The Miseducation of the Worship Leader [1/5]

The Miseducation of the Worship Leader
[Word count: 653. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]

I guess I thought worship was “magical.” A strong talisman to ward off evil spirits. Friends’ divorces. Death and disease. Organizational discord. As long as I lifted my hands and gave reverence and deference to God, everything was supposed to be okay.

“Life is not always what it seems. Even the best will fall.”
—Crystal Lewis

Not quite so. Several of my most worshipping, most Jesus-believing friends all caught divorce like a common cold. Robin developed a brain tumor and didn’t survive. Gossip and distrust tore at the fabric of our friendships. I thought worship and prayer would protect us from that. When it didn’t, I was stunned… like “which one of y’all kicked me?”

 

When the structure of this music ministry collapsed on top of me, my healthy relationship with Jesus got trapped under the rubble. I used to be passionate about this stuff. Then disappointments broke me. Church culture frustrated me. Hurt changed me. I started to hate everything about gospel music… about church… about God… and even my own talents. Continue reading

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Do Christians Have To Be Mad At “Black Jesus”?

[Word count: 734. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]

BlackJesusWhen Joan Osbourne’s hit song asked what if God was a slob like one of us, I was outraged. She was making a point about humanity, but I stopped at the surface of my offense. “God is not a SLOB,” I shot back. By the time I saw the good in it, the opportunity was gone.

20 years later, there’s a new threat. From the creator of the always respectful and family-friendly The Boondocks comes Black Jesus. In this, the titular character lives in Compton, CA, curses heavily, smokes weed, and runs with a ragged posse of pseudo-disciples. Because you can’t tell if Black Jesus is supposed to be real or just some crazy who just thinks he’s Jesus, you really don’t know how offended to be. Continue reading

Hopsin’s Song of Lost Faith Hits Close To Home

[Word count: 464. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]

Rapper Hopsin in "Ill Mind of Hopsin 7"

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.”

—Psalm 139:1-4

In a post on JFuzion.com, I discovered a music video for the recently released “Ill Mind of Hopsin 7” from former Ruthless Records rapper Hopsin. The Los Angeles native became a born again Christian 2 years ago, but now finds himself doubting his beliefs. With its starkly honest lyrics, a video set against a barren desert panorama is only appropriate.

If you can wade through the expletive-heavy verses without grimacing from offense, you’ll find the song is essentially a mournful prayer. Similar expressions of disappointment and lost faith might be found in Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Job, or Lamentations.

An orthodox Christian might declare this irreverent and unacceptable, but if Psalm 139:1-4 is true and you’ve ever prayed while in anguish, your distressed prayer probably sounded to God much like Hopsin’s may sound to us. Beneath the bared teeth of his words is a heartbreaking expression of hurt. Continue reading

[Status Update 7/6/2014 – Write The Ugly]

WriteTheUgly

[Word count: 303. Approximate read time: 1 minute]

In Christianity, one tends to clean up before going on stage. You want to make people proud. Be encouraging. Make sure your story ends with “but that’s when God came and saved the day.” Tell testimonies that end in redemption because you gotta give people something to clap for, right?

I have to do no such thing. In fact, I wrote a reminder on my dry erase board to WRITE THE UGLY because it’s necessary. If you don’t talk about failure and tragedy, you think all the victories came easily. If you don’t know the lowest points I swing through, then my high points have no value, perspective, or impact. If I don’t “write the ugly,” someone may read the published highlights of my life and think resolution, penitence, and clarity are how every day ends. Not so.

EMOTIONALLY:
Today, I am depressed, melancholy, and isolated. The feeling has been increasing for the last 2 weeks. I don’t know why it started. I am extremely irritable and have cursed and snapped at friends and acquaintances. There is a long list of apologies to give. I am not ready to give any of them.

SPIRITUALLY:
Today, I am not full of faith. Today, I believe God is going to do neither the wonderful things he promised nor the awful things he threatened. I don’t know where God is. And I hate when people say “you have to seek God.” This makes me angry because I don’t think he should be hiding. Why isn’t he seeking me? Whatever happened to going out and leaving the 99 sheep to find the 1 that’s lost?

This is not the first time I’ve felt like this. I hate being angry and lost, and I hope it changes. I feel ugly. But for what it’s worth… at least today, it is written.

***

What Do You Do When God Disappoints?

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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

A Prelude to Forgiveness

[Word count: 1839. Approximate read time: 6-7 minutes]

I’ve thought about it often. The scenario loops in mind. It starts a few moments before my heart got broken, but plays out differently this time. Originally, I didn’t know what hit me, but this time I’m ready. My senses are keen. I discern when I’m being patronized, snowed. I know the true words from the constructed pictures. I know the sincere smiles from those stiffly pasted on top to keep me dawdling unawares. This time I’m nimble for the moment when I should parry. This time I’m just out of their weapon’s reach. Prescient of my opponent’s next move, I counterstrike and draw both blood and surprise. I pause and turn up a corner of my mouth taking in the surveyed victory.

Had my reality played this way, I wouldn’t have lost my power. So much might not have fallen out of balance. I would not have become a victim and someone’s casualty. As I step away from my imagination, I notice in running this scenario that my muscles have tensed, shoulders tight having not yet left the fantasy. My brows have furrowed and jaws clenched without prompting. The conflict has become so real during this mental exercise, that if the assailant were to appear before me physically, I could easily burst into a commotion of bared teeth and hurled furniture, expletives zipping through the air like throwing knives. It ain’t all good.

There’s just a moment to break myself out before the scene replays again from the beginning, folding another layer over on an already rugged anger. My conjured emotions have produced an ire that is very present and sizzling hot to the touch. The way I’ve rehearsed this vindication so well for so long, I become more and more confident in my ability to perform it. That scares me. That’s not the performance I wanted to perfect. I was supposed to forgive.

In Case of Fire

[Word count: 2042. Approximate read time: 7-8 minutes]
DISCLAIMER: After nearly 9 months, I decided to uncensor this post on February 16, 2013. You’ll see indelicate language sitting right beside scripture. If this offends you, then my half-hearted grawlix probably weren’t going to appease you either way.

Amen, brothers and sisters. This morning, the text is coming from the book of Marvin Gaye in the 1,978th year of our Lord Jesus Christ. Turn your gatefold double LP to the first disc of Here, My Dear. Now, if one saint would volunteer to read “Anger”:

“Up and down my back
In my spine, in my brain
It injures me
Anger can make you old (yes, it can)

I said anger can make you sick, children
Anger will destroy your soul

Rage
There’s no room for rage in here
There’s no room for rage in here
Where is the place to go to be mad?”

May God add a blessing to the reading of Marvin’s lyrics. I know what that kind of anger feels like. It’s like the entirety of your being is on fire, a walking state of emergency. Your emotions, your coping mechanisms, the steadiness of your perception, all covered in heat from tip to toe. Malfunctioning. You can’t think about anything but finding the quickest way to put out the flames. So can anyone tell me what is the proper Christian way to be angry? Continue reading

No One to Blame

The first step is to say out loud: “It’s all my fault.” Properly executed, this should undo everything you learned from Good Will Hunting.

I’ve got opportunity and cause to point fingers. I’ve got people who would back me up. On my blog, with my words, I can make my case as sympathetic and compelling as I want. But it’s probably going to be healthier for me and more helpful for you if I point the finger at myself first. Continue reading