpering and whining, who prescribe endless therapy for problems we wouldn't have if we weren't so outrageously self-centered, who encourage us to feather our own already fairly comfortable  nests while oohing and aahing over our inconveniences as if they were crucifixions.

"I am sick, too, of scholarly literature that pours scorn on the people of God, judging them as nothing but self-serving hypocrites who either worship themselves or a petrified faith that should have been discarded centuries ago.
These wise men for whom, I suspect, life has become sour and boring, rip away at the foundations of the Christian faith, leaving disciples unsure of who they are and what direction they should go. What has the appearance of bold scholarship has no upward call and no sure message. Rather, it's the bored and peevish ramblings of academics who have lost their way.

"Finally, I'm one of a great multitude who are sick of themselves! But not so sick that we don't know who we are and whose we are. Not so sick that we can't see the glory of the biblical Christ, can't feel the magnetism of his person and the wholesome rebuke of his life, can't recognize our hunger for something more glorious as the work of God in us.

"No, in spite of our human limitations, we see the Christ out in front of us, calling us onward and upward.
We are determined, with blood-red earnestness, to live heroically for God and the world he so loves that he gave his son." pp.4-5

In the 2,000 or so years since Jesus walked this earth, sharing a simple message, people have devoted their lives to making it more complicated, political or even palatable. His message was simple:

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

The only reason I can see that message getting distorted is - WE DON'T WANT TO. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament left this message in its barest essence -- live like Jesus did, treat people as Jesus did, help people as Jesus did, forgive people as Jesus did and love people as Jesus did. I am no scholar, but I can easily say that sums up the message of Christianity. It is not summed up by how doctrinally "pure" we are. How well we dress when attending Sunday services. Who has the best worship team or the fanciest building or who can claim the most piety. It is simply, do you look to Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith? And if so, do you treat people like he did? As for me, I pray that I can see this simple response to the gift of God in my life.

Peace,
~Al




Monday, December 3, 2012

COME TO ME


Sometimes all we need are the words of a song to bring us to a place where we stop and remember how much God loves us.

May God Richly Bless You
~Peace
Al

Monday, October 22, 2012

ONLY GRACE

My Apologies for Being so Sporadic in My postings

~This is a beautiful song that deserves a listen.~
 

Grace is a difficult concept for so many of us to figure out. That God would forgive us of all of our misdeeds as a gift goes against who we are as people. Over the years the church has found numerous ways for its people to pay for that gift. There has been penance, good deeds and even detailed lists that people are forced to adhere to. The main way these have been enforced has been guilt. Yet, these feeble attempts and the guilt behind them only nullify the grace of God. If a person has been freed from earning their salvation, the works exude from them. Listen to Paul in Ephesians 2:


"For it has been by grace you have been saved, through faith
-- and this not from yourselves -- it is a gift from God --
not by works, so that no one can boast. 
For we are God's workmanship (masterpiece,Gk),
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."

So there are works, they flow from us as gratitude for the gift from God.

Here is where the trouble comes into the equation. People mess up. I have taken messing up to an art form during my 60 years. Granted, much of that was before I became a Christian, yet a great deal has occurred since I became a Christian. I have failed my family, my church, myself and my God. I have walked away from God, with no intention of looking back and somehow He drew me home. 

This week I had a conversation with a young man who has made mistakes and is trying to find his way back in serving the Lord. He is discouraged because when he is attempting to do something public in the church -- he sees the eyes of judgment of those who knew him when he was struggling with his faith. It is as though they are waiting for him to mess up again -- spoiler alert! -- he will! Just as those people who are constantly pulling him back to his mistakes. Only God knows the heart of a person. Only God knows the true struggles and temptations a person is going through.

When a person fails, we should be there to help them up. Will they mess up again? -- probably, but so do all of us. One of the reasons the church exists is to be a representation of God's love, mercy and grace. People who go to church aren't perfect, not even close. We are all there as people who have failed God and other people in our lives. We are there to encourage each other to be better people. We lend a hand when someone falls and if they fall again -- we are still there holding out a hand of reconciliation.

More than anything else, we need our Father's Eyes.

Peace
~Al

Friday, August 31, 2012

GUARDIAN

~This week Alanis Morissette released her new album Havoc/Bright Lights this one song deeply moved me Please enjoy before YouTube pulls it~

As a kid who grew up in a tough neighborhood, I seemed to get in fights continually. I can honestly say that I have no idea how many fights I have won or lost. The one thing my Dad taught me was to NEVER show vulnerability. The reason being, if someone you are fighting knows you are hurt - they will zero in on your pain. That may or may not have been good advise to a teenager who was perpetually getting into conflicts -- but for a normal person it was and is horrible advice. As one who grew up in the 50's and 60's boys and men were to emulate John Wayne. You never showed weakness, vulnerability or pain -- above all you never cried.
     As a result, many of us grew up with detached and unemotional fathers. Anger was the only emotion they seemed willing to share.
     Unfortunately, this tendency to hide our pain has continued into the 21st Century. Oh, it is not as violent as my teenage years, but it is there all the same. When asked how we are doing? People say, "Fine", "Great" or Canadians, "Not too bad". We have learned through years of this conditioning to bury our pain and our struggles. We are surrounded by people who are completely overwhelmed on the inside, while all the time seem to have it all together.
     Christians get up on Sunday and put on their Sunday Go to Meeting Cloths. Never intending to share their struggles and honestly not wanting hear anyone else's. It is no wonder that our kids and young adults see this as hypocrisy. They hear the conversations about lack of money, jobs at risk, looming foreclosures and marital discord -- Yet everything is "Fine", "Great" and "Wonderful".
     Everyone need a safe place. A place where we can be who we are, warts and all. For many it is a close friend, sibling or spouse. For others it is a group of people who can be trusted. But more than anything it is a place where people actually care. My son and I were talking about how people love to watch others fail - I believe many NASCAR fans watch it for the wrecks. I told Nathan how Paul in Romans 12 said we are to "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." It appears Nathan has hit the nail on the head for much of our culture -- we rejoice when people weep and weep when people rejoice.
     All I am asking for in this short message is to ask you to find and surround yourself with people that care about you. More than that, I ask that you actually care about the people God puts on your path. Share the joys and sorrows of your life and those of those around you.
Peace
~Al