[Word count: 565. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
Welcome to January. ‘Tis the season for loose commitments to new resolutions, changes in federal and state laws, and Christian churches going on fasts. I’ve got no problem with the former, but this guy right here will have nothing to do with fasting.
When I was in music ministry, we would traditionally fast for 2-3 weeks at the start of every year. But we had options. We could maybe give up specific meals, or do the Daniel fast (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with limited seasonings and cooking processes), or the extreme option of drinking water only for a period of time. Some were lenient where others were extra diligent, but we all did something.
The following year, something different happened. After praying, the pastor felt the entire church needed to fast. As previous, the body at large was given options. Those in music ministry, however, were told that a Daniel fast was mandatory.
Mandatory? Objection, your honor. Continue reading
This post is not a collection of my usually organized thoughts, witticisms, and musings. It is an open cry for help. There is a language barrier with the Bible. There are so many phrases that are said in Christianity. They are familiar, so people usually nod agreeably, but I am stopping today to raise my hand to scream, “I do not understand. Please help me.”
All I ever wanted was for Christianity to make sense. And it doesn’t. If you say it does, then you don’t understand what “make sense” means.
25. make sense, to be reasonable or comprehensible: His attitude doesn’t make sense.
As part of my quest to put back the pieces of my wrecked faith, I’m reading Ray Comfort’s How To Know God Exists. For the most part, I like the book. It sticks to the facts and rarely proselytizes. In stating the facts, the book has poked sizable holes in Darwin’s theory of evolution. [That theory, by the way, has never been proven, it’s just popular. And that only gets you so far.] But in gushing ecstatically about the value and importance of the gift of Jesus’s death on the cross, my ability to process what was being said started to falter. It was as if the words were written in another language whose words I’ve never learned. Continue reading
[Word count: 651. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
“Alone in a room
It’s just me and you
I feel so lost
’Cause I don’t know what to do…”
Initially, when my mom heard this opening line from Yolanda Adams’ “Open My Heart,” it turned her off. Apparently Yolanda’s confession wasn’t positive enough. Having weathered enough trouble for two lifetimes, I understand the aversion. But I disagree with dismissing someone’s truth as “negativity.”
“So I need to talk to You
And ask You for your guidance…
That’s why I open up my heart to You.”
Had she stuck around for the rest, she would’ve noticed ministry happening. But it didn’t sound positive, so it got passed up. The preoccupation with positive confessions is a byproduct of the Word of Faith doctrine, which since its 1980’s prominence has come under fire. I’d like to fire a couple rounds into it myself. Continue reading
[Word count: 653. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
In Part 1, I detailed how Robin’s death worked to free me from shackles I didn’t even know I was wearing. That would have been good enough. But there was one more gift… inside a gift inside a gift, like a Russian nesting doll.
It began as a reunion with an estranged friend while at the hospital. Paris* and I hadn’t had a good conversation in years. After her divorce, she left the church we all co-founded together in a cloud of petty rumors, resentment, and hurt. I didn’t know any better, so I let her drift tacitly away.
But the time of reckoning had come for us both. I was at the hospital because of an unspoken promise to Robin. And Paris had a crippling fear of anything to do with death. While sitting around a hospital bed, we caught up, laughed, prayed, worshipped, and watched Robin’s breath go from shallow to imperceptible.
The memorial was beautiful. No casket. Just portraits of Robin proudly perched on easels. It was harrowing though. Afterward, we were emotionally rubbed raw. Paris asked me for a ride home, so we could enjoy a comfortable silence. Continue reading
[Word count: 654. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
“When you’re little, you adopt survival mechanisms. But then they last too long. They last beyond their usable time and they become impediments to growth.” —Jane Fonda
I used to be horrible at taking compliments. Too often they’d be a bait-and-switch for devastating insults. So I became a ninja at self-deprecation. If I tore myself down sufficiently, no one else could take anything from me. It made me feel safer. I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to stop… for decades.
At age 50, my friend Robin Hill was fighting brain cancer. I was fighting a kind of disease too. Mine was that I’d want people to like me. And then they would. I just wouldn’t believe them. Both maladies kill very slowly. Ultimately Robin didn’t survive hers, but she left something to make sure I survived mine. Continue reading
[Word count: 670. Approximate read time: 4 minutes]
I want to be a better person. But that’s a lot of work. I once told someone, “You know the right thing to do if you really want to solve your problem. But you LIKE your problem.” I hate when my own words ricochet on me.
I prize intelligence. And I’ve noticed some of the smartest men and women I know ascribe to feminism. I had a passionate dialogue with one recently, and what I took away from conversation with her was that (1) I am a misogynistic, sexist jackass, and (2) …well, the rest of the details escape me. But the gist is, I fail as a feminist ally.
As is typical, I withdrew into myself to consider whether she was right. And I have failed to come to the defense of women burdened by patriarchal demands. Their agency is systematically threatened by those who feel they “own” women. It’s mentioned enough that I want to get educated and stop being part of the problem.
So I looked over a list of “101 Everyday Ways for Men to be Allies to Women” and my eyes started to glaze over before I got to double digits. So many things you have to do in order to be right. It seems too much. Maybe White racists felt like this when the civil rights movement said Blacks and other minorities were legitimate human beings. If so, then too much is still not enough. Continue reading
[Word count: 589. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]
My family attended a COGIC church when I was young. One Sunday morning, I saw an old man with peculiar features. Darkish gray, wiry hair that radiated upward like flames leaping from fire. His eyebrows were rugged, metallic and sort of mounded up. He had angular features and a browned, narrow, stern face. He probably didn’t like children. I was about 5 at the time, but I leaned over to the woman next to me and asked, “Is that guy The Devil?”
She laughed heartily. It was an earnest question though. He fit the description, only missing a pitchfork and horns. Maybe Sunday was his day off and he decided to come to church. “The devil is busy.” “Ain’t nobody mad but the devil.” “The devil don’t want me to sing this song.” If that was him, he was sitting in the place where he gets talked about the most.
Who stole the cookie?
Once I was at a family gathering, playing games and we decided to do something for the kids and sing “Who Stole The Cookie From The Cookie Jar?” You sit in a circle, point at someone and accuse jokingly, “You stole the cookie from the cookie jar!” They respond “Who? Me?” “Yes, you!” They say “Couldn’t be!” We shout back “Then who?” and the song starts over again.
We go around the circle singing, smiling, and laughing, and then we get to the littlest baby girl and sing “Crystal stole the cookie from the cookie jar!” Crystal came completely out of the song. She saw 13 people pointing their fingers and accusing her. So she just cried.
No one likes to be at fault. Usually when confronted with wrongdoing, our first instinct is to lie and deny it or accuse someone else. That’s where the devil comes in. Everyone agrees the devil is bad. So if you say he did it, people will believe you and the police will stop dusting your house for fingerprints. Continue reading
[Word count: 877. Approximate read time: 4 minutes]
“I visited a church in the suburbs, and there was this blowhard preacher talking about how television rots your brain. He said that when we are watching television our minds are working no harder than when we are sleeping. I thought that sounded heavenly. I bought one that afternoon.” —Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
Wading through currents of social media recently, I came upon a Christian preacher declaring we only pray to God, not the universe. He said, “If you want to address God, don’t talk to his handiwork. Talk to him.”
I felt inclined to counter. (I usually always feel inclined to counter, really.) So I offered, “If God IS all and is in all, then how can anybody but God be The Universe? If instead of calling the name of Jesus, someone calls Yeshua or Emmanuel instead, does God ignore them? ‘The Universe’ is not one of your names for him. But it could be someone else’s for the same God you worship.”
The man responded, “Those are his names: Yeshua, Emmanuel. But God never called himself the universe. Humanists did that. Research Secular Humanism and you’ll see this is not semantics. It’s a human attempt to eliminate GOD.”
And so, I did. And the next day, when he asked me what I found in my study, I told him, “What I found was surprising. The surprise was, I think I want to be one!” Continue reading
[Word count: 785. Approximate read time: 4 minutes]
Whenever you come in contact with someone you were once intimately close to but now are virtual strangers, interesting reactions happen. You remember the good things and the bad things. One usually rises to the surface. Sometimes both swirl together unpredictably like iridescent colors on an oil slick.
When a goal has both positive and negative aspects that make it simultaneously appealing and unappealing, it’s called an approach-avoidance conflict. I am traditionally bad at these. Exes almost always bring them up. Continue reading
I’m not the only one working out my salvation with fear and trembling. Today’s post comes from P_Heir, a long time friend and co-laborer in ministry. We served on the same worship team for years. So many of our experiences intersect each other. He’s putting his pieces back together too. It’s an honor to have him share some of his story.
[Word count: 676. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
I’m a preacher’s kid. PKs are trained to look as if they have it all together. “Grin and bear it.” “Fake it ‘til you make it.” But I lost my ability to smile as if everything is okay. While in the midst of planning one funeral, I found out I lost a dear friend. A day later, my father dropped dead of a heart attack. After getting that news, I had just enough strength to have this discourse with God:
“Why would you do this? My whole life is yours… I’m on your team! You’re foul! You murdered my father. Murderer! What kind of compassionate God would make a person endure three deaths in one week?”
No bolts fell from the sky, but when you call God a murderer, it’s safe to say you are upset with Him. Here’s my dilemma. I’m completely aware I fall short of His glory daily. Okay, okay… hourly. But what do you do when you feel God has fallen short? Continue reading