Advent:: Family Shame

December 12, 2017

I have played on a Portland City basketball team. 

I am a graduate of George Fox Evangelical Seminary.

I am the husband and father of the Kroon family. 

I'm a pastor of Cascade Church Portland. 

What do these distinctions all have in common? They are groups that I have chosen to be part of. 

Most all of the groups that we associate ourselves with are groups of our choosing. Where we work, where we worship, where we recreate are all reflections of choice. 

One of the most fundamental groups that we are associated with is always outside of our choice. We don't get a choice in the families we were born into. It's easily the most influential group we will ever associate with and it is something that happens to us. 

A formational aspects of growing up that we will likely face in our journey into adulthood is feelings of shame or pride regarding our family.  What parts of our lives we are proud or ashamed of are often based off of messages we received from our family. We also think about our families through lenses of pride or shame based of our how we believe other people view our families. 

What's so interesting about families is that we can feel a sense of pride or shame about things we haven't personally done in a group of people that we never chose to be part of. So how does Jesus invite us to negotiate this completely unique situation? Do we accept only the good things about our family and reject the bad? Do we need to accept it all? What does Jesus mean when he asks, "Who is my mothers and who are my brothers?" in Matthew 12? 


Advent:: Personal Shame

December 5, 2017

Let's get crazy with the concept of reality!

How do you know that the things that have happened to you actually happened?
We rarely need to defend events in our lives that are common. I won't need to plead with you to believe me that I saw a car drive past me on the street. 

"No, I saw it with my own two eyes!! It was a car that was moving at 35-40 miles per hour!"
"I heard the engine as it drove past! You have to believe me."

Most people are going to move past that experience without many questions or doubts. But when you share something that happened to you that isn's as common you will immediately be met with a flood of questions. 

"What do you mean you SAW a UFO?"
"Your coffee was 1,000 degrees? How did the cup survive that heat?"
"So, when did this raccoon dunk a NBA regulation basketball on a 10 foot hoop?"

Now, a healthy skepticism is good when we encounter new information, but have you ever been on the receiving end of lots of skepticism about one of your experiences? It can put our reality into question and we start to doubt if we can trust ourselves. Very often this leads to a whole flood of shame. 

If I can't trust my own lived experience, then I can't trust myself. I must be wrong. I need other people to tell me what is real and what false. This kind of doubt feeds shame. 

Now imagine you are a young woman in a deeply religious town who has an unexplained pregnancy. Who is celebrating your baby bump? Who's believing your angelic visit or story? Do you even bother sharing it with people who will likely scoff and doubt you? Are you the one person who will usher in the God of the universe into the world or the town harlot who suffers from delusions of grandeur? 

These are the questions we'll be looking at this week when we continue seeing our shame in the lives of Mary and Joseph and their improbable reality this Christmas season.


Advent:: Starting with Shame

November 28, 2017

What do you think about when you hear the word "shame"? 

I bet some of you can immediately identify areas of your life where you feel shame. I bet you can quickly go to times in your life where you've been ashamed. 

Others of you aren't so sure. Shame can feel like a big, ambiguous word and you are fairly sure that it isn't something you deal with. 

Here's a test to see if shame might be showing up in your life. 

How do you respond when you are faced with something that you failed to do or did incorrectly? 

If you start by explaining circumstances that created the environment for your failure, if you avoid the situation all together or if you try and deflect to another topic you are probably dealing with shame. 

Shame is the belief that you are wrong. When your actions become so connected to who you are, you'll defend, deflect or blame to protect yourself when you screw up. 

When you instead experience guilt, you can separate the thing you did from who you are and are much more likely to take responsibility and make amends. Guilt is knowing that you did something wrong. 

Many times we have tried to confront a loved one with something they did wrong and they respond as if we called them wrong. This is the destructive power of shame in our midst and it derails us from living the lives God created us for and it sabotages many of our relationships. 



November 21, 2017

"I'm so excited to purchase my first home!"
 ---- "Did you check for asbestos?"

"We're engaged!"
---- "Blood diamond?"

"Who wants a cupcake?"
---- "Who wants obesity?"

We all know and have heard similar voices in our life. Sometimes they come from other people and sometime they come from inside of our own head. These voices exist to rob our joy and force a fear-based view on our world. The saddest thing is that many of us feel like these voices are right. 

We shouldn't trust that good things in our life are truly good, because there's probably another shoe that will drop and expose that joy as a mirage. The only thing that we can trust is hardship and misery. 

Have you ever considered the safety that the worst case scenario provides? When you live in a place of doubting really good things, then you feel the security of the floor beneath your feet. You can't be surprised by disappointment, because that's what you've been preparing for. 

For people exploring faith, this is a message about the taunting voices in our head in our lives. How has God created us to live and navigate the world we're in!



November 14, 2017

Harriet Congdon's message on delusions, crisis and the peace that passes all understanding. 



November 7, 2017

I have had two dogs for over 13 years. 

Frank and Beanie are geriatric wiener dogs. My wife and I have seen them move through various phases over the last decade. They've been energetic puppies, the king and queen of our house and grey-muzzled-all-day-sleepers. The one thing our dogs have always been is entirely in the moment and seemingly not consumed with self-doubt. 

I'm obviously projecting on my dogs quite a bit, but let me present a situation I've never seen before that brings me to this conclusion. 

I've never walked into the living room in the morning to find Frank with his stubby little legs kicked up on our ottoman looking pensively out our window thinking;
"Who am I to bark at the neighbor dog?"
"When I develop an authoritative enough bark, I plan on using it."
"I wonder if my owners would love me more if I ate less of my own feces?"

There's such a freedom in watching a creature be so uninhibited. While my dogs have many faults, I appreciate that it's all right on the surface. My dogs are many things, but they're never false. 

This past week we talked about sitting with our inadequacies and not being afraid of them. This isn't so that we become more comfortable with wallowing in shame, but so that we can become free of it. The kind of freedom that I experience my dog having. 

This week we're going to continue that theme through the book of Isaiah in seeing how God was calling the Israelite nation to see themselves differently and experience a freedom they were created for. It's a lesson that we can learn from our pets. It's a lesson God is inviting us into so that we can live into who we were created to be. 



October 30, 2017

Here's our discussion of repentance, prophets, rebuke and how we respond. 



October 24, 2017

A number of years ago I heard this great story about a guy who felt invincible in his job. 

He wasn't known for putting forth maximum effort. Often times he would take long breaks during the middle of the day or use the ATV he operated for work to do some off-roading.  He had a catch phrase he would offer up when he was doing something that he knew was against protocol. 

"What are they going to do, fire me?"

He felt that because of his knowledge of the system and how long his parents had been associated with the organization that he was untouchable. He was a master of doing just enough to not be the biggest issues his employers dealt with, but was always a close second. This continued for several months and you're probably going to be shocked to hear what happened next. 

He was fired. 

For many of the people that worked with him it was justice when he finally lost his job. They were holding to their bosses expectations for a long time and worked alongside someone who didn't. All throughout that time they received the same paycheck, but they had to do their own jobs as well as pick up the slack from his marginal work ethic. 

Balance has a way of finding us all. Injustices can exist for excruciatingly long periods of time. Lifetimes can come and go with no relief to the clear violations that we see and experience, but no form of injustice can last forever. So, the question becomes: Are active participants in the return of justice or are bystanders to the whole process?

This exists on a corporate, community and national level, but also in deeply personal and intimate ways. 

Are there injustices going on inside of you? Is there an imbalance in your work/ play, mental activity/ physical activity or your output/input of energy? 

I ask because balance is coming and we either get to participate in the return of justice or we become of victim of its undoing. It's powerful to start this conversation personally and internally and then start seeing the larger societal ways this is playing out. 

God created us with justice in mind. We weren't made for injustices and it will never be able to stand forever. How can we join God in the mission of justice on a personal and on a corporate level? How are we experiencing greater levels of freedom when we acknowledge and address the imbalances of justice around us? 



October 16, 2017

A number of years ago I went and participated in a Jazzercise class. 

Are you unfamiliar with this blend of jazz and exercise? It's dance exercise where a person from the front shouts our encouragement while modeling and describing the moves you need to perform as well. 

Making exercise more enticing for me by pairing it with dance is like trying to make dental work more appealing by pairing it with doing your taxes. No and thank you. 

I remember walking into the space with the expectation of humiliation. It wasn't a matter of wondering if I would be embarrassed by much more when

Instead what I experienced was incredible grace and a lot of fun. I was welcomed and encouraged not to worry about keeping up or getting it all right. The woman leading the class called out my name a number of times with affirmations that I was doing great. By the end of the class I felt included and safe in that space. 

Now, this is a bit of a spoiler, but there isn't even a single bit of jazzercise in the book of Isaiah. But what it does include is the description of being in a space where you're certain you don't belong. It's something that many of us have experienced and some of us experience with alarming frequency. 

What's so amazing about the story that we look at in this message is that this space is the presence of God and the word delivered is that you do actually belong. 



October 9, 2017

The other day I overheard some men working on a house talking. I didn't hear much of it, but there was one line I heard very clearly. 

"Surrounded by beautiful women all day. Now THAT would be the life."

THE life. It would be THE LIFE. The pinnacle of all existences would be to have a subjective measure of beauty assigned to a gender and then you get to have these individuals in your general presence for 12ish hours a day (he didn't say all night). 

While I heard some authority in his voice when he spoke, I'm not sold. 

Now, to take this man's sexist and objectifying words literally would be a mistake, right? He was just making an off-hand remark. It was a joke. Nothing to be taken too seriously.

But isn't this how the worst lies we've created as a culture stay in circulation? We make comments here and there about what a great life would be and we don't examine them or dispute them because they aren't meant to be taken seriously. 

"There's nothing I wouldn't do for 1 million dollars."
"When I win the lottery I'm just going to sit back and let everyone else work for me."
"Have you seen her? She's way out of his league."
"I need a caramel frappucinno."

None of this would really be a problem if we didn't structure our lives and time around the pursuit of these lies. Our schedules and mental energy can be built around being in relationship with the right kind of people, making the right amounts of money and holding the right kinds of positions. We go to sleep under the blanket of these expectations that are kept alive by jokes and little comments. 

So, what happens when these expectations build up from individuals to whole societies? What happens when we build a world of lies about what we exist for and what the best life looks like? Things can get really dark in violent and overwhelming ways and we can see a bunch of beautiful and culturally successful people gripped by anxiety and depression. 

The book of Isaiah isn't calling out people for having too much fun and not being religious enough. It's about addressing the lies that have so gripped people that they chase the parts of life that have proven time and time again to create bondage and suffering. God's created us for something so much greater than we claim in our jokes and off-handed remarks. How do we hear that call again, repent and seek after what God created us for?